Imagining Ruins: Bounded Bodies and Borderlands

by Marat Rackham, from Fire to the Prisons #9

“I held the citizenship of the land of pain, I was issued with its passport and I couldn’t envisage when it would expire or what would replace it or where the urge of travel away from it would eventually take me to, nor at what shores this would abandon me. In the territory of pain, there is a certain uncertainty, I thought, of a future outside of it.” – Maps, Nuruddin Farah

“Someone just came in and shot my daughter and husband,” a woman screams to a 911 operator. She describes – in between horrendous moans – the attack. Shortly after the call begins the sound of a screeching door can be heard echoing faintly in the background. “They are coming back in! They are coming back in!” she bellows. However, her screams are immediately drowned out by the incessant roar of gunfire. This attack left two people dead, one being a nine year old girl. Twelve days later four people were in police custody, three of whom had connections to the Minutemen Civil Defense Corps, and one, apparently, was loosely associated with several Aryan Nation groups. This attack occurred in a state, in a borderland, that may prove to be exceptionally significant in the furtherance of anti-state conflictuality. That state is Arizona.

In light of the international financial crisis, the current vulnerability in the capitalist world-system, and the emergence of a hemispheric leftist electoral revival (and inevitable disappointment for many) we can see that lines are being drawn. The state, its proponents, and its enforcers have, out of ideological and practical necessity strengthened international borders. Huge swaths of land are becoming increasingly militarized, and the body, in effect, becomes imagined, and most importantly, further disciplined as docile property. Due to this, it is entirely common to view societies, and nation-states as having actual concrete correspondence, when this is rarely the case. The recently passed law in Arizona, SB1070, with all of its draconian pretension, illustrates perfectly well the farcical nature of national correspondence, and the subjectification of the body. This law, and its apparent spread, is a desperate attempt to halt the potential decomposition of accepted social forms. Therefore the time is ripe for attack.

Hemispherically there has been an acute rise of left-leaning (rhetorically speaking) governments – from Chavez and Lula, culminating in Obama. It had been obvious, from the outset that these governments were attempting to restructure capital in their own nuanced ways, and construct nanny states in their respective boundaries. The maintenance of relations dominated by the logic of capital has not, and will not be altered by these governments, but a statist driven economy is materializing. This has been applauded by leftists in the United States and Latin America, but there has been a substantial offensive in these countries. From the Tea Parties to the coup in Honduras, reactionary forces are on the march. Amidst this background we are witnessing a hemispheric electoral battle that is having predictable effects – the strengthening of nationalistic tendencies, the strict enforcement of borders, and an encompassing proliferation of disciplinary mechanisms. These procedures are being advanced by the left-leaning regimes, and are not extensive enough for the reactionary forces.

The financial crisis has also had an interesting effect. From Greece to California we are seeing similar occurrences. Government revenues are substantially down because people are consuming less market goods. Since employment is so high the demand for state expenditures is increasing: unemployment, welfare, etc. One main option states have is increasing taxes, which is never popular and increases capital flight. Another option is cutting basic expenditures which often leads to unrest. The state, then, has an insurmountable dilemma, but its subjects are left with many options.

With the increasing instability in the world-system, the decomposition of accepted social forms is becoming increasingly explicit. Our pre-established roles are constantly being challenged, and the state is desperately trying to recuperate insurgent potential. But the growth of reactionary elements is extremely pervasive; the disciplining of bodies, the fortification of national identity, the assemblage of insidious institutions and procedures to actualize the material whole of an imagined concrete society. “Seal the Borders Now,” “Bring Family Values Back,” “Restore America’s Decency Law,” and “Take our Country Back,” are the slogans of reaction. Border agents, in the United States, have reached around 20,000, 653 miles of fence have been constructed along the US-Mexico border, and pilotless drones patrol at night. These, being the most blatant manifestation of state power, are clearly just the

The framework is in place for further state expansion. Since 2008, ICE (US Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and Homeland Security’s program, satirically titled, “Secure Communities,” has been working with local law enforcement, detaining and deporting thousands of undesirables. SB1070, in Arizona, is the latest legal incarnation of the previous slogans: it is a feeble attempt at instilling imagined national restoration. These borderlands have long been a societal amalgamation. People have previously gone back and forth through the border at will. But due to the crisis, we see lines being drawn. The increasing demand for documentation for “non-citizens” is coupled with the quest for national ID cards for “legitimate citizens.” Social dissolution is confronted with national branding, but the apparatuses of security, of discipline, can be met with a nefarious lucidity; with shattered glass, with bats, with arson. Unilateral violence can, and must be met, with a protracted struggle; the draining of state resources, and the beautiful incandescence of the proletarian cocktail illuminating through the social body is the ideal response.

The May Day upheavals were a proportionate response to state advances at this time. The attack on Wells Fargo in Denver, the shattered store fronts in New York, the rampage in Santa Cruz, the sabotaged railways in Ontario, the property damage in Asheville, the occupation in San Francisco all demonstrate our revolutionary potential.

One cannot help but smile when we read that police chief Bill Hogan in Asheville states, “I’m not sure what message they’re trying to send, quite frankly.” One wonders what message will be deduced if new fires will consistently be replaced with past ones? What will be the message when we finally stop regulating ourselves? One can be certain that the murder of 9 year old Brisenia Flores and her, father Raul Flores, in Arizona had a fixed message. Hopefully this act will not be forgotten by those in the borderlands. The state and its adherents imagine a future, a future devoid of potentialities. And while national correspondence is an imagined ideal – an orthodox portrait arranged with social security cards and time slots – we must imagine ruins.

In this “territory of pain” there is truly a “certain uncertainty,” and we would be wise to continue the onslaught of the current social order.

Unilateral violence can, and must be met, with a protracted struggle; the draining of state resources, and the beautiful incandescence of the proletarian cocktail illuminating through the social body is the ideal response.
Fire to the Prisons


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: