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yates on Tue, 18 Mar 2003 09:03:02 +0100 (CET)


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<nettime> [F15]


Hi,
     
attched you will find a text i wrote about the Feb 15th demos. Its a little
anachronistic, perhaps, but i hope some of its insights remain relevant.
     
Yates Mckee

[[*this text was composed in early March. While in some respects 
anachronistic, I hope it will in some ways remain relevant as the global 
anti-war movement continues to grow.]]


Cosmopolitics on What Grounds? Notes on February 15th and the (Un)securing 
of the World Picture
(draft)

By Yates Mckee


Allowing [the protests] to influence me would be like saying I'm going to 
decide policy based upon a focus group. The role of a leader is to decide 
policy based upon the security of the people.
	--George W. Bush

Who is the global people? It seems impossible today to grasp the people as a 
political subject and moreover to represent it institutionally.
	--Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri

On the occasion of last month's momentous demonstrations against the Bush 
administration's plans for a preemptive war on Iraq, I would like to pose an 
admittedly abstract inquiry concerning the uncertain effects of a particular 
form of abstraction that we have just witnessed in action: the invocation of 
"the world" as a universal location whose integrity is made to appear 
increasingly endangered—not directly by the menace of Islamisist terror, but 
by the very agent that for the past decade has with relative success made 
its own particular interests stand in for the prosperity and security of 
humanity as a whole. In speculating on the possible meanings of this 
metonymic crisis (i.e. the aggravation of the gap between the specific 
geopolitical ambitions of the Bush administration and the global will it 
claims to embody) one point of departure is to consider the figure of "the 
world" itself, which was ubiquitous in the recent mobilizations, 
particularly in the visual rhetoric of United for Peace, the primary 
coordinator of anti-war activity in the United States. Conducting an 
analysis of this seemingly straightforward figure can hopefully help to 
illuminate some of the openings and risks to which we are exposed in 
thinking and feeling cosmopolitically—that is, when "the security of the 
people" becomes a question rather than an essential foundation.  Such an 
analysis might also be useful in approaching the hinge between hegemony and 
the aesthetic, the point where political community emerges as passionate, 
embodied identification rather than hollow exhortation. Needless to say, 
this hinge has been skillfully managed by the Bush administration since 
September 11th. It remains to be seen if progressive forces—including 
artists and critics—will sustain an equally adroit attention to the 
affective preconditions for the emergence of a cosmopolitical solidarity 
that might displace the horizon of infinite war and permanent emergency 
currently offered by the administration at home and abroad.

What does it mean to represent "the world"? For Martin Hiedegger, this 
question was not reducible to a simple epistemology of subject and object, 
of the potential or actual correspondence of thought to external reality. 
Rather than assume the stable preexistence of these positions, Hiedegger 
sought after the conditions of their emergence in early modern philosophy, 
identifying an original violence in what he called "the fundamental event of 
the modern age…the conquest of the world as picture." What concerned 
Hiedegger was not just the picturing of things in the world, but the 
production of the world itself as a "structured image" set out in front of 
"man," who now assumed the transcendental position of "a being who gives the 
measure and draws up the guidelines for everything that is." This setting up 
of the world as picture provides the subject with an apparently secure 
ground "for the purpose of gaining mastery over that which is  a whole," 
setting into motion "an unlimited power for the calculating, planning and 
molding of all things."


Although Hiedegger's analysis sought primarily to open a key figure in 
western philosophy to question—the omnipotence and security of the knowing 
subject—his terms uncannily resonate as a description of the imperial 
designs of the Bush administration and the absolutization of U.S. 
sovereignty they explicitly foreground and project. As has been widely 
noted, the September 11th attacks generated a remarkable opening in the 
ideological horizons of U.S. geopolitical planning. Since the attacks, the 
administration has claimed for its policies a specifically theological 
legitimacy, identifying its historical task as the determination and 
protection of a universal moral substance. Any and all political decisions 
will thus be derived from the foundational moral goal first announced on 
September 14th, 2001 (and then a year later in the National Security 
Strategy): "to rid the world of evil." Not just any empirical evil, but evil 
itself. The guarantee of global right is a transcendental legal task, which 
must appeal to a higher power than the contingent legalities of the world. 
The world itself is at stake, and its normal, normative orders (such as the 
Charter of the United Nations) cannot be counted on for Order itself. 
Someone must stand above and outside the law to enforce true legality and 
preserve the moral substance of the community. To paraphrase Carl Schmitt, 
what emerges is a state of exception in which the validity of the law is 
suspended by a State that is itself exceptional. This is the logic of 
sovereign superpower evident in the National Security Strategy document, 
where we read that despite the global imperative of moral cleansing, the 
United States "will not hesitate to act alone" in the War on Terror. This 
principle of unfettered unilateral action informs the new doctrine of 
preemptive attack, from which conventional forms of international 
obligation, accountability, and judgment (i.e. those concerning the 
legitimate grounds for the deployment of force) have been demoted, if not 
expunged altogether. The projection of force is now defined as 
"anticipatory" rather than "reactive," authorizing individual states to 
determine in advance, "before they are fully formed," who or what embodies 
mortal danger to their security, and to eliminate these threats by any means 
necessary (including the use of nuclear weapons). Like Hiedegger's 
world-picturing subject, the time and space of U.S. sovereignty is without 
limit: permanent military superiority into the future (in anticipation of 
any and all possible challenges, defined apriori as threats and therefore 
always already being eliminated) and total geographical extension (over any 
and all places from which such a threat might emerge). Structuring and 
partially transcending the specificity of the Iraq invasion, it is this 
paradigm of sovereign power, ostentatiously foregrounded by the 
administration, that now provokes the "the world" to emerge as what Ernesto 
Laclau would call an "empty signifier" in the battle for cosmopolitical 
hegemony.  As we shall see, this precarious emptiness is not an unfortunate 
accident that we could simply rectify by filling it in with the proper 
contents. It is precisely because "the world" as such has no proper contents 
that hegemonic struggle becomes possible and necessary at all.


I would like to focus on what was undoubtedly the most prominent protest 
graphic displayed at last weekend's demonstrations in New York City: an 
image of the planet as seen from outer space, accompanied by the declaration 
(which also appeared at the main stage of the rally) "The World Says No to 
War!" In light of our earlier discussion, a disturbing question immediately 
presents itself: does not this figure epitomize the imperial 
subject-position interrogated by Hiedegger? For it seems to appeal to a 
disembodied point of view securely outside and above the world, a stable 
place from which everything in its entirety can be laid out as a predictable 
unity for an omnipotent gaze. Should we assume the irrevocable complicity of 
this figure with the taking-possession and obliteration of otherness typical 
of Western metaphysics? While we must be attentive to this dangerous 
possibility, it would be equally dangerous to foreclose in advance that this 
figure might have a life beyond its original iterations, that it might be 
capable of generating unforeseen claims and effects beyond its prior 
contexts and intended meanings. In other words, in approaching this 
world-picture at our current conjuncture, we must resist the temptation of 
replicating the world-picturing impulse itself: the claiming for the subject 
the power to anticipate and adjudicate any and every event, thus destroying 
eventfulness in favor of self-centered calculation. This is not a pedantic 
point: following Rosalyn Deutsche, I submit that the unsecuring of the 
grounds on which the "I" erects itself as sovereign is the unconditional 
ethical demand of any future cosmopolitics worthy of the name.  Needless to 
say, this unsecuring has special implications—and responsibilities—for 
citizens of the United States at our current geopolitical conjuncture.


The image of the earth as seen from outer space was first popularized as a 
rallying symbol in the liberal environmentalist discourse of the 1970's, 
where it was intended to evoke the transborder and immediately global 
character of ecological crises such as ozone depletion. In their overflowing 
of artificial geopolitical boundaries, such crises were taken to necessitate 
the recognition of planetary "interconnectedness" and the establishment of a 
popular allegiance to the preservation of bio-physical existence itself. 
With the earth envisioned as what the UN's Our Common Future report called a 
"fragile ball" whose bare survival hung in the balance, such discourses 
appealed to a generically "human" community before and beyond any specific 
social positioning in the world. Because it was undertaken in the name of 
the universal biological community, the task of evaluating and securing 
global life could thus appear as a matter of impartial expertise, unfettered 
by the narrowly political interests typical of local and national scales of 
coexistence. While this is not the place to delve in to the unhappy legacy 
of "sustainable development" that erected itself on these biophysical 
foundations, the relevant point is this: the setting up of the world as 
picture for a "we" assumed to share an underlying substance (in this case 
biological existence) and common ground (the impartial distance afforded 
from outer space) results in the obliteration of politics, or at least the 
demotion of the latter to a subsidiary feature of social existence. The 
pretension "to see everything from nowhere" defines politics as the stuff of 
profane embodiment, expunging it by definition from the sacred transcendence 
which is alone taken to guarantee an authentically global allegiance.


With this prehistory of world-visualization in mind, what can the "World 
Says No To War!" poster tell us about the relationship between abstraction 
and embodiment being negotiated in last weekend's demonstrations? What were 
the grounds on which bodies erected themselves in the street, "taking a 
stand" against war? Where exactly were they standing? And what (or who) were 
they standing (in) for? The impossibility of answering these topological 
questions in absolute fashion is highlighted by the tropological structure 
of the poster; that is, the figure of speech it sets into motion. Not 
coincidentally, this figure of speech figures a figure speaking: the world. 
But properly speaking, can the world be said to speak? Does the round blue 
object pictured on the poster have a voice as its property, which it is then 
capable of expressing? If the world can speak, why doesn't it just say what 
it means? Why the imperative to declare that it speaks rather than just let 
it speak for itself?


Intuitively, we know that the world understood as physical planetary entity 
does not share with humans the capacity to speak. It is a dumb thing. 
Recognizing this, it could be argued that it is of course not brute physical 
matter that speaks, but the human communities that inhabit it and whose 
aggregated desires and interests constitute "the world." Yet if we know that 
what is really speaking is living, breathing world-humanity, why resort to 
an inhuman and inanimate object such as the planet to make this known? By 
having a voice attributed to it, the planet is anthropomorphized, made 
through an act of metaphorical displacement into a speaking being. But who 
or what is the agent of this attribution? Where is its animating source? 
Behind and before this representative figure, is their a unified authorial 
will making its presence felt—the world, perhaps? Or might it be the case 
that rather than express or report on a preexisting condition, the 
image-statement makes something happen, retroactively positing the very 
foundations on which its claims to global authority rest? This is not to 
endow the declaration with supernatural powers, as if it actually generated 
the material existence of the world's body (or the multitude of bodies 
dwelling therein).


But it is to suggest that precisely because the material body of the world 
has always already gone missing, only ever appearing through "abstract" 
substitutions—such as the image of the planet, or even the name "world" 
itself—that it is opened as a terrain in the battle for hegemony. This would 
mean that the detour taken by the poster through a literary or "aesthetic" 
moment—its reliance on an improper figure of speech in which the oppositions 
between human and the inhuman, subject and object, self and other are put 
into question—is not just a rhetorical flair, but essential to the emergent 
movement as a whole. Now, putting into question these oppositions should be 
distinguished from harmoniously resolving them—which is the role given to 
the "poetic imagination" by prominent liberal theorists of cosmopolitanism 
such as Martha Naussbaum. For her, "compelling art" always exhibits 
"recognition of the common in the strange and the strange in the common" 
that forms the basis for thinking, feeling, and acting in a global sphere 
beyond that of local and national self-interest. Art thus figures 
prominently in Naussbaum's post-September 11th injunction that Americans 
"find devices through which to extend our strong emotions and our ability to 
imagine the situation of others to the world of human life as a whole."  
Should the poster—or the demonstrations themselves, for that matter—be 
considered along the lines of Naussbaum's imagination-extending "devices"? 
If so, the image and the actions it helped to compel could be considered as 
global self-portraits, visual reflections of something about ourselves that 
would have otherwise remain hidden or repressed by the blinders of 
partisanship: our basic humanity, the ultimate criteria for organizing 
social life.


In a recent Nation editorial entitled "The Will of the World," Jonathan 
Schell invokes precisely this metaphor of self-portraiture in his rousing 
description of the February 15th demonstrations: "We—that is, we the peoples 
of the earth—have examined the case for war in Iraq and rejected it. We have 
stepped forward onto the streets of our cities and looked at ourselves, and 
liked what we saw. We know our will. Now we must act. We can stop the war."  
Schell's invocation of this auto-spectacular, auto-erotic imagery (to which 
we will return below) suggests his attribution to the demonstrations of a 
general politico-philosophical meaning that structures but partially 
transcends the specific rejection of unilateral war plans of the United 
States government. Indeed, he identifies nothing less than a breakthrough in 
the history and horizons of democratization itself, evidenced by what he 
interprets as the global-popular desire for the reempowerment of the United 
Nations in the face of its strong-arming or even abandonment by the Bush 
administration. In Schell's words, "Not only has the human species made its 
will known; it also possesses an institution for effectuating that will: the 
United Nations." While Schell concedes that the UN is not an elected body, 
and remains for now an imperfect representational vehicle, he nonetheless 
maintains that the street-demonstrations were addressed not to national 
administrations of the world, but to their representatives in the global 
forum of the UN, who now have "the wind of public opinion at their backs." 
What he calls "the instant global agora" of the street demonstrations is 
nothing other than an ideal form of what the UN could and should be, a 
General Assembly writ large, whose "reason for existing" is "peace."
It is not cynical to observe that Schell's editorial endeavor is an act of 
hegemonization, or "filling in" of the empty signifier "world" with the 
particular contents of actually existing international law, whose integrity 
is without a doubt endangered by the Bush Administration. Such a filling-in 
is obviously not a bad thing; it speaks to the urgent need of positing the 
bare principle of horizontal cross-border cooperation itself over and 
against the self-exceptionalization of U.S. sovereignty and the 
extra-legalization of war-making this entails. Operating at this level of 
impossible generality is probably necessary at this point in the current 
crisis; not unlike the mass mobilizations in the 1980's against nuclear 
proliferation (in which the image of the earth as seen from space also 
figured prominently—as did Jonathan Schell), the risk of massive and 
borderless physical destruction is understood to loom on the horizon, a risk 
from which the United States can longer consider itself immune. In such 
circumstances, it may well be that only an appeal to the quasi-biological 
survival of "the human species" (and its alleged embodiment in the familiar 
mechanisms of the UN) will be capable of capturing the affective allegiance 
of a majority large enough to create a genuine state of hegemonic crisis for 
U.S. geopolitical planners.


The undisguised particularism with which the Bush administration has opened 
the horizon of world war risks making itself into the global enemy, as the 
maker of "war on the world." But in negatively identifying with a world that 
rejects war on itself, should we assume in advance the positive contents of 
that self? Is "the world" a proper name, inherently belonging to an actually 
existing subject with predetermined (or determinable) interests? Despite his 
laudable role as a public intellectual in the battle for anti-war hegemony, 
Schell answers in the affirmative, hypostasizing "the will of the world" in 
the figure of an ideal UN, attributing to both an existentially foundational 
desire for "peace." On one level, "peace" is a difficult principle to argue 
with, particularly when threatened with the enshrinement of unilateral 
preemptive war as the privileged solution to any and all conflict. But the 
advocacy of "peaceful solutions" as an empirical alternative to particular 
campaigns of unwarranted military aggression should not be allowed to slip 
into a covert valorization of "peace" as the transcendental essence of 
social life, even if it is posited as a utopian horizon rather than an 
actual achievement. To interrogate "peace" as a generic principle is not to 
resort to the doctrine of political Realism, which, following Hobbes, posits 
a brutal "war of all against all" as the natural and defining attribute of 
humanity. In fact, it is precisely such a doctrine that underlies the 
geopolitical planning of the Bush administration, for whom the world appears 
as little more than a collection of egoistic atoms whose ruthless drive for 
self-preservation risks precipitating absolute chaos, necessitating the 
erection of a new imperial Leviathan, whose exceptional, lawless sovereignty 
we have already discussed.


Against the twin images of world-as-war and world-as-peace, what if the very 
principle of possessing the world as a perfect image were put into question? 
Not because its vast complexity or infinite texture simply exceeds our 
limited cognitive powers—this is no time for a vulgarized Sublime—but 
because the absolute, uncontaminated grounds from which such an image might 
be glimpsed—the view from outer space—is itself a chimera. The disembodied 
"I" is always weighed down by traces of the terrain over which it claims to 
soar. Without an impartial ground to which we might climb to get a 
clearheaded, birds-eye view of everything in its entirety, political action 
is unsecured. Not because we are cast into a sea of relativistic 
particularism, where each of us would possess our own autonomy to do (or 
see) our own thing. On the contrary; being immersed in the world with others 
(and in language) means that  "our autonomy" and "our things" are never 
simply "our own." And this is not a peaceful condition. In fact, it is 
downright violent, provided we understand violence as referring not only to 
concrete acts of brutality, but to a more general condition in which things 
(and people) are interrupted from being fully themselves, putting their 
proper self-possession into crisis. This violent crisis is not spared on the 
events of February 15th, where according to Schell, the world grasped itself 
as a flattering self-portrait:  "We have stepped forward into the streets of 
our cities…and looked at ourselves, and liked what we saw."


In reading these lines about the pleasing auto-spectacularization of the 
world, of the world making peace with itself in the process of 
self-externalization in the street and on the screen,  I am reminded of the 
my "own" experience on February 15th as I stood a mile back from the main 
stage, watching a real-time video feed of the event on a colossal monitor 
erected by the organizers. Intermittently, as the various speakers gave 
their speeches, the cameras delivering their messages from the stage would 
be turned back on the crowd, delivering it to itself in a remarkable drama 
of self –recognition, a kind of macro- mirror stage which effected in the 
crowd precisely the "jubilance" described by Lacan. This was perhaps most 
intense at the moment when an organizer took the stage to read an AP report: 
an unidentified diplomat inside the UN was quoted as saying that American 
and British negotiators, in acknowledgement of the overwhelming 
mobilizations taking place at that very moment, had decided to "reword" 
their proposed resolution, minimizing for the time being the word "force." I 
have since been unable to find a copy of this report--no mention was made of 
it in either the mainstream or left-wing coverage of the protests 
(understandably, for micro-jargonistic reengineering cannot be mistaken as 
indicating a fundamental doctrinal shift.) Nevertheless, this remains for me 
a kind of fleeting, hallucinatory figure of what Schell calls the 
"effectuation" of the global-popular will, an actual index of "the instant 
global agora." But the circular actuality of this instant—the real-time 
apprehension by the public of the traces of its own activity—was literally 
short-circuited: moments after the announcement was read and the crowd was 
shown to itself cheering in delight, the delivery system suffered a 
technical difficulty, interrupting the transmission of the image and leaving 
the enormous specular surfaces filled with nothing but empty static.


How are we to read this static? And what of its emptiness? Was this 
interruption a mere accident, temporarily dispossessing the world-public of 
what rightly belonged to it—the fullness of its own image? Or might this 
bizarre coincidence reveal something more general about the relationship 
between possession and publicity (on whatever scale)?
Perhaps unwittingly, the unsecuring of this relationship is registered in 
Schell's editorial, where he directs us to one of the ubiquitous hand-made 
signs on display at the New York demonstrations: "MY PLANET, RIGHT OR 
WRONG." Schell does not offer any interpretive commentary, presumably 
because he takes it as an exemplification of the spontaneous, global-popular 
common sense he has already identified. From this perspective, the sign 
would be read as an affirmative appeal to a higher law of planetary 
responsibility, beyond the parochial moral geography of patriotism. Refusing 
attempts to pathologize anti-war sentiment as complicit with a virulent (and 
potentially terroristic) anti-Americanism, the statement insists on the 
unconditional allegiance of local bodies to a global arena, with the latter 
being the ultimate ground and source of decision-making. Yet while the sign 
in one way affirms a relationship of belonging—the subject's belonging to 
the world before and beyond anything else—it might also be read against the 
grain, that is, as a calling into question of the belonging of the world to 
the subject. In other words, we can approach this undecideable statement as 
a meditation on the (in)justice of claiming for oneself the world as a 
possession. It would thus ask after the ethical rightness or wrongness of 
approaching everything on one's own terms, as if the world were "rightfully 
ones own." Reread as a question, the sign makes an unsettling address not 
only to the openly imperial designs of the Bush Administration but to 
demonstrators as well, particularly those in the global North. The sign 
might thus be read as an approximation of Emmanuel Levinas' assertion that 
"the presence of the other is equivalent to this calling into question of my 
joyous possession of the world," an event that interrupts the "synoptic and 
totalizing…virtues of vision"  and the secure position such vision 
(precariously) lends to the "I" or the "We."


In reading the static of the monitor and the undecideable claim of Schell's 
protest sign, what do we accomplish? What do these micro-allegories of the 
world-picture and its unsecuring mean for us politically? Do they not 
distract us from the urgency of the task at hand? Or is it precisely because 
we can taken for granted neither the task, the hand, nor the subject of 
which the hand might be the extension that we must question, rather than 
affirm the new figure of the world-people offered us by intellectuals such a 
Schell? Not in order to cynically negate the importance of the remarkable 
and salutary eventfulness of February 15th (nor the usefulness of Schell's 
editorial). Why then? In order to keep open the gap between the empty 
universality of the world-people and the particular bodies that attempt to 
stand in for it. Which means not that utopian emptiness should be celebrated 
in and of itself, but that no particular agent can claim for itself absolute 
coincidence with an underlying ontological substance—especially pacifist 
appeals to an essential humanity beyond violence and power. This is not to 
repudiate the necessity of robust political identifications; in fact, an 
emphasis on this insurmountable gap is what keeps alive the possibility of 
rendering more subtle—and radicalized—the cosmopolitical horizons that have 
been opened by the recent mobilizations. As we have seen, progressive 
liberals such as Schell project the rational consensus of an ideal UN as the 
end all and be all of what the global people might look like. And at one 
level, a relegitimized UN would be a great improvement on the current 
campaign to utterly unconstrain the exercise of US sovereignty. But at 
another level, current appeals to the generic legitimacy of the UN risk 
confirming and extending the notion that what is primarily amiss in the 
current crisis is the violation by the US of the preconstituted normative 
standards of "the international community" of capitalist states. Even as 
"the world" must demand the renormalization of the United States vis-à-vis 
its actually existing obligations, the normality of these norms should not 
be uncritically taken for granted. It reiterating them in the interest of 
restraining the Bush administration, they must also be opened to alteration, 
so as not to uphold a preexisting status quo as the end all and be all of 
our cosmopolitical aspirations.


To insist on this alteration-in-reiteration is to suggest the inexahausted 
(and perhaps inexhaustible) potentiality of "the world." It is to operate 
within the quasi-utopian horizons declared by the counter-globalization 
movement (and now, certain strands of the anti-war movement): it is to 
affirm that "Another World Is Possible." Without moralistically abandoning 
the necessity of pragmatic calculation within the constraints of the given 
geopolitical conjuncture (such as what, if anything the left will advocate 
as a viable reconstruction plan for Iraq in the aftermath of what appears to 
be an inevitable war), it will be crucial to insist on the alterity  of 
"another world"; neither a preconceived plan to be mechanically applied nor 
a voluntarist longing for a humanity peacefully reconciled with itself 
(epitomized by Pete Seeger's rendition of "Somewhere over the Rainbow" at 
the February 15th demonstrations in New York), this declaration might be 
read through the lens of Slavoj Zizek's remark that "Today…it is more 
important than ever to hold this utopian place of the global alternative 
open, even if it remains empty, living on borrowed time, awaiting the 
content to fill it in."  As we have seen, one major contender for this 
hegemonic filling is a liberal-multilateralist appeal to a relegitimized UN. 
But while we must inhabit this discursive terrain, the possibility of 
reconfiguring and exceeding it should not be foreclosed. For along with 
putting at risk basic principles of multilateral cooperation and security in 
the global arena, the imperial designs of the Bush Administration also 
involve the imposition of a permanent state of exception in the domestic 
arena. Under the new Department of Homeland Security, the extra-legalization 
of law enforcement becomes a normalized affair, particularly for non-citizen 
residents whose already precarious civil rights are now in a state of 
virtual and in many cases actual suspension (which amounts to the same 
thing.)


Recognizing this common structure of sovereign exception at home and abroad 
is the basis for the Not In Our Name (NION) project, a counter-publicity 
campaign initiated by artists, academics, activists and celebrities in the 
United States since September 11th Formulated in response to Bush's 
Manichean mapping of social space—"you're either with us or against us"—NION 
conceives its task as effecting a disidentification on the part of American 
citizens from the horizons of the War on Terror, in which unilateral foreign 
policy and politically unaccountable police-state measures are chained 
together as the guarantors of the "security of the people." Along with the 
"statement of conscience" published in major newspapers over the past two 
years, NION has energetically advocated its "Million Globes Campaign" to 
"display the earth" in place of the American flag, which, as they observe, 
became the exclusive site of collective identification in the wake of the 
September 11th attacks.  The proliferation of the flag played a crucial role 
in setting the affective and psychic preconditions for legitimizing any and 
all policies of the Bush administration as the normal course of national 
grief and national security. As the "Million Globes" statement remarks, the 
flag became the symbolic equivalent of the "blank check" given to the 
executive branch by Congress to prosecute a "war without end," spatially, 
temporally, and purposefully. This latter phrase implies not that 
geopolitical planners have no purpose, but that beyond any identifiably 
finite goals, the War on Terror is designed to be unwinnable, for it assumes 
as normal the conditions that generate terrorism (and also, therefore the 
limitless measures of offensive security invoked to manage it).


For NION, the signifier of the globe is posited as both the target of and 
resistance to the doctrine of "war without end." Erecting this specific 
frontier enables the globe to become a general equivalent for a range of 
particular elements that would otherwise be effaced by a generic 
condemnation of "war" and appeal to "peace." Contextualized with the 
statement "War Without End? Not in Our Name" the signifier of the globe 
functions to articulate a) resistance to the specific plans for war against 
Iraq b) repudiation of the broad doctrinal principles of US empire c) 
"refuge and solidarity" for non-citizens excluded from (and endangered by) 
appeals to patriotic nationalism  d)the defense of the civil liberties of 
citizens and non-citizens against a hyperempowered Justice Department. While 
each element of this program is amenable to strategy-based calculation, when 
linked together via the articulatory mechanism of the globe, they endeavor 
to effect a shift in the horizons of democratic representation which is 
irreducible to the satisfaction of any one of the particular demands in the 
chain. For it unsecures the identity of "the people" on which the Bush 
administration claims to ground its authority. It insists on the gap between 
the name "people" uttered by the president and the narrow interests he 
actually seeks to extend. In foregrounding this gap, we might assume the 
assertion to be that "our" name has been wrongfully hijacked, expropriated 
for a deviant purpose, applied to something that does not correspond to what 
we in fact are. The task then, would be to reclaim for ourselves what 
rightfully belongs to us: our proper name. With name and subject finally 
reunited, the grounds for community would be secure. Without gap, 
distortion, or mediation, "the people" would transparently be what it is—and 
act accordingly. But--to echo an analysis offered above--what if there is 
always something improper about our names, our things, and ourselves? What 
if, as Claude Lefort has suggested about "public space," the names "people" 
and "world" belonged, by right, to no one?  This would mean that reclaiming 
them from them from Bush would be an open-ended discursive construction, not 
a proper restoration. It would mean not taking for granted to who or what 
these names correspond, thus introducing a healthy uncertainty into our 
impossible, yet necessary claims to cosmopolitical community.


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