Ref. :  000005767
Date :  2003-02-14
Language :  English
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War, the supreme stage of poverty?

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We talk about considerable economic issues, controlling oil reserves, ethnic rivalries which began in the mists of time, religious fanaticism, intolerance, strategic supremacy, struggles for influence among military leaders, and inversely about: the method of government, ordinary recourses, the joker of the Prince.

We explain that it signals the 'breakdown of the regional balance'; that is was 'latent', 'endemic', that it had been 'brewing' there for a long time; that it 'rages' (strange that!), that it is 'murderous' (How curious?), that it is 'fratricidal' (How odd?).

We describe its phases as if they were those of the moon. We diffuse unreliable, anecdotal and fascinating reports.

We dress up its operations with magical names, which strengthen the work's resolve and testify to the lofty mindedness of its pilots.

We announce with a tragic air ' the commencement of hostilities'; we feverishly relate the first passes of arms, the first action; we handle the daily rhythm, the installation, the duration; we doze off and jump at 'turning points'; then we wake up for a press conference, a statement of human losses, a last round of applause, and finally: curtain!

But what is it really about? What does war have to say other than authentic or falsified tales, propaganda that celebrates the marriage of the height of technology with cynicism, which praises the beauty of suffering and the eternity of pathos?

In truth, nothing should be expected from this vision, of descriptive myopia and historical illusion. For war evades those who try to paint its portrait, to sketch its outlines, to solve the mystery. It plays with them, slipping between their tongue and palate, and sneering flees across its minefield...

War is a swamp of signifiers, and all economic, racial or religious explanations that we seek - with a distressing determinism - get steadily sucked down into it.

But how to be satisfied in this swamp with habitual resignation before what could only be 'the madness', 'appetite for domination' and 'destruction' of men? On the contrary, it seems necessary to stay in the shantytown of the rupture between nations or communities, to explore the deterioration, the wasteland that came before the conflict, to catalogue and file all the signs that were fore-runners of this quake, that can certainly not be reduced to the product of arbitrary borders or an attempt at a hold-up. The only possibility is that a less precarious meaning emerges from the situation, which is ready to sink further into the quagmire.

So, let us not be afraid to confront again concrete proselytes. What is a declaration of war? What is it other than the tomb of competence, which is language and performance, which is speech? A coitus interruptus, followed by the castration of that which would have strayed? And is it not possible to discern in this by default what we call 'the end of culture'?

The harsh word 'WAR!' which is laid out on the five columns of the front page of a daily only seems to utter words that signal the death of discourse, with the only exception being those that are instrumental - that are machines of war. Thus it destroys all discourse that seeks to build bridges rather than dig trenches or oubliettes.

Why 'the time for talking is over, we must act!'? Why 'the last negotiations having failed, the only way forward seems to be conflict'? Why do we choose to hear 'the voice of arms' and to 'make canons speak'? Why the ultimate atom?

Clausewitz response to this is: 'the cessation of diplomatic exchange has never entailed the interruption of political relations between governments and peoples. War has never been anything other than a way of thinking and writing adopted by political relations, which certainly possesses its own grammar, but not its own logic.'

A change in grammar, the substitution of one means of discourse for another: an inflection subordinated to political horizons, because war is 'certainly not independent'.

Does such a conception remain applicable in its totality to the wars of today?

Can we consider the war in Chechnya or in Iraq as merely 'the continuation of political relations, with other means'? Is it not really, with its conflicts that leave people confused and ready to surrender, only the repetition of a well-known model? A variant, or even a digression? Is their nothing new to be seen under the bloodstained light of this moon?

Contemporary war develops at the heart of a crisis, which, despite its ordinary premises, marks itself out by its refusal to resolve normatively and by its rejection of all power, whatever the origin and the form. It becomes an autonomous subject, which not only answers to no one, to no politic, but also does not require a sense other than that of its self-fulfilment and ferocious propagation.

From obsessive repetition to the seemingly irreversible division, of discourse which would be other than (with its codes and traps) incoherence or aphasia, from neurosis to psychosis: this is the present origin of war, no longer the orphan, but the parricide of politics.

Nothing more than poverty, from which everything seems to emanate, and to which everything returns, according to the new law of universal attraction. Poverty, for whom all diplomatic negotiation is undesirable and foreclosed, whilst 'civilised populations' have no values other than 'shields' and the employment of weapons systematically anticipates and surpasses its objective.

War, continuation of poverty by other means, war, supreme stage of poverty: this is what might be said about it, drawing inspiration from some quite talented authors. However we must not be deceived into thinking that we have synthesised and produced in this the totality of what is war. As we have to exhaust the representations that we have forged of war as the supreme stage of poverty in order to hear a different music, requiring more critical listening, composition and execution.

It is only by decrypting stage by stage the work of poverty, which opens out onto the road to war, which gives it foundation and substance, feeds and perpetuates it, only thus will we be able to express it differently in its present phenomenon.

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