Chapter 10

The owl takes flight

Athenian proverb

“The owl takes flight”. May actions that start off badly come to a good end. May the revolution, put off by revolutionaries for so long, be realised in spite of the latter’s residual desire for social peace.

Capital will give the last word to the white coats. Prisons will not last for long. Fortresses of a past that survives only in the fantasies of some exalted old reactionary, they will disappear along with the ideology based on social orthopaedics. There will no longer be convicts. The criminalisation capital creates will be rationalised, it will be processed through asylums.

When the whole of reality is spectacular, to refuse the spectacle means to be outside reality. Anyone who refuses the code of commodities is mad. Refusal to bow down before the commodity god will result in one’s being committed to a mental asylum.

There the treatment will be radical. No more inquisitorial-style torture or blood on the walls; such things upset public opinion. They cause the self-righteous to intervene, give rise to justification and making amends, and disturb the harmony of the spectacle. The total annihilation of the personality, considered to be the only radical cure for sick minds, does not upset anyone. So long as the man in the street feels he is surrounded by the imperturbable atmosphere of the capitalist spectacle he will feel safe from the asylum doors ever slamming shut on him. The world of madness will seem to him to be elsewhere, even though there is always an asylum available next to every factory, opposite every school, behind every patch of land, in the middle of every housing estate.

In our critical obtuseness we must take care not to pave the way to the civil servants in white coats.

Capital is programming a code of interpretation to be circulated at mass level. On the basis of this code public opinion will get used to seeing those who attack the bosses’ order of things, that is to say revolutionaries, as practically mad. Hence the need to have them put away in mental asylums. Prisons are also rationalising along the German model. First they will transform themselves into special prisons for revolutionaries, then into model prisons, then into real concentration camps for brain manipulation, and finally, mental asylums.

Capital’s behaviour is not dictated by the need to defend itself from the struggles of the exploited alone. It is dictated by the logic of the code of commodity production.

For capital the asylum is a place where the globality of spectacular functioning is interrupted. Prison desperately tries to do this but does not succeed, blocked as it is by its basic ideology of social orthopaedics.

The ‘place’ of the asylum, on the contrary, does not have a beginning or an end, it has no history, does not have the mutability of the spectacle. It is the place of silence.

The other ‘place’ of silence, the graveyard, has the faculty to speak aloud. Dead men talk. And our dead talk loudly. They can be heavy, very heavy. That is why capital will try to have fewer and fewer of them. And the number of ‘guests’ in asylums will increase correspondingly. The ‘homeland of socialism’ has much to impart in this field.

The asylum is the perfect therapeutic rationalisation of free time, the suspension of work without trauma to the commodity structure. Lack of productivity without denial of it. The madman does not have to work and in not doing so he confirms that work is wisdom the opposite of madness.

When we say the time is not ripe for an armed attack on the State we are pushing open the doors of the mental asylum for the comrades who are carrying out such attacks; when we say it is not the time for revolution we are tightening the cords of the straightjacket; when we say these actions are objectively a provocation we don the white coats of the torturers.

When the number of opponents was inconsiderable, grape-shot was effective. A dozen dead can be tolerated. Thirty thousand, a hundred thousand, two hundred thousand would mark a turning point in history, a revolutionary point of reference of such blinding luminosity as to disrupt the peaceful harmony of the commodity spectacle. Besides, capital is more cunning. Drugs have a neutrality that bullets do not possess. They have the alibi of being therapeutic.

May capital’s statute of madness be thrown in its face. Society is one immense mental asylum. May the terms of the counter-positions be overturned.

The neutralisation of the individual is a constant practice in capital’s reified totality. The flattening of opinions is a therapeutic process, a death machine. Production cannot take place without this flattening in the spectacular form of capitalism. And if the refusal of all that, the choice of joy in the face of death, is a sign of madness it is time everyone began to understand the trap that lurks beneath it all.

The whole apparatus of the western cultural tradition is a death machine, the negation of reality, a reign of the fictitious that has accumulated every kind of infamy and injustice, exploitation and genocide. If the refusal of this logic is condemned as madness, then we must distinguish between madness and madness.

Joy is arming itself. Its attack is overcoming the commodity hallucination, machinery, vengeance, the leader, the party, quantity. Its struggle is breaking down the logic of profit, the architecture of the market, the programming of life, the last document in the last archive. Its violent explosion is overturning the order of dependency, the nomenclature of positive and negative, the code of the commodity illusion.

But all this must be able to communicate itself. The passage from the world of joy to the world of death is not easy. The codes are out of phase and end up wiping each other out. What is considered illusion in the world of joy is reality in the world of death and vice versa. Physical death, so much a preoccupation in the death world, is less mortifying than what is peddled as life.

Hence capital’s capacity to mystify messages of joy. Even revolutionaries of the quantitative logic are incapable of understanding experiences of joy in depth. Sometimes they hesitantly make insignificant approaches. At other times they let themselves go with condemnation that is not very different to that of capital.

In the commodity spectacle it is goods that count. The active element of this accumulated mass is work. Nothing can be positive and negative at the same time within the framework of production. It is possible to assert non-work, not the negation of work but its temporary suspension. In the same way it is possible to assert the non-commodity, the personalised object, but only in the context of ‘free time’, i.e. something that is produced as a hobby, in the time lapses conceded by the productive cycle. In this sense it is clear that these concepts, non-work and the non-commodity, are functional to the general model of production.

Only by clarifying the meaning of joy and the corresponding meaning of death as components of two opposing worlds struggling against each other is it possible to communicate elements of the actions of joy. Without illuding ourselves that we can communicate all of them. Anyone who begins to experience joy even in a perspective not directly linked to the attack on capital is more willing to grasp the significance of the attack, at least more than those who remain tied to an outdated vision of the clash based on the illusion of quantity.

So the owl could still take wing and fly.