To conspire in an unbreathable atmosphere

Fernando Castro Flórez
March 3, 2021
Avelino Sala, "MAD (Mutually assured destruction)", 2015.
Avelino Sala, "MAD (Mutually assured destruction)", 2015.

For almost a decade now, we face the sudden emergence of political parties that come out of the blue with no clear political agenda. A disintegration of the political space such as we knew it has taken place, and it would seem that even the storytelling is now obsolete given the fact that we may conduct the voters by means of algorithms. Twitter trolling and the "conspiracy-paranoid" agitation are more efficient than the drawing up of programs aiming to put an end to prevailing inequality. We know perfectly well that the "clash of civilisations" is politics at "the end of history". "The ethnic-religious conflicts –as Zizek points out in his book Like a Thief in Broad Daylight (Como un ladrón en pleno día, Ed. Anagrama, 2020)? are the form of struggle which fits global capitalism: in our age of 'post-politics', when politics proper is progressively replaced by expert social administration, the only remaining legitimate source of conflict is cultural tension (ethnic, religious)."
We are living in a moment in which the Right has surrendered (willingly) to the perverse pleasures of obscenities, even irony, by turning viral all sorts of memes, whereas the Left is increasingly stuck in a pathetic and ascetic puritan moralism. In the havoc wreaked by such an "Ubuist" character as Donald Trump, politics appears to be reduced to a torrent of gags. Literally, freakism assaults the spaces of political representation; we only need to recall the recent occupation of the Capitol when the followers of a president who parodied himself carried all types of flags (from the “Navy Jack” hoisted by members of the Ku Klux Klan or with Pepe the Frog, and , obviously, the sacrosanct stars and stripes) to verify that our times are worse than crazy. The demonstrators of Black Lives Matter were "dealt with" with a heavy hand in Washington when they protested against police violence in the middle of 2020, whereas the "eccentric" followers of Trump could wander around wherever they wanted and even make off with Nancy Pelosi's lectern to auction it off on eBay. Perhaps those "proud-boys" had before security forces more rights than the "anti-fascist outsiders"; be that as it may, they carried enough flags to cover their in-decency. Generalised disaster may lead us to cynical resignation.
Octave Mannoni developed the notion of "fetishistic denial" to explain how a person is able to believe in one of his or her fantasies while recognising that it is only a chimera; one is aware of what one is doing but, nevertheless, one does it. We are not only referring to how an ideology works (the normalisation of domination relationships), but also to a resignation that is an accomplice of the worst. The apocalyptic fetishism would lead us to assume that "we do not have any alternative", the basic tone of what Mark Fisher denominates capitalist realism. Even dissatisfaction has been "capitalised on". We have undergone the "slow cancellation of the future", a psychic activity regarding our emotions, wishes and fantasies, sinking them in the melancholy and pessimism of our will. Perhaps we will have to arm ourselves with what Terry Eagleton calls hope without optimism, albeit to not end up being rocked by the prophecies (a true hyperstition) of catastrophe.
"Bartleby politics" is ineffective on our sick planet. We cannot accept that "nothing can be done", not even now that we are terrorised and separated due to the covid-19 pandemic. We have examples of political courage, like the ones given by anti-capitalist and anti-fascist movements that stand up to those nationalisms that have a discriminatory calling. We should not lose sight of the fact that the European crisis discloses an underlying xenophobia that it was intended to "camouflage". The neo-fascist offensive cannot be underestimated as if it were something "irrational", but quite the opposite, if its rallying flag is so successful it is because it links to political and social dis-affections that are "reasonable". The widespread impression is that the destiny of the majority is precariousness, and the lack of hope to get out of extreme poverty may lead people to embrace the flag (flag-waving patriotism) as something that "would save us". We live in presentism, "a suspended time –warns Enzo Traverso in Left-Wing Melancholia: After Utopias (Melancolía de izquierdas. Después de las utopías, Ed. Galaxia Gutenberg, 2019)? between an unmasterable past and a denied future, between 'a past that won't go away' and a future that cannot be invented or predicted (except in terms of catastrophe)". The task of the historian, at a moment of danger, is to generate dialectic images and, more than anything else, as Benjamin stated, "fanning the spark of hope in the past".
In this system of accumulation through dispossession, when “narco-capitalism” models-and-depresses subjectivities, it may be necessary to make a supreme effort and even to defend lost causes. In an atmosphere literally unbreathable (from planetary toxicity to pandemic, from the proliferation of stultifying or openly narcissist "events" to police brutality), surviving in what Franco "Bifo" Berardi calls "respiratory failure" (remember the murder of Eric Garner who, while being savagely "restrained", repeated "I can't breathe"), it is essential to critically conspire by creating spaces for resistance, creatively activating dissent. As Tania Bruguera lucidly said, we know that "a political project is not a Facebook post", and, therefore, it is the moment (the instant of danger) when we should abandon posing (Spanish post-ureo) to take sides, or even better, to activate ourselves against the (neoliberal) "ideology of creation" for images to take a stand. In the middle of disaster it may even make sense to claim destructive nature.

(English translation: Beatrice Krayenbühl)