I never believe in American political protests. Americans are mostly nice guys and since the poor outnumber the rich there (well, as anywhere else), those poor seem not to like those rich just like in Europe. However, history teaches that in Europe. when the poor lose their temper and take an action, the effects can be unpredictable. They may either bring about slight changes in political decisions of particular governments, but they may also overthrow whole political systems.
When I see groups of enthusiastic young American guys in their streets yelling at anonymous bankers and less anonymous politicians trying to sound dangerous, I can’t help a sarcastic smile that emerges in spite of myself. American protests and even the most violent demonstrations are so perfectly predictable that I do wonder why there are still people who show so much excitement about what they’re doing in the streets. I am absolutely positive that they also absolutely believe in what they’re exclaiming against the establishment. However, I’m equally certain about the fact that in the evening all those militant if not bloodthirsty American “angry young people” will go home, have a take-away pizza and some booze, after which they’ll go to bed. A few days later they’ll stop going out onto the streets and it’ll be the only consequence of their zeal for changing the world and making it a better place to live. This is because probably beheading some Wall Street tycoons would not really change the world and the protesters are perfectly aware of it.
I’ve been wondering how this system works and you can’t imagine how happy I was when I found a text which confirmed my speculations. I mean I found a book whose author put in one of his characters’ mouth the words, which rendered my thoughts much better than I could:
Protesters were rocking the car. He looked at her and smiled. There were close-ups on TV of faces scorched by pepper gas. The zoom lens caught a man in a parachute dropping from the top of a tower nearby. Chute and man were striped in anarchist red-and-black and his penis wasexposed, likewise logotyped. They were knocking the car back and forth. Projectiles came popping from tear-gas launchers and cops free-lanced in the crowd, wearing masks with twinfiltration chambers out of some lethal cartoon.
"You know what capitalism produces. According to Marx and Engels."
"Its own grave-diggers," he said.
"But these are not the grave-diggers. This is the free market itself. These people are a fantasy generated by the market. They don't exist outside the market. There is nowhere they cango to be on the outside. There is no outside."
The camera tracked a cop chasing a young man through the crowd, an image that seemed to exist at some drifting distance from the moment.
"The market culture is total. It breeds these men and women. They are necessary to the system they despise. They give it energy and definition. They are marketdriven. They are tradedon the markets of the world. This is why they exist, to invigorate and perpetuate the system."
"The more visionary the idea, the more people it leaves behind. This is what the protest is all about. Visions of technology and wealth. The force of cyber-capital that will send people intothe gutter to retch and die. What is the flaw of human rationality?"
He said, "What?"
"It pretends not to see the horror and death at the end of the schemes it builds. This is a protest against the future. They want to hold off the future. They want to normalize it, keep it from overwhelming the present."
There were cars burning in the street, metal hissing and spitting, and stunned figures in slow motion, in tides of smoke, wandering through the mass of vehicles and bodies, and others everywhere running, and a cop down, genuflected, outside a fast food shop.
"The future is always a wholeness, a sameness. We're all tall and happy there," she said.
"This is why the future fails. It always fails. It can never be the cruel happy place we want to make it."
"They are working with you, these people. They are acting on your terms," she said. "And if they kill you, it's only because you permit it, in your sweet sufferance, as a way to re-emphasize the idea we all live under."
The rocking became worse and he watched her follow her glass from side to side before she was able to take a sip.
"Destruction," she said.
On one of the screens he saw figures descending a vertical surface. It took him a moment to understand that they were rappelling down the facade of the building just ahead, where the market tickers were located.
"You know what anarchists have always believed."
"Tell me," she said.
"The urge to destroy is a creative urge."
"This is also the hallmark of capitalist thought. Enforced destruction. Old industries have to be harshly eliminated. New markets have to be forcibly claimed. Old markets have to be re-exploited. Destroy the past, make the future."
Don DeLillo, Cosmopolis
The Polish writer Witold Gombrowicz said that there is no escape from what he called “pupa” (Polish ‘behind’/’bottom’ when addressing a young child), which stands for the system. The more rebellious you believe you are, the stronger you’re attached to the system, because you’re just an integral part of it.
How many hamburger-eaters and cola-drinkers, plasma TV-watchers and big car drivers, even relatively poor (comparing with “those rich bastards” even very poor), really want a change? And what change if any? What is their vision of America and the world? I don’t think anyone would seriously like to experiment with communism again. If not communism, maybe some other forms of populism? Definitely it is possible to find people who do believe in a serious change of the system, but they’re few and far between and… maybe it’s really good. The twentieth century demonstrated clearly that alternatives championed by zealous revolutionists are medicines worse than the disease itself. On the other hand, it’s hard to say that the present system is perfect and should be maintained for ever. Whatever the future, one thing I’m sure about, the guys who swarm from time to time in the streets of New York yelling against the evil of this world won’t do anything serious. They never do.