the 41 curses, crises and conspiracies of everyday life


The German critic Walter Benjamin envisioned a book composed entirely of assembled quotations from other authors.


In December 1957, Guy-Ernest Debord . . . produced a book he called Memoires. He didn't write it. He cut scores of paragraphs, sentences, phrases, or sometimes single words out of books, magazines, and newspaper [...] At first the book seemed entirely a conceit -- precious. In fact it told a very specific story, and carried an affirmation that it was the only story worth telling.


People who talk about revolution and class struggle without referring explicitly to everyday life, without understanding what is subversive about love and positive in the refusal of constraint, have corpses in their mouths.


I need a cheeseburger to go!


To study everyday life would be a completely absurd undertaking, unable to grasp anything of its object, if this study was not explicitly for the purpose of transforming everyday life. The lecture, the exposition of certain intellectual considerations to an audience . . . itself forms a part of the everyday life to be criticized [...] It is thus desirable to demonstrate, by the slight alteration of the usual procedures, that everyday life is right here. These words are being communicated by way of a tape recorder, not, of course, in order to illustrate the integration of technology into this everyday life [that exists] on the margin of the technological world, but in order to seize the simplest opportunity to break with the appearance of pseudo-collaboration, of artificial dialogue, established between the lecturer "in person" and his spectators.


Certain dissident elements keep complaining that people don't get a chance to participate in decisions made by their government. Yet, at a time like this, when the whole nation has an opportunity to hear the Attorney General, the ratings are not always as good as they should be. So let's do everything we can to build up those ratings tonight, and let the whole world know that this is still a democracy.


So many important people and powerful agencies wanted to murder President John F. Kennedy in November 1963 that they all but had to draw straws to see who got the first shot at him. According to Jim Marr's book Crossfire: The Plot That Killed Kennedy -- one of the primary sources for Oliver Stone's movie J.F.K. -- Kennedy was killed as a result of a conspiracy. "Who done it?" Mr. Marrs asks. "A consensus of powerful men in the leadership of U.S. military, banking, Government, intelligence and organized crime circles ordered their faithful agents to manipulate Mafia-Cuban-[Central Intelligence] Agency pawns to kill the chief." This conspiracy has been hidden from the public by the greatest cover-up of them all, the Warren Commission.


"The conspiracy theory of history" was in the nineteenth century a reactionary and ridiculous belief, at a time when so many powerful social movements were stirring up the masses.


That millions of Americans have read these books or seen Mr. Stone's movie may tell us more about the attitude people have toward their Government and their educational experiences than it does about the Kennedy assassination. They believe that government is a conspiracy and that the history they were taught in school is all lie and myth.


He reckoned most of his countrymen as total mental basket cases and fondly believed that he was exploiting their folly when he told them a vast Illuminist conspiracy controlled the money supply and interest rates [...] That there was an element of truth in these bizarre notions never crossed his mind. In short, [he] was as alienated from the pulse, the poetry, and the profundity of American emotion as a New York intellectual.


A combination of circumstances has marked almost everything I've done with a certain conspiratorial allure.


The police of Europe keep track of them. Elusive and underground, conspirators in the tradition, [the Situationist International] refuse[s] all legalities and conformisms, even socialist ones. The Situationist International has its base in Copenhagen and . . . is controlled by the security and espionage police of East Germany [...] Their general headquarters is secret but I think it is somewhere in London. They are not students, but what are known as situationists; they travel everywhere and exploit the discontent of students.


Just as God constituted the reference point of past unitary society, we [situationists] are preparing to create the central reference point for a unitary society now possible.


I regret living in a world where sorcerers and soothsayers must live in hiding, and where in any case there are so few genuine soothsayers . . . as far as I'm concerned, I find it astounding that fortune-tellers, tarot-readers, wizards, sorcerers, necromancers and other REINCARNATED ONES have for so long been relegated to the role of mere characters in fables and novels, and that, through one of the most superficial aspects of modern thinking, naivete is defined as having faith in charlatans. I believe whole-heartedly in charlatans, bonesetters, visionaries, sorcerers and chiromancers, because all these things have being, because, for me, there are no limits, no fixed form to appearances.


Oh, women with strange faces, portraits and poems with weird imagery, peculiar objects -- all you prove is that there is no more "feminine mystery," that mystery has disappeared from our world, that it has degenerated into something public, that it is a game, an art-form, that it has lost its ancient glamour founded on terror and wild hope, that it has become mere journalism, mere advertizing, mere fashion, a music-hall turn, an exhibit . . .


. . . [a] Spectacle.


He is a sorcerer / Before your eyes cast a spell / Out of control. . . . / He's a bourgeois sorcerer / In a million factories department stores and mills and banks / Dark powers walk in broad daylight / Social forces driven in dreadful directions / Whole populations conjured out of the ground / Ooh! The abyss is close to home.


A commodity appears at first sight an extremely obvious, trivial thing. But its analysis brings out that it is a very strange thing, abounding in metaphysical subtleties and theological niceties. In so far as it is a use-value, there is nothing mysterious about it -- whether we regard it as something whose natural properties enable it to satisfy human wants, or as something which only acquires such properties as the outcome of human labor. It is absolutely clear that, by his activity, man changes the forms of the materials of nature in such a way as to make them useful to him. The form of wood, for instance, is altered if a table is made out of it. Nevertheless the table continues to be wood, an ordinary, sensuous thing. But as soon as it emerges as a commodity, it changes into a thing which transcends sensuousness. It not only stands with its feet on the ground, but, in relation to all other commodities, it stands on its head, and evolves out of its wooden brain grotesque ideas, far more wonderful than if it were to begin dancing of its own free will.


Pure poetry -- and the mystical echoes were no accident. Marx's allusion was to the Spiritualists, who in his time clasped hands around tables in Boston, Paris, Prague, and St. Petersburg, waiting for the spirits of departed loved ones to set their hands knocking on wood, to make the tables dance. The Spiritualists had nothing to do with commodities, but the commodity had everything to do with magic.


Everything -- life, science, both the ideal and the idea of love, not to mention that arch-sorcerer of the Western world, money -- conspires to instill in the sensitive, lucid, cultivated young man with a gift for "belles-lettres" a feeling of unease and dissatisfaction which can only be assuaged by something strange, bizarre or extraordinary [...] Thus philosophy has joined forces with literature in this great conspiracy against man's everyday life. Even in our so-called "modern" poets' and metaphysicians' most polished verbal and technical games we can find the elements of a certain criticism of everyday life, but in an indirect form, and always based upon the confusion between the real in human terms and the real in capitalist terms.


[In speaking of Masonry as] a world by itself, with a life of its own . . . the word "life" itself [is not] a misnomer. To the casual observer Freemasonry might appear to be a kind of artificial thing, like the wearing of a fancy dress at a costume ball, something with no roots deep in experience, a luxury rather than a necessity [...] An experienced Freemason, however, knows that Masonry is a way of life, a mode of living, which moves in him and helps to shape his life all of the time, whether inside of Lodge or not.


[The power of the Scottish Rite] amounts to a group of self-inspections looking to a specific daily conduct. And for Average Men always. For that matter, are we not all average men? [...] [In conclusion] may we repeat what we said a year ago -- that Masonry is as near Utopia as anything we know. That to bring about a consideration, by so many men, of finer living is a force for world progress in an every-day way which the world must encourage.


And what is this general object [of the Order of the Illuminati]? THE HAPPINESS OF THE HUMAN RACE. Is it not distressing to a generous mind, after contemplating what human nature is capable of, to see how little we enjoy? When we look at this goodly world, and see that every man may be happy, but that the happiness of one depends on the conduct of another; when we see the wicked so powerful and the good so weak; and that it is in vain to strive singly and alone, against the general current of vice and oppression; the wish naturally arises in the mind, that it were possible to form a durable combination of the most worthy persons, who should work together in removing the obstacles to human happiness [...] Would not such an association be a blessing to the world? . . . The slightest observation shows that nothing will so much contribute to increase the zeal of the members as secret union. We see with what keenness and zeal the frivolous business of Freemasonry is conducted, by persons knit together by the secrecy of their union. It is needless to enquire into the causes of this zeal which secrecy produces. It is a universal fact, confirmed by the history of every age.


Secrecy dominates this world, and first and foremost as the secret of domination. According to the spectacle, secrecy would only be a necessary exception to the rule of freely available, abundant information [...] No one sees secrecy in its inaccessible purity and its functional universality. Everyone accepts that there are inevitably little areas of secrecy reserved for specialists; as regards things in general, many believe they are in on the secret [...] Their only role is to make domination more respectable, never to make it comprehensible. They are the privilege of front-row spectators who are stupid enough to believe they can understand something, not by making use of what is hidden from them, but by believing what is revealed!


We have to struggle with pedantry, with intolerance, with divines and statesmen, and above all, princes and priests are in our way. Men are unfit as they are, and must be formed, each class must be the school of trial for the next [...] Every person shall be made a spy on another and on all around him. Nothing can escape our sight; by these means we shall readily discover who is contented, and receive with relish the peculiar state-doctrines and religious opinions that are laid before them; and, at last, the truly worthy alone will be admitted to a participation in the whole maxims and political constitution of the Order.


Amongst the whole correspondence which passed between Weishaupt and his adepts laid bare by the Government of Bavaria, we find no word of sympathy with the poor or suffering, no hint of social reform, nothing but a desire either for domination, for world power, or sheer love of destruction, and throughout all the insatiable spirit of intrigue. For this purpose every method was held to be justifiable, since the fundamental doctrine of the sect was that "the end sanctifies the means."


If in order to destroy all Christianity, all religion, we have pretended to have the sole true religion, remember that the end justifies the means, and that the wise ought to take all the means to do good which the wicked take to do evil.


Had the Order [of the Illuminati] been allowed free scope, much good would have resulted, as the members were, as a rule, men of the strictest morality and humanity, and the ideas they sought to instill were those which would have found universal acceptance in our own times.


The ubiquitous growth of secret societies and networks of influence answers the imperative demand of the new conditions for profitable management of economic affairs, at a time when the state holds a hegemonic role in the direction of production and when demand for all commodities depends strictly on the centralization achieved by spectacular information/promotion, to which forms of distribution must also adapt. It is therefore only a natural product of the centralization of capital, production and distribution. Whatever does not grow must disappear; and no business can grow without adopting the values, techniques and methods of today's industry, spectacle and state. In the final analysis it is the particular form of development chosen by the economy of our epoch which dictates the widespread creation of new personal bonds of dependency and protection.


To understand this properly, we need to think about what is happening around us, within us, each and every day. We live on familiar terms with the people in our own family, our own milieu, our own class. This constant impression of familiarity makes us think that we know them, that their outlines are defined for us, and that they see themselves as having those same outlines [...] But the familiar is not necessarily the known [...] Familiarity, what is familiar, conceals human beings and makes them difficult to know by giving them a mask we can recognize, a mask that is merely the lack of something. And yet familiarity . . . is by no means an illusion. It is real, and is part of reality. Masks cling to our faces, to our skin; flesh and blood have become masks.


There is a place where you create yourself and a time in which you play yourself. The space of everyday life, that of one's true realization, is encircled by every form of conditioning. The narrow space of our true realization defines us, yet we define ourselves in the time of the spectacle. Or, put another way: our consciousness is no longer consciousness of myth and of particular-being-in-myth, but rather consciousness of the spectacle and of particular-role-in-the-spectacle.


If there were no roles to play, and thus no familiarity, how could the cultural element or ethical element which should modify and humanize our emotions and our passions be introduced into life? The one involves the other. A role is not a role. It is social life, an inherent part of it. What is faked in one sense is what is the essential, the most precious, the human, in another.


The highest ambition of the integrated spectacle is still to turn secret agents into revolutionaries, and revolutionaries into secret agents.


One of the most ironic and revealing things about Carr's version of Illuminoid history is that if you take such thinking far enough to the right you'll find far leftwingers coming to meet you on common ground: it's a conspiracy! And indeed it is a conspiracy, an unending secret war between rich and poor, haves and have-nots, ins and outs.


Today, the natural organization of labor, which has been founded on mutual need between capital and labor and which has been traditional in all periods of recorded history, has been upset. Now the worker is proclaimed to be equal in all respects with his employer, while he is exempted from the duties and responsibilities of the employer. The result has been a senseless "class struggle" which has all but destroyed American industry and which was designed to do just that.


Dan Smoot, Gary Allen and Phoebe Courtney may seem ludicrous in their attack on the Council of Foreign Relations as the brains of the conspiracy, yet what they're saying is essentially the same as scholarly leftwingers such as C. Wright Mills and other trackers of . . . the Military-Industrial Complex.


The Nixon "Game Plan" is infinitely more clever and dangerous than those of his predecessors because it masquerades as being the opposite of what it is.


The argument is not whether there's a conspiracy --


-- The ultimate advantage the creditor has over the king or president is that, if the ruler gets out of line, the banker can finance his enemy or rival. Therefore . . . it is wise to have an enemy or rival waiting in the wings [...] If the King doesn't have an enemy, you must create one [...] The key to control over governments has always been [the international bankers'] control of money --


-- but what to do about it.


And then revolts break out as storms break out in the burning summer sky. Resolute and savage men, led by the kind of bearded colossus like an ancient god, wrested beams from the workshops and hurled them like catapults against the armour-plated palace doors. The most cautious had made their get-away; others than fallen under the first blows and these were precisely the people who had never wanted to believe in the revolt, maintaining that these rumors had no foundation and were started by greedy bankers who aimed to cause a fall in prices and then speculate afterwards on the rise which would follow the denial of the alarming rumors. These were the same people who always ended their optimistic speeches by phrases such as: Our people have too much good sense.

[Collage assembled, read aloud and tape recorded in April 1992 by Bill Not Bored, who performed a "lip-synch" of the recorded collage at a philosophy conference at the University of California at Berkeley in early May 1992. Text published in NOT BORED! #21 (July 1992).]



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