Furio Jesi (1941-1980) distinguished between two types of disruptive phenomena in time: the revolt, which suspends time, and revolution which is in time, which is to say it develops historical time, it is something which persists, or behaves as if it should. A revolt suspends time because it is, if you like, of the moment and may not and indeed is likely not going to lead to a lasting legacy. Jesi wrote about the efforts of Rosa Luxemburg and others in Germany in 1919 to make his point. Then there was a period of upheaval which had no predetermined course. If the immediate post-war experience contained revolutionary ingredients, they were expressed in ways which weren’t immediately obvious.
I am wondering what kind of time we live in now, and how this time is being read by those who may be feeling a little worried about their grip on power. Today there don’t appear to be any signs of revolutionary fervour in what is portrayed simply as a period of medical emergency, despite clear evidence that the established powers have responded negligently and put many lives at risk. The message that we should (to save ourselves) stay indoors is very helpful keeping people off the streets. What revolution ever began indoors? But could there at least be a revolt? That is an inchoate and singular response which perhaps arises from people’s frustration and impatience with the fumbling ineptitude of their rulers but lacks a historical aptitude for lasting change?
The groundhog day No 10 press briefings (i.e. in which the press are obligingly tasked with following the line) extol the bravery and heroism of the low paid particularly those working in the NHS. Indeed, this is practically the only line we hear from the millionaire cabinet ministers who are rolled out to tell us how they are on top of things (as ever). The message is clear: if you (the great public swine) resist our wisdom, you will not only bring Armageddon down on yourselves but much worse you will trample to death the very people trying to save you (which by the way, since we have the megaphone of empathy includes ourselves).
The self-identification of these people (and those who by their strange absence, e.g. Rees-Mogg make it even clearer who they are and what they represent) in our present government as sympathetic rulers in most times would quickly be ridiculed and resisted, but the current sharing of responsibility (even the PM is in distress) demands behind the mask of unity the sacrifice of others. The so-called upcoming stars of this government, paraded each evening with their grief toned errands of the wealthy have but one desire: to restore the old order. How curious it is that the NHS is being used to prop up the old regime, when it is everything they hate. If you attack us, you’re attacking the NHS!
Couldn’t we at least have a revolt? The British public notoriously lack revolutionary fervour, but for once couldn't we ask what lies behind the smoke screen? Couldn’t we make a discrete request? Perhaps we could write to our MP. Or ring a phone-in. Or think about it.
* Note added 10th April: I just caught sight of this- https://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/coronavirus/french-police-send-rich-holidaymakers-back-to-london-after-they-tried-to-get-helicopter-to-cannes/ar-BB12rqUx?ocid=msedgntp
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