Friday, October 28, 2011

The End of Days that is every day

“The End of Days that is every day”[1]
How to characterize the meaning of the Occupy Movement has become, among sectors of the mainstream media,  a genuine fetishizing of “clarity” with respect to who the participants are and what they want. The relief at being able to get a handle on the movement is palpable on both the right and the left: from the Daily Mail’s fearless undercover operative’s description of Occupy London as a “Rabble without a cause” to the earnest research in the Huffington Post which found the Occupy Wall Street protesters to be “a population more motivated by reform than massive overhauls of existing systems, a group well-educated and well-versed on relevant policy issues rather than a radical movement likely to resort to violence”, one sees the same desire: to define the movement as the latest incarnation of  already existing political agendas which may or may not or not for long cohabit harmoniously.
 Surely we have a better way to think about, and through, the Occupy Movement, conceptual tools which allow us to account both for its uniqueness and the degree to which it unsettles or should unsettle all of us (a positive thing for me). I’m talking, of course, about the work of Giorgio Agamben, particularly his notion of “the coming community”[2], a community not to be defined in terms of essence, but which names new forms of sociality, strictly unthinkable in terms of the political identities I mentioned above.
 In his essay ‘Tiananmen’[3] Agamben writes:

 “The novelty of the coming politics is that it will no longer be a struggle for the conquest or control of the State, but a struggle between the State and non-State (humanity), an insurmountable disjunction between whatever singularity and the State organization. This has nothing to do with the simple affirmation of the social in opposition to the State that has often found expression in the protest movements of recent years.”
 I believe the joyous specter of ideas such as these haunt both the Occupy Movement itself as well as opposition to it. For me the Occupy Movement is an image of what Agamben calls “potentiality”, “which no identity and no vocation can exhaust”[4]. Human existence is pure possibility, and thus fraught with terrible dangers and potential liberation and joy. For those of us who support any aspect of the Occupy Movement we are reminded that this is not “the Revolution” or any kind of political end process. It is not the advent of a single transformative event but a whisper of a possible future community which could incarnate justice and equality. Nothing is guaranteed. Ever. It could be utterly otherwise. Tomorrow or the day after tomorrow the tanks could roll in. But today is the end of days that is every day. “At the point you perceive the irreparability of the world, at that point it is transcendant”, writes Agamben[5]. It is in this way that all who make up the Occupy Movement are together beyond the imposed and self-imposed political identities which preoccupy the media, the pundits and the professional politicians. The anti-Capitalists, the anti-Big Bankists, the Jobs Now marchers, the End The Wars activists, the Legalize Pot groups, the Stop Foreclosures groups, the drummers and the singers, the dancers and the meditators, we look at each other and see something we can hardly name but which we sometimes recognize. “Seeing something simply in its being-thus—irreparable, but not for that reason necessary; thus, but not for that reason contingent—is love”.[6] This is our Occupation.

[1] Giorgio Agamben, ‘Profanations’
[2] Giorgio Agamben, ‘The Coming Community’, Univ. of Minnesota Press, 1993.
[3] Giorgio Agamben, ibid. 85, 6
[4] Giorgio Agamben, ‘Potentialities’.
[5] ‘The Coming Community, 106.
[6] ibid. 106

© Ger Killeen