An Essay On the Physiology of Individual Sovereignty
It is my intention to illustrate in this essay that sovereignty is never granted in any shape or form but it is, rather, a fact inherit in nature and possessed solely by the individual. This I call sovereignty in its absolute form. Other subjective sovereignties; the sovereignty of the state, for example, or even abstract sovereign principles such as human rights, are merely the machinations of an individual sovereign mind capable of rendering external sovereignties that scientifically, emotively, and spiritually are real only to the degree that a sovereign mind determines them to be. This I call sovereignty in the conditional form. While this observation, which is provable and true, does cause angst in one sense, it is profoundly liberating in another and offers a true path to altruism: the freedom to love what is perceived as the other and to pull that other into orbit around one’s self. Before we can even begin to discuss notions (or, more properly, actions) of ‘freedom’ and ‘justice’ in a sane and functional society (if it were to ever be such), it is the core of the individual that the conversation must begin and can only begin. It is not the case that liberation is an alien concept or a fantasy; rather, the seeds of its propagation are misplaced. Freedom is not a bestowal. That is the fantasy of the obedient, perhaps. Freedom is the beginning and the end of the individual, and collectives are not the metaphysical autonomous results of combined freedoms, as I shall show.
The Common: (From Hardt and Negri) the common is a) the earth and all the resources associated with it, including the land, the forests, the air, the water, minerals and so forth b) the results of human labor and creativity, such as ideas, language, effects, and so forth
The Multitudes: all people including groups, organizations, and individuals including those of the state and regarded as dynamic, non-static, and unpredictable forces in power
Singularities: a) groups, organizations, and individuals
b) the individual interfacing external reality as a sovereign
The State: the central government including the extraneous bodies and organizations that influence or coerce it, including corporate capitalist structures, international banking, and military-industrial consortiums
1. The Body as the Origin of Opposition
2. Uprisings and Limits on the Common
3. Heroes, Gods, and the ‘Sovereign Actors’
4. Repression of the Self
5. The Details Behind Liberation
6. Moving Beyond Fear
7. The emergence of Organic Systems
The Body as the Origin of Opposition
1. The Inevitability of Opposition
In biopolitics as described by Hardt and Negri (2011) we correctly shift the attitude towards the state to the human body, to either defiantly rise up against it or to retreat from it (literally or psychologically) in order to clearly disassociate our deduction from the false biopolitical focus of the state originally postulated by Kjellén (1905) as a mythological organic center of a sort of ‘human machine’ where individuals are dehumanized as automatons or drones, the primary existence of which is to serve the state. We do this mainly to correct the chauvinistic delusions of Kjellėn, as his definitions retain some amount of acceptance, even today. The mythos of a nurturing hive as the ‘parental’ state rather than as the resultant and abstract structure (psychological, not metaphysical) when free beings are organizationally coerced into obedience, compounded by the socialist dilemma of a wraparound view of laboring humans as cogs- in other words inverting the relationship of the autonomous and rebellious human while paradoxically supporting nonautonomous (residual and mechanical) systemic exploitation is the result of a worldview in which states are living beings and the multitude is made up of cells that are brainwashed and like all slaves, obey a blind idiot god. As Kashefi points out in God, Myth, and the State, ‘If truth cannot be digested by the average intelligence, it still (has) to be fed with something, be it quasi-truths or myths or indeed with ideologies.’ The fact that such myths continue to be blithely promoted (the myths of state, brand, and religion), even (and in particular) by scholars must be challenged and overcome. Despite exploding globalization and Kjellén’s concept of nations eroding around us as new actors encroach into the world economy with refined forms of exploitation, the myth of that greatest of tribes- the nation and homeland- continues to weigh heavy in the fatigued imaginations of the people. The propaganda that promotes the state, in other words, is as effective as ever and probably much more so than we imagine.
But in fact, none of us is simply a machine but an altogether peculiar and indecipherable outlier. We possess self-awareness, to be sure, but we have a great deal of trouble articulating or knowing our significance, Birth, growth, and death of the organic body, a precarious self- locked inside with no foreknowledge of its ultimate existence beyond the body (and no awareness of anything prior) along with unreliable memories inevitably creates a terrifying crisis for the living, an irreconcilable existence between the measurable and the immeasurable. Individual vulnerability is exacerbated by a surreal shock whenever the state targets a person or group for persecution; bringing with it dreaded forms of censure, intimidation, violence, imprisonment or harm along with the loss of homes and the breakup, or in the worst cases, the annihilation of families and whole communities: genocide. This biopolitical reversal then, in which the individual becomes the social center replacing the mythic state is necessary. It’s necessary because any political discussion must begin and ultimately end with the everyday situations and conditions that the people in their physical bodies are to endure. Politics is irrelevant without first a penetrating investigation into human suffering, especially as the people ostensibly hold the government responsible for their protection and management of a fair society that honors its laws. The state, on the other hand, cannot be compared to a living organism as such, though it might be said to function as a refinery or processing plant, requiring the input of human capital and management of policies, that when enacted are felt tangibly with materialistic results. So while we can persuade our minds to draw iconically the dynamic existence of a state with a metaphysical life of its own, it is still only a grasp for stability in an unpredictable environment. The state, as a mere conception or summarization; it does not ‘feel’ anything when people are forced off the land as refugees, for example, or are murdered by bombs- how can we blame the state for such things? No, we have to find blame in the humans that gave and carried out the orders, to the ones who assemble weapons in factories and are proud of it. The consequences lie also on all those who are lied to and believe lies, e.g., that they have saved lives somehow by taking away the lives of others. So then it is intolerable to reason that we should hold the state for draconian law rather than the politicos who mastermind policy; the problems of oppression are not systemic in the sense that systems cannot be altered, but rather that the same systemic policies are repeatedly perpetuated through human power. Our problems lie in the individual and the decisions he or she makes, not in Orwell’s fable of the Big Brother. The state is a set of conditions resultant upon those individuals who, whether through infighting or purging, have reached a position to create and enforce policy with considerable or full impunity. Therefore, whatever actions ‘the state’ carries out is simply mirroring and pointing to those actors responsible for implementing those policies and their attendant actions in the first place, leaving us to no other conclusion than that actions of the state are only reflections of the individuals empowered to create the state. Ripples on a pond do not cause themselves but are the effects of the actor who threw the stone. The state cannot and does not act as a sovereign or as an individual, as the state is just as much a lie as the divine status of emperors and kings, or the lie that territory is God given. The truth of this relationship between the state and the people is critical when considering effective and fearless opposition. And with it we must examine the absurdity of this narrative of the state in regards to living human beings, as the state, in and of itself, exists only as the byproduct of a wanting imagination.
Like the will for change and the motivation to act upon that will, opposition is finite and limited, and when biopolitical jacqueries finally do erupt to the surface in response to intolerable conditions they typically do not last long (though their ripples might and their legacies typically translate into historical narratives of resentment). Revolution, as Lenin saw it, will not be possible as long as the ruling class (corporate capitalists) have the means and the will to put down jacqueries, by violent force on the one hand and deflation of motivation as well as public support through the propaganda of media (which itself is a fello corporate capitalist) on the other. We prefer the term jacquerie, not for the violence associated with it by supposed eyewitness accounts of French aristocrats like Jean le Bel but rather for its association with oppressed peasants who had suffered conditions defined as ‘this far, but no farther.’ What’s more, we want to portray the modern worker, who has always just as likely to have been a white-collar paper pusher or accountant as a blue-collar conveyor or lifter, to be correctly identified as brothers and sisters among the serfdom of the modern capitalist state, suffering similar injustices and exploitations as agricultural peasants did and still do. Occasionally though a succession of jacqueries may culminate into a critical crisis that becomes strong enough to overturn law and create systemic change in the state, which occurs commonly enough and so far without geographical exception. In these cases reform may become indecipherable to some degree to revolution: at least a backlash has succeeded and the elite was not able to prevent revolution, or at least not without concession, which sometimes results in nothing less than a whole restructuring of the state. Must we acknowledge then that revolution or jacqueries are just another manifestation of a restructuring of the state, and do not offer an evolution of the multitude that is the true biopolitical dynamic of the state? Isn’t it true that an embryonic state is, from conception, in opposition to the existing one and therefore a contradiction that will inevitably not be reversed to the order (an analogous order, at the least) that preexisted reform? Perhaps we must concede that beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, that is to say, we would like to be optimistic and say any reform for the better is progress. But in looking beyond the singular realities of individual perspectives and rationalities (or lack thereof) into a broader context, historical revolts and revolutions tell us otherwise: revolutions (and even jacqueries) tend to absorb at least some if not much of the existing political establishment, perpetuating traditional, corrupt, and exploitive structures rather than actually revolutionizing them. Hence, the cycles of power from generation to generation change slowly in materialistic manifestation but in essence are too often merely cosmetic reshufflings of the previous epochs of order (a ‘changing of the guard’) or worse- the destruction of order. This results in the loss of various forms of protections and freedoms for the individual and oppressions put in their stead, producing an institutional instability that cannot be called a state in the proper sense. The reactionary dismemberment of a state with unilateral reunification is known best today as fascism, although this form of disruption, denigration, and finally repression of the multitude is historically common. As a final example, elites in contemporary times brazenly (given the term’s association with Nazi Germany) speak of a so-called ‘new order’ but in reality there is nothing ‘new’ about this form of restrained imperialism or compulsory nation-building at all; it’s simply doublespeak for using the same old colonial devices of exploitation and imposition of penal codes upon the global common as have, historically, always been used. In contrast, we must take heart. While there may not have been a true revolution as of yet, there have been growing stronger and stronger populist waves that are and will continue to be out not only out of the control of global corporate capitalism but actually displace and evaporate it wherever it appears.
Despite these ontological abstractions in attempting to describe the state (abstraction being a concern of our investigation), opposition must ultimately be viewed as an individual reaction with or without a corresponding commitment. That must be a prerequisite to biopolitical action as nothing in this world happens politically without a varying degree of compliance. Opposition is a fundamental and innate response for a corporeal being. In humans, philosophical or metaphysical opposition in thought and conception is as innate as physical opposition. In the broadest sense opposition is the impulse toward and consequent fostering of the native ethical and ‘moral’ behavior. This is not to say that the individual rebels because it is the ethical thing to do: rather, for one thing, the individual rebels and opposes not out of choice so much but simply as a reaction; for another the rebel opposes in a search for happiness. A human being will choose happiness over all other things if she only knows what choices to make to bring her there. Opposition, because it is borne out of pain, forces the individual into at the very least considering or fantasizing action. Unfortunately for the individual and for society is the fact that while only truth and freedom can result in happiness, there are many false paths that lure and distract freedom-loving rebels into dead-end traps that result in corruption and alienation. That partly explains the lack of progress made in modernity. It may also be that opposition is a purely energetic initiator without a necessarily constructive direction. Opposition, because of its component of anger, is inhibitive over enlightenment but it is also dominant over corruption. Again, we recognize opposition as a driving force, emotive as well as physical and neurological, not as a force that necessarily leads to either good or harm, and we have recognized that opposition (dissent) is incompatible with corruption and the two cannot coexist categorically, but only as separate narratives (the left hand does not always see what the right hand is doing). Opposition as we understand it and feel it has primal characteristics and is also a prime mover as it is impulsive and emergent, not chosen. As with any power, opposition has a strong tendency for tragic misuse but its benefits, when used in restraint and discipline, are inestimably rich. Opposition in action is also often oppressed particularly and ironically among the lower classes and exploited. Oppressed yes, that is to say externally oppressed- but an undercurrent in every human unbeknownst but secretly waiting for just the right event or set of events that allow opposition to charge out, raging and violent. The integrity of the minds in that state of opposition will determine the consequences of its outpouring or shedding in uprisings, therefore making corruption highly vulnerable and dangerously susceptible to a mass outburst of populist opposition that may turn violent or vindictive, the dreaded state of oscillation that in civilization we always seem to be in.
Finally, opposition is a force that either incites change or resists it. To challenge is not synonymous with the act of opposition. Opposition is both the primary stance of both the challenger and the challenged; opposition as it arises comes before the agenda. Of itself, opposition is among the most natural and massive of reactions of life and will always be present within us so long as we are alive and consciously aware as human animals. The physical body itself sticks outward; we as soverigns look at the mirror; the mirror does not look at us, and we are deciding what we want to look like. External events reflect within us and are described to us internally according to our nature. Anything that we perceive to be clashing or in discord to the mind’s nature is initially met with resistance- at the very least at the physical level. As politics, before acting, is full of calculations and assessments, so it is with the mind in regards to uniquely human predicaments: positions that are contrary seem irreconcilable and compromise must be a farce; left is right, the truth is a lie, intentions (even one’s own) are as inscrutable and distorted as light is upon the surface of water. Our body and all its aspects and changes are described by a narrow bridge of local sensations and stimuli, creating distortion, disassociation, and finally a state of alienation leading to a life where there is no clear vision or plan. We cannot see another with belief and we cannot see that as we look at the other all we find are our reflections and we cannot determine those either. At least, this is what urban modernity and all of its mass media has brought us to. Corporate politics plays the same parlor tricks, sometimes with more transparency, sometimes with none at all, and always for material gain. What describes corruption then is the inevitability that the majority must become impoverished or sacrificed for the wealthy; that this paradigm becomes systemic and that those in power steal the time and labor of those who aren’t. We say it is corrupt not because it is deceitful or merely greedy and therefore bad, but because it actually corrodes the social ties that hold the common together and preserve harmony in society. Obviously, as the situation worsens more and more individuals will find themselves in a state of resistance or opposition, and they will find that they would like to vent their frustrations physically- popular demands also have a process that begins with proposals, goes through negotiation, and if unmet will end in riots. How clearly we can clearly see though, or how much of the coming rage will only blind us determines what actions we will take and the consequences of those actions. Finally, the senses can at least tell us about how far we can throw a stone but only the mind can project the consequences of doing so and whether those consequences are desirable or not. As humans when confronted with something new, we should always proceed with great caution.
Obedience and Corporeality
Of course In real resistance (practical and focused resistance) our physical bodies are by far our greatest liabilities. Visceral fear of bodily harm, arrest, or even death dampens and hinders public opposition; there is a built-in inhibition against uprising within the multitude just as there is always reaction against uprising from within the state. As a result, measures to prevent revolt are not commonly seen as necessary by the rulers of a consolidated state (although concomitantly persistent and oppressive policies do exist in unstable states- the evidence shows that the determining variable for the degree of state oppression is not the state’s structure but its tenuity). Nobody wants to go to jail; nobody wants to be beaten, lose their job or home- certainly people fear being killed. We are focusing here on civil disobedience. Appropriately, loss of liberty as a result is calculated as sacrifice. But the state still has fear on its side. Further, to quell dissent and protests at home, war grows ever more mechanized, using digitally planned airstrikes instead of combat troops (waging war with ‘no boots on the ground’). A citizen of an aggressor nation in war is typically separated and removed from the death and maiming of war victims, may have no family or familiar relationships involved, and therefore may be so distanced from war violence that in normal life he forgets that it’s even happening and becomes unaware of its dangers. It is enough to say here that continuing along this trajectory of increasing the use of robotic weapons is a terrifying prospect for humanity. (Notes 1)
We agree that power, liberating power that is, and violence are opposites (Arendt, Hardt and Negri et al). Violence destroys power as new power struggles to fill up the vacuum left in the wake of violence as it’s occurring. Power creates order, albeit as imperfect as order must be; violence by definition is disorder. Obviously, the resultants of violence are breakdown, disorganization and decay. Analogous to this is the behavior of the individual when the mind is serene (which is power), compared to the erratic and violent tendencies of someone who is conflicted and paranoid. In biological terms, power is growth and violence is degenerative. The notion that power ‘comes out of the barrel of a gun’ is childish machismo; what does come from a person on the opposite side, in the face of that barrel, is simple obedience (in other words a forfeit of power) as a result of the fear of bodily harm- there does not seem to be any need to adorn such a scenario. There is no loyalty in such a relationship. We don’t fear a bully’s mind or doctrine (we resent it) but rather his physical strength, and by that we mean his extended bodily strength through weaponry. We fear the potential violence of what a rifle or a bomb can do to our body and the bodies of those we love. We also fear the handcuffs that immobilize us and the bars and fences that will encage us. We are hostages to a violent state’s organization of weaponry; not to its collaborators, as once a politician or officer is removed from contact with the organization he is then powerless. While it is true that megalomaniacs seem to live on in mythology, is the man really the myth, or isn’t ‘he’ just lurking in the shadows of collective primal fear like Big Brother in 1984 or the emerging dictators of today? Power, as the ‘organized forces of violence’ is ill-defined as that simply means imposing obedience upon individuals through intimidation, bullying, and threats to harm them, either physically or by incarceration. Disobey or the state will smash you. This is the real reason people obey, not out of faith or belief that the state imposes law on them in their best interests in every circumstance. Whatever objections there may be in regards to the observation that governance is necessary to preserve social order, the truth remains that citizens everywhere fall in line out of fears of consequences if they don’t, not out of natural and harmonious cooperation toward the ‘greater good.’ Obedience, what others have mistaken for power, is yet another contradiction then; this state of obedience is what replaces freedom when the organized forces of violence (Bodin, Hobbes, et al) at the disposal to the state are actively used to mollify the potential for dissent. It is the individual’s fear of bodily harm and the portent of the continuation of state violence through crackdowns and assaults that keeps the tyrannical state in tenuous power in a two-tiered system in which the police, the military, organized crime, and those related syndicates keep the towns and cities functioning in varying degrees of health and safety, while it is clear that the higher echelons of state and corporate power, the oligarchs, have limited knowledge of or involvement in the common en masse. They are taken quite by surprise therefore when uprisings do arise as they do not experience the visceral fears of the common people- at least not the same relationship of fears. This is also why the possibility for perpetual totalitarianism is remote and seemingly impossible: dissent will always arise (as a physical law transcending choice) as a counter to dominance and the state must always work to appease or compromise to this multitude of bodies or risk being overthrown (Lenin). This force and counterforce though has not shown itself to be dialectical: instead, through violence, we find our species in a sort Nietzschean nightmare, driven to the brink of our extinction through an imperturbable nuclear arms race, how can we conclude that, even so, we will love life in the face of our extinction? Adding this reality to the prehistoric religious fascination with a liberating apocalypse, there have never been easy times in human history. As optimists we affirm that change is not only possible, it is the only thing moral. But the onus lies on the individual.
There is furthermore optimism for a real dialogue that opposes violence and embraces people power. It is in the irrepressibility of human psychology, human instinct, and the biopolitical force that inevitably emerges out of oppression and enables new opportunities for a reorganization of human affairs. The problems of the greatest urgency facing us today, such as the threat of mutual annihilation only require that, first, rational minds sit down together for talks that address the need for disarmament. If a society has at least that prerequisite safety (a mutual willingness for dialogue) then the reorganizing power of biopolitics seems promising once again. At that point, perhaps, we can start to address other dire emergencies such as perpetual war, ecocide, and unsustainable economics. But every viable human being must step back from the precipice of nihilism.
Out of the vastness life somehow emerged as a aberrant manifestation of energy and pressures, and one thing that can certainly be observed as true for life forms in general, if not absolutely, is that they flee from danger and lash back against pain. Our neural network and mind play the center role of a life where pain avoidance is a constant effort at self-preservation. Simple as that is, scholars rarely put that reality into a biopolitical context where the behaviors of obedience and moods such as patriotism are values of a manifestation of fear, where cooperation does not arise out altruism but is coerced. We must be willing, disappointing as it may be initially (but later liberating) to acknowledge that the distance between self-interest and altruism is only a matter of degree away from lust and greed, and that the circus and the zoo (the crueler the more salient) are meant to mirror violent societies, not to distract from them. The law-abiding citizen is the one most motivated by fear, and while the rebel is the least, both suffer and both can easily be made victims. In a biopolitcal environment, any actor can be mocked. Only nature is infallible and without neurosis, and in nature there is no concept of justice. Justice will always be abusive, driven by pain, coercion, and arbitrary whim. Human justice will never be natural.
And if our fear is to be taken for granted by the government, that fear will shape the manner in which we are governed. Descartes’ declaration of self-awareness is as insipid at it is childish. With horrifying clarity however he did demonstrate to Western academia the subject’s capacity to inflict cruel pain to animals that in posed no threat to him and that state of such an abject and sadistic mind; that capacity for cruelty. The heirs of such ego-driven pseudoscience were not the existentialists of course, but the architects of the death camps, human experiments, and genocide that exploded in the last century. Descartes’ dissections may be among the earliest documented examples of cruelty without conscience, as described in The First Stage of Cruelty (Hogarth). (The lesson that we learn from Descartes is what a sovereign, sadistic mind is capable of, as somehow, the sadist inflicts pain with either no awareness that he is inflicting pain, acknowledgement that he is but with indifference, or with willingly and with pleasure. Whatever the case, sadism has always been an alarming and hard to cure defect in human beings and sadism makes our survival problematic and tenuous.) It is only in subsequent centuries that we see that the nature of the state greatly influences the nature of the minds of the scientists that serve the state, for which we have an abundance of evidence for from the 20th Century. Indeed, ‘scientists’ like Descartes had no compunctions at all in afflicting the same torture in ‘experiments’ on human beings during the apocalyptic wars of the 20th Century. Descartes, in fact, by asserting that animals were soulless automatons that could not feel pain was an affront to philosophical nobility and surely legitimzed dehumanization, which we know to be the first stage to torture and genocide. To this day and not unlikely from the beginnings of our species, dehumanizing others makes it possible to kill them with little or no remorse, mechanically, that it remains acceptable to cause other forms of life pain and terror for indefensible and trivial motives. Further, we human animals are subject to the same conditioning and behavior modification as are animals (in the lab or on farms), and that same behavior modification is applied aggressively to society at large. The Milgram Experiment et al. show that the individual is more afraid of disobeying authority than he is in acting according to his own ethics, mores, and conscience. Even with nothing but verbal instructions, most volunteers are willing to inflict greater increments of electrical shocks and pain for each answer the test subject gets wrong, and is willing to do so without questioning or protesting. We obey authority simply because we are terrified of the consequences of not obeying; by the time of adulthood, it has become built-in. Authoritarians themselves behave in ways that they project will please others in power as they are always under the risk of being purged. Authoritarian societies are infamously known for encouraging children to denounce their parents, creating a political-social atmosphere of constant paranoia. Much of law, which common people are largely ignorant of, is compiled out of opportunism or sycophancy, not out of a consensus for a greater good (although that does occur too). The point is that the organism that we are, the biospace in which our consciousness rests, is highly vulnerable and therefore the morbid concerns and fears along the whole political strata, regardless of class or wealth, are basically the same. Everywhere along this spectrum runs the undercurrent of a root anxiety– a suppressed form of paranoia negatively affecting human relationships at all levels of trust. Persistent or root anxiety compels humans to seek relief through internal rationalizations and external acts of sycophancy that they perceive will result in gaining them favor and safety, even though their words or actions may be perceived by others as shocking or cruel. The same is true for reactionaries and authoritarians but in the other direction. By attacking and scapegoating others they mistakenly calculate that the use of violence (physical or otherwise) against ‘enemies’ will bring them protection, only to find that their perceived enemies have become real enemies that increase in proportion to the amount of violence used against them. Such tyrants, particularly in modern times, often fall before their megalomaniacal visions are realized, but some do manage to hold on to power to the very end of their lives (e.g. Mao ZeDong, Joseph Stalin). Inevitably though they suffer through lives of excruciating paranoia and of the knowledge of the thousands or millions of people they themselves ordered to be killed or imprisoned; not lives anyone would consider worth living really. In totalitarian regimes, there are only victims.
Of course, the people don’t spend the majority of their waking moments preoccupied with the fear of being arrested or beaten should they do something wrong. And, for the most part, people have already bargained in their mind that the body is frail and something could go wrong. As animals, we’re understandably on guard. But in every event, of course, there is a metaphysical convergence of body and mind. Indeed, it is inconceivable that there could be one without the other, heightening our sense of vulnerability about things like physical pain and particularly the irrevocability of death; how we will we ultimately interface with the cosmos without our mind, our only certain sovereignty? We can make up all the myths and fairy tales that we want, but we all see that heaven is only a pacifier for this life. Can the mind accept obliteration under any circumstance, and better yet, why should it? If religious fairy tales rot our minds as sugar rots our teeth, nihilism is at best of the same consequence or even worse. Patience may indeed be the ultimate among virtues. Humanity, with one wary eye on the past and the other on an unknown future, is so (understandably) terrified that the decadence we see should not surprise, much less entertain, us as much as it does.. Still, there is really nothing new in the way minds work whenever the epoch. As always, any two events are indistinguishable at the point of emergence, where they become fused in the psychophysical medium as energetic recordings. However, there are many matters of uncertainty in each individual’s life that cause stress and anxiety at a more or less constant level just below the surface of consciousness. These tensions frequently break through into the conscious mind throughout the day, weighing in on the body and mind along with those things the agent does or happenings upon it that either weaken and demise the individual or infuse a person with strength and vigor.
Geography and class also play a role in paranoia, but only in the subjective material of the experience; not in its essential quality. A wealthy individual may be terrified about becoming gravely ill but not worry very much, if at all, about being arrested or mugged. Cancer and other incurable afflictions may preoccupy their thoughts (health occupies the minds of every economic class, of course, but not to the extent of obsessiveness of the wealthy). A chai wallah on the streets of Kolkata, on the other hand, may dread whether he can get enough money together today for an adequate supply of food for his family and secondly about the petty mafia and thieves that will extort from him if he can’t dodge them. He may also fear a painful whack from a police stick if he tries to sell tea in restricted areas, but is probably not afraid of the police directly or of going to jail. (Analogous to these unspoken zoning restrictions to class or race, which are a parallel apartheid, is the recent case in which two African American men were arrested for ‘trespassing’ at a Starbucks in Boston.) An active member of a banned opposition party in an oppressive state is likely to suffer from a chronic and heightened state of paranoia and mental distress, particularly if the state’s use of torture against ‘enemies’ in the opposition is well known. As human beings, torture is what we fear more than anything. Amongst our coping mechanisms toward the possibility of torture, a common one seems to be nihilism. As one woman active in the underground during the Warsaw uprising in 1944 put it, “It’s not death that scares me so much…but I would never want to be tortured.” Subconsciously, each human knows that other humans are quite capable of carrying out torture; most of us have probably had our own corresponding vicious thoughts or at least can imagine them. The fear of becoming a victim of incarceration or torture as well as the fear of immediate death are barriers that hinder people from uprising. Inhibition in resistance is often due to physical and mortal fear; not loyalty to the state or its ideals, or in satisfying escapes in the mind of flights of fancy or freedom (conquest dreams appear only upon the resignation that all other options are gone when one is forced to sleep in a cell).
1 Some of the effects of this remote warfare are quite apparent and visible now while others if left unchecked are long-term, with damages on human societies that can only be projected on. It does seem certain that given the continuation of war, and with it population control, war will increasingly become more remote and less dangerous to both war makers and oppressors alike. At the same time, censoring technology will also grow in sophistication, jamming cell phone signals for one thing (as viral footage has become a real annoyance for certain sectors of the state while other sectors have exploited it to their advantage). Some states already have sufficient authoritarian control however to censor and prevent individually launched media from the vast majority of the citizens. Further investigation into digital technology and its enormous potential to facilitate violence by the state upon the common is beyond our scope here (as is too the ability of the underground resistance to undermine the state’s effectiveness at censorship through access to the same technology). An oppressive global state, however (whether formal or merely a de facto reality of the architecture of global markets) will certainly retain the mythos of the domestic homeland in opposition to foreign nation-states to divide and weaken populations making dissent less effective, it will utilize tactics of dehumanization to silence protest and will have the advantage in mechanizing combat with far fewer casualties (or witnesses) when attacking populations. It will use war, to paraphrase Solzhenitsyn, as an “excuse to carry out domestic tyranny” in a globalized world. Physical remoteness, mass media distraction, and desensitization will quell dissent as powerful oligarchs vie for and seize the last of the earth’s dwindling resources in risky combat missions that will (for most) go unnoticed and unprotested.
For the individual the body has no defense against war or police state weapons: how do we oppose shrapnel, flames, shards of metal, bullets, and gasses? Without defense wouldn’t the only reaction be to flee? Already living in fear of the tyranny of the state, psychological torture becomes inevitable: if it does not come from the fear of arrest and interrogation, it comes from fear of bombardment or being gassed. Caught in the middle, the individual who is hostage to these fears may understandably join a resistance force that can at least offer some protection, not the least of which is the love and sympathy found in a fraternity in resistance against violent attacks. Such fractionalization is confounding, however. On the one hand, it weakens the state and its capacity to wage war on the common, on the other hand, fractionalization acts as a retardant toward colonial consolidation for the oligarchical powers. From the middle of the last century and into this one we see it has not easy or even profitable to smash a state outright and that nearly all of the power grabs in this era have been manipulated by proxy. This reality, however, has had little impact upon people who live decade after decade under tyrannical regimes, all answering to or corrupted by oligarchical interests. Even if through revolution a regime emerges in opposition to the world order it invariably imposes the same draconian policies upon the common that regimes compliant to global oligarchy impose. In anger, many of us rightly say, ‘Damned if you, damned if you don’t.’ History has taught us one thing absolutely- we are very poor at governing ourselves, and what we need is not another stirring of the pot but a real transcendence out of our conception of power.