"I believe in the absolute virtue of anything that takes place, spontaneously or not, in the sense of non-acceptance, and no reasons of general efficacy, from which long, pre-revolutionary patience draws its inspiration - reasons to which I defer - will make me deaf to the cry which can be wrenched from us at every moment by the frightful disproportion between what is gained and what is lost, between what is granted and what is suffered."
(in a footnote to the "simplest surrealist act" passage in later editions of the second manifesto)
There was one low angle view of United Airlines 175 penetrating the southern tower of the World Trade Center that was exquisitely and beautifully revealing for its violent composition: diagonally vertical rise sliced by a horizontal wedge, the vertical absorbs the plane, red and black burst into the blue sky as sparkle and gray falls toward the camera, Hollywood spectacle meets Manhattan finance, the banal special effect pierces the mundane Tuesday morning with extraordinary, fiery fascination at the moment real life meets real death. America awakens from its old dream and instantly goes to sleep.
"No one could concentrate on what they were doing,
and what they were doing didn't seem very important."
...an editor of a bicycle enthusiasts magazine
(commenting on his staff's reaction to the events of Sept 11 2001)
From a surrealist perspective, it's not that difficult to understand the events of Sept 11. The "frightful disproportion between what is gained and what is lost, between what is granted and what is suffered", as Breton put it, or as the Situationists put it: "the appalling contrast between the possible constructions of life and its present poverty" is what lies at the core of most violence, terrorism included.
This same "frightful disproportion" is at the core of the spectator's fascination with, and obsessive fear of violence.
So in the current context, as in all previous contexts, that "something we need to do" is quite simple and extraordinarily difficult: create the surrealist revolution. Which is to say desire must be our guide, and we must work to liberate the imagination and fully integrate it into every day living - all imaginations, everyday, on a global scale.
That includes helping people recognize when their desire (to live fully and freely) has been falsified (into a thirst for revenge), and that there is a need for something quite different than war at a time like this.
"...in a Situationist city there wouldn't be a 110 story tower
held up only by the tension between the top and the bottom."
(in a post to a situationist mailing list)
It's easy enough to see how flying large passenger jets into buildings full of people runs counter to a surrealist revolution. As convulsively beautiful as some of the images were, the brutally flawed brilliance of turning one icon of global commercialization against others was clearly not intended to liberate imaginations, but rather to imprison them (to say nothing about those deliberately sacrificed and destroyed).
The subsequent recouperation of this event, the use of it by the existing order to further secure and enhance its position was predictable.
By the time networks did a cross-fade to transform the wide-eyed "gee-wiz" of the morning show hosts into a somber star anchor melodrama, the typical preservation pattern was in full dismal display.
The "experts" showed up for their obligatory speculations, and the siege mentality was quickly established, reinforced by close-ups of the burning towers, shots of emergency personnel scrambling, tape loops of the second plane hitting the south tower, repeated references to Pearl Harbor, "war zones", etc. The pornography of holy blood in service to the dissolution.
The attack was personalized for the TV viewer even as he/she was reduced to spectator. Interviews in the rubble: a guy who was walking to work and saw the planes hit; a husband looking for his wife; a wife looking for her husband, child clinging to her arm. Of course, there was no easy access to established box-office magnets, but the full power of public relations made as many starlets out of the merely startled as possible, given the tight schedule.
We were told that we were attacked because "America is the brightest beacon for freedom," when � of course � it is only to often a dark curtain between certain peoples and that commodity. Declaring the actions "senseless" and "insane" made the population feel vulnerable to further attacks by a "faceless coward" we have no way of understanding or coming to terms with.
Another boogieman took the stage and far too many seemingly cognizant beings are now more than willing to surrender all their options because they can't imagine that they have any. They can't imagine they have any because they have surrendered their imaginations to POWER, leaving them weak and vulnerable, with no hope of ever understanding the kind of people who would do such a thing. They DEMAND that the government punish the "enemy" of "freedom loving nations" because there's obviously nothing they can do themselves.
"I think we need to get back into the down and dirty
business [of assassinating our 'enemies']."
(blaming the Church Committee hearings into the'abuses' of the CIA for our vulnerability)
So now the USA is a war machine (again!) in search of a target from which to extract its revenge. Patriotism infects the wounds of every good citizen. The US House the Senate both voted unanimously to support Bush's crack down and revenge proposal. Remember the Alamo, remember the Maine, swim in the Gulf of Tonkin. Many pundits and government types have been heard suggesting that we just may have to give up some of our liberty to ensure our safety, forgetting that true liberty is always dangerous, if only to those who would defuse it.
[And now, as this is written, we learn of more symptoms of this patriotic fever: pustules on this legislation that will further swell the ears and distend the arms of the FBI � already a pock-marked caricature � so as to make it easier for both local and federal cops to "find the bad guys". Of course some of us know that, in so far as their role is to stabilize the existing order which perpetuates injustice, cops actually are the bad guys (to say nothing of the more overt personal "badness" demonstrated by recent "scandals" in Miami and Los Angeles and dozens of other places around the country).]
After all, as one of the heads said Tuesday, "the bill of rights isn't a suicide pact." Perhaps it is just another treaty scribbled on toilet paper?
"It's very, very important that we show the American people
that the institutions of government remain intact."
...Senator Mark Dayton (MN)
Unfortunately, the institutions of government do remain intact and the pleas for security and revenge fit their mission much better than pleas to end executions or provide health care. And as the war drums beat louder they are encouraged to even greater stupidity.
But it's important we don't just see this as a failure of government but rather as a pervasive falsified reality supported on the stilts of our own complicity. This falsification depends as much upon the Taliban as it does Microsoft; depends as much upon Al Sharpton as it does the NYPD; depends as much upon the dollars of consumers as it does the outrage of patriots.
As long as we continue to play the roles as written, the existing order -- POWER -- thrives.
It's just that the government is center stage today, and the bad actor is replaced by a burlesque clown.
"And he has disappeared down the rabbit hole."
...ABC reporter Ann Compton
(describing Bush's descent into an underground
bunker at Offut Air Force base)
And what were we really seeing all day on the TV?
The collapse of the World Trade Center. The cutting open of the Pentagon. And Bush on the run. And long may he run.
If we paid attention, we were seeing that the target of the attack was the US as an arrogant global bully "the most powerful nation on earth" intoxicated by its own power, too paranoid to actually support the cause of liberty when it comes against a friendly dictator, too clumsy to avoid getting punched in the nose and blind to even the most obvious lessons of its own past.
Isn't it about time we refused yet another serving of false dichotomy and fixed ourselves a real meal?