Purple Magazine
— S/S 2016 issue 25


what should be done?



Tragedy always tests our intelligence, our memory, our morale. It throws us into a stupor. It drives us to think, act, and speak, while making the lives of its victims a disaster. What should have been done in the West from 1936 to 1944? Then again, maybe these aren’t even the right dates to start with. What should have been done in the West from the summer of 1914 to the terrible days we now live in? What should we do now? The real,
vertiginous enigma: What could we have done? What can we do?

Three answers, the same three for a century now, each confined to its own sphere, its own logic, its own language.

First, the Individual — you, me, the solitary and isolated person, burdened with so many pointless names: citizen, human being, witness, member of the faceless mass, etc., all the way up to the sublime “the righteous,” the name that redeems us, absolves us from our presence in hell on earth. But what can a righteous person achieve? Next to nothing. Deliverance. He can come to the rescue; he can love, protect, help. He can maintain the trickle of compassion. No more. Next to nothing.

Next we have the Community, the family, the group, the clan, the friends, the association, the network. Even if it organizes friendly meetings, makes declarations, mounts protests, what can it really do? Nothing. Scarcely more than the Individual. Why should it be — why is it — powerless? Because in front of it, and all around it, and at times within it, thrives the innocence of the crime, the sidereal silence of the criminal origins of our societies. For the answer to exist, there would have to be a touch of violence, joyful violence, a dance of revolt. There would have to be joy, and there is only our despair.

But the Great Fixer-Upper exists: the State. The State can do anything. In its hands rests the fate of every person. All of those who are going to die pass under its raised or lowered thumb. Just as in the time of the Nazi occupation; or the massacres in the colonies; or the refugee camps for the Spanish Republicans; or when dogs were unleashed on black Americans; or in the dark days of the Armenians, or the Cambodians after them, or later still the Tutsis murdered before their children or their wives or their parents; or when Stalin and Mao ordered deportations; or when women were burned alive in India; or when homosexuals were stoned here, there, and everywhere — that is to say, just as it did yesterday, in a thousand hellholes, the State wields absolute power. The State can save. The State does not save.
It condemns. It kills.

From now on, for any problem that arises in the world, there will be no solution that is not universal. Yet even as I write this, I am overcome with fresh doubt. Am I truly convinced that a universal solution to any problem whatsoever is even possible? I once dwelled in a world of credulity, encouraged in my naïveté by the greatest philosophers. I lived in that state of mind where every imaginable question seemed to have an eternal answer, where anything could be investigated because the answer was always available. But since childhood, doubts have arisen in me, followed by revulsion for that dialectic and the desire to invent another kingdom. I soon became certain that no problem could be resolved, that impossibility of resolution was in fact the very definition of a problem, and that we must disabuse ourselves of the great dialectical illusion. To cite a single example — purposely spectacular — there is no “solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Of course, there are plenty of (righteous) solutions, thousands of them, but none will ever be applied, and the problem will go from bad to worse. What, then, are we to do? What can we do except think through each (political) problem simply to identify its impossibilities, to map out the zone of non-answers?

The migrant problem will never have a satisfactory solution in the sense so far envisioned: treaties, provisions, accords, compromises, stabilization — i.e., a moving on to the next thing, a march (history’s march) to the next stage.

What can be done? For us individuals, isolated and fretting hopelessly over the prospect of wrong action or inaction, no attitude will ward off despair or keep us from the powerlessness and alarm occasioned by guilt. But whether or not we preserve principles or, most importantly, save lives and the enfeebled, things will always be the same. After all, during our all-too-brief passage through the world, it is our business to wrestle with the question: How to deal with the impossible? How to be one of the righteous?

What can be done? What kind of realistic solution can we come up with — that is, for the community? We can imagine, invent, literally manufacture a senseless disorder, engage in a vast variety of inconsequential and joyful actions, live a counter-life to rile highly abnormal normal life — supply proofs, reworked each minute, that we will play under any circumstances, even under the bombs, that we will desire and create everywhere, even in Calais.

What should be done now? What should be requested of States and of their leaders? And what should be demanded? Demand the impossible! Or in other words, ask for nothing, or next to nothing. Absolutely nothing. And nothing will be enough. At least this will reveal their murderous faces, their murderous tongues, their murderous fantasies.

The State will not save the human species unless it becomes a universal state. Unless it ceases to be a State or an assembly of States and becomes a simple community of individuals. Unless it ceases to formulate answers and becomes a simple, harmonious consensus. Which is righteous, which would be righteous … which will be righteous?

[Table of contents]

S/S 2016 issue 25

Table of contents

purple EDITO

purple NEWS

purple BEST of the SEASON





purple BEAUTY

purple LOVE


purple SEX

purple NIGHT

purple STORY


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