Wednesday, May 30, 2012

On Empire

[Written for Write Club, a monthly reading series in Chicago that pits writers against each other cage wrestling style. In this bout I presented for "Empire," against "Revolution."]

Good evening, Ladies and Gentlemen. I am honored to welcome you to this convocation, and gratified that so many of you were able to make the long journey. As most of you arrived here tonight by means of secret underground tunnels, you may not be aware of the increasingly dire situation outside these very doors: a throng of humanity numbering in the thousands bearing torches and pitchforks. They await the outcome of these august proceedings.

The question of the hour, as testified by every broadsheet headline, every drawing room conversation, every sermon in every pulpit: should we shut down Write Club?

That is the resolution that stands before us. You all have your ballots. Now let me begin by saying that of all the many charges levied against Write Club: that it is uncouth, that it is lewd, that it is corrupting of morals, that it curdles milk, that it causes genital warts, that the Overlord is implicated in the illegal trade of rhinoceros horn--against all these charges I resolutely defend Write Club. But there remains one accusation that we must take seriously here tonight. That is the charge that Write Club is an instrument of Empire.

Before I move on to the formal charges, an aside, to that faction among you who are hoping for me to address the charge that Write Club is an instrument not of Empire but of Revolution: Let me dispense with your anxiety by assuring you that the two are in fact one and the same, in that both have aims that are total. Revolution is merely Empire dressed in rags. You can dispel this problem from your minds and be troubled by it no longer.

OK then, Exhibit A: Hegemonic expansion. 

Chicago, Atlanta, Athens, San Francisco, Los Angeles. The overlord might be inclined to characterize these as “chapters” of a “consortium” or “federation” of Write Clubs.  He may call them as he will. When the first of these chapters elects to experiment with an 8-minute bout, or when they instruct their audiences to tell six to nine friends about Write Club, well, we will be eyeing the Overlord's reaction carefully.

Exhibit B: The Loving Cup of Deathless Fucking Glory. 

The phrase is from Walter Scott's poem: “Soldier, wake ― thy harvest, fame/Thy study, conquest; war, thy game.

War thy game.

That brings us to:

Exhibit C: Violence.

Day versus Night. Country versus City. Land versus. Sea. Head versus Heart. Life versus Death. Man versus Machine. Pride versus Prejudice.

Philip K. Dick wrote that “Empire is the codification of derangement; it is insane and imposes its insanity on us by violence, since its nature is a violent one.” Let's look at one recent Write Club bout, staged this very evening at Chicago's Hideout Inn, less than 100 miles from our present location: Lock versus Key. Now in nature, you might observe that Lock and Key exist in a state of harmoniousness or complementarity. Keys exist that they may lock and unlock―without them locks are eternally fixed, functionless, ossified. And locks exist to consummate keys. A key without a lock that fits it is no key at all; it's just more idle detritus to clutter up some dish of mismatched buttons and old subway tokens on your bureau. To pitch lock and key in combat against one another can only result in one of two equally futile outcomes: a world of lonely, petrified locks, or a world of lonely useless keys. Which shall we have? It hardly matters.

Empire imposes its insanity upon us by violence. It is the essence of Empire to look around itself, observe everything that is other, and be filled with the relentless desire to replace that other with itself. And what it cannot replace with itself, it induces into combat by proxy― The Gladiatorial games. Bread and Circuses. It is momentarily cathartic, this discharge of tension between matched pairs, between foes, so-called “opposites.” But when it is over, the fallen are fallen forever, never to be re-animated. Among the corpses in Empire's long trail of dead, how many languages, how many species, how many songs, dances, visions, philosophies, how many men, women, children. It is discourse―conversation―that leads us to truth, but these corpses will never again speak.

Our way seems clear, then. By our love of truth, and dialogue, our love of multiplicity and diversity, we must oppose Write Club. And yet, this paradox. The very act of opposing an institution of opposition―of combat―constitutes a tacit endorsement. As Dick wrote, “whoever defeats a segment of the Empire becomes the Empire; it proliferates like a virus, imposing its form on its enemies. Thereby it becomes its enemies. To fight the Empire is to be infected by its derangement.”

And so, my fellow members of the secret Illuminati, Freemasons, Rosicrucians, Knights Templar―we would seem to be an impasse. What can be the stance toward a rank evil which can be neither countenanced nor opposed? As a secret society, we have always been known by our deeds, not our words. Tonight we must do the same, taking our cue from the infinite Godhead itself, which permitted the creation of the cosmos only when it contracted its infinitude, allowing finite actuality to condense out of infinite potentiality. Only by withdrawing, making space for what is Other, can the world come into being. It is the only meaningful anti-Imperial act, to make space for what is Other. And in that spirit, I contract my remarks here short of my allotted time.

1 comment:

Emmy said...

Although the gender studies crowd would have a word or two to say about your lock-and-key thesis, I am duly moved by this diatribe. Good on ya.