The difference between “Politics” proper (the practice of a militant social procedure to truth) and the “political” (indecision due to indeterminacy over a name, a name’s property, or a name’s relation to the Real it represents) is to be inscribed as the difference between knowing one’s “rights” and asserting them. Politicians, as we know, only play at politics in public forums: I call this “play” “the political.” Politics, as we know, is practiced in secret by politicians in rooms behind curtains. Obscenity and scandal are now normal and assert themselves with complete complicity on part of the public: gone are the days when we could charge our leaders with the crime of betrayal – alas! the ballot box is not a guillotine.
There is no need to assert rights when there is individual knowledge of them; when the units operating within a symbolic order are “informed” as to their proper behaviour toward one another – rights are obvious, without being asserted. Of course, economic power relations turn the “obvious” into the obscure; the signs of economic status are ambiguous (as all signs are) – one is never sure what political procedures the Other followed to attain that status. Politics, in this regard, would mean determining whether or not the procedure the other followed was a lawful one according to the status of one’s knowledge of the situation – that is: whether or not the names used in the description of the procedure are the correct ones, whether the properties of the names are correspondences and not merely connections, and whether or not the representation of the name is the one best suited to represent the Real of the situation.
The exact place where jealousy and the political intersect is in the phrase “possession of rights.” Whatever form these supposed “rights” happen to take: human, animal, women’s, men’s, environmental, auto, consumer, employer, employee, “to pleasure, to pain,” etc – the result is the same: assertions. The desire for rights is irreducible but not irremediable: we can change the way we pursue and “act out” certain of our rights, for example: the freedom of speech is better exercised when circulating language (conversation, laughter, meaning, etc.), rather than bringing it to a halt (the internet, for such a refined technology, is filled with shit).
We are so jealous of the rights of others – especially if they have none, in which case we force them to assume the pose of “liberty” – we are forced to act and seem as free as possible. It seems as if the assertion of “rights” (ours or others) is an imperative or injunction that impels us to perform freedom: the political as a process of excess – politics as a process of subtraction. “Political” in the sense of a dramatic ritual, reduced to its bare elements, and reproduced as a code ad infinitum. “Politics:” actions / gestures to be interpreted, not for their dramatic significance but for their validity pertaining to the current situation (which may or may not be the site of an event for politics).
Paradoxically, as mentioned above, it seems for us to be a perverse desire to “liberate” those who are not free – or who do not want to be free. So-called political, medical, social “intervention” is nothing but this perversity. We want to make the slaves like us: into masters who do not know their own desire – except in the performance of the slave, constantly amused but never satisfied. Or the reverse: we are slaves that desire to see the masters’ in chains’ – to see them perform our fantasy. These examples are examples of the “political” at its worst: when the desire of the Other becomes little more than a game of possessive jealousy, to add to the other what they lack (or vice versa) in order to make them the same as us!
The current trend in our political situation, as far as I have observed, is to possess “difference” – as if difference were a thing that actually existed or an object with a clear definition. It is impossible to tell whether something appears different or whether its difference is singular; the decision to judge something in the name of difference is now the criteria of justice. However, difference itself is split: between being condemned to villainy and being a grace beyond reproach. My government (Canada) seems to be bent on promoting “difference for the sake of difference,” rather than pursuing difference as a possible evental site (which is not limited to politics). Asserting difference, not being different.
When there is no knowledge left – just names: this is where politics can emerge, where difference can be itself, and the social can begin to build a system based upon the basic elements of the situation. When knowledge becomes the prerequisite criteria for political representation – when even the signs of knowledge translate directly into political power: this is trying to own the language of the situation, a process of exclusion that, paradoxically, is ready, willing, and able to include any term as long as it’s new or belong to any trajectory of thought as long as it’s trendy. The state of “just names” means that each term must be evaluated by each: its value determined from localized points of view that both belong to and are included in the situation to be altered by the practice of politics proper.