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THE REVOLUTION OF EVERYDAY LIFE - VANEIGEM
Humiliation - Page 8

4

The concept of class struggle constituted the first concrete, tactical marshalling of the shocks and injuries which men live individually; it was born in the whirlpool of suffering which the reduction of human relations to mechanisms of exploitation created everywhere in industrial societies. It issued from a will to transform the world and change life.

Such a weapon needed constant adjustment. yet we see the First International turning its back on artists by making workers' demands the sole basis of a project which Marx had shown to concern all those who sought, in the refusal to be slaves, a full life and a total humanity. Lacenaire, Borel, Lassailly, Buchner, Baudelaire, Hölderlin - wasn't this also misery and its radical refusal? perhaps this mistake was excusable then: I neither know nor care. What is certain is that it is sheer madness a century later, when the economy of consumption is absorbing the economy of production, and the exploitation of labour power is submerged by the exploitation of everyday creativity. The same energy is torn from the worker in his hours of work and in his hours of leisure to drive the turbines of power, which the custodians of the old theory lubricate sanctimoniously with their purely formal opposition.

People who talk about revolution and class struggle without referring explicitly to everyday life, without understanding what is subversive about love and what is positive in the refusal of constraints, such people have corpses in their mouths.

PARTICIPATION MADE IMPOSSIBLE: POWER AS THE SUM OF CONSTRAINTS

The mechanisms of wear and tear and destruction: humiliation (II), isolation (III), suffering (IV), work (V), decompression (VI)

II. HUMILIATION

The economy of everyday life is based on a continuous exchange of humiliations and aggressive attitudes. It conceals a technique of wear and tear (usure), which is itself prey to the gift of destruction which it invites contradictorily (1). Today, the more man is a social being the more he is an object (2). Decolonisation has not yet begun (3). It will have to give a new value to the old principle of sovereignty (4).

1

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.

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