How to respond when a sense of war surrounds a person or a people?Introducing the Nomad War Machine
How to respond when an authority assemblage is repetitively non-responsive to lives and communities, creating effects that are oppressive and damaging?
How to respond in ways that are not simply requests or demands for higher authorities to intervene and correct?
How to respond in ways that do not call upon a repetition of child/parent types of relationship when faced with intransigent authorities?
How to respond in ways that undo the sense of helplessness that often emerges when repetitively faced with such non-responsive authority assemblages?
The Nomad War Machine is a shifty and often disturbing image that is able to stir up a mass of intensities and thoughts. It is a concept presented by two French philosophers, Deleuze and Guatarri. I am proposing that the Nomad War Machine can be a significant, life-affirming image, particularly for those whose lives have been marked and remarked, constructed and reconstructed by modern authority structures.
The Nomad War Machine, certainly as we are describing it, and, I believe, as it is also portrayed by Deleuze and Guatarri, is not about making war, but it is about finding ways of responding when encircled by a sense of war. With this in mind, it is important to emphasize at the start that the Nomad War Machine has specific and limited contexts wherein it emerges and functions effectively. It is not to be a creation for all times and for all situations. We suggest that the Nomad War Machine comes into action in response to the violences and impositions associated with rigid and stratified authority assemblages. It comes into force in response to the destructive actions of immovable institutions upon lives and relationships.
Nomad War Machine – How Might it Move?
Following, I provide some thoughts specific to the movements of the Nomad War Machine.
· The Nomad War Machine is a concept used by Deleuze and Guatarri to describe a type of response to unmovable, stratified structures. It is about a
· Continuing with the liquid picture, Nomad War Machines have little interest in "solving.” Problem-solving appears to be, generally speaking, and pragmatically speaking, mostly nonsense anyway. Mathematical metaphors, such as “solving” seem to hold little powers in most of real life. For those who create Nomad War Machines have reached the end of the road when it comes to problem-solving. However, the war machine is connected to processes of "dissolving.” Flows of liquids can dissolve much of what they encounter. Eventually whole mountains can get washed away, or a Grand canyon emerges in response to the dispersing forces of water. Again, Nomad War Machines are more likely to deal with obstructions through dissolving rather than solving.
· Not about goose-stepping armies and militaristic values and practices, but is about those “lines of flight” away from the rigidities and dehumanisations proceeding from institutional arrangements.
· Not an authorized structure, not a controlled and stratified thing, but a flow, a movement within rhizome lines.
· Is a communal rather than an individual response. Even when it appears like an individual event, the event can only function within a communal space.
· While the active movements of war have historically been limited to the realms of men, not so with the Nomad Wary Machine. An argument can be made that women, because of their historical exclusions from authority assemblages, just might be more familiar with the movements of the Nomad War Machine.
· More likely to be akin to a dance than a march.
· A machine, as in a virtual assemblage created and formed, not through bureaucracy and decision, but through response and passion. However, looking closely one can always find what looks like cogs and gears and other moving, mechanical-like things. Anyone who has ever loved a car, a motorbike, a boat, a sewing machine, knows that human passions can easily be connected to machinery. The instinctual move to consider anything associated with the language of machine as obviously cold and disconnected from humanity is a flawed and, I propose, even a dangerous one. Mchines come as flows from and along side the human creature. Also, most mahines, when they are running, are hot, not cold.
· While akin to the flows of liquids, the Nomad War Machine is also about nterrupting already existing flows. It is about the creation of restraining influences that interrupt currents proceeding from authority assemblages. The creation of flows that nterrupt flows.
· Emerges as a creative action – always a uniquely situated (or, more precisely, a uniquely flowing), non-replicatable, creative action of responsivity.
· Responsivity to life – that is, not to a pre-defined life, but to a life ‘felt’ through and within one’s communal movements.
· Also, a certain responsive awareness to the impositions of those things that operate in an anti-life manner.
· Understands and joins in the lightening movements and the competencies of chaos.
· Circulates around abundances rather than efficiencies.
· Not above manipulation – but not valuing manipulation.
· Not above or below honesty, but refrains from joining in the all-to-common, fetish-like pull that can accompany narratives of honesty.
The Nomad War Machine in Practice
We can easily think of some nomad war machines available within our mutual histories.
Think, for example, of Schindler’s List: not the state machinery of Nazi governance, nor the state machineries of the allied powers, but, the deceptive machinery, the nomad machinery of the list. This is a Nomad War Machine – distinct lines of flight, fleeing institutionalized violences, often in ways and means unpredicted, even unimagined. And, certainly, if one looks, the machinery, the cogs and the gears are evident.
Think also of the rapping movements of Mohammed Ali. Think of Ali floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee. Poetry in words. Poetry in motion. Looking nothing like any known institutional machine. Not anything like a militaristic structure, but an indomitable, Nomad War Machine none-the-less. This Nomad War Machine of Ali was not directed toward his boxing opponents. These were important participants in his game. His Nomad War Machine was in response to the racism and bigotry entrenched and supported within various American stratified assemblages. His movements twisted many common perceptions of race and prejudice, and pushed toward new forms of action and relationship. And, all this new-emergence often congealing within sight, open for viewing – but even so, not usually noticed, thereby escaping direct intrusion.
One can also think of the women in Chile, during the Pinochet regime, who danced alone and silently in the street. This in response to the men in their lives who were taken away by the Pinochet forces to never be seen again.
The Nomad War Machine -- we could go on forever giving historical examples. But, the most compelling Nomad War Machines assemble in everyday life, around us each day. However, they all too often go unnoticed. And, some of them must go unnoticed, for many nomad war machines, have created machinery, cogs and gears, that only work when beyond the gaze of prying eyes. It seems that many Nomad War Machines are hidden; they are secrets, perhaps never to be told, or perhaps to be told only at later times. Concealment is often a necessity for Nomad War Machines.
The Nomad War Machine? Think of Cass.
Cass’ Nomad War Machine
Cass knows how to open doors for people. In this chapter, she opens us up to a world that has been repetitively dehumanizing, for her as well as countless others. Cass embraces the language of the Nomad War Machine, and she does so with a compelling force. Her words, her stories, her tragedies, her humour, her language must stir people to action.
Cass will teach us about the Nomad War Machine.
Chris: Cass can you tell me about your experience under the auspices of the Ministry that is responsible for housing and supporting children in their care? Can you tell me a bit about your story?
Cass: Sure, when I was in care, I was in fifty-two foster homes, countless respite homes, three group homes, five bridging homes, two jails and two psych wards.
Ever since I left the Ministry I have wanted to see my file. I have wanted to know what people were saying about me through all those childhood and youth years. I had to request that file through the Freedom of Information Act. A whole bunch of red tape. Then, after a long period of time, I finally received, not a file at all, but a bunch of boxes. When I opened up the boxes I felt so let down. They were filled with paperwork, but almost everything in there had been blacked out. Somebody had gone through and blacked out almost everything in all the boxes of files.
I remember being at my mom's house in her living room holding a paper up to the light to try and read the blacked out stuff. On any given page there were, perhaps, a total of THREE lines that were not blacked out. What kind of info is that? This is my life and I should know what went on? Certainly they were hiding something, EVERYTHING, in fact. I am still really, really mad about this. When I questioned them about why my file was almost completely blacked out they said that it was to protect other parties involved. That's fine, but couldn't they change their fucking names? Why did I get NOTHING back about my fourteen years in care? Still to this day, I would like to challenge the Freedom of Information Act, and tell them that I was not awarded what I have a right to see. I am a living, breathing person, and I deserve to know all the details that happened to me. I only remember the huge things, but I know there are certainly many things from back then that I may have forgotten.
Chris: Almost everything was blacked out?
Cass: Yea, like everything but a few lines on a page. Sometimes there were a few words here and there that added up to being about three lines.
Chris: Tell me more about being in all these different homes.
Cass: Well, there were some that I felt really connected to. I liked the people, but when I was told that this was my home, I would become angry and want to ruin it, and so I did. Often I would never again see the people I had lived with and cared for, but one of them fought so much and got me back. I was so thankful, yet I became angry again and messed stuff up again.
Well, after this happens to you a few times, you figure some things out. First of all -- lesson number one! Don’t get to like the people you are living with. After a while it just becomes another home, no matter how nice or not the person may be. I just felt trapped at such an early age. It felt as if the life was being sucked out of me and I was helpless. That day when I would turn nineteen I would be able to have my life the way I wanted it to be. I remember so many of my friends could do things I couldn't do -- like have a simple sleepover. I remember when I wanted to have a sleepover I had to run away. Then I got reported as being AWOL and the police found me. What a fucking joke. I was a kid who wanted to spend the night at her friend’s house!! I wasn't some kid who thought running away was cool and fun and -- hey I want to ride in the back of a cop car and get arrested. Actually, I did become that kid eventually, even though I wasn't that kid at first. I found myself hanging out with those kids. Why, cause they were the war machine just as I was, but in a different way. I didn't fit in with them at all. I was a little smarter. Like, for example, I remember I was the only female in this one group home who wasn't pregnant.
So yeah, I got kicked out of homes in the beginning, then I found good ones and just thought I was going to get kicked out, so I had a strategy of getting kicked out ASAP!!! If I was to be kicked out, I wanted to say that it was because of me. This is one thing that I did -- I became the Nomad War Machine. I took the Ministry's power away and said: Oh yea… I can do it too! It isn't hard.
What IS hard, however, is for the workers, and even more for the system itself, to work with a kid, work with their allies and their community. It seems so dam obvious yet they were so blind to that. I had tried to teach them that for my entire stay in care and they still didn't see.
Chris: What do you mean?
Cass: Well, you do know some of the things I did, because you knew me back then. You were one of my bright-lights through my teen years.
Once I wanted to get kicked out BAD. This couple were harsh Christians and they told me they loved me every night. I didn't understand or believe it. But I was a kid and it didn't wash well with me. That is not real love they had. It was not deep seeded love. They used the word love to mean “care for”. And to validate this, when they had a baby they kicked me out because they thought that I was going to hurt it. BUT when they had that baby I felt like I could be a big sister again and that maybe they would be my family. So just as my defences dropped, I was let down.
I am giving the impression that everything was their doing. However, I was so offended by all of the bullshit, like their rules about how I should behave, and the expectation that I become Christian, like them – for example, they forced me to pray every day and go to Sunday school. Every time they pissed me off like that, I would do my own thing to secretly get back at them. For example, there was this nice looking lasagne in the fridge one night, and I put pieces of shit – that is real human shit – between the layers of lasagne, and then I actually watched them eat it. I remember laughing as they ate it.
Well, when they found out about this, I was out. No doubt! Now, I know this is gross, and people quickly thought I was mentally deranged, but, those people weren’t seeing what I was doing. My goal was to be moved from that residence, to destroy the placement, before I had to experience the indignity of them doing it to me. Well – it worked. Like a charm! I learned that there were many things I could do to cause trouble for them.
Chris: I am curious as to what you think of the words, Nomad War Machine? And, does it connect in any way with some of the actions you took back then? Was the lassangia story possible a story of a Nomad War Machine??
Cass: I was just a kid who was trapped in care. I don't like labels, or terminology or structure. However, this term, being more than just words, I do respect it. As far as the term connecting with actions that I made, I was always in enemy fire and had to find ways to survive. And, if you are going to survive, you need to make yourself some kind of a Nomad War Machine. I recently heard that kids in care these days are not aloud to use MSN to chat with friends because it's believed they will be easy targets for sexual-predators. The funny thing is... social services should be far more feared than a sexual predator.
Even the best of the best people in social services tend to often be useless because they would lose their jobs if they acted like real people. Some of these people did manage to keep in contact with me, however, and since I am no longer in care they have no fear of being themselves. It really sucks that I had to wait till I got out of care to enjoy these people.
You were one of these people, who even back then saw the system for what it was and joined my side to be war machines.
Chris: I guess… it seems like I should say “Thanks!”
Cass: No, you do not. Damn you.
Cass: Oh, did you just Nomad War Machine me?
Chris: Yea, right!
I am interested also in what you think about the idea of the Nomad War Machine now, as you look on your current experience? Actually, before we move on to that, let’s fill the readers in to what your life is like now, and how you got to this point!
Cass: Well, after I left care I was basically homeless. I slept on people’s couches. Sometimes I slept outside, under an overpass or something to help keep me hidden from the public. Sometimes I would sleep in a stair-well.
Home is where the heart is, and for me, that was online. I administered my own particular site for many years, even back then, and when I had a home within myself, I took it down.
Through the years I have managed to become 1337 – ha-ha! Only a few people will understand what I mean by this.
And of course, now I have my own place, and all that is good.
These days my Monad War Machine is still active, but focussed on other things. I would like to take on social services again, as an adult... but I have so much work that I have little time to do that. I even have such little time for this meeting with you now. I need to do it, though. I would like to start up a website for stories like mine. Before I became so busy, as you know, I would help you with training groups and workshops. We, together, also with the others who helped… we are now a moveable and much larger Nomad War Machine. And, I have noticed the large systems like the Ministry can never keep up with us. They tend to be slow, and, in my opinion, stupid. Sometimes, for instance, when they moved me, I’m not sure they really had a reason. Almost like they are in the business of moving children around from home to home – don’t really need a reason. They might come up with one, but it seems that often there is no true reason.
Chris: Tell me about the breast story. I think that this might also connect with the idea of the Nomad War Machine.
Cass: When I was at this youth treatment centre for substance abuse, I was bored from time to time and would have “filler activities” I would make up and do. One of my familiar filler activities was to draw boobs in the centre of the viewing area, so that everyone (mainly the counsellors) would see. It was pretty failsafe until you came along – Ha-ha. Instead of freaking out, like everyone else did, saying nasty things behind my back, you asked me about them. You also asked me what else I drew and you realized that the boob drawing was my way of opening up... However, I was not going to open up to someone who would freak out over boobs.
Chris: Well, I remember these pictures all over the place. Boobs, boobs, everywhere! And, clearly, many people didn’t like this. I just noticed that many of these drawings were very well done. Also, I thought, it really isn’t a new thing for an artist to draw boobs. Breasts have been drawn since human beings learned to draw. Why are we bothered now? I also remember that very soon after that you showed me your other pictures. I still have some of them.
Cass: I had binders full of other drawings I had done, too. Some of them were sexual pictures also, but certainly not most of them. And even if they ALL were sexual, SO WHAT. I am still sick of uptight people. I find them to be very fake and gutless. It was so good to be able to show the pictures to you because not only did you appreciate them, you showed me ones you had done also, which were also very good.
Now looking back on it, this certainly was also part of my war machine. Draw pictures that will lead them to think I am screwed up somehow. And also, I really didn't care what those people thought, because the boob pictures and other things that I did were only ways to find the good people, who I could actually put my trust in. Drawing boobs – it was a call put out to anyone who works with people, to recognize that they need to become people too -- if they’re even going to dream of being helpful for anyone else.
By the way, I still draw boobs.