Incitement to Self-Defense

By Michel Bounan

Chapter VII

The descriptions of me as a mystic, a homophobe and a charlatan -- which were intended to be offensive -- were thus forged, when The Time of AIDS was published, to put off readers who were Marxist, homosexual or stricken with AIDS. But other judgments have been pronounced about me. On the one hand, they concern the socio-contestatory label that it is fitting to give me and, on the other hand, particularly repellent, psychopathological personal traits.

In several specialized milieus, one has attributed to me the slightly out-of-date quality of being "pro-situ." By this name were called the impotent admirers of the prestige of the Situationist International in the 1960s and 1970s. One already recognized them by the insult of being called "pro-situ," which they threw in each other's faces because all knew -- having read about it in Debord -- that it was bad and undignified to be a "pro-situ." These admirers did not survive for long after the disappearance of the Situationist International and its prestige. Since then, they have found other models that are more advantageous in the always-changing spectacle. The very numerous competing groups that they formed in every district were of course infiltrated by police officers who were more intelligent than them and perhaps even more "ludic." For some time, such groups served to attract and then disgust those whom situationist critique had troubled over the course of those same years. Today, there only remain individuals who are quite shady and who evoke their false past as "situationists" in a tone that is both critical and disabused, who use a certain vocabulary, make a certain denunciation of the "political spectacle," the "medical spectacle" and the "sport spectacle," and who especially manifest a particular hatred of Debord that is now disguised as perverse praise. The description "pro-situ" certainly no longer fits such people; one can instead describe them with the monstrous term "meta-situ."

The "pro-situ" -- or even "merely pro-situ" -- description does not fit me for another sufficient reason: I am the opposite of a model of identification or a publicity poster. The situationists, especially those who did nothing, were young, brilliant, beautiful, intelligent and talented. The quality of their discussions, their meetings, their celebrations and their adventures testify to such rare gifts and such exceptional aptitudes that one still wonders what more they could have hoped for from the revolutionary transformation of a world that had endowed them so well. On the contrary, I am neither young nor remarkable in any way. No particular talent has been accorded to me by the conditions of life that are mine and any effort to write costs me. Thus, I have inherited nothing, my current life does not seem more worthy of being envied than that of many of my contemporaries, and thus I have several reasons to feel solidarity with them.

Such mediocrity associated with such impudent demands speaks volumes about our era. Even supposing that I have several -- congenital? -- guilty dispositions to crime, they can only be quite common. And, all the same, after 50 years of integrating mechanisms and compensatory delusions, to have arrived here: what a strange era! And what care for public order!

Thus, one has charged me with possessing particular psychopathological traits so as to dissimulate my much more troubling banality. One thus speaks of paranoia with delusions of persecution, of absolute and sterilizing despair, and narcissism with exaltation of "Me, I."

Paranoid delirium is characterized by logical and coherent reasoning developed upon false premises. Any logical and coherent discourse is today suspected of being issued from a paranoid brain. But the matter is settled when the conclusions of this discourse are opposed to those that the spectacle recognizes a priori as true. Thus, the theory of the "class struggle" -- with the kind of persecuted-persecutor relation that it implies -- is an unquestionably "paranoid" theory. Likewise, Debord's thought is "paranoid" thought. Obviously, if the class struggle exists, paranoia is necessary, but what unheard-of meaning is it thus necessary to give the "class struggle"?

Is not my absolute and sterilizing despair likewise manifest when I despair, not only of the future of the market society, but also of all the means that it can henceforth invent to maintain itself for much longer? According to what I ceaselessly hear murmured around me, it nevertheless seems to me that I belong to the larger and larger population that does not at all despair about the impending end of this civilization and about what will follow it.

Nevertheless, I find indecent the reproach of speaking about oneself addressed to someone who precisely recommends such conduct to all those who strive to resist the weight of market reification. Only this method can put back on its feet the real and scandalous "dialectic of subject and object" too often invoked these days to designate this swindle: the likable controversy between the Me and its environment, between alienation and the spectacle.

Moreover, it seems to me that I have greatly abused the advantages that one can derive from such a position. Because -- beyond the anecdotal framework of a kind of author and the calumnies about his kind of books -- it is quite another thing that is advantageously demonstrated here and that likewise reveals itself to all those who will be constrained, before long, to place themselves in the same position of self-defense. It is a question of the current stakes, of the terrain on which they appear, of the conflicts for these stakes, of the defensive mechanisms on both sides, and -- through all this -- the dynamics of an historical movement that is not finished.

August-September 1995

(New revised edition, published by Editions Allia, 2005. First edition published in 1995. Translated from the French by NOT BORED! November 2007.)

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