G 20: A Romance of the Politics of Failure?
I should have jumped right into the foray and gave my thoughts on the G 20 protest in the beginning of this month. I take the blame and full responsibility for not doing so. Rest assured I have been following the news, including the tragic case of Ian Tomlison. I am going to comment on both.
First of all I would like to credit K-Punk (via The Kubrickian Gaze) for my title, a phrase he mentioned to conclude his excellent response on the G 20 protest. Indeed, in every protest, it is always a question of whether it is another impotent protest, a mere acting out only to “get owned by the police,” as Lenin put it, or whether it has the capability of merging into a larger protest, a new Left.
That in itself of course has no inherent answer — as a good Badiouvian I maintain that the nature of truth is always militant and never given. However, I have a question: how, exactly, can any protest merge into a larger, combustible one in this day and age? This is not skeptic cynicism but actual curiosity from my part. While we may be similar to the end of the 19th century in terms of cynicism and thinking that the world is over, we do have one major difference, which may either be a drawback or a potential: all protests today are always-already directly aimed at Empire.
In the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century we surely do not lack bloody protests everywhere. In those times, they resonate from one to the next — the commons in each new place witness the struggle in another place and appropriate the dreams as their own, then organize their own struggle, and off the chain went: Paris, Shanghai, New Delhi, Jakarta, Hanoi…
Today, we skip the appropriating part. Every struggle is always-already a struggle in the name of the global citizen. K-Punk mentioned how the environmentalist protests are meaningless, since it is a protest everyone can agree on. But is not every protest today like this? One only needs to see the placards in the G 20 protests: Besides “Climate Emergency,” they have “Gaza: End the Blockade,” “Planet Before Profit,” “We Won’t Pay for Their Crisis,” “Jobs not Bombs”… When you get right down to it, who does not agree with those? Certain parties would come to mind, but really, are these not obvious demands already?
I think this is our real problem — that we know exactly what we want, we know exactly what is going on, but at the same time we know nothing about what we want — “of course that would be the ideal world, but we all know it’s impossible,” and so on — and we know nothing about what is going on — if we are asked why we are living in a world so far away from what we dream of, we either take it as given or blame a Bad Father. I often call today’s society “the society of perversion” not for nothing — it acknowledges and disavows castration at the same time.
It is as if the G 20 is expected to either deny the whole thing — we know they already know it but we know that they know that we know how our sufferings are inevitable — or to produce some sort of magical cure, that suddenly they prescribe a magical plan to cure all ailness. Curiously, this is exactly the same mental state a traditional patient has when visiting a psychotherapist of any kind — for them to either say that s/he is not sick or to shove them a magical pill that would cure the illness instantly.
Being a good Lacanian, K-Punk’s take comes off as excellent (except for the “grand philosophical system” part):
Time to withdraw from the feelgood simulation of politics. Time to give up the gratification of displaying wounds inflicted by the police as signs of grace, evidence that we are on the side of the Good. Time to relinquish the easy jouissance of impotent acting-out. Time to face the fact that organising marches isn’t the same as political organisation. […] It’s time to think, not in order to finesse some grand philosophical system, but with the goal of identifying what new forms of organisation can succeed in these conditions. Time to give up on the romance of a politics of failure and plan to win.
I mentioned I would comment on the case of Ian Tomlison. I feel really bad for Tomlison, not really because of the tragic case itself, but because his death has been turned into a spectacle to reassure the existence of the Bad Father — it is as if today we need more and more futile tragedies like this to reassure ourselves, often in vain, that those deaths mean something.
It is time to stand up and realize that the Big Other does not exist. For so long as it is taken for granted that it does, quoting Deleuze, “the people are missing“. More than anything today, we need a new figure of the analyst to, first of all, make the people appear for itself.