Reconciling what it meant to be an anti-capitalist living in the Modern West, and especially America, has been a definitive time in my life (it has taken a while). As an artist, capitalism represents a severe form of exchange: something completely human (an idea expressed creatively) in exchange for something completely inhuman (money). Most workers are asked for at least one of their own, and most important, natural resources: time.
American capitalism has distilled itself into the essence of identity. What children study, what they are pressured to choose early on in life, what they are inundated by through young adulthood, are all social pressures based on the influence of money and not a personal truth. So while plenty of people build successful lives around these constructs, raise families of their own and the like, an emptiness remains among what was promised: Is this it?
Money will always interfere with quests for truth because it is a falsehood. It is a wholly invented and controlled yet singularly universal system of exchange. Deep down everybody knows this at some level (other maniacal institutions like organized religion tend to at least impress the dangers of gold, but usually it’s the wizard stories that attract an audience). It is not a natural phenomenon but we let it control the wonders and possibilities of our world. Money dictates the fate of all and for many it is the least but most important part of that life.
The argument for capitalism and globalism is that it stopped world war. However the tertiary wars fought by the Russians and Americans in the Middle East are just as destructive; they’re just easier to ignore. (Not to mention the irony of bin Laden’s CIA training and that these ‘off-site’ conflicts have now brought the world to a terrifying precipice of control.)
As capitalism threatens to destabilize western democracy – at which point I wholly imagine large, recognizably stable corporations to become ‘safe spaces’ and eventually ensure a global corporate state – it’s driving most of America mad. And I think it’s because everybody at some level understands the great lie that exists under all this horror; that somehow we sold our souls for this, long ago, and probably never had an option otherwise, and all that collective negative energy of feeling restricted by such a fabrication is beginning to show some teeth.
All of the people I know who are artists right now feel invigorated, terrified, liberated, endangered. Full of life and energy. Everybody else is having a panic attack.
I feel like for most of my lifetime artists have been warning about the dangers of Western capitalist imperialism growing out of control. Now they are in full bloom and every institution, from the art world to the Oval Office, seems to be under public review. They maintain control only because a viable alternative has not yet been discovered.
Anxiety is a drive to create something, and I feel the collective panic of the West is a general understanding We Need To Build A New Thing but it has to be completely new and at an unprecedented scale of public accomplishment. (It must not be Silicon Valley neoliberalism.)
It’s a strange time; the world is waiting for a Phoenix, and meanwhile seems content with watching everything burn.
This was the scene on the Hawthorne bridge every night for a solid week after the 2016 election: Hundreds to thousands of protesters would gather downtown, commiserating and looking for some kind of catharsis. Streets were paraded down, arms were locked, chants of hope and resistance flooded the air and a much-needed sense of belonging was felt by many.
The Department of Homeland Security has labeled these protests “Domestic Terrorist Violence.”
It’s become almost standard practice to accuse the White House of lying in one form or another—a hell of a problem considering how much the President seems to change his mind. Some of his lies—the bigger, meatier ones—start with the truth. For example, his recent over-statements on his electoral win begins with the truth: he won the electoral college vote. Embellishment can be dismissed as gossip.1 Other lies are just blatantly false from the get-go.2 Like any other shithead salesman, everything is a negotiation. This negotiation just happens to take place over information, and what of it is accurate.
The press will cry about all of this for way too long, but I think the real story—and why Trump was untouchable by the media during the election—has been missed multiple times over. The cascading avalanche of lies is, at this point, better served as a distraction.3 What nobody seems to be talking about are the few times Donald Trump told the truth.
Without trying to recap the aggregate of generally criminal—at least certainly inhuman—behaviors acted out by the current administration, it’s impossible to still not gawk at the brash arrogance of the hatred that is overflowing into the public discourse. The language alone that is being used sounds like these elected officials are pitching a script for 24.
The rogue waves set off by the Trump administration have been probably the most fascinating part about all this. Particularly, the concept of “normal.”
Immediately after the election, there was plenty of rhetoric regarding the “normalization” of Donald Trump as President. (These op-eds have continued.) More recently, a rather perfect Jezebel post spread about, the entire contents of which are the sentence This is not normal.
And I wonder, what is normal?