Practice of Idiotism as Resistance

Han teaches that the idea of idiotism is a practice of freedom and emancipation. The challenge is to stand outside the order of things of achievement society. It is the challenge to be wholly other, the idiot. Han calls one who brings a new idiom an idiot. Socrates is an example par excellence of idiotism. The only thing that Socrates knew was that he knew nothing. This self-knowledge of Socrates broke the reigning mode of thinking and set about a new discourse of thought. Han, therefore, indicates that an idiot is one who stands outside the status quo and brings about a new way of life. An idiot thus is a heretic. A heretic always stands alone against the violence of consensus. As a heretic, an idiot exhibits a tendency to go against the accepted orthodoxy. Only an idiot has access to or can alert others towards a wholly another way of being and in doing. Hence, he/ she can invent a new discourse and create new possibilities that will usher in a new future. Being an idiot is a subversive response that we need in order to respond to achievement obsessed society.

Gilles Deleuze teaches that playing the fool is the function of philosophy. Besides, Socrates, says Rene Descartes who casts doubt on everything is an idiot. Cogito ergo sum is idiotic. Descartes tries to bring thought to its virginal state and succeeds in initiating a new mode of thinking. With the erasure of otherness, outsiders like the idiot, and the fool seems to have no place in our achievement society. We have an ongoing compulsion to conform. The digital revolution and populist politics have accentuated it even more. The violence of consensus is suppressing idiotism. An idiot is idiosyncratic. When communication is accelerated idiosyncrasy becomes an obstacle and becomes an immunological defence against the other. It stands in a way of the unbound stream of communication. This is by immunosuppression is resorted so that information can circulate rapidly and capital can accelerate. Society builds an inferno of the same and communication achieves the highest speed. Against this compulsive coercive communication and conformism, idiotism becomes a practice of freedom and otherness.

An idiot is unallied, unnetworked and uninformed. He/ she inhabits the outside which is out of the reach of the communication network. Hence, idiots are best suited to oppose the violence of consensus. In a society crippled under coercive conformism, idiotism appears to be the best emancipative response that we can offer. We need the idiotic figure of opposition to the rising fire of the inferno of the same. It can stand against the power of the neoliberal economy that is dominating our society. Neoliberal power dominates through total communication and total surveillance. The idiot communicates without communicating. Han says an idiot erects spaces for guarding silence, quiet and solitude where it is possible to interrupt and disrupt the reigning discourse and say what one has to say. Instead of getting sucked into the echo-chambers of neoliberalism, we have the challenge to idiotically withdraw and play the politics of silence. It will certainly enable us to think and articulate a rare thing that might be worth saying. Only an idiot can say the unsaid and even utter that which is regarded as the unsayable. Idiotism opens a virginal space marking a distance so that speaking and living can occur at a different level.

Against the tendency of capital to push us to transcend life. It estranges us from nature, culture and even tradition. Nature, culture and tradition exist in their commodified forms and are emptied of their authenticity. We are alienated from life itself. An idiot is immersed in the immanence of life. Immanent life is richer, freer and lighter. Idiotic life is not defined by individuality or subjectivity. He/she is defined by singularity. Children have singularities that later grow into individualities. An idiot lives like a child. The sphere of immanence that the idiot enters is a matrix of de-subjectivation and de-psychologization. Therefore, choosing idiocy is choosing freedom.

Idiocy is the best mode of being human in a world of compulsive conformity that has put us in a rat race of performance and achievement in accordance with the standards set by the neoliberal economy. It is the best response to disrupt surveillance capitalism. What would be our world if all were to quit Facebook, Instagram and Email as well as throw the smartphone into a ditch? It is certainly an idiotic act. But it will disrupt surveillance capitalism. What will happen to the dreams of the likes of Cambridge Analytica who brainwash us with propaganda to benefit their highest bidders? Maybe silence and withdrawal are like Mahatma Gandhiji’s non-cooperation strategy. It can assist us to end social control and reclaim our freedom. By doing away with social control, we shall regain our innocence. Therefore, by choosing idiocy, we choose to delay and suspension of the reigning ‘ truth’. This pause causes deacceleration leading total communication and total surveillance to come to a crashing halt. This is why idiocy becomes a poetic act of freedom.

Idiocy is fortunately linked to philosophy. Philosophers who write not knowing who will read, created new modes of thinking, new idioms and language to respond to our dynamically changing society are certainly idiots. It might appear absurd to choose idiocy. It is the only freedom that seems to be left with us to resist the achievement-subject to rebel against the already established modes of being in the world by the neoliberal economy. Idiocy is the only way to practice our genuine freedom. We need more idiots who are willing to stand alone and refuse to live by the rules of achievement society set by the neoliberal economy.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao