I’m only waiting for the proper time to tell you
That it’s impossible to get along with you
It’s hard to look you in the face when we are talking
So it helps to have a mirror in the room
I’ve not been really looking forward to the performance
But there’s my cue and there’s a question on your face
Fortunately I have come across an answer
Which is go away And do not leave a trace
-The White Stripes
So I’ve been looking at the idea of artificially created realities. Specifically, the kind of totalised terrorscapes that the latest incarnation of the powers that be seem intent on foisting on us. Of course, the fact we can even talk about it the way we do implies something: obviously if the powers could prevent people like ‘us’ from pricking their fantasy trip with pins they probably would right? So why don’t they? It’s certainly been a well respected and time honored tactic of the Reality Priesthood for time out of mind ( I like that. The reality priesthood…) . So what’s changed?
Douglas Rushkoff recently commented on this in an excerpt from a forthcoming article, which I saw by way of Tim:
I?m thinking we should let them win. Surrender the unreal realities to the bad guys. If they want broadcast television, mainstream newspapers, or even the web, let em have it. They’ve conjured up an alternative universe that has very little true connection to what’s really going on here. And the market-based, competitive, reality-as-propaganda dream has swallowed them up. They are the victims of their own illusions. We don’t have to be. We can take charge of the real reality they left behind; I mean the world we’re actually living in. The yards and streets and fingers and tongues. Let?s build bike lanes and barbecues, after school programs and AIDS care networks, places to play music and playgrounds for kids. They’re so busy monitoring the airwaves for signs of treason against the market or state that they’ve lost track of what’s happening between real people. Turn off your cell phone and speak to that guy sitting next to you on the bus. That’s about the most subversive thing you could do.
The state, as the last spectacular locus of the world of simulation, will have to practise social triage, letting go of real control over zones which fall beneath the level of adequate involvement in the empty discourse. Zones: classes, races, marginalized groups, and to some extent actual geographic areas. Triage: gradual and imperceptible letting-go of “services”, leading to the emergence of no-go zones where “control” is reduced to purely simulated means (e.g. TV as social glue).Zones which have been economically abandoned (the homeless, small farmers, migrant workers, “welfare classes”) will gradually be eliminated from all other networks controlled by the spectacle of the state, including the final interface, the Police. Officially of course this policy will not exist and the specto-state will continue to claim jurisdiction and proprietorship of these zones — no political autonomy will be permitted, and occasional terror acts will be broadcast in the spectacle to provide a veneer of control-simulation. But in stark economic reality these zones will have been sacrificed, like passengers thrown out of the troika of History to the wolves of Memory.
At the time he wrote it, Bey was engaging in speculative fantasy; under what circumstances would power actually sacrfice functional control of the margins of it’s territory, for the sake of maintaining the integrity of the ‘spectacle’ ie: the illusion of total control?
Rushkoff is suggesting that this surrender is already happening, right now, that the Reality Priesthood is slowly withdrawing it’s interest from the the day to day lives of people who aren’t all that tied into it’s workings anyway. Increasingly it has to expend more and more of what little energy it has to simply keep the ‘important people’ safely ensconced in the fantasy trip ( albiet a fantasy trip of color coded alerts, free markets, elections that are supposed to actually matter and the theatre of the absurd/sickening/tragic that passes for entertainment)
Bey speaks of the widening divide between ‘us’ and ‘them’, and how ‘us’ can very easily become ‘them’:
Having been seduced by the commodity, we will be abandoned by it — or rather, “they” will be abandoned, the alien others who were never really part of it in the first place. Interestingly, however, this “them” will gradually come to include more and more individuals and groups who now think of themselves as “us” — the heirs of that great Bourgeois Rational sun-lit world which the spectacle still simulates and preserves — the ones with “rights”, the ones who are “safe” and destined to “survive”. Triage will be practised in these zones as well. The cracks in the monolith will widen, and a lot of “us” will miss that last helicopter out of town.
In other words, don’t count on being on the side of the fence where the cops and soldiers are facing away from you…Now both of these presuppose some kind of gradual or incremental decay process, whereby empire slowly loses it’s grip. But why would this be happening at all? The simple answer is what the indomitable Ran Prieur would call The Slow Crash. Things fall apart, largely because the whole system is running, quite literally, out of gas. Without energy to maintain a completely convincing, fully immersive, terrorscape, choices have to be made. Do we spend this energy subjugating the owners of the energy resources we want, and keeping our financial backers happy, whilst sparing some small effort to keep enough of the voters scared out of their fucking minds so they they can’t bother us? Or do we spend outrageous amounts of energy trying to keep all these fucking people who ask questions and think for themselves and grow their own food in line?
The answer should be simple really. As long as ‘we’ leave them to their buisness, and don’t rock their boat too much, they don’t give a shit what we do. They haven’t got the time or the energy to waste on write-offs like us, and as time goes on they’ll have less and less. Now bear in mind that if we get up on the roof and declare victory and viva la liberation, we’ll still get billy clubbed, jailed and drugged into submission or killed, but it does mean that the Reality Priesthood isn’t going to make efforts to get those of us it hasn’t already got. If you’re stupid enough to fall into their laps, that’s a different story. Do remember that most of the folks on the inside of the terrorscape have no idea this is actually happening, much the same way a retreating army doesn’t like to acknowledge they’re losing. They’re just ‘regrouping’.
This raises all kinds of fascinating questions. Rushkoff thinks such a state of affairs will be like a cool, chill neighborhood where the reality based community can hang out and do our own thing, while the crazy fucknuts in power feed on each other in their holographic playpen. Bey on the other hand, at least recognises that this has the potential for genuine chaos and real danger as opposed to the largely fake danger and amplified fear of the terrorscape. After all, soldiers and cops will eventually be withdrawn to high priority areas, right? How long would it take for your neighborhood to start looking like Detroit or east St Louis? or Bosnia for that matter?
From an occult perspective it shows the limits of that grand old trick of reality creation, and implies that there are, or at least, soon will be, some significant vacuums to fill…