…Guy Debord / La Société du Spectacle(63)…

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  • Capitalist production has unified and integrated the dimension of space on this planet: space which is no longer marked out and delineated by border-societies outside of the system.  This unification is at the same time a wide-spread and intensive process of banalisation.  The piling up of consumer goods produced one after another for that abstract place: ‘the market’,  just as it was always going to break down every regional and legal barrier, and all those guild/corporative restrictions, dating from the middle ages, which maintained and upheld the quality of artisanal production, so it was also destined to dissolve every specificity of place:  to break down the autonomy and the distinctiveness of absolutely every  p l a c e   . This power of homogenization is the heavy artillery that has made fall all the walls of China.

* – * – *

…which is why a resolute NON-standardization – learned, maybe, from Jorge Luis Borges’ catalogs and cartography 1) –  goes hand in hand with leet-speak, encryption and hacking of all kinds. Because, online, it is actually now so easy to recreate those havens – those “border-societies outside of the system” – that disappeared from the physical world in this last half-century of modern roads, electronics and globalizing culture.  Because with a little hacking and a leave-of-absence from the database, you can have the modern, computerized enforcer – who relies on the virtual world to do his work in the physical world – sounding just like the cartographer, colonialist or missionary quoted in The Art of Not Being Governed:

  • “Making maps is hard, but mapping Guizhou province especially so….The land in southern Guizhou has fragmented and confused boundaries….A department or a county may be split into several subsections, in many instances separated by other departments or counties….There are also regions of no man’s land where the Miao live intermixed with the Chinese….  Southern Guizhou has a multitude of mountain peaks. They are jumbled together, without any plains or marshes to space them out, or rivers or water courses to put limits on them. They are vexingly numerous and ill-disciplined….Very few people dwell among them, and generally the peaks do not have names. Their configurations are difficult to discern clearly, ridges and summits seeming to be the same. Those who give an account of the arterial pattern of the mountains are thus obliged to speak at length. In some cases, to describe a few kilometers of ramifications needs a pile of documentation, and dealing with the main line of a day’s march takes a sequence of chapters. As to the confusion of the local patois, in the space of fifty kilometers a  river may have fifty names and an encampment covering a kilometer and a half may have three designations. Such is the  unreliability of the nomenclature.”
  • “The hilly and jungly tracts were those in which the dacoits held out longest. Such were the country between Minbu and Thayetmyo and the [swampy] terai at the foot of the Shan Hills and the Arakan and Chin Hills. Here pursuit was impossible. The tracts are narrow and tortuous and admirably suited for ambuscades. Except by the regular paths there were hardly any means of approach; the jungle malaria was fatal to our troops; a column could only penetrate the jungle and move on. The villages are small and far between; they are generally compact and surrounded by dense, impenetrable jungle. The paths were either just broad enough for a cart, or very narrow, and, where they led through the jungle were overhung with brambles and thorny creepers. A good deal of the dry grass is burned in March, but as soon as the rains recommence the whole once more becomes impassible.”
  • “The surface has been minutely trenched by winding streams. So numerous are the creeks that the topographical map of a single representative county of 373 square miles indicated 339 named streams, that is, nine streams for each ten square miles. The valleys are for the most part “V”-shaped, with rarely more level space along the banks of a stream for a cabin and perhaps a garden patch….The isolation occasioned by methods of travel so slow and difficult is intensified by several circumstances. For one thing, the routes are round-about. Travel is either down one branch along a creek and up another branch, or up a stream to a divide and down another stream on the further side of the ridge. This being the case, married women living within ten miles of their parents have passed a dozen years without going back to see them.”

…and what happens if society’s generalized ability to stay organized – in the virtual or the physical world – becomes so degraded that the above is the norm… ???

1) from  On Exactitude in Science: “… In that Empire, the Art of Cartography attained such Perfection that the map of a single Province occupied the entirety of a City, and the map of the Empire, the entirety of a Province. In time, those Unconscionable Maps no longer satisfied, and the Cartographers Guilds struck a Map of the Empire whose size was that of the Empire, and which coincided point for point with it. The following Generations, who were not so fond of the Study of Cartography as their Forebears had been, saw that that vast map was Useless, and not without some Pitilessness was it, that they delivered it up to the Inclemencies of Sun and Winters. In the Deserts of the West, still today, there are Tattered Ruins of that Map, inhabited by Animals and Beggars; in all the Land there is no other Relic of the Disciplines of Geography.” or in The Library of Babel and others…
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