Chapter 23 of Between Two Deaths
What has astonished “thought professionals” as Michael Lagrange calls them, is that a small-time intellectual like Emmanuel Frumm, really nobody in American Academia, quickly meant a lot and for many people, confiscated or not, academics included. My impression after gathering terabytes of data and narrating him inside out — which meant putting myself in his shoes over an extended period of time — is that he succeeded at one point to be heard through a large virtual organization precisely because he came across as modest and uncertain, skeptical about the powers of the intellect and the merits of philosophical systems when it comes to resistance.
Desistence as he understands it is not an intellectual pursuit. “It’s an attitude that envelops what is said and what is not, oneself and one’s relationship to others, by addressing, preserving, calling on what is still human in the presence of one another. Presence is what distinguishes humans.”
It was not his style to break the law and alarm the police by the creation of monsters like AI Josephine. Capitalism was a-moral and profited from the best and the worst in humanity; it created drastic inequalities and ended splitting the specie. It should be harnessed and overcome once and for all because it is “medieval, retarded and a savagery.” Somewhere else: “Post-capitalism and the deification of the fortunate is worse than good old Capitalism. Class struggle evaporated, metamorphosed into all seeing and permissive devices. Trains whose power one accepted when stepping into one.”
According to the Fragments, however — “no Revolution, please!” — this overcoming will not happen through violent overthrow (violence in any form, virtual, digital); it has nothing to do with messing up with rich families’ bank accounts and emptying their life insurance. Whether rich or not, for Emmanuel they each embody priceless existence. “And the alienation, to use an old word still dear to people like Michael, is not out there. It’s in here.”
“The rich man can encounter situations that strip naked his difference and bring him down to experience presence.”
In a recent fragment: “Above all, what the behavior of the souls at the command of machines like our train has shown is their inhumanity, their cruelty and total indifference to human dignity, human needs, social roots, our existence amongst families, ancestries, clans, groups… Places. However, even if we could reach them, hurt them really, we should not act like them. After all, they were humans.”
He is right and he is wrong here. We have treated the confiscated much better than humans have treated animals for centuries, frustrating/rewarding them to study their reactions, emotional and intellectual; but with much less cruelty. Intelligence decided to transport them in a perfect cage, made to serve their every need, demand, dream, whim and sometimes perversion.
Although he enjoys the idea of humiliating the eternal idiots, of messing with their money, their projects (if that can be accomplished by means of hacking, which he doubts), Emmanuel cannot sleep at night, until he withdraws from Desistence.com and turns his attention back to his corner of plush seat, his console, his angle next to the compartment’s panoramic window.
He speaks softly into the mouthpiece: “As I said, quoting William Blake, we have to look for ‘the moment in each day that Satan cannot find.’ To find that pure second was hard enough for Satan, so imagine! We have to insist and may not access it right away. Being, simply witnessing silently that you are, that you belong to an order of being consciously shared with others, that is something not so easy to experience.”
“Ordinarily, we do everything in our power not to be: we tell ourselves stories, we look at the screen, listen to blaring music, press gadgets, take selfies. To simply be is not so simple. It is not an intimate or personal affair, after all. It requires witness … I think therefore I am cannot be done alone, oneself talking to oneself, that’s why René Descartes had to write the thought down and publish it.”
Emmanuel stops recording his voice and looks around the compartment. Michael is busy talking animatedly in his mouthpiece, as though his life depended on it. But as soon as he meets the old man’s gaze, Emmanuel feels the warmth and sympathy of their previous entente, their conniving silence. Why has George Détienne not become a leader of the movement on a level with Michael and himself? The old man does not care about leadership. He’s discontinued his publishing on Desistence.com, disgruntled. Not happy of the turn Desistence was taking. Emmanuel can read all this in the old man’s defiant attitude.
And the same happens when he meets the eyes of the third-year law school student; and that of the adolescent and her smart brother. The same will happen with various slumps and with Jacques when he walks to his car. They all have in their eyes the same question: And so, what now? Have you given up?
Without telling each other anything they acknowledge that they are in the same conundrum as before, though not at a standstill. They are not all that taken by Michael’s relentless and, in the end, dangerous drive against the dead souls. Silence together exposes irreducible shreds of humanity: clothing, patches of exposed skin, behaviors, mien that are not always pleasant to look at; but silence does not bring about cliques, clans, categories in opposition. Silence strips you of all ideologies and cannot of itself trigger conflict and violence. It tends to inner peace and meditation together — the feeling of an acquired independence. Emmanuel thinks, only in small settings, not in large amphitheaters. Although…
No need for a superstructure, for leaders; and hopefully, no businessman can take advantage of active silence when in co-presence away from screens.
You are nobody special but not merely a number or statistics: you are, it’s irresistible. You are someone in particular and that’s enough. You exist anonymously, without attributes, without everything you thought you needed to be you. Have you lost yourself? Your sense of self? Not quite. Nobody else than you can see from your eyes and occupy your shoes. You are the only one on this seat — nobody else is spread on this patch of linoleum. Yet, you have dropped your prerogatives. You are offered to the gaze of strangers, opened to their observation, more exposed than if you were naked. They are not far and could get closer, touch you; and at the same time, they are infinitely distant, each like a busy bee buzzing in their own head; and it’s to manifest this unbridgeable metaphysical chasm that they respect a minimum of physical distance. Whenever possible, you are content to share with them the experience of being, and being does not discriminate. From the point of view of being, of being aware of being, there is no difference between men, women and children, between old and young. Black and white. Rich and poor. Slumped and seated. We are all cut from the same cloth.
Together we testify of our human presence and nothing else. No train can stop us from doing that.