Original translation of “Is This What You Call ‘Living’?” by E. Armand


1845-1945, E. Armand / Sunday, November 10th, 2019
A contributor has sent the following original translation of an essay by E. Armand. We welcome contributions that present the ideas or history of Egoism, whether in direct translation or commentary.

 

Is This What You Call “Living”?

By E. Armand.

( First published as a pamphlet by the French anarchist journal, Hors du Troupeau (“Outside the Crowd”) (1912).

Get up at dawn. Running or using any means of rapid locomotion. Go to “work.” That is, shut up in a room – spacious or confined, airy or airless. Sitting in front of a typewriter, tapping away transcribing letters of which we would not send half if we had to write them by hand. Or, working to shape always the same parts from a machine. Or, yet again, not getting away more than a short distance from equipment that has to be operated or be monitored. Or, finally, mechanically, automatically, standing in front of a loom, repeating the same gestures, making the same movements. And that for hours and hours on end without any distraction, without any change in the environment. Everyday.

Is this what you call “living”?

Produce! Produce again!! Always produce!!! Like yesterday, like the day before yesterday. Like tomorrow – unless you are sick or dead. Produce? Things that seem useless but you are forbidden to discuss their superfluity. Complex objects of which only a tiny part is in the hands while we never know the whole of the manufacturing process. Produce? Without knowing the destination of the product. Without being able to refuse to produce for whom you do not like. Without being able to show individual initiative. Produce quickly, rapidly. To be a stimulated tool prodded, jostled, and exhausted until nothing can be extracted from it, only a cent of profit;

Is this what you call “living”?

Leave early in the morning hunting for customers. Pursue, track down the interested buyer. Jumping from Métro to a taxi, a taxi-car to a bus, a bus to an electric tram. Unless it’s in a muddy river. Make fifty visits a day. Using his saliva to hawk merchandise. Shouting, inconsiderate of others.  Come home in the late evening, burdened, jaded, worried, making everyone unhappy, emptied of all inner life, of all drive towards a better, moral being;

Is this what you call “living”?

Languish between the four walls of a cell. To feel, as the accused, the unknown of the future separating you from those who you love, either by affection or by affiliation. Sentenced, to feel that your life is escaping you, that you can do nothing to determine it. And that for months, for years. No longer able to struggle. To be no more than a number, a play-thing, a rag, an object stamped, watched, overseen and used. All this far beyond the equivalence of the committed offense.

Is this what you call “living”?

Wear a uniform. For one, two, three years, repeating the actions of a murderer. In full bloom of youth, in full explosion of manhood, locking oneself in large buildings from where you exit and return only at fixed hours. Eat, walk, wake up ­ to do – everything and nothing – at a set time. All this to learn how to handle devices taking life away from strangers. Expecting to fall one day, struck by some bullet from out of sight, shot by unknown hands. To be trained to perish – or to make others perish. An asset, a pawn, in the hands of the Privileged the Powerful, the Monopolists, the Hoarders. While you are neither privileged nor powerful nor own anything;

Is this what you call “living”?

Not being able to learn, love, keep to yourself, or wander at will. Having to stay shut in when the sun shines or the flowers of the forest unfurl. Unable to go south when the wind is freezing and the snow up against our windows. Or to the north when the heat simmers and grass burns in fields. Always, everywhere, laws, borders, conventions, the rural police, morals, conventions, judges, factories, prisons, barracks, and men in uniform protecting, maintaining, or defending an order of things hindering the expansion of the individual;

Is this what you call “living ?” O lover of “the intense life”, fawners over “progress,” peddlers of the chariot wheels of civilization.

I call this stagnation, I call it death.