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The Subsecular | Creating the Political Future

Catja Björklund

What is brilliant about the law is that it is based on a clear representation of the divine. Although it pays homage to God – to pay homage to someone who anyway never interferes with anything costs nothing, and it is therefore also the oldest metaphysical trick in the book – but what is important is not to whom the law pays homage, but that it is based on something physically absent so that, with the homage as camouflage, it can furtively hand over the actual power to the (self-appointed) representative of the object of homage.

–Bard & Söderqvist

Often we think about representation as a must-have. And as something accurate. But perhaps we are seeing things backwards? The quote above illustrates that more than anything, representation is two things: a reduction in order to concentrate power; and secondly, really a think of the past, connected to old metaphysics, and notions of ‘the order of things’. The less orderly we imagine the universe to be, the more we see things as a truly chaotic, emergent, contingent, indeterminable, chance-ridden existence-in-the-making, the more we lose faith in representation. And I believe that is a truly good thing.

In the quote above Bard and Söderqvist note how rulers (such as Pharaoh) rule instead of god, elevating certain ideas as untouchable, god-like, or not even god-like, but really divine. Referencing the divine is a powerplay. Bard and Söderqvist are genuinely excited about the emergence of The Internet, as it displays, onto one surface the lives, minds and desires of many of the planets’ inhabiters. And not only is one person represented by their action under one monicker, one profile; instead, the virtual plane provides us the opportunity (or method) of living in accordance with Deleuze and Guattari’s schizoanalysis; we may have various accounts, profiles, email addresses, usernames (even within the same forum), domains and so forth that display and express the multitudes of longings (even secret ones) that we carry.

The Internet, in this way, expands us, rather than reduces us. And when we are expanding ourselves in this fashion, it seems more and more incomprehensible that casting one’s vote once every four years on someone (or a party) who shall represent us, seems like an absurd notion to believe in as if this means that we actually exercise power. Differently put: If we are now increasingly able to display an array of (often contradictory) sides of ourselves on the Internet; if we can’t summarise ourselves with the help of one representation of ourselves, but we instead need multiple outlets in order to just display and let emerge our own richness of being(/becoming), then handing our ability to rule and make decisions over to a small elite of people, and having one specific ruler (monarch, Pharaoh, president, prime minister) at the top of the pyramid seems like an utter distortion of power relations. What do we need the ruler for? And why do we accept this old model of someone representing ourselves as if we couldn’t do it … ourselves? Why do we still call this the power of the people, the rule of demos; democracy?

More than anything, allowing this shift in power from ourselves to someone else is a historical artefact, prompted by historical ways of construing power. As one professor of political science, Gunnar Falkemark, said at an introductory lecture on political philosophy: The current system reflects the ruler’s distrust in the people being able to handle power and decision making themselves.

I believe this to be true. Apparently Slavoj Zizek has accused Bard and Söderqvist for hijacking Deleuze, saying that their use of him proves that you can pretty much do anything with (or to) Deleuze. I think, however, that what Bard and Söderqvist is correct in showing how the internet is quite likely the most promising arena if one is looking for ”proof” of the existenence of – not individuals, but as Deleuze calls them – dividuals; people displaying multitudes; versions of themselves.

When Deleuze and Guattari writes about the problem of the modern age (not least the connection of psychoanalysis and capitalism) there is a powerful critique of the expectation that we should structure ourselves according to a master narrative; that of self-discipline in order to fit into the machinery and needs of the market; to remake ourselves not in the image of god but in the image of cogs. The vision that we ought to remake ourselves is old, and borrowed from oppresive strands of monotheism, but much like empty talk of ”god loving you” (just as long as you remold yourself thoroughly enough) the new phrase is that ”freedom” will somehow permeate existence (if you just remold yourself thoroughly enough). The figure is comparative: There is a master narrative that you should align yourself with. Only then are you deserving of A (the love of god) or B (all the freedom you can imagine). But the god that expects you to remold yourself into a static, predetermined image, doesn’t love you. He (it’s always a he) coerces you. Remaking yourself in order to fit into the capitalist machinery is slightly, but only slightly better. There is a small amount of movement. You may need to change the kind of cog you need to be over time. The image is not completely frozen. But it’s equally coercive, equally demanding that you not be you. That this is simply not enough. Both these models, with a common ancestry, removes focus from the fact that you can be emergent in explorative ways, not just make an analysis of where you fit into the market or read your Bible enough to understand how to remake yourself in the image of God.

Instead: Go forth, explore, commune, divide your attention, and let yourself operate on these multiple levels, and then; make see what happens when you let these parts of your dividual materialise in different ways and different places. And lastly, recognise how far this model of thought and being is from believing that you can be sufficiently represented by some small amount of rulers. That is the future we should be creating.

So, is then Syntheism and the Subsecular entirely overlapping theories, for saying the same thing? I think we are too early in the process of emergence to answer that properly. But what I’d like to add is that the notion of the Subsecular is trying to note that sites, the nodes, and the spiritual and cultural practices that give us strength in the contemporary condition. It’s a reminder that the old paradigm of power is actively trying to conserve the current order, whereas the recognition is that something needs to happen on multiple sites, simultaneously (certainly without me being able to say exactly what it entails). All I can say is that if a giant, complex structure starts to rust – but in only one place – then the issue can be remedied quickly. Should multiple sites, more than the eye can count, simultaneously start rusting, then no attempt in the world can remedy it. The big structure; the cathedral, the parliament, Langley, will crumble. And most interestingly; not through the act of violence which has often been romanticised by revolutionaries, but by way of an immense movement of self-exploration, self-reliance, self-manifestations. Where this happens all over the globe, in physical and virtual spaces, and most importantly, in many cites per person.

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