Rise up at night

Posted: 20 April 2016 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , ,

08042016nuit-debout

The other day, I posted a note about Nuit debout (which loosely translated means “rise up at night”), the “vast nocturnal protest gatherings [that] have spread across France.

Gabriel Rockhill [ht: ja] explains the cultural and political significance of the movement:

This movement stands up—through the night—against the one force known for its worldwide insomnia: capitalism. If it is praised for its supposed productive forces and consumer options or condemned due to its debilitating alienation and environmental degradation, it is generally recognized that the time of capital is 24/7. Although stores or stock exchanges might occasionally close, the sleepless juggernaut of capitalist expansion never tires of extracting profit from the four corners of the globe.

Resistance to the night guardian of this shadowy world, on the contrary, is too often presented as fragmentary and intermittent, when it is not simply ignored as if it were non-existent. Indeed, the latter has been the preferred tactic of the overwhelming majority of the Anglophone media, whose paltry coverage of the events is a testament to their role in promulgating obscurities. When there is attention paid to radical insurgencies, the mass media, professional politicians and well-paid pundits revel in stories with clear beginnings and ends, thereby securing closure in terms of a simple narrative logic that commonly juxtaposes dawning aspirations to dusk-like disappointments. In the beginning, we are frequently told, there was light: individuals in a specific location like Paris suddenly ‘awakened’ one day in order to come together in a collective act of protest. After battling for a specific goal and attracting the supposed daylight provided by corporate media coverage, they then sink back into the abyss from which they came, perhaps leaving things worse than before. Spectators are subtly encouraged to wonder why there was even a protest in the first place, the implicit message being that it is best never to try and change things at all (since they are ultimately unchangeable).

The space and time of insurrection are thereby divided and conquered. Individual instances are separated out in space and terminology: the Indignados Movement, the Arab Spring, the Pots and Pans Protest in Quebec, etc. They are also condensed into precise and circumscribed flashpoints, as has been the case with the problematic reduction of the Occupy movement to Zuccotti Park. They are then inscribed within a temporal framework of original aspirations and final consequences. Everything becomes a question of means and ends: what is the goal and was it attained? The only possible success is thus defined in terms of ‘productive’ results within a delimited space and time, as if the revolutionary transformation of society in totocould be reduced to the same logic as capitalist profit margins. This is indeed the spatiotemporal divide-and-conquer strategy that seeks to narratively incarcerate revolutionary insurrection: the condition of possibility of success is its own failure! To have a so-called productive outcome, it needs to hastily vanish into the instrumentalist logic of striving to reach a single industrious goal within the system in place.

The subliminal message inherent in this narrative structure is that whereas so-called capitalist productivity never sleeps and its tentacles hold the entire world in the loving embrace of fierce competition, resistance to it arises—and can only arise—in brief instances and circumscribed locations with the explicit goal of making minor adjustments to an unquestionable reality. The felicitous label Nuit debout suggests, however, a different story, which concerns the sleepless titan that is worldwide insurgency against the death grip of imperialist and colonial capitalism in the supposedly beneficent age of ‘globalization.’ Like so many of the other movements, it rejects punctual and instrumentalized space-time in favor of a continuous time of occupation and an open space for the convergence of struggles (including those for popular education, the dismantling of the patriarchy, the overcoming of the refugee and immigration crisis, LGBTQ rights, the preservation of the environment, social welfare, and so forth).

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