Policeman says to a protester: you should go home now. Protester responds: this is my home.
If we stop for a moment to consider this deceptively simple, even pathetic exchange of affects that could have taken place in so many different location across the globe during the last few years (months, weeks, days) we will notice that our first habitual interpretation will always frame such an exchange as a conflict generated by a different claims concerning the distribution of public/private spaces and rights of ownership over them. I would like to propose a slight shift of focus that should direct our attention beyond the spatial perception of politics and make us recognize the tension which is underlying it. This tension, the real site of political and social contestation, is, in my opinion, not territorial but is grounded in an incompatible uses of language.
From a perspective of a policeman, who is by definition guardian of a social order and consequently the owner of a “correct” speech, go home function as an injunction in which verb (go) prescribe an activity who’s directionality depend on an understanding of the noun (home) as a location different from the one from which policeman speaks. His utterance is eloquent and authoritative act of establishing and organizing a social space in a particular, ideologically biased way. In fact, source of his power to send somebody home (or take her away from home) IS dependent on and built into the conventional structure of a language which is allowing him to occupy and claim this place (noun) from which he address the other with an order to move (verb) to another place (noun).
On the other hand, resistance implicitly present in a response of a protester to the policeman’s injunction, is not truly performed at the point of a verbal (or physical) conflict about the ownership and organization of a spatial territory. By saying “this is my home” protester is not claiming a physical location in which exchange is taking place but a form/content of the exchange itself. The gesture of resistance is enacted as an in-correct use of language, a paradoxical invitation to consider act of communication (form) as a topos (content). Consequently, for a protester home is not a place inscribed in a map to which she should retreat (or from which he should be extracted) but a social activity in which she is engaging here and now, vis a vis a policeman. Home is an immediate event, decisive and vital (mis)communication that is, at the moment of its enactment, re-considering the rule of law, rather than a site (of protest) under the shadow of the law as a given.
There is, indeed, an unsurpassable, mute distance between a clever statements about the necessity of change (in our perception of language, politics, society) and any possible formulation which could transform such a statement into a concrete strategy for action. However, maybe it is a mistake to consider a gap as an obstacle, an impossibility. Maybe the real change is in our ability to feel at home in it rather than considering it as an emptiness that is forever preventing us from arriving. Maybe, the home is not a destination but rather an act of wandering toward and about it. Maybe I am at home right now, while attempting to communicate my thoughts about the home to you.
I have no illusions, after reading these lines you will still hope to get home. You will still, silently agree that THIS is not your home and THAT other place is. You will move away accordingly and dutifully as if the invisible policeman is speaking from inside of your head. Sooner or later he will give you an instruction “You should go home now” and you will quite probably not even consider possibility to respond “this is my home”. You will, close the file and leave. I am not blaming you for making such an obvious, sane decision. As long as I am struggling with my own habit of conceiving language only in terms of its grammatical rules and regulations, not fully realizing that what matter about it is the actual gesture of speak-ability, vital and urgent need to enact an important communication here and now, I will behave the same as you. I will go home. We will all leave. But, maybe, just before that happen you ll allow yourself a moment of quite contemplation, not already running from emptiness but rather feeling welcomed into it.
As you are reading THIS lines, you are already implicated inside of THIS text.. And lets avoid mistakes. THIS is only secondarily a location in space. Primarily, THIS is an event in time, an event of relating, to other people directly and indirectly co-present with you in an act of reading/writing, in the moment of exchange. THIS (event of relating) is your home. Home as a gesture of active and immediate renegotiation, not of a territory but of a basic conditions for sharing – any territory. Home as an act of resistance to what is given-to-be-inhabited. If your flat or a street is not such a home, maybe, for a moment, this text can become one. Welcome.