Immediatism vs Capitalism
Many monsters stand between us & the realization of Immediatist goals. For instance our own ingrained unconscious alienation might all too easily be mistaken for a virtue, especially when contrasted with crypto-authoritarian pap passed off as “community,” or with various upscale versions of “leisure.” Isn’t it natural to take the dandyism noir of curmudgeonly hermits for some kind of heroic Individualism, when the only visible contrast is Club Med commodity socialism, or the gemutlich masochism of the Victim Cults? To be doomed & cool naturally appeals more to noble souls than to be saved & cozy.
Immediatism means to enhance individuals by providing a matrix of friendship, not to belittle them by sacrificing their “ownness” to group-think, leftist self-abnegation, or New Age clone-values. What must be overcome is not individuality per se, but rather the addiction to bitter loneliness which characterizes consciousness in the 20th century (which is by & large not much more than a re-run of the 19th).
Far more dangerous than any inner monster of (what might be called) “negative selfishness,” however, is the outward, very real & utterly objective monster of too-Late Capitalism. The marxists (R.I.P.) had their own version of how this worked, but here we are not concerned with abstract/dialectical analyses of labor-value or class structure (even though these may still require analysis, & even more so since the “death” or “disappearance” of Communism). Instead we’d like to point out specific tactical dangers facing any Immediatist project.
1. Capitalism only supports certain kinds of groups, the nuclear family for example, or “the people I know at my job,” because such groups are already self-alienated & hooked into the Work/Consume/Die structure. Other kinds of groups may be allowed, but will lack all support from the societal structure, & thus find themselves facing grotesque challenges & difficulties which appear under the guise of “ bad luck.”
The first & most innocent-seeming obstacle to any Immediatist project will be the “busyness” or “need to make a living” faced by each of its associates. However there is no real innocence here—only our profound ignorance of the ways in which Capitalism itself is organized to prevent all genuine conviviality.
No sooner have a group of friends begun to visualize immediate goals realizable only thru solidarity & cooperation, then suddenly one of them will be offered a “good” job in Cincinnati or teaching English in Taiwan—or else have to move back to California to care for a dying parent—or else they’ll lose the “good” job they already have & be reduced to a state of misery which precludes their very enjoyment of the group’s project or goals (i.e. they’ll become “depressed” ). At the most mundane-seeming level, the group will fail to agree on a day of the week for meetings because everyone is “busy.” But this is not mundane. It’s sheer cosmic evil. We whip ourselves into froths of indignation over “oppression” & “unjust laws” when in fact these abstractions have little impact on our daily lives—while that which really makes us miserable goes unnoticed, written off to “busyness” or “distraction” or even to the nature of reality itself (“Well, I can’t live without a job!”).
Yes, perhaps it’s true we can’t “live” without a job—although I hope we’re grown-up enough to know the difference between life & the accumulation of a bunch of fucking gadgets. Still, we must constantly remind ourselves (since our culture won’t do it for us) that this monster called WORK remains the precise & exact target of our rebellious wrath, the one single most oppressive reality we face (& we must learn also to recognize Work when it’s disguised as “leisure”).
To be “too busy” for the Immediatist project is to miss the very essence of Immediatism. To struggle to come together every Monday night (or whatever), in the teeth of the gale of busyness, or family, or invitations to stupid parties—that struggle is already Immediatism itself. Succeed in actually physically meeting face-to-face with a group which is not your spouse-&-kids, or the “guys from my job,” or your 12-Step Program—& you have already achieved virtually everything Immediatism yearns for. An actual project will arise almost spontaneously out of this successful slap-in-the-face of the social norm of alienated boredom. Outwardly, of course, the project will seem to be the group’s purpose, its motive for coming together—but in fact the opposite is true. We’re not kidding or indulging in hyperbole when we insist that meeting face-to-face is already “the revolution.” Attain it & the creativity part comes naturally; like “the kingdom of heaven” it will be added unto you. Of course it will be horribly difficult—why else would we have spent the last decade trying to construct our “bohemia in the mail,” if it were easy to have it in some quartier latin or rural commune? The rat-bastard Capitalist scum who are telling you to “reach out and touch someone” with a telephone or “be there!” (where? alone in front of a goddam television??)—these lovecrafty suckers are trying to turn you into a scrunched-up blood-drained pathetic crippled little cog in the death-machine of the human soul (& let’s not have any theological quibbles about what we mean by “soul”!). Fight them—by meeting with friends, not to consume or produce, but to enjoy friendship— & you will have triumphed (at least for a moment) over the most pernicious conspiracy in EuroAmerican society today—the conspiracy to turn you into a living corpse galvanized by prosthesis & the terror of scarcity— to turn you into a spook haunting your own brain. This is not a petty matter! This is a question of failure or triumph!
2. If busyness & dissipation are the first potential failures of Immediatism, we cannot say that its triumph should be equated with “success.” The second major threat to our project can quite simply be described as the tragic success of the project itself. Let’s say we’ve overcome physical alienation & have actually met, developed our project, & created something (a quilt, a banquet, a play, a bit of eco-sabotage, etc.). Unless we keep it an absolute secret—which is probably impossible & in any case would constitute a somewhat poisonous selfishness—other people will hear of it (other people from hell, to paraphrase the existentialists)—& among these other people, some will be agents (conscious or unconscious, it doesn’t matter) of too-Late Capitalism. The Spectacle—or whatever has replaced it since 1968—is above all empty. It fuels itself by the constant Moloch-like gulping-down of everyone’s creative powers & ideas. It’s more desperate for your “radical subjectivity ” than any vampire or cop for your blood. It wants your creativity much more even than you want it yourself. It would die unless you desired it, & you will only desire it if it seems to offer you the very desires you dreamed, alone in your lonely genius, disguised & sold back to you as commodities. Ah, the metaphysical shenanigans of objects! (or words to that effect, Marx cited by Benjamin).
Suddenly it will appear to you (as if a demon had whispered it in your ear) that the Immediatist art you’ve created is so good, so fresh, so original, so strong compared to all the crap on the “market”—so pure—that you could water it down & sell it, & make a living at it, so you could all knock off WORK, buy a farm in the country, & do art together forever after. And perhaps it’s true. You could… after all, you’re geniuses. But it’d be better to fly to Hawaii & throw yourself into a live volcano. Sure, you could have success; you could even have 15 seconds on the Evening News— or a PBS documentary made on your life. Yes indeedy.
3. But this is where the last major monster steps in, crashes thru the living room wall, & snuffs you (if Success itself hasn’t already “spoiled” you, that is).
Because in order to succeed you must first be “seen.” And if you are seen, you will be perceived as wrong, illegal, immoral—different. The Spectacle’ s main sources of creative energy are all in prison. If you’re not a nuclear family or a guided tour of the Republican Party, then why are you meeting every Monday evening? To do drugs? illicit sex? income tax evasion? satanism?
And of course the chances are good that your Immediatist group is engaged in something illegal— since almost everything enjoyable is in fact illegal. Babylon hates it when anyone actually enjoys life, rather than merely spends money in a vain attempt to buy the illusion of enjoyment. Dissipation, gluttony, bulimic overconsumption— these are not only legal but mandatory. If you don’t waste yourself on the emptiness of commodities you are obviously queer & must by definition be breaking some law. True pleasure in this society is more dangerous than bank robbery. At least bank robbers share Massa’s respect for Massa’s money. But you, you perverts, clearly deserve to be burned at the stake—& here come the peasants with their torches, eager to do the State’s bidding without even being asked. Now you are the monsters, & your little gothic castle of Immediatism is engulfed in flames. Suddenly cops are swarming out of the woodwork. Are your papers in order? Do you have a permit to exist?
Immediatism is a picnic—but it’s not easy. Immediatism is the most natural path for free humans imaginable—& therefore the most unnatural abomination in the eyes of Capital. Immediatism will triumph, but only at the cost of self-organization of power, of clandestinity, & of insurrection. Immediatism is our delight, Immediatism is dangerous.