Wednesday, May 02, 2007
Mayday Mayday Mayday!! The international code word for distress, said three times, is the official call-out for immediate help in a life-threatening situation. “A Mayday situation is one in which a vessel, aircraft, vehicle, or person is in grave and imminent danger and requires immediate assistance. Examples of ‘grave and imminent danger’ in which a Mayday call would be appropriate are fire, explosion, or sinking.” Usually, this is a call towards state authorities to intervene and “save” the people at hand. For A World Without Borders! An Article from The New York Rat Issue #8
By Onto, New York Rat Senior Border Analyst
“But if I don't get my desire / I will set the plantation on fire” - Gregory Isaacs
Mayday Mayday Mayday!! The international code word for distress, said three times, is the official call-out for immediate help in a life-threatening situation. “A Mayday situation is one in which a vessel, aircraft, vehicle, or person is in grave and imminent danger and requires immediate assistance. Examples of ‘grave and imminent danger’ in which a Mayday call would be appropriate are fire, explosion, or sinking.” Usually, this is a call towards state authorities to intervene and “save” the people at hand. Well, we’re sure as hell fucked so we might as well start the screaming. But to whom? And for what? When the imminent danger comes in the guise of “assistance”, it’s time to start rethinking what we mean by danger. While governments see fire, explosion and sinking as mayday situations, we see the government itself as one. Today, on this May Day, we will use this code against the state, and against all forms of authority that attempt to “save” us at all. Our call on May Day for Mayday will remember the Haymarket anarchists along with all the undocumented migrants of today as we call upon only each other’s support, autonomy and power to take back our lives.
What is the danger we are alluding to, the danger that comes in many forms, places, times, shapes and names? What is the danger that captured native Americans for hundreds of years (still does), anarchists in the 19th century (and 20th), immigrants in the 20th (and 21st), and is still alive today, still mutating its form like a virus going up against new immunities? What is this danger that exploits your differences, alienates you from your land, cuts off your family, arrests you, detains you, starves you, stabs you, all the while proclaiming your safety, sovereignty and freedom? What is the manufactured violence that combines state authority with capital accumulation, sexist work with racist laws?
This is nothing but the global regime of borders. Its weapons are detention and deportation; its lackeys are government agents, capitalist bosses, and racist neighbors; its protocols are immigration laws; its prisons are maquiladoras; its technology is surveillance; its dissemination is viral; its form is a decentralized network; its message is “homeland security”, but its meaning is “submit or die.” The border is a ghost that haunts every workplace, every highway, every courthouse, every field, every suburb, every city. It’s the foundation of our nation, and we all know what that means: without it, the nation falls.
Unfortunately, anarchists and other radicals still think the border is just a wall. Something that just sits there, passively, in the middle of a game between capital and labor, state and migrant, civilization and anarchy. We need to eradicate this mental weed from the ecology of our minds if we are to undermine and abolish the borders from below.
So let’s take a journey through the evolution of the meaning of the border. (And please leave the green anti-immigrant scapegoating at home; that alibi is sick and old.) This story is more logical than chronological. For all these pieces can occur together or in parts, in succession or simultaneous. To be strategic, every site of the border must be seen in its specificity.
What is a border?
First off, it’s War. Literally, the border is a relic of the Mexican-American war of 1848, when America “bought” half of Mexico’s territory (about 500,000 sq. miles) at gunpoint. The Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo still stands, marking the Rio Grande as the ‘line’ which ‘separates’ us from them. The border is a monument without a museum, doused with techno-media and military machines in order to revive its symbolism with a vengeance. Yet the war never really ended, only moving underground, in shadows, in stealth. Bodies still pile up at the edges, and governments still negotiate new treaties (trade agreements) all the time.
Through such agreements, the border becomes a form of Property. It is enclosure, forming the body proper of the country, its outline, its image in the sand. Once this illusion becomes solidified in the minds of the citizens, its defense becomes unquestionable. Who wouldn’t want to defend their property? The border becomes the consensual hallucination of an imagined community of ‘citizens’ who share nothing but a relationship to what’s “outside.” We’re not them, they say, those are ‘aliens’. If to be an alien means to embody the subversion of their entire system of property, then by all means indict us! Property does not make the border possible, but on the contrary, the border makes all property possible. And with that, Capital as well.
Property, we know, is theft. And theft, capture, and control are the main functions of any State. Besides cops, prisons, and government buildings, the border is the closest thing you’ll get to the material manifestation of the state in all its naked force. The collusion between capitalists, militarists, racist libertarians and ‘pluralist’ democrats to “contain the state of emergency”, i.e., the loss of their profit, is blatant at every border site. Every “border zone” is chaos, and so the state tries to covers it up with a thousand bureaucracies, rules, and technologies. Invoke the border and you are on standing on their ground, so be ready to fight dirty. But that ground can be broken, like tree roots smashing upwards through concrete. The state tries to organize the chaos from above, but we all know how that goes: more resistance from below.
To contain the resistance, the border becomes a Prison. With 17 federal detention centers, hundreds of county ones and thousands of private ones, the border escapes its geography and encroaches inland. By the fall of 2007 the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will spend an estimated $1 billion per year to detain over 27, 500 immigrants. ICE operates eight Service Processing Centers (SPCs) and seven contract detention facilities. Additionally, immigration detainees are being held in local jails and private prisons across the United States. This is the deterritorialization of the border, when the border traps you in time and holds you indefinitely, instead of trapping you in space. Shutting down detention centers, liberating detainees, and breaking the time trap becomes essential.
To guard this mobile prison, they need Police. But how can the border also be a police force? By militarizing itself, and distributing the mindset of militarization to everyone it can. Everyone becomes a border guard, with ICE being just the last step in the long chain of control. Neighbors, colleagues, workers, friends – no one is safe. With a little help from the fear-mongering media, the Virus of the bordermind sets in and spreads. Migrants – living in hiding, working in backrooms— are killed coming in and killed getting out. The Minutemen are only the most recent and deadly strand of the border virus. So how do you kill a virus? We should look to biology to see how self-organized NK (Natural Killer) immune cells use antibodies to destroy viruses naturally: infiltrate, proliferate, eradicate.
Doubly precarious, both at home and in the workplace, migrants live on the edges of a Network. There are at least three networks at work here. The border network, the migrant network, and the network in between. All overlap, none are isolated. The nodes that make up the border network consist of check-points, fences, government institutions, surveillance technology, Private detention corporations (Halliburton and Wackenhut especially), vigilante groups, anti-immigrant think tanks (FAIR, for instance), maquiladoras, and anti-terrorist legislation. The migrant network is composed of extended families, day labor sites, coyotes, deserts, fields, slave labor, humanitarian aid groups, churches, worker centers, mosques, synagogues, anti-detention and anti-deportation groups, ESL classes, and no border camps. In between are drug cartels, unions, political parties, media, contractors and middlemen. Each network is resilient, decentralized and dense. Every crack in one is an opening for another. Hubs emerge when links become more and more dense, for instance, at churches, during elections, at labor sites, and after an economic recession. The question is not how do we create or destroy this or that network, but how do we get in and get out, alter or deform it, add, subtract, multiply new links, nodes or edges. We’re already in it, so we might as well figure out how to use it.
The border network operates more like a Technology than a system, a Code not a language. It codes the movement of bodies across the world as “immigration” and then decodes that as “illegal.” The border itself is seen to be “neutral.” It’s just a technical issue, they say, the problem of immigrants. It can be solved technically, mathematically, economically. It is both an actual matrix of technology (weapons, walls, planes, beds, buildings, lights, sensors, radios, cameras) and also a virtual technology of symbols (status, passports, flags, laws). By technology, we mean a way of dominating and controlling nature. Migration is treated as a problem of nature, an ecological obstacle that can be solved by technological progress. Just like global warming or water pollution, the “solution” to the “problem” of migration is never about getting to the cause (i.e., the capitalist ravage of the planet which forces people to flee their homes in search of sustenance) but always about how to make more money off of it while deferring the effect to the next generation. The border is exactly that technological fix, that addiction that delays reality for just one more infinite second. The border is the opiate of the nation.
And what do drugs do but satisfy some Desire? Well what is the desire for people to move around the planet, and what is the desire for others to stop them? Why do some people desire to be fascist and others desire to be anarchist? Why do people want a border in the first place? What is the fascism of everyday life that extends the border into ones habits, relationships, and conversations? What is the anarchy of everyday life that resists all manifestations of the border, that creates spaces for freedom and creativity in every moment? What we’re getting out is the cultural practice of borders, how they are a style, a way of life for people to live in and live out. It’s an aesthetic, its “cool” to be a border. It’s even cooler to co-opt migrants into being borders against other migrants, the ‘good’ vs. the ‘bad’, the ‘legal’ vs. the ‘illegal.’ The idea of ‘illegal’ in the first place fulfills someone’s desire for maintaining a value system of right and wrong in a world where that value system makes no sense at all. Racist ideologues desire purity of race while vulture capitalists desire purity of profit. The former are anti-immigrant while the latter are “pro” immigrant (as long as they can determine what that means). Whose desire will be stronger? Or better yet, who will use the others desire for their own benefit better? This struggle of desires plays out in the social field everyday. And what about the migrants themselves? The desire of people to migrate cannot be reduced to just economics. People are not simply victims of global capitalism, they are people with desires for freedom, from poverty, corruption and destitution. These desires get funneled into the American dream before they are even allowed the possibility of moving towards something else, something that wouldn’t translate “freedom” into wage-slavery. Cut at the root and replanted in different soil, the desire against borders is blocked before it can truly grow. To cultivate that desire is our goal.
How do we escape from this long borderwar? Where they have ideology, we must have Imagination. In some sense, we know the border is an imagined act, albeit an enforced one. To overcome this, we must imagine as well, and we must enforce our imaginations too. A world without borders is not a dream, it is how you live. Some say that migrants are the most victimized social class in the world. Others say that the global movement of migrants is the largest Social Movement in the world. Both are exaggerations, yet both are somewhat true. For the constant ability of millions of people to evade state machines and border networks is possibly the largest scale of subversion in the history of mankind. But we know now that border networks and state machines aren’t necessarily there to stop migration, only to control it. In fact, they desire migrants. They need them. And with this need, the extreme vulnerability of the state becomes apparent.
Resistance doesn’t begin at the fence because the border doesn’t begin there either. Borders are massive investments, they are literally their own economies, and every economy, in the end, is based on debt, credit, and the faith that everything will be paid back in full. Resisting the border means breaking that faith, that credit in the ideology of exclusion. This resistance is as layered as the border itself, and hence is inconsistent, contradictory and unpredictable. From underground railroads to class solidarity, lobbying to strikes, boycotts to riots, childcare to legal defense, noborder camps to farmworker rights, the resistance is as open as the air. There is no ‘resistance’ itself, only resistances which could link up to tear down, break away, and immunize the border regime wherever it emerges. It’s not when the border is gone that Anarchy will be our fate. Rather, it is only when we stop living and believing in anarchy that the border becomes permanent. Then we might really have to scream louder across the fences, MAYDAY MAYDAY MAYDAY!!!
For more info, see deletetheborder.org
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