03 June 2012


Academics say the strangest things.

'What if we refuse to be citizens? A Manifesto for Vacating Civic Order' by Santiago López Petit in 10(3) Borderlands (2011) comments that
Today’s citizen is no longer a free person. Citizens are no longer free people who want to live in a free community. A political consciousness that is not taught, but rather conquered, has gradually disappeared. It could not have happened another way. Public space has become a street full of shops that never close, an ongoing television show in which an idiot tells us in detail why he separated from his wife. School, in turn, is not asked to promote a critical consciousness but to merely impart learning of ‘correct’ civic behaviors, variations of a pretense ‘education for citizenship’. Political struggles seem likewise to have disappeared from a world in which there are only diverse types of catastrophes (economic, environmental, natural, etc.). However, when politicians address us, when they pay lip service to calls of participation, they keep calling us citizens. Why? Why is this word, which little by little has been emptied of all political force, still in use? 
Perhaps because there's value in working within the liberal democratic state, contrary to the author's vision that we should just walk off in a huff with a copy of Foucault For Dummies under our arms.

López Petit goes on conclude
What if we refuse to be citizens? Actually, there are not two ways of emptying the figure of the citizen. Construction and destruction are not opposite poles. In every attempt to build something there is destruction, and vice versa. Only from the standpoint of power is it possible to distinguish between who is violent and who is nonviolent. To refuse to be citizens is to set in motion the power (potencia) of emptying and to operate according to a transversal strategy. It is to refuse to be what reality forces us to be, that is, to refuse to be citizens - there is no need to recall that citizen is today the authentic name for the unit of mobilization - consists in drawing a line between what one wants to live and what one is willing to live. Transversality, on the other hand, means that there is no longer a privileged battlefront of struggle (for example: the sphere of work), but that the combat is aimed against reality itself conceived as a continuum of struggles. When life is a battlefront it is no longer useful to consider partial approaches. The aim should always be the same: to puncture reality in order to breathe. For that to happen, we must begin to open no-man’s-lands. The no man’s lands that, stuck in the war front, are the place to replenish in order to attack again this damn videogame we are in. As we empty the figure of the citizen, the force of anonymity that lives inside each of us can emerge. That force escapes because nobody knows its real force. That force is irreducible because it is the force of the desire to live. Exit. Exit everything while already building a world between us. Exiting everything but without killing each other. Exit, also, the very idea of emptying defended by this manifesto. What if we refuse to be citizens? 
What, on the other hand, if we simply stop being so silly and give the Virilio and Žižek a break.