The tyranny of weakness

Original title: La tirannia della debolezza, ‘ProvocAzione’ no.11, February 1988, p.5

We came up against weakness everywhere today. We are weak, or act as though we are for fear of seeming different.
It is no longer fashionable to be self-assured or to have knowledge of oneself or others or things. It seems old fashioned, almost bad taste. We no longer make any effort to do things well, and by that I mean the things we have chosen to do, that we believe we would do at any cost. Against logic itself, we do them badly, superficially, without paying any attention to detail. We do not exactly boast about this weakness of course, but use it as a kind of screen to hide behind.
So we have become slaves to this new, rapidly-spreading myth. What we want to do here is not talk about ‘strength’—which has never been anything but a disguised form of weakness—but rather try to bring this situation to light. It is a question of a flattening of values and a distortion of the instruments we need to acquire in order to live and to attack our enemies. The prevailing model at the present time is that of the loser, renunciation, abandoning the struggle or simply slowing down. The power structure has every interest in seeing that this disposition continues. We hardly think at all and reason inadequately, passively submitting to the messages that are put out by the various information channels. We do not react.
We are building a personality that is halfway between the idiot and the stamp collector. We understand little, yet know a lot: a multitude of useless dispersive things, pocket encyclopedia knowledge.
We are convinced that we have a right to be stupid and ignorant, to be losers.
We have sent efficiency back to the adversary, considering it a model that belongs to the logic of power. And that was right, indispensable once. When it was a question of damaging the class enemy it was right to be absenteeists and against work. But now we have introjected this attitude and it is our adversary who is winning the return game. We have given up, even as regards ourselves and the things we really want to do.
And so we have turned to the butterfly-catching of oriental philosophy, alternative products and ways of thinking, models that are of little use and which lack incisiveness. Instead of waiting for our teeth to fall out, we are pulling them out one by one. Now we are happy and toothless.
The laboratories of power are programming a new model of renunciation for us. Only for us, of course. For the winning minority, the ‘included’, the model is still aggressivity and conquest. We are no longer the sanguinary, violent barbarians that once let loose in insurrections and uncontrollable revolts. We have become philosophers of nothing, sceptical about action, blase and dandy. We have not even noticed that they are shrinking our language and our brains. We are hardly able to write any more, something that is important in order to communicate with others. We are hardly able to talk any longer. We express ourselves in a stunted jargon made up of banalities from television and sport, a barrack-style journalism that apparently facilitates communication, whereas in reality it debases and castrates it.
But worse still, we are hardly able to make an effort to do anything any longer. We do not commit ourselves. Few deadlines, a few things to be done, not much reading. A meeting, an action here and there and we are prostrated, done in. On the other hand we spend hours listening to (without understanding) music that is devoid of content, songs in languages we do not understand, noises that imitate the factory, racing cars or motorbikes. Even when we lose ourselves in the contemplation of nature (what little remains of it) we do not really go for a walk, it is the walk that enters us. We accept the banality, the ecological and naturalist models that capitalism (in its new alternative version, of course, even worse than what went before it) is coming out with. But we have no experience of any real relationship with nature, one that requires engagement and strength, aggression and struggle, not mere contemplation.
And don’t talk to me about the aggressive behaviour of the capitalists in contrast to which we should be developing tolerant behaviour. I know perfectly well what the aggressivity of capital means, or that of the participants in the Paris-Dakar race. That is not what I am talking about. In fact I do not mean aggressivity at all. Words can be deceiving. What I mean is that it is necessary to act instead of idling one’s time away while the boat goes up in flames.
Either we are convinced that far-reaching changes are taking place or we are not. Capitalism and power are undergoing a transformation that will upset the present state of our lives for goodness knows how many decades. If we are not profoundly convinced of this then we might as well carry on chasing the butterflies of our dreams, the myths of buddhism, homeopathic medicine, Zen philosophy, escapist literature, sport or whatever else we fancy, including an agreeable distancing ourselves from grammar and language.
But if we are convinced of the first hypothesis, if we are convinced there is a project in course that is bent on reducing us to slaves, principally to a cultural slavery that is depriving us of even the possibility of seeing our chains, then we can no longer put up with tolerance or the tendency to give up or abandon the struggle. And it should not be thought that what we are saying here is only valid for comrades who have already put revolutionary engagement behind them and are now quite tranquilly grazing among the greens, the oranges, the Buddhists or other such herds. We are also referring to those who maintain they are still revolutionaries but are living the tragedy of progressive physical and mental pollution day by day.
This is not a simple call to action. The cemeteries are full of such calls. We are talking about a project that has been studied in the laboratories of capital and is now being applied to perfection. It is aimed at gradually and painlessly turning us away from our capacity to struggle. This project is moving hand in hand with the profound restructuring of capital. Ours is not a call to voluntarism, or if you like, a cry in the wilderness. We hope it will be, even if limited and approximate, a small contribution to an understanding of the profound changes that are taking place in the world around us.