Poems: Cut-Ups Against "The Spectacle" *

Elegy for Mariner McLaughlin: The Salem Harbor Oil Spill and Visitation by the Hindu Gods--The Well-Armed Maruts, Kama, Shiva and Lakshmi, and the San Jose Breast-Milk Angels

"He knew a lot of people, McLaughlin, sixty-one,

skilled carpenter, good-natured neighbor."

One barge is spilling fuel oil into Salem harbor

200 gallons!

Containment booms are put in place

at Derby street near Hawthorne Cove Marina

          where hulls in wood and glass were set on cradles in September,

          their keels stained the warm deep red

          of Goslings Black Seal Dark Bermudan Rum.

Before he lived aboard, McLaughlin would drive to the marina,

potter about, trace the silhouette

of deck and mast against rusting tin shed,

and mutter "form and function!" "form and function!"

follow with his eye one yacht's racing curve of sheer,

another's pleasing tumblehome or the long, low sweeping

freeboard of an antique racing one-design.

He'd stroke the rotting garboard of the 28-foot Dragon, say:

"good old girl you beauty

Who put you out to pasture?"

In the evening,            McLaughlin would light

            the woodstove fire on his liveaboard,

                                       a 32-footer, wooden Maine sloop.

In the evening,             stars in their courses fought!

In the neighborhood,  a lawsuit was filed by five abutters!


He knew a lot of people, McLaughlin, 61,

skilled carpenter, good-natured neighbor.

"As soon as the sun was up,   

you would see him meditating in his cockpit."

"He is called the best of the physicians!

His sons and companions are the well-

armed Maruts, the gods of the thunderstorm,

the heavenly singers."

Near Derby Street containment booms

are put in place around the fuel barge.

It was not the work of a master organizer.

No, not that, nor the seasonal activity in the harbor,

                  the Upper Yard, the Lower Yard.

                   Shops along Front Street open and close.

Chris, a Brit and former rock musician,

                        adjusts the straps on the hull,

                       cradling sling below the crane

                       as Fred drives the Yard Boss.

To Chris, Fred would preach:

"It takes eight strong men each

pushing their oak handspike as they trod

to move the ships capstan

or it takes one small woman

with low center of gravity, plodding."


McLaughlin was a very clever man,

a yard-worker at the marina, a skilled sailor

teaching how to use a sextant

to navigate by the stars.

A time comes, however, when the personality

                 of the gods becomes clearer.

McLaughlin had a captain's license, the slowly

                evolved product of the inner mind of the people.

McLaughlins mind at times moved into reverie

                when he would become

the captain of a ferryboat who ferries

baby-boomers to their offices in Boston,

the captain of his own hovercraft!

(He'd traveled on one from Dover

across the English Channel.)

Like a cormorant, McLaughlin's hovercraft,

wings working, could lift itself out of water

then like a dragonfly, flicker in space above the waves

as it sailed past Ram's Island and Halfway Rock.

In McLaughlin's reverie, commuting professionals

                     weighed down by stress and aching muscles,

                     wore ankle-length black wool coats,

                       cashmere scarves and sturdy leather boots.

Their bodies swayed on deck.

"There is no longer the old fear of action

and there are no stereotypical fat farms.

The aborigines were not all made

into one caste and named Sutras.

Thermal water spas were founded in Europe several centuries ago.

Most primitive men do not use imagesat all!"

Emily wondered if this were true

as she studied the Globe and swayed on deck.

Stress -- Emily's doctors had turned to "the breast milk angels."

At the Mothers Milk Bank in San Jose

                    users paid about $50 an ounce for milk

                    which required a doctor's prescription.

McLaughlin was a very clever man,

a yard-worker at the marina, a skilled sailor

                       teaching how to use a sextant

                        to navigate by the stars.


The life of a drowning victim is duly noted

                    while demand grows  for donated breast milk.

McLaughlin fell off his deck into the water.

Either his lungs filled or he died of hypothermia.

A searing sun set low in the cerulean sky.

The love god Kama was consumed

                            by the fierce gleam in Shiva's eye,

                              a rainbow gleam celestial to navigate by.

Soaring concrete pipe of Salem Power Plant

bisects bleak horizon towards Beverly.

Glancing off aluminum rigging,

                         patches of deep pinks and reds flashing

                         molecules of air glowing,

                         heavy metals radiating.

Milkglass white sky burns

like McLaughlins Hebridean skin burns.


McLaughlin fell off his deck into the water.

Either his lungs filled or he died of hypothermia.

Sailing above Salem Harbor on a cumulus cloud

                                                          was Lakshmi!

                              everywhere praised, Lakshmi!

                                        beauty's heavenly queen,


Before his lungs fill, McLaughlin sees


                        standing beside a flower clad pool

                                   holding a lotus in her hand.

Maryclaire Welinger, Spring, 2000


Good Times for Great Goals: A Campaign Speech by Geore W. Bush

by Maryclaire Wellinger

                           (written in San Francisco, August, 2000

during the Presidential Election Campaign

between George W. Bush and Al Gore)


Close your eyes, George Bush, Texas Governor,

close your eyes, George and you see 

                 violent video games, websites and movies.

You are Clinton without the punch . . .

                 in profile, though strikingly similar,

                 'in new Levi jeans', Frye boots and white

                 ten-gallon hat, somewhat incronguous

                 as you stand shaking hands on the Korean Peninsula,

                 stressing IDEALISM and INCLUSION.


"I don't have enemies to fight who can be trusted."

Safely, your moves reflect no assets.

One of those killed in strategic battles over impeachment

YOU aggressively FIRED (their family says),

though Al Gore missed warning signs andprovocations.

Now who can be trusted to safely lead the nation?


Your campaign is symbolic,  and you are not responsible,

                                         writes a Wall Street Columnist.

Yes, your campaign is entering a crucial phase . . .

your  story sounds very much like your foes' sad tale--

                                    Al Gore without the precision.

George you are stressing DAUGHTER-IDEALISM and LIFE-INCLUSION

                   and OUR families are forgotten.


To your cohorts, you pledge luxurious receptions,

                                        hundreds of jaws dropping.

You can quote Robert Frost-land with character for tonight's jibes.

"Avoid that kind of sniping--  **** the nightclub shampoo!" George cries


"Honor a group of earlier House lawmakers

                               short on specifics and rigidly rightwards

                               all like Regis Philbin, gracious and twisted."


Racial gaps are created for George's appearance.

Loyalists all love the axis of Bush's experience.

                            Now is the time!

                           Love what is heard beyond echoing!

                          Laura has voiced the need in time of plenty!

Few emotional appeals demonize beyond echoing . . .

                         So many talents, so much clamor!


Acceptance in the Great Hall for much of the evening.

                                            Brass bands and funny hats,

                    trumpet themes of compassion

                   during confident, warm-hearted, crucial moments.


George, you penetrate our wants

                               shriller and shriller, your voice . . .

                               increasingly defensive,  your voice as you speak:

                "Governor Ann Richards is diminished,

                  so sketchy her resume

                   no reductions, no way, no mood to make . . ."


No stake in bitter arguments,  Ann Richards is trumped!

There was a dash of Monica-risks,

                   a more difficult time to walk in Texas,

                    and your old-money 50s string-of-pearls Mom

                    Barbara Bush, speaks from her Old Orchard house,

                   "this is our son's moment,"

                                                            mostly deadpan in delivery.


More George-speak:

                    "I will work to reduce nuclear background,

                      equal civility and respect.

                      Is there hope for me?

                      Frankly, I asked Laura to marry me

                     and my minimal but varied egomania . . .

                     women sing to our daughters, Barbara and Jennie,

                                'we love you' a nicely retro theme.

                    See the tunnel at the end of the light!"


Halcyon, your campaign speech, plus on-and-on,

             slow mechanical propulsion,

             garage-rock footnotes of a small voice--

             a man in a white suit will swear, bliss out,

             and you start your speech:

                              " . . .  social security, austerity of techno . . ."

                              tossing together, songs, ghostly waltz elements,

                                                   immigrants walking in the smog,

                                                      with doo-da-doo backing vocals .


Some of us never come home;

along Union Street in Lynn

the pimps lean under crumbling lintels of doorways

and placidly strum their guitars.


 "Carjacking Ends with 5-car Crash
By M-C of the "Telegraph" Staff"

For advance warning of solar eruptions and geomagnetic storms,  

                   families will fly their kites

                    in the field of wild grasses and Queen Annes Lace

                     next to the parking lot at All Saints.

In cerulean sky above All Saints Hospital

                             floats the coronagraph's occulting disk;

                            the light red graphic circle showing

                                                          the true size of the Sun.

Lowell Police--    their primary mission is to investigate

the solar interior, the solar atmosphere, and the solar wind---

                                                     "The comets are a bonus."

The SOHO C2 coronagraph was built by off-duty Lowell policemen

on the high-ceilinged second floor of an abandoned brick slaughterhouse

by the canal and the RR tracks   on April 29, 2000.

"The comets are a bonus.   No one expected to find

all these comets when we launched SOHO nearly 5 years ago!"

                                     said a spokesman for the Lowell Police.

On Tuesday morning,     Catenacci is off to the police station

                                  to capture images of a sungrazing comet,

                                        an isolated and unfortunate incident.

Catenacci had pulled off  a significant early find

of all those comets nearly 5 years ago.

Catenucci--  amateur observer and weather forecaster--

           could always rely on his truck and the solar wind.

The Catenacci carjacking began Tuesday afternoon *******

to be driving in Lowell,

to be driving on Mammoth Road in Lowell

to be driving in Nashua, New Hampshire. . .

Mark Catenacci of Chestnut Street

injured three fellow Lowellites.

Carbonneau, a Lowell street saint,

was caught up in Catenaccis carjacking saga,

found himself in a five-car pile-up

later lying horizontal semi-comatose

in intensive care on Tuesday night.

Carbonneau wakes up dry-mouthed,   tries to talk to the nurse :

"After fleeing woman driver from her truck . . ."

"A police officer won't be assigned

to watch the satellite on Tuesday . . ."

When the nurse asks him "do you remember how you came to All Saints?"

Carbonneau whispers:

"The felony hospital admitted

me to the intensive care unit.. . .

"I will investigate the solar interior,

the solar atmosphere, and the Sun . . .

"The victims suffered non-life-threatening. . .

"He spent injuries.

"He crashed into some vehicles

that were stopped to go home . . .

" an attempt to carjack another . . .

a second . . .

" I hear hospital storms coming . . .

The comets are a bonus.

"No traffic light,"

My name is Patrick Cook . . . "

The nurse reads "concussion" on his chart.

Now, let's take Mark's vehicle, his truck, to be symbolic--

             an advance warning of solar eruptions,

             and the passive, geomagnetic hospital staff

            give him the once-over        when he arrives . . .

"Mark Catenacci . . .

he was done in for shoplifting,

investigated by proper authorities"

His sad, carjacking saga and charges of robbery included. . .

his arrest Tuesday by Nashua police around noon.

The carjacking Catenacci faced was  a non-violent charge

                and later he was evaluated,

                arraigned in the morning at Lowell District Court.

Like a chanting Cambodian monk

                   The clerk sucks his breath and reads the charges

                   in high-pitched Lowell nasal whine:

"Catenacci allegedly pulled the woman driver---

she was dragged a short distance---

pulled the keys out of the truck's ignition

crashed the stolen truck into a solid brick-colored disk

in the middle of the coronagraph's occulting disk . . .After fleeing over the border

Catenacci allegedly

tried to pull that driver from the vehicle

to take that vehicle as well.

Catenacci went right from

the accident scene to All Saints."

Catenacci faces all his days in this way.


Later on Thursday

                 the sky's brick-colored disk in the middle

                 is identified as the coronagraph's occulting disk.

This pale red sky of twilight

                 caught the eye of Sgt. Frank Paison

                 emerging from the abandoned brick slaughterhouse.

Frank needs a beer

                  after unspecified problems with geoastronomy EXPRESS software,

                  the absent SCIENCE NEWS delivery,

                  and difficulties with SOHO's digital imaging.

So down to Sargent Seusing's Primary Mission Garage.

Seusing says:

"Catenacci became seriously ill

after his carjacking and multiple car crash,

sped off from Pheasant Lane Mall.

The same type of incidenthappened

when we launched  SOHO nearly 5 years ago.

A man crashed a stolen truck

at the intersection of Pawtucket Boulevard . . ."

Catenacci tried to make his escape

but instead drove over the border to Joe's.

He was free to leave in his Dodge Dakota

pickup when ambulance personnel got to the scene

and he figured his bail would be set at $1,500.

He could see two graphic circles intersecting in the sky

                                           to show the true size of the Sun.

At that point,

there was a chain-reaction crash.

Police approached the last car hit.

Then mad-dog biker Spaceman

came upon the accident ---

                                      him with warrants out and a felony.

The Lowell Police got out a list of charges

                              but Spaceman eluded on his Harley.

On Friday, September 15, 2000

Mark Catenacci was dragged  from his pick-up and arrested

                                        in police Massachusetts,

for crimes including carjacking,

as a fugitive from justice and multiple driving-related offenses.


Catenacci looked up to the shimmering cerulean sky,

caught an image of a sungrazing comet.


Maryclaire Wellinger

September 23, 2000


Pond-Girl Creates a Star*

                    by Maryclaire Wellinger


Outside the ring,

you can see the edge of the star,

One Black Princess Taro luminous,

massive, located just outside,

sort of heart-shaped with black

and its pronounced pillars.

I dreamt a water-lily and several other stars

that grow among morning-glory galaxies . . .

Add some real shadows from sublime-forms

along fertilizing river of galactic light . . .

I reach up out of the rocks in shallow water

to "pot" my lilies in your Earthly bog.

One tuber, a 4" x 4"-- and I rooted its work

with down-drafts of white light

to make your Water Garden.

What is included in my websites

water garden package?

The English common name is "daylily",

whilst the botanical name is "hemerocallis."

1 blue-green, 1 yellow, 1 pink

all Earthly forms sublime.

Plants are shipped bare-rooted;

just tie with fishing line and toss them in!

Directions for underwater plants and grasses

by e-mail.

Aspirations, dreams, labor of love,

rain down and germinate up;

their blossom-colors sort of blend

and make the edge of the star.

I am God--call me "Pond-Girl"

located about 6,500 light-years

from where you kneel and weed

in your perennial bed

and I specialize in start-ups.

Try this Primrose Creeper--

it has exotic unprecedented detail.

Through an extraordinary chance alignment,

the Hubble Telescope has captured its

utmost tropical ambiance.

For your watergarden,

if you choose to create one

I would!

helpful Primrose Creeper,

blocking sunlight

using excess nutrients for algae growth..

beneficial, Primrose Creeper beautifies.

Hornwort or Ceratophyllum demersum
or "Coontail" spreads Fernlike,

is an underwater floater and

really helps combat green water.

If you are having trouble with your pond water

turning green, you need this plant!!!

It grows below the surface

consuming excess nutrients and starving algae out.

Anchor the Hornwort

with rock and sink in the bottom!

Sorry, I can't ship to California.

I water. My newest nebulae stars

are topped off with light green

and semi-upright knobs on the upper left.

Make more ponds, Pond-Girl!

Return BODY to your water humdrum,

create a looking area in your leaves

on branches that bulb!

Among leafy branches

I spot the hardy pale view of a face--

Charlene Strawn, Astronomer--

who was born on the day of

The Annual Infinity Marsh Reed Festival.

Make more stars, Pond-Girl!

They do not need to be planted in a pot,

just anchor them to the bank

or to the bottom of Space ( )

with a piece of Jet-Stream fishing line

to keep them in place.

When stars grow too big,

just trim them with scissors.

Outside the ring,

you can see the edge of my star;

the Crab Nebulae is not my first start-up.

It has dark from Earth,

and drinks four-leaf water --

that's its gustatory practice,

followed by Cantatas of Goldfinch drums

during Spring Try-out Season.

The edge of my Star

shoots out locations of many of these features,

as well as look!

It blooms on . . . in support of the universe!

Hardy annual Scarlet Gleam Nasturtium

is vivid for shady-water light-years.

Though much more analysis remains,

an initial look at Hubble Telescope images

indicates the Milky Way Galaxy's hub,

my Tabernaculum (formal)

my hang-out (informal).

(See colorful picture at right. )

Note the hubs sword-like leaves and

how tall its monumental form,

the wettest and hottest star-site

and most massive known,

each aspect is unusual

like an unpublished, transcendental poem

or an early luminist painting.

The deep violet stems of its star-flesh

contrast with huge sienna-hued spice-clouds,

remnants of a universal window-drape,

my unfinished weaving.

Like a Hollyhock

whose stalk penetrates the earth

between two bricks

on the sidewalk,

my stars pillars will stick up and out --Black Magic Taro.

Colocasia esculenta pollen

jettison off during the delicate clustering

of lavender flowers my star produces . . .

Evaporate! . . .

or if there are sufficiently dense condensations

within them, on my starry surface

will spring Thalia and Red Stem

10 times more variegated than

our Earth ponds flora and fauna.

This Lily will spice a cloud with its yellow.

This Lily appears to point towards the Crab Nebula ;

its lily petals compose the remnant

of my universe window-drape

and has green round stems.

At about 3 oclock on the celestial chart

from Earth in the direction

of the southern hemisphere constellation,

I planted A Great Black Hole

whose supermassive nothingness

adapts to all sizes of light-years,

a Great Black Hole so black and so hot,

it could be summer afternoon meadow

in the Northeast Kingdom, Vermont

with spectacular White blooms of nothingness.

My Great Black Hole is a Brass French Horn

and favors the idea of celestial music

a Horn blowing titanic black variations

blowing selected Leadbelly blues

Mingus jazz hues depending

on the amount of small spiral galaxies

I give birth to

small spiral galaxies lying precisely in front

. . . an interesting level for the eye to follow.


I won the Award for Applied Photography.

for my Golden Gelatin Print of a clay pot

filled with Wild Clover 100 times enhanced.

See my star I call "Black Magic".

Wow! What a looker! Gardens or bogs,

plant this Orchid where the Great Black Hole

resides in scarlet flowers and dark green plants.

All the hubbub Universe

appears as massive, late summer, Variegated Bog Spider.

Of another star

I will it to grow

clusters of three petaled

white flowers with deep blue spikes!

while you ride singing wooden water-wheel,

hub of water-garden

or float gracefully

like a yellow daisy.

out its confluence of currents

Through extraordinary chance alignment,

the Hubble telescope captures

a face-on spiral galaxy

lying precisely in front of another larger spiral.

The unique pair isProvidential!

Outside the ring

you can see the edge of the star,

One Black Princess Taro luminous,

massive star located just outside!

The best celestial views

taken by the Hubbles visible-light camera

are showing numerous small dark globules

that may be a foot tall. Very statuesque holes.

Your variegated Bog Spider would be welcome

in the mass of swirling gas

be in luck look! Wonderful Star Grasslooks most like traditional Greek Hydra.

The planet of Epsilon Eridani is probably

just larger than Jupiter,

Epsilon Eridani is a star slightly less massive

than Earths Sun and slightly cooler.

It is most probably younger as well,

being only about one billion years old

compared with your Sun's age of 4.5bn years.

Furthermore, each planet

becomes more and more beautiful

from one year to the other. A single planet can stay

4-5 years or more, undisturbed.
I can also divide a planet

when I want to make a larger planting,

give some as fans to your best friends . . .

This picture is one of velvety green leaves

giving it mysterious star cluster appearance.

The Carina background image represents

a wider view of the galaxy,

with ponds.

2 Green Taros- Lush tropical summer months

with exquisite pure white and lovely essence.

1 Thalia Geniculata form ruminoides

This striking planet stays moist always . . .From this planet comes the process of maroon "eyes"

at the base of Emperor Nasturtium

This edible native-like grass

grows on up-slopes of steep hills

It has lily-like bloom, will grow up to Sun height.

The circular Keyhole Lily Star NebulaHymenocallis caribe variegata

nearby galaxy NGC 4438.

NASA asked astronomers and planet hunters

to capture and reproduce these stars.

By the central region of Keyhole Lily

Star Nebula and its lofty eminence

where starry ridge forms buffalo shape,

astronomers calculate their starlight strength

in weight of quintals like baskets measured

of Atlantic mackerel haddock and cod.

quintals of starlight times the mass

of our collective thoughts =

Keyhole Lily planets form stellar pond

and gather sunlight.

On a smaller scale, my garden Keyhole Lily

has small white petals and flowers in May

and 2 to 24 spiraling leaves-on-stem.

The Stellar field spinning further

I water my planet

grow 5 to 6 more stars in my smaller galactic collectives,

plant 1 Green Goddess Taro

for shady water garden lushness,

even time itself is imagined--

Just keep your feet on the petals.

the virtues of composting!

how to plant a tree for the long haul!

read between the lines of seed catalogues!

the secrets of my green thumb!

By the time of Napoleon in the 19th century,

there are more apothecaries on the main street of Provins!

Druggists dispense remedies

containing the Apothecarys Rose

to aid indigestion, sore throats,

skin rashes and eye maladies.

Women believe that rose petals

eliminate wrinkles and preserve youth

if rubbed on the skin.

(It was proven, late in the 19th century,

roses contain essential oils, potassium and iron.)

A recipe for rose tea comes from this era.

Translated: 5 teaspoons of rose petals

are steeped in 4 cups of boiling water

for 5 to 10 minutes; then sweetened

with honey and served warm.

Rose Apples contain several dark silhouetted

glossy green leaves and splendid hips ;

as for your fishheads, mussels and seaweed,

work them into your garden soil

one hot August dog day and pot the cuttings,

just anchor them in sand and shell shards.

Tie your fishing line to protruding nailhead

on second story sill to support leggy climbers.

About 10 times as hot, are my exoplanets

found recently by Manchester astronomers,

its just as well to look

nine more spotted circling nearby stars.

These helpful planets until now, appeared in only one system, Upsilon Andromidae

multiple planets going round a sun.

UK astronomers report the discovery of

a second extra-solar planetary system.

with two Saturn-sized planets orbiting star HD 83443,

slightly less massive than your Sun

(0.8 solar masses).

It lies in my constellation Vela

141 light years away from your solar system.

My two gas-giant planets both orbit very close to the star.

One orbits the star in 2.98 days, the other in 29.8 days,

one planet moving almost 10 times faster than the other.

massive in scale . . .

stars are born . . . in clouds of cold molecules and dust,

As well as being beneficial, they decorate the pond edge . . .

the universe, my pond . . .

stars need an open place to spawn.

I toss them into place.

*"Pond-Girl Creates a Star" is one poem, an excerpt from the chapbook, "POND-GIRL" a work-in-progress by Maryclaire Wellinger, Easter, March 31st, 2002.


* " . . . the whole of life of those societies in which modern
conditions of production prevail presents itself
as an immense accumulation of spectacles.
All that was once directly lived has become mere representation. . . . "
(Guy Debord, "Society of the Spectacle")

*Guy-Ernest Debord and the Situationists

 ". . .  came to prominence during the May-June events in France in 1968 . . . [the situationists] originated in a small band of avante-garde artists and intellectuals influenced by Dada, Surrealism and Lettrism. The post-war Lettrist International, which sought to fuse poetry and music and transform the urban landscape, was a direct forerunner of the group who founded the magazine Situationiste Internationale in 1957. At first, they were principally concerned with the "suppression of art", that is to say, they wished like the Dadaists and the Surrealists before them to supersede the categorization of art and culture as separate activities and to transform them into part of everyday life. Like the Lettrists, they were against work and for complete _divertissement_. Under capitalism, the creativity of most people had become diverted and stifled, and society had been divided into actors and spectators, producers and consumers. The Situationists therefore wanted a different kind of revolution: they wanted the imagination, not a group of men, to seize power, and poetry and art to be made by all. Enough! they declared. To hell with work, to hell with boredom! Create and construct an eternal festival.

At first, the movement was mainly made up of artists, of whom Asger Jorn was the most prominent. From 1962, the Situationists increasingly applied their critique not only in culture but to all aspects of capitalist society. Guy Debord emerged as the most important figure: he had been involved in the Lettrist International, and had made several films, including _Hurlements en faveur de Sade_ (1952). Inspired by the libertarian journal _Socialisme on Barbarie_, the Situationists rediscovered the history of the anarchist movement, particularly during the period of the First International, and drew inspiration from Spain, Kronstadt, and the Makhnovists. They described the USSR as a capitalist bureaucracy, and advocated workers' councils. But they were not entirely anarchist in orientation and retained elements of Marxism, especially through Henri Lefebvre's critique of the alienation of everyday life. They believed that the revolutionary movement in advanced capitalist countries should be led by an "enlarged proletariat" which would include the majority of waged laborers. In addition, although they claimed to want neither disciples nor a leadership, they remained an elitist vanguard group who dealt with differences by expelling the dissenting minority. They looked to a world-wide proletarian revolution to bring about the maximum pleasure.

At the end of 1967, Guy Debord in _The Society of the Spectacle_ and Raoul Vaneigem in _The Revolution of Everyday Life_ presented the most elaborate expositions of Situationist theory which had a widespread influence in France during the 1968 student rebellion. [NOTE: Anarchy magazine has been including a chapter per issue of Vaneigem's book -- currently up to chapter 16, "The Fascination of Time". -- Ken] Many of the most famous slogans which were scribbled on the walls of Paris were taken from their theses, such as FREE THE PASSIONS, NEVER WORK, LIVE WITHOUT DEAD TIME. Members of the Situationist International (SI) co-operated with the _enrages_ from Nanterre University in the Occupations COmmittee of the Sorbonne, an assembly held in permanent session. On 17 May, the Committee sent the following telegram to the Communist Party of the USSR:


Groups of _enrages_ in Strasbourg, Nantes and Boudreaux were also inspired by the Situationists and attempted to "organize chaos" on the campuses. The active thinkers however never numbered much more than a dozen.

In their analysis, the Situationists argued that capitalism had turned all relationships transactional, and that life had been reduced to a "spectacle". The spectacle is the key concept of their theory. In many ways, they merely reworked Marx's view of alienation, as developed in his early writings. The worker is alienated from his product and from his fellow workers and finds himself living in an alien world: The worker does not produce himself; he produces an independent power. The success of this production, its abundance, returns to the producer as an abundance of dispossession. All the time and space of his world becomes foreign to him with the accumulation of his alienated products....

The increasing division of labor and specialization have transformed work into meaningless drudgery. "It is useless," Vaneigem observes, "to expect even a caricature of creativity from a conveyor belt." What they added to Marx was the recognition that in order to ensure continued economic growth, capitalism has created "pseudo-needs" to increase consumption. Instead of saying that consciousness was determined at the point of production, they said it occurred at the point of consumption. Modern capitalist society is a consumer society, a society of "spectacular" commodity consumption. Having long been treated with the utmost contempt as a producer, the worker is now lavishly courted and seduced as a consumer.

At the same time, while modern technology has ended natural alienation (the struggle for survival against nature), social alienation in the form of a hierarchy of masters and slaves has continued. People are treated like passive objects, not active subjects. After degrading being into having, the society of the spectacle has further transformed having into merely appearing. The result is an appalling contrast between cultural poverty and economic wealth, between what is and what could be. "Who wants a world in which the guarantee that we shall not die of starvation," Vaneigem asks, "entails the risk of dying of boredom?"

The way out of the Situationists was not to wait for a distant revolution but to reinvent everyday life here and now. To transform the perception of the world and to change the structure of society is the same thing. By liberating oneself, one changed power relations and therefore transformed society. They therefore tried to construct situations which disrupt the ordinary and normal in order to jolt people out of their customary ways of thinking and acting. [Hardly an original idea, spanning from Leary-style LSD use to zen, etc. -- Ken.] In place of petrified life, they sought the _derive_ (with its flow of acts and encounters) and _detournement_ (rerouting events and images). They supported vandalism, wildcat strikes and sabotage as a way of destroying the manufactured spectacle and commodity economy. Such gestures of refusal were considered signs of creativity. The role of the SI was to make clear to the masses what they were already implicitly doing. In this way, they wished to act as catalysts within the revolutionary process. Once the revolution was underway, the SI would disappear as a group.

In place of the society of the spectacle, the Situationists proposed a communistic society bereft of money, commodity production, wage labor, classes, private property and the State. Pseudo-needs would be replaced by real desires, and the economy of profit become one of pleasure. The division of labor and the antagonism between work and play would be overcome. It would be a society founded on the love of free play, characterized by the refusal to be led, to make sacrifices, and to perform roles. Above all, they insisted that every individual should actively and consciously participate in the reconstruction of every moment of life. They called themselves Situationists precisely because they believed that all individuals should construct the situations of their lives and release their own potential and obtain their own pleasure.

As for the basic unit of the future society, they recommended workers' councils by which they meant "sovereign rank-and-file assemblies, in the enterprises and the neighborhoods". As with the communes of the anarcho-communists, the councils would practice a form of direct democracy and make and execute all the key decisions affecting everyday life. Delegates would be mandated and recallable. The councils would then federate locally, nationally and internationally.

In their call for the "concrete transcendence of the State and of every kind of alienating collectivity" and in their vision of communist society the Situationists come closest to the anarchists. They not only referred to Bakunin for their attack on authoritarian structures and bureaucracy, but Debord argued that "anarchism had led in 1936 [in Spain] to a social revolution and to a rough sketch, the most advanced ever, of proletarian power." The Situationists differ however from traditional anarchism in their elitism as an exclusive group and in their overriding concern with coherence of theory and practice. In their narrow insistence on the proletariat as the sole revolutionary class, they overlooked the revolutionary potential of other social groups, especially the students. They also denied that they were "spontaneists" like the 22 March Movement and rejected the "ideology" of anarchism in so far as it was allegedly another restrictive ideology imposed on the workers.

Despite the acuteness of their critique of modern capitalism, the Situationists mistakenly took a temporary economic boom in post-war France for a permanent trend in capitalist societies. Their belief in economic abundance now seems wildly optimistic; not only underproduction but also underconsumption continue in advanced industrial societies. In many parts of the globe, especially in the southern hemisphere, so-called "natural alienation", let alone social alienation, has yet to be overcome. Nevertheless, for all their weaknesses, the Situationists have undoubtedly enriched anarchist theory by their critique of modern culture, their celebration of creativity, and their stress on the immediate transformation of everyday life. Although the SI group disbanded in 1972 after bitter wrangling over tactics, their ideas have continued to have widespread influence in anarchist and feminist circles and inspired, at times almost subconsciously it seemed, much of the style and content of punk rock.  "


A history of Anarchism
Peter Marshall, 1992
Fontana Press
77-85 Fulham Palace Road
Hammersmith, London W6 8JB
ISBN 0 00 686245 4

Fully appreciating Society of the Spectacle requires a familiarity with the context of Debord's work. He was a founding member of the Situationist International, a group of social theorists, avant-garde artists and Left Bank intellectuals that arose from the remains of various European art movements. The Situationists and their predecessors built upon the project begun by Futurism, Dada, and Surrealism in the sense that they sought to blur the distinction between art and life, and called for a constant transformation of lived experience. The cohesion and persuasive political analysis brought forth by Debord, however, sets the Situationist International apart from the collective obscurity (if not irrelevance) of previous art movements. Society of the Spectacle represents that aspect of situationist theory that describes precisely how the social order imposed by the contemporary global economy maintains, perpetuates, and expands its influence through the manipulation of representations. No longer relying on force or scientific economics, the status quo of social relations is "mediated by images" [4]. The spectacle is both cause and result of these distinctively modern forms of social organization; it is "a Weltanschauung that has been actualized"

From Guy-Ernest Debord's "Society of the Spectacle":
Under the shimmering diversions of the spectacle, banalization dominates modern society the world over and at every point where the developed consumption of commodities has seemingly multiplied the roles and objects to choose from. The remains of religion and of the family (the principal relic of the heritage of class power) and the moral repression they assure, merge whenever the enjoyment of this world is affirmed--this world being nothing other than repressive pseudo-enjoyment. The smug acceptance of what exists can also merge with purely spectacular rebellion; this reflects the simple fact that dissatisfaction itself became a commodity as soon as economic abundance could extend production to the processing of such raw materials.
The celebrity, the spectacular representation of a living human being, embodies this banality by embodying the image of a possible role. Being a star means specializing in the seemingly lived; the star is the object of identification with the shallow seeming life that has to compensate for the fragmented productive specializations which are actually lived. Celebrities exist to act out various styles of living and viewing society unfettered, free to express themselves globally. They embody the inaccessible result of social labor by dramatizing its by-products magically projected above it as its goal: power and vacations, decision and consumption, which are the beginning and end of an undiscussed process. In one case state power personalizes itself as a pseudo-star; in another a star of consumption gets elected as a pseudo-power over the lived. But just as the activities of the star are not really global. they are not really varied.