By Simona Levi
[Note: This is an update of a text that we use since the Indignados’s Movement (2011) and that is the base of our – Xnet https://xnet-x.net – method of work].
The only two things we can count on with absolute certainty are death and our fingers.
I’m not a theorist or a researcher, I’m an activist, a strategist and a theater director. I can’t offer an essay. Just some notes that we use to structure our daily action.
I believe that the struggle we have been participating in – for the defense of the Internet and sharing – has been crucial for arriving at the Indignados’ movement and what has come after that.
Crucial at two levels.
Firstly for the maturity it has created, which cuts right across all layers of public opinion, both in terms of defending something that belongs to it and is in danger of being snatched away – the neutral Internet – , and secondly in terms of ethical ways of relating to others.
It is clear that the Network of Networks is changing the history of humanity. It does more than just allow for rhizomic forms of counterinformation and self-organisation, and more than just leave economic and political powers bewildered by the end of the univocity of their messages – of their monologues – in the face of the real-time dissolution of the impunity of their decisions aimed at perpetrating power and their own interests.
This provides an at least partial solution to one of the problems that we have always encountered in social movements: the psychological aspect, the personal fulfilment of each individual in the struggle. This aspect, which is often ignored, plays a particularly important role in destroying movements.
I don’t think that is desperation that makes posible r-evolution. It is possible when we arm ourselves with tools that allow us to think and develop autonomy, ideas and intelligence.
The awareness of the need to defend the Internet has taken root, and together with the organisation of struggles through social networks, this process has been a training and empowerment ground and the fuse underlying the explosion of the Indignados’ movement (which is naturally influenced and constituted by the convergence of many years of a very diverse range of struggles, as well as the possibility of massively and collectively sharing the frustration of being fed up, which we used to experience in isolation).
Taking this as a starting premise, I want to look at how we have developed in this context by mentioning some basic “laws” for action:
The idea is to inflame you, not to teach you, Jean Genet said.
And I would add: normalise the mainstream, offer ourselves up for cooptation, reveal the falseness of the cliches through irony and humour, not through dogma. We do not teach; we share and magnify shared perceptions.
1 – Work that takes place out of the spotlight is carried out by groups that share common interests and collaborations on the Net.
We prefer to give priority to a non-open, protected space – although networked with the Net – so that the intensity of the struggle can be faced in a psychologically healthy environment. Contrary to some recent claims, we are in a hurry. Our tempo is the tempo of history, not the tempo of individual psychology. To convince ourselves of this, we use a phrase by Andretti, Formula 1 racing driver, who says: “If everything seems to be under control you’re not going fast enough.”
2 – The work directed outwards is of two kinds: either as anonymous, viral presences, under control but innumerable, ungraspable, which everybody can adopt as their own;
or else, as openly branded work by affinity groups or networked alliances. We participate in many of these “trademarks” in the area of the struggle for digital rights, each with its own frameworks and complicities, which cover different targets. Sometimes nobody exactely knows how many there are, how many or who we are, who is responsible, or what they will do, but they are a trademark in the light of day, you can interact with them and obtain good results.
Finally, in when is prosperous times for general raising, we dissolve, putting our skills at the service of collective decisions.
Be radical, ask for the possible. This is the clue.
Here we come to one of the aspects that are violently confrontational with the sector of the dogmatic, paternalist and – for us – fake “left”, like the political party Podemos, and with the “pure” radicals who think that the system cannot be reformed – so far, so good – but also sabotage attempts to use reformist demands as a guerrilla weapon.
We think that right now demands for reforms structured in a pragmatic and no ideological way are the only manner to deeply transform the current system; because the system is ready to face enemies, but it is not ready to have its own internal contradictions blown open.
Confronting the system with an ontological impossibility “destroy yourself”, determines its way of defending itself: to become your antagonist. If you force a closed system that is bunkered down in the defense of its privileges to “improve itself”, the only possible way out that remains to it is desertion and escape. We all know that it is necessary to leave an exit open for the enemy if we want to win.
We should also learn to win. In times of great victories, we can clearly see how difficult it is to accept them as such.
We don’t know how to win. Those who exaggerate the confrontation cannot “do” anything anymore because the confrontation is its only way of “doing”. When we are winning, we need to abandon the trenches perspective and accept the freedom to mediate with our dependency without the need to destroy.
Transformation always entail loss, even when change is possible, but that is no reason to avoid it. We have to be aware of it in order to free ourselves of nostalgia.
The dynamic that has destroyed great revolutionary experiments is an inner fear of the new; this is why we want our message to be coopted, and we want to claim a victory when it happens.
This war is a language war
The first thing that has to change is language, and the change must be based on profound self-criticism. We can no longer rejoice in the martyrdom of asking for the impossible; we must evolve beyond accepting a role as antagonists on the losing side. The very language that we use is incomprehensible so that we can claim to be misunderstood.
We have to be responsible for our actions.
If we cannot be understood by the majority, we help society move towards “fascistisation”.
Because of the euphoria and then the strength that it gave us to see ourselves united in such a great multitude in the Indignados’ movement, some people are now trying to impose particular aesthetics and language, dogmas that have been mentioned and repeated like mantras for many years before. It is understandable, these are words that we have fought for, and that we are very attached to, but they are overused and faded now.
Please don’t misunderstand me: words are one thing, ideas are another, and there can be excellent ideas but they can be expressed through synonyms, we could say, which ultimately have the same objective.
In fact, the massive consensus achieved through the Indignados’ movement did not come from any of the words we have been repeating for years, like anticapitalism, feminism….
We’re getting it wrong; we’re not winning because of what we have always said, but because of what we have always defended.
What we have been defending for some time now already forms part of this wave, it goes without saying and we have to express it through new aesthetics and words, ones that are based on winning.
The old words only suggest defeat and division, and now is the time for victory and for infinite diversity with a few minimum common denominators. A global association of radical reformist egoists.
We have to be present at all levels. We have to work on the implementation of direct democracy, but also dismantle the existing power from the inside, as well as its media and memetic image. We have to be tactical with words and actions. We have to conceive our actions for the real, specific results that they want to achieve, not for visceral reasons or reasons of abstract justice…
If you ask people to hate their way of life they will position themselves against you; if you share their hatred arising from the same frustrations, we will be invincible.
Don’t we want that mass consensus? What’s wrong? Don’t we want to mix with the people? If we use the language that the majority understand, we will naturally be using a language that has been absorbed by the system. So? What’s the problem?
And to do all that we have to end up with an other myth: we must fight against the deeply rooted idea that it is “better to remain united” when internal tension is bringing things to a standstill and when our real strength is actually the fact that we have a thousand faces and a thousand names.
What people are asking for (and I include myself) is to understand the laws that govern us. People are starting to see that laws are accessible and quite surrealistic texts, written by mere mortals who are terrified of losing some of their privileges. This is the base of the great empowerment of the people that is taking place right now.
They no longer respect the law, and I’m not talking about the idea of the law, but the law-thing. They read laws and discuss them.
They no longer delegate this operation to specialists.
For us, the main part of the game is to study the law, understand it, explain it in other words, make fun of it, hack it to render it useless, destroy its authority by replacing it with a positive one that will ultimately be coopted with the bad taste and time-lag that characterises the system, clearing away whatever had been there previously and leaving a blank slate.
Ultimately this is the game. And We, the people, we are damned good at it.