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.
There is something rotten in Hollywood. If anything has been proven by the events and revelations of the past few months, it is that. It is also clear that the rot goes far deeper than Harvey Weinstein. Though he is clearly the worst kind of predatory slime. Or any collection of creepy, entitled individuals with a measure of power. It is a culture in which abuse is not just accepted but often rewarded, or at the very least invites no consequence.
Educational institutions are sites of struggle. Sometimes openly, sometimes hidden under layers of bureaucracy, but always consequential. Last week, lecturers at 64 UK universities walked off the job to prevent their pensions being gutted. On the other side of the Atlantic, public school teachers in every one of the 55 counties in West Virginia also went on strike. It is illegal in the state for public employees to strike at all, and yet the teachers have already appear to have wrenched concessions from the putrid opportunist of a governor, Jim Justice.
At 9:40pm on October 25th, the forecastle gun of the battleship Aurora fired an ear-shattering round into the air. It was a blank, an empty shell. One-year prior, the Aurora had been contributing to the carnage of World War I, patrolling and bombarding in service to the Russian Empire. Now it was docked in Petrograd and under the control of a revolutionary sailors’ committee, most of whom supported the Bolsheviks. The blank round was, so the story goes, the first shot in the October Revolution, which overthrew the Provisional Government and established the first workers’ state in history.
How in the hell does Jeremy Corbyn become such a sensation at Glastonbury? A sixty-eight-year-old politician propped in front of a crowd of young people gathered to take in Run the Jewels does not on the surface sound at all like the raw material of cultural memory. And yet, when he spoke, the crowd chanted his name (to the tune of the White Stripes no less). They cheered and applauded and shouted themselves hoarse.
There is, ultimately, no reason they shouldn’t have. The leader of the Labour Party who led it to its best showing in twenty years did so by saying that this crowd of young people matters.
We need money to make all of this happen. In years past, we’ve accomplished this by undertaking fund drives for a few months, soliciting our readers for one-time lump sums so that we can continue operating for the next year and/or pay for a particular project. It is, frankly, an exhausting and nerve-wracking way to fund a publication. Which is why this year we are going to try a different approach.
Here we are. Inauguration Day for Donald Trump. We are through the dystopian looking glass. And now “resistance” isn’t just something that would be nice if it happened. It is a necessity. From working people, from students, from community members, and yes, from artists. By any means necessary.
Trump took the White House for two reasons. 1) The failure of the Democratic Party. And 2) The mobilization of bigotry. America’s “political center,” in the form of the Democratic Party, was unable and unwilling to explain the crises of neoliberal austerity, to mobilize people on the basis of social class and solidarity. This political failure is also a cultural one – of avant-garde and popular culture alike.
America hates its artists. America hates its young working-class people. Thirty-six people are dead. They are victims of an art and music economy that doesn’t work for the majority of artists and musicians. They are dead because art has become financialized. They are dead because gentrification is taking away our right to the city – and pushing artists and young workers to the margins – especially (but not only) artists of color. And because of gentrification the urban life-rafts for gender non-conforming and queer young people are shrinking. You can’t stay in the small towns, but you can’t afford San Francisco, Oakland, Seattle and Portland.
President. Donald. Trump. These are three words that never had any reality outside of a grotesque comic. Until now. The man who has bragged of sexual assault, threatened to “build a wall” and refused to denounce an endorsement from a former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan is President of the United States.
Hate crimes and proto-fascist incidents are spreading across the country. A right-wing terrorist outfit in Texas is threatening to arrest and torture “diversity professors.”
The sign, homemade, carried by a protester, reads “Ferguson to Gaza, Intifada, Intifada.” The slogan is more than a sentiment, more than a simple but powerful statement of solidarity. It is all of these things, but much more too. It is an explicit recognition of the world’s reality, far beyond Ferguson or Gaza.
"Apartheid" in today's world does not describe just a particular legal circumstance in this or that corner of the globe. It is, in varied and intricate ways, a fact of daily life under neoliberalism. Global capital communicates to us in any political, economic or aesthetic language it can muster: "This world is not yours, and you do not belong here."