(with ellipsis to match the reading of that line in the X-Files movie, at least how i want to remember it. it might be more like “fight, the future,” a dotted eighth note and three sixteenths, basically.)
This essay is a monster. my blogging is merely following whatever i feel like reading, and these days, unfortunately, it’s theory. too much theory. but the only way out is through. these 900 words come from baedan’s first section, “The Anti-Social Turn.” basically what we have is a literature review (in my experience this is the most palatable way to read theory cuz you get a digest of significant literature with a broad survey perspective, a bunny slope for non-philosophy majors). the author gears down and takes us carefully through Lee Edelman’s No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive. it’s establishment academe stuff under a university press, but baedan offers to put the fangs back in, so that Edelman’s analysis can be the engine for some good ole nihilist queer revolt practice.
The Child (with big C) corresponds to hetero-futurism which for Edelman describes how all of society is future-oriented so that all politics really is done for the children. it (hetero-futurism) is the main organizing principle for our political systems. The Future is the beautiful world our children will inherit and for which we are supposed to strive and sacrifice. The myth is propagated that we are hurtling towards a better future through progress in all dimensions while breaking away from the horrible past. And likewise, any individual can break from their origins and bootstrap their way to a better future.
Reproduction becomes elevated as a chief value and ability. women are reduced to this capacity, queer sexual practice is viewed as abhorrent, sterile. Nothing will even be allowed on the discursive table, when it comes to the distribution of resources and power thru politics, unless it’s for the Child. Anything can be justified, even the lynching of young black Americans by the state or by vigilantes, because the white men pulling the triggers are defending the property that will ensure the Future for the Child. Of course the black youth and black trans women whose lives are robbed when they are scarcely older than myself are not seen as children in the eyes of this hetero-futurist society. The Child is ultra-white, heterosexual, cis, thin, and able-bodied; the ideal unit of human capital. (the text mentions the killing of Trayvon Martin, and analogizing anti-Black violence with anti-queerness in a subordinate kind of way struck me as gross, not sure if it comes from author or if they’re following Edelman.)
the limits of Edelman’s analysis according to baedan is the so-called queer community, largely the terrain of white cis gay d00ds, with “lecture circuits, circuit parties, hours at the gym, Botox, and the crass narcissism of gay life.” not only a decadent life but one whose Gay Inc. activism was based on the work of TWoC, whose needs and demands, along with those of sex workers and poor and homeless queer people, are effaced. (i always think of the time in the mid 90s when Sylvia Rivera aggressively called out the New York Gay & Lesbian center to make space for homeless queer youth, and was locked out of the building for her troubles, literally locked out.) the term queer might be reclaimed as a label of radi-kewl aspiration for those just normative enough or with access to the academe, but queer is still a slur, and queerness is still a reason why people are on the outside, as it were [/editorial comment]. perhaps baedan will bring this material back down from queer ID to queer politics in the streets.
so the bit i’ve excerpted here explores how a queer subject will position themself completely outside this organizing principle, and in doing so embody a “pure negativity.” that is, a possession of every negative aspect of queerness. the sodom-influenced doomsaying of religious bigots will come true, as we’ll be doing Satan’s good work and annihilate civilization. there’s also a few remarks about the role of politics in a life of alienation wrought by capitalism, that for me works as a concise way to critique politics from a nihilist sensibility.
If the varying discourses of politics are only ever about the Child (as society’s future), queerness must be anti-political because it marks a fundamental interruption of the societal norms and apparatuses that exist to mandate the reproduction the Child. Yes, queer sex can be non-reproductive sex, but we cannot define queerness through such overly-simple and naturalistic logics. Queerness, beyond being the negation of the heteronormative family matrix, must also be practiced as a willful refusal of the political imperative to reproduce class society. In a world where all social relations are enchanted by our obligation to the Child as the future of the social order, we must break those communal relations and break the stranglehold of politics over our daily lives. Queerness must be an outside to politics, an antagonism against the political, or it isn’t queer at all.
By Edelman’s account:
Queerness names the side of those “not fighting for the children.” The side outside the consensus by which all politics confirms the absolute value of reproductive futurism. The ups and downs of political fortune may measure the social order’s pulse, but queerness, by contrast figures outside and beyond its political symptoms, the place of the social order’s death drive: a place, to be sure, of abjection expressed in the stigma, sometimes fatal that follows from reading that figure literally… More radically, though, as I argue here, queerness attains its ethical value precisely insofar as it accedes to that place, accepting its figural status as resistance to the viability of the social while insisting on the inextricability of such resistance from every social structure.
Queerness, as we’ll thus conceive it, is not locked in a dialectical battle of queer identity versus normative identities, nor of queer politics versus heteronormative politics. Rather our queer opposition is leveled against the false oppositions which politics always serves to represent. Queerness marks the space which is outside and against political logic. Insurrectionary anarchists are no strangers to this space. While leftist anarchists articulate their activity as politics, insurrectionary anarchy doesn’t concern itself with such abstractions. We flee from all political roles which we’re called upon to symbolize, whether those constructed by the media or by those self-appointed leaders of struggles. Unlike most other self-declared revolutionaries, we are not fighting for a utopian future (communist, anarchist, cybernetic). We are not looking for victories that will be enjoyed by symbolic children in a future society. We are not fighting for an abstract ideal. We are not creating a world, and we are not motivated by anything outside of ourselves. Our anti-political practice, our attempts at insurrection, emerge purely from the context of an awareness of our daily lives. If we speak of social war, it is because we’re experimenting with types of relationships and combat in order to attack the social order.
In order to genuinely break from politics, we must develop forms of struggle that shatter the illusions with which politics are made necessary. To quote Edelman again:
Politics names the social enactment of the subject’s attempt to establish the conditions for [an] impossible consolidation by identifying with something outside itself… deferred perpetually of itself. Politics, that is, names the struggle to effect a fantasmatic order of reality in which the subject’s alienation would vanish into the seamlessness of identity at the endpoint of the endless chain of signifiers lived as history.
Politics is such a sinister force because it is moved by an alienation and lack rooted in society’s foundations. To remedy this ennui, individuals turn to politics to discover some universal truth to struggle for — a comfortable abstraction to fill the void in their experience. This is a paradox, of course, as this alienation is intrinsic to capitalist society, and politics can only ever reproduce that society, and therefore its concomitant misery. The fantasy of politics promises to suture one’s empty subjectivity to some abstraction outside of oneself in an attempt to find some meaning, to situation oneself within history, to really do something. Like a form of performance art, politics acts as a great representation of resistance to society, yet as mere representation remains inseparable from the symbolic order. The reality of politics is that it offers nothing; a nothingness that corresponds to the meaninglessness of social life.
An insurrectionary, queer anti-politics functions to interrupt the closed circuitry of emptiness-politics-emptiness. Halting the ceaseless pursuit of a better world for the Child, our project centers itself on immediate fulfillment, joy, conflict, vengeance, conspiracy and pleasure. Rather than politics, we engage in social war. Without demands, we expropriate what we desire. Instead of representation, we rely on autonomous self-organization. We do not protest, we attack. As with our queerness, our anti-politics strives to escape political identification or ideological attachment to this or that political subjectivity.
Acceding to this figural identification with the undoing of identity, which is also to say with the disarticulation of social and symbolic form, might well be described as politically self-destructive… but politics (as the social elaboration of reality) and the self (as mere prosthesis maintaining the future for the figural child), are what queerness, again as figure, necessarily destroys — necessarily insofar as this “self” is the agent of reproductive futurism and this “politics” the means of its promulgation as the order of social reality… Political self-destruction inheres in the only act that counts as one; the act of resisting enslavement to the future in the name of having a life.