“Your only right is to obey”: Securing Identity in the PRC

The quote in the title comes from a transcript of an interview with Xie Yang, a human rights lawyer in the PRC. ‘Your only right is to obey’ is the ultimate, and ultimately inhumane, principle of authoritarian rule marking the collapse of obligation into obedience. It sees force making contact with the exposed, unprotected nerve of the human mind, like the application of electrodes to the body. It is destructive, seeking of the subject not now allegiance or loyalty to the Party – it knows this is too late, too fake – but its brainless capitulation, its emptying out. This will be its message to others, not only the rights lawyers, the dissidents, who must learn that innocence is guilt, but the good people, the law abiders, the cautious, the complacent. They must learn the truth that this principle, and no ‘other erroneous idea’, lies at the root of politics, society, life. This paper will address the aesthetics not of democracy, but of demokenosis, the emptying out of the people.