Revolution Today

Revolutions – the history books are full of them, and we commemorate them through anniversaries and jubilees. Last autumn marked 100 years since the Russian Revolution, and this year we are looking back on the student revolts of 1968. In his DHM column, PeterLicht plays with the idea of a revolution that takes place right next door.

Whenever somewhere in the world a revolution is being carried out by some group of people, then right next door to the place where the revolution is happening (sometimes in the very next room), there are other people lying on mattresses, under duvets, trying to sleep.

That’s just the way it is.
For example.
For example: me.

You’re lying under the duvet of your consciousness and realize that people are banding together and sitting in the kitchen and smoking tremendous amounts of cigarettes and exchanging revolution-related information. So there’s all kinds of information flying in every possible direction. In all imaginable dimensions. A rumbling fills the air, spectres haunt. All this information spiriting about around the joint! You really can’t imagine it, sometimes it’s things like Hey Günther, why don’t we talk about that in our plenum; or: Could someone other than me take out the rubbish for once, it’s driving me nuts!?; or: Is there any of that Spanish, working class tinto left? …, you know, the kind of things that you hear when you’re eavesdropping through your duvet, actually that you’re forced to eavesdrop on, because you have no other option than TO LISTEN IN, because you can’t very well LISTEN OUT, because as an individual lying under the duvet, despite the sound-proofing, or rather the partial sound-proofing, you can still hear a muffled conversation-noise produced by the other people out there, and sometimes, there’s no denying it, the muffledness of the sound carries over into the content, and then the content of the words being spoken also becomes muffled, meaning sometimes you really can’t separate the two things, whether THE SOUND is making the muffledness or THE CONTENT, so for example, when words like “plenum” or “social relations” or “system” are used, then you just don’t know where the oppressive force is coming from that overwhelms you when you hear these words under the duvet you’re lying under, because if anything you actually wanted to hear LESS, and it was to this end that you relocated into an other social milieu, after all; that is, the milieu under the duvet, by which I mean a milieu that does not consist of a great many people. A milieu, it would be fair to say, with very few people rather than many. By which I mean, a milieu that isn’t quite as crammed with random people or PEOPLE JUST SITTING AROUND. Because in revolutions, let’s face it, there is plenty of sitting around.

Well no, the social milieu that you find yourself in when you find yourself under the duvet, that actually consists of just a couple of people. Of the people who make up your mind and who you carry around with you in your own head. So in that milieu, in your own head, you are truly among your own kind. What a couple of characters they are, the folks that reside in there, and that make up what you are and place you in dialogues, when, for example, you can’t get to sleep because of the elevated decibels of the revolutionary discussion taking place in the communal kitchen, and then you too have a few small conversations with yourself under the cover of the duvet out of an utter lack of options, out of the lack of options produced by the unsuccessful sleep project planning, knowing you will NEVER be able to get to sleep tonight, that much is clear, what with the revolutionary decibels that are being registered out there in the communal kitchen. So then you speak with your own consciousness as if you’re talking to yourself, your consciousness refusing to let you get any rest and for that very reason having attempted to withdraw under the duvet of consciousness, which was a perfectly fine and reasonable idea. But it’s useless. So in the end you have to give credit where it’s due and accept that at least the numbers of people lying here under your own duvet are, by comparison, pretty low. Probably just a few lonely souls. Well, actually only one.

Just me.

All right all right, this is how it was: there was a revolution and I was lying alone under the duvet and couldn’t sleep, because a duvet may be a blanket but it’s not a sound blanket, you have to admit that, and I could hear the words of all the people who were sitting in our kitchen, discussing or working out or enmuffling revolution-related information. First and foremost Günther. Fair enough though, he did live here, after all. He was the one with his name on the lease. He was untouchable. You could say he was the revolutionary leader. And in a revolution, or rather in the direct vicinity or lead-up to a revolution, CONVERSATIONS have to be had, and of course that includes conversations with the revolutionary leaders, as you can probably imagine. But what they say, that you could never imagine. And they’re drenched in information of the most complex kinds, like I was saying – the CONVERSATIONS, that is. The forms of information reach the most diverse proportions, you really can’t imagine, and that makes sense, it is a revolution after all, and that cannot be imagined, because it is REVOLUTIONARY, and does away with thinking and flips imaginations upside down or tips them on their sides or sticks them behind the cupboard, or wherever, whatever, but under no circumstances does it put them back where the imagination has already been before, that much is clear. After all, these are NEW ideas, and NOBODY has ever thought them before, and that’s a good thing, because that’s why revolution-related ideas are thought, TO BE unthought, and to have not yet appeared in the history of thinking. Well, until now. But that has consequences, because that means you’re thinking the unthought. Now of course that’s quite enticing. Because that makes many things possible. What is unthought does not consist of a traditional fabric, of course, but rather of something OTHER, of a material, it’s not entirely clear what it is. Perhaps it is a natural element. Sometimes it seems as if you are walking through fresh snow when you think THE UNTHOUGHT. Sometimes you are seized by the idea that the unthought might melt while you are walking through the fresh snow, or that it might not be fresh snow at all, making it this SOMEHOW OTHER THING, and you don’t quite know what it is.

What we can say though, is that when you think something unthought, then you are thinking something that is in some way foreign to thought. That which is unthought EXHIBITS a force that undermines the things that are thought. The unthought is inhabited by a magnetism. A void forms within the unthought thought . At the site of the void, the unthought thought exhibits a certain measure of thoughtlessness. And thoughtlessness must (because otherwise thinking and revolution would become too hazy) be refilled with SOMETHING OTHER. That is, with various energies that can be of use here: interpretation, dialectics, emotion, blood and thunder, tight or baggy trousers. Haircuts. In revolutions, you’ll find huge amounts of all those things. Particularly trousers and haircuts.

I have to say, when I say there was a revolution and I was lying under the duvet of my consciousness, what I mean is that this duvet was not only made up of the CONSCIOUSNESS of a duvet, that is, out of immaterial junk, but also beyond this, out of actual MATERIAL which transcends mere consciousness, like the duvet cover, and the quilt within it. You know, materialism. Though I have to add to that the quilt was filled with a material that in turn eluded my consciousness. Here you have to imagine the example of a ravioli, where you can’t quite be sure if there is Tuscan truffle cream inside or Romanian industrialized, military-grade meat left-over from the Ceaușescu era; but anyway, so the quilt, I suspect it was some cheap industrial material, the quilt filling might have been made of revolutionarily innovative, ‘disruptive’ polyester fleece, and I have a feeling that was the case, because the duvet didn’t keep you warm, which is why as I was pulling the duvet over me as I lay down, I immediately pulled it right down over my head as well, so the warmth issuing from my mouth would contribute to an additional warming of the intra-bed region, though this didn’t produce reliable results.

So you could say the duvet was like a sieve. It retained just enough duvet-esque qualities to allow you to still speak of a “duvet”. Had it been just slightly less duvet-like, you would have had to refer to it as a fishing net that you pulled over yourself to catch forty winks (making you some kind of large fish). But okay, at least you got plenty of oxygen under the duvet (a plus). Now that’s good for sleeping, of course, but overall, I have to say that when I think of the quilt, I’ve always found revolutionary tendencies in the field of product development for objects of everyday use suspect. As euphoric as they can make you at first glance, particularly in the field of sleeping equipment, they always made me suspicious. In this field, I sensed in myself somewhat counter-revolutionary tendencies. So I really have to say, revolutionary new duvets made of polyester or polymerase or polywhatever – I was sceptical. In the end, the revolution in the bed meant that you ended up freezing, and spent your dreams and fantasies under a piece of petroleum, for what is a synthetic quilt other than an exploitative project of the oil industry to painstakingly extract more things from crude oil? Sedimentary strata of growth and demise, of history and future, millions of years in the making, and now it’s being made into draughty duvets! The underlings freeze; that is, the under-the-duvet-lings. And the others profit from it! That duvet had many qualities, but OVER-HEATING, that was the last thing you could have accused it of.

So I was lying under my duvet and outside, the revolution was happening. If I recall correctly, I never once left the duvet during this period. Every now and then I would hold out my hand so that a cup of tea could dock there or a piece of buttered toast. Or I would grab my toothbrush and gargling cup, because even if there’s a revolution you should still brush your teeth. For there is one thing you have to keep in mind: nobody knows how long the revolution will go for, and sometimes the revolution is followed by a utopia, and you don’t want to suddenly find yourself standing in utopia with a mouth full of dirty teeth. Once bad teeth always bad teeth. That’s the dystopia of oral flora.


In his work, the musician, author, playwright and columnist PeterLicht orbits between the poles of utopia, pop, drama, social sculpture, capitalism and the bargain basement, “the result of all of which, he hopes, is maybe something beautiful”.
PeterLicht’s columns for the Süddeutsche Zeitung appear under the headline “Lob der Realität” (In Praise of Reality). His most recent play for Theater Basel was invited to the 2017 Venice Biennale. In 2018, he was awarded the Liliencron Poetics Lectureship. He is currently working on a new album. More at