« First the bad news, then... more bad news | Main | Pimps. shrimps, and blimps »

Stop traffic

By Michael J. Smith on Tuesday March 27, 2007 03:31 PM

Demokratia ... has always been a word denoting conflict, a factional term, coined by the higher classes to denote the “excessive power” (kratos) exercised by the non-property-owning classes (demos).
--Luciano Canfora
Democracy is not an institution, it's a state of affairs. It can't be implemented by law. It is intrinsically the enemy of privilege and wealth – and by the same token, privilege and wealth are intrinsically its enemies. The existence of democracy, in a world where privilege and wealth exist at all, depends upon conflict. In such a world, wherever there is peace – social peace, at any rate -- there will be no justice, and certainly no democracy. The orderly operation of legal institutions, in such a world, works noctes atque dies to one end: to make the privileged and wealthy more so, and, by ineluctable implication, to suppress democracy.

An essential entailment of any degree of democracy, in a world like ours, is fear – fear on the part of the elites that the natives may be getting restless. Peaceful, legal protest, and especially participation in the electoral charade, have the opposite effect. They reassure the elites that the natives are not at all restless – that the natives accept their impotence and, so to speak, prefer watching pornography to engaging in real sex. The pornography I mean is, of course, the contrived theater of “politics” as that term is ordinarily understood. And what would be the political equivalent of real sex?

Real politics doesn't necessarily imply hanging “investment bankers” from lampposts – though that would be fun as well as salutary. It is not, however, essential, at the moment, and perhaps not ever. The elites know they are greatly outnumbered by the rest of us, and they are fundamentally frightened of us. All you have to do is stop traffic.

Stopping traffic is, in fact, the minimum precondition for real politics, and thus of real democracy, just as the touch of skin on skin is the minimum precondition of real sex.

Interestingly, it has never been easier to stop traffic. Those Merry Pranksters in Boston a few weeks ago did it with a handful of blinking LEDs. Self-imposed “War on Terror” hysteria and police frenzy have made the armorbound, overgunned Talus of the enforcement state frightened of its own shadow – or, more accurately, of any point of light, no matter how transient and faint, that isn't its shadow. Anything Caliban sees in the mirror that isn't Caliban will have Caliban on the floor, chewing the carpet.

Buy a cheap knapsack or duffle bag every week. Stuff it with rags or old underwear and leave it in a subway station, or an airport, or just on a sidewalk. Tune in to the evening news and watch the fun.

They hate crowds. Go to Gawker Stalker and report Britney Spears running bare-tit down the street in front of the Israeli Consulate. Be sure to provide the address.

Carry a small can of black spray paint and use it on the lens of every surveillance camera you see. I know, it won't stop traffic, but it'll drive 'em crazy.

Drive really, really slow. In fact, get a couple of co-conspirators to drive really, really slow alongside you. When news radio reports a mysterious slowdown on the Whatever Expressway, take credit in the name of the Asphalt Liberation Front.

Create a dozen or so bogus accounts on some Web site that annoys you – may I suggest Daily Kos? -- and keep the troll-hunters wakeful and strung out. It doesn't stop physical traffic, but it stops, or at least impedes, the ideological traffic in exploded notions.

Don't allow your kids to do homework.

The main thing, though, is to stop being constructive. Don't waste a moment thinking about what “policies” might be better than the ones we have. The fact is that the institutions we have absolutely guarantee insane policies, and unless the balance of power between the elites and the rest of us is changed, then those institutions will continue to manufacture insanity day in and day out.

And there is, needless to say, no institutional way to change the balance of power. The institutions exist to maintain the balance of power – or, more accurately, to tip the balance of power ever more toward the elites. Changing the balance of power requires interfering with the institutions, and impairing or impeding their operation.

In short: stop traffic.

Comments (22)

royal paine:

acid test of a beating rebel heart
"Don't allow your kids to do homework"

the peoples republic of woodstock
caved on that one
big big time

from hippie to yuppie
is just
making "..your kids to do homework"

great post smiffer

owen and sally paine:

we both prefer
job site traffic jams
as our personal favorite
message to the MAN


I'm too much of a conformist ensconced deep within the system. I'm not sure "kids" need anymore excuses not to do homework. Especially when the alternatives are hanging out at the mall consuming pop culture.

owen paine:

these institutions tilt for sure

but like descartes pineal gland
the buggars can change tilt

tilt back ????

yes even that

i suspect new institutions may be needed too
to complete a few end arounds

but the new deal also tilted back
the fed and treasury hell be honest even the supremes tilted back after they black eyed FDR orbetter
while black eying him...
in all cases
only for awhile and some what

as to the novel institutions???

most were scrapped
once the systemic crisis passed


crisis crisis crisis

civilian soles on the march

standing up where they tell us to sit down
sit down where they tell us to leave

you get the picture

Magnificent post, Michael!

The abandoned package gag works best if you use one of those shiny metal briefcases. You can find 'em at second hand stores and pawnshops. They look like something you'd see on "24" or some other paranoid TV spy show, so they really play up to our surveillance culture's preconceptions.

Even better - fill it with lemon pudding. Zesty lemon if you can find it.

a laugh riot. Oh, and I notice paine is here in several manifestations.


These are all amusing, but how about hitting the electoral charade right in the charade? I mean, how easy would it be to volunteer for elections, and then throw a wrench in everything you possibly can?

Awesome ideas, for sure, Smiff, but...

...as far as not being constructive, are you suggesting that I stop drawing cartoons and wheat-pasting them around on public streets? I mean, that's pretty much the mission I ended up with in this here Revolution.

If I stop doing cartoons, what am I left with other than leaving one of those cool shiny aluminum briefcases lying around the Metro station whenever I get a chance? What do I do with my four years of art school, man, aside from spray-painting surveillance cameras?

I mean, damn.


painus assus et pontifex maximus:

Facilis descensus Averni:
noctes atque dies patet atri ianua Ditis;
sed revocare gradium superasque evadere ad auras.
hoc opus, hic labor est.


and oh...

Flectere si nequeo superos, Acheronta movebo



the ekectoral equivalent

is a scruggs ballot box boycott movement

vide j alva for details


you're already doin a rebel gig


Interesting post. The only thing I would note is that change can be effected in some democracies without the conflict of which you speak (my native Canada would be one example). Doesn't seem to work in yours though...I blame the party system.

Yeah, and Mike F.'s a more prolific artiste than me, too. I hate that. I should report him to... somebody. King Features Syndicate, perhaps.


Self-indulgent nonsense like this is why the American left remains so hopelessly irrelevant.


I've always thought the Left should be more self-indulgent, not less. You ask me, self-denial got us into this mess in the first place. All the great liberal shibboleths -- realism, civic responsibility, electability, "viability within the system": what do they all come down to but the ultimate bourgeois virtue of deferring gratification? Deferring it, in fact, all the way to the Greek Calends.



"The only thing I would note is that change can be effected in some democracies without the conflict of which you speak (my native Canada would be one example)"

read your history more carefully


"There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part; you can't even passively take part, and you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop. And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you're free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!"

-- Mario Savio, 12/3/1964


Thanks to MB for the Savio quote. I had forgotten. What goes around comes around, doesn't it?

All resistance is local. Start a cell near you. Do research. Talk about what others have done--what works, what doesn't. Learn. Experiment. Have fun. Share the experience.

Oh, and never utter a felony.

Post a comment

Note also that comments with three or more links may be held for "moderation" -- a strange term to apply to the ghost in this blog's machine. Seems to be a hard-coded limitation of the blog software, unfortunately.


This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on Tuesday March 27, 2007 03:31 PM.

The previous post in this blog was First the bad news, then... more bad news.

The next post in this blog is Pimps. shrimps, and blimps.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

Creative Commons License

This weblog is licensed under a Creative Commons License.
Powered by
Movable Type 3.31