August 2003
volume 1, issue 2


The State Is No Dream, Not Even In My Kisses

Polis matters. All personal information (private information about a person) shall be distributed upon any request. Legalize public access. Do not claim power to privacy. All information considered private must be exposed.

Distinguishing the public from the private has, since its peak in the Cold War and the Greek Polis, meant catchy headlines for books and pamphlets that convince us of the dialectical capability of their authors; public spaces private lives, public places private spaces, public appearances and private realities- examples of mind-taking advertisings campaigns for a contradiction that gained legal status with the invention of the marriage contract.

Privacy is legal fiction.
I narrow my argument to the framework of a cultural/historical discourse that understands categories of public realms as a liquid form of sociability disconnected from both market and state and that criticizes privacy as a domain of domestic intimacy.
I here acknowledge three other discourses that are used as frameworks in the attempt to classify public/private that I will not discuss in this essay but feel are worth noting:

They are as follows:

• An economic, often liberal discourse that defines the dominant distinction between public and private with terms that distinguish the state and economy.

• A civic discourse that understands the public in terms of a political community and a shared political consciousness independent from market structure.

• A discourse in feminist scholarship that conceives the distinction between the public and the private in terms of the distinction between the family as a private institution and the political as a larger political and/or economical order.

Recent leading contemporary thinkers (Castiglione, Passerin d’Entreves, Sypnowich) declare that discourse around the distinction of public/private is “potentially misleading” while also remaining a “powerful instrument of social analysis and moral reflection”. There seems to be a necessity to prove that the essence of our social vocabulary is unavoidably defined through a rigorous reformulation of the shifting boundaries of a discussion about privacy and public.

In post-Reformation manifestos, the public domain is a mere extension of the dominator’s (the monarch’s) private space. Public law is an appendix to the king’s sovereignty and a prolonged sphere of “the divine rights of the King”. Such understanding continue to stand when we exchange the king for a larger set of people, with ‘people’ as a metaphor for the psychoanalytic ‘common unconscious’, the citizen body, or with the concept of public reason. Public reason assumes a common language, it is “exercised by free citizens” and it agrees on an established objectified system of flexible judgments.

The judgments are context-dependent and multi-layered in simplicity, an onion without promise. They are universal only in their attempt to claim toleration and to minimize cruelty and suffering- which ironically are defined by public reason itself. In a liberal sense, morality bound to the public sphere is nothing but the overlapping arena of ‘beliefs and convictions’ maintained by certain (usually Executive) members of a historical context. Therefore, the definition of public is a contingent term within a historical purpose portraying the private offer as the conservative notion of self-creation and contingent non-reflection.

In recent discussions about online surveillance, the Left, holding up all flags against commercialized copyright, struggle uneasily with the public market structure that counts their last book ordered in the virtual bookstore. Though the left has formal problems with copyright, it is paradoxical that they are concerned about online privacy. This concern manifests itself in their condemning of the exposure of credit-card numbers or email passwords while affirming full-text archives. Privacy defines itself through its content-based ethic in addition to its marketability.

Crypto-codes are fantasies of an unfurnished political territory, lemon-ink script reminiscing about times of jungle guerilla in concrete urbania. You can quote, copy and paste as much as you want so long as you fall on the right side of profit. Any academic anecdote displays the ethic of not earning somebody else’s laurels, not taking home your best friend’s paycheck. Here the concept of private is nothing but a political category in order to control distribution and access.

To reverse these particular power structures we need to demand a universal amount of transparency and to eliminate concepts and strategies of opaque privacy. Privacy does nothing but fail to remind us of the acute presence of the state when it should do nothing other than that. Secret societies, private clubs, and allegories are obvious example of this and form concrete symbolism of totalitarian privacy.

Occult and secular conspiracies all subsist on the convention of privacy, on the cultural habit of semi-secrecy. Semi because their secrecy is publicly announced and modified, et. hitherto historically we argued that secret signs had the ability to protect precisely through privacy, secrecy and metaphor in order to escape political prosecution.

Avoiding political prosecution was thus shaped into a bourgeois pattern of confidence and protection that allowed its own privacy in decision-making and its own personal in property. Protection is a vulgar form of control since it always assumes (needs to, has to) hierarchy. Support, in comparison, is only given upon successful petition. In addition, this inherently mythological concept of the intimacy of space and emotions against a shared space and language is enforced through notions of privacy. Surrender to the ruling class dress code of polite and educated notions keeping “things” private made the working class’ exposure of private thoughts and emotions vulgar, and later on, philistine.

Today, unfortunately, this philistine vulgarity captures little subversive potential itself since it doesn’t question the concept of private. Instead, it post-modernly tries to confuse and makes limitations into a fashion.The result is an inability to recognize that very personal emotions are already public since fashion is thought in reference to experience. It is trained to confuse affirmed oppression of criticality with the freedom to think privately whatever one desires. The result is a messy slum of autobiographical idolatry. The historical monarch invented the term ‘decadence’ to describe this phenomenon of slaves, surfers and working class demanding privacy.

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