One day, when Rousseau was travelling through a crowded village, he was insulted by a yokel whose spirit delighted the crowd. Rousseau, confused and discountenanced, couldn’t think of a word in reply and was forced to take to his heels amidst the jeers of the crowd. By the time he had finally regained his composure and thought of a thousand possible retorts, any one of which would have silenced the joker once and for all, he was at two hours distance from the village.
Aren’t most of the trivial incidents of everyday life like this ridiculous adventure? but in an attenuated and diluted form, reduced to the duration of a step, a glance, a thought, experienced as a muffled impact, a fleeting discomfort barely registered by consciousness and leaving in the mind only the dull irritation at a loss to discover its own origin? The endless minuet of humiliation and its response gives human relationships an obscene hobbling rhythm. In the ebb and flow of the crowds sucked in and crushed together by the coming and going of suburban trains, and coughed out into streets, offices, factories, there is nothing but timid retreats, brutal attacks, smirking faces and scratches delivered for no apparent reason. Soured by unwanted encounters, wine turns to vinegar in the mouth. Innocent and good-natured crowds? What a laugh! Look how they bristle up, threaten on every side, clumsy and embarrassed in the enemy’s territory, far, very far from themselves. Lacking knives, they learn to use their elbows and their eyes.
Raoul Vaneigem 1963-1965 The Revolution of Everyday Life
another mention in the same book of the crowd transport situation:
“On the public transport which throws them against one another with statistical indifference, people wear an untenable expression of disillusion, pride and contempt, like the natural effect of death on a toothless mouth. The atmosphere of On the public transport which throws them against one another with statistical indifference, people wear an untenable expression of disillusion, pride and contempt, like the natural effect of death on a toothless mouth. The atmosphere of false communication makes everyone the policeman of his own encounters. The instincts of flight and aggression trail the knights of wage-labour, who must now rely on subways and suburban trains for their pitiful wanderings. If men were transformed into scorpions who sting themselves and one another, isn’t it really because nothing has happened, and human beings with empty eyes and flabby brains have `mysteriously’ become mere shadows of men, ghosts of men, and in some ways are no longer men except in name?”
don’t know why but i find this (crowd transport) an important situation. i find it something worth thinking on, something more than an impressive tragic metaphor of a supposed society (oppression, power, whatever), maybe something that is (rather than a displaced metaphor) indeed the society itself, in a comical mode, in a mode unexpressible in the prevailing tragic mathemes of dramatic closure.
for instance: why not see public demonstrations as simulations of the everyday transportation vehicles (placed on the thin line between public and private)? a simulated bus but with a slogan: people taking physical part in a symbolic exclamation; in essence, playing the train: chuff chuff
ok my thesis i announce:
“the west” is structured as a moving vehicle
(to nowhere—or just “westward”)
naomi klein begins her climate book with the airplane example.
but real distances are prolonged along imaginary distances—by institutions.
when you sit still at “the west”, you are supposed to spontaneously move forward.
this is its definition and logic of existence.
that a central executive offices owes to the logic of a central engine.
no logic, no engine, no execution.