They are akin to task forces. “The task force is a committee formed to accomplish a particular task and then disband, ‘a temporary patchwork on the functional structure, used to short-circuit communication lines in a time of high uncertainty’”. More than just the patchwork that infects within the state, collapse patchworks are deconstruction, devolution and de-complexification of narratives and institutions of governance themselves, as well as ideological re-situations that undermine and undergird old and new governmental conflagrations, respectively. This then takes us beyond the Perezian cycle or Kondratieff wave and into a field of vectors of new possibilities (and beyond possibilities), both entirely destructive and regressive, as per the counter-movements of the 1930s, and utopian and eschatological.Collapse Patchworks: A Theory | synthetic zerø
When he hops his first wall, Hayes crosses an invisible line not only onto private land but – as if crossing a mythical threshold – into another mode of existence. He has become a vagrant, a category of undesirable conjured up by a legal system that ‘sought to criminalise not anti-social actions, but, rather, a state of being, a social and economic status, a type of person.’ As well as being a gripping history of land ownership in England – a journey that leads from the Norman invasion through medieval peasants’ revolts and the land-grabs of the Enclosures all the way up to Greenham Common and the eruption of Occupy – The Book of Trespass is an attempt to shatter what Hayes calls ‘the mindwall’, an internalisation of ruling-class power so effective we don’t even see it. ‘The wall presents itself as a blank statement of authority, and we obey it because we see it without its context. The mindwall has become so entrenched in our heads that it remains unchallenged and unquestioned.’Genius Loci – Dark Mountain
Here we might note, in America at least, the growing normalization of once-outlier activities amongst growing numbers of working-class individuals and families. Examples of this include learning survival skills, building local infrastructures (wireless mesh networks, food production, whether farming or engineering protein bars, etc.), and taking up physical fitness regimes.33 Such activities are representative of an increasingly widespread desire to decrease dependency and take back some degree of power over one’s life and abilities—to reappropriate one’s means of existence, even if the only time to do so is found during lunch breaks. Yet placed alongside the scale, vision, and material means of delinking activities of the world’s very wealthy and the force they mobilize, these scattered efforts too often seem to reflect a powerlessness—an inability to build real power or autonomy—rather than the opposite.
Life exigencies and lack of resources often mean that, at best, such practices result in an increased preparedness to survive the next Coronavirus or hurricane (no minor feat itself of course), in a time where the definition and horizon of life has become “normalizing survival.”34 Still, even prepping is often animated by important questions such as how to help oneself and others and how to not be hostage to relief agencies, FEMA camps, or governments that disdain whole populations. How to save your family from sleeping on a gym floor, like the Kims in Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite? How not to allow oneself to be reduced to scrounging for the last can of beans at the panic-ravaged grocery store? How to take care of oneself and one’s own communities—the things and beings you love? Such questions are a pragmatic and existential matter of refusing to be dependent on corporations and algorithms. Addressing them also opens up much broader horizons.Anthropocene Hubris – Architecture – e-flux
“I do not think that COVID-19 introduces a new relationship between humanity and ‘the environment.’ As blessed as we are to have books and other media that transmit knowledge and stretch temporality for us, we are still trapped within the span of an individual lifetime, and a limited perception of history. Even if pandemics happen throughout history, what appears to us in perception appears as a novelty, as a problem for thought, and it indeed has new variables each time. But even the name SARS-CoV-2 signals a repetition. SARS in the early 2000s attacked the lungs quickly, it was easy to spot and quarantine. SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, has learnt from that mistake and made itself harder to spot. It is not strictly alive, but nevertheless intelligent. Paleontologist Peter Ward takes a long perspective in The Medea Hypothesis, arguing that life on Earth is suicidal, and most extinctions on the planet were caused by microbes that desire to return to a microbial planetarity. In this hypothesis, animal desire to keep life going and reproduce is counterbalanced by microbial intelligence, which is synthetic and more technical than biological. This might be an ongoing process, even though we experience it as a novelty.
Regarding the wild and the domestic, there’s a great essay called ‘Robot Evolution’ by Emily Monosson that compares viruses to robots and highlights human anxiety around nonhuman replication. Viruses make a fitting template for robot design because they don’t have to be alive to self-replicate. While we perceive automation or ‘technologization’ as an increase in control, the more we automate, the more we do not know what’s going to come out of it:
But perhaps it is not the creation of new life that we fear, so much as the potential for unpredictable emergent behaviour.”Agosto Foundation :: Pandæmic Speculations
It is for this reason that we must abandon the idea of the apocalypse. Our resistance must interrupt the flow of events conjugated by the utopias of those in power. We must pierce through the state of emergency and expose the apocalypse as the perpetual reproduction of the existing order that it is. The fact is, these discourses—crisis, the state of emergency, and our unending apocalypse—are part of the same strategy: we are not governed in crisis, we are governed by means of crisis. Only when it is declared as such does a crisis properly become a crisis; and only once a problem is understood as omnipresent and pervasive does it truly become a crisis. Not only does the repetitive cry of “emergency” desensitize people, it also obscures which of all the various ongoing catastrophes might require changes that run against the grain of existing global power structures. The situation in Syria, for example, has become a perpetuum mobile of destruction for the preservation of power, a perpetual recurrence of chaos. We must ask: who profits from crisis? Why do we live in the never-ending state of emergency? And how does this influence our perception of the future?No future! Cybernetics and the Genealogy of Time Governance | Ill Will Editions
It’s always a troubling experience to realize that your life sucks, but it’s also a helpful one, because that realization makes it possible to change. If the things that make your life suck are a matter of personal choices, once you grasp this, you can make different choices. If the things that make your life suck are a matter of social, cultural, or political factors—for example, the dismal quality of US public schooling or the problematic nature of the mandatory two-income family—you have two ways of taking action: you can change your own relationship to those factors (by considering the possibility of homeschooling your kids, for example, and assessing whether your family will benefit if one of its adult members leaves paid employment for the household economy) and you can also help bring about change on the larger scale (by lobbying your state legislators to support homeschooling as an option, for example, and being encouraging to other people who choose to move into the household economy and defending them against bullies who think they ought to tell everyone else what to do).
More than sudden illness, what has been shocking is the speed with which power sheds the polite fictions of a stable democratic order. The logic of crisis always serves to excuse the deepening of control. The terrible irony is that a virus – a scientific quandary, questionably neither dead nor alive – has become the occasion for managing life itself.
But life cannot be contained or managed so easily. For each new technological ploy, there are the kids who defeat it. For each new zone of abandonment, there are those in revolt. For each measure of distance imposed, there are new forms of conviviality. Not to mention all those everyday acts of courage and compassion, as communities around the world care for themselves amid failing healthcare systems. Ensuring that the elderly are checked up on, that people have enough to eat, that there is still a communal fabric even as governments seek to tear it further – these are the small triumphs of decaying circumstances.
Power’s hold over us is equally demonstrated by emergent forms of social control and by the utter disregard with which they cast aside our lives. Our inability to survive outside their broken system is rapidly being confronted by our dwindling chances of surviving within it. To resist their control has become inseparable from the urgent need to care for one another. How to treat illness, how to care for the vulnerable, how to overcome isolation, how to reinvent presence, how to live with dignity and perhaps how to die with it. These are among the revolutionary questions of our times.
Back in the 1960s and 1970s, a school of psychologists known as transactional analysts came up with a narrative approach to neurosis and personality disorders. The very simple version of the story is that they found that people with psychological problems were living out self-defeating scripts: narratives of which the patients themselves were not conscious, but which exerted a potent gravitational attraction on their interactions with other people. If the patients became conscious of the scripts they were acting out, the spell was broken and they could learn less dysfunctional ways of facing life. Transactional analysis fell out of favor once the pharmaceutical industry got its present stranglehold over the healing professions, but its findings remain telling testimony of the power of narrative to shape values and goals in its own image.