This, then, is the way we must begin, with the secret intelligence of - the secret insight into - duality and reversibility, with speaking evil as in a mental Theatre of Cruelty.
Above all, we must not confuse the idea of evil with some kind of objective existence of evil. That has no more meaning than an objective existence of the Real; it is merely the moral and metaphysical illusion of Manichaeism that it is possible to will evil, to do evil, or, alternatively, to denounce it and combat it.
Evil has no objective reality.
Quite the contrary, it consists in the diverting of things from their 'objective' existence, in their reversal, their 'return' (I wonder if we might not even interpret Nietzsche's 'Eternal Return' in this sense - not as an endless cycle, not as a repetition, but as a turning about, as a reversible form of becoming - die ewige Umkehr).
In this sense, in precisely the same way as Canetti conceives vengeance, evil too is automatic.
You cannot will it. That is an illusion and a misconception. The evil you can will, the evil you can do and which, most of the time, merges with violence, suffering and death, has nothing to do with this reversible form of evil. We might even say that those who deliberately practise evil certainly have no insight into it, since their act supposes the intentionality of a subject, whereas this reversibility of evil is the reversibility of a form.
And it is, at bottom, the form itself that is intelligent, insightful: with evil it is not a question of an object to be understood; we are dealing with a fonn that understands us.
In the 'intelligence of evil' we have to understand that it is evil that is intelligent, that it is it which thinks us in the sense that it is implied automatically in every one of our acts.
For it is not possible for any act whatever or any kind of talk not to have two sides to it; not to have a reverse side, and hence a dual existence. And this contrary to any finality or objective determination.
This dual fonn is irreducible, indissociable from all existence. It is therefore pointless to wish to localize it and even more so to wish to denounce it. The denunciation of evil is still of the order of morality, of a moral evaluation.
Now, evil is immoral, not in the way a crime is immoral, but in the way a form is. And the intelligence of evil itself is immoral - it does not aspire to any value judgement, it does not do evil, it speaks it.
The idea of evil as a malign force, a maleficent agency, a deliberate perversion of the order of the world, is a deep-rooted superstition.
It is echoed at the world level in the phantasmic projection of the Axis of Evil, and in the Manichaean struggle against that power.
This is all part of the same imaginary.
Hence the principle of the prevention, the forestalling, the prophylaxis, of evil; rather than morality or metaphysics, what we have today is an infection, a microbial epidemic, the corruption of a world whose predestined end is presumed to lie in good.
A more subtle misconception is that of a hypostasis of evil as indestructible reality, a kind of primal scene, a sort of substratum of accumulated death-drive.
The radicality of evil is seen as that of a naturally inevitable force, associated always with violence, suffering and death.
Hence Sloterdijk's hypothesis that 'the reality of reality is the eternal return of violence'. To which he opposes a 'pacifism that is in keeping with our most advanced theoretical intuitions, a deep-level pacifism, based on a radical analysis of the circularity of violence, deciphering the forces that determine its eternal return'.
A radical analysis, then, to remedy the radical evil.
But can a 'radical' analysis have a finality of whatever kind?
Is it not itself part of the process of evil?
However that may be, duality and evil are not the same as violence.
The dual form, the agon, is a symbolic form and, as such, it might be said to be much nearer to seduction and challenge than to violence. Closer to metamorphosis and becoming than to force and violence.
If there were a force of evil, a reality of evil, a source and an origin of evil, one could confront it strategically with all the forces of good.
But if evil is a form, and most of the time a form that is deeply buried, one can only bring out that form and come to an understanding with it [etre en intelligence avec elle].
This is how it is, for example, with the Theatre of Cruelty: in that gestural and scenic externalization of all the 'perverse' possibilities of the human spirit, within the framework of an exploration of the roots of evil, there is never any question of tragic catharsis. The point, rather, is to play out fully these perverse possibilities and make drama out of them, but without sublimating or resolving them.
'To speak evil' is to speak this fateful, paradoxical situation that is the reversible concatenation of good and evil. That is to say that the irresistible pursuit of good, the movement of Integral Reality - for this is what good is: it is the movement towards integrality, towards an integral order of the world - is immoral. The eschatological perspective of a better world is in itself immoral. For the reason that our technical mastery of the world, our technical approach to good, having become an automatic and irresistible mechanism, none of this is any longer of the order of morality or of any kind of finality. Nor is to speak and read evil the same thing as vulgar nihilism, the nihilism of a denunciation of all values, that of the prophets of doom. To denounce the reality contract or the reality 'conspiracy' is not at all nihilistic. It is not in any sense to deny an obvious fact, in the style of 'All is sign, nothing is real - nothing is true, everything is simulacrum' - an absurd proposition since it is also a realist one!
It is one thing to note the vanishing of the real into the Virtual, another to deny it so as to pass beyond the real and the Virtual.
It is one thing to reject morality in the name of a vulgar immoralism, another to do so, like Nietzsche so as to pass beyond good and evil.
To be 'nihilistic' is to deny things at their greatest degree of intensity, not in their lowest versions. Now, existence and self-evidence have always been the lowest forms.
If there is nihilism, then, it is not a nihilism of value, but a nihilism of form. It is to speak the world in its radicality, in its dual, reversible form, and this has never meant banking on catastrophe, any more than on violence.
No finality, either positive or negative, is ever the last word in the story.
And the Apocalypse itself is a facile solution.
To speak evil is to say that in every process of domination and conflict is forged a secret complicity, and in every process of consensus and balance, a secret antagonism.
'Voluntary servitude' and the 'involuntary', suicidal failing of the power systems - two phenomena that are every bit as strange as each other, on the fringes of which we can make out all the ambivalence of political forms. This is to say that:
- immigration, the social question of immigration in our societies, is merely the most visible and crudest illustration of the internal exile of the European in his own society.
- terrorism can be interpreted as the expression of the internal dislocation of a power that has become all-powerful a global violence immanent in the world-system itself. Hence the attempt to extirpate it as an objective evil is delusional given that, in its very absurdity, it is the expression of the condemnation that power pronounces on itself.
That, as Brecht said of fascism (that it was made up of both fascism and antifascism), terrorism is made up of terrorism and anti-terrorism together. And that, if it is the incarnation of fanaticism and violence, it is the incarnation of the violence of those who denounce it at the same time as of their impotence, and of the absurdity of combating it frontally without having understood anything of this diabolical complicity and this reversibility of terror.
The violence you mete out is always the mirror of the violence you inflict on yourself. The violence you inflict on yourself is always the mirror of the violence you mete out.
This is the intelligence of evil.
If terrorism is evil - and it certainly is in its form, and not at all in the sense in which George W. Bush understands it then it is this intelligence of Evil we need; the intelligence of, the insight into, this internal convulsion of the world order, of which terrorism is both the event moment and the image feedback.
Jean Baudrillard/The Intelligence of Evil or the Lucidity Pact /'The Intelligence of Evil'
First published in France, 2004 by Editions Galilee © Galilee, 2004, Le Pact de lucidite ou l'intelligence du Mal
Typeset by JS Typesetting, Porthcawl, Mid Glamorgan Printed in the United Kingdom by BiddIes Ltd, King's Lynn
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