FOMENT

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We were looking up the word "REVOLUTION" and the word "foment" kept appearing. The sonic image of foam – at the mouth? – seemed an accident, the likeness of sound breeding the proliferating sense of things revolution might stand for, but we wondered. We looked further. Foment comes from the Latin, fovere, to cherish, warm, and its earliest senses in English are medical, applying warmth for care and healing. Its root senses are not about goading, nor pushing, prodding. Foment a revolution: cherish it, stimulate the world towards it, heat the world up. Politics as poultice. Poultice, A soft mass of some substance applied to the skin to supply moisture or warmth, as an emollient for a sore or inflamed part, or as a counter-irritant.

Softness is a threatening sense in the domain of politics, though, isn't it? It makes us a little queasy too, when it isn't named as a program like, say, "pacifism." If it's a program it's got definitional armor. After Clausewitz's observation that war is the extension of politics by other means, politics itself has become a metaphor for war by other means. Pacifism is not the absence of the political, though: it's the irritant that comes from a refusal to affirm political struggle as a war against life.


Does fomenting ferment? Can it bubble up from below? Is fomenting something you can do alone, or does it need Collective Action?

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