I’ve been here in Germany for almost two months now, and, for all that time, every single f**king weekday, with the annoyingly loud ring of my alarm clock, I’ve been waking myself up early in the morning, taking a shower to make myself somewhat presentable to the outside world (as best as I can), synchronizing my clock with the schedule of the bus (for which I had to pay), getting into class at 9 AM (pünktlich!), spending about 4 hours a day learning a language I’ve only been acquainted with for a year, spending my afternoons learning a quite elaborate system of grammar, memorizing words I don’t know if I’ll remember the next day, listening to a local radio station to acquaint myself with the language’s tones, rhythms, and sounds, and having to practice speaking a really quite foreign language (to me) in a hell lot of situations.
After having done that for two months, I am led to tell myself, “Boy, I must really like this language. I must really want to learn how to speak.” In other words, I must really desire this. How else could I have been compelled to follow such a demanding, rigorous, rigid schedule? How else could I have been compelled to insert myself in uncomfortable, unhomely (unheimlich) situations, in fact to pull myself out of the environment I like to call home to lodge myself somewhere totally strange, totally foreign, alien (fremd)? How else could I have been made to do, at my age (already in grad school), and given my cultural background (already different from American), and given the responsibilities I left at home (the upcoming exams!), something quite already difficult (i.e. learning a language, oder eine Sprache zu lernen)? How else could I want to pigeonhole myself, to imitate others, to standardize the way I communicate (i.e. choose speaking as my means of communication), and, once that has been standardized, to standardize (make like the norm) that chosen, standard means, i.e. to standardize itself the (already standardized) way I speak (i.e. to use a particular language, use certain words, follow a certain grammar, and then lose or acquire a certain accent, speak in a certain idiosyncratic way)? In other words, warum muss ich das Verb am Ende legen (why must I place the verb at the end)?
Now, there’s nothing specifically German about this experience. (The fact that it is German that I’m trying to acquire, or that German is the example I used, although it does seem to illustrate quite intensively, like a plateau, the phenomenon I’m trying to describe, happened out of pure chance. Randomness. The Deleuzian quasi-cause.) The same process happens whenever one is trying to learn a language, any (foreign) language–even and including (perhaps especially) one’s mother tongue (hence the pertinence of Lacan’s attribution to the Real of that dimension lost upon the onset of language, the Symbolic Order). The same process happens when, as a child, when one does not yet have full command of a language, when one uses less words and more body more to communicate, one wants with other kids to play (mit andere spielen). The same happens when, in high school, without even having spoken, one enters the cafeteria, or when one, for an interview, again without even having uttered a word, enters the room, and everyone’s looking at you. As in the case of German, the linguistic is perhaps the most intensive illustration of this phenomenon, but this process is by no means constrained to language. One always feels, as though one were in the Panopticon (or what Foucault has described as the mechanisms of discipline and, later, of bio-power), the ever watchful, monitoring (more precisely: surveiller, in French) eyes of the norm, the ever pressuring, suffocating demands (its force, its power: pouvoir) of standardization.
Deleuze and Guattari’s haunting words from Anti-Oedipus ring particularly true here. There must really be a desire within (v. inherent, which suggests a subjective internality) all of us that make us desire our own repression–a fascist desire: the microfascist inside all of us. The desire that makes us want to submit, the desire that makes us follow: be standardized, be like us (Who?).
In order to live together, you say? In order to make society function. So that we’re not in some Hobbesian (but not just Hobbes: Locke, Rousseau, all the way to Rawls) pre-Social Contract beast-like existence of the nasty, brutish, and short?
But that is precisely the point. It is not just a desire that makes us follow. It is the desire itself to follow. To just yield (ergeben). To let others act. Let others do it. Let another drive. “No, no, I’m fine. I’m good. I’ll sit here in the back seat. You take charge. I trust you. You’ll get us there. Where? Oh, wherever. Wherever you want.”
In order to live together, you say. For how else can we live together, all of us with our own self-interests, the selfish barbaric animals that we are? Isn’t that the first thing that they teach you in Economics 101? The law of human nature that Adam Smith so brilliantly discovered: each person thinking of himself, each according to his interests (and then magically, voila! What do you know? It’s good for society too! An invisible hand must be at work . . .).
But this living together, this living together that you make sound as if contingent: We have to do it, and there ought to be a government (eine Regierung) that manages it, a body that stands over and above us, well, not really over and above, since chosen by the people (Of course! Liberal democracy! Only liberal democracy! Let’s invade other lands (with oil) and spread it, share the f**king beauty of democracy . . .), but nonetheless a managing body at the center of it, I mean, excuse me, not the center, since the people are at the center, the people who vote–But you know what I mean, a government, a body to facilitate our living together.
We’re free. We’ve never been freer, not like this, throughout history. (We should be flattered! What a thing to accomplish!) And so (also), to preserve this freedom, why, we have to sacrifice certain things: certain rights, certain freedoms. We have to delegate to the government certain tasks, certain decisions, perhaps certain thinking . . . Anyway (allerdings), we do not want to be bothered by those things: politics, but it is so dirty. Let them do it. Leave me alone (which, for the libertarian, really is: Leave my money alone! I’m rich enough. So I don’t need some body hovering above me, managing my money . . .). So yes, we have to submit somewhat. But that is not really the word. It’s not really submitting. We have to follow, yes. We have to obey. We have to let them do some of the thinking, some decisions (You mean the most important ones, like against whom to wage war, what starving land to help, what ecological disasters to combat . . .?). But that doesn’t make me a fascist. No, it doesn’t. No, I’m not. A fascist.
OK. If you say so.
(Maybe you’re right. But being not does not mean not having. That thing inside you, the fascist . . .)
But living together is not contingent. No, definitely, we have to live together. We are social creatures. Parts need to connect to other parts. Desiring-machines and desiring-machines. (Or else, the full body without organs). That’s what living is all about. Connect, (so long as you can also) disconnect (to connect again), record, consume . . . Stratify, destratify: code, decode, territorialize, deterritorialize . . . In other words, actualize, but also (try to) (versuchen) go back to the virtual. In other words: intensity. The only (fascist) question is: Why is it that once we recognize (erkennen) that we live together, that we live amidst other creatures, we automatically (as if by instinct, long been programmed in us) paint this pre-Social Contract world and then seek out, request, shout out for some body (zum Beispiel, die Regierung) that will repress-oppress us?
Or, as Deleuze and Guattari put it more dramatically:
The fundamental problem of political philosophy is still precisely the one that Spinoza saw so clearly, and that Wilhelm Reich rediscovered: ‘Why do men fight for their servitude as stubbornly as though it were their salvation?’ How can people possibly reach the point of shouting, ‘More taxes! Less bread!’? [. . .] The astonishing thing is not that some people steal or that others occasionally go out on strike, but rather that all those who are starving do not steal as a regular practice, and all those who are exploited are not continually out on strike: after centuries of exploitation, why do people still tolerate being humiliated and enslaved, to such a point, indeed, that they actually want humiliation and slavery not only for others but for themselves? (29)
As Deleuze and Guattari point out, this has nothing to do with ideology: we’re not fooled by some agent more intelligent than us, we’re not made to believe: interest is merely secondary. Rather, we must desire this, somewhat: following. We must actively desire our own repression-oppression. How else are we made to want it (“I feel like having some repression today”)? How else are we made to ask for it (“Please, please, more! Oppress me more!”)? How else are we made to actively seek it out? How else are we made to desire our own repression-oppression? We must desire it itself. No other force can explain it. How else am I–instead of having sex, instead of drinking beer, then having sex again, instead of reading a book that I like, instead of writing my novel (the greatest novel the world will ever read!)–how else am I able to wake up everyday, with the sound of my alarm clock, go to a class I’m perhaps too old to take, at 9 f**king AM (pünktlich) in the morning? No other force can make me do it. Not ideology. Not belief. No other force is strong enough to make us desire it. Only it (itself). Desire.
As Deleuze and Guattari describe:
If desire is repressed, it is because every position of desire, no matter how small, is capable of calling into question the established order of a society: not that desire is asocial; on the contrary. But it is explosive: there is no desiring-machine capable of being assembled without demolishing entire social sectors. Despite what some revolutionaries think about this, desire is revolutionary in its essence–desire, not left-wing holidays!–and no society can tolerate a position of real desire without its structures of exploitation, servitude, and hierarchy being compromised. (116)
And why the hell do we desire this?
The answer is (and this is what’s really haunting about it): es gibt innen einen Faschist (there is inside a fascist).
Now, is this fascist tendency (which, again, does not mean that you are a fascist) necessarily detrimental, harmful? Doesn’t it have beneficial uses, too? Doesn’t following have its uses, things it can do? In fact, can we ever achieve anything without somehow (with someone) following? You’re right. Foucault does point out that power is not necessarily good or bad. Without power, there is no freedom (and, correlatively, without freedom, there is no power). Without the exercise of power (which is impossible!), without one disciplining oneself somewhat, without one being standardized so as to make compromises and living together (zusammen leben) with other people possible, what can be achieved? What can society accomplish? How can civilization advance?
But Foucault does point out: it, the exercise of power–in fact, everything–is dangerous. What do you sacrifice? To what extent are you standardized? For what goals are you normalized? For whose (Who?) goals (determined, passed on to you, by whom, by what powers?)?
In other words, to what extent are you a fascist? How much control do you allow (kontrollieren lassen) it inside you–the fascist?