Another Excerpt from Demand the Impossible! A Radical Manifesto

[DEMAND the IMPOSSIBLE! is available from Haymarket Books or any local bookstore. I thought I was finished a month ago posting excerpts from the book, but when I read to students and comrades this week in Roma, Bologna, Napoli, and Milano, Italy, and when the talked turned inevitably to the rise of a fascist movement, I felt compelled to share the following. Thank you.]

Here, then, is a partial diagram of the known world, a rough sketch of what is, but certainly not a picture of what could be or should be:

*  An empire unapologetically resurrected in a cauldron of deliberately constructed fear, and in the name of renewed patriotic nationalism.

*  Unprecedented military expansion, a state of permanent war and the creation of a war culture, a gulag that stretches the length and breadth of the country, where mass incarceration is a defining characteristic in the “land of the free,” and white supremacy reigns triumphant in the “home of the brave.”

*  Militarized police forces acting as aggressive occupying armies in poor communities, and the never-ending serial shootings of Black citizens.

*  The identification of opaque and ill-defined enemies—“illegal” immigrants, border violators, Muslims, Arabs, foreigners, queers, Black people, independent women, terrorists—as a unifying cause.

*  A panopticon-like existence in which we are all aware of being under constant surveillance—cameras everywhere, mountains of data from our purchase and travel patterns to reading and information preferences accumulating in some dark basement or shiny supercomputer—but have been forbidden from watching them watching us. We’re assured by the state and the media (as well as by our families and friends and neighbors on occasion) that if we aren’t doing anything wrong, we have nothing to hide, and should, then, have no objection to standing naked under the bright lights and ceaseless scrutiny of the state.

*  Ritual searches, ID checks, and pat downs (“Assume the position!”) at airports, train stations, and athletic events, which do little or nothing to enhance safety or security but serve a serious purpose nonetheless, functioning as metaphor and theater, a reminder that we are always at war, always at risk, and always observed—the threat level for many years a never-changing if ill-defined and meaningless “orange”—and as dress rehearsal for police and military actions that can override liberties and rights without constraint or objection.

*  The eclipse of the public, the frantic pace of privatization and the fire sale of the public square—the public schools and public housing, prisons and the military, and in Chicago, the bridges and parking meters—all of which represent the triumph of corporate power and a kind of fatal entangling of corporations with the state, leading to a thieves’ paradise in government with the arid ideology of capital and the “market” promoted as the truest expression of authentic participatory democracy.

*  Galloping disparities between the haves and the have- nots—the metaphoric 1 percent and everyone else— both at home and on a global scale.

*  A steady drumbeat of “public secrets”—obvious lies issued by the powerful like, “We don’t torture” or “We don’t spy on Americans” or “We shot him because he was a clear threat to the officer” or “We don’t bomb civilians,” whose purpose is both future deniability and evidence of power’s arrogant ability to have its way regardless of truth or evidence, law or popular will.

*  Disdain for the arts, for intellectual life, for reason and evidence, for historical insight, and deep contempt for the necessary back and forth of serious argument or discussion in favor of a nasty dialogue of the deaf.

*  Formation of “popular” movements in the streets, apparently spontaneous but in reality well funded and highly organized, based on bigotry, intolerance, and the threat of violence, all of it fueled by the demonization of targeted, distinct racial, religious, or gendered vulnerable populations and the creation of convenient sacrificial scapegoats.

*  Cataclysmic man-made climate change—hurricanes, melting ice caps, raging wildfires and deforestation, rising oceans, the shredding of the earth’s protective shield, and more—driven by unchecked extraction, reckless acquisitiveness, and the everyday operations of predatory capitalism.

Countless contradictions abound: appalling poverty and unprecedented wealth, acts of war and words of peace, liveliness and chronic social depression, hope and despair. Reality TV and then reality itself. It’s a land of wild diversity, extremes and opposites, conflict and contestation, moments of personal joy, happiness, and ecstasy against times of collective rage and anguish.

Still, the bullet points above—and I use the term deliberately— are pistol shots that represent a bright thread that is recognizable and knowable. The US juggernaut is headed for catastrophe, either a new and sophisticated—dare we say it?—form of friendly-looking and familiar fascism, or some other form of extreme social disintegration. Another world is surely coming—greater equality, socialism, participatory democracy, and peace are all within our reach, but nuclear war, work camps, and slavery are also possibilities. There are still choices and options, and nothing is guaranteed. Where do we go from here? A season of light or a season of darkness? Chaos or community? Barbarism or socialism?


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