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||| media-space! opening speech |||
Peter Lamborn Wilson
Speech at Public Netbase Media-Space! Opening. 28th February, 1997.
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Right now, capital presents itself as a single world, a globe. They talk about global markets. The neoliberal idea is that there is a global market and that money should be free within this system. As far as they are concerned, there is only one world. There is no Second World. That was communism. So, certainly, there is no Third World, because if you donít have a Second, you certainly canít have a Third. It is one world and, in that world, there are areas of inclusion, there are areas of exclusion. There are areas of security, there are areas of depletion, of debt, of sucking away all vitality. The world will be divided on this basis. Instead of two clashing ideologies, there will be simply capital and that which is excluded from capital. Including even perhaps government. This is a very curious business. As an old anarchist myself, it is difficult to make this mental adjustment: that it is no longer government that is the number one problem. In fact, in a strange kind of way, there may even be political possibilities. I donít want to say more about this because it is very fuzzy in my mind. The future is going to be very strange indeed. We are now beginning the 21st century. Most people are so tied to the clock that they havenít realized that yet. They think that the 21st century will begin in 2000 or 2001, but it has already begun and it is really just getting under way. As we go into this new century and into this new situation, we have to ask ourselves, as workers in media, which of these directions are we going to go.
That doesnít mean that if I decide to oppose capital that I necessarily mean that I would physically or politically remove myself entirely from the flow of money. You canít do anything without money. So that is impossible. But it does mean that I would have a strategy. I would have not just have tactical thinking but some kind of overall strategy with a long term goal to oppose the injustice and imposed debt that capital sees as our future. In this case, I think that the Internet will take on a new meaning. We know it is not going to save our souls. We can be pretty sure that we are not going to be replaced by intelligent machines. That would solve a lot of problems, of course. We could all just retire to Florida and enjoy ourselves. But now Iím afraid weíre stuck in the human condition. We could either capitulate and become part of that comfortable world, or we could somehow move into opposition.
Moving into opposition doesnít mean giving up any potential certain strategic advantage. In this sense, all technology represents potential strategic advantage. It is not a question of giving up the Internet. I think it is more about growing up around the idea of the Internet not as a divine answer to our problems, not as a magical system which will help us to achieve freedom simply by existing, but as a tool like a hammer or something even simpler like a stick with a sharpened point, going back to the earliest tools that human beings used. As long as we can see the Internet from this perspective and not expect it to save us and not expect us to save it either, but simply to be aware of it and its possibilities as a tool, then it could become very interesting for those who wish to be in opposition to capital. Of course, it will also continue to be a tool for capital. The situation on the Net will not be clear. It will not be clear which is the good and which is the evil side. Itís not going to be like that. Each situation is going to be different. We have to bring in a strategic awareness so that we can decide in each situation what the correct tactic would be. I look at the next couple of years as a very interesting period of strategic thinking. I myself do not have any easy answers to this question. Iím looking also. But what I wish to do is to pose the question. Iíd like to sharpen the discourse in order to ask the question in a very specific way.
How could we use these new technologies in a strategic overall movement? Yes, I would even use that word: movement. With very specific goals. Empirical goals, not ideological goals. We are not talking about the triumph of an idea. Weíre not talking about the triumph of a political system or a philosophy, be it capitalism, Marxism, or anarchism even. Each situation has its own strategic necessities and each situation will have to be approached in a situational manner to decide what power there might be in that situation. Some people use the word "self-empowerment". That sounds perhaps more New Age, softer than the word "power". But Iím not afraid of the word "power". I think that this is what weíre looking for. Power. Yes, power for ourselves, not power over other people. Not power over money, or power over God or over fate or over anything. Power for ourselves, yes, self-empowerment, but itís still power. In this search, we must make us of whatever weapons or tools lie to hand.
I think I like to say that Iím not an optimist because that would be fatuous and stupid. And Iím not a pessimist because that would be even more fatuous and more stupid. I do like to say that Iím an anti-pessimist. This at least leaves open a few doors. I would like to make a call for an "international non-centered think tank" kind of activity: more conferences, more meetings, more talk on the Net, about strategy and about the basic situation that we find ourselves in. There are people living as if it were still 1989. In America, we have the right wing who no longer have communism to worry about so they are worrying about the U.N. They have just taken all that old communist symbolism and pasted it on the U.N. so that they can worry about that. Or itís the Arabs, or itís drugs, or something. There is an attempt to find an enemy, to find some kind of focus. There is no enemy in that sense. The enemy is simply the unopposed rule of money over human values. No human being represents that. Think about it. If you are a stockbroker or a currency exchange person, you have your computer programmed to make certain decisions. You donít make those decisions anymore because it is all happening too fast. It is all happening before you can even think. No time, no space. You donít have time to think, so you have your computer programmed to buy and sell.
Who is in control? Actually, nobody is in control. There is not even what you would call a ruling class anymore. I read that 432 people in the world control 50% of the money. Of the 500 wealthiest entities in the world, about 250 of them are not governments. They are corporations. Itís a completely different world and it is stupid to act as if it is still 1950. As if the world is split into two opposing camps. This is not the case. It may become the case again. I donít look forward to it myself. I think will be a very, very ugly situation when capital is finally opposed with violence and the anger it deserves. Nevertheless, at the moment, there is no such thing. There is no schizophrenic split in the world.
I would like to see the next year or two devoted to a very intense discussion about that situation. What is the world now? What is the economic situation? What is the political situation in the world? How has it changed radically in the past five six years? To give an example, five or six years ago about 40% of all money in the world was not related to production. It was all related to currency exchange and arbitrage. That figure is now 94.2. 94.2% of the money in the world not only does not exist as cash, but it also bears no relationship whatsoever to production, not even to building computers. Not shoes, not food, nothing. It is just money relating itself to more money. In that system, they say about $2 trillion moves around the world every day. I canít even tell you how many zeros go in to making the figure one trillion. It is just a virtual figure to me, it doesnít mean anything. These are the kind of changes: from 40% to 94.2%. It is one of these curves. If you look at other curvesóeconomic and social curvesóthey probably also follow this kind of trajectory in the last five years. It is very hard to keep up it this. Itís hard to have the facts and it is even harder to have the consciousness.
I think there is very interesting work ahead of us in places like this. A "think tank" is perhaps not the right word. I donít know what the word is, really. That is the kind of thing. We must put our hearts and heads and souls together and work on this because other wise we are going to be left behind. We will live in a world where we donít have any choice to even consider strategic possibilities. Many people already live in that world, the former Third World, perhaps. Zones of exclusion.
That is my anti-pessimistic message. But there is something to do, at least, and that something is very interesting. Whether that will save us or not, I doubt also. But, after all, one must live oneís life some way and not just lie around by the side of the swimming pool wearing mirror shades.
That is how I see the future for Public Netbase and for all the other interesting radical centers or non-centers concerned with communications technologies. I think it should expand beyond just the Internet and should become a study and a critique of all communication and communications theory. That is a very busy work proposition and it will keep us from being bored. I hope.
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