By Remi Watts
Our era has been polluted, perhaps to the point of terminal illness, by the mechanisms and apparatuses of an immense behemoth: the hegemonic totality called Empire. Its machinations are global in scale, and the old alliances and divisions no longer matter. It is no longer east versus west or democracy versus Islam or any other manifestation of this traditional dichotomy, but us versus the system. Whether we live in a so-called liberal democracy or under a military dictatorship, or in an economy of wealth or poverty, we all become sublimated into the dominion of Empire.
Most of us fail to see Empire for what it is: an undesirable, all-encompassing, all-consuming system, whose sole purpose is self-perpetuation at any cost and whose main tactic is pacification of the spirit. Empire seeks to reduce any things and all things to itself. Empire was once simply a cancer, an accidental mutation in the genes of one hegemony or another — but the cancerous lumps were not extracted with enough speed or precision, and now the cancer is an organism in its own right.
The organs of the organism of Empire twist and turn to produce the acidic slime that corrodes all things external, all things still dense with the intensity of life. We are left with a numbness of mind, an ultra-personalization that has bankrupted the soul, a pathological ‘individuality’ that endlessly reticulates us into the horror of sameness. And thus we find ourselves consumed and contained in the bio-political tissue of Empire.
Empire is undesirable — this is no longer open for debate. The important question is how can we annihilate Empire? What is to be done? How is it to be done? When we try to fix, reform, better Empire, all we do is make its apparatuses and organs more sensitive and supple, that is, more efficient in the constant liquidation of all alternative vitalities. We must annihilate Empire. The worry is that Empire’s enormousness, all-pervasiveness and the efficiency of its organs and apparatuses have made subversion impossible. As soon as alternative space is born — that a density of essential vitalities forms — Empire infiltrates it, its values are corroded, its terminology and turns of phrase are reduced to slogans and bumper stickers.
But subversion is not impossible; insurrection, so long as synapses are still capable of making new connections, is always possible, no matter how thin the hope. If Empire were capable of eradicating all forms of subversion, all opportunities for alternatives, then the organs and apparatuses of Empire would become obsolete, the gears and guts would grind to a halt and the human spirit would die.
We must adopt resistance as a way of life. We must be sensitive to the ebb and flow of Empire’s bio-political tissue. It is only through being perceptive to their subtle movements that one can ever create a space for subversion, and, when the moment is right, to command insurrection. We must sharpen the blades of our critical thought. One ought to be like Marx and Engels’s shopkeeper, who understands that there is a difference between what a person says and who a person is, between Empire’s appearances and Empire’s reality. We need a mental toolkit capable both of digging deep beneath the surface, and when necessary, to dissect with the utmost precision. We need a will-to-action that keeps us from passivity. The machinations of Empire have convinced us that lifestyle is bought and sold — one needs merely to shop at the right stores to be the person they wish to be. This trick performed by Empire has led so many into passivity and sameness, into the pathological horror of ‘individuality.’ What is needed is a willingness to act.
All previous strategies of resistance have been consumed or are in the process of being consumed by Empire, but this is not a point of distress. There’s no pre-conceived formula for successful subversion beyond simple ‘doing,’ and thus there is limitless possibility for the creation of legitimate alternatives in the face of Empire. We need not digest the metaphysical baggage of our revolutionary forefathers. That is, we are without maps, or, at least, the maps we have been given are of no value to us any longer, giving us the full capacity to set sail and chart radical, new geographies. There is no such thing as being too weak or being too remote to resist Empire, as its limbs operate everywhere on all levels, and every effort is crucial. The possible expressions of resistance — the promotions of provocation — are limitless, so long as something rather than nothing is being done. It is useless to wait for the revolution to come or for Empire to destroy itself. Empire must just be opposed outright and at every opportunity.
We must establish a density of place — of vitality, capable of resistance to the global manager/administrator that is Empire. We must take seriously the words of Tiqqun: “Presence triumphing through theft, fraud, crime, friendship, enmity, conspiracy. Through the elaboration of modes of life that are also modes of struggle. Politics of taking-place. Empire does not take place. It administers absence through a hovering threat of police intervention. Whoever tries to measure up against the imperial adversary will be preventively annihilated. From now on, to be perceived is to be defeated. Learn to become indiscernible. Blend in. Revive the taste for anonymity, for promiscuity. Renounce distinction in order to evade repression: arrange for the most favorable conditions of confrontation. Become crafty. Become pitiless. To do so, become whatever.”
Empire may be an all-encompassing and all-consuming system, but subversion and the creation of alternative spaces — new densities of vitality through ‘whatever’ — is not only a possibility, but a necessity.