Paradise of Storm

Tag: slavoj zizek

The Future of Desire

Blade+Runner+2049-1

by Guy Walker

What actually did happen to the sexual revolution? It wasn’t long after one of Freud’s most noteworthy students, Wilhelm Reich, landed on New York’s squalid shores in August of 1939, that the generation of prurience and free love was born. His most noteworthy invention and physical contribution apart from his writings now seems like an artifact of dereliction, some shambled box from an abandoned carnival: the Orgone Energy Accumulator. It looks like a boarded up telephone booth, an unexciting trunk turned on its side that you were supposed to sit in and wait to receive the brilliant and spontaneous orgasms it provided.

Sex from some obscure unknown realm has long been a preferred subject of science fiction. In Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, a bounty hunter Phil Resch (a phonetic cousin of the Austrian psychoanalyst), who works for a fictitious police agency, and could be another android, remarks to Deckard with a tone of austere advice, “If it’s love toward a woman or an android imitation, it’s sex.” The reader is propelled into the obvious: how does it actually feel to be in a storm of eroticism with a robot?

Blade Runner 2049 offered another installment of this fantasy. Our hero’s girlfriend, Joi, is a three-dimensional hologram resembling an evolutionary masterpiece; you can watch the movie in what is seemingly another layer of 3-D, gaping up at her seductive digitization swaying into the bedroom, your mouth hanging open stupidly, staring up at the huge screen with your flimsy paper sunglasses. Joi’s character is a reincarnation of a character we know well.

In the 1956 French drama, …And God Created Woman, Juliette, the subliminally catastrophic temptress played by Brigitte Bardot, believed “the future was invented only to spoil the present.” Sixty years later, it’s the present that wants to spoil the future—it wants to give it all up for us, tell us of the trenchant nihilism ahead, popularize the ultimate ghosts of technology. In the film, she lays around naked, walks everywhere barefoot, undisturbed by the male forces and societal norms around her, causing a moral panic amongst those nearest her. The men in the film conclude she “was made to destroy men,” as they try to repel the inevitable gravity of her enchantment.

The destruction of man by the strange and impossible intrigue of the woman is a common theme now. Hollywood is smitten with this fantasy. How will people, you know, “do it”, in the future? Spike Jones’s 2014 dystopic interlude, Her, brought the same titillating futurism conceptualized in the bedroom to the big screen. The envisioned communing between Theodore and the computer operating system, Samantha, was little more than a banal exclamation that mimicked the snorts and grunts of pleasure. It was phone sex, mildly elaborated, only for the sake of the pronouncement of orgasm, leaving the fluids, sweat, bullwhips, fuzzy handcuffs, and every other physical attributor of touch, in question and out of the picture.

Ex Machina notioned that the most beautiful women of the future will be an invasive species of silicon chips molded in our most alluring fashion—they’ll be prowling amongst us, like a digitized playmate who could calmly and regularly beat the Kasparovs of chess, and then lock them in a cellar until they rot. There’s nothing more thrilling than taking someone home from the bar who might turn out to have a survival glitch that would necessarily have to kill you to succeed. BDSM for existentialists; the abstract fetishizing would turn a whole generation into a sex-themed Russian roulette game.

Or there’s HBO’s Westworld series, which featured robot prostitutes that would kill their way to freedom. Thus far, our popularized interest in artificial intelligence goes as far as what sort of envious bloom their reproductive organs will look like, how lusting and lifelike the interplay could and should be. Especially the women. Movie producers and audiences alike don’t desire the other possibility in quite the same way. There’s something deeply unsettling about their male counterparts that would only be used for sex—their dangling rubberized testicles waving in the dusty anarchy of the wild west, their smutty reprogrammable libido under spasms of defect, wreaking havoc on innocent female victims who only wanted a bit of cathartic delight.

It’s clear what’s happening. When Lacan famously announced “there is no sexual relation,” he wasn’t attempting a contrarian view of desire without features. He was iterating how we split ourselves up in the act of sex, between “its being and its semblance, between itself and that paper tiger it shows to the other.” In this, as in a combative death drive, we either give or receive a mask, “a thrown-off skin,” in order to protect our real being.

We’re never really alone with our sexual partners. There’s always a deep fantasy or weirdly-cloaked fetish lingering in the shadows, hammering away at our heads in varying degrees of distraction. In the strange and extraordinary partnership of cultural totems, Slavoj Žižek was commissioned by Abercrombie & Fitch to write for their 2003 Back to School Quarterly, where he quipped his bursting tic-filled remarks on youth and sex, the capitalized large font spread across a glossy overlay of two boys and a girl completely naked, barely of age, carousing in green fields, the sun’s yolk spilled across the whole verdant jouissance like a pagan dream: “The only successful sexual relationship occurs when the fantasies of the two partners overlap. If the man fantasizes that making love is like riding a bike and the woman wants to be penetrated by a stud, then what truly goes on when they make love is that a horse is riding a bike…With a fantasy like that, who needs a personality?”

A horse riding a bicycle is as real as Ryan Gosling passing his dick across and into the flickering static of his girlfriend, both of which are only barely less real than an undisturbed sexual communion between two people. There’s nothing remarkably novel about Hollywood’s attempts to realistically imagine the future of bodily desire. A robot’s vagina is not the exemplary nexus of modern art, not some avant-garde interpretation of Freudian psychoanalytics. But some productions have imagined a sort of post-Oedipal world, in which man creates his maker, fucks her, and then is gruesomely slain by her.

What Ex Machina and Westworld achieve is they thrust the viewer outside the obvious torments of being killed by the glamorous female lead, and they allow you to imagine the daily benign thrill of the technicians themselves, and what it must be like for them to pick and prod and quietly sculpt women of our yearning. As viewers, we know the architects of these humanoids had to at some point kneel down and masterfully sculpt the deep swelling crevasse of her reproductive organ, the realism of her sensuality more essential than any other appendage or feature. The absurd bald mounds on Barbie dolls, like they were long-legged congenital eunuchs disguised in aprons and wigs, no longer suffice for the pornographic obsessions of the modern age.

The cinema is now our most easily digested form of suggestive enterprise. We bring the whole circus of crime and drama and comedy and romance and war into our bedrooms, our gawping voyeurism permanently attached to our laptop screens. But it’s always been like this. The preferred art forms from before quietly distilled the same libidinal hankering as multi-million dollar productions filmed in front of green screens do today. What happens when Picasso or Lucian Freud paints one of their women? Are they not attempting to garner a lusciousness of dimension of the female form they never managed to see themselves? They spent countless painstaking hours leaning over their huge canvases, trying to improve on mere replication, detailing the dimpled flesh and overgrown pubic forests like things of undocumented mystery. They composed these scenes, arranged their women in candid moments of trembling bliss, and hyper-realized the overflowing smooth flesh of women as the givers of all life. The title of the painting above is “Benefits Supervisor Sleeping,” the model’s actual job title. The words give a humanness, a normalcy to the shapeless spill of tit over the edge of the couch, as if this could be every moderately heavy woman walking down the street. We are pressed with the overwhelming gravity of who we really are, the unflattering reality of ourselves as a gruesome patchwork of anuses and other spluttering holes, all held together with this dying membrane of sweat and pores and hair, the festering wounds of age slowly eating away at us.

What’s next, beyond each fantasy, is another. Most of us spend our days slouched in some form or another, our necks sloped like a cow grazing her fields, staring at a screen. We tap away at it endlessly, as if it will eventually do something, fetishizing the swirling blots of color, a whole universe encased in Snapchat doggy ears and nose. When you watch porn on your computer or phone, you’re signaling one half of a holographic sex doll—an illusory, yet very real, pleasure. There’s a brothel in Germany that’s already gotten rid of all the prostitutes—all the real humans, that is—and instead offers their clients a lineup of lifelike sex dolls. We’re almost there. It’s the same fantasy played out in different forms—different brands of the same product within today’s culture industry. Adorno and Horkheimer illuminated in their philosophical monument, Dialectic of Enlightenment, that the “culture industry perpetually cheats its consumers of what it perpetually promises.” It usually ends in flaccid regret. Instead of the high definition fantasy playing out in front of us, we end with a white pool of mucous in a dirty sock. “The promise,” they continue, “which is actually all the spectacle consists of, is illusory.” But it’s voluntary. We pay $17 to see someone else play out our fantasies of what the future will look like.

It could have been an interesting storyline in Blade Runner 2049, between K and his holographic girlfriend—where their moments of affection and confidentiality really lead to, what they would have done about having children, arguments around infidelity and if it’s really considered cheating. But the filmmakers never went there. That particular subplot ended in masturbatory ennui, a close indifference about the future of our relationships. Again and again, we’ll watch these films on our own screens, the clutching voyeurism of survival fluttering across the backlit rectangles, the colorful blobs of other humans superimposed. But the end is always the same. The credits roll and the screen goes black, and we’re left staring at our dark naked reflection in the glass.


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The Politics of Surveillance and the Self

big-brother

by Guy Walker

We want too much. We want to read every email and analyze every dick pic every politician ever sent. But we also want the petrified banality of our own daily online routines to be kept private. We want our intellectual stratum of Pornhub, Snapchat, naked photos of celebrities, drunken text messages, emails to our grandmothers, to be our sacred guilty pleasures. But then we also shove our personalities into the public stratosphere, yelling “Look at this goat cheese salad! Look at my face! Look at my cute doggy!” until somebody nods some vague acknowledgement from across the world and likes our most recent online post.

It’s a matter of torment and contrast. Privacy is one of the truly meaningful comforts, one that we take for granted. You’re granted privacy in the womb, bobbing in warm gelatin for nine months until you are shoved into the screaming florescent chaos of day 1 of the rest of your life. When you die, you’re packed neatly into a plush mahogany box you have all to yourself, and are lain deep in the cold dank earth until the bugs and worms make their way in and spread you across the field. There’s something perverse and orgiastic to mass graves—even when we understand ontologically that it doesn’t actually matter if we are thrown in a pit with the rest of them, we prefer a more private decay. In just the several short decades between the beginnings and endings of true privacy, we can only scramble for moments of it, cherishing them like small glowing gems in the night. Usually, we just heave along with the rest of the herd.

It’s the State, we say. It’s their fault we’re all paranoid. The State has always been an encroachingly over-curious uncle who wants to know the sum of our banalities, one that only grows more huge and overbearing the older he gets, with more tools of this queer invisible surveillance available to him. He wants to know how we actually dance like no one’s watching, and justifies his gross desire in the name of protecting his home.

But state surveillance is nothing new. Chinese general Sun Tzu wrote in his lionized paper The Art of War: “Enlightened rulers and good generals who are able to obtain intelligent agents as spies are certain for great achievements.” And from spies bred suspicion. In ancient Rome, politician and orator Cicero wrote to his friend, “I cannot find a faithful message-bearer. How few are they who are able to carry a rather weighty letter without lightening it by reading.” East Germany of course had the Stasi, one of the most notoriously repressive secret police agencies in history.

In the United States, the real expansiveness of state surveillance began immediately after WWII with Project SHAMROCK and its sister project, Project MINARET. They were espionage operations responsible for the largest collection of intelligence on US citizens in the nation’s history. The Armed Forces Security Agency (AFSA) and its successor, the NSA, were given access to all telegraph data passing across American borders, analyzing up to 150,000 messages a month. The NSA shuffled off whatever information-of-interest to the government law enforcement or intelligence agency most applicable: the FBI, CIA, Secret Service, Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (BNDD), and the Department of Defense.

SHAMROCK and MINARET operated without warrants and under no approval from any court until May of 1975, when the NSA terminated the two projects because of Congressional pressure and investigation. The intentions of the program were obvious: to seek out any traitors within the nation’s borders, to discover them invisibly, hidden behind the curtain of data, to rid the country of threat bred at home.

1978 saw the creation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which required a process of warrants and judicial reviews if the NSA sought to intercept certain data from a civilian. The Patriot Act of 2001 corrupted this, especially through its Titles I and II: ‘Enhancing domestic security against terrorism’ and ‘Surveillance procedures,’ respectively. So when Edward Snowden exposed the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping of millions of Americans, everybody more or less shit themselves.

Oliver Stone just released the biopic Snowden, animating the human element to the story we know so well by now. In an interview with Vice News, investigative journalist Jason Leopold explains that when Stone made JFK back in 1991, it influenced the creation of the JFK Records Act, which consequently taught us about programs such as Operation Northwoods—the proposed operation signed off by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Department of Defense in 1962 to commit acts of terror on American citizens and blame it on the Cuban government. Does Stone have an interest in creating a dialogue that will possibly pardon Snowden?

Julian Assange blames Snowden for trying to cozy up to the likes of Obama and Clinton in the hope of being pardoned. But there’s no reason to consider why Obama would do this—under his administration, more whistleblowers have been prosecuted under the 1917 Espionage Act than all previous presidents combined. Introduced by President Woodrow Wilson shortly after the US entry into World War I, the Espionage Act was designed for spies—agents giving intel to the enemy, those who Wilson declared were “born under other flags.”

In May of 2015, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in Manhattan, ruled that the mass collection of phone records of millions of Americans was illegal, that the Patriot Act does not in fact authorize the unwarranted collection of calling records in bulk.

So what about this election? At the first Presidential debate, there was no discussion around the more recent war on whistleblowers. At the Democratic Primary debate, when asked if Edward Snowden should do jail time, Hillary Clinton responded by saying, “In addition—in addition, he stole very important information that has unfortunately fallen into a lot of the wrong hands. So I don’t think he should be brought home without facing the music.” Donald Trump has previously grunted that he should be killed. Then he coughed, and a cloud of Cheeto dust burst from his smutty mouth.

Lawmakers on the House Intelligence Committee signed a bipartisan letter to President Obama urging him not to pardon or grant clemency to Snowden, because he “perpetrated the largest and most damaging public disclosure of classified information in our nation’s history.” Daniel Ellsberg is certainly in support of a pardon, but added, “As things stand, I think the chance that this or any president will pardon Snowden is zero.”

It’s a sinister feeling to know you’re always being quietly monitored. All the hipsters favorite namedrop, Slavoj Žižek, disagrees. He apparently loves being watched. In an interview at the International Authors’ Stage, he crudely admitted that he doesn’t care if a government is reading through his emails because he has nothing to hide, because “people are stupid,” and if someone did read through his emails it would be the comparative of showing a newspaper of Hegel’s Logic to a cow. “This is where they feel most horrified, you know, when they learn that you don’t care.” This is an old brittle position to say I don’t care if they watch me, I have nothing to hide. It’s something Snowden himself said is the equivalent of I don’t care about the first amendment because I don’t have much to say. It’s insane and inapplicable to the argument.

But indeed the surveillance system reaches beyond the NSA’s unwarranted wiretapping or its mass collection of metadata. Michel Foucault said much of Freudian psychoanalysis was guilty in its contribution to what he called “disciplinary society,” keeping the whole of the citizenry under constant surveillance, through the institutional and structural design of schools, prisons, hospitals, and work places. Even the buildings themselves are constructed in a way to best keep watch over the people within, consequently keeping them in a constant state of submission. The Orwellian comparisons have become cliche for a reason: the desire to watch over a people is only becoming more desperate and gruesome, until every post-it note and dark hole has an HD camera monitoring it.

Surveillance isn’t a secondary issue in this presidential election cycle. There is a serious dialogue to be had, one that debates a more wholesome and trustworthy approach to our national security, one that doesn’t end in more paranoia, more secrets, more prosecution of whistleblowers. Surveillance on the scale of a nation is the gross simulation of a scripted buttered hell—everyone fucking with the lights off, everyone pooping silently in the dark.

Is Ryan Seacrest the Erection of God?

I think of my great swan with his crazy motions,

Ridiculous, sublime, like a man in exile,

Relentlessly gnawed by longing! and then of you.”

-Charles Baudelaire

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You wake up squinting under the blinding effluvium, the jasmine-scented hand lotions overwhelming your dream state, the ocean breeze of Malibu shoving its way into the white marble living room, the long alabaster silk curtains blowing in and gently caressing your glossy buttocks. The couch is, of course, made from endangered hippopotamus leather, dyed bright orange. A bowl of plastic peaches and bananas are arranged in stellifariously kinky positions. A six-foot portrait of pop radio host turned reality tv producer, Ryan Seacrest, looms above the fireplace, and Don’t Stop Believin’ is playin’ softly somewhere—in the surround sound perhaps. You look around, still half-awake, not entirely sure what all this is about. Then a meaty little Guatemalan maid dressed up as a Sugar Plum Fairy walks into the room, her huge feathered wings knocking over a vase of pearl-plated dildos, smashing them to the ground; she ignores the mess completely and greets you with a crystalline bowl of M&M’s, except instead of the colored chocolates they are a blazing assortment of muscle-relaxers, anti-depressants, opioids, and sleeping pills. She smiles, and then opens her lipless mouth. “A tribal offering from our leader, mister Ryan Seacrest himself,” she says. You take a handful and pop them into your mouth, and spend the next 30 minutes thoughtlessly scrolling through photos of your ex-girlfriends, when the maid returns. “Mister Ryan Seacrest will see you now. You must wear this when in his presence.” She hands you a pair of leather pants and suspenders, with the dozens of miniature faces of the entire cast of Keeping up with the Kardashians (a show Seacrest created and produces, as well as the spin-offs Khloe and Lamar, Kourtney and Kim Take New York, and of course Kourtney and Khloe Take Miami) printed all over them, every one of Bruce’s face crossed out with a red marker and Caitlyn’s printed even larger next to it. You walk across the living room and push open the white marble door, and there is a roundtable of the entire cast. Caitlyn is sitting with her legs spread, her cryogenized shriveling raisin face barely held together with Elmer’s glue and Onabotulinumtoxin, her neck skin hanging loosely like a chicken’s gizzard. She drums the tips of her long red fingernails against the glass covering of the walnut table, staring at you blankly. Kim Kardashian has disappeared completely into her own ass; she is just one huge glistening ass sitting in the leather chair, an amorphous sphere, she is used more as a steatopygous scrying stone for Kanye and company to peer into. You look up at the wall, and Ryan Seacrest is a flickering hologram, a static two-dimensional image talking to everybody—yet nobody—about cooking utensils, then nail polish, then dead cats. Then he turns his gaze and stares directly at you, his eyes piercingly familiar. “I want to make a television series of you,” he booms over the loud speakers. “You will become a black woman who’s only desire is to be spanked by Donald Trump. We’ll call the show Margaret gets the Donald. You will be famous. You will be wretched and hideous, but you’ll be incredibly famous.” You turn and flex in the mirror, and you smile.

The question remains: Exactly who is Ryan Seacrest? Of course, he’s the radio and television personality, but who is he beyond the coruscating blush of personality? In Adorno’s Minima Moralia, he writes, “The self, its guiding idea and its a priori object, has always, under its scrutiny, been rendered at the same time non-existent.” The ego, the superego, and the id, are dressed in the womb and then shoved into the florescent screaming world, growing unwittingly into a child, then an adult, then a drooling automaton, all with varying degrees of morality, decency, and libidinal dandyism, until death finally sweeps us into the curdled pile of wet ash. But Ryan Seacrest is not actually human. He is perhaps something closer to Baudrillard’s “hyperreality of God,” a turgid simulation of a man, or beast, pretending to be a god. He is not even a thing, but rather a personality. He’s an abstract filament of the psyche itself that has manifested into a man on your television screen, asking movie stars what it’s like to be human. It’s obvious that Ryan Seacrest was the voice inside Nietzsche’s head, forcing him to toss himself onto the horse in Turin. He is the complete and final annihilation of the Self. Adorno continues “…that which posits itself as ‘I’ is indeed mere prejudice, an ideological hypostasization of the abstract centres of domination, criticism of which demands the removal of the ideology of ‘personality.’” But the ‘personality’ is the necessary lie that holds all the chaos and drama of our lives together. The award-winning actor, for example, is a chameleon of personality, beautifully blending into the charismas of crime lords and superheroes through his mastery of method-acting. But wild-eyed fans don’t want the man or woman behind the mask—they only want the personality. When Hunter S. Thompson was interviewed on his property in Colorado, he confessed he never knew if people wanted Hunter or the caricature of himself that he portrayed in his books—because they were drastically different persons, one a man of desires and despairs, the other strictly an ‘ideology of personality.’ This rationalization “confirms man’s non-being,” as Adorno later put it, for personality is everything, and it is itself fraudulent. This is why man can never be in love without a bit of mystery. We are drawn more by fantasy, more by the picture of a gorgeous woman or man that we say we would ‘love to know,’ when in fact we must never really know. Because once the facade fades, we are merely another hairless ape trying to dampen our private parts. The divorce of intimacy naturally ensues when the alpha and the cowboy and the ballerina are dragged out into the open, and the shattering despair of reality is all that’s left. We live for eternal desiring, eternal longing for beauty, for something that will make us ache for life. Slavoj Žižek said in A Pervert’s Guide to Cinema, “there is nothing spontaneous, nothing natural, about human desires. Our desires are artificial. We have to be taught to desire […] Cinema is the ultimate pervert art—it doesn’t give you what you desire, it tells you how to desire.” It’s obvious that Ryan Seacrest studied Adorno and Žižek when constructing the psychoanalytic format for American Idol and Keeping up with the Kardashians—these shows gently stroke our incessant desire for personality more than anything else. The culture industry is a great machine of glistening asses, led only partially by Ryan Seacrest. If he wasn’t there, somebody else would be, tirelessly grinding away at the stone of desire. Soon there will be nothing left. Just an orgy of holograms, rubbing against the immense black emptiness all around, a white burning comet hurling by.

When We Sing, When We Throw Stones

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It seems like we’re on the edge now. A teetering fragility of peace, everyone at their respective political rallies—either there in support or there in protest—everyone frothing at the mouth, eager for a good excuse to stab each other in the throat. Every day there’s another viral video of Trump supporters mobbing a protester, and Trump himself cheering them on—bucktoothed white men draped in camo-gear attack a black man, or huddle around a Muslim woman and call her a whore, or punch a songbird, or claw at sunsets, or eat cereal bowls filled with pinecones and Natural Ice. They salute their blotchy-skinned leader by uniformly rubbing their crotches. And all hell breaks loose.

The Trump rally in Chicago that was canceled last week is testament to the cowing tribalism in and around politics these days; it’s more of a foreshadowing of the violence to come, just another transitory episode in the evolutionary buildup of street gangs killing each other over heteronomous trade deals, who’s leader has better hair, and the lawfulness of a penis touching another man’s butthole. The spurious autoschediasticism of the protest ended in very minor clashes  .  .  .  little blood was actually drawn, but there was lots of yelling and name calling, with Trump finally declaring that his freedom of speech was hijacked. Many Bernie campaign posters were seen at the demonstration, but Sanders himself quickly denied any involvement. Hillary Clinton condemned the protest by tweeting the old adage, ‘Violence has no place in politics.’ Even Neil deGrasse Tyson tweeted ‘People who are anti-Trump are actually anti-Trump supporters—they oppose free citizens voting for the @realDonaldTrump.’ The only reason for writing out someone’s Twitter handle is in the hope that they will read it and retweet it. Not that the pop star astrophysicist is necessarily a Trump supporter, but he is trying to make some sort of vague taxonomical clarification, maybe striking the flint of the dialectic, a baseless claim that protesting against a wistfully nostalgic form of imperialism is an offense to freedom itself.

Hillary Clinton pointed to the families of the Charleston, South Carolina victims from last year’s shooting, They “came together and melted hearts in the statehouse,” she said. In her eyes, we should melt Donald Trump’s barely beating heart into a bloody fondu of love and youth. If you see a woman being raped on the street, you should protest peacefully, from the other side of the street, of course, making sure you stay on the sidewalk.

The epistemological axiom that “violence has no place in politics” is a queer Democritean slogan, something that dismisses the entire historical resumé of politics. At the end of Hillary Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State, a Win/Gallup poll declared the United States as the greatest threat to peace in the world. In the 1980’s, Clinton supported the Contra insurgency into Nicaragua. She supported invasions of Haiti in 1994, Bosnia in 1995, and Kosovo in 1999. In her words, she “urged [Bill] to bomb” Yugoslavia. She voted for the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and backed the US-backed Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 2006, and later the US bombing of Libya, creating the power vacuum that allowed ISIS to overtake the country. In other words, violence has everything to do with politics, as long as you are rich while doing it. It’s the same reason a black woman can go to prison for 12 years for a little baggie of weed, but when HSBC launders billions of dollars to Columbian and Mexican drug cartels, no one sees a single day behind bars.

There is something pedantic and selectively fussy about claiming that “violence has no place in politics.” It clearly does. The question is, what part do we as regular citizens play in the arena of political violence?

Take a look at Black Lives Matters, for instance, who made a strong presence at the Chicago rally. Black Lives Matters was formed for the same reason as when the Black Panther Party was created back in 1966: they were both a response to unchecked police brutality against black kids. But the Black Panthers initially began with armed citizen patrols, monitoring the activity and behavior of Oakland’s police officers. Black women with afros would stand on the streets with rifles. Panther leaders were assassinated or falsely charged with murder. J. Edgar Hoover called the party “the greatest threat to the internal security of the country.” Black Lives Matters, on the other hand, barges into libraries and chants its club’s name into the ears of students studying innocently. There was the Weather Underground, formed in 1969, as a radical left-wing faction of the Students for a Democratic Society, in support of the Black Panthers and other militant left-wing groups. Its core principle was a militant opposition to the Vietnam War, as it initiated actions intended to “Bring the War Home.” They broke Dr. Timothy Leary out of prison. They bombed government buildings and banks, they initiated the “Days of Rage” riots in Chicago, and issued a “Declaration of a State of War” against the United States government. There is widespread belief that Martin Luther King could not have achieved what he is attributed with if it were not for Malcolm X’s more militant approach. When antiwar protestors grew by the thousands outside of Nixon’s White House, President Nixon turned to Henry Kissinger in fear, asking for assurance that they wouldn’t break through the fence. When then President George W. Bush was asked what he thought about the antiwar demonstrations outside his White House, he skillfully responded that they pleased him—the evidentiary freedom of speech that American citizens have is why we were going to war, he said, so the Iraqis will one day have the same. Where are Brutus and Cassius? Where is the emerald sword that can pierce the sky? The ennui of our passivity is the force that doesn’t actually want to change anything. It organizes marches, waves banners around, and chants its cheerleader haikus  .  .  .  but we know this is merely for the ends of self-congratulation. We know we are merely swirling our farts in the wind, cheering each other on, finally flirting with women who proudly show off their armpit hair.

In Walter Benjamin’s Critique on Violence, the state needs and creates the conditions for a monopoly on violence. “Violence, when not in the hands of the law, threatens [the law] not by the ends it may pursue but by its mere existence outside the law.” The antipodal fringe barricades itself against the powers of the state through what is termed Divine Violence—that inevitable reactionary force, preserving the gorgeous brawn of the sovereign. It is completely “law-destroying,” completely at odds with the systemic coercion of the state. It’s merely and wholely a strike at power, to value justice and principle over the law. Slavoj Žižek sees divine violence as an inevitable response against the superstructure. Men ought to scare where they must. But even the so-called radical Left today feels it should disassociate itself with the Jacobin paradigm. In Žižek’s Robespierre of the “Divine Violence” of Terror, he writes, “what the sensitive liberals want is a decaffeinated revolution, a revolution that doesn’t smell of revolution.”

Donald Trump was rightly criticized for saying he would kill the family members of terrorists. This is dangerous talk. The problem is that Barack Obama already has. In a drone attack, 16-year-old American-born son of Anwar Al-Awalki was killed, and Obama has never answered questions addressing this. This is perhaps more dangerous, for the left slowly accepts that this is just the way things work. In an interview with CNN, Trump warned of riots if the Republican Party handed the nomination to another candidate. “I think you’d have riots,” he said. “I’m representing many, many millions of people  .  .  .  Bad things would happen.”

The Chicago protests were a glimpse of what could be, however grand and gorgeous and tragic. I don’t know. I’m too drunk to tell anymore. All I know is there is too much light, too much life to tell anymore. Too much everything. All it is is just an eruption of stars and worlds.

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