One of my initial reasons for starting this blog was as an impetus to write and to sort out my thoughts, particularly with reference to Maurice Blondel’s philosophy of action. Here’s an interesting link to a piece in the Guardian newspaper which very effectively illustrates the perils of blogging, particularly about action, as blogging has effectively become a trendy substitute for action without the political affects or symbolic efficiency of real political and social movements. The piece itself is just a random collection of mass protests described by the author as “the best and most significant.” The last protest listed was the Athens Polytechnic occupation, wherein the protestors insisted that an element of what they were protesting was precisely the virtual culture of blogging instead of acting thereby making an “assertion of the real thing against virtuality.”
That being said, I don’t believe that a protest, even a mass protest is necessarily any less impotent a factor of shaping reality than a blog post. I know people who have gone to protest rallies primarily for the “experience” which represents not so much a concern for social life as a desperate plea to feel some kind of emotion. To paraphrase a tired Marxist maxim: “Experience is to philosophy what masturbation is to the sexual act.” Neither, however, should we get caught in the trap of visiting intentions. The road to hell…
One should certainly stand by the protestors in refusing the pseudo-experiential nonsense of virtual reality (mimicking experience in a disembodied medium). Rage is a consequence of social oppression and brutality. But in a precise sense it is misleading to call the events of the protest “the real thing” which expresses a kind of banal “look at us we actually did something.” Slavoj Zizek, in his essay Organs without Bodies – Gilles Deleuze, points out, following the work of Deleuze, the importance of the reality of the virtual, which is to say the real effects and consequences. Zizek is referring here to more than merely the electronic-scape of the internet or blogosphere or something. What is meant by the virtual (or Virtual) should be understood, in a sense, as the realm of the Possible as distinct from that of the Actual. And here Zizek makes the very Blondelian point that how this virtual realm is actualized (through human action/perception) is at once reductionary and expansive. He uses the example of how the human eye perceives light to make the point: The human eye reduces perception because it has to process or actualize light in a certain way, and yet the human eye expands perception by inscribing “what it really sees into the intricate network of memories and anticipations.”
In Lacanian terms the “Virtual as such” is, in fact, the Real. One might say “the Real Thing.” And here we should think of Thing as possessing a very slimy and alien quality. In Franco Berardi’s brilliant essay Cognitarian Subjectivation, which delineates the relationship between labour and capital in the information age and poses the question as to whether an autonomous, collective self-definition is even possible, this Real is described in the following way: “Capital becomes the generalized semiotic flux that runs through the veins of the global economy, while labor becomes the constant activation of the intelligence of countless semiotic agents linked to one another.”
This semiotic flux, according to Berardi, leads to a hyper-accelerated sphere of stimuli which cannot be processed in the “organic time of attention, memory, and imagination” with the result that the emotional sphere linked to cognition is cracking with devastating consequences. One might indeed say of the Athens protest that it is one of the fatal consequences of the “Real Thing” that is Global Capitalism.
We live in a world that is panicked and confused. We have become ungrounded and need to land. By writing this post I add to the confusion. This is not the autonomous place. The cognitive overload on the social brain as well as the particular brains of people do not need yet another blog effusing scattered information and a randomized perspective. Yet, as a particular choice, in the matters selected and the perspective shaped, perhaps this will prove enriching. If only to say that we need to slow down, we need to learn to process the world with a greater level of intensity lest all our emotional energies be drained on the vacuous pursuits of infomational/emotional commodities.