“I thought I should offer help, a stupid offer, not that one expects it to be anything that I would be able to do something about, but just so that we don’t fully reinforce the monadism of social life, of the gap between friends and strangers. But she was caressing the small grey screen of the phone, which was still not lit, as if it were an object of skin, wiping the rain off of it, off this thing that transmitted the message that did not want to be read. I don’t know what one could say to that.”
Introducing: Socialism And/Or Barbarism, Notes on a Once-Future Nightmare | Read More
Horror is the wracking contradiction between material and the categories of abstraction, undergone by a subject, impelled by a confrontation with the horrible. Horror is the moment in which the incompatibility of material and categories roars, creeps, or seeps, not into view, but against view. Such that materials – such as a pile of flesh, the recognition that you are in fact eating the pile of flesh that was your husband, an endless plateau, awaking in the grave – and categories – such as the body, free will, nature, finitude – collide like trains. This is not an illumination but a darkness that demands the recalibration of categories and which threatens, forever, to lack the possibility of doing so.
Horrible means simply that which might provoke such a confrontation: not mute material, but material already scarred with abstraction. I cannot speak, for instance, of a coal mine without speaking of property.
And horrifying designates the process and moment in which the horrible indexes, impinges, stamps, and splatters itself upon mind and matter, which provides the occasion or excuse for the conceptual autophagy called horror.
And so we rob the company blind by breathing deep while mining coal. We bring home pounds and pounds of the stuff in our chests, using our cilia as pipe-cleaners to hang the precious dust on and packing it against the lung walls, we smoke some butts to aid the process and excuse the cough so they don’t suspect, the huffed tar muddles with the coal into a sheening slurry that snaps into shape, diamond black walls of respiration. We crumble when we breathe but who could wish to be otherwise. Not us, not us who carry it away by the lungful, day in, night out, not us who come to our living rooms and hack and cough, who spit lightless on our floors and spittoons, all together on the holidays, expectorate brigands, crippled phlegming knaves of labor, we get together and we call up the past crusted and wet within us and we howl it onto into a sticky mass mess we call the fruits of work until it reaches the ceiling and still we do not stop.
We build a stolen stolen fire piece by piece. We drop a match.
[hell, if the hose fits… consequences of mass-production, the gas-fueled fallout of the Système Gribeauval spreading outward to the interchangeability of all parts, across sectors, and, therefore, to the irregular weaponization‡ of what is supposed to push pistons, not burn schools, and be handled by Mobil men, not arsonists in straw hats; all of which poses the yawning question: shit, what else can be hooked together to quicken, not quell fires? What else can precisely block the width of a road? Not the salvager’s eye but the crooked glance of the civil engineer turned against civil society.
As always, the best research into the police will be lived, especially through struggles in which people engage, the conversations they have and actions they take, and the internal discussions, splits, and and tensions that threaten to “ruin a movement.”‡ But the divide of practical and theoretical should never map simply onto things bodies do and things heads do, nor should it imagine that a consideration of philosophy, film, science, literature, psychology, et cetera is necessarily too far from praxis, that oft-mythical category that tends to just mean getting serious. It is the quality and aim of certain kinds of research‡ that damns them to water-treading irrelevance, born of those who cling to the life ring while claiming to be mutinous divers. Not the category of their concerns, not the fact that they may speak of concepts, paintings, pollen, and desire.