This is the blog of Kilian Jörg, a philosopher and artist based in Vienna and Berlin. He is the founder of philosophy unbound, his main topics are ecological epistemology and the intersection of art and philosophy. Contact him via: kilian[at]jorg[dot]at
In this little text I would like to propose a term, that I find missing in progressive (subversive) discourse. It follows the same line of thought, as this post from July and is part of longer term reflections about how subversive politics are possible. This is caused by a huge doubt and discontentedness about what today is commonly presented and understood as subversive action.
It happens way too often, that people that fight for a goodcause, become so frustrated on their way, that they lose all difference in behaviour and tactics to the enemy they want to overcome. I am thinking of the communist, that is killing innocent people to achieve egality and freedom of all people. The long tradition of revolutionary terror from the French to the Maoist one. I am thinking of the feminist, that is so rigid about his or her personal space, that every freedom of speech and space is obliterated. The leftist, that is becoming so subverted by politics, that (s)he acts exactly as her or his right-wing opponent. The LGBT activist, that is becoming so concerned about the dissolution of gender roles, that (s)he is defending their individual right of existence so hard, that they become even greater stereotypes - perhaps even greater than any chauvinist would have put them.
The problem is a lack of relaxedness and an overemphasis of fight, that is letting an activist with good and important causes become an enemy, solely defined by her or his opponents. By this the activist becomes defined by a dualist friend-fiend scheme, which (s)he originally set out to overcome. (S)he failed to become what (s)he originally set out to become: a freer human being and has become an enemy, defined by the hegemonial power it tried to obliterate.
The dangerous part of this is, that people who fell into this trap, still consider themselves subversives. They think they fight very hard for their ideals, where in fact, they only fight as enemies.
By this, they fight for the system, while thinking, that they fight against it. Unknowingly, they turn into guards of the hegemonial order.
It might be worth considering, if it is even possible to fight for ideals. Fight - war only makes you become an enemy, nothing else. You have lost your ideals, once you fight for them?
I am aware, that - as a white privileged male - this is an extremely difficult and dangerous stance I am taking. However, I am taking this stance exactly because I believe in the above mentioned ideals and am very frustrated about the conservative backlash and the inertia of progressive politics we are all witnessing today.
To help our ideals become reality, I think it is necessary to have a term like becoming-enemy, that enables us to reflect on certain dynamism, that prevent progressive politics from progressing. We have to think hard, when, how and why we become enemies, and how we can prevent ourselves from becoming so.
"Sein Imperativ befiehlt nicht nur Nein zu sagen, wo das Ja eine „Selbstlosigkeit“ sein würde, sondern auch so wenig als möglich Nein zu sagen. Sich trennen, sich abscheiden von dem, wo immer und immer wieder das Nein nöthig werden würde. Die Vernunft darin ist, dass Defensiv-Ausgaben, selbst noch so kleine, zur Regel, zur Gewohnheit werdend, eine ausserordentliche und vollkommen überflüssige Verarmung bedingen. Unsre grossen Ausgaben sind die häufigsten kleinen. Das Abwehren, das Nicht-heran-kommen-lassen ist eine Ausgabe — man täusche sich hierüber nicht —, eine zu negativen Zwecken verschwendete Kraft. Man kann, bloss in der beständigen Noth der Abwehr, schwach genug werden, um sich nicht mehr wehren zu können." "Aber Stacheln zu haben ist eine Vergeudung, ein doppelter Luxus sogar, wenn es freisteht, keine Stacheln zu haben, sondern offne Hände…" - Friedrich Nietzsche, Ecco Homo: Warum ich so klug bin, 8[English version see here]
Together with a friend I have written an essay, in which we try to propose how subversive politics are possible. It is called "Das Anti-Chamäleon" and will be published somewhere soon. Stay tuned.