The Art of …

… political protest, billboard-style

Just in time for the American election, a billboard project is being held in New York City.In October, Art at a Time Like This Inc., in collaboration with SaveArtSpace, borrows the moniker “Ministry of Truth: 1984/2020” to present 20 artists on 20 billboards around New York City, providing “a platform for artists to comment on the current state of US politics and increasing polarization just in time for the election,” according to a press release.

The twenty artists have been chosen, and below is a small sample of what the installation will include.

Mel Chin’s billboard imagery for “Ministry of Truth: 1984/2020” (all images courtesy of SaveArtSpace)

Dread Scott for “Ministry of Truth: 1984/2020”

Shirin Neshat for “Ministry of Truth: 1984/2020”

Marilyn Minter for “Ministry of Truth: 1984/2020”

The billboards will be placed around the 5 boroughs of New York, and there will be a digital map allowing viewers to plan self-guided tours. The full story is at Hyperallergic.

 

 

An Important Petition from Iris

Iris at Death to Squirrels has a post up regarding the cruel treatment and unjust imprisonment of a young bi-racial girl with mental health problems. It’s an ugly story about a family looking for help and finding horror instead. It’s not only an indictment of the American mental health system but another urgent example of why Black Lives Matter really does matter. The more I read, the angrier I became, and I encourage you all to go read the story and get angry, too. Then, go sign the petition. I did, but I’m not an American, and the petition needs American voices – lots of them. At the very least, it will let this family know that they are not alone, but maybe collectively, we can get this child the help she desperately needs and offer her a future. Thanks.

Portland – Required Reading

A lot is happening in Portland, and Big Media reports are often unreliable or outright false. Our very own Crip Dyke at Pervert Justice has been on the ground risking her health and well-being to report the reality of the situation to us. This morning her report, Still a step away from Pinkerton’s, but it’s badis especially gut-wrenching, and it should be required reading. Please, if you haven’t already, head on over and share your support.

For some perspective on the reference to Pinkerton’s, Marcus at Stderr shares a historical look at labour protests in the U.S. with an essay titled How to Riot. It’s an in-depth look at the history of how the American government has handled civil unrest, and it’s frightening.

To round out your reading, I recommend Iris Vander Pluym at Death to Squirrels, whose essay A.G.Barr: Crip Dyke is a “violent rioter and anarchist” hijacking the Portland Protests, brings some insight into why what Crip Dyke is doing is so vitally important. The American government is lying to the public, and it is the on-sight reports from citizen journalists that tell the real story.

I share my thanks to all of these voices for the clarity they bring to a complicated issue.

Crip Dyke, please stay safe.

 

Rediscovering the Words of Frederick Douglass

Library sciences have come a long way since the days of card catalogues and racks of periodicals. Most records are now kept digitally, and many historical records have been converted to digital files. It’s because of all those digital files that historian Scott Sandage was able to track down the full copy of Frederick Douglass’ words regarding a monument in Lincoln Park that should be removed.

The statue in Lincoln Park, known as the Emancipation Memorial, depicts the 16th president beside a Black man who, depending on how you see the piece, is either kneeling or rising. It’s supposed to commemorate the end of slavery—but in any interpretation, the Black man is physically lower than Lincoln himself, leading critics to see the statue as a paean to Lincoln’s generosity, and not a testament to Black Americans’ own roles in their liberation. “Statues teach history,” says Glenn Foster, an activist with the Freedom Neighborhood, who wants to see the statue removed. The Black man in this statue “is in a very submissive position,” he says, adding that that’s not “respectful to our community, or to anyone in general.

As The Wall Street Journal reported, two historians, Scott Sandage of Carnegie Mellon University and Jonathan White of Christopher Newport University, were recently debating what ought to be done with the statue, and they wanted to know whether the social reformer and statesman Douglass had, in fact, criticized it directly. Douglass died in 1895, but posthumous reports of his comments on the subject have been circulating since 1916, when a book stated that he had been critical of the statue at its unveiling. In his prepared speech for the event, Douglass challenged the nascent Lincoln mythology, calling him “preeminently the white man’s president …,” but it wasn’t clear whether, in an alleged aside, he also criticized the new statue itself. The two scholars disagreed over the account’s reliability, so Sandage set out to more firmly establish the abolitionist’s position.

It was Douglass’s ability to turn a phrase that helped the historian finally locate the relevant text. It had been reported that Douglas had referred to the black man on the memorial as “couchant.”

Using “couchant” as the keyword in his search—and experimenting with a few combinations of other words—Sandage identified three newspapers that ran the entirety of a letter Douglass wrote about the statue, a few days after speaking at its dedication. “Admirable as is the monument by Mr. Ball in Lincoln park [sic],” writes Douglass, “it does not, as it seems to me, tell the whole truth …” He credits Lincoln for following through on emancipation, but adds that “the negro was made a citizen” by “President U.S. Grant,” under whose administration the Fifteenth Amendment was ratified. (In theory, the Amendment enfranchised Black men with the right to vote. Of course, enforcement of that right has been a long-standing issue.) He concludes by suggesting that “[t]here is room in Lincoln park for another monument,” and that that space ought to be filled out with works that could help complete the historical picture.

NEWSPAPERS.COM, COURTESY SCOTT SANDAGE / PUBLIC DOMAIN

 

Sandage and White have proposed an “emancipation group” of statues to fill out the park and note that it would not affect the reputation of Lincoln one bit to remove the existing monument, as there is another more significant tribute to Lincoln nearby. There are other proposals for the park from leaders in the black community, and you can read the full story at Atlas Obscura.

Dakota Access Pipeline -Finally Some Good News

Court ordered the Dakota Access Pipeline to shut down for the time being and do all the environmental impact studies it has neglected.

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This was hard-won, and hopefully, it won’t be temporary. Humanity needs to wean itself off oil, and as long as the USA doesn’t do that, nobody will. The USA really is leading the world – by example. Unfortunately, a bad example.

Law and Order Are Not Intrinsically Good Things

Trump likes to refer to himself as the president of “Law And Order” these days and his sycophants in the Geezers Only  Party repeat those three words as a mantra. And their voters, presumably, lap it up as a chant worth following, as if those words represent something intrinsically good.

They do not.

Laws can be, and quite often are, impractical, counter-productive, or downright immoral and wrong. Lawful behavior is only as good as the laws that it follows, and unlawful behavior is only as bad as the laws it breaks are good. The order that ensues from enforcement of laws is in this regard completely value-neutral. It has no moral property in itself, it only reflects that of the legal system that has brought it into existence.

To anyone who yearns for Law and Order and not paying particular attention to what kind of Law and what kind of Order, I would like to put forth following points for consideration:

  • In the former USSR and indeed the whole Eastern Bloc order was rigorously enforced and kept by harsh punishments against anyone who disobeyed the law.  And if that is too far in the past for you, today’s China has plenty of laws too, and oh boy do the police keep order there. I could also Godwin it here and say Nazi Germany has had many laws about what can and cannot be done by whom and to whom and its orderliness was quite proverbial, with some quite fancy police departments enforcing said laws.
  • The people who cry for “Law and Order” in USA today are often those who bemoan the dangers of Communism and Socialism and whatnot.

Draw from that any conclusions you want.

A Lawyer Talks About Lafayette Square Gassing

I have never seen LegalEagle lose his cool on camera, although I did not watch all his videos.

I have also never expected to live through a deadly pandemic and USA coming apart at the seams at the same time.

Life is full of surprises. To all our USA readers – please stay safe. Our hearts are with you, although we cannot do anything to help.

YouTube Video: I Was the Fastest Girl in America, Until I Joined Nike

I have a hate-hate relationship with all professional sports*, especially with zero-sum competitions. Apparently even that IMO shitty environment can be made even shittier for women by men who have no clue but wield a lot of power.

This video spoke to me for some reason.

*In short, they are unhealthy and they more often than not foster self-harm, tribalism, and abuse.

Tree Tuesday

In the small Palestinian village of Al Walaja, just outside Bethlehem,  lives an ancient olive tree, that may be one of the oldest trees in the world. It has been carbon-dated to an age range of 3,000 to 5,500 years old and it is the job of one man, Salah Abu Ali, to protect it.

Ali wakes every morning to tend to his family’s orchard. Entering through a neighbor’s yard, he trots down the grove’s narrow paths in a way that belies his age, occasionally reaching down to quickly toss aside trespassing stones; briskly descending verdant terraces, one after another until he comes to the edge of the orchard. It is at this edge where Ali spends most of his day, pumping water from the spring above or tending to the soil. It is where he sometimes sleeps at night, and where he hosts people that have made the pilgrimage to the Holy Land. But many come for the tree, an olive that some believe to be the oldest in the world.

The olive tree of Al Walaja, like all trees in the world, is under threat from climate change and is recovering from a recent drought.  It is also under the added threat of Israeli expansionism.

But the olive tree of Al Walaja has become something else to its residents. Now, it’s a symbol of resistance. The village is a shadow of its former self. Most of the village’s residents were forced to flee their homes amidst heavy fighting during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. “In 1948, we came here and slept under the trees,” Ali says, as Israeli military personnel chant during drills in the valley below. After the dust settled and the demarcation lines were drawn, Al Walaja had lost around 70 percent of its land.
The town was further eroded after Israel captured the West Bank during the Six-Day War in 1967. Israel then expanded the Jerusalem Municipality, annexing around half of what was left of the village.

More recently, Israel’s separation wall threatened to once again cut the village in two, isolating the Al Badawi tree. But residents won a court battle which saw the chain-link wall diverted around the village. The wall now stands just below Ali’s family orchard, separating the new village from the site of the old, just across a narrow valley.

Despite the court victory, dozens of homes have been bulldozed to make way for the Jerusalem Municipality. Al Walaja still sits isolated, hemmed in on nearly all sides by Israel’s separation wall and no longer able to access uncultivated farmland or many of the village’s once-famed springs.

It is because of these threats that Ali guards the ancient olive tree, and he considers it his life work to protect it. Ali now receives a small sum from The Palestinian Authority to take care of the tree, due to reports of Israeli settlers and soldiers cutting down and burning ancient olive trees in other parts of the West Bank.

According to the United Nations, approximately 45 percent of agricultural land in the West Bank and Gaza Strip contain olive trees, providing income for some 100,000 families. “The Palestinians are attached to the olive tree,” Ali says. “The olive tree is a part of our resistance and a part of our religion. With the olive tree we live, and without it we don’t live.”

 

Story from Atlas Obscura

Have you been drinking varnish? A continental comment on the transphobic “restroom panic”

As you may have heard already, trans folks got an early Christmas present in the UK: A transphobic woman lost her employment trial, establishing a trans friendly case law and also paying for the privilege of doing so.

In the wake of it J.K. Rowling dropped all pretence of not being a transphobe and the transphobic “persecution” cries are doing a round again. At the centre of their argument is that People who were AMAB pose a threat to women and girls in female only spaces*. They, including the very nice lady who didn’t get her contract renewed (she wasn’t even sacked as people would want to make you believe) believe that this is true regardless of what steps the person has done to transition** , which is part of why the judge ruled against the transphobe as the view was absolutist and “[t]hat belief is not worthy of respect in a democratic society.”

This doesn’t keep transphobes from keeping claiming that trans women are a threat to cis women in changing rooms and I think that one reason why they’re particularly successful in Britain is because of their unusual layout of changing rooms. Whether in France, Spain or Germany, wherever you go shopping, the fitting rooms are unisex. Single stalls with a door or a curtain. It wouldn’t be hard to sneak a peak, and occasionally you can’t help seeing something when there’s a curtain that doesn’t close perfectly and a mirror, but you’re supposed to handle it like a grown up. Going to fitting room the first time in the UK was a culture shock there were separate ones for men and women and the women’s was a large open room with a couple of individual stalls that you could use if you tried on swimwear or something. Everybody else stripped and dressed together much like a gym locker. I guess you can see why that would be the image that flashes before UK people’s eyes when they hear “unisex” toilets or fitting rooms. Our communal swimming pool has always had “unisex” changing rooms: individual stalls that you enter on the “street side” of the pool and leave at the pool side. There’s also “family changing rooms”. No fucking body is forced to share space with somebody else while naked (unless you go to the sauna, but then that’s what you pay extra for).

Of course transphobes are not ignorant. The vocal ones are well educated and have for sure travelled to the continent and further away. They know what unisex toilets and changing rooms look like, but they choose not to correct their audience. Much like all other reactionaries who know better but who selectively present “facts” to mislead people who are probably well intentioned but just not as well read or travelled.

 

 

 

 

*Apparently boys are safe in male only spaces. For reasons. Or they don’t count. I don’t know.

**Now, just to make it clear: All trans women are women. I don’t care about the state of your junk or whether you stuff your bras with tissues or tits. None of them are my business. Unless you’re using live tits. That’s animal cruelty.

Teacher’s Corner: Fuck Childhood Poverty

Childhood poverty is something teachers get confronted with. Or some teachers get confronted with. The stratified German school system has long been linked to perpetuating social stratification. The high school I used to work at was a place that rather confronted you with childhood richness, despite being in one of the most downtrodden towns in Germany: Now at my comprehensive school the matter is a different issue. Many of the kids there are poor, and poverty has many aspects and layers. And some of the layers are more obvious than others. A lot of it is hidden. Nobody notices that a child never has any fruit because you don’t check all the food they’re eating. But you learn to notice the kids who either devour the free school fruit or look sceptically at pineapples because they have no clue what those are. And you learn to notice the kids whose clothing may be impeccably clean but is always the same. A kid tripped and tore her jacket. Now she has to tape it. The kids who will cry if some utensil breaks. Or those who are mysteriously ill just when there’s a class trip that is not free.

As a teacher you either get a heart of stone or you quitly spend a lot of money out of your own pocket. With a stash of stationery. With the winter coat that you kept for kid #2. With bake sales to raise funds for class trips.

For most kids*, childhood poverty in Germany may not be as bad as childhood poverty is in the US, at least they get more or less enough food, shelter and healthcare, but it’s devastating nonetheless. So if you want to support kids and do some good for the upcoming holidays: ask your local schools if they need anything. Here many schools have a “clothes shop” where kids can get stuff, ask if they need school supplies or maybe craft supplies from a hobby you no longer enjoy.

 

 

*A big exception here are EU migrants whose parents don’t have a job. I wrote about this before