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THE REVOLUTION OF EVERYDAY LIFE - VANEIGEM
Decompression and the Third Force - Page 28

Is it as simple as this? Of course not; the farce would lose its entertainment value. On the international stage, those two old hams, capitalism and anticapitalism, carry on their lovers' banter. How the spectators tremble when they begin to quarrel, how they stamp with glee when peace blesses the loving couple! Is interest flagging? A brick is added to the Berlin wall; the bloodthirsty Mao gnashes his paper teeth, while in the background a choir of little Chinese nitwits sings paeons to fatherland, family and work. Patched up like this, the old melodrama is ready to hit the road. The ideological spectacle keeps up with the times by bringing out harmless plastic antagonisms; are you for or against Brigitte Bardot, the Beatles, mini-cars, hippies, nationalization, spaghetti, old people, the TUC, mini-skirts, pop art, thermonuclear war, hitch-hiking? There is no one who is not accosted at every moment of the day by posters, news flashes, stereotypes, summoned to take sides over each of the prefabricated trifles that conscientiously stop up all the sources of everyday creativity. In the hands of power these particles of antagonism are moulded into a magnetic ring whose function is to make everybody lose their bearings, to pull everyone out of himself and to scramble lines of force.

Decompression is simply the control of antagonisms by power. The opposition of two terms is given its real meaning by the introduction of a third. As long as there are only two equal and opposite polarities, they neutralize each other, since each is defined by the other; as it is impossible to choose between them, we are led into the domain of tolerance and relativity which is so dear to the bourgeoisie. One can well understand the importance for the apostolic hierarchy of the dispute between Manicheism and Trinitarianism! In a merciless confrontation between God and Satan, what would have been left of ecclesiastical authority? Nothing, as the millenarian crises demonstrated. That is why the secular arm carried out its holy offices, and the pyres crackled for the mystics of God or the devil, those overbold theologians who questioned the principle of Three in One. The temporal masters of Christianity were resolved that only they should be entitled to treat of the difference between the master of Good and the master of Evil. They were the great intermediaries through which the choice of one side or the other had to pass; they controlled the paths to salvation and damnation, and this control was more important to them than salvation and damnation themselves. On earth they proclaimed themselves judges without appeal, since they had also decided to be the judged in an afterlife whose laws they had invented.

The Christian myth defused the bitter Manichean conflict by offering to the believer the possibility of individual salvation; this was the breach opened up by the Poor Bugger of Nazareth. Thus man escaped the rigours of a confrontation which necessarily led to the destruction of values, to nihilism. But the same stroke denied him the opportunity to reconquer himself by means of a general upheaval, the chance of taking his place in the universe by chasing out the gods and their slavemasters. Therefore, the movement of decompression appears to have the function of shackling man's most irreducible desire, the desire to be completely himself.

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