Leaning back as I took another puff on my cigarette, things went in and out of focus as the whiskey worked its way through my body. Still unable to shake a lingering desire for clarity, I jotted down some notes while playing it back in my head like a movie reel.
Disorientation. Most people’s initial experience of the Metropolis is disorientation. When you first hit the streets, you settle into the strangeness of it as if it was all just a dream. And while you are trapped in its dreamlike embrace, the Metropolis slowly reveals its erotic and morally ambiguous nature, a tempting but repulsive allure set against a background of violence.
Most of the smart ones leave. I hope they’re happy back on the farm. Others try to be good Samaritans. I gave up being a white knight a long time ago. There are some tall tales that shovel the regular bullshit about good detectives. But I’ve never seen one. And if I did, I’d probably hate their guts. Asking someone to get their hands dirty doesn’t work when they think they’re already helping. I don’t want to be a role model, I want to win. “By any means necessary.”
“Step one: ditch the false piety of doing good and start using your feet.”
A lot of red herrings had been thrown my way. The Metropolis makes it hard to trust anyone or anything. There are no longer any good guys, only con men looking for dupes unable to see through their whole nice-guy act. Everyone here has the potential to do bad, and more importantly, everyone has an angle. Nobody is innocent. Neutrality is the sure sign that someone is either playing it close to the chest or too clueless to figure out whose bidding they are unwittingly doing.
The last people to have faith in are the authorities. They lost control of the streets a long time ago. And whatever power they still exercise always plays into the hands of some higher power. Yet knowing the phone numbers of a few bureaucrats and cops is never a bad idea, as long as you don’t get too close – mistaking them for a friend or a confidant makes you worse than a singing jailbird. Information is their greatest weapon; it gives them leverage. It therefore isn’t wise to feed them even a breadcrumb because that’s how people like you and me end up in trouble to begin with. The bottom line: authorities are to be used, never trusted.
“Step two: track down the leads before the trail goes cold.”
The spoils of my stakeout were lying out on my desk like stolen loot. The killer had left a path of dead bodies in his wake. And in my search to find out whodunnit, I had uncovered every one of them. It all started when I stumbled across what remained of the once-terrifying king of the Archaic State after some of his slaves had gotten to him. My hunt continued when I spotted His Benevolence of the Priestly State after his blackmail and extortion racket went south. The Police and Publicity gave away the Modern State next, but the threads only started to unravel. I knew I was close when I spotted what remained of the Social State, broken and half-crazy, having fallen into a crowd of marginals, undesirables, and illegalists.
Just when I thought the trail went cold, I got the call. The anonymous caller told me to meet at an abandoned lot in a rather seedy part of downtown. But when I got there, I was too late. The killer had struck again. This time, however, I knew that the body would give me all I needed to know. But this operation would have to be a full-blown autopsy, for the answer was stuck deep in the veins of the Metropolis.
“Step three: disembowel the Metropolis.”
The Metropolis is the ground on which Empire operates. It exists on its own accord as a material reality, although it is improbable that the Metropolis would last long without Empire to govern it. Despite its material existence, the Metropolis is more a process, the process of composition that brings together material according to a specific set of rules. In particular, the Metropolis operates according to inclusive disjunction. Inclusive disjunction allows the Metropolis to connect otherwise incommensurate subjects, flows, temporalities, and visibilities without suppressing their differences. Yet in assembling them, the Metropolis does not leave those incommensurate things unperturbed. Rather, Empire introduces things into the Metropolis by producing a plane of positivities that unfolds secured elements, exposes them to risk, and eliminates their futurity.
Exploring the Metropolis involves surveying the plane of organization constructed by Empire. Such a survey identifies the veins of the Metropolis, and searches for the antagonisms within each one. Such a process is not done from on high, like watching pedestrians swarm like ants from atop the Empire State building. The Metropolis’ veins open only when we walk its streets like strangers, no longer comforted by a place that always seemed to make sense, unsettled and hungry to figure out why everything looks so invincible although we are told it is all crumbling around us.
What flows through the veins comes from an intensification of the two poles of sovereignty found in States – an authoritarian pole and a liberal-contract pole. In the Modern State they appeared as The Police and Publicity, and in the Social State they transformed into Biopower and The Spectacle. Within the Metropolis, Biopower operates through violence machines of subjection and the technical management of flows, and The Spectacle operates through spectacular time and a compulsory system of visibilities. But unlike States, Empire does not command these poles; it is happy to let the Metropolis do most of the work. Yet Empire still induces their operation and reaps its reward. By handing over its duties to the Metropolis, Empire enables the Metropolis to be used against it, though to do so would be a momentous undertaking. It would require that subjects undermine their own means of subsistence in the process, and presupposes that Empire is willing to take the risk. Thus, within every vein exist spaces of capture, which Empire uses to direct the Metropolis, and lines of escape, which show potential antagonisms and escape routes.
The purpose of disemboweling the Metropolis should be clear: to find a new people and a new world. It is not to save everyone as they already are, and will fail if it leaves anyone the same. The transformation is nothing short of revolutionary: the complete abolition of everything and the invention of a new something in its place. (more…)
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