Fighting Monsters

by CJ Hopkins | Apr 28, 2024

So, I gave a little speech about art, and war. The Internationale Agentur für Freiheit, a Berlin art and cultural association, asked me to do that to open their exhibition, Make Art Not War. I couldn’t turn them down.

As my readers may have noticed, I haven’t had very much to say about “The War on Hamas,” or “The War on Gaza,” or “The Liquidation of Gaza,” or whatever you want to call it. (It doesn’t look like much of a “war” to me, but then, nothing really has for quite a while.)

I wrote about it in October and November of last year. And I said a few things about it in my speech. But, mostly, I’ve been trying to keep my mouth shut. I don’t have much to contribute to the … well, I can’t really call it a discussion, or debate, or an argument. It feels like people screaming slogans into each other’s faces, accusing each other of this and that, and calling each other names, and so on. Which … I get why people are inclined to do that. I’m not. But I get why other folks are. So, I think it’s best if I just shut my pie hole (as much as possible) and let folks do that.

It isn’t going to change what’s happening. GloboCap (or whatever you call the system we’re all living under) has been occupying, destabilizing, and restructuring the Middle East for decades. It’s not going to stop. It is going to continue. As the restructuring of the West is going to continue.

GloboCap doesn’t have anything else to do.

Anyway, before I ramble on any further, here’s the English version of the speech I gave at the exhibition. Many thanks to those of you who attended … and apologies again for my German. I’ll get the hang of it one of these days.

Fighting Monsters

The name of this exhibition is “Make Art not War.” So I’m going to say a few things about art, and war. You’re not going to like all of them. Or at least I hope not. If you did, I wouldn’t be a very good artist, but I might be a pretty good propagandist.

I grew up in the 1960s and 70s. In the USA. The war was on television. In Vietnam. Cambodia. Cuba. The Middle East. Then in El Salvador. Nicaragua. Iran. Libya. Yugoslavia. Afghanistan. Iraq. The list goes on and on. I am almost 63 years old. All my life we’ve been at war. Not just Americans. All of us. People. Someone always at war with someone. And all my life there have been other people calling for peace. Protesting the war. Whatever war it was at the time.

If you read a little history, as I like to do sometimes, you will learn that someone has been at war with someone over something since the dawn of civilization. Certainly Western civilization. The history of Western art and literature begins with war. Genocidal war. The Illiad is a poem about a genocidal war. Rape. Mass murder. The slaughter of children. Most of Shakespeare’s plays are about war, or are set during a war, or have something to do with someone killing someone over something.

Some of that history happened right here. There are bunkers below us where people sheltered during the bombing raids in the Second World War. Legend has it the Stasi operated listening stations right here in these rooms. When I first arrived in Berlin, twenty years ago, I lived in a sublet on this street. This was my neighborhood, the Bötzowviertel. There were still bullet holes in the facades of buildings. People died here. Civilians. Children. Women were raped here. Families were dragged out of their homes and sent to the death camps here. This is Berlin. You know the history. I don’t need to recite all the details.

What’s my point? Well, my point is … that is war. Indiscriminate killing. Rape. Mass atrocities. That’s what war is. That is what it has always been. And we’ve been doing it to each other since the dawn of civilization. It is not going to stop. We are not going to stop it. Art is certainly not going to stop it. We are, whether we like it or not, a violent species, human beings. It isn’t all we are, but it is part of what we are. We are also lovers, teachers, healers, artists, and other beautiful things. But sometimes we are vicious killers. Monsters. Genocidal monsters.

A crazy old German philosopher once warned us, “beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster.” He was joking, of course. There are no monsters. Or, rather, there are only monsters, on every side of every war. In a war, there are no good guys and bad guys. There is just our side and the other side. Our atrocities and their atrocities. And whoever wins gets to write the history.

That’s it. The rest is propaganda. Their propaganda and our propaganda. Of course, our propaganda is not propaganda. Our propaganda is just the truth. Because we’re not monsters. They are the monsters.

This is Day 202 of Israel’s war on Hamas, or its liquidation of Gaza, depending on your perspective. I haven’t said too much about it publicly. I said a few things about it when it began. That didn’t go well. No one was listening. The propaganda from both sides was already deafening. I described the Hamas attack as mass murder. My pro-Palestinian readers didn’t like that. I described Israel as a typical mass-murdering nation-state, no different than the United States of America, Germany, France, Spain, The Netherlands, the Soviet Union, the British empire, the Ottoman empire, the Holy Roman Empire, or any other mass-murdering nation-state or empire. My pro-Israeli readers didn’t like that. Neither side wanted to hear about history. The history of asymmetric warfare, or terrorism, depending on your perspective. The history of nation-states and empires. They wanted to hear a story about monsters. About the monsters on the other side.

I told you you weren’t going to like everything I said, right?

OK, let me say a few things about art now. If you didn’t like what I said about war, maybe you’ll like what I say about art. I can’t speak for other artists, but I’ll tell you why I think I became an artist, and what I have been trying to do as an artist.

I haven’t been trying to stop any wars. Or to pacify the human species. I don’t know how to do either of those things. And I am not a fan of propaganda. I confess, I have engaged in it from time to time, but mostly what I’ve been trying to do is deprogram minds, starting with my own.

We are all, by the time we realize we exist, the products of programming, ideological conditioning. I believe it is the job of artists to undo that, or at least to marginally interfere with it. That’s what art, and artists, did for me. They introduced me to my mind. My programmed mind. They forced me to think, and to see, and listen. They taught me to question, to pay attention. They dared me to deprogram my mind, and provided me with the tools to do it. OK, sure, some mind-altering drugs also helped, but it was artists that introduced me to those drugs. Then they introduced me to the monster I’ve been fighting.

I have been fighting this monster, in my art, in my mind, and out in the world for as long I remember. You have to fight it everywhere at once. To fight it in your mind, you have to fight it out in the world. And to fight it out in the world, you have to fight it in your mind.

Let me tell you about the monster.

The monster is legion. It goes by many names. It wears many faces. They change over time. William S. Burroughs called it “The Control Machine.” Some people call it the corporatocracy. I call it global capitalism. The monster doesn’t care what we call it. It doesn’t care who we are, what our politics are, or which side of what war we think we are on. It doesn’t care what we believe, which religion we profess. It couldn’t care less how we “identify.”

All it cares about is power. All it cares about is control.

It is everywhere, and nowhere. It has no country. No nationality. It doesn’t exist. It is everything, and nothing. It is the non-existent empire occupying the entire planet. It has no external enemies because there is no outside, not anymore. So there is no real war. There are only insurrections, carried out by rebels, traitors, terrorists.

The monster, our non-existent empire, is the first global empire in human history. It is not a group of evil people. It is maintained by people, but they are all interchangeable. It has no headquarters. There is no emperor. There isn’t any “Bastille” to storm. It is a logos. A system. An operating system.

It has no politics, no ideology. Its official ideology is “reality.” Thus it has no political opposition. Who would argue against or oppose “reality”? Lunatics. Extremists. The terminally deranged. And thus there are no dissidents, no opposing political parties. There are only apostates, heretics, blasphemers, sowers of discord, “reality” deniers.

It manufactures “reality.” Whatever “reality” it needs. The War on Terror. The War on Populism. The War on the Virus. The War on the Weather. The War on Hate. The War on Whatever. It doesn’t matter. It is all the same war. The same “Clear-and-Hold” op. The same counterinsurgency. It has been for about 30 years.

If things seem crazy, if you’re wondering what’s happening, that is what’s happening. That is all that is happening. That is all that has been happening since the end of the Cold War.

The empire is eliminating internal resistance, any and all forms of internal resistance. The monster is monsterizing everything and everyone. Transforming societies into markets. It doesn’t have anything else to do. It is erasing values. It is dissolving borders. It is “sensitivity-editing” culture. Synchronizing everything and everyone in conformity to its only value … money. Rendering everything a commodity.

It is the apotheosis of liberal democracy, the part where the monster does away with democracy, with the simulation of democracy, and proclaims itself “democracy.” It is global-capitalist Gleichschaltung.

That’s the monster I have been fighting.

Which makes me a terrorist. A conspiracy theorist. A Russian propagandist. A Covid denier. A right-wing extremist. An anti-vaxxer. An anti-Semite. A transphobic racist. An enemy of “democracy.” A Hamas supporter. A Donald Trump supporter. An AfD supporter. Whatever the official enemy happens to be today.

It makes me a criminal. A thought criminal. An art criminal.

Which I literally am. The German authorities are prosecuting me for disseminating art. For tweeting art. Pictures. Words. They banned one of my books. So maybe I’m marginally interfering with their ideological conditioning, with their programming, with their New Normal Gleichschaltung op.

If so, good, because, if I can quote another German, “art is not a mirror held up to reality, it is a hammer to shape reality with.”

And I’ll go a little further than Brecht. Every work of art we make shapes reality one way or another, whether we intend it to or not. It either feeds the monster or it fucks with the monster. The monster out there, and the monster in here, inside us, all of us … because it’s all the same monster.

Thank you, all of you who are fucking with the monster. That is all. Let’s keep it up.

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