I am, of course, supportive of the Occupy Wall Street sit-ins. I have had issues relating to some of it, mostly to do with my pre-existing distrust of anarchist style political organization and seeing how little it gets done while protecting the beautiful souls of the leaders who deny their leadership. As Adam has said I think it is very silly to pretend that I, or any of us, know what the hell we are doing (though Adam said it, I am sure, much more eloquently). But this is what has depressed me so much about these sit-ins. First, I think we need to get some assumptions out of the way. I don’t think this is a revolution. It’s a clearly political act, but revolutions, at least real ones that don’t just sink into a form of liberalism, are radical breaks. It seems that they involve violence necessarily. And not the kind of low-scale violence that comes from clashes with police. Revolutions actually involve taking power from those who already hold it (and this, by the way, is why I don’t think Egypt, now under a form of dual power between parliament and the military, has yet been a revolution). But, and this is the second point, just because this is a revolution doesn’t mean it isn’t inspiring or worthwhile in a number of ways. That “revolution or bust” mentality is not the root of my depression and I think it’s at least as puerile, if not more, as the anarchist techniques that bother me about the groups running OWS. So in a very popular post I suggested that if we were not hate the poor we had to refuse to hold one opinion regarding the English riots. I think that holds true in the case of OWS and what follows is more of a confession, perhaps entirely too personal, than it is a work of political criticism.
Something about this whole thing has me depressed. I’ll leave out the worries I have over the nefarious libertarian influence of the many participants with their “End the Fed” buttons. Or the all too predictable progression of what’s happening in London. Or even the fact that I’m fairly confident that all the big city mayors in the US are just waiting until the first snowfall when these sit-ins will inevitably break up. For me the truly depressing thing has nothing to do with those participating in the events, many of whom I think are probably experiencing something new and ecstatic. A kind of political joy that comes from thinking about things and talking with people and, yes, having the threat of some physical violence for doing these things (the cultural nihilism of neoliberalism has made masochism a symptom of political awakening). Every time I read or hear something optimistic about these sit-ins I’ve been struck by the yellow note of melancholia. The phrase “borrowed time” always seems to hit me. For, it seems that even if these were to bring about some kind of change, it would be too late.
I recently, out of a profound sense of boredom, started mocking a friend’s friend on Facebook. This friend of a friend seemed like he modelled his identity on a liberal straw man. For him life was all about making money and reducing all of the world’s qualities to what could be bought and sold. His kind is legion. It was his snide dismissal of everything that wasn’t constrained within the frame of neoliberalism that really got to me. Not got to me in the sense that it touched a nerve, but got to me in the sense that it triggered, like Orwell’s yellow note, this bout of melancholia. These people, who are neither optimists nor pessimists, and who have even sublimated apathy, strike me as the true political majority.
It sometimes seems to me, in these bouts of melancholia, that the only answer is to shut it all down. Tiqquin, who also sometimes get on my nerves, have a funny remark in one of their pamphlets: “I’m not depressed, I’m on strike.” Their whole notion of the human strike is surely in earnest, but it’s also profoundly funny in the same way that Louis CK is profoundly funny. They both look into the darkness and can’t bring themselves to end it. Probably because of their kids. And so they can only make jokes in order to push off the darkness a bit longer. And so the human strike, shutting it all down, doesn’t that refer to stopping the whole anthropological machine and doesn’t that mean stopping humanity? If only a planet would smash into us from behind the sun then it wouldn’t be our fault! Because either way we are on borrowed time. The biosphere is fucked and, in my moments of panic, I’m pretty sure we reached the point of no return some time back. But, I don’t see too many people pissed off about that, there has been in the last few years a resignation to the environmental catastrophe. But worse than that resignation is the fact that I have no idea what to do about it, no idea how to theorise it, and neither, it seems, does anyone else. And I’m pretty sure we’re not going to get there by consensus.