30 August 2005

Off the air to burn the Man

I'm on the way out the door to wend my way out to Burning Man. So no posting for the next week.

I leave you with this quote from Hakim Bey's The Temporary Autonomous Zone, a manifesto unknown to most Burners but essential to understanding what the event is about. If Larry Harvey is the James Madison of Burning Man, then Bey is its John Locke, and T.A.Z. is analagous to Two Treatises on Government.

Uprising, or the Latin form insurrection, are words used by historians to label failed revolutions — movements which do not match the expected curve, the consensus-approved trajectory: revolution, reaction, betrayal, the founding of a stronger and even more oppressive State — the turning of the wheel, the return of history again and again to its highest form: jackboot on the face of humanity forever.

By failing to follow this curve, the up-rising suggests the possibility of a movement outside and beyond the Hegelian spiral of that “progress” which is secretly nothing more than a vicious circle. Surgo—rise up, surge. Insurgo—rise up, raise oneself up. A bootstrap operation. A goodbye to that wretched parody of the karmic round, historical revolutionary futility. The slogan “Revolution!” has mutated from tocsin to toxin, a malign pseudo-Gnostic fate-trap, a nightmare where no matter how we struggle we never escape that evil Aeon, that incubus the State, one State after another, every "heaven" ruled by yet one more evil angel.

If History IS “Time,” as it claims to be, then the uprising is a moment that springs up and out of Time, violates the “law” of History. If the State IS History, as it claims to be, then the insurrection is the forbidden moment, an unforgivable denial of the dialectic — shimmying up the pole and out of the smokehole, a shaman's maneuver carried out at an "impossible angle" to the universe. History says the Revolution attains “permanence,” or at least duration, while the uprising is “temporary.” In this sense an uprising is like a “peak experience” as opposed to the standard of “ordinary” consciousness and experience. Like festivals, uprisings cannot happen every day—otherwise they would not be “nonordinary.” But such moments of intensity give shape and meaning to the entirety of a life. The shaman returns—you can't stay up on the roof forever— but things have changed, shifts and integrations have occurred—a difference is made.

I'll see you when the uprising is over.

Update: It turns out that Hakim Bey is a creepy pædophile. Allow that to colour your reading of a his essay in the same way that antisemitism informs T. S. Eliot or slaveholding colours Thomas Jefferson in your mind.

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