Pit Schultz on Fri, 31 May 96 03:04 MDT

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nettime: (TTT) Another RU Sirius Interview

>Tactical Toilette Training

Five questions to RU Sirius

this interview took place in end of May 96 via e-mail and refers to
"The R.U. Sirius Interview: It's Better to be Inspired than Wired
by Jon Lebkowsky" which appeared in Ctheory, Special Edition 1.6,
end of April 96.  

1) info-marxism
you used the term 'lumpenproletariat', do you think that like other 
historical ghosts, Marxism will come back through cyberspace and free
our oppressed virtual selves? How does the cybernetical info=money worldview
fit together with it. Do you see an utopical option for the 'digital
revolution' to  overwhelm info-capitalism by bringing it to it's 
terminal state? With which tactics, which mantras? Or do we have just
another electronic 'opium fuer das volk', then how to break in with the
material conditions...?

RU:  I have no interest in bringing back any nineteenth century philosophers
and I consider ideology to be a brain disease.  I actually mean that in a
literal sense.  Ideology causes the brain to reject raw data that doesn't
fit into the model the ideology provides for.  Only by eschewing ideology
and religion and really by engaging in a process of compassionate conceptual
nihilism--the annihilation of concept married to an instinctive liberatory
humanity--can we respond to the situation at hand.  You might call it
educated atavism.  Having said that, one aspect of the situation at hand is
that a lot of my Californian technoculture buddies subscribe to right
libertarian or anarcho-capitalist beliefs.  And I do argue, as Marx did in
the 19th Century, that you can't have the withering away of the state until
you've eliminated scarcity.  Also, particularly in the late 20th Century,
you can't have the withering away of the state until you've built other
defenses against total rape by the multinationals... but you already know
   I believe that capitalism ultimately dissolves in the net because of
infinite replicability and immateriality.  It's an extraordinarily
dissipative medium.  Indeed, info-capitalism brings itself to its terminal
state in some ultimate speed rush where all-at-onceness overwhelms the
distinctions necessary to place value on money or to have exchange.  When
you're in at-onceness, there's no exchange involved.  There's only total
access and total surveillance.  Of course, there's always raw physical
   Tactically, I suggest that the young be re-seduced against the
"employment ethic" here in the US.  Not necessarily against work, but
against pride in slavery, pride in the sale of self.  So perhaps the slacker
attitude should be spread.  I *hate* slackers in my personal life.  I have a
terrible work ethic.  I work day in and day out to defeat the work ethic and
I resent people who think it's cool to be lazy and unreliable.  Funny

2) autonomy of cyberspace
how does the binary world model of inside and outside, mind and
body, being on- or offline work together with the idea of 'autonomy'?
How can the movements of 60ies, early 80ies, early 90ies get
connected to the *now*. In which mixes could one reach new levels of
social intensity. The virtual subject which declares its own law
sounds very much like what was known from art, poetry, political
fights and psychosis. Should one fight for an independent cyberspace?
Which territory is to defend? How to define its borders?

RU: There was a level of idealism to the demands made by radicals in the 1960s
around notions of a new radical praxis, and around notions of autonomy
within a kind of spontaneous collectivism, that I don't think you will ever
see revived because an increasingly complexifying world culture leaves us
too contaminated for absolutes.  So I'm not really radical, in the purist
sense.  And I think we would do well to compare the situation wrought by
technoculture to current and historical reality, rather than to absolute
ideals.  Of course, my position is ambiguous rather than oppositional.  I'm
oppositional towards the power configuration as it exists but not towards
the notion of extreme technical revolution.  There I'm ambiguously hopeful. 
   Anyway, I think that the binary or digital model as a kind of
eschatology is so limited as to be silly--of course it's Christian...  Yet
it's something that we have to work with, in terms of computers, in terms of
embodiment.  It's one model that we have to work with for certain particular
problems.  It's too bad that we tend to (anthropomorphize) computers. I mean,
that's the sort of effluvia of cyberculture that people really
enjoy--changing the langauge, and the music, and lifestyle around
fetishization of the computer as a kind of persona.  I've got to admit that
there's an attraction there myself.  It's probably related to  what
historically has been a strategy of reclaiming the language and instruments
of your oppression by sort of ironically embracing and aestheticising it.
Although I wouldn't see it only in terms of oppression in this case, maybe
oppression/liberation... although both terms are too pompous and absolute.  
   I'm certainly convinced that embodiment *is* a problem.  Disease is
certainly a blow to autonomy, etc.  When someone declares his or her
autonomy within cyberspace, I'm sure that means just don't fuckin' try to
tell me what to do.  Which seems to be sort of an American thing, just as
our government really moving against that kind of autonomy in the most
vulgar sort of way is also an American thing. So the territory and the
border to defend is the border of one's words, one's fingertips, one's
actions.  Don't tell me what to say.  Don't tell me what to put inside my
body.  Don't tell me how to fuck.  Very simple stuff.  Of course, this is
all contaminated.  On a deeper level, we are told what to say by language,
socialization, and there is probably some value in being aware of ourselves
as biological robots.  We certainly didn't invent our biology, the physical
environment that we find ourselves in, the rules by which it operates.  
   So we generate worlds where we *do* make the rules.  Oh, I see the
next question is, in fact, about "virtual life."

3) virtual life
the life metaphor is very hip, information becomes part of a natural law,
technology part of evolution, the whole technique becomes more like a pet
and all kinds of Darwinisms are discussable again, one is trying to bring
together machine and body -- but who profits, in which interests? You are
using a more wild metaphoric of life, is there a possiblitity to enforce a
techno-vitalism in the interests of bodies, pleasure and wealth for all, or
whatever model of life is the perfect one in your perspective, today?

RU: This question of vitalism is a very good one.  The possibility for cyborg
liberation--for an interpenetration between humans and machines, artificial
life forms, nanotechnology ad infinitum--in a way that wildly expands human
freedoms--to jump like a kangaroo, see like a bee, live a million years,
change sexes, get ripped on drugs without physical deterioration--all of
these things look to be becoming possible.  But what I see in front of me is
not a people being vitalized and dynamic.  What I see is people diligently
working on the machines that will replace them.  It is really a time of
people being distressed and disappointed with the species while at the same
time being excited and awed by the technology we've created.  In this
environment, philosophies of artificial superiority like those of Minsky and
Hans Moravek are gaining a lot of credence.  As for who profits, well, what
Arthur Kroker calls the virtual class profits from a propoganda campaign to
make us see ourselves as replaceable biological units going about the great
work of building the perfect artifice.  The wired elite would like us to
accept our superflousness as not only natural but unimportant.  That's why I
remain sort of old fashioned in clinging to a kind of vitalist romantic
instinctivist core.  I find something a little bit strange about the kind of
 post-ego, post-rave, twenty-something media gulch kids that I party with
sometimes here in San Francisco.  They're smart, sweet, and light.  But
there's no intense rebellion.  And so, they're not vital.

4) the future of the future
future is an overhyped term, do you think we will stop talking about it? what
is your favorite time model at the moment? how we can avoid the redundant
and selffulfilling rhetorics of 'this is your future, adapt or die', of
Zeitgeist economy, and the media policies of bundling imagination. How one
could subvert a Wired future and the Net.Prawda role of this mag? Btw, what
are *your* plans, books, projects?

RU: Future is an overhyped term.  So we should be here now?  I think that we
would be mistaken to underestimate the speed and density of change being
wrought by technical revolution.  And I think that there is the sense, for
anybody paying attention, that we are in motion.  We're not in homeostasis.
We're in process.  We're molting.  And that process is necessarily goal
oriented.  There is--if not an end point--some point where things will
suddenly be obviously different.  That's very much real.  Cyborgization,
nanotechnology--- these things have arrived already but they're also in
process of intensification.  As far as adapt or die goes, we need to marry
the conceptual nihilism necessary for human adaptability to rapid technical
change to an instinctive liberatory humanity.  So we engage--rather than
oppose--this technical zeitgeist and demand that it's first goals be to make
life materially better for everybody.  Period.  You will get a better human
response to the annihilation of social and identity certainties if material
uncertainty is eliminated or greatly reduced.  If you follow that around the
block a few times, you can come up with an argument that can engage
ethologists and social Darwinists on their own terms.

5) tactics, tools and weapons
it seems that the more implicit tactics, the invisible activities, the
strategic events and symbolic fights get a new potential when combined
with the war machine of 'The Net'. Are counternetworks, hackers, code
warriors more than a myth for the disappointed emancipatory movements
and are there some examples to give? Does 'culture' function as a new
kind of thing to fight for? If the state is not 'the enemy' any more
but transnational corporate structure, than with which kind of knowledge,
which kind of competence does one need for such fights?

RU: The myth of the hacker, the electronic guerrilla, provides a countervaling
influence to the myth of total surveillance and control.  The myth and the
actuality of hacking, counternetworks etc. are the smallest chink in the
armor of the national security state and the multinational security
demi-states, but these are all, in a sense the games of boys with toys.  It
all kind of operates on the spy vs. spy warfare model. 
        But I think electronic guerrilla warfare could be effective as a
kind of attention-getting, heroic, propoganda that would bring attention to
a sophisticated post-scarcity, pro-freedom, compassionate political analyses
if it's directed with great skill and precision.  I'm not sure exactly how
to get to that point.  
        We should be careful about strategies for "defeating" the
transnational corporate structures.  These things really *are* enormous
parasitic life forms.  If they die badly, they will kill off the host.  So
there has to be a strategy of incorporation.  Former revolutionists siezed
the state apparatus.  Despite the rush to virtuality, there's still a window
of opportunity to sieze the corporate structures through popular revolution,
although you must realize that this will only be in the service of an
agreeable compromise not some sixties vision of autonomous collectives or
total economic democracy.
But the structure can be attacked.  Everybody sort of assumes that the
structure is too amorphous and can't be attacked.  I think the structures
are actually *less* well defended than those of the nation states and that
this whole notion of invincibility through invisibility and distributedness
of the ever mutating corporate oligarchy might be a paper tiger.  For the

The book "How to Mutate and Take Over the World" by R. U. Sirius, St. Jude
and the Internet 21 just published by Ballantine Books

Interview by Pit Schultz <pit@contrib.de>, Berlin

# Pit Schultz, Kleine Hamburger Str. 15, 10117 Berlin, pit@contrib.de,

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