"Exiting the Vampire Castle" by Mark Fisher (1968-2017)
Anyway, the piece that struck me as most powerfully relevant during this week's re-reading was something Fisher wrote back in November 2013 called "Exiting the Vampire Castle".
It is a sustained reflection on how someone like me – and perhaps, if you regularly read this blog anyway, someone like you – might best be able to resist succumbing to the feeling that for our own well-being we need to disengage from politics entirely. Do please consider reading the whole piece (found at the link above and at the end of this post) but, to whet your appetite, here are Fisher's Five Laws of the Vampire's Castle . . .
The first law of the Vampires’ Castle is: individualise and privatise everything.
While in theory it claims to be in favour of structural critique, in practice it never focuses on anything except individual behaviour. Some of these working class types [it proclaims] are not terribly well brought up, and can be very rude at times. Remember: condemning individuals is always more important than paying attention to impersonal structures. The actual ruling class propagates ideologies of individualism, while tending to act as a class. (Many of what we call ‘conspiracies’ are the ruling class showing class solidarity.) The Vampires’ Castle, as dupe-servants of the ruling class, does the opposite: it pays lip service to ‘solidarity’ and ‘collectivity’, while always acting as if the individualist categories imposed by power really hold. Because they are petit-bourgeois to the core, the members of the Vampires’ Castle are intensely competitive, but this is repressed in the passive aggressive manner typical of the bourgeoisie. What holds them together is not solidarity, but mutual fear – the fear that they will be the next one to be outed, exposed, condemned.
The second law of the Vampires’ Castle is: make thought and action appear very, very difficult.
There must be no lightness, and certainly no humour. Humour isn’t serious, by definition, right? Thought is hard work, for people with posh voices and furrowed brows. Where there is confidence, introduce scepticism. Say: don’t be hasty, we have to think more deeply about this. Remember: having convictions is oppressive, and might lead to gulags.
The third law of the Vampires’ Castle is: propagate as much guilt as you can.
The more guilt the better. People must feel bad: it is a sign that they understand the gravity of things. It’s OK to be class-privileged if you feel guilty about privilege and make others in a subordinate class position to you feel guilty too. You do some good works for the poor, too, right?
The fourth law of the Vampires’ Castle is: essentialize.
While fluidity of identity, pluarity and multiplicity are always claimed on behalf of the Vampires’ Castle members – partly to cover up their own invariably wealthy, privileged or bourgeois-assimilationist background – the enemy is always to be essentialized. Since the desires animating the Vampires’ Castle are in large part priests’ desires to excommunicate and condemn, there has to be a strong distinction between Good and Evil, with the latter essentialized. Notice the tactics. X has made a remark/ has behaved in a particular way – these remarks/ this behaviour might be construed as transphobic/ sexist etc. So far, OK. But it’s the next move which is the kicker. X then becomes defined as a transphobe/ sexist etc. Their whole identity becomes defined by one ill-judged remark or behavioural slip. Once the Vampires’ Castle has mustered its witch-hunt, the victim (often from a working class background, and not schooled in the passive aggressive etiquette of the bourgeoisie) can reliably be goaded into losing their temper, further securing their position as pariah/ latest to be consumed in feeding frenzy.
The fifth law of the Vampires’ Castle: think like a liberal (because you are one).
The Vampires’ Castle’s work of constantly stoking up reactive outrage consists of endlessly pointing out the screamingly obvious: capital behaves like capital (it’s not very nice!), repressive state apparatuses are repressive. We must protest!