“Polysemy (from Greek: πολυ-, poly-, "many" and σῆμα, sêma, "sign"), the capacity for a sign, such as a word, phrase, or symbol, to have multiple meanings, usually related by contiguity of meaning within a semantic field.” – definition adapted from Wikipedia
“If you cannot convince a fascist, acquaint his head with the pavement.” – Gritty (probably)
Now is the time of monsters, the well-worn phrase tells us. But monsters, if they are interesting, are unpredictable. They come out of nowhere and evince their nowhere-ness, their improbability creating fascination, fear, revulsion, sympathy.
Red Wedge spoke with one of our close comrades and collaborators, Kate Doyle Griffiths, for what was initially to be a discussion of transgressive social practices within the context of the West Virginia uprising. What transpired, however, was a wide-ranging discussion of transgression and Left politics, social reproduction theory, Insane Clown Posse and of course, the cultural practices of the striking workers in West Virginia, the polysemic quality of Twisted Sister. The following interview was conducted in June and July 2018. It will featured in our upcoming sixth issue, which you can subscribe to by supporting us through the Red Wedge Patreon.
The dream of utopia is difficult to find. Not always a “good dream”, it can just as well be a nightmare. More properly, the dream of utopia is a dream we cannot categorize according to the binary of nightmare and “sunshine daydream”. Yet, like a mole burrowing away, utopia can be found in the strangest of places, which once apparent become obvious. Like the hidden erotica on a Camel cigarette pack, utopian impulses cannot be unseen – or unheard, its mark indelible like ink that will never wash away.
In my blackened room, I leapt from a tall building, I descended past the ends of the earth and there was nothing to stop my fall.
My neck wrenched as I shouted, “It hurts.”
The pain paused for a moment and it returned.
I was not the one falling it was my pain it was intimate it was generous.
The term “critical irrealism,” though present and well-known in the spheres of literary and arts scholarship, is unfamiliar to most. But then, so is living in the world of 2018. It is also alienating and in constant violent flux. Which means perhaps there is something for this critical irrealism to teach us…
Michael Löwy has written about critical irrealism – along with realism, Surrealism, Situationism, Romanticism and a great many other aesthetic approaches. He is the author of many books on a wide array of topics written from a Marxist perspective, from liberation theology to uneven and combined development, from Che Guevara to Walter Benjamin and Franz Kafka.
Come with me into the hidden abode of literary production. Here, behind the comings of age amidst tragedy, the journeys of self-discovery traveled through existential crises, and the excavations of rotting family ties, lies a darker secret: the coal heart of the modern novel.
For Amitav Ghosh, himself the author of many novels including The Hungry Tide and Sea of Poppies, the idea that fossil fuels are at the heart of the modern novel is no metaphor, but rather historical fact. The assumptions of literary narration, he reminds us, are based on a second background assumption — “the orderly expectations of bourgeois life.”
Capitalism is an irrational system which refuses to see itself for what it is. Like an obnoxious trust fund kid slumming it at a dive bar, it cannot help but loudly declare how ingenious and deserving it is. Accepting its arguments for how things are and how they change is to accept the argument that there is some method underneath the layers of madness, that its opulence can somehow be separated from its exploitation, that it has something other than an ever-deepening inhumanity in its future. While our dreams are deemed irrational, capitalism’s degradations are justified as science.
To grasp the significance of Sorry to Bother You is, on some level, to grasp this truth about capitalism. Boots Riley has written and directed a film that is being celebrated by the far-left and mainstream critics alike. Those familiar with Riley’s musical and lyrical work with the Coup know that he is adept at combining his unabashed revolutionary politics with a skewed, cartoon-like worldview.
my teeth fall out.
I am a mouth full
of crowns and empty
houses; my gums, bloody
shores where ancestral trauma still washes up
Ring around the rosies,
Pocket full o’ posies,
We all fall down!
Most everyone knows this nursery rhyme. Urban legend places its origin in the Great Plague of London in 1665 and 1666 – one of the last major outbreaks of bubonic plague on the European and Asian continents – the beginning of the end of a three hundred year pandemic.