by leila and sasha
We've been following maps for too long. They are the creation of the state, used to define territory, make borders and control the flows of desire. Society tries to define the categories of ethnicity, gender and language as stable, finished products; history has ended it says. It tries to essentialize humans and human creativity, forcing identity upon all who are continually becoming something new, something wild. But we would like to explode the boundaries and scramble the codes to encourage a playful creativity in each individual's becoming. Don't believe you must stand still. Forget the map and roam feral across unknown lands.
The next three sections look at ethnicity, gender and language as bordered states. The territory of each ethnic group, gender and language is mapped with borders and roads that code the behavior and definition of individuals. Let's think of all humans now subsumed within various ethnicities as a vast topology of possibilities, an unending terrain. The state sets up bordered territories to group people into ethnicities: you're a Tibetan and you're a Mongol. Between these territories, these cities where people are huddled together, are deserts where one is not supposed to roam, you must be defined within a border. In China, for example, if you are the offspring of a Tibetan and a Han Chinese, you must choose one as your ethnic group or it will be chosen for you.
According to the map you are one or the other.
GenderThe word gender comes from the Latin word genus meaning kind, sort or class. Social organization is based upon the classification of people. Society and the state need individual humans to be classified and sorted in order to maintain themselves. From social insistence upon gender specific division of labor and roles, to the state's need to tag and code individuals (the use of census and IDs to track down and classify individuals into race, gender, occupation, etc.), the outcome is the same; gender classification is used to control. All classification and division of individuals is used to put people in their place, to define, limit and control them. Once humans were placed into two bordered categories, defined by their genitals, those doing the defining ran into a problem. Two to three percent of births produce humans with physical qualities of both biological sexes. Some babies are born with penises and vaginal openings, some appear female and have elongated clitorises, some "boys" have reached puberty and then grown breasts. Those who appear to have more characteristics of one gender are raised as being that gender. But there are cases when the characteristics of one gender don''t dominate. Law has forced these individuals to be classified as male or female, hermaphrodites are to be classified under "the sex that predominates" and when neither sex does they make one up.
"Ambiguity must be erased in order to defeat the threat of rule breaking, boundary crossing and anarchy that occurs if gender-indeterminate individuals are allowed to exist." --Julia Epstein.
LanguageLanguage is a topology of bordered territories. Codified usage sets up a boundary between languages. These codified norms allow efficient communication between fellow patriots of the language state. Specialists in education attempt to keep control of language change and diversity. They create new dictionaries and books of style and grammar: maps with borders. In countries with fluid languages (pidgins and creoles that traverse a continuum or field and create new language strategies out of old forms) linguists define the languages and help government to concretize them. This is happening throughout the Caribbean today.
Rant on Identity by Panik from Clowns against graphic designers
Identity is often thought of as positive, but in
reality, identity does not give you anything, it only takes
away, it only limits you. Identity tells you what you are
so as to keep you from being all that you desire, limited
only by your creativity and circumstance. Identity is pole
that one is chained to until one breaks free.
An identity crisis, something so common these days, stems not from the lack of a pole that one is tied to, but from the fact that we are taught by our culture that we have to have a firm identity to be healthy. Without an identity we would be lost, we are told. This fear, this paranoia, instilled in us early on in our cultural education is part of society's police force charged with maintaining order: "Stay in your place!" Another officer of authority is the threat to our physical survival. Private property and the monopoly on violence used to maintain it force us to follow the rules or we won't be able to eat. And one rule is that we stay like a domesticated dog on the leash of identity. To get a job you have to show you have kept up your identity, you have followed a single path; you are what you are and that is exactly what they want; you have to have a career. "You are looking for a graphic designer. Well that's exactly what I am. I have the papers to prove it; I've always been interested in art; every job I've had was in graphic design."
Life and our desires, however, are much more wide open than this. We want to keep changing directions and, above all, keep moving. That's what being subversive is, being able to evade and undermine the limit, the same, the grand equivalent, the identity. We don't want to be stuck in a little box, locked in a house, chained to an identity. So how did we get into this trap? We started to be domesticated when we stopped moving over land, when we stopped being freely creative in our lives. When humans slowed their nomadic movements and became settled, authority and social stratification began to seep into our human relations. Social roles were produced to maintain order: you're a slave and I'm a ruler. Sedentary societies produced sedentary identities. The first philosophers to write about and champion this were Plato and Aristotle, who stressed the primacy of identity.
Plato feared fire; he feared change. Looking for permanence, he ran to the unreal, to the essence, the idea behind being. According to Plato the copy should follow the model; this is the good copy (eikon). One should follow their essence. Difference, ambiguity and change must be repressed for they would make a bad copy (phantasma or simulacra). Plato wants to limit, repress and shut up the simulacra. What Plato feared were objects with no fixed identity, things that are disguised or contradictory, that are always becoming something new, unlimited by any form or model. These objects threaten both the model and the copy as they have escaped the domination of the idea, of representation.
In Plato's Republic, no man is to engage in more than a single task. Each man should do the work "for which he was by nature fitted...and at that [occupation] he is to continue working all his life long and at no other." "In our State...human nature is not twofold or manifold, for one man plays one part only." "Human nature appears to have been coined into yet smaller pieces, and to be as incapable of imitating many things well, as of performing well the actions of which the imitations are copies." In the Republic, you are stuck with a single and certain identity.
Plato did not like poets as they often portrayed things as ambiguous. Homer called Zeus "the dispenser of good and evil to us." Plato would not allow this in his republic. Poets must buttress the morality of society with unambiguous works; the gods are all good. Poets and dramatists were very existential; they dealt with death, sex, conflict, chaos and human relations. Plato would outlaw such "imitators".
According to Aristotle, a citizen must also own property and other humans (slaves and women). "Neither should we suppose that anyone of the citizens belong to himself, for they all belong to the state." In addition, "the citizen should be molded to suit the form of government under which he lives." A state has complete control over the moral development and personal activity of the citizen, for each state has its own essence which the citizens must be in line with. One's essence determines one's position in society; slaves are slaves because it is their nature. Class is natural; it is in our essence.
Society and culture are essentializing structures that attempt to force identity on all humans, to place them in the hierarchical organization of power. Society swoops down on communities with a grid of identification that transforms all relationships. People are pushed into social roles and impersonal institutions which mediate once direct relationships with power. Bob has now taken on the role of police officer and society has invested in him a certain amount of power over others. This power comes between him and all his relations. A shopkeeper takes on an identity that is invested with the power over objects, the power to demand a certain exchange value in return for objects. All the power invested in social roles and institutions are backed up by state power, the monopoly on violence. Civilization has to keep everything in its place, to know essences and weed out bad copies.
Culture is a model. It sets up criteria, rules of behaviour that set apart good and bad copies. To be a member of a culture you have to follow the rules of that culture, you have to be a good enough copy. Culture limits our behaviour and our creativity.
To be free we need to subvert identity by being tricksters and thieves, by always becoming unlimited, becoming unknown. Overturning Plato and essentialism is not about inverting the hierarchy of model and copy, the essence and the existent, but about tossing both. It is about celebrating the bad copy, being as difference, an identityless becoming. As Delueze says, "The simulacrum is not a degraded copy. It harbours a positive power which denies the original and the copy, the model and the reproduction." Being is difference. Thus being can't be thought of through the means of recognition and representation, through identity. We are ambidimentional, and that is our power. We have no essences to tie us down, no models to follow; they are created by society. There is no true model for a woman to follow, no woman's essence or nature, there is only what she is becoming at each moment. There is only potentials and choices, desires, that send her in certain directions. We become wild when we stop following essences and follow our desires instead.
To be civilized is to follow the model, to be a good copy; it is to know your place, your nature. To be civilized is to allow society to control your development, for you belong to the state and the culture. To break free is to always be becoming wild, to subvert any stable identity, to follow desire.
@mbi started with the idea of psychic energy in the introduction to the first issue of Eugenics of the Postmodern Spleen. The term psychic energy was used to stand for the abundant energy in our brain that is used to be creative. But as modern society closes off areas we were once active in (our self-creation, creativity, spirituality, etc.) into fields that only specialists are active in (politicians, artists, ministers) this energy is left damned up and is channeled by advertising into consumption. Consumption never really satisfies us, however, and we are left wanting more. We become passive observers of our life, alienated from our desires. This idea was developed by Phobrek and I in the pamphlet 'Episteme Rape'. And it later came up again in the 'This Is Art' manifesto that appeared in the first Croatan Express. Psychic energy became creative energy and we began to explore the way society channeled creative energy to its own ends and stymied the self-creation of individuals. To me this process was heavily influenced by the situationists.
As I began to look back over history to understand the roots of this authoritarian system that feeds off of us, I noticed that the system started around the same time as agriculture and the foundation of civilization. It's effects can be seen in time, language, art, music, etc. Writers such as John Zerzan, Feral Faun, Fredy Perlman, J. Camatte helped me to understand the roots of the system. The subjective revolt against Civilization has always accompanied the progress of Civilization. There is no need to wait for the objectively correct moment to revolt as many communists would suggest; the time to reconstitute ourselves as autonomous individuals has always been present.
Deleuze and Guattari helped me understand how culture swoops down on individuals and applies grids of identification to them, categorizes them and codifies their every behaviour. Culture is metastable, a structure that is defined by what escapes it, defined by its thresholds. Culture is the codification of creativity: "In this town we do things this way." In a culture decisions aren't left up to individual desire or creativity, but follow the rules and codes of the culture. Capital, the most all encompassing of Civilizations forms, is also metastable, but its borders (meta) are so broad that it engulfs all cultures and societies. Its logic and rules contain all cultures and shape them to fit its needs. Within a culture itself there are metastable categories such as art, politics or religion that specialists rule over. @mbi is about the destruction of all of these boarders, so as to liberate individual creativity, allowing it to flow in all desired directions.
Our creativity is channeled into social reproduction, and that which cannot be channeled is suppressed. Channeled creativity becomes work, because it is separated from the individual who has becomes a mere actor in a social role. Social roles are organized by authority to most efficiently reproduce society. Work is energy expended for the sake of society. Citizens are domesticated, in that they no longer live for themselves; they are taught to live for society. Truly autonomous individuals are creative and active, but they don't work. One does not work for survival outside of society, but is immediately active in following ones desires, whether it be for food, sex, intoxication or other pleasures.
To rebel and repossess ourselves, we need to abandon culture and society, to step outside the terrain of capital by refusing both its work and its leisure. We have to stop living passively through social roles that reproduce society, and live for ourselves.
Drunk driving and juggling
The bus swerves around the corners of this mountain road and leans out over the cliffs. The air smells wonderful and the bus driver plays Vianatos on the radio. The bus doesn't drop over the edge and roll as it did in Romania to one @mberian last year and I have no worries of that as time has stopped. This is thanks to my early Gunliepa Buddhist sect practices of drunk-driving-with-friends and juggling.
We haven't talked about the Gunliepa sect of Desiring Buddhism since we published our translation of the Life of Dropo Gunlie in the first issue of Croatan Express, so it's about time for some new comments on the matter.
As Dropo Gunlie said to a monk chastising him to put on his clothes as it was time for morning prayers, "Time, what the fuck is that." Of course, Dropo Gunlie never lived within a society so he never believed in social constructions such as time; Gunlie only believed in his desires. Ridding ourselves of time can make the immediate present much more enjoyable, and that is the purpose of many Gunliepa practices.
The practice of Drunk Driving with Friends was developed on the country roads of Maine. First we would get thoroughly drunk by playing a game of Trail of Tears, where for every mile we went we would have to throw an empty beer can out the window (leaving a trail of tears). We would continue to speed along the twisting roads with our windows open and the music blasting, breathing in the cool air and forgetting the future. Our fear of death would leave us and a euphoria would envelope the present. The feeling is particularly heightened for the passengers as they have no control over their fate.
Another Gunliepa practice for dealing with time is juggling. When one first starts practicing it seems as if the balls are going too fast to control. But as one practices more, one realizes that since time is a social construction and basically a trick of perception played on us by the social magicians years of training, and that we can take the reality of event from society's perception controls. We can slow the balls down and almost stop them, as we rearrange their pattern. With years of practice one can leave time far behind. My friend echo was able to create envelopes of time that others could not perceive so that she could take her time in shoplifting. Creating time for oneself instead of buying into society's time is a powerful tool in the fight to create one's own life.