I refer to the statement, which I shall neither dignify nor distort by the designation ‘manifesto’ (such a name being associated with a passion of partisanship that this group is eager to declaim), of the so-called ‘Post-50 Group’. The rhetorical strategies employed by this text are so familiar that we can barely stifle a yawn- these gestures have been rehearsed innumerable times since Kant.
It comes as no surprise that the Post-50 Group feel compelled to preface their proclamations with a resume that articulates three interwoven implorations. This imperious triad lends the whole statement an air of (self-assumed) authority:
1. ‘We know how you feel, we’ve been there too.’ The authors flaunt the stripes that they have earned in their student days, when their hearts beat in time with a common rhythm, a rhythm throbbing with emancipatory desire. Yes, they too have burned with the impetuous ardor of youth; they too have savored the incomparable sweetness of a shared dream. Now calmed by the placidity of time, they can survey this clamor from the pacific plateau of age. The years pile on top of one another, forming a tower that lifts one above the inchoate chaos of youth. The lineaments of this figure are unmistakably Confucian - listen to your elders.
2. ‘We know what we’re doing, we’re professionals.’ Here we encounter a paradox, one that, if I may be so bold as to posit a totalizing abstraction, characterizes the problem of democracy today. In one ingenious stroke, the authors of the statement espouse their unflinching solidarity with ‘the people’ before revoking it, asserting their transcendence above/their inalienable superiority to the mass. They are specialists who deploy their expertise in a dizzyingly diverse range of fields. It just so happens, coincidence of coincidences, that these fields are crucial to the engineering of the national infrastructure. This move introduces a distinct separation between two levels, splitting the ignorant masses (the site of demagoguery/the juvenile intoxication of ‘radicalism’) from the sobriety of the State and its technicians. The clandestinity of the Post-50 Group is more telling than they think: bureaucracy is always impersonal, ubiquitous and invisible, free from the conspicuousness of the name.
3. ‘Be reasonable!’ To emphasize that they speak for Mankind- the sovereignty of Man inhering in his capacity to Reason- the group addresses itself to our faculties of cognition. Us ‘radicals’ are in agreement- rationality deserves our unconditional esteem. But we must also be clear on where we part ways. In contrast to the Post-50 Group, we do not believe that we can de-politicize Reason. Reason does not exist in some neutral space where every ascription of value is held in abeyance. Every use of Reason is political. Our confrontation with a State that is prepared to commit public funds to an unconscionable project, uprooting local communities and ecological milieus in the process, is a conflict between two antagonistic rationalities. To dismiss this conflict by appealing to a Universal Reason is to obscure the dimension of choice, the discrimination between two irreconcilable rationalities: democracy or the State. We have chosen a side, we will not capitulate. We only wish that you had the honesty to admit to your choice, a choice which, in whatever lofty vocabulary you wish to couch it in, *divides* you from us.