Bangkok is the venue of bloodshed these days. The number of dead and injured people rises every couple of days.

It had all started with a different sort of bloodshed in March this year, when many demonstrators against the government (that had seized power in a military putsch in 2006) and its police forces shed their blood without being injured. “As dawn broke on March 16, hundreds lined up at medical tents, where nurses siphoned blood from their veins into two-liter water bottles and juice jugs. The protestors then marched to Government House – the Prime Ministers official residence and office complex – and in a macabre pantomime of revolution, literally spilled their blood on the compound’s gates and front steps. Ghastly? Perhaps. But certainly better than the alternative, says rice farmer Nawart Somsieng: ‘We can spill our blood for our country without using violence’.” (Time, March 29, 2010)

The protestors were imitating the bloodshed prospectively, but not just in the sense of a pessimistic prophecy, which now sadly enough became very much reality.

Benjamin analysed practices of mimesis as one of, if not the most influential human faculty that plays into all forms of our social relations such as language and writing. And he asks what is the utility of this mimetic behaviour?

Analysing the symbolic bloodshed of the red shirts (this is how the demonstrators call themselves) it becomes apparent that mimesis is a primary factor in avoiding violence in human interaction. It creates an interspace, more precisely a ‘Spielraum’, a space for play. As Benjamin points out the children’s play is the first realm of mimesis. In this ‘Spielraum’ people can create a distance to the biological limits of the body, a distance to bloodshed and death and explore forms of interaction.

Language is one of its sophisticated developments but shouldn’t be restricted to words. The red shirts were speaking to the government spilling blood at the entrance of the government building. And as all language, speaking is never a guarantee for being understood.

The other pole of mimetic development is technology. It also had its role in this staging of blood. Syringes were needed to take the blood samples. And here again we collected experience that what starts as the creation of a ‘Spielraum’ can always turn into a violent means against us. Since April police force and troops shoot the demonstrators and the demonstrators defend themselves throwing bottles and whatever they find.

Meike Schmidt-Gleim

Paris, May 2010

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