The world has changed. Information is being communicated differently. Misinformation is developing its techniques. On a world scale emigration has become the principal means of survival. The national state of those who had suffered the worst genocide in history has become, militarily speaking, fascist. National states in general have been politically downsized and reduced to the role of vassals serving the new world economic order. The visionary political vocabulary of three centuries has been garbaged. In short, the economic and military global tyranny of today has been established.
At the same time new methods of resistance to this tyranny are being discovered. Rebels now have to be not so much obedient as self-reliant. Within the growing opposition centralized authority has been replaced by spontaneous co-operation. Long-term programmes are replaced by urgent alliances over specific issues. Civil society is learning and beginning to practice the guerrilla tactics of political resistance.
Today the desire for justice is multitudinous. This is to say that struggles against injustice, struggles for survival, for self-respect, for human rights, should never be considered merely in terms of their immediate demands, their organizations, or their historical consequences. They cannot be reduced to ‘movements’. A movement describes a mass of people collectively moving towards a definite goal, which they either achieve or fail to achieve. Yet such a description ignores, or does not take into account, the countless personal choices, encounters, illuminations, sacrifices, new desires, griefs and, finally, memories, which the movement brought about, but which are, in the strict sense, incidental to that movement.
The promise of a movement is its future victory; whereas the promises of the incidental moments are instantaneous. Such moments include, life-enhancingly or tragically, experiences of freedom in action. (Freedom without actions does not exist.) Such moments—as no historical ‘outcome’ can ever be—are transcendental, are what Spinoza termed eternal, and they are as multitudinous as the stars in an expanding universe.
Not all desires lead to freedom, but freedom is the experience of a desire being acknowledged, chosen and pursued. Desire never concerns the mere possession of something, but the changing of something. Desire is a wanting. A wanting now. Freedom does not constitute the fulfilment of that wanting, but the acknowledgement of its supremacy.
Today the infinite is beside the poor.From the Hardcover edition.
Excerpted from Hold Everything Dear by John Berger. Copyright © 2007 by John Berger. Excerpted by permission of Vintage, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.