Gordan Paunovic on Fri, 25 Feb 2000 07:43:07 +0100 (CET)

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PRIMER - The 4th World Communication Bulletin


By paraphrasing the simply ingenious musical number of Fela Kuti (The Beast
of No Nation), we wanted to indicate the existence of a widespread category
of people, so widespread that it goes pretty much unnoticed - it would take
everyone by surprise if we were to draw attention to the unmistakable
existence of this kind of person and to the fact that even a particular
individual himself belongs to this group which he knows almost nothing
about. We're talking about non-citizens.
Where do we draw the line between citizens and non-citizens?
The definition of the citizen, citizenship and civic consciousness was,
until recently, formulated in the way that legal standards, as written
documents, describe the limits of an individual's social position, his
rights and duties. Unfortunately none of these laws, nor thus the domestic
state policy of granting civil rights, have taken into consideration the
field of obligation and pleasure, which makes life real and possible. In
this grey area of real life, far from the regulations of organised
societies, life has always gone its own way: confusing, full of twists and
turns, unpredictable frustrations and pleasures. From the beginning of the
consumer society, the leisure time of the ordinary citizen has always lived
and thrived in this grey area.
The grey area of leisure time, with its magma of events defined on the
vertical of life's obligations and the horizontal of life's pleasures (or
desires), still gave content and meaning to life in such a set-up. When the
consumer age began, the definition and exploitation of leisure time, as the
time in which an employee becomes a consumer and with the appearance of the
Internet, it became clear that leisure time is actually the only time anyone
in this world spends creatively and fulfillingly. This has had a great
number of social consequences.
The fact that obligation (earning a living) and desire (for pleasure)
determine the individual's movement through the new time-space continuum of
the Internet has led to these two basic lines of force determining our
position in the time and space of society as well. In other words it has
emerged that civic freedom as such is a weighty ballast, a forgotten
standard, like Christian dogma. In a world in which identities may be
changed with the click of a mouse and geographic position, thanks to the
laptop and the mobile phone, has less impact on your life than the speed of
the server through which you work.
What remains is a kind of mass, the media consciousness of people, in which
some fundamental perceptions of human rights and political freedoms have
fallen by the wayside. What remains on the other side of the fence, the
"media non-existence" of millions, is the whole tradition of political
thought as we once knew it, based on the archaic concepts of state and law
and the relation between the state and the individual. The state no longer
regulates the measure of freedom of an individual, nor does the individual
any longer face any conditions of life strictly defined by the state.
The freedom of leisure time, absolutised leisure time transformed into
useful time (and into time on the Internet), unfortunately has an impact on
identity. Although, as a new commodity of life through the Internet you have
the possibility of multiple identity, this leads to nothing less than an
increasingly amorphous personality in an individual already in an amorphous
state. Above all, the individual remains defined, finally and irrevocably,
only as an individual and not as a citizen. He is, now and forever, only a
being possessing biological life (and that, without being conscious of it,
is all he possesses) and he himself can now be described in terms of
"function" and "user of functions", by the precisely determined time and
space of certain events (on the Internet and through user time). The freedom
of leisure time is actually empty, unoccupied space which the individual
attempts to minimise and somehow use for various entertainment and business
content: in the end he actually flees from his own leisure time into
anything else, and with good reason. Only when he gives up the freedom of
his leisure time does he exist in some acknowledged way, through a game, a
chat or some casual task.
Leisure time has thus, finally, changed our perception of the place of an
individual in society by abolishing the very need for an individual to have
a role in the state system, the right that was once called citizenship. The
abolition and the meaninglessness of the state would thus further annul any
kind of civic consciousness and leave media consciousness in its place.
The individual is looking for a frame in which he may again move and finds a
superficial frame, a substitute for society, a substitute for his
self-revealed role as a citizen, voter and taxpayer - a substitute called
the Internet, user name and password. An ersatz identity in which everything
can be and nothing needs to be done. A new social contract in which he gets
less than nothing because he doesn't ask for more.
Thus the state, or what is left of it, has suddenly got rid of the ballast
of the citizens and now can get rid of its own, but does not need to. The
admirers of the state will increasingly begin to see it as personal
property, very much as in the Third World, from Nigeria to Serbia, in which
the local oligarchies which remained after colonisation or communism have
taken over all national treasure. And, as though occupation had suddenly
ended in every country with an organised state, the bureaucratic class will
suddenly have a similar idea - to keep all the privileges of the state,
effectively privatising it. Soon, in this tendency to vulgar privatisation,
elections may be organised to produce private presidents, perhaps in several
classes, as in professional boxing.
It's a fantasy, of course, but would it really surprise anyone?
The Third World is now all around us, even in the former great metropolises,
because the Fourth World, the world of media poverty, has become
omnipresent. Immediately beyond the gates of the White House, where media
attention can't reach, begins a world beyond states and beyond civil and
human rights. And there live the non-citizens. All of us.

Dragan Ambrozic - Belgrade, YU
Primer, 2000

PRIMER - The 4th World Communication Bulletin

"The Fourth World" is the world with no attention of the media, which starts
on the other side of the fence of the White House.
Baudrillard ("America", 1986)

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