Monday, November 23, 2009

Allegiance of the Drones: WTO Libretto


[Characters: He, She, Canetti, chorus of union and police
and protesters.  11/30/2009 and flashback
of 11/30/1999. 

Opening Scene: Spotlight on a long table with three oversize
microphone/props and water glasses.  It’s
like a roomy war court tribunal. Three chairs – one for Canetti who sits
mid-table facing the audience.  He &
She will sit at opposite ends of the table.
He and She may be marked by some sort of distinctive apparel – very
similar to each other, eg., blue-jackets (windbreakers) that define them or
some funny hat.  Canetti perhaps in black
jacket to suggest a soft allegiance to anarchists.]

Chorus: (singing in wings)

Ten livelong years have rolled away,
Since the twin towers bayed away,
By Market endowed with pride of place
The doughty chiefs of the Capitalist race
Went forth of yore,
To plead with the police, face to face,
Before the judgment-seat of War!

[He and she enter stage right/left and embrace – showing
tenderness.  Towards the end of following
chorus, before Canetti starts – they sit on opposite chairs at long table.]

Chorus: (singing in wings):

Truce to this bootless waiting here without! 
To see the beacon fires arise
And then beneath some thwarting word
Sicken anon with hope deferred
 (a crowd slowly

The most important occurrence within the crowd is the discharge.  Before this the crowd does not actually exist; it is the discharge, which creates it.  This is the moment when all who belong to the crowd get rid of their differences and feel equal.  … Only together can people free themselves from their burdens of distance; and this, precisely, is what happens in a crowd... In density, where there is scarcely any space between, and body presses against body, each person is as near the other as he is to himself; and an immense feeling of relief ensues.  It is for the sake of this blessed moment, when no one is greater or better than another, that people become a crowd.

Chorus /Union song:
(the crowd gathered, singing, still growing; She is present
in this group, and rises to sing the first stanza alone – somewhat softly, as
if to herself—the 2nd and 3rd stanzas sung by 2 or more,
growing in number; final stanza a crowd sings – maybe pointing at audience –
freezing when they finish)

I'm going down to join the union
I'm going to join it for myself
Aint nobody here can join it for me
I'm going down to join the union for myself

[Brother's going down to join the union
He's gotta join it for himself
Aint nobody here can join it for him
He's gotta go down and join the union for himself]
[possible deletion?]

Sister's going down to join the union
She's gotta join it for herself
Aint nobody here can join it for her
She's gotta go down and join the union for herself

You gotta go down and join the union
You gotta join it for yourself
Aint nobody here can join it for you
You gotta go down and join the union for yourself
[Short music interlude and then silence before C speaks;
crowd frozen until he starts]

(singing/talking?) (the frozen crowd slowly disperses
leaving 3 to 5 people; She returns to table)

But the moment of discharge, so desired and so happy, contains its own danger.  It is based on an illusion;

[music can restart here]

the people who suddenly feel equal have not really become equal; nor will they feel equal for
ever.  They return to their separate houses, they lie down on their own beds, they keep their possessions and their names.  They do not cast out their relations nor run away from their families. Only true conversion leads men to give up old associations and form new ones.  These new associations by their very nature can only accept a limited number of members.  Such groups I call crowd crystals. 

Chorus/Union Song:

 (3 to 5 singers-
union organizers – singing in quieter/lower tone) [Sound of police off stage,
perhaps an announcement to disperse – towards the end of the song, when the 3-5
singers quickly exit stage in different directions]

We're going down to join the union
We're going to join it for ourselves
Aint nobody here can join it for us
We're going down to join the union for ourselves

Though the roads be rough and rocky
And the hills be steep and high
We will sing as we go marching
And we'll join the One Big Union by and by

Crowd crystals are the small, rigid groups of men ..  which serve to precipitate crowds.  Their structure can
be comprehended and taken in at a glance.  Their unity is more important than their size.  Their role must be familiar..
[talking] They should preferably appear the same; a uniform or a definite sphere of operation...
The crowd crystal is constant; it never changes its size.  Its members are trained in both action and faith.  They
may be allotted different parts, as in an orchestra, but they must appear as a unit, and the first feeling of anyone seeing … them should be that this is a unit which will never fall apart. 

 (Police enter in
[possibly a pyramid] formation)

 [Over next several sections, the protesters
loll along – pacing like a river- moving like a cloud.  Slowing building and meandering until the
police eventually start to try to corral them. Density of the crowd grows]

Chorus- Police Song:

(He gets up from table and joins to sing corporal or private
part.  Sung by 8 different singers
assigned a rank;)

privates three
corporals three
sergeants three
lieuies three (pronounced loo-ee)
captains three
majors three
colonels three
generals three

privates three - "when do I get my check?"
corporals three - "war, war, war"
sergeants three - "file from the left, column right said Sgts"
lieuies three (pronounced loo-ee) - "I'll lead the way said the lieuies"
captains three - "take that hill said the captains"
majors three - "who's gonna shine my boots said the majors"
colonels three - "where's my star said the colonels"
generals three - "war, war, war"

 (Police standing in formation, while the crowd
rushes up to them and/or around them.
The police line moves but slowly, bending to hold their position – a
riverbank to the flows they contain.)

Your left, your left, your left, right, get on down    
Your left, your left, your left, right, get on down    
Now drop, and beat your face                           
[our neo-liberal] platoon's gonna rock this place                  
Boom, check it out, check it out                       
Boom, check it out, check it out                       

[possible repeat; as C starts, He sits down. Police stay on stage in formation
and moving]


(singing/talking?—possible overlay of first list with this
The crowd likes destroying houses and objects: breakable objects like window panes and crockery; …it is the
fragility of these objects which stimulates … the crowd.  …The banging of windows and crashing of glass are robust sounds of fresh life, the cries of something new-born. Everything shouts; the din is the applause of objects.  There is a special need for this kind of noise at the beginning of events, when the crowd is small and little or nothing has happened.  The noise is a promise of the reinforcements the crowd hopes for, and a happy omen for deeds to come. 

Union Chorus:

(She rises from
table to join chorus)
We’re taking security fencing and closing the streets
We’re setting fires in the streets
We’re chaining ourselves to each other
We’re blocking the streets with dumpsters – throwing concrete onto the street
We’re building platforms and stages
We’re flooding all intersections simultaneously - flooding them with people

Police Chorus:

( Canetti
silent.  She sits back at table in front of
their prop mics. He reads left column alternating with She, who reads the right
column. Police line and protesters continue to test limits and the crowd
builds/loses densit

Seattle Police Department: 1800 officers and personnel;
Washington State Patrol:
27 motorcycles and 40 patrol cars for escort duty,
55 troopers for demonstration management duty, 13 SWAT officers, 4 bomb squad
technicians and 2 explosives detection K-9 teams

31 hand
held Oleoresin Caps; 111 hand held dispensers of OC; 340 hand thrown
continuous discharge tear gas grenades; 100 multi-shot pyrotechnic tear gas
rounds. 5 rounds instantaneous CS powder designed for crowd management at
close ranges.

King County Sheriff: 13
motorcycles, 90 officers for demonstration management, 35 officers for Key
Arena, 8 SWAT officers and 1 bomb squad

459 rubber ball bodies containing additional small rubber balls; 25
rubber ball bodies containing additional small rubber balls and OC powder
dispensed when the ball is deployed;

Port of Seattle: security
personnel, a bomb squad, and an explosives detection K-9 team

172 rubber
ball bodies containing additional small rubber balls dispersing in a circular
pattern and containing tear gas.

Bellevue Police: 8 motorcycles. Kent Police: 5
motorcycles.  Auburn, Renton, Tukwila
Police: 10 officers

230 37mm
less than lethal rounds each with 5 wood batons; 64 less than lethal rounds
of single hard plastic batons designed to be direct fired in a crowd for
control; 361 less than lethal bean bag rounds designed to be direct fired.

[He and She rise and mill with their respective


The crowd "wants to experience for itself the strongest possible feeling of its own animal force..." It remains hungry for human beings it has not reached.
But everyone carries within him a small traitor who wants to eat drink make love and be left alone… The crowd here is like a besieged city… it has enemies before its walls and enemies within them.  During the fighting it attracts more and more partisans.  These slip through the enemy lines and collect in front of the gates,
begging to be let in.  

Union & Police -- Allied CHORUS:

[[He and She with
their respective groups.  Tension
continuing to wax and wane-- the union shout the locations while the police
shout the action—aka text in italic.  The
back and forth builds in volume here.) (NOTE—alt idea was to have the blue and
the black – not a union chorus but a protester chorus – have different tones or
positive/neg body language – union in disapproval – the black-jackets stoked]

We’re on 5th & Pine -- looters in the Starbuck’s.

We’re on 5th & Union – 7 patrol cars were disabled with all tires flattened.
We’re on Seneca & Hubbell Place – report of delegates being pushed around by protestors.
We’re on 3rd & Pike – people throwing barricades through windows.
We’re on 4th Ave. and Lenora, south on 4th Ave. to Seneca St.
East on Seneca St. to I-5
We’re North on Boren Ave. to Pine St.
We’re West on Pine St. to 6th Ave.
We’re North on 6th Ave. to Lenora St.
We’re West on Lenora to 4th Ave. and 8th & Seneca – large disturbance with people chaining
themselves to manholes and setting items on fire

We’re at the Convention Center – people observed carrying bottles filled with flammable liquids.
We’re Eastbound on Olive – people pushing a dumpster
We’re on 6th & Pike – 65-100 protestors lying in the street
We’re on Boren & Pike – people attacking moving cars and fighting with possible property damage
We’re on 8th & Seneca – 100 protestors jumping on cars
We’re on 9th & Olive – protestors putting chains across the intersection – light post to light post

(Motions of crowd
and police escalating to panic and pushing/shoving.)

Animals flee from the burning forest; …. but the crowd which used to run from fire now feels strongly attracted by it.  As is well known, conflagrations of all kinds have a magical effect on men… If … large enough, a curious reversal of their old mass fear commands them to hurry to its site, [to] feel there something of the glowing warmth which formerly united them...  one of the strongest instincts of the crowd, as soon as it has formed at all, is to create such a fire … to use its attraction to further its own growth.

(SHE falls in the struggle of the crowd w/police, which
suddenly disperses leaving her behind.
The police line moves on and alone, HE arrests her and puts handcuffs on


My hands met three times behind me, and returned, as often, empty, to my breast. I paled, with wonder, I
believe, and begged him to stop a while, and speak to me.


‘Just as I loved you in the
mortal body, so I love you, freed: so I stay: but you, where are you going?’

(HE walks SHE off stage)

Draft 6/20/09
Nico Vassilakis & Robert Mittenthal

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Proprioceptive Thought & Free Will

David Bohm suggests that concrete thinking is "in motion."  It is a tacit thinking aware of its own motion.  There's something that drives us to thought, but we're rarely able to suspend ourselves from the conviction of the thought, and its impact on us.  That is, because the feeling or affect that arrives from outside is powerful, we end up letting it direct us rather than suspending or questioning it.  We mistake the feeling for a thought and accept it as ours.  Proprioceptive thought may be less prone to this error; it is aware of its own motion, of its own body.

Brian Massumi says something similar in his Parables for the Virtual, i.e., that "the skin is faster than the word." (POV 25).  This fact has long been exploited in popular culture – from horror films to reality TV to politics.  As Ronald Reagan said: “facts are stupid things.”  Indeed, today feeling is the lure that empowers.  Stubborn facts may be limits, but they also provide opportunities. 

When someone talks about accessibility as a virtue, aren’t they really talking up instant gratification?  Impatience leads to the waning of the power of the word.  (“Heh – I can’t read your mind either!”)  Justice is flawed and at best slow and deliberative, but culture and life seem to move much faster.  In a world of object inflation and of oppressive choice, comfort is indeed, as Koolhaas says somewhere, “the new justice.”

The point is to resist those who would pin down thought, mapping it in a trajectory to guarantee its failure.  Zeno understood that his arrow on a Z-sited path could never arrive.  It’s the eros of thought that is missed, that needs to be embraced.  We need the sweep or whole motion of thought, not severable into discrete (mapped out) moments.  We need to let ourselves become, to be jolted out of the grooves of daily habit.  If a map is necessary, let’s make it uncomfortable, or at least full of surprises.

The Skin Is Faster

Recent science has uncovered some curious data regarding the split second between “the beginning of a bodily event and its completion in an outwardly directed, active expression.”  (POV, 29)  The active gesture in this instance is the flexing of a finger.  The test subject visually notes the clock-time of a decision to give the finger.  It turns out that there is about a 0.2 second lapse between the visual noting of the decision and the arrival of the gesture.  This isn't that surprising.  Reflexes aren't instantaneous and it takes a bit of time for the impulse to travel from the brain through the nervous system.  The real surprise is that a signature of brain activity occurs 0.3 seconds before the visual registration of the decision.  That is, the brain is independently doing something before we can register a thought as ours.  Stop.  Look around.  Before we can register a thought as belonging to us, something else, something outside has occurred.  This implies that there's something recursive about the nature of thought, something that isn't totally controllable. 

Stelarc in his recent Seattle talk said that new experiments have been able to predict what you’re going to do seven (7!) seconds before you do it.  [If that’s right, in our cynical neo-liberal times, it seems likely that some arbitrager will figure out how to trade on this gap soon.]  Why the case for Stelarc is so difficult to make will have to be a subject of a future post, but it relates to the fact that he is crossing boundaries that humans are uncomfortable with.  He’s a body artist who wants his obsolete body to literally become other.  To quote Massumi, “Stelarc is not a conceptual artist.  He is not interesting in communicating concepts about the body.  What he is interested in is experiencing the body as a concept.”  You can read more of this, the most convincing thing I’ve found on Stelarc, here.

It seems obvious that the brain registers all sorts of data that never make it into conscious  thought.  Unconsciousness versus consciousness is clearly a dynamic range.  In the grooves of daily habit, we travel familiar paths without consciously thinking about what we’re doing.   I go thru the motions and suddenly find myself at a destination.

One could go off here about the evils of habit.  Being aware of the present as it unfolds is an awakening.  But, e.g., sleep is a habit I’d prefer to keep.

Benjamin Libet, who did these experiments, interprets the results as a crisis of free will.  If we fail to suspend the arriving thought, to reject this as “our” thought, then aren't we becoming mere automatons, or ventriloquists of the received thought?

Perhaps the only free will humans have is in exercising a suspension – that is, in deciding not to act on the thought that arrives.