"Open your eyes and look within. Are you satisfied with the life you're living? (...) So we gonna walk, alright, through the roads of creation. We're the generation (Tell my why) trod through great tribulation". Exodus Bob Marley
The videos screened at OVNI 2008 will offer an initial reflection on the “marginal” and the desire to cross margins, on forms of personal or collective exodus – whether physical or as a state of mind. They include perspectives on different forms of marginalization and exploitation which lie directly under the oppressive vertical force of power, such as workers in Chinese export factories or clandestine Palestinian day workers in Israel. And perspectives on armed conflict zones that go beyond the “propaganda-counter propaganda” dialectic: in South America, Chechnya, Lebanon, Iraq, Darfur, Afghanistan... But they also include reflections and perspectives on other realities and forms of organization that grow on the margins: self-organization of the homeless, indigenous communities in Ecuador and Columbia, brotherhoods of transvestites in India, ancient heterodox traditions and their rituals, self-managed collectives in Barcelona, groups of deserters in the US... Together with accounts of dreams and the inner revolution, of seeking and of exodus... These are videos that question and consider this attraction towards exodus, the desire to abandon a reality and a set of values that we can no longer believe in, or wish for. Perspectives that refuse to remain trapped in an eternal “against” stance and use resistance tactically, but embark on a journey to other possible worlds. Exodus itself is another world, functionally unmappable, because exodus is always on the side of emptiness and movement, of listening to voices of the others (?) and recognising oneself in them. What gets left behind are societies swing between an abundance of poverty – made visible and turned into spectacle by the media – and the increasingly obvious misery of abundance, the misery of consumer societies.
Let's allow fragments of transcriptions from some of the videos that will be projected talk to us about the journey:
A sick planet.
“A society that is always sicker, but always stronger, has everywhere concretely re-created the world as the environment and decor of its illness, a sick planet. A society that still hasn't become homogenous and that isn't determined by itself, but is always more determined by a part of itself that places itself above the rest and is exterior to it, has developed a movement that dominates natures but isn't itself dominated. (...) The production of non-life has more and more pursued its linear and cumulative process; overcoming a final threshold in its progress, it now directly produces death”. (1)
“The consumer society has destroyed the environment. Exterminated millions of species of plants and animals. Poisoned the seas, the rivers and the lakes. Polluted the air. Filled the atmosphere with carbon dioxide and other harmful gases. Destroyed the ozone layer. Exhausted our oil, coal and gas reserves and rich mineral resources. Exterminated our forests and destroyed their own. So what is left for us? Underdevelopment. Poverty. Dependence. Underdevelopment. Debt. Uncertainty. For the super developed societies the problem is not growth but distribution. Not only amongst themselves but amongst everybody. Sustainable development is impossible without fairer distribution amongst all nations. After all, mankind is one great family all sharing the same destiny”. (2)
The anarchy of power.
“Today's ideal is consumerism. It is a homologating civilisation that makes everything the same. Without ideology? What, it has no ideology? With a consumer ideology you don't... instead of having a flag, the clothes they wear are their flag. Some of the means and some of the external phenomena have changed but, in practice, it's a depauperation of individuality which is disguised through its valorisation (...) During the so-called “repressive” ages sex was a joy, because it was practiced in secret and it made a mockery of all the obligations and duties that the repressive power imposed. (...) And so, at a certain point, one of the characters in the films says exactly this: “Repressive societies repress everything... therefore, men can't do anything.” But I have added this concept which for me is lapidary: permissive societies permit a few things and only those things can me done. Hey! That is terrible! A degree of bestowed freedom that later becomes compulsory. As it is bestowed it becomes compulsory.
Sadomasochism is an eternal category of man: it was there in De Sade's time, it's here today, etc. But this is not what I care about. I also care about this, but the real sense of sex in my films is a metaphor of the relation between power and its subject. Therefore, in reality, it is true for all times. The drive came from the fact that I detest, above all things, today's power. Everyone hates the power he is subject to. Therefore, I hate the power of today, of 1975, with particular vehemence. It is a power that manipulates bodies in a horrible way, it has nothing to envy Himmler's or Hitler's manipulation. It manipulates them, transforming their conscience, in the worst way, establishing new values which are alienating and false. The values of consumerism, which accomplish what Marx called genocide of the living, real, previous cultures.
In reality, the producers force the consumers to eat shit. Knapp bouillon or... They give adulterated, bad things, little Robiola cheeses, processed cheese for babies,... all horrible things that are shit (...)
Power remains exactly the same, only its characteristics change, the subject is no longer parsimonious or religious, he is a consumer and so he is short-sighted, irreligious, secular, etc. The cultural characteristics change, but the relationship is identical. Therefore, it (Salò) is a film not only about power, but about what I call “the anarchy of power”. Nothing is more anarchic than power. Power does what it wants and what it wants is totally arbitrary or dictated by its economic reasons which escape common logic.
My real vision, the older, more archaic one given to me at birth and shaped in my early childhood, my original way of seeing is a sacred vision of things. In the end, I see the world like those who have a poetic vocation do, that is, like a miraculous, almost sacred fact. And nothing can desecrate my fundamental sacredness”. (3)
Constant work, constant consumption.
“... We are terrorized into being consumers. We can choose between brand A, brand B or C, that's the freedom we have. Yes, I think there are too many things. Constant work and consumption, it's crazy. This is what's destroying everything, and it has to go. I can see very little worth preserving. I don't see any benefit or wellbeing in preserving this system. Achieving all these things is actually coercion. People are forced to work in mines and packaging factories. Without them we don't have all this. A world of things, which we have to spend our whole lives fighting for. I don't think anybody really takes it seriously, but inertia keeps it moving. This has to be stopped, it has to be destroyed (...)
Why do people go out and try to protest or try to do something? That's not violence. Sitting there doing dope and watching MTV. Then you go and get a job. Just schlep along. To me that is violence.
It is necessary to damage or destroy property, it lies outside political confines o the politics of the everyday. What do you achieve by holding a sign at the usual demonstration? I've seen the same thing for decades, it doesn't achieve anything! But when people fight, that’s something else. They capture people’s attention, it’s real. Corporate property is the most obvious legitimate target in my view. Banks, expensive stores, and chains like Starbucks and so on. People understand them as part of the global system, as part of this encroaching, standardised, destructive form that is wiping out all differences, all freedom.
People for two million years didn’t destroy the natural world. They didn’t have war, they had leisure time and so on. That's what primitivism refers to in a way. And to me that’s very inspiring”. (4)
You discover you can fly.
“ Autonomy says: Let's turn everything around! Go where we want to go. Get up when we feel like it. Do the things we like to do. This isn't anti-productive. Just the opposite. This represents the highest possible degree of productivity in a world in which production is guided by knowledge and not by work itself”. (5)
“I was a model worker, my idea of life and work was that I had to be a useful man who worked... someone who worked, got married one day, had children and kept working until he died after a lifetime of work. In the factory I put up with it more or less because I joined the union, that was more fun, work was boring but the union gave it a bit of life, there were meetings, assemblies, discussions whether to go on strike or not... In 1982 I got fired from the factory and I got compensation, which has kept me going for a while. Getting fired from the company suddenly opened up a whole lot of possibilities for me, it's like you're on the edge of a cliff and someone comes and pushes you and in midair you discover that you can fly, then you start gliding and you say “what fun”, next time I'll jump on my own. Of course, this doesn't usually happen, I know this is my own case, and you can't say everyone can do what I'm doing, no. It doesn't just happen, you have to choose between time and money... between having a bit of time and some money or no time at all and all the money in the world which is impossible. This is a choice each person has to make,...” (6)
Like a swarm.
“How is global political power organised in the 21st Century? And how can opposition emerge from a multitude of political perspectives? The Empire doesn't fortify its borders to displace others, but rather absorbs them within a specific order, like a powerful windmill. With borders and differences eliminated or left to one side, the Empire is like a smooth space where subjectivities slide with hardly any conflict or resistance.
At a global level, resistance develops through networks, but it also takes the shape of local conflicts. The form of rebellions has changed, but they are still part of a much greater struggle against exploitation. What is violence? Violence is exploitation. Above all, it is essentially that! The response of the exploited subject. An exploited subject is an intelligent subject: he is mobile, flexible. He is a subject-swarm, that's what I call him. He swells and expands, within production, within social life. He is a totality of different qualities, a multitude. Like a swarm, a community of bees that separates and comes together again... that's the utopian image that I think is important today (...).
Disobedience was and is a very important political and cultural space, because it introduced the idea that one can and should disobey orders. For example, disobedience means refusing to go to war or refusing to follow orders. Not following orders opens up other spaces. When you don't obey, you don't recognise power. Or maybe you recognise it, but you want to oppose it. And so you introduce conflict. Conflict also means disobedience to the laws that govern borders and asylum. Opposition to war. War also changes in the Age of Empire. It's war that no longer presents itself as a war between states, but as a war against a public enemy, against an internal reality that has been defined as dangerous. It's no longer the old imperialist war in which nations expand their powers. This is a war in the name of global capitalism! This war is a global process of organisation! We really are true internationalists! But only to the extent that we understand the existence of this Empire that is being formed”. (7)
They isolated us.
“When I arrived, security personnel were waiting for me... they took me inside, took my small bag, put their latex gloves on and inspected all my things. How much money I had, my diary, everything. It's been three days and I'm not the same person any more. I'm locked up outside in nature (...) They don't want you to organise yourself or to help others. If they see you trying to help, they isolate you sending you to different places, so you can't keep helping people or telling them about their rights. By keeping someone ignorant and isolated, you can do what you want with him. So you have to act coherently, helping him, informing him of his rights so he can defend himself... and encourage him to defend himself, but they will place you under control (...) It's hard to understand that the civilised society you've gone to for asylum can be so brutal... They keep people isolated in the forest because they want to destroy us, they don't want us to think, to tell people about our problem, they treat us like dogs... The government is indirectly killing you from within, without touching you. They stop people from being themselves, from acting or resisting. They represent intimidation, harassment and abuse, all at once”. (8)
Colonize our soul.
“Since I started higher education, I've never predicted good things for the black continent. It's not Afro-pessimism. It's realism. Back at university in the 70s, I realised that Africans only have eyes for the West, and for what goes on the other side of the Mediterranean or the Atlantic. And I told myself: it's death!
Do you know the difference between black men and white men? In essential, cosmological terms, of visions of the world or the Universe. It's not the same. To the black man, the Universe was created by God. Black men believe in the role of the ancestors in social norms. Black men believe in nature. For them, it's not about plundering nature in order to accumulate. If someone finds himself with a few million, he doesn't even know what to do with them.
The black slave trade, slavery, was already Western imperialism in search of power and materialistic and individualistic wellbeing. Even with the return to Independences, there is a new slavery. And we're an integral part of this new slavery. By accepting it, contradictorily, we try to assimilate into the West.
Africa is in danger of destruction. We don't need to copy the Western political or economic model. Because in economically, they represent uncontrolled materialism, the exaltation of the rich, of money. And what do they do? They destroy nature, plunder nature's richness. Yes, Africa is adrift, it is drifting slowly. If our children flee from the continent to go to Europe, risking their lives, letting the sharks devour them, it is simply because, rather than doing as the Japanese or other Asian countries do, that is, using ourselves as a starting point, we have chosen to abandon our own personality and take on the personality of another race, another peoples, and this obviously destroys our intrinsic abilities (...) As they can no longer use force, they now use culture. If we assimilate culturally, we will find ourselves inside a neo-colonial logic, it's that simple. It's a very good strategy on the part of the West, to colonise our souls so the rest can continue... That's what they're trying to do. That way, we don't even know or think about resisting. It's a pity.
The only way out has to come from an original form of development that is linked to our cultural identity. I am like a person who throws a bottle into the sea. Given the poverty and illiteracy, it's difficult to reach people.” (9)
A well-rounded life.
“The indigenous view of the world - not just in the Andes but in different cultures like the Mayas, Hindus and so on - is an articulated, unfragmented view. There are four dimensions: the spiritual part, “munay”, the political and organisational part, “aity”, the productive part to do with economy, “ruray” and then knowledge, education, “yachay”... But these don't act separately, they act all at once, they interact and complement each other and they're not separate. All this interrelatedness finds completion in “sumak tawsay”, development, the fulfilment of a well-rounded life. That's how the world is conceived, which is why the concept of development doesn't exist for us, I talk about “nawpa”... which isn't flat, it's being generated all the time... it rotates, turns and at the same time projects into the future and revises the past...“nawpa” can be used in two directions, it goes forward to the future, but it is also the past... the elders say “nawpa taita”: the older people who have passed on, but this is also what allows it to project. This is why we don't have a past and a future, but everything at once, it's simultaneous. So when you talk about development and underdevelopment based on the Western idea, when you talk about “underdeveloped” people as people who still have to develop for the future, as though they are the past and need to evolve... as an idea of underdevelopment... these concepts don't exist for us. The West is only talking in the economic sense, and not overall. No, for us, if we accept the idea of development it can't just mean the accumulation of income and material goods, development has to deal with the overall dimension of human beings. That's why I don't feel either underdeveloped or poor, because I have my knowledge, my culture, my way of acting, my environment, my territory... so I don't know how they can label me poor, underdeveloped, backward... not at all! In our culture, we have to know that the essential thing is to seek “sumak kawsay”, that's the profound duty of human and individual meaning. But understood in a collective, community sense, not just in the sense of one person; because a single isolated person cannot carry out the “sumak kawsay”, cannot have a well-rounded life.” (10)
We will reclaim seed by seed.
“We have a vision and we have a commitment. Our vision is: Life cannot be made subservient to money and capital and people cannot be made subservient to power. It is about reclaiming biodiversity as common property. It is about reclaiming knowledge, as a common property and not letting that knowledge become a monopoly.
They have one vision in their minds about total control over our food and our seeds. We have another vision in our mind about people having their own control over their seeds and food, and having the freedom.
I want to share with you some very good news. That we have just won the third fight against the pirates who take our seeds and knowledge and claim it to be their invention. Basmati was stolen and we reclaimed it. Our Neem was stolen and we reclaimed it. And just now on the 26th of September, the European Patent Office revoked wheat patent no. EP 0445929, which was a patent held by Monsanto, based on stealing an ancient wheat variety with low gluten and low elasticity.
That is the world we are here to create and I am absolutely confident we will, seed by seed, plant by plant, peasant by peasant, community by community, country by country we will liberate the earth, we will reclaim our food freedom.” (11)
The misery of abundance.
There is a glut of wealth in the City of Saba. Everyone has more than enough. Even the bath stokers wear gold belts. Huge grape clusters hang down on every street and brush the faces of the citizens. No one has to do anything. You can balance a basket on your head and walk through an orchard, and it will fill by itself with overripe fruit dropping into it. Stray dogs stray in lanes full of thrown-out scraps with barely a notice. The lean desert wolf gets indigestion from the rich food. Everyone is fat and satiated with all the extra. There are no robbers. There is no energy for crime, or for gratitude, and no one wonders about the unseen world. The people of Saba feel bored with just the mention of prophecy. They have no desire of any kind. Maybe some idle curiosity about miracles, but that's it. This over richness is a subtle disease. Those who have it are blind to what’s wrong and deaf to anyone who points it out. The City of Saba cannot be understood from within itself. But there is a cure, an individual medicine, not a social remedy: sit quietly, and listen for a voice within that will say “be more silent”. As that happens, your soul starts to revive. Give up talking and your positions of power. Give up the excessive money. Turn toward teachers and prophets who don't live in Saba. They can help you grow sweet again and fragrant and wild and fresh and thankful for any small event. (12)
(1) Guy Debord a Le planete Malade, 1971. (2) Anònim a Surplus, 2003. (3) Pasolini a Pasolini, prossimo nostro, 1975-2006. (4) John Zerzan a Surplus, 2003. (5) Toni Negri a Toni Negri. La revolta que no s’acaba mai, 2004. (6) Treballador alliberat a Attention Danger Travail, 2003. (7) Toni Negri a Toni Negri. La revolta que no s’acaba mai, 2004. (8) Migrant i refugiat polític a Forst, 2005. (9) Dr. Bado a Le Naufrage negro-liberal, 2006. (10) Cesar Pilataxi a Nawpa, 2004-2007. (11) Vandana Shiva a Bullshit, 2005. (12) Jalal-ud-Din Rumi La Ciudad de Saba, 1207-2007.