“I was not born to be forced. I will breathe after my own fashion.”
Henry David Thoreau, Resistance to Civil Government.
We can’t breathe.
After 50 years of neoliberal barbarism – which has accelerated the necrotic tendencies inherent to the cancerous logic of white growth and colonial and post-colonial depredation –, the resources of the planet, together with the political awareness of (white) humankind in terms of ability to handle the on-going collapse, are running short.
After the mutation and expansion of capitalism metastasis as a way to resist the social movements that have raised worldwide in recent history since ’68, and that have been trying to provide the antibodies to the depraved looting of the planetary body, we’re reaching a global necrotic edge. At this pick, which produces all the symptoms of vertigo (spinning, tilting, swaying, nausea, vomiting, eye jerking, headache, sweating, ear ringing), breathing turns into the root of all other political categories, and the strategy to deal with the panic associated to vertigo.
We can’t breathe.
Social movements in recent history have attempted to articulate a variety of new breathing patterns against the automatic and mechanical hyperventilation enforced by the capital, trying to give a collective body to the millions of brains that across these last 50 years felt they couldn’t breathe at the pace of the planetary slaughter. Carbon dioxide has been taking over the brain of civil society and the lungs of the planet, capitalism hyperventilation has been gobbling all the available oxygen and is now disposing of the zombified body of the collective planetary intelligence and sensitivity as a mere externality. The planetary body is now filled up by the metabolic waste produced by capitalism hyperventilation, and the trillions of human and non-human entities that compose it, are asphyxiating.
We can’t breathe.
We can’t breathe because the expiration phase of planetary capitalism entered a phase of spasm that not only flood the collective human and non-human body with toxic by-products, but also impede the proper inspiration of oxygen to the parts that willingly or not have been almost completely swallowed by the system. This produces awful contraction and neurotic jerks that not only hinder the functioning of the singular body but also its capability to coordinate metabolically and politically with the heterogeneous elements that compose the planetary collective it is part of, and depends upon – and which, ultimately, make it always and from the beginning, plural, and not singular. Inspiration lacks oxygen and inhales poisoned AIR, while the expiration of the human and non-human parts becomes cumbersome because their bronchioles are clogged. As a consequence, the possible conspiration of the multiple bodies which tries to articulate a new breathing pattern is under siege, and the collective body colonized by the capital is either taken by spasms, or paralyzed.
We can’t breathe.
Both spasms and paralysis are revealing the current condition of suffocation, and the challenge ahead consists in finding ways to build an insurrectional politics capable to listening to the spasms and the stiffens: to reticulate the spasms when they converge towards forms of collective and autonomous breathing away from the iron lung of the capital, and to diverge them when they stiffen accelerating the expansion of the cancer they’re the expression of. Jerks and paralysis not only produce spastics movements, but also the internal bleeding of the organs in charge of supporting the vital function of a complex heterogeneous system, both at the individual and collective level, human and non-human alike. The bleeding leaks out from the membranes that contain it, and reveals its incandescent nature.
LAVA spills out at every latitude and longitude, in its human and non-human forms. Do we remember the last spasm and its bleeding? Do we remember the visceral sound of the Volcano exploding, only a few months ago, and its furious LAVA running unchecked, burning everything on its way? Do we remember the fires burning from Australia to California to Siberia to Middle-East and Africa, as a result of capitalism’s ecological devastation, revealing once more the deep gash cutting through the strangled planetary body?
The convulsions of a planet under the pressure of a chocking game gone wrong for too long trigger its incontinence, which bleeds out into a hemorrhaging scream of toxins, and enters into a vicious feedback loop with the human forces that produce them, accelerating the destruction of ecological niche able to support complex forms of life and their diversity and the delicate condition necessary for a virulent and fragile species called humankind. By doing so, these forces turn into subject-less meta-political vectors and become signals for a politics that need to involve from its inception the non-human breathing pattern our seemingly “own” is indissolubly bound to, to turn them as symptoms of a disease and political action and not as accelerators of the catastrophe.
Do we remember the almost simultaneous human spasm which echoed this planetary non-human bleeding? Do we remember the global insurrection that took over more than fifteen countries worldwide in the fall of 2019, during which the exasperated body of an inter-worlding coalition of youngsters attempt to gasp some oxygen out of the gas chamber of global neoliberal barbarism, in contexts as diverse as Chile, Lebanon, France, Hong Kong, and counting? For a moment, the intrusion of the EARTH as a political vector resonated with the violent scream of its human counterpart, and articulated a gasping which lasted long enough to give a glimpse of a new breathing pattern where human and non-human LAVA melted together to become a new ground for FIRE, from where ultimately a new form of life could emerge.
Only a few months ago, the human and non-human LAVA involuntary converged to bleed together with the anguished state of things: capitalism is rotting and it is rotting everything inside of it, capitalism is hyperventilating because its resources are running short: the human/non-human assemblages start giving signs of agony and torment, and capitalism needs to consume them faster and faster wrongly believing it can gobble what’s left to gobble to sustain its accelerated infecting breathe before its sources of breathing can generate the antibodies necessary to regain control over their singularizing breathing. Capitalism doesn’t work differently from cancer, taking over the whole organism part by part to finally consume it until it dies, eventually halting also its own reproduction, and leaving nothing behind for reconstruction. Capitalism is pandemic.
We can’t breathe.
We can’t breathe because the virus of capitalism doesn’t push forward evolution via the transversal recombination of genetic sets, allowing evolutionary jumps that increase diversity exponentially. This is what lysogenic viruses do since before the beginning of life, against the biological myth of autopoiesis, which conceptualizes the livings as individually and independent closed units, mimicking in biology the neoliberal doctrine of individualism at the level of the single organism in the very same way that Darwinism does at the level of the specie. Instead, the virus of capitalism proceeds via necrotic exponential zoonosis that infects living and non-living alike, turning them into ashes. The virus of capitalism produces SARS-CoV-2, a biological virus which is human-engineered not because it is a weapon of biological warfare went out of control, but because if it has been capable to branch out to the world of the humans it is because capitalism has actively destroyed the biological niches from where this virus is coming from, or eradicated from there the animals who carry it, selling their plumes, skins, bones, organs, at the fair of human gratuitous inter-species genocide.
We can’t breathe.
The on-going pandemic expresses the bleeding of the planet by turning the spilling non-human LAVA of the fall of 2019 into an invisible entity capable of permeating humans’ orifices first and later the cells’ membranes whose metabolic filtration allows organisms to survive, hacking their engines, and reproducing endlessly. Like LAVA, SARS-CoV-2 is formless and capable to take the forms it encounters, yet it marks the passage from a visible and incandescent material which is how the LAVA appears with the fire burning and the human upraises during the last fall, into an invisible and rarefied being filling the interstices and the intervals between humans and things, and making them, all of a sudden, visible. SARS-CoV-2 is paradoxical because, by its very invisibility, it makes visible, by its very formlessness, it takes and gives form, turning the explosion of the human and non-human LAVA into its implosive phase, suspending the roaring scream of the explosion by bringing an apparent silence and suspension, turning the magmatic element into something closer to AIR, rather than WATER – to which the human magma have resembled, during the 2019 insurrection.
The non-human LAVA of fires produces clouds of smoke and releases tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, while the human LAVA and its watery, shapeless consistency partly solidifies and partly evaporates, stiffen under the toxic repression of the State or forced to change elemental status after the arrival of the virus, which impede public gatherings and the erotic conjunction of bodies defining the human magma in the fall. The toxic AIR – infested of carbon dioxide, tear gases, and similar chemical weapons – turns even more weaponized by the particles which humans emit while breathing or talking, potentially containing a virus capable to attack other humans and engulf their breathing. The implosion of the Volcano traps the LAVA inside a crust of digital mirrors, outside of which a fully invisible cloud of smoke takes over the world of the humans. SARS-CoV-2 assaults specifically the respiratory traits of human beings, producing shortness of breath difficulty breathing fever chills cough fatigue muscle aches headache new loss of taste and smell sore throat congestion runny nose nausea vomiting diarrhea persistent pain or pressure in the chest confusion inability to wake or stay awake bluish lips or face – roughly making visible to a greater number of people the result of the strangling grip of capitalism.
The disease the virus produces, COVID-19, forces capitalism do slow down, and attacks also the white parts of the world which have been partially screened from capitalist acute damages (or which have been affected at a lesser degree than the poorer parts of the planet), and gives a taste of the on-going conditions of catastrophe non-white humans have been exposed to since a long time. Nevertheless, capitalism manages to react immediately attempting to produce its last virulent mutation, accelerating the production of the alienated and zombified forms of life it requires for its subsistence.
The exogenous colonial orientation which allows the primary accumulation necessary to bootstrap capitalist globalized society – exogenous spatially in the starting process of colonization of faraway lands and people – intensifies lately its endogenous traits (long-lasting in the colonization of the female body, dating way before the exogenous colonial phase) towards minorities and all kind of diversities (bodily, neuronal, and broadly biological and ecosystemic) in both militarized occupation toxic exploitation and normalization of the human (personal and public spaces) of life, as much as of the non-human elements (living and not) that allow him to survive.
Lately, because of the pandemic, the neoliberal barbarism based on designing molecularly the expressivity of desires and its consequent immediate capture and capitalization slow down for a moment in the offline world to intensify in front of the screens: millions of humans are locked up into their houses, interacting only via digital devices that sterilize their bodily fluids and track every single click, while they order compulsively on Amazon or while they stare, terrified, at the dizzying numbers growing exponentially from statistics obsessing over a curve to flatten, without any agency beside that of staring at their screen, and buy more on Amazon.
The LAVA of the fall of 2019 implodes into a hygienist securitarian dystopia which gives form to the last schizophrenic mutation of neoliberal barbarism: on one side, the system wants to open and go back to normal as soon as possible to halt the economic collapse, on the other, it displaces the attention from both essential and non-essential workers being forced to work during the pick of the pandemic (either without proper gears and health coverage, and the latter risking their life not even to provide basic services but simply to allow the rich to get richer), to the need of arresting runners with their dogs, because if you have a dog you’re allowed to go out, because in this last mutation a dog is freer than its owner. In so doing, capitalism injects the policing demon into civil society, which cheerfully supports drones and cops chasing people exercising on empty beaches, forgetting about the non-essential workers dying of COVID and spreading the virus around.
On one side, it gives the right of expression to people willing to open the economy and, as a consequence, to eugenically exterminate the weakest and poorest members of the society, mainly non-white, on the other, everybody else needs to fuck the shut up, and polices each other from the windows when not busy staring at screens, breathing at the rhythm of the next death toll notification.
We can’t breathe.
Although at the beginning of the pandemic crisis, the virus has been ingenuously looked as an ally to the previous phase of volcanic eruption, capable to lock financial markets and global logistics, it became clear quite quickly that the implosion of the Volcano was preparing a phase of a massive transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich, and that the vulnerability of the classes in need would have increased – and that, ultimately, capitalism was attempting its ultimate genetic mutation. For doing so, capitalism needed to attempt its latest massive hyperventilation, depriving the weakest of the last bits of oxygen available, and getting rid of them the same way an infected limb gets chopped off from a moribund organism to increase its possibility of survival.
The cancer of capitalism – cancer that has already transformed itself into a composite, flexible and yet monocultural body – tries to get rid of the elements it can exploit less or it needs to provide for, so to be able to concentrate its effort to the resilient parts of the body which try to resist it. Mass testing has been avoided pretty much everywhere because capitalism has money to store bombs and weapons but not enough to store reagent or produce and distributes immediately test-kits, and if during a war any kind of factory can turn into a factory of weapons and bombs, during a pandemic which kills the weakest, it cannot turn into a facility to produce masks and ventilators. Yet, capitalism claims it is a war, but only to scare people, enforces security policies which instrumentalize care (of which capitalism doesn’t give a damn, as proven by delaying locking down economy, betting on herd immunity, forcing non-essential workers to go to work), and concentrates wealth.
We can’t breathe.
The human and non-human spasms and stiffens of the last years reveal as Janus-faced, ambiguous, with toxins turning anti-bodies, and vice-versa. When the liberating spasms attempt to free themselves from the strangling of capitalism, they produce and accelerate its very stiffening as the sole necrotic answer of a system that, closed to collapse, cannot handle them differently without otherwise burying itself, and yet paradoxically burying itself (and everything with it, and this is the problem) by doing so, as well. When the stiffening spasms attempt to recompose the rotting pieces of the system – in the form of the allegiances between de-territorialized global capital and localized fascism, which play opposite on the surface but in reality preserve the same structure of power – new insurrectional explosions emerge which try to smooth up the rigor mortis of a walking cadaver and reanimate the parts still capable to breathe enough oxygens to face reality and do something about it.
The implosive phase of the Volcano, in the form of the SARS-COV-2, understood as a non-human force driven by capitalist factors and immediately capitalized by them, served to contain the previous explosive phase in which non-human forces in the form of fires and human forces in the form of insurrections burning up the symbols of capital – from police cars and military vehicles to banks to high-end shops to malfunctioning supposed to be public transportation privatized and turned into speculation engine – were finally producing a spasm capable to synchronize and diverge similarly fashion to how neoliberal barbarism proliferate, and with the same violence.
After a few months of lockdown, which has produced revolutionary stiffens and fascist spasms, a new insurrectional subjectivity seems to emerge at the pick of the necrotic horizon, resilient to vertigo. Playing death during the crisis hoping that the disruptive force of the virus would have helped to unmount some of the bolts of capitalism, didn’t seem to work alone – or, better, did work in the form of acts of refusal such as organized rent strikes or work strikes only once supported by an active agenda which helped these refusals to be sustained in the long term, and sided by pro-active activities such as re-appropriation and re-distributions.
The inflamed WATER of the 2019 fall in its human and EARTH(ly) expressions evaporated into a toxic AIR, where oxygens is taken away and human and non-human beings alike are forced to a form of atomized digitally supported breathing never experienced in history, which accomplished the detaching of the breathing from the planetary body, in a form that resists the endo-symbiotic metabolic laws of the planet, where breathing is circular, cyclical, transversal across beings, heteropoietic, and intrinsically opposed to capitalism forced hyperventilation, covered by an autopoietic dress which masks the heterogeneous elements that instead are necessary for its survival, and which the vest is suffocating collapsing them at an increasing speed, to sustain its growth, a growth which indeed starts to lack its substratum, a growth of mirroring respiratory machines which start exhaling their metabolic waste on each other, covering up their toxicities by cosmetic interventions and botox surgeries appealing crowds on Instagram and Facebook but eventually incapable to resurrect a dead body of which the primary sources are starting to lack.
The toxic AIR can be infused with oxygen again only if the painful spasms of the collective planetary body manages to expropriate enough oxygen from the cancerous cells of the capital to initiate an intra-planetary breathing exercise capable to precipitate a trophic cascade of inter-species ontological eroticism repristinating the cycling equilibrium of intra-respiration. Circulating clean oxygen into the locked coffin of capitalism where the zombified planetary body oscillates between spasms and stiffens will inevitably make the atmosphere inflammable, and produce FIRE. The cancerogenic prison of capital could at that point burn and turn into ashes, and the remnants of the collective planetary body surviving from the final explosion of the Volcano could finally start anew.
Because enough is enough, and we can’t breathe.
After the first pick of the pandemic, FIRE is the new WATER for the fight of a transversal inter/intra-species insurrectional spasm inside an almost completely sealed coffin, of which the last spikes are tentatively nailed down in the upcoming decade. Most likely, the pandemic will hit back, but the securitarian iron spell seems now broken and unable to contain the magmatic rage of the Volcano, and dogs will not be freer than their owners, no more. FIRE erupts again in the world of the humans with the slaughtering of an Afro-American named George Floyd (Rest in Power) by a US pig who has suffocated him for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, and which has prompted the alchemic transformation of toxic AIR into purifying FIRE, fueled by the pressure that the implosion has exercised to the magma which exploded in the fall of 2019, triggering a new explosion.
The upraise of LAVA and of breathing is not a matter of re-composition, as in the wet dreams of white revolutionary theory, but of polyphony, strategic accelerations and slackening, simultaneous disjunctions and conjunctions to resist algorithmic connection and ecological depredation, it is the necessary and extenuating need of constant and daily civic guerrilla within the boiling viscera of the Volcano:
In the concentration camps of Xinjiang.
In the starving crowds of Bogota and Santiago de Chile and Guayaquil forced to protesting and looting, having to choose between risking COVID tomorrow or die of hunger today.
In the Mediterranean graveyard and its coastal concentration camps which have been trying to tame its explosive vitality and the inevitable beginning of a new emerging culture.
In the Hong Kong protesters sharing insurrectional tactics with other movements worldwide and trying to resist the manipulations of a decadent American Empire while fighting an expanding Chinese dystopic nightmare.
In the Beirut Molotov day against financially protected sectarianism. In the prisoners’ upraises of France, Italy, and across Latino-America.
In the foyer of the Gilet Noir, in the Black Live Matter movement burning police stations and looting banks and corporate businesses and re-emerging unpredictably stronger from the rotten-egg-smelling asshole of an increasingly more unequal and fascist United States of America.
In all the places of the planet wracked by anguish and despair slowly but inevitably and at times subconsciously building an insurrectional consciousness as an inevitably survivalist strategy far from the white polite dreams of revolutionary theory.
In the inorganic and haphazard revolts of a wounded planet where the shapeless needs to approach the corpse before re-emerging from the ashes like a phoenix – against the professed normality of glittery silenced and indifferent genocide of difference, against the return to normal and against the new normal. It’s either the survival of one, or the others.
AIR is toxic, and from Eric Garner’s I can’t breathe (another Afro-American chocked to dead Rest In Power by another US pig Fuck 12 a few years ago) to George Floyd, the scream associated to the spasm of asphyxia has turned collective. The lapilli of LAVA seem to be capable to converge and diverge at an increasing speed, the scream of a single turns into the roar of the growing many, and I can’t breathe becomes We can’t breathe. Let’s move towards the inorganic, towards a molecular geological thaumaturgy and become EARTH, let’s diverge anxiety from exhaustion by socializing anxiety so to turn the stiffening emerging from exhaustion into the intervals between the contradictory spasms and their rhythms of implosion and explosion, so to be able to expand the intervals and prepare therein the intensification of insurrectional eruptive spasms, let’s turn the generational betrayal into an inter-generational reversal of roles and responsibility, let’s turn toxins into antibodies as in the plasma therapy.
Come hell or high water, extinction for extinction, better to extinguish throwing rocks at the oppressor and making orgies of sweats and spits and muds dancing and singing with rocks and plants and animals in between battles feeling the warmth of each other breath and proximity, than dying miserably staring at our own deaths live over a screen. We can’t breathe. Let’s the FIRE begin.
(Images copyright: LAVA BRIGADE)
The text is inspired by:
Berardi, F., Breathing: On chaos and poetry. MIT: Boston, 2019.
Azar, M., Berardi, F.,“I can’t breath as schizo-analysis: chaosmosis, poetry and cinema”. Interview with Franco “Bifo” Berardi, La Deleuziana, The schizoanalytic clinic, n. 9 / 2019.
Mbembe, A. “The Universal Right to Breathe”. Critical Inquiry, April 2020.