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Re: <nettime> A Movement Without Demands?
Brian Holmes on Sat, 14 Jan 2012 00:55:45 +0100 (CET)


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Re: <nettime> A Movement Without Demands?


One of the questions that Keith Hart asks is: "Does the forced marriage of the informal economy and the internet produce classes or interests that the Marxists would once have considered 'advanced'?"

I guess the question is whether the mass unemployment of educated and self-educated people gives rise to revolutionaries. Is there some kind of coordinating power afoot, a way to challenge and then unseat the current order of society?

We can look around the world and see that mass unemployment, rising food prices and police control of populations produces revolt: that's for certain. To ask more precisely about the educated and also the self-educated (those who did not necessarily go to school but learned from the vast talking library of the net) -- well, I heard something last night at a great revolutionary play called Alexis: A Greek Tragedy. At one point a character says something like, it's not that anything really changed after December 6 [2008, when Alexandros Grigoropoulos was shot by the police]. We just woke up to the useless life, the pointless existence that we were being given as our only perspective.

It's true for the scribes and the workers, the over-educated and the over-experienced, to whatever degree those categories still have any meaning.

A way to understand today's revolt is as a consequence of futility. To labor with your hands and your mind and your heart for a world of exploitation and war and climate change - a world that scorns any generous aspiration you might have in your body - that is a reason for the self-educated to revolt against everything the current system teaches!

Read these words from Steinbeck:

"The men who work in the experimental farms have made new fruits: nectarines and forty kinds of plums, walnuts with paper shells. And always they work, selecting, grafting, changing, driving themselves, driving the earth to produce.

"And first the cherries ripen. Cent and a half a pound. Hell, we can't pick 'em for that. Black cherries and red cherries, full and sweet, and the birds eat half of each cherry and the yellowjackets buzz into the holes the birds made. And on the ground the seeds drop and dry with black shreds hanging from them...

"Men who have created new fruits in the world cannot create a system whereby their fruits may be eaten. And the failure hangs over the State like a great sorrow....

"In the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage."

For laborers, for factory workers, for machine operators, this is still the exact case. And for those who learned art and science and philosophy and literature from the open potentials that came along with the net, the situation is even stranger: there is no social situation, no "job," no institution, no viable everyday relationship in which our intelligence can flower and become what it longs to be. We are those fruits we cannot eat!

Over the past seven days (and there's two more to go) people have been coming together at 16 Beaver Street in New York in successive waves, now fifty, now one hundred-fifty, and then just fifteen of us, late at night, before another wave pours in. The whole idea is to reflect on the revolt that has just been done, and to plan some more for the future. That means searching out what we can do, but also why we cannot yet do it.

I said before that we need to search for core principles, but I should have added: and for the process to embody them and give them voice. There is a commons of solidarity and desire, our most natural resources. People might say, you are wasting your time talking instead of doing. But another thing I learned from that play last night is that there is no real difference in the two most common meanings of the verb, to act. The shape we give to our lives with others is fundamentally the issue. It's about collective coordination. That can be carried out in art, in science, in protests, in riots, in philosophy, in economy, in love, in labor. It's a long process and we have no time, so we are going much faster, around the world. We will produce leaders and strategists and astronomers and physicians: and they will all be revocable. There is an immense feeling that those who hold the levers of power are now turning the world into an immense self-destroying machine, and the point is to cease being either the chains that link all those cogs together into catastrophe, or the signals that guide this whole thing to nowhere.

Let every social space become a theater of crisis and then we will find a way to act with purpose and passion and care and respect. And that just might advance something in this world!

warmly and most lucidly, Brian Holmes


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