tiqqun – notes on the local (2001)

Everything which today constitutes an acceptable landscape for us is the result of bloody violences and conflicts of rare brutality.
One can thus summarize that the demokratic government wants to make us forget. Forget that the suburbs have devoured the countryside, that the factory has devoured the suburbs, that the metropolis—tentacled, deafening and without repose—has devoured everything.
This observation doesn’t imply regret, this observation implies: seize everything. In the past, in the present.
The controlled territory where our life passes, between the supermarket and the digital lock on the lobby door, between the traffic signals and the pedestrian pathways, forms us. We are moreover inhabited by the space in which we live. Especially when everything, or nearly everything, from now on, functions there like a subliminal message. We don’t do certain things at certain places because we do not do those things.
Street furniture for example has almost no utility—how often, to our surprise, do we wonder who exactly could fill the benches of a neo-square without succumbing to more violent despair?—it has precisely one meaning and one function, and these are dissuasive. Their mission/charter “You are only home when at home, or where you pay, or where you are monitored.”

The world is becoming global, but it is shrinking.
The physical landscape we traverse each day with great speed (by car, using public transportation, on foot, in a rush) has effectively an unreal character because while there, no one lives as anything at all, nor could anyone possibly live as anything there. It’s a type of micro-desert where one is like an exile, between one private property and another, between one obligation and another.
The virtual landscape seems much more welcoming to us. The liquid crstal screen of the computer, internet navigation, the tele-visual or the play-station universes—these are infinitely more familiar to us than the streets of our neighborhood, populated at night by the moonlight of the streetlamps and the metal gates of closed stores.
It is not the global which opposes the local, it is the virtual.

The global is so little opposed to the local that actually the global creates it. The global only designates a certain distribution of differences from an homogenizing norm. Folklore is the product of cosmopolitanism. If we didn’t know that the local was local, it would be for us a little globality. The local is revealed as the global makes itself possible, and necessary. Go to work, do your shopping, travel far from home: this is what constitutes the local, which otherwise would more modestly be the place where we live.

All the same, we live strictly speaking nowhere. Our existence is simply divided into layers of schedules and topologies, in slices of tailored life.

But this isn’t all. They presently would like to make us live in the virtual, definitively deported. There, the life they wish for us would recompose into a curious unity of non-time and non-place. The virtual, says one Internet publicity, is ” the place where you do all that you cannot do in reality.” But when “everything is permitted,” it is the mechanism of the transfer from the power to act which is under surveillance. In other words” the virtual is the place where possibilities never become real, but remain indefinitely in the virtual state. Here, prevention has won over intervention: if everything is possible in the virtual it’s because the mechanism ensures that everything remains unchanged in our real life

Already, we tele-work and tele-consume. In tele-life, we will no longer be afflicted by the feelings of suffering from avoiding the possibilities which still dwell in public spaces, at each glance crossed and so soon abandoned. The unease, the embarrassing immersion among our contemporaries, for the better part unknown, in the streets or elsewhere, will be abolished. The local, expelled from the global, will itself be projected into the virtual in order to make us believe definitively that only the global exists. Draping this uniformity of multi-ethnicity and multi-culturalism will be necessary, to ensure the pill is swallowed.

As we wait for the tele-life, we post the hypothesis that our bodies in space have a political meaning and that the dominant ones maneuver permanently to hide this fact.
Shouting a slogan at home is not the same as shouting it in the stairwell or in the street. Doing it alone is not the same as doing it wit many others, and so on.

Space is political and space is alive, because space is populated, populated with our bodies which transform it by the simple fact that it contains them. And this is why it is monitored, and this is why it is closed.
Whoever imagines it as a void soon to fill up with objects, bodies, and things has a false idea of space. On the contrary, this idea of space is obtained by mentally removing from a tangible space of all the objects, of all the bodies, of all the things which dwell in it. The powers that be have now materialized this idea in their plazas, their highways, their architecture. But its threatened without pause by its birth defect. Should something take place inside the space it controls, should—thanks to some event—one end of the this space become a place, making an unexpected crease, this is what the Global Order wants to prevent. And against this, it has invented “the local,” in the sense of continuous adjustment of all input, capture, and management devices.

That is why I say that the local is political; because it is the place of present confrontation.

From Tiqqun 2.

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