CLICHE

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  • Clich√©, in the good sense
  • Clich√©, in the bad sense
  • Clich√©, in the good and bad sense

We hear people say, "We don't want to be clichéd, We don't want to be predictable, We want to be new." They say, "Protest is tired. And millions protest without affecting a thing." (See [Focus Group].) Of course that's usually true. But sometimes it's false.

Some of us feelies like the cliché more than others of us do. There can be a pleasure and confirmation in being around what's expected-hey hey, ho ho. The boredom of a protest can be part of its humor. But its formulaicness can be a drag, an energy suck, a scene of tired recognition. Or delighted recognition-it's you, we're here, crank it up, throw your noise against the forcefield that, mainly, absorbs it! Our sense of the conventional varies with mood.

Say we march in the streets because we want to change the world. But we also engage in it for the emotions we get from it. We like yelling in public with thousands of other people. But then sometimes we find we are yelling in public with a dozen other people. Like crazy people, in our bathrobes, with our hair unkempt, because we haven't found the energy to get ready to face the world. Or we are yelling alone in bed because we haven't found the energy to get out of it.

    • What's so great about ORIGINALITY, anyway? Isn't it just a symptom of capitalism's relentless drive to fetishize the new?

Part of the pleasure offered by cliché is _not _being surprised and getting to have _that _feeling again; the euphoric articulation of a repetition is a recommitment to being otherwise, to sharing even reduced images of the fantasmatic world of the otherwise, the place of our most intimate clichés.

From within a zone of animated political feeling one can't tell the difference between pseudo-activity and the really risky thing: one might feel flow, a sense of fullness, saturation by political depression. The cliché might signal the world of attachment and investment as already dead, decaying in belatedness; or it might hold open a space for a feeling to be matched by surprising, vitalizing, more just or just more modes of being. The form mobilized to dissolve the bad norms might become banality, a tic, or a surprising live wire.

We sympathize with the feeling of not wanting just to be dealing with Other People's Baggage. We sympathize with wanting to feel a feeling of heroic agency--although that, too, is a cliché. We don't know what it feels like anymore but once upon a time we thought we had that feeling and we know we know what it's like to want to feel it again. It's like wanting to fall in love again without caring who or what the object is because as long as that's the object you're falling in love with, you get to feel the feeling of falling in love.

  • What form will our protest-our REFUSAL, our [preference not to]-take this time? An old one? We could value ordinary forms of everyday protest, strategizing ways of keeping ideas alive, lending life and exuberance to survival. We could go with the moment without worrying if it's been done before.

But are there new demands we're not meeting, new forms of AUTHORITARIANISM we are failing to address because we're being BESIDE THE POINT? Caught in the dilemma's horns, a deer in the headlights, adrift in the headlines, we FEAR dead phrases, dead politics, lame practices. We FEAR having been wrong but we FEAR, more, having been STUCK.

  • The clich√© might be the inadequate form of meaning in the conventional world, the truth that stills thought and movement. But in context it might be the whatever that binds us to affects other than defeat, to solidarity without guarantees, to people and movements that require, to exist, small signs expressing fidelity. Think clapping for Tinkerbell, when you say that slogan that used to mean something, that has the heft of a potato, that signifies an ongoing awareness, consciousness, understanding, attachment: that's clich√© in the good sense.

Not in the bad sense

[When you say activism]

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