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By Erik Cason
Posted June 24, 2019
Political life in the digital panopticon
“The obligation of subjects to the sovereign is understood to last as long, and no longer, than the power lasteth by which he is able to protect them. For the right men have by nature to protect themselves, when none else can protect them, can by no covenant be relinquished.” -Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan
To understand the power of cryptography, we first must understand what sovereignty is and how it functions in modren society. What exactly is sovereign power in the digital age, and how exactly does it project its power into the world of flesh and steel? What is the process of the execution of power in this non-physical space, and how is it directly applied to the subjects of a commonwealth?
Through using the perspectives of Giorgio Agamben, Carl Schmitt, and Michael Foucault we can see that in the current paradigm of law is not that of legality, but of raw authoritarian force
of law. The law today functions only through the sovereign exception that is the rule. If sovereign power is suppose to be the protection and guarantee of access to the law, then we must ask what does it mean when anyone, or anything, can be put outside and beyond the law for whatever ‘emergency’ the sovereign may decide?
The origin of sovereign power, as stated above, is nothing more than the protection that can be offer to one another within a society and the laws that consecrate such protection. People meaningfully give up their individual power to a supposed sovereign who can offer a kind of protection that none other can offer. However, the convent that can never be relinquished is nothing other than direct protection. Protection is a totalizing concept–it exist in a binary field. The personal and absolute demand for protection for oneself by oneself goes beyond any convent; it is something that can never be relinquished for it is life itself. Every human has a natural right to protect their lives and to given themselves fully to their own safety and security. There is no god, government, or person who can ever take that away for any reason, no matter what ‘emergency’ there may be.
Over the course of the last several centuries, the slow chipping away of all essential rights through every kind of transgression through the emergency decree has hollowed out the very meaning of ‘rights’ under the guise of law. Today anyone can be placed outside and below the law, while allowing for others to stand over and above the law. This is the State of Exception, it is the core sovereign function at play within the law, and how state agencies always find themselves and their actors beyond the reach of the law. The law is always-already suspended — just look at the facts of the world and the avarice, corruption, and barbarism from which state agencies function. This is why police kill and it is not called murder, and why politicians steal and it is not called theft, and why militaries commit war crimes and it’s called collateral damage. The state can commit any crime it desires, and it can always absolve itself for any reason it sees fit.
All States have re-established bellum omnium contra omnes (‘ The war of all against all’) as bellum se ipsum alet (‘the war that feeds itself’). The true nature of sovereign power is not to end the war of all-against-all as a great peacemaker, but rather to subject populations to the parasitic nature of a continuous total war that encompass all of biological life.
Identity and subjugation
” Isn’t power a sort of generalized war which assumes at particular moments the forms of peace and the State? Peace would then be a form of war, and the State a means of waging it.”–Foucault, Truth and Power
Peace is the mode of surveillance through which the state wages a constant war against all people at all times using police, agents, consultants, CCTV, and so many more modules of control to act as the eyes and ears of the great panopticon we call global society. It is through the ‘gaze’ of the panopticon that the identity of the subject can be formulated, and then process of selection can begin. The sovereign may label one as enemy, for liquidation, or friend, for continuous exploitation in the camps of life under the slogan ‘arbeit macht frei ‘.
Through the mode of war that the state calls ‘peace’, and the laws, police, regulations, surveillance and nearly infinite other technik of repressive state apparatuses uses to actively wage this war, statism creates the conditions for its permanent unconditional rule. With the ungodly amount of data that we each produce, China is just the first of all states to implement the panopticon that has created the digital camps.
Through the never-ending war of ‘nationalistic peace’ under the slogan of ‘emergency’ that demands we are all labeled and tracked, our identities as enemy or friend is decided under the sovereign decision. The state of emergency is always-already ruling by the very nature of its ability to be called upon at anytime for any reason for any amount of time the sovereign deems ‘dangerous’.
The ability of the law to cloak the absolute nature of sovereign power that is enshrined at its center is the very predicament that puts all people outside of the law, and all government agents beyond all law. The Patriot Act is this surmised into a single law which can label any human alive as ‘enemy combatant’ thus branding their flesh with the label of death, _ Homo Sacer,_ that which ensures they will never encounter the law, just be placed outside of it. Just as important, this also creates a class of men who enforce the law, which allows for them to subjectively choose when and where to put into force the law, which can always excludes them.
Through this form of law (the state of emergency which opens the sovereign exception) both figures — the sovereign and the subject — find their natural, final places outside and beyond the law. The Sovereign is omnipotent, and has the full responsibility to decide on everything in regards to The Subject. Not just one’s biological and physical life, but the very form, make-up, language, memory, cognition, norms and all of the features that encompasses our total being as a human life. The subject is entitled to nothing, not even to die at their own will, as the state believes the naked biological life of its citizen owes its very existence as a subject to the Sovereign alone, and may only die at the sovereign’s approval.
Identity and the Camps
“The state serves as the decisive political entity which possesses an enormous power: the possibility of waging war and thereby publicly disposing of the lives of men. The _jus belli_contains such a disposition. It implies a double possibility: the right to demand from its own members the readiness to die and unhesitatingly to kill enemies”–Schmitt, On the Concept of the Political
These two figures are the most extreme and isolated figures that are found within the law only through their capacity to be acknowledged to be beyond the law in a state of total unbracketed war . Both the sovereign and the subject are placed in a zone of indistinction beyond the law where the ‘crisis’ or ‘state of emergency’ allows for the sovereign decision to rule totally without remainder because of the jus belli within the decision.
This is possible due to the primacy of identities within the friend/enemy distinction in direct contrast to whatever crisis. The subject, through their being itself (Dasein), their existence and what is at stake in their existence contrasted against the state, creates the emergency. And in the same vein, the sovereign through their being itself (Dasein) is the only response, or decision, which postulates itself as ‘The Final Solution’ for the crisis that always creates “others” to be exploited, raped, and liquidated.
As the Jew created the Nazis’ ‘emergency’ by their very existence in the world, and thus impelled the Final Solution, so too does anyone else’s existence by the very possibility of being the ‘other’ people under the sinister glare of a sovereign beyond the law. The Other is he who can be made into a non-human — and not just in the sense of being below the law, but above and beyond it too. Both are beyond the law for the singular identifier, a being-in-the-world that subsumes the law itself placing naked, raw life as the final objective of power.
Both the subject and the sovereign have the immediate signature of a primary identity as friend or enemy labels from the state based upon whatever ‘emergency’ may be declared. This makes both the sovereign and the subject beyond being seen as human by the law for the very nature of how they are both addressed in the final hour of sovereign law. Even the very event of the signification of each–the Jew with their armband star of David, and the Nazi authority with their signifying armband of legal power–demands the openly labeling of friends and enemies alike for the process of selection; work or death.
These primary identities that are inscribed upon us from the outside, and displays there is no remnant outside of that of those identities. Our role, identities, and names have already been chosen for us; and testify for our lives before a seemingly omnipotent sovereign power hellbent on controlling everything. It is through this function of identity, and how the state perceives everyone in terms of a paranoid and schizophrenic delusion that all must be labeled friend or enemy for the safety and security of the ‘commonwealth’ is the very nature in how the digital panopticon is created. However, what it also displays is that all that we have left in common of our commonwealth is the guilt and shame of a people who no longer have law, only the camps.
This is how the sovereign above the law, and the subject below it. Both have primary identities that put them beyond law into a space of pure sovereign decision. Our identities as a subject or a sovereign supersede our flesh—it is how the human body has totally fused into the body politic — the double identities we live, as both biological beings and political objects are fused into one through the total subjugation of our bodies, minds, and lives to the temporal power we call law. We are bonded to the empty, idiotic labor of a oligopolist capitalism; our morals to corrupt governments and dead gods; and our private affairs to corporate panopticon machines seeking to know everything so we can be sold back to ourselves. All of this horror is carried out in the name of safety and security under the banner of the state’s corrupt peace of ash and blood; a false throne of shattered bones, gnashed teeth, and rivers of blood for the temporal and mutilated god they call law.
The Fracturing of The Body Politic
It is within the fusion of our biological bodies to the political body that we can see the extinguishment of the ability to create active civitas as a real political possibility today. By living lives as only subjects underneath the law (which may as well have us be slaves), and not as citizens who can consummate, constitute, and create their own law and agreements with each other; we not only find that we are below the law, but that we are also the Man from the Country who will never have access to the law.
This is the same fusion that creates a zone of indistinction where zoe is fully expropriated into bios; where the polis is obliterated and man becomes totally alienated from both his politic being and his biological body — now he is a vacant and empty machine ready to be exploited, and subjugated to the infinite exploitation of a worthless and hollow life as a total object for the free use of states which believes themselves to be a gods beyond any men or morals. While this has allowed for the state of exception to become a broad and sweeping legal concept that encompasses all law; it has also created the path towards liberation through showing the total banality of the current socio-political-economic situation of the world. Through the full deprivation of any form of rights to all citizens through the state of exception being applied blankety, we can see the true nature of any form of contemporary sovereign power is TYRANNY.
The Emergency of Cryptography
“The tradition of the oppressed teaches us that the “emergency situation” in which we live is the rule. We must arrive at a concept of history which corresponds to this. Then it will become clear that the task before us is the introduction of a real state of emergency; and our position in the struggle against Fascism will thereby improve.” -Walter Benjamin, On the Concept of History
The history of computers is the history of cryptography, which in turn is the history of the tactical development of communication under the conditions of total unbracketed war. Cryptography is the culmination of the understanding of the phenomenon of “ bellum omnium contra omnes” and offers a kind of science to which men can ‘protect themselves, when none else can protect them,’ and most importantly ‘by no covenant be relinquished.’ The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles, and the final epoch of all class struggle will be one carried out in the field of total unbracketed WAR where “ bellum omnium contra omnes” offers its decrypted meaning. Nature opens the messianic path through the real state of emergency that is homo homini lupus and the infinite grotesque promise of what that should mean to each and every individual human.
Crypto is the culmination of a cognition of history which recognizes the economic nature of privacy and secrets in the total struggle of all against all, and the respective role that states have always played within that struggle. In all systems of government, the possibility of a ‘state of emergency’ that will always create ‘other’ people who can be killed but not sacrificed, exploited but not robbed, and in bondage but not slaves; is always real, possible, and is a hideous fact of what the 20th century was. Crypto is a history which understands the infinite violence that all sovereign powers have entitled themselves to for ‘Final Solution’ of legal means against man, nature, and life as we know it at all cost — including the rule of law.
It is this recognition that the law is created through only legalized violence; not majesty, consensually, or consanguinity; but only the most crass, brutish, and nauseating barbarism that we see what it truly is. It is a life lived at the foot of the castle under the bloody sign and seal of “security and safety” for the exploitation of all people by all people under the prattling murmur of ‘ arbeit macht frei, arbeit macht frei’ …
It is once we understand that our political problems are first economic problems that our position in the struggle against panoptic fascism will vastly improve.
The Final Decision of Cryptography
“The sovereign is he who decides on the exception.” — Carl Schmitt
Crypto commands that the code alone to be sovereign.
There is no possibility of exception.
Due to this explicit fact that digital expressions exist solely in the realm of ideas, in a non-physical space through mathematical expression it cannot be subjugated to the same physical forces of violence that sovereign rule must always entail. Crypto leaves no remainder for any kind of exception.
Crypto is subject to the laws of mathematics alone.
There is no sovereign exception, nor can there be one. The vicious magnanimity and imperium to which cryptography holds mathematics as its only sacrosant and law allows for it to consecration the glory of a singular God to whom there are no exceptions within his machine of physics, his immanent laws of the universe, and His passion for a form of wealth that is beyond the power of any group of men.
What we need, however, is a political philosophy that isn’t erected around the problem of sovereignty, nor therefore around the problems of law and prohibition. We need to cut off the King’s head: in political theory that has still to be done.–Foucault, Truth and Power
Crypto presents a political theory which decapitates the sovereign’s head with the resounding declaration of _ fiat justitia, ne pereat mundus_ . It does this by not engaging the the classic stratagem of law, prohibition, and sovereignty that all law demands. Crypto engages in a radically new system of common-wealth and law through using cryptography as the base technique of this new form of digital social agreement. Through this a new form-of-life, where all people can have their wealth be protected from any form of violence through the power of cryptography; a messianic possibility is opened.
This allows for something that all people, whether they admit it or not, know in their heart of hearts: that things could be different, that radical change is really possible, and that we could live with happiness and peace. We could live not only without hunger, but also probably without fear, and freely as well. And yet, at the same time — and all over the world — the social apparatus has become so hardened that what lies before us as a means of possible fulfillment presents itself as radically impossible.
Together we must choose to make the collective decision to create the real and final state of emergency that will be the final existential threat to the state by refusing their corrupt money, hollow laws, and false idols. Together we can choose to create a new form of social life, common-wealth, and law together that is outside and beyond the power of any state or government to destroy. Together we can deactivate state law, and shatter the paradise of legal violence in order to consummate a new form of economic, social, and political life that is beyond the power of any states, any laws, and any violence the state will use to try to destroy it. For with each blow that they will deliver, crypto will only get stronger, and prove its inviolable nature more resoundingly, while also showing just how corrupt and wicked those in positions of sovereign power are.
The sovereign is the point of indistinction between violence and law, the threshold on which violence passes over into law and law passes over into violence. — Giorgio Agamben, Homo Sacer
Through a glitch in the matrix that creates the image of sovereign power through its physical form; we also find the Achilles’ heel from which there is an opening to create Leviathan’s downfall.
Sovereign power cannot actualize the law if it does not have a physical space to render violence within. It needs a physical body it can subject, dehumanize and objectify into an enemy who deserves no law, and must be destroyed in order to display its power. If sovereign power cannot find a physical body or space in which it can carry out it punishment, it risks displaying the incapacity of the law without violence, the sovereign without his subject, the emperor without clothes.
Blinding the Sovereign
The State is superstructural in relation to a whole series of power networks, that invest the body, sexuality, the family, kinship, knowledge, technology and so forth. True, these networks stand in a conditioning-conditioned relationship to a kind of ‘meta-power’ which is structured essentially round a certain number of great prohibition functions; but this meta-power with its prohibitions can only take hold and secure its footing where it is rooted in a whole series of multiple and indefinite power relations that supply the necessary basis for the great negative forms of power.–Foucault, Truth and Power
In order for legal power to secure a footing, the first engagement of power must be one of identification. Through identification, the physical form can be found, and power projected on to the subject in any of the nearly infinite ways the panopticon can through the gaze and its power. Once identified, the selection can begin. The subject can then be labeled as ‘friend’ for exploitation in the camps or enemy for destruction and liquidation. However, through the digital medium of this space, which can only and explicitly be expressed in non-physical medium, there is a territory in which the subject can abscond into a total anonymous existence of its own creating. In making the final turn away from the panoptic machine, and giving oneself entirely as anonymous citizen of the digital cosmos, man once again finds the ideals from which he can create the new order of the ages once again.
Through using cryptography to create a novel and fair economic game of wealth, bitcoin rediscovered the sovereign power that is hidden at the center of what a commonwealth really is: The commonality of wealth to all, with no one able to control or change the system for the betterment of some at the cost of others.
With this radical new power of peace, man finds himself back at the start of all political concept once again. However, this time man emerging from the forest of technology, armed with cryptography and the messianic possibility it contains. Man has renewed the opportunity to liberate himself from the camps of modernity; but this time for good. Through bonding ourselves to cryptographic protocols and consummating with the machine directly to create a new form of commonwealth, law, and power; we create the hypermachine of power which opens the next, and final epoch for humanity. Through the personal choice to totally objectify ourselves via code, and giving ourselves to it entirely for the protection that it offers, and the commonwealth it creates, we reopen the polis once again.
Through giving ourselves over to the power of cryptography, and the majesty and imperium to which it will always hold, and the liberty and freedom it must always entail; we have the power to open the final hour in which the state can be deactivated. Peace on this earth is not such a radical ideal if we all have the power/knowledge of cryptography at our fingertips, and how to use such a power to protect ourselves, our lives, and wealth.
Through this action alone, any human may become sovereign over their wealth and privacy once again. With the true nature of what the common-wealth of law is rediscovered, magnus ab integro seclorum nascitur ordo (the great series of ages begins anew.).
“One day humanity will play with law just as children play with disused objects, not in order to restore them to their canonical use but to free them from it for good.” _— Giorgio Agamben