violence, begets: violence
begets, violence: begets
violence, begets: violence
begets, violence: begets
violence, begets: violence
begets, violence: begets
violence, begets: violence
we get: violence, we give
violence, we get: violence
we give: violence, we get
violence, we give: violence
we get: violence, we give
violence, begets: violence
begets, violence: begets
violence, begets: violence
begets, violence: begets
violence, begets: violence
you give: violence
you get: violence

 

Image by Evan Tremblay of The Manitoban student newspaper.

 

Who Knew It Could Burn Like This?

I admit, I cannot take seriously those who moan about "the forgotten white working classes" when they claim surprise at the boiling over, at the rioting (a charged term itself), at the anger and anguish finding expression in the streets.

Four hundred years of violence will get you...violence in return. in perpetuity. ad nauseum.

For those who cannot help but be deeply, intimately familiar with the histories of colonial violence, of patriarchy, and capitalism, it is of no surprise that the pressure is rising. In fact, there was never a modern period where "peace" was the norm: the first colonial enterprises encountered resistence, generating the world's first "terrorists" who dared to keep their land free from invading European1 powers.

If you are unaware of how horrifically violent was the creation of the current world, then you are indeed one of the very lucky few—millions have suffered to keep that worldview comfortable, isolated and plump.

If "The Third World" to you means nothing more than "poor countries," you should peruse the history of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) a little bit. I heartily recommend Vijay Prashad's «The Poorer Nations» (Verso). There's many resources on decolonizing yourself, all it takes is a bit of time.

It would be a mistake to think that the fight for respect, freedom, and "human rights" was somehow stopped by the imaginary borders of nation-states, or that the impetus driving, say Black Lives Matter in the US is markedly different from the struggle for national self-determination in the former colonies. The armored security forces occupying Louisville, Seattle, and New York have a lot in common with those in Bogata, in Cairo, and with the new fascist government in La Paz.

 

Stoking Fires, Choking On Smoke

Even if justice is not linear, and we find ourselves re-discovering the lie of progress, we should all be working to avoid a repeat of the "short century" barely twenty years past.

In the present, one of the hardest things to do is to think clearly and articulately. Finding coherent worldviews among the purposefully destroyed and scattered neoliberal morass is hard work, and yet as humans who care deeply about the world, those in it, and the future world's, we must do all we can to prevent this slide into fascism.2

Working through Layla Saad's workbook «Me and White Supremacy» with my book club recently, I encountered her ending coda: "Help change the world. Become a good ancestor."

I like the future-orientation in this thought far more than the perpetual-present-yet that is contemporary capitalism.3 Being a good ancestor is not merely "maximising shareholder value," as what will matter in 100 or 200 years is not likely to be digital bank records, but the potential for living that we leave our descendants. If we torch the earth, if we poison the water, destroy knowledge, and doom millions to material and intellectual stagnation, we have failed to be good ancestors. It suggests an almost Harawayan weltanshchauung, stretching human meaning across deep time.

There is a lot to decry at this historical juncture, but there is also much reason to hope. The world is always changing, but it is often imperceptible across a day, a month, even a year. The broad sweep of history is opaque from the inside, we are flying into the future backwards: the last angel of history blown by the winds of so-called progress.

Big tech will not save us, micro-finance will not save us, "awareness-raising" seminars will not save us: they will not bring us an ecologically stable, benevolent tomorrow. The laboratories of the world will not save us as long as they are beholden to the interests of the few vs. the many. "The revolution will not straighten your hair or make you ten pounds lighter," to quote Gil Scott Heron.

I wonder about the "arc of history," and what events it will bend towards next, in my own lifetime.

I will hope that it bends towards a more just and materially equitable future, and do what work I can to nudge it that way.


  1. The Europeans are by no means the only colonizers in modern history, but many specifics of contemporary world are a result of European colonization. The case of Japan is a bit different, standing out as the only major non-European colonial power whose explicit aim was physical and psychic domination of vast swathes of humanity for industrial gain. An essay I wrote in undergrad on Japanese colonialism. 

  2. One step is identifying the actual problem, and ignoring the smoke and mirrors of rhetorical disingenuity that fascists employ. The current US president is most certainly closer to fascism than democracy. But without a firm grounding in some worldview that allows that distinction, the president's words "I stand for, you know, the greatest, some say best ever, the most successful freedom this country has ever known." Idealists are easily confused by this, as in the realm of words they expect good-faith arguments, and have no accepted metric by which to judge the truth of a statement. But look at the gap between rhetoric and action (and call action what it is, not the goosed-up propagandistic term). Become a materialist, and actually do some good in the world. 

  3. Where there are no alternatives, no different futures, and nothing on the scope of 100-year plans. All that matters is today's market moves: did the little line go up or down? Sacrifice to The Line, all ye puny lives!