Here is a very favourite piece from Crimethink ex-workers collective
The ideologist is the man who falls for the fraud perpetuated on him by his own intellect: that an idea, i.e. the symbol
of a momentarily perceived reality, can possess absolute reality".
-Socrates, refuting Plato's interpretation of his
"I am not a Marxist".- Karl "Groucho" Marx
"The world eludes us because it becomes itself again".-Lewis Carroll
original title: The political struggle is the struggle against the political
No, you haven't understood what I'm talking about at all. In your hurry to purchase for yourself the image of "political
activist" (or worse, theorist)- whatever that is- you've concluded that everything must be "political"- whatever that
is! For the farther you expand the meaning of any word, the blurrier it becomes, and the more useless. Once everything
is political, then "political" meanis nothing all over again, and we have to start from scratch.
So, Assuming "political" isn't a meaningless all-purpose word...Of course there are "poilitical" ways of looking at every
issue, including one's own mortality- I wasn't trying to deny that. That, in fact, is exactly my point: once you begin
to think of yourself as "political," once you start to think in terms of analysis and critique- worse yet to think of yourself
as having a critique- you come to approach everything on those terms, you try to fit everything into
your analysis. Being "political" becomes a cancer that slowly spreads to every corner of your being, until you can't think
about anything except in terms of class struggle or gender or whatever.
And there is no analysis, no ideology (because that's what we're talking about here, with your insistence on the politics
of living and the theory of politics) broad enough to capture everything that life is. An ideology, like an image, is something
that you have to purchase- that is- you must give up a part of yourself in return for it. That part of yourself is every aspect
of the world, every deliciously complex experience, every irreducible detail that won't fit into the framework you've so proudly
...I can anticipate your response: my critique of the political is itself a political evaluation, a part of my ideology. And
so it is. I write to you so vehemently about this because it's an issue I'm really struggling with now. I find myself turning
everything into a political tract or critique, possessed by (what my ideology describes as!) a capitalistic compulsion
to transform all my feelings and experiences into objects- that is, into theories I can carry around with me. My values
have come to revolve around these theories, which I show off as proof of my intelligence and importance, the same way a bourgeois
man shows off his car as proof of his worth: my life isn't about my actual experience anymore, it's about "the struggle"-
when I'd wanted that struggle to be about centering my life on my experiences, not some new substitute! I'd like to say that
this letter is my last stand against the all-consuming demands of the political... but that was probably long ago, the last
time I was able to reflect on something without the political ramifications even occurring to me. Careful what you wish for,
E--, when you say everything is political.
I think part of this pathological need to systematise everything comes from living in cities, incidentally. Every single thing
around us here has been made by human beings, and has specific human meanings attached to it- so when you look around, instead
of seeing the actual objects that are around you, you see a forest of symbols. When I was staying in the mountains, it was
different. I would go walking and I wouldn't see "don't walk" signs, I would see trees and flowers, things that have an existence
beyond any framework of human meanings and values. Standing under a starry sky, there, gazing at the silent horizon, the world
felt so immense and profound that I could only stand before it mute and trembling. No politics could ever provide a vessel
deep enough to hold those moments. Not to say there's no reason for us to conceptualise things, E--, because of course that's
useful sometimes... but it's a means, and not the only means, to a much greater end. That's all.
I'll leave you with this, my own poor translation of a line from the farewell letter Mao Tse-Tung's mistress wrote him shortly
after the so-called success of the Chinese so-called Communist Revolution:
"It's sadly predictable that the only way you can come up with to celebrate the liberation you feel at leaving the old
system behind is by coming up with a "system of liberation" as if such a thing could exist- but that's what we can expect
from those who have never known anything other than systems and systematising I guess"
Yours with love,