A mustread excerpted from Gene Youngblood:
“The ecological holocaust and the crisis of democracy are radical systemic breakdowns that demand radical response — transformation at the root. This is recognized around the world. Unless you live exclusively in the broadcast, you hear everywhere today the call for fundamental change, for transformation at the root. That’s what radical means — from the Latin radix, root. And that’s all it means. It doesn’t mean extreme. Of course it has to be equated with extremism for social control. The last thing they want is people looking at root causes.
Radical change requires radical will — the will to transform the root — and the institutions that defeated democracy and created the planetary holocaust don’t have radical will. They have only political will. Political will wants to maintain the status quo; radical will wants to transform it. Governments and corporations are incapable of radical will. They have no power to transform the root of their own existence.
Only the people can do that. Radical will belongs only to the people. And we’d better be ready to mobilize it, because fundamental change is never achieved democratically. It’s accomplished only by force — the general strike, the tax revolt — including violent force or the credible threat of it. The bloody history of organized labor is the standard example. It’s the truism that freedom isn’t free; that liberties aren’t given, they’re taken; that rights aren’t granted, they’re won.
We know it couldn’t be otherwise. The billionaire class isn’t about to give up its wealth and power to become equal to everybody else just because the Great Beast says they should. Power concedes nothing without demand, and not even then. They prefer death to compromise; they’ll darken the skies before they yield to democracy. As the economist John Kenneth Galbraith put it: “People of privilege will always risk their complete destruction rather than surrender any material part of their advantage.”
So we the people of the audience-nation face a challenge for which nothing in past experience has prepared us. We’ve known that for decades, so one might reasonably ask: are we really the ones we’ve been waiting for? Do we possess the radical will that can come only from us? There’s not much evidence of it. America is one of the most depoliticized nations in the industrial world. We live in the land of look away. T. S. Eliot said the world ends not with a bang but a whimper. If only it would be so dramatic. Given the level of distraction in America, it’s more likely the last instant of history will go by unnoticed.
So it turns out that the ecosocial crisis is first and foremost a crisis of will and idea, a crisis of confidence and imagination — the expected result of our socialization in the broadcast. Which means creating on the same scale as we can destroy begins with recreating ourselves — resocializing ourselves to become the kind of people who would be capable of mobilizing radical will on the scale that’s needed. How do we do that? How do we awaken the radical will that sleeps within us? The answer to this immemorial question is found in what I call “the utopian myth of a communication revolution.” Before I explain it, we need to understand a few things about utopia.”
Conditions for the generalization of radical will: The Secessionist Build
Gene Youngblood continues:
“We live in the paleocybernetic and paleosocial narrowband stage of the internet’s evolution. Paleocybernetic and narrowband because the internet in America is not a socialized public utility with the emotional bandwidth we need to cultivate radical will at scale. Paleosocial because social networking at its current evolutionary stage is about organizing, not cultivating. Organizing will and ideas that already exist, not systematically cultivating the radical will that’s so desperately needed.
The build that could enable that has begun, but it’s unconscious, unfocused and chaotic. We’re doing it without unified vision, without common cause. Secession is the vision and the cause that can unite us all. We need to wake up and realize that. We’re building a secession environment; if we tell ourselves we’re doing it, we’ll do it better. To understand a thing you must first name it, so the build must become The Build.
It means creating an environment that makes secession and resocialization possible at scale. It means optimizing the commons for decolonizing our minds and cultivating radical will. It means producing content for countercultural lifeworlds as technologies of the self, habitats that enable strategic counter-socialization. It means systematically subverting the imperatives of social control.
Nothing but indifference prevents us from doing this. We can delink the chain in the brain and commence a massive cultural cleansing. We’re contaminated by the broadcast, but we can disinfect ourselves, purge ourselves, do our mental hygiene, remove the scum. We can conspire to systematically dis-identify with the American Imaginary, to willfully estrange ourselves from the master signifier. We can withdraw the support upon which America depends for its existence: our belief in it.
Corporate enclosure and government surveillance notwithstanding, the only relevant question is, “What can I put on my screen?” We all know there’s no limit to the lifeworlds we can assemble from legacy media and the infinite cardinality of the cyber-Aleph.There may be a crisis of journalism but there’s no crisis of awareness. Thanks to amateur witness, we’re more aware than ever.
We are what our attention is. A core imperative of social control is that the audience-nation’s attention must always be on the dominators, not on us. Thought control is attention control — not what to think but what to think about. With our attention on power we’re invisible. We’re unpeople who live in unhistory, who occupy the place of no place. The Build can reverse that. We can turn our gaze away from power onto ourselves and begin preaching to the choir at scale. That’s a privilege reserved only for the dominators, for the inculcation of compliance. To whom, after all, does the broadcast speak? “A great newspaper is a nation talking to itself,” said playwright Arthur Miller. The broadcast preaches nonstop to its congregation of consumers, and the audience-nation obediently conspires in the cant. We’re caught in the invariant loops of a calamitous call and response that can’t be acknowledged.
In the interest of social control, the very idea of preaching to the converted at any scale must be discredited. This essential dynamic of belief infusion must be dismissed as unnecessary, a waste of time; it must be seen as misapplied evangelizing, misdirected exhortation. Well, if preaching to the choir is such a waste of time, the dominators should encourage it. If it only creates a false sense of accomplishment, they should give us all the room we need to delude ourselves. When I was a young teenager in the 1950s, nonconformist rebels without a cause were ridiculed for conforming to nonconformism. As if that was some kind of ironic contradiction, when in fact it’s the whole point. We should be so misguided as to conform to a nonconformism as subversive as secession. So let us preach to our secessionist choirs on the same scale as the broadcast preaches to the audience-nation, and we’ll see if it’s a waste of time.
Secessionists understand that preaching to the converted isn’t unnecessary persuasion, it’s essential for cohesion. It’s not about creating, it’s about sustaining. It doesn’t convince those who already believe, it affirms the belief. We do it not for recruitment but for self-recognition. It seals our autonomy and renders us visible to ourselves.
That’s the great threat to power: immersive repetition of insurgent ideas in permanent, self-validating reality-communities. The menace to power is the scale of a tenacious counter-recursion, a robust reiteration of the radical. It’s the specter of mass exodus from their regime of ideological loops to one that cancels it, seceding from their ocean of semantic redundancy to swim in a counter-current. The Build enables that. We can slam the door of the broadcast’s echo chamber and swing open a million radical resonators to replace it. We can do to the dominators what they do to us: ignore them to death. Secession is the ultimate killer app. So put your secession media on endless repeat and let them run.
Secession isn’t burying your head in the sand or putting on blinders. On the contrary, to leave the culture is to see for the first time that which has been invisible to you, because what’s everywhere is nowhere. You have to leave it to see it, and to truly see is to see what’s not there, to notice the presence of an absence.
Secession reveals the ecology of the unseen. It restores the erasures that maintain the broadcast’s coherence. You step outside the radius of affliction to see what the culture systematically excludes. You peer into the emptiness of the master signifier and you realize America has never been American. That’s a liberating disillusionment. You’re disabused of illusions that are necessary for social control. You see the false as false, and you’re ashamed of what you see. Something is lost, and that brings a sadness, which leads to estrangement that encourages critical thinking. At this point, you’ve seceded. You’re decolonized. Of course no one is completely clean. The stain is indelible. But so what? You’re clean enough.
This isn’t theory; it’s my life. I seceded from Broadcast America years ago and I’ve lived ever since in a world that negates it. Everything I have said about the ecological holocaust, about capitalism and the end of democracy, about the fate of America, I learned in my media lifeworld. If you lived there all these years, you’d have the same understandings, and the same burning desire to secede. If one can do this, all can do it. Secession for one is secession for all.”