The Politics of Streetfighting
There is a widespread belief — the virtual “common sense” — that politics is war, and war by other means. I hold that belief to be only a symptom of the degeneracy of the intellect and of the disintegration — the “deficiency” and decadence — of the modern mind, the mental-rational consciousness structure, as Gebser describes it. The irresponsibility of our politicians (and not just our politicians) lies in this fact, that when you believe that politics is war by other means, you should not be surprised, or feign disgust, when streetfighting becomes the norm of politics. It’s the karmic law. It’s only a decadent politics that thinks of itself as “warfare”. But once you travel down that path, you have to live with the consequences as a fate.
In the politics of streetfighting, you see clearly the fourfold phasic process of realisation described by Mumford (and by Rosenstock-Huessy in terms of his “cross of reality”): Formulation, Incarnation, Incorporation, and Embodiment. The formulation phase is “politics is war”; the incarnation phase is its reception by the populace as “the common sense”; the incorporation phase is the organisation of new political communities around the idea that “politics is war”; and the embodiment phase is its realisation as skirmish and streetfighting, which is the attempt by the factions to own and control the streets.
The belief that politics is war by other means gives licence to propaganda, disinformation, “fake news”, perception management” and just plain old bullshit directed against one’s fellow citizens, and paves the way for civil strife.
Any kind of vital politics — and that means “creative” rather than destructive — does not begin with the presumption that politics is war. Vital politics (or perhaps what Nietzsche termed “grand politics” or a noble politics) is the perpetual quest for the means by which different people can live together peacefully — form a polis — despite their differences. That would be what we would describe as an “integral politics”, an “ecological” or holistic politics, or a peace-making politics. And that is also the motive for Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy’s quest, for the global era, for a “Universal History”.
The aim of politics is to found or form a polis — a community. To form a community is to achieve unanimity — animus unum or “one soul”. How do we perform that when there are species of consciousness, differences of experience, is the art and science of all higher and more authentically universal politics, more fully in accord with Gebser’s “universal way of looking at things” but which Nietzsche, it seems, thought was only possible for his “overman”?
(Nietzsche’s “transhuman” — or what is more often translated as “superman” — is not at all what more vulgar minds and ignoble sensibilities — especially among some current political types — have made of him).
In Rosenstock-Huessy’s own fourfold phasic process of realisation, politics is only one of the phases that includes prophetics, poetics, and philosophics which are really four types of speech — dramatics, lyrics, epics, and analytics. None of these phases can be omitted. But our contemporary politics does omit and attempts to take shortcuts to “unanimity” by dangerous, corrupt, perverse, and unlawful means and measures.
William Blake, too, thought of politics as humanity’s “chief science”. and chiefly because in politics he saw the creative force of the principle of integrality. His is a psychic politics, so to speak, through which his four Zoas of the divided humanity (which are “species of consciousness”) are fully integrated and reconciled as a psychic polis, (his own “overman” as “Albion”). This kind of higher politics is what Blake expresses in his manifesto “There is NO Natual Religion”.
If it were not for the Poetic or Prophetic character the Philosophic & Experimental would soon be at the ratio of all things, & stand still unable to do other than repeat the same dull round over again.
There is, reflected in that, an echo of Blake’s “four Zoas” of the divided human form, but also a reflection of Rosenstock-Huessy’s own cross of reality and the four phases of realisation as prophetics, poetics, philosophics, and politics. It doesn’t take too much effort from that to see this quadrilateral logic reflected also in Mumford’s four stages of Formulation, Incarnation, Incorporation, and Embodiment.
For Blake, then, the true nature of politics is as creative and integrative process, while politics as “war” would be considered degenerate and decadent. And for this reason, too, Gebser, in his own cultural philosophy, is careful to distinguish between the “unitive” and the “integrative”, as much as he deplores the confusion of the “Totality” and “the Whole”.
Every activist in history has known that to win the country you must win the streets. That is why contemporary activists encourage people to first talk with their neighbours. Dialogue is how you win the street. Missionaries pursue much the same course. But by the time is reaches the stage of streetfighting, the possibilities for authentic dialogue have been greatly diminished.
It is the failure and breakdown of politics that is expressed in the belief that politics is war. To that extent, Jacques Ellul was correct to write about “The Political Illusion”. This is irresponsible (and that means, too, insincere and unresponsive) politics. The streetfighter is more a symptom, rather than a cause, of fracture and disintegration. Politics as war by other means is just another species of our current destructive nihilism. If it continues in this, it won’t be long before streetfighting and the vigilante becomes the norm and the rule rather than the exceptional event.
Berkley seems the hotspot presently for streetfighting. That’s because of its historically symbolic significance. Both factions, then, see the “battle for Berkley” as ground zero for winning the soul of the nation. Winning the Berkley streets is, quite evidently, the political “prize” much coveted by the so-called “alt-right”, and for more than merely its symbolic value. It won’t be long, either, before steetfighting becomes the rule elsewhere, too — the highly visible embodiment of the disintegration of the mental-rational consciousness, just as it was during the waning days of the politically stalemated and ineffective German Weimar Republic.
And it’s going to happen until such time as people stop believing that politics is simply war by other means, which belief justifies deceit, trickery, disinformation, and even terrorism and violence. But that change of art (and heart) will already imply some degree of emergent “integral consciousness”.