I haven’t been particularly political until very recently in my life. I still am not entirely sure what “politics” actually is. My gut instinct is that it involves the decisions that determine our everyday lives as a group (the “our” and “group” being members of a nation, state, city, etc.) Yet, decisions seem lacking today. They seem superfluous and groundless. Even the monstrous cacophony that surrounds something like the Affordable Care Act or military actions in the middle east seems cushioned by its sheer spectacle: there rests a deep reassurance that nothing, really, will change. Every issue becomes grotesquely enlarged beyond belief but leaves no impact, deflating quietly as the next topic of interest begins to amass. This isn’t something that’s emerged from the Trump presidency, it’s been here for some time. I’m not sure when it began, but it feels sickening that this process, this so-called “politics,” has become so gleefully self-aware. Politics has become the realm of the face. Every decision, action, or statement is accompanied by the face: the message that it was this person who made a choice, it was this person who was effected. Never mind the singularity of these faces, or the multiplicity of the world we live in, nor the magnitude of the systems that determine the choices of our lives.
The more our world expands, the more complex it becomes, the more it reveals to us, the more we seem to shrink away. All ambiguity opens up, and we flee to the certainty of the face. What, I wonder, is the politics of ambiguity? A politics that, I think, must require anonymity. In the usual fiction, the speculations, the anonymous politics is the realm of the authoritarian: the state we cannot see, operating beyond. Yet it is covered so often by the face – Big Brother. There is also the bureaucracy: Kafka’s Law, the Law that seems unconcerned with any justice. A Law that is faceless, but that names those it judges.
Must it be so?
Can the anonymous be applied to democracy? I turn, as I so often do, to text attributed to the name of Blanchot: “The essential task of Marxism would be, in terms of collective relations, to liberate man from things by taking the side of things, by somehow giving power to things, that is to say, to that which reduces man to being nothing but useful, active, productive, that is, by excluding any moral alibi, any phantom of value […] the man-tool who is already reduced, without disguise, to his material condition, who is ‘nothing’ but useful, the man of necessity, the needy one, the man of need – it is to him that power must be relegated…” [“An Approach to Communism (Needs, Values)” in Political Writings, 1953-1993, pg 3-4]
The more I look the more I find this politics, the politics of need that rejects value, the only way forward. A politics without value. What is that? I’m not sure I know. But perhaps that is what is required: ambiguous politics. Politics that is democratic, but without self. Speaking to determine issues, to push the law towards justice, to fulfill needs. Speaking without self, without a face to which the speech is addressed.
I acknowledge my pessimism. I would not deny an anti-humanism to my thought, but values, even moral values, lost their sacredness long ago. Marx, for all his humanist sympathies, knew better than anyone of Capitalism’s capability to transform values into forces of production and consumption. The search for a purely revolutionary morality is ultimately quixotic. If simple values or moralities were to push us beyond our historical conditions we would not have sects, reading again and again the same words, concluding nothing, but starting again and again.
What is the politics of needs? This anonymous democracy? Again, I do not know. It is antithetical to the question for one person, a named person, to say what the communal voice of need should be. I only put forward that what needs I understand in myself demand to be addressed. Those needs are not singular. They cannot be addressed in a simple statement, or given a face. They do not belong to culture, to value, to morality. Politics demands the “I” be, in actuality, a bridge between “me” and “you.” Plural and anonymous.