Mass Murder and Austerity Suicide, or Global Activism in The Age of Depression
Mike Zahn. Brooklyn, Spring 2019.
It’s not easy to harmonize your breathing to the cosmic breath, when people are suffering around you, and you feel guilty in one sense or another for their pain – – because you know that your job is to find a solution, a therapy, a way out – – and you are unable to say what should be done.
In the last few decades, artistic sensibility has been paralyzed by a sense of paranoiac enchantment, of psychic frailty, fear of precariousness, and the premonition of a catastrophe that is impossible to avoid.
Now all this paranoia has to be disposed of. Let’s forget about it. Let’s go forward.
Jackie Orr writes in Panic Diaries: “In an exquisite sense of contagious connectivity, paranoia is one form that a felt insistence on the sociohistorical structuring of psychic experience can take. Paranoia ‘knows well’ the remnant evidence suggesting that everything really is connected, the psyche and the power of the social, a small white pill and a wildly historical story.”
If paranoia “knows well”, we need a method of ignorance. We need to assume some distance from what seems to be inscribed in the present cartography of events. The spectrum of the possible is much larger than the range of probability. Dystopia has to be faced and dissolved by irony. We need to correct dystopia with irony, because irony, far from being a cynical alliance with power, is the excess of language that opens the door to the infinity of the possible.
So what can be done when nothing can be done?
Politicians call on us to take part in their concerns, economists call on us to be responsible, to work more, to go shopping, to stimulate the market, and priests call on us to have faith. Follow these inveiglements to participate, to be responsible, to believe, and you are trapped.
Ironic autonomy is an answer. The contrary of participation, the contrary of responsibility, the contrary of faith. Dystopian irony is the language of autonomy. Irony is about the independence of mind from knowledge. It is about the excessive nature of the imagination.
Do not believe your own assumptions, or mine. Be skeptical.
Do not take part in the game.
Do not expect any solution from politics. Do not be attached to things. Do not hope.
Do not revoke revolution. Revolt against power is necessary, even if we may not know how to win.
Do not belong. Distinguish your destiny from the destiny of those who want to belong, and to participate, and to pay their debt. If they want war, be a deserter. If they are enslaved, and want you to suffer like them, do not give in to their blackmail. Do not be a slave. What is important is how you live your life.
Do not be frightened by despair. It does not delete the potential for joy. Remember that despair and joy are not incompatible. Despair is a consequence of understanding. Joy is a condition of the emotional mind. Despair acknowledges the truth of the present situation, but the skeptical mind knows that the only truth is shared imagination, and shared projection. Joy proves intellectual despair wrong.
Do not take me too seriously. Don’t take my catastrophic premonitions too seriously, and if it is difficult to follow these prescriptions, don’t take them too seriously.
Finally, at the very end, don’t believe me.*
_________________________ *Excerpts from ‘Dyst-Irony’, “What Should We Do When Nothing Can Be Done”, Chapter 11, pp. 223–226. Heroesby Franco (Bifo) Berardi. Verso Futures, London and Brooklyn, 2015.