[eDebate] anti-strategic political spirituality
Fri Jun 26 18:24:31 CDT 2009
revolution occurs when the a-historical shows up in history. moments
of these sort are often inaccurately conceptualized as manifestations
of 'the will of the people' or even as the dictates of a single leader.
you can't reduce the history of world war II to the decisions of four or
five men; you can't reduce the history of the civil rights movement to
the names martin luther king jr. or malcolm x - why attempt to reduce
this struggle to the name mousavi?
by "that u-tube crap", are you insensitively referring to the deaths of
protesters at the hands of the current regime? there's been 17 or 19
official deaths, perhaps scores more unreported thanks to the media
blackout. the boston massacre was five people. what more, how can
you criticize western media outlets and not say a a word about the
government which is not allowing them to report on the events?
"that's why [the protests are] fading fast. twitter didn't spillover."
or, you know, the mass use of lethal police repression might be a
contributing factor too, no?
"At the dawn of history, Persia invented the state and conferred its
models on Islam. Its administrators staffed the caliphate. But from
this same Islam, it derived a religion that gave to its people infinite
resources to resist state power. In this will for an 'Islamic government',
should one see a reconciliation, a contradiction, or the threshold of
"Last summer the Iranians said: 'We are ready to die by the thousands
in order to get the Shah to go.' Today, it is the Ayatollah who says:
'Let Iran bleed so that the revolution may be strong.' There is a strange
echo between these phrases which link them to one another. Does the
horror of the second condemn the ecstasy of the first? Some movements
are irreducible: those in which a single man, a group, a minority or a
complete people asserts that it will no longer obey and risks its life before
a power which is considered unjust. ... Since the man who revolts is, thus,
'outside of history' as well as in it, and since life and death are at stake,
we can understand why revolts have easily been able to find their
expression and their mode of performance in religious themes: the
promises of the beyond, the return of time, the waiting for the savior
or the empire of the last days, the indisputable reign of good. When the
particular religion has permitted, these themes have furnished throughout
the centuries not an ideological cloak but the very way to live revolts. ...
Certain people will say that revolt has found itself colonized in Realpolitik.
... There was a striking discovery for the person who searched in Iran not
for the profound reasons behind the movement but for the manner in
which it was being lived, and who tried to comprehend what went on in
the minds of the men and women who were risking their lives. Their hunger,
their humiliations, their hatred of the regime and their will to overthrow it
were registered on the borders of heaven and earth in a history which was
dreamed of as being as much religious as political. ... Religious Iranians
want to authenticate their regime with meanings that the revolt possessed
This is something completely different from those who disqualify the revolt
because there is a government of mullahs. In one case as in the other,
there is a fear: fear of that which took place last autumn in Iran, an
example which world has not given for a long time. It is exactly due to this
that there is the necessity to bring out the irreducible element in such a
movement. It is an element that is profoundly threatening for every
despotism, today's as it was for yesterday's.
Is there or is there not a reason to revolt? Let?s leave the question open.
There are revolts and that is a fact. It is through revolt that subjectivity
(not that of great men but that of whomever) introduces itself into history
and gives it the breath of life. A delinquent puts his life into the balance
against absurd punishments; a madman can no longer accept confinement
and the forfeiture of his rights; a people refuses the regime which oppresses
it. This does not make the rebel in the first case innocent, nor does it cure
in the second, and it does not assure the third rebel of the promised
tomorrow. ... One does not have to maintain that these confused voices
sound better than the others and express the ultimate truth. For there to
be a sense in listening to them and in searching for what they want to say,
it is sufficient that they exist and that they have against them so much,
which is set up to silence them. A question of morality? Perhaps. A
question of reality? Certainly. All the disenchantments of history amount
to nothing: it is due to such voices that the time of men does not have
the form of an evolution, but precisely that of a history.
These days intellectuals do not have a very good 'press'. I believe that I
can employ the word in a rather precise sense. Thus, this is not the time
to say that one is not an intellectual. If I were to do so, I would provoke
smiles,. I am an intellectual. If someone asked me how I conceive what I
am doing, I would respond with a contrast. The strategist is the man who
says: 'What does it matter? Such death, such a cry, such a revolt in the
context of the great necessity of the whole? Or, on the other hand, what
difference does such a general principle make for the particular situation in
which we find ourselves?' I am totally indifferent to whether the strategist
is a politician, an historian, a revolutionary, a partisan of the Shah or of
the Ayatollah. My ethic is the inverse of the one suggested by these
questions. It is 'anti-strategic': to be respectful when something singular
arises, to be intransigent when power offends against the universal. A
simple choice, but a difficult work. It is always necessary to watch out for
something, a little beneath history, that breaks with it, that agitates it; it
is necessary to look, a little behind politics, for that which ought to limit it,
unconditionally. After all, it is my work. I am neither the first nor the only
one to be doing it. But I have chosen to do it."
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