In October 1994, the news media reported a shootout in the streets of Paris involving a young couple and the police. The shooting was the fatal outcome of a badly planned robbery in which the couple got hold of firearms and a small amount of money. The young man, a taxi driver, and three police officers were all killed in the incident, whereas the young woman was arrested and charged with murder and attempted murder.
The couple, Florence Rey and Audrey Maupin, aged 19 and 22, lived by themselves in an abandoned house in a Paris suburb. They had both dropped out of university and had set up a group they called the ‘Revolutionary Propaganda Organisation’, which was based on anarchist theory. So far, Rey and Maupin were the only members of the group.
This is what the news media reported. This is the story they told. A quite well known narrative, resembling the formation of RAF, for instance: educated but socially uncomfortable youngsters who turn to anarchist theory and the practice of urban terrorism.
I found the reports of the shooting incident disturbing since they all represented the particular circumstances of the situation within a narrative framework that was almost trivial. As if I was supposed to know the incident before it took place. And because I was attracted to this narrative even if I did not accept its standard mediation of urban terrorism.
In order to gain access to the multitude of interactions that characterize any social incident, I began to search for material that had to do with the particular aspects of the shooting. At a British website, I came upon a text, a manifesto, which was apparently found in the home of Maupin’s mother. As the text was initially published in a French magazine, it was a translation into English that I was reading:
We are all going to die. We are dying … Why live for others?
This world is not ours; it is the world of those who use us.
To subdue us, they talk of economy. Well, this economy has only one goal: To distance us from what we are, from our human essence, from our freedom.
We are free to think but not to act! What hypocrisy! We all know it, Citizens: Freedom is total or it does not exist!
To be free is to have authority over oneself, it is to practice that which you think and think what you practice.
In the name of a minority, they prevent us from being ourselves, they prevent us from being human beings. Are we going to accept this? Are we going to accept dying for the commodity, for money, for the state? Are we vulgar machines? What do we have to loose? Nothing. What do we have to win? Everything.
We only lose our chains. History has not yet begun. Let’s begin to live.
They want to sell us what we already have: they want to sell us our own freedom, but all we need to do is practice it. They live off of our alienation.
Damn them! It is only enough for us to actualize what we think, and think what we practice.
Considering us for what we are, we don’t need them anymore. They use, live and enjoy our work. They oblige us to suffer, to take on and execute their thoughts.
We know it, comrades, we know it; our freedom passes for the freedom of all. If one person is restrained, then we’re all restrained.
Who do we live for? We don’t live for ourselves but for them!
Will we wait longer while two-thirds of humanity dies of hunger and a third of us are enslaved by a minority that freely decides? Today, there are more machines than we need, more food, more space, more wealth than what humanity as a whole needs …
Right now, we can enjoy our thoughts, our acts, to act on our thoughts, to begin to really communicate, to create our passions. Nothing can prevent us from doing it … We reject this state, we reject all states.
Anything is possible!
The text makes its appearance as a diffuse and forced mash-up of bits and pieces from the radical political discourse. A synthetic and distorted feedback. It would be easy to read the text as nothing but a symptom of juvenile outrage, were it not for the sequences where the feedback effect is so heavy that reading virtually collapses.
Terms and notions tend to merge, slip, and move in various directions at the same time. But reading still makes sense. I began to read the text as an allegory of civilized existence. In the suburbs. Where everything is built on mediated materials and discourses. The suburb never sustains itself. You live on credit. Economically and symbolically. Your living conditions are always already authorized elsewhere, and still the legitimacy of notions like autonomy, freedom, and self-realization is maintained as a matter of course. To speak of alienation is an understatement. That’s all there is. There’s no way out, and still it is proclaimed that anything is possible.
And just as terms and notions are merging in the text, so do the positions tend to float into each other. It is as if ‘they’ and ‘us’ and ‘one person’ refer to the same mass of perspectives, feelings, beliefs, and desires. As if one formless constitution of subjectivity is negotiating itself from various positions at one and the same time. Citizenanarchistconsumer. Every position exists on mediated conditions. Every position is free. And still it makes sense. If the text is read allegorically, that is.
The day after the shootout, a photographic image of Florence Rey, taken at the time of her arrest, was distributed to the news media by the police. Rey stands with her arms crossed, her clothes stained by blood, and she poses with such attitude and style.
In 1992, Patricia Hearst went on the catwalk for Dior in Paris. I wonder if Florence Rey knew this? Or the police? Or Reuter? I knew, and became entangled in this speculative feedback-howl.