“The neighbors truck got busted in, the windows smashed cause he left his wallet on the seat.” My grandma said, showing me surveillance footage taken from two different neighborhood houses posted on a social media website. It was clearly able to show the person in action and taking a step back, here was a non-governmental, non-official neighborhood merely organizing on the premises of surveiling and reporting on their own situations.
A Police State, so deeply embedded, that citizens are effectively operating their own Surveillance Society despite being seniors with nothing better to do outside of keeping tabs. When we think of Cyberpunk Dystopias, I don’t think we envisioned grandparents collaborating on social media trading surveillance with one another outside of the purview of the State, but I guess there shouldn’t be any surprises with late-stage capitalism.
Seeing this being produced so casually with the most rudimentary of tech, I thought, how the fuck is insurrection conceivable under a surveillance state that most revolutionaries can simultaneously fathom and not? The few safe spaces that exist either do so with either the consent of the State or in an illegalist fashion, and are always utmost temporary fixtures. Shit, there are lists and in places like Chicago, (this one is known as the Strategic Subject List) up to 400,000 (or nearly 15% of Chicagoans) which analyzes them using risk-assessment scores with regards to crime. The list is quite literally larger than my hometown.
Thinking about this, while reading Che’s Guerrilla Warfare (which is a fantastic tactical read through an insurrectionary lens with some critiques), and seeing how some tactics couldn’t fundamentally work in numerous “developed” nations, I’ve been jarring about what concepts work. We live in a time where the conceivable old tactics may have their place, but many of them are significantly hollowed out. Mass movements turn into datafarms for potential threats against the State, none of the largest unions have the infrastructure nor care to develop one for a general strike, and any concept of Party, even if its “third” perpetuates the myth of needing a State.
The fact that our biggest actions are only in opposition to policies implemented by the State rather than actions at the State is a massive signal that the left, in its current incarnation, is incapable of resisting Empire. The tactics of the old have their purposes, but new tactics have to be reforged in the fires of now. It is not enough to be invisible, hidden from society, but we must additionally become wraiths and poltergeists. We must be indistinguishable and immaterial, yet we must haunt tyranny and oppression in a way they know the actions against it are by the people, but the hands the propel them are invisible.
In what forms do these take as we barrel into a Cyberpunk Fascist Dystopia? It becomes more diverse than we can potentially fathom. From something as basic as private torrenting and liberating files from behind internet paywalls for total access (free textbooks you know) to developing Electro-Magnetic Pulse Devices and weaponizing magnets against the Surveillance State. This isn’t just about the hitech, but the low tech. In the Millennium Challenge 2002 war game, Lt. Gen Van Riper of the USMC used old, rudimentary methods of communication and low-tech strategies to successfully counter the high-end surveillance capabilities of the United States. We’re talking bicycle messengers and using flash lights to signal over a distance, even the missile implementation wasn’t based on precision strikes, but rather flooding sensors with overwhelming “dumb” missiles. Insurrection, ultimately, has to become more erratic and fluid to counter the monolithic structures of Empire. Everything and our participation in it must be subjected to an analysis as whether to perpetuate what has continually lost against Empire or been co-opted. The wastes of Empire are the fertile grounds for new concepts of resistance, not because we willingly embrace it as such, but because we are provided no other alternative.