THE JOBLESS SPEAK

If anything should be more surprising than our presence here today at the INSEE [statistics and economics institute], it might be the fact that we didn’t think to pay you a visit sooner. Motives aren’t lacking. The commendable and well-known effort to falsify unemployment figures that the INSEE makes such sacrifices for so consistently already gave all of us quite the occasion to come hear all those for whom the adjusted lie of seasonal variations is a profession come clean then and there. We cannot let slide the insolence of such specialists, who talk about us without knowing us, and who, hiding in the corners of their fine offices, are so afraid to meet us. Well then, fine, you see; we’ve taken the first step ourselves!

But the obviousness of this primary motive might make it appear somewhat superficial. The second and more profound motive has to do with the very principle behind statistics and surveys. They’re one of the most powerful instruments of domination and social control in use today. If the master of a society is he who holds control over the representations that it makes of itself, then the INSEE is the most zealous and efficient of servants in the hands of power. It is the INSEE in effect that pulls out of its ass the false self-consciousness that this society gives itself, and then spreads it all over whole pages of journalistic shitheadery; it does so in accord with interests that are plain to see. They’re the ones who fill up the empty concepts with numbers, thus forcing assent to the ignominy of the commodity society whose language it’s never ceased to speak. But they are above all the active symbol of the murderous quantification of life that is at work everywhere. The encrypted language of modern domination contains all the impudent arbitrariness of those who, acting behind closed doors, think there’s no one they can’t figure into their accounts. Polling opportunely takes the place of any real debate; the limitless horror of exclusion always appears ever so very moderate in the columns of numbers; and truth can always be silenced with surveys – all you have to know how to do is put the question the wrong way.

But today we’ve come in person to meet the men of the INSEE in person. If we can’t expect anything at all from this institution which ought by all rights to be destroyed, it’s not the same for those that comprise it: they are capable of some consciousness at least. They can recognize the social function that they are made to fill, which makes them the sad manservants of oppression. They can still recognize their statistician’s misery: in their desolate offices, at the ends of hospital-looking corridors, where they waste their lives in the mute company of white noise, vectorial spaces, loose averages, and deviation-types, doing joyless, useless work. And having seen it clearly, they’ll have to acknowledge the truth that they’ve become parasites, weakened men, their own executioners. And so then perhaps they will come to share with us the disgust they inspire in us, both them and the world that they relentlessly build. Perhaps they might even join us. And they’ll be welcome, bag and baggage.

changed August 23, 2010