After an all-night conversation with an old friend, you are ready to start the revolution together. But the next day, discussing the finer points over breakfast, you realize no, it’s impossible—in fact, this friend is actually a fascist. Her sentiment is right but her strategies could be disastrous. In order for the revolution to succeed, you will probably have to kill her. And this friend is thinking the same thing of you—a cowardly ideologue who hides behind an antiquated idea of historical progress in order to feel like a good person. Your grand political project from last night draws closer to the proverbial dustbin. The eggs are delicious. Your friend is as sweet as ever, it would be a real pity to have to kill her over something like this. Maybe you should not be having these conversations in the first place.
You are struck by how, in a single day, your comrade has become your political enemy—your nearly identical, compatible views have become mutually exclusive. Your ideas on class, capital, art, cultural difference, literacy, ethics, life, and the role of the state simultaneously merge and cancel each other out. Time is moving so fast that a revolution has taken place and been recuperated in a matter of hours, and you don’t know whether you are going forwards or backwards. You are dizzy; maybe you drank too much.
Now is the time to look carefully at a work by Yoko Ono from 1966 entitled Play it by Trust—a chessboard on which all the chess pieces are the same color. To play the game, you must play together, but to what end? Forward movement becomes completely confusing after leaving the safe harbor of a single side. You must play the game using what may be your opponent’s pieces, without any sense of direction. There is a feeling of stasis, but in fact you are exhausted from making moves all the time. Historical progress and political movement continue on the board, but in order to play together with an Islamist, a US president, a hipster, a museum director, a techno-libertarian, an artist, a budget-cutting bureaucrat, or a thousand Facebook friends, you must look deeply into your opponent’s eyes as she look into yours, and try to understand: What is actually at stake in this strange new game?© 2012 e-flux and the author