Author Topic: Breaking Point  (Read 5437 times)

Q. G. Pennyworth

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Breaking Point
« on: July 06, 2023, 02:30:10 pm »
There are few things that loom larger in our cultural consciousness than the idea of a breaking point: that someday it will all just be Too Much and something will SNAP and suddenly it will be RADICALLY DIFFERENT than the day before. There will be riots, there will be fires, there will be government officials dragged out of their offices, there will be something Shiny and New and we will celebrate and topple statues and cheer. America, especially, dreams of breaking points.

When I was a kid the term we used was “going postal,” as the most well known office shooting at the time was located in a post office. This was before Columbine, before schools were *the* destination for seemingly spontaneous mass murders. At the security company where I work now, there are calls every few months from companies that have let someone go and want someone to keep an eye out for them coming back armed.

You don’t often find people connecting these threads.

Accelerationism is a political philosophy that espouses the idea that things are bad, but not yet bad enough for people to act towards necessary change. The idea that society is hesitating at the cliff’s edge and just needs a little push before it tries to flap its little wings. Maybe, if we just make conditions intolerable *enough* it will be enough for change.

There’s math people don’t know that they’re doing in their head all the time. It’s economic theory kind of math, but it doesn’t have much to do with money. The question being posed is always the same: is Doing Something worse than Doing Nothing?

There are, as you might expect, lots of moving parts here. What is the benefit of doing the thing? Is there a future on the other end that seems possible, and better than current conditions? How much does it cost? In lives, in money, in time and effort? What are the chances we will succeed? What are the costs of failure? And how bad, really, how bad is it now?

Accellerationists try to move the needle by making “how bad is it now” even worse. If you’re just doing math, it makes a kind of sense. If you don’t like the idea of people dying because of something you did, it’s kinda less appealing.

There are trolley car arguments, of course. There are always trolley car arguments. The real villains are the ones who tied all these people up on the tracks in the first place, the ones who deregulated the trolley construction which led to the failing breaks. We’ve all heard it. I’m not going to try to convince you one way or the other on this.

What I do want you to chew on is the idea of that breaking point. That moment where conditions are so intolerable that literally any action is better than doing nothing and continuing as you are. That’s the core conceit, isn’t it? If we just get enough people there, revolution will spontaneously arise.

Now, back to the second point. Do you see where we’re going here? We have an abundance of people who are already at the point where conditions are so personally intolerable that they are willing to end their lives ending the lives of others for no more reward than simply not dragging themselves through another day like this. Add to that number the “deaths of despair,” the people who are numbing themselves by any means necessary to get away from the conditions they cannot tolerate. How big of an army do you really think you need to run the guillotines?

And there’s the thing: they’re not an army. Even the ones who think that their death is going to be The Spark that convinces everyone to finally get off the couch and start organizing, they’re just dead bodies.

We consume a lot of revolutionary media. In that media there are really only two common paths from Intolerable Conditions to Outright Revolution: a charismatic lone individual inspires others to spontaneously rise up with no prior organization or coordination, and a charismatic lone individual is exploited by an existing organization to swell their ranks to a functional number. When that’s all people see, it’s no wonder that they think of revolution as something they can do on their own, or at least start doing on their own, but the evidence is right in front of our faces: if you act alone, you will not have any meaningful impact. The Machine is designed to absorb aberrant individuals.

Acquiring accomplices is hard. It’s probably the hardest part of getting anything done. Building trust is not easy in a society that raised us on Stranger Danger, building community is hard in tract housing and car-centered design, every ounce of effort put into organizing is effort not being spent on the tasks of keeping yourself alive in a world that is ever more expensive just to breathe in.

But if you are pushing people, or yourself, to the breaking point, without laying down the groundwork? That’s not the Revolution. That’s just getting people miserable and dead. Stop doing The Machine’s work for it.

Scribbly

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Re: Breaking Point
« Reply #1 on: July 06, 2023, 03:25:18 pm »
There's a speech I've always loved which I feel has been a bit misused around this idea.

Quote from: Mario Savio
    We were told the following: If President Kerr actually tried to get something more liberal out of the regents in his telephone conversation, why didn't he make some public statement to that effect? And the answer we received, from a well-meaning liberal, was the following: He said, 'Would you ever imagine the manager of a firm making a statement publicly in opposition to his board of directors?' That's the answer!

    Well, I ask you to consider: If this is a firm, and if the board of regents are the board of directors; and if President Kerr in fact is the manager; then I'll tell you something. The faculty are a bunch of employees, and we're the raw material! But we're a bunch of raw materials that don't mean to be—have any process upon us. Don't mean to be made into any product. Don't mean ... Don't mean to end up being bought by some clients of the University, be they the government, be they industry, be they organized labor, be they anyone! We're human beings!

    There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part! You can't even passively take part! And you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels ... upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop! And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you're free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!

I've heard a lot of folks centre the 'you' in this, ignoring the fact that Mario was clearly talking about collective action.

Yes, he's saying that 'you' need to do it, but the key here is that he was talking in a context of massive protests.

It was the threat of collective action that made him a menace. He was an organiser. He spoke a good game but he backed it up with his community. And that's why the FBI surveilled him for more than a decade. That's why they worked against him.

Mario centred the human in his activism. He contrasted who we are against the systems we are forced to operate in. He wanted more humanity, and he knew that the only way to disrupt The Machine was by encouraging that humanity in others; seeing it, fostering it, and refusing to be 'processed' by The Machine. Forcing it to recognise and acknowledge us as humans. Not raw materials.

And breaking it if it can't do that.

It's a romantic vision. He obviously didn't succeed. But he tried, and he did good, and whilst there will always be a price paid in blood to rebalance power in the world... there's no reason to make it any greater than it has to be. If you forget that, you're not seeing your fellow people as people any more.

You're seeing them as materials to be processed for the product of 'revolution'.
I had an existential crisis and all I got was this stupid gender.

altered

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Re: Breaking Point
« Reply #2 on: July 06, 2023, 07:09:56 pm »
Brief sidenote, Scribbly! You have just answered something I've been trying to find the answer to for ages: who The Paper Chase was sampling on When (And If) The Big One Hits... I'll Just Meet You There. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ys7IV126T4A John Congleton is so fucking cool.

But on-topic: this is an IMPORTANT piece of writing you've got here, QGP. The way it gets out ahead of all the directions your brain could shoot off in and kindly guides you back onto the path is brilliant.
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QuestionsTheSoil

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Re: Breaking Point
« Reply #3 on: August 30, 2023, 04:56:05 am »
Often, people are unable to "snap", unable to break.
And when we don't break, we bend. We get bent out of shape, into something sadder, something worse.
The machine is good at "bending" any and all hope out of the products inside of it.
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