Sunday, June 29, 2008

what kind of democracy?

what kind of democracy
has telecom monopolies
royal families and disenfranchised majorities?

what kind of democracy
has political aristocracy
unpopular policy and institutionalized hypocrisy?

any kind of democracy
manifests such a tendency:
modern mobocracy via information monopoly.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

the "temporary autonomous zone"

The medieval Assassins founded a "State" which consisted of a network of remote mountain valleys and castles, separated by thousands of miles, strategically invulnerable to invasion, connected by the information flow of secret agents, at war with all governments, and devoted only to knowledge. Modern technology, culminating in the spy satellite, makes this kind of autonomy a romantic dream. No more pirate islands! In the future the same technology—freed from all political control—could make possible an entire world of autonomous zones. But for now the concept remains precisely science fiction—pure speculation.

Are we who live in the present doomed never to experience autonomy, never to stand for one moment on a bit of land ruled only by freedom? Are we reduced either to nostalgia for the past or nostalgia for the future? Must we wait until the entire world is freed of political control before even one of us can claim to know freedom?
You will argue that this is a counsel of despair. What of the anarchist dream, the Stateless state, the Commune, the autonomous zone with duration, a free society, a free culture? Are we to abandon that hope in return for some existentialist acte gratuit? The point is not to change consciousness but to change the world.

I accept this as a fair criticism. I'd make two rejoinders nevertheless; first, revolution has never yet resulted in achieving this dream. The vision comes to life in the moment of uprising—but as soon as "the Revolution" triumphs and the State returns, the dream and the ideal are already betrayed. I have not given up hope or even expectation of change—but I distrust the word Revolution. Second, even if we replace the revolutionary approach with a concept of insurrection blossoming spontaneously into anarchist culture, our own particular historical situation is not propitious for such a vast undertaking. Absolutely nothing but a futile martyrdom could possibly result now from a head-on collision with the terminal State, the megacorporate information State, the empire of Spectacle and Simulation. Its guns are all pointed at us, while our meager weaponry finds nothing to aim at but a hysteresis, a rigid vacuity, a Spook capable of smothering every spark in an ectoplasm of information, a society of capitulation ruled by the image of the Cop and the absorbant eye of the TV screen.

Babylon takes its abstractions for realities; precisely within this margin of error the TAZ can come into existence. Getting the TAZ started may involve tactics of violence and defense, but its greatest strength lies in its invisibility—the State cannot recognize it because History has no definition of it. As soon as the TAZ is named (represented, mediated), it must vanish, it will vanish, leaving behind it an empty husk, only to spring up again somewhere else, once again invisible because undefinable in terms of the Spectacle. The TAZ is thus a perfect tactic for an era in which the State is omnipresent and all-powerful and yet simultaneously riddled with cracks and vacancies. And because the TAZ is a microcosm of that "anarchist dream" of a free culture, I can think of no better tactic by which to work toward that goal while at the same time experiencing some of its benefits here and now.

In sum, realism demands not only that we give up waiting for "the Revolution" but also that we give up wanting it. "Uprising," yes—as often as possible and even at the risk of violence. The spasming of the Simulated State will be "spectacular," but in most cases the best and most radical tactic will be to refuse to engage in spectacular violence, to withdraw from the area of simulation, to disappear.

The TAZ is an encampment of guerilla ontologists: strike and run away. Keep moving the entire tribe, even if it's only data in the Web. The TAZ must be capable of defense; but both the "strike" and the "defense" should, if possible, evade the violence of the State, which is no longer a meaningful violence. The strike is made at structures of control, essentially at ideas; the defense is "invisibility," a martial art, and "invulnerability"—an "occult" art within the martial arts. The "nomadic war machine" conquers without being noticed and moves on before the map can be adjusted. As to the future—Only the autonomous can plan autonomy, organize for it, create it. It's a bootstrap operation. The first step is somewhat akin to satori—the realization that the TAZ begins with a simple act of realization.

Hakim Bey, The Temporary Autonomous Zone (1985)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

the rule of law

The rule of law is usually understood in contrast to the state of nature, or the arbitrary punishments and rewards doled out by whimsical despots. However, what if the laws themselves are whimsical or arbitrary in nature? And, furthermore, what if said laws are designed such that all are always de facto guilty of violating some such, the enforcement of which is then whimsical or arbitrary? In such a situation, the virtues of the rule of law evaporate, and the chaotic and irrational structure of the state of nature or the whimsical despot is reproduced in the "law-governed" society.

Such is the case with most developed nations in the modern world. We have come full circle, replacing the chaos of nature with the rationality of law, with the whimsy of irrational dicta arbitrarily enforced.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

drug poetry

Since before recorded history, (i) the ecstasy of drug-induced experience has been explicated, analyzed, and glorified in poetic works.

In modern times, not just the ecstasy of the experience, but (ii) the thrill, status, financial benefit, and implementation of selling and distributing drugs has been glorified and explicated in poetry (read: rap, the mainstream poetry of the past 25 years).

Question: are either [bad / wrong / damaging to society] / [inherently immoral]?

For the former ((i)), since the ecstasy in question is a personal experience, it is hard to imagine it as damaging to society. Certainly, the government-popularized myths of spontaneous insanity / stupidity / anti-social behavior would, if true, be an argument in favor of this conclusion. Unfortunately, most government propaganda about drugs is just that: propaganda. True, most illegal substances (with the exception, perhaps, of marijuana) can result in damaging and violent social behavior, but this does not distinguish them from legal substances (such as alcohol, cough syrup, dramamine, nutmeg, phalaris grass, "energy drinks," etc.) which, if abused, will likewise result in the same. Furthermore, emphasizing such downplays the potential benefits (the ills cured by ibogaine are far more severe and intransigent than those cured by ibuprofen, for example, though only the latter can be legally distributed within US borders).

For the latter ((ii)), a society which incites poetic descriptions of illegal behavior has clearly strayed in its imposition of order. For, the point of the formal imposition of forms of behavior (whether positive (drive on the right hand side of the road) or negative (do not murder)) is surely to benefit society as a whole. If said society "votes" for one form of behavior in its imposition of law and another in its consumption of art, this society exhibits a schizophrenia indicative of illness every bit as much as schizophrenia is a symptom of illness in the individual.

Consider, for example, two examples of socially imposed behavior: (i) driving on the right hand side of the road, (ii) failing to sell cocaine. If one violates either of these mandates (driving on the left hand side; selling cocaine) one will be punished, and perhaps imprisoned. Nevertheless, the two forms of behavior are represented quite differently in the arts. For the former, I know of no poetry or other form of artistic expression which systematically glorifies or encourages driving on the left hand side of the road. For the latter, not only are there numerous poems / songs / raps which encourage and glorify the practice of selling cocaine, but there are likewise numerous poems, etc. (dating at least to the romantics) which glorify the practice of consuming cocaine.

Now, why this asymmetrical opposition to the imposition of social structure in the two cases? My personal view: the former (driving on the the right hand side of the road) represents a legitimate problem of social coordination - we need social organization here (whether explicitly codified in law or no) to fulfill our ends; the latter (failing to sell cocaine) only fulfills the ends of certain conservative / selfish / (most importantly) ignorant segments of society.

The point: art which encourages violating the law is an offense to all of us (because it is in all our interests that the law is obeyed, that is why we made it the law). Therefore, a society which engenders art which glorifies violating the law is a society which has implemented the wrong laws.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

free market internet?

Is there really a free market for (non dial-up) internet service providers? If so, why do I only have one option available to me in my area? If not, why not?