Friday, October 25, 2013

Look who's talking, as if people like you have a voice!

There are two things you need to experience before moving further into this narrative. The first is this video interview (and the accompanying text), the second is this manifesto.

Go on. Experience. There is time.

You're all set? Good. Let's move on, then.

From these two things, we can construe two aspects of the word 'legitimacy'. Did you, for instance, note the emphasis on voting in the video?

Legitimacy, in this instance, is derived from formality. As in, adherence to forms - as long as the formal arrangements are respected and conducted in a proper fashion, legitimacy follows. I.e. the system is legit because and as long as people perform their due duties and vote. If they for whatever reason do not vote, the system would face a constitutional crisis (in more ways than one).

An unintended consequence of this is that those who do not vote are cast as illegitimate. The system is legit because people vote, thus voting is the legit way to affect the system, and if you denounce your right and sacred duty to adhere to formalia - then off with you, rabble. You had your chance, nay, duty, and your refusal to perform adequately disqualifies you from any claim to legitimacy you may feel you have.

Dies, votes and iron are not all cast the same way. Yet they all claim legitimacy.

You may have noticed that the text that accompanies the interview has the word "revolution" in it. Quite often, in fact, and quite prominently. Not in the "the earth revolves around the sound" way, but in the "the current order is illegitimate and will/must be overthrown" way.

Iron can, as you well know, be cast into a great many things. So can dies, Rubicon or no.

This brings us to the manifesto. Since you've without a doubt been a good reader and experienced it, you know that it relies on a different notion of legitimacy. Rather than from form, legitimacy derives from what the system actually accomplishes. If it serves to strengthen the interests of a few while leaving the rest in the literal manifestation of hell on Earth - it has a legitimacy problem. If it, on the other hand, adapts itself to the restraints of a finite Earth and strives for as good an end state as is possible for as many people as possible - then it has a claim on legitimacy.

The revolution comes about when the notion of who is and isn't a legitimate subject changes. The storming of the Bastille may or may not happen alongside this redefinition, but it doesn't have to. In fact, it can be all the more dramatic for not occurring - suddenly, things have just changed, with no one the wiser. Suddenly, one order of things finds itself without the legitimacy it once had, and another one finds itself always-already implemented as the legitimate way of going about things.

Suddenly, voting is not the center of the legitimate order. Other things take priority. Other humans take priority. Preferably with their own hands and minds.

But we're not there yet. There's a span of time between now and then, and as it stands, we have a legitimacy gap. On the one hand, we have the formal order as it stands, with parties and state institutions and legitimate public discourse - those things (or, as the liberals would call them, freedoms) that stand as the bulwark against tyranny and injustice in all forms. On the other hand, we have the ever growing number of people who are not only not included within these things/freedoms, but actively excluded from them. Even more so with the advent of "austerity" - the coordinated and conscious effort to reduce the public sphere to as few legitimate subjects as possible. And, more to the point, as wealthy as possible.

Vote, don't vote - it doesn't matter, you're not part of legitimate society in any case. Tory, Labour, Republicans, Democrats, Left, Right - they won't give a shit about you, your troubles, your opinions, your concerns, or anything else that has to do with you. Especially if you happen to be young, poor, woman, colorful, disabled, odd, politically inappropriate, criminal, or in any other way not quite as legit as you ought to be.

Still. The Rubicon lies ahead of us. It presents us with three choices. We can cast our votes to ignore it all. We can cast iron in order to forge gates to prevent anyone from crossing - and in so doing cast a caste system beyond anything any standard of justice would call reasonable. Or we can cast the die and gracefully storm over to the other side.

Bastille or no Bastille? Only time will tell. Or, better yet - you tell me.

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