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THE REVOLUTION OF EVERYDAY LIFE - VANEIGEM
Humiliation - Page 12

Is it that I think that I am happy? Hardly! Such a belief doesn't stand up to analysis any better than it withstands the blasts of anguish. On the contrary, it is a belief in the happiness of others, an inexhaustible source of envy and jealousy which gives us a vicarious feeling of existence. I envy, therefore I am. To define oneself by reference to others is to define oneself as other. And the other is always object. So that life is measured in degrees of humiliation, the more you 'live': the more you live the orderly life of things. Here is the cunning of reification, by which it passes undetected, like arsenic in the jam.

The gentleness of these methods of oppression throws a certain light on the perversion which prevents me from shouting out "The emperor has no clothes!" each time the sovereignty of my everyday life reveals its poverty. Obviously police brutality is still going strong, to say the least. Everywhere it raises its head the kindly souls of the left quite rightly condemn it. But what do they do about it? Do they urge people to arm themselves? Do they call for legitimate reprisals? Do they encourage pig-hunts like the one which decorated the trees of Budapest with the finest fruits of the AVO? No: they organize peaceful demonstrations at which their trade-union police force treats anyone who questions their orders as an agent provocateur. The new policemen are ready to take over. The social psychologists will govern without truncheons: no more tough cops, only con cops. Oppressive violence is about to be transformed into a host of reasonably distributed pin-pricks. The same people who denounce police violence from the heights of their lofty ideals are urging us on toward a state based on polite violence. Humanism merely upholsters the machine of Kafka's "Penal Colony". Less grinding and shouting! Blood upsets you? Never mind: men will be bloodless. The promised land of survival will be the realm of peaceful death, and it is this peaceful death that the humanists are fighting for. No more Guernicas, no more Auschwitzes, no more Hiroshimas, no more Setifs. Hooray! But what about the impossibility of living, what about this stifling mediocrity and this absence of passion? What about the jealous fury in which the rankling of never being ourselves drives us to imagine that other people are happy? What about this feeling of never really being inside your own skin? let nobody say these are minor details or secondary points. There are no negligible irritations; gangrene can start in the slightest graze. The crises that shake the world are not fundamentally different from the conflicts in which my actions and thoughts confront the hostile forces that entangle and deflect them. (How could it be otherwise when history, in the last analysis, is only important to me in so far as it affects my own life?) Sooner or later the continual division and re-division of aggravations will split the atom of unlivable reality and liberate a nuclear energy which nobody suspected behind so much passivity and gloomy resignation. That which produces the common good is always terrible.

3

From 1945 to 1960, colonialism was a fairy godmother to the left. With a new enemy on the scale of Fascism, the left never had to define itself positively, starting from itself (there was nothing there); it was ale to affirm itself by negating something else. In this way it was able to accept itself as a thing, part of an order of things in which things are everything and nothing.

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