In his exquisite introduction to Anti-Oedipus, Foucault suggests the book is an “Introduction to the Non-Fascist Life.” This art of living counter to all forms of fascism, he writes, whether already present or impending, carries with it a certain number of essential principles. He goes on to list these principles:
- Free yourself from totalizing paranoia
- Act and think multiplicity, proliferation, juxtaposition (as distinct from pyramidal hierarchy)
- Disavow all forms of the Negative
- Remember that you don’t need to be sad to be militant
- Don’t become enamored of power
- And some others (read the whole intro)
As far as the social and political is concerned, I feel I have done well living as a non-fascist. I’ve avoided so many of the trappings of the American obsession with work and career. While teaching in the university system, I was never an academic — no journals, no conferences. I was adjunct and proud of it. And as for my other work, I’ve remained a freelancer for 16 years as I don’t want my time to be beholden to someone else, especially not someone I love. As a father, I resist the overbearing, indulgent bullshit that plagues today’s parents.
When it comes to what Americans call “politics,” I keep to myself. I don’t know see red states and blue states (I know they represent political parties but I don’t know which is which). I see life as infinitely complex, winding, forces that include gravity, anxiety, fear, love, desire, pleasure. When I think about the so-called issues that come prepackaged to me via Facebook and other news sources, I actually think about them, see the things I think nowhere, and walk away. Life’s too short, or too long, to be mired in the collective nonsense. Which is not to say there isn’t systematic exploitation and violence. On the contrary, it’s to say: of course there is as people tend to be weak and afraid and anxious and do horrible things to each other.
At the same time, I try not to judge others for the decisions they’ve made. Love academia? Awesome! Like going to work? Lucky you! Consider yourself a liberal or conservative? Power to you — just don’t talk to me about any of it. Which is to say, I am not didactic about the decisions I’ve made in my life (at least I try not to be). I’ve done what I’ve done, I do what I do, and I assume the same of you.
None of this is always easy. The world expects certain things from us and when we don’t do them, things can get awkward. The fact that I had a job outside of the university, made my professorial peers so nervous and confused. Meanwhile, my untraditional approach to work makes my temporary colleagues on a project — not to mention potential lovers — nervous. What do you do all day? How can you not know when you’ll be paid, or if you’ll have work? How??? I run into the parental fascists every day in various ways and have to be careful not to inspire them to call social services (fortunately, my son is so awesome — so shiny and sweet and generous and mature — that my parenting is, for the most part, unquestioned by others. Mind you, I take no credit for this; it’s all him. I just get to enjoy the halo effect of his excellence.)
All of this self-indulgent nonsense I’m prattling on about is only to say that I am aware of the forces that coerce us this way and that and, for the most part, I feel pretty good about how I’ve managed to parry, evade, avoid, counter punch the would-be fascists that I’ve encountered along the way.
But there’s one fascist that persists, that’s been with me my whole life, that nudges, pokes, prods, and beats me senseless: the fascist inside me. When I step back and survey the world, I can see the great teem of forces, human and non-human, that propel this planet, this solar system, this cosmos. But, privately, I relentlessly judge, assess, and criticize myself. I don’t see the beautifully indifferent cosmos doing what it does. I see a shitbird doing shitty things. You talk too much, smucknuts! You’re a lazy, masturbating, pervert! You’re a shitty ass father! You’re absurdly skinny with a nose the size of Rhode Island! It’s as if all the fear and anxiety and petty ego bullshit that others feel and inflict on the world by hating, killing, bullying, judging, I do to myself.
Of course, the reason I am the things I think I am — lazy, a shitty father, ugly — is precisely (or mostly) because I’m judging myself as these things. That is to say, I get down on myself and, lo and behold, I get short tempered with my son, girlfriend, mother. I feel shitty about myself so I don’t get off my ass to do things. Which is to say, a lack of self-love leads to a lack of other love — which leads to judgment, hatred, violence, control, to fascism.