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Godwin Koay, Notes from a Revolution (excerpts), 2012-2015

An air force Hermes unmanned reconnaissance drone orbits high overhead tracking the demonstration on its forward looking infrared camera. A press-ready edit of the video file is rushed before day's end from the emergency joint task force's media section to the newspaper. A Youtube video is uploaded with the title “Police reacts as protest turns violent”, showing a bird's eye view of “violence” near the police blockade on Elgin Bridge, bodies as mere pixels; a mass likened to a zombie horde; bricks, batons and blood unseen. The account is skewed and perforated with gaps, but that skewing is itself obscured, and images, joined with text, are presented and announced as objective truth.

When the state exerts its ownership on the press, language is weaponised for its interests. When a multinational corporation does, so too would it. Words riding on fear, paranoia and uncertainty are made normative operations for keeping capitalist “peace” – where the crisis of market, human, and ecological exploitation are normalised as the default and necessary universal trajectory of progress, perhaps happening only at elsewheres to others that can be conveniently kept out of mind. Media as an essential asset of the authoritarian state, is mobilised in the same way the civil service, infrastructure, transportation, military hardware, and conscripts may be mobilised on command. Outside of a speculative materialisation of radical resistance as put forth above, this reinforcing effect is already playing out on a daily basis, a process of conditioning and reification of vocabulary.

Godwin Koay, Notes from a Revolution (excerpts), 2012-2015

“Unrest” is at once conflated with both the abrupt stoppage of investor confidence and market stability, and the direct result of an unfettered, “irresponsible” freedom. Thus autonomous action is instantly and synonymously linked to the disruptive, undesirable and destructive. Liberty is tinted with the notion of control from above, and the loss of that control, or “public order”, is characterised as chaos. This logic requires a weeding and nipping of dangers in the bud, and so organising is outlawed before action could even transpire. This flows in the same way narratives and statements from neoliberal nation states monopolise readings of “violence”, legitimising their sole authority to use that violence in preserving their interests and holds on capital and power. Imagination services a disaster- and fear-based vigilance.

Seen in such light, “security” points to the protection of private property and the machinations and conditions for wealth-generation. Like the corporation, growth, or profit, is now the prime ideological agenda for the state. Any social good that possibly comes along is incidental, but packaged as intentional – yet another causal relationship is formed, where social welfare can only ever come about with financial surplus, and austerity can be justified when resources are squandered. Perhaps this is considered a cynical view, but the fact remains that when representative democracy is couched in economic paternalism, what results is a politics that excludes and disallows participation, preferring rather a dogma of obeisance paid to the technocratic CEO-politician class of rulers to manage and solve society's problems, with a firm grasp on short- and long-term futures. But fundamentally, injustice resulting from hierarchical structures and the marginalisation of entire classes of people are not seen as problems – or at least not ones such a system is able or willing to solve. To imagine another kind of state seems as far-fetched as dreaming of the dissolution of its very form.

Godwin Koay, Notes from a Revolution (excerpts), 2012-2015

Coercive strategies are employed in the maintenance of this status quo, showing up primarily in the form of the legislative and judicial frameworks governing law-making and law-enforcement. This reaches into every aspect of life, to be law-abiding then is to be productive and responsible, contributing to society's onward march to prosperity. From the concrete to the abstract, nationalism is mobilised too, neatly wrapping up the package with mythical masculinised messages of exceptionalism, triumph, strength; sacredness of independent nation, origin struggles of founding fathers, third world to first, the linearity of growth and success, multiculturalist social harmony. Fit into the frame of permissibility, national identity becomes something one could buy into, consume, and perform without fear – and states would gladly accept these patriotic footsoldiers, participating in national rites from election to mourning to celebration. This is the ultimate legitimated collective imaginary when no autonomous collective organising is allowed. Wage labour will be managed without union representation. Police permits must be approved before staging a demonstration. Sensitive topics must be steered clear of. Complaints must be lodged through the correct channel. Media will be kept clean for the greater good. Mass surveillance will ensure national security. Criminality is a haunting spectre that ensures party, politician, government, law, and state will be respected by the true citizen.

In short, hegemony is produced and reproduced.

Godwin Koay, Notes from a Revolution (excerpts), 2012-2015

Could there be autonomy to imagine that is counterhegemonic?

Can the cultural works of this age – photography, writing, film, sound, poetry, painting, craftwork etc. – occupy a counteracting role, in other forms and for other purposes that are not complicit in or co-opted by the logic of the market? The operative intent of imagination would be flipped, from preservative, to agitative; critical of and attempting to recalibrate power relations. Would the art in art be lost? Could this be pursued in all aspects of work involving aesthetic consideration? Could graphic design be pulled away from and pushed against capital? Could contemporary art exist outside of the gallery market and even flourish? Could movies once again transfer the radicalising knowledge of politicised resistance to and between their viewers? Could these fields and actions expand and merge and mutate and explode and scatter like seed?

As financial globalisation flattens the ideologies and vocabularies employed at the level of state rulership, so too are the technologies of repression traded and distributed. If we can, through studying currents appearing elsewhere (and in part with the networked tools accorded by these conditions) adequately anticipate the responses authority may deploy, it may be possible to engage in modes of resistance and imaginaries that are not thwarted so simply. What alternative futures are there that are worth positing, even prefiguring? Is it possible to envision and form transnational intersectional movements and communities built on affinity and mutual aid, emerging through struggle against the violence and totalising effects of neoliberal capitalism? Not merely across territorial borders, but also temporalities and differentials of class and identity. The fiction of this speculation becomes less an impossibility and more suggestive of potential. What space and time does such a thing need to germinate? Do we even want that? Or are we to give up dreaming because the weight of the world (im)presses upon us to do so?

Godwin Koay, Notes from a Revolution (excerpts), 2012-2015