“It is on us and in us that the great disruption begins; it is in our vulnerable existences and our loving encounters that the first blows are dealt. The anarchy that heralds its approach manifests itself through our ministry; it throws us in prison, broken, unsatisfied, sick.”
Hubert Aquin, Prochaine Episode
An enchantment with the conviction that there is still more to be made, more to be done, the incantation of not enough – the occulted logics that are inbred from within each other. The shroud is the hysteria that masks the evident, endlessly perverting its own subversion into a mode of profit and self-replication. In this condition, even the very idea of ‘resistance’ – a culture of perpetual protest and reactionary politics – becomes inevitable. It is not a creative force that generates the positive energies of transformation, but a self-depleting and constant defense. It is not generated pre-emptively, anticipating the moment of its eruption and in this way changing or mediating the circumstances before they arise, but taken upon at the moment it is too late, or, the moment of perception; when the conditions have been determined, the changeability in turn solidified, return to stagnant form.
This resistance is not only a natural part of ‘society as is’, or ‘business as normal’ – even if it is on pause for a spectacular moment, but is integrated into the very substance of identity formation and the conditions of a compromised survival, becoming a source of existential definition – such as, I protest, negate, propose, reject, pronounce, represent, therefore I am. This creates a shroud, dangerous in the form of an untouchability of grief, the self-defensive labelling of vulnerability, and a hysteria of dependency upon the aestheticization of trauma in its presence – that is, the historical memory of it, the duty to its memory, equally as the exploitation of it to form a semblance of performative personality. Where trauma informs identity, it becomes part of the very substance of existence without which one is absent from one’s self. Without which, one cannot be. Or, how the representation of ideas, or the veil of words, can come out of the selfish desire to simply revolutionize one’s own conditions and be known for doing so, to be recognized and commended for upholding the colours of an ideology and for demonstrated affiliations. Trauma that is invisible then becomes ‘less than’ that which is pronounced, the invisible and secret as if not existent because it is not made available to others for interpretation or the exploitation of being made into someone’s platform.
The perversion of the mirror returns the image of the right, reflecting into the left, the angle shifted, the languages broken over each other, the logics unchanged. Form is same, undone, in its other. So the return to questions asked by Malatesta, Ernesto Cardenal, bell hooks, Kenneth Patchen, Kathy Acker – questions that disparage the insensitivities and self-satisfying cruelties that permeate the human condition. Insensitivities that find their way into those that would be the most sensitive mentalities, shared by communities of militants. The sense of ‘something being wrong’, even within environments that present themselves as radical spaces, takes on the character of a ghost: the affect of something inexplicable, outside of words or the immediacy of sensory perception and understanding, taking on the supernatural patterns of repetition, mimicry and self-possession of capitalism, and its expressions in nationalism and fascism.
In the presence of this ghost, we superstitiously act on the most apparent subject, transforming people, objects, rhetorics, and ideologies into the origins of the evil that haunts us in near silence. We act on the weight of the images, the pictures of a simple iconography, creating testaments and anti-testaments to its farce in what feels like resistance. All the while, the face of this vesper remains elusive: that which makes life intolerable not only under a regime – more so when it has been indicated as a regime – but which makes life equally intolerable within our own affinity groups and relationships, within those selective nets of shared ideas, aspirations, questions, desires, and even unspoken anxieties that magnetize us towards one another.
In The Inner Enemies of Democracy, Tzvetan Todorov wrote of the proximity of ‘evil’ to ourselves. We desire to cleanse our identities in correct representation: to present ourselves with complete and infallible rhetorics and actions. Todorov notes the work of writer George L. Mosse, whose works examine the ‘enemy’ contained within; human nature; and, through François Flahault, the significance of the psychic existence.
“We always prefer to think that what we condemn is completely foreign to us. The idea that we might resemble those we usually abhor strikes us as so unbearable that we hasten to erect what we hope are impassable walls between ourselves and them. […] Discovering the enemy within us is much more disturbing than thinking he is far away from us, and completely different.”
Tzvetan Todorov, The Inner Enemies of Democracy