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20 September 2011, 2:00 pm 4 Comments

Politics: An Indictment


Submission by TNG contributor Joe Varisco

Over the past two months there has been a rise in organized, often violent, resistance and riotous activity. The true cause is not something we can immediately identify and therefore should hesitate in pointing any fingers or instituting reactionary policy. The worst result of this displaced anger and frustration among the youth is perhaps an increased gap in any form of productive dialogue. In both the reactions abroad and at home the press releases and public statements sound more like chiding parents berating their children for misbehavior and punishing them by taking away their privileges, a grand “grounding” of a generation. Instead it might be more productive to explore the roots of this misbehavior or at the very least acknowledge that there is a growing chasm of disparity.

For myself and for other members of my generation there is a loss of direction. Having followed the routes to adulthood, employment and career success as mapped out by older generations many of us are in a state of compounding confusion. Now as adults we are made responsible to manage our situation without much experience or resources to rely upon or guide us. In previous generations, when faced with similar uncertainty and desolate times unrest was also had and some individuals took to organizing a call to address the need for social and cultural changes. Only this time a demoralized generation’s skepticism expresses a fear that perhaps it is not possible for any actual change to occur. We are missing that voice to tell us:

“Listen, we’ve got some serious change coming our way. So please stop rolling around in your own apathy and get off your fuckin’ ass! What was that? Sorry? You’d rather stay home and watch the whole thing burn from the comfort of your couch and computer screen? If you want to see something different, make it happen!”

A symbol of this apathy is perhaps best quantified as a disenfranchised generation of graduates and unemployed sitting at home and developing an ironic relationship to the humor and idiocy of entertainment in the form of reality television. This allows us to sit in a place of satisfying criticism, meditating on these repetitious roles within the current system all the while laughing at the casual demise of integrity, both of the television show’s subjects, the systems that created them and ourselves. Yet, now the irony has turned, has become perverted.

Others of the same generation on the other side of the world charge ahead with impassioned, vigorous and principled uprisings for similar reasons to my generation’s own discontent: broken social promises, paralyzing student loan debt, debilitating unemployment and a distinct sense that we have lost a voice in policy and government to facilitate change. However, my generation instead chooses to become the very agent for the continuation of the status quo. We use subversive language to indict these dilapidated systems, but can only fit in action between rounds of happy hour. Our fundamental behavior is based on idling, distraction and entertainment. We secure a bubbled life, which replicates the irony we so satisfyingly guffawed at from our now worn in cushioned seats in front of the screen.

Now the streets of neighboring London are burning. To not have heeded the importance of that first wave of messages from Tunisia to Egypt to Libya to Bahrain to Syria to Yemen, even in China, Saudi Arabia and Iran, although instantaneously snuffed out, to all the nations and people’s who are fighting back and organizing, who are repairing wounds in the streets and whose hearts are encased with steely conviction, is a deplorable surrender to passivity. Or as Chris R. a NYC editor for The New Gay put it recently, “It’s difficult, when reading and seeing coverage of the riots in England, to not see a negative of our own pacification Stateside.” The failure of holding our media, government and other social institutions accountable is nothing less than holding ourselves accountable.

In London, for the second time this year after anti-cuts rallies and pulsating resentment with government austerity measures, something has snapped. The Tottenham Riots are waged by the greater middle class and minority communities and it’s response however chaotic, was relentless. The UK Office of National Statistics most recent report shows that youth groups ages 16-24 now make up 20.4% unemployment throughout the country. An atmosphere that breeds perceived random reactionary behavior is a signal of how ripe society is for change and in this case, regardless of a lack of clear ideological framework, should cause intellectual pause.

Waiting for a satisfactory political response to the U.S. Bureau of Labor & Statistics and the nauseating outcome of the debt-ceiling compromise cuts has now become the fertile grounds for aggressive anti-social behavior. There may be something more to this than a festering infection of economic and social malaise spreading into the streets. There may be something more to this than meaningless acts of violence that have been quietly birthed and nurtured by a frustrated, resistant, and increasing turmoil mirroring the effects of greed and violence seen at levels of policy and policing of our governing bodies. There may be reason to consider what this means. Continuing this progenitor state of disciplining disobedience will only ensure an absent consideration of progressive solutions with my generation resorting to a dismissal of culpability and instead remaining inside their own bubbles. Change? Never mind, did you see that funny video on YouTube? Never mind, pass the bowl. Never mind, lets look at some porn. Never mind: update, blog, tweet, text all the menial details of our everyday lives into the void.

The recent flash mob riots popping up across Philadelphia have garnered reactionary language similar to the UK’s from its political leadership in a crackdown on all youth. As of Friday 12 August 2011 Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter instituted tight curfews and exalted, “I don’t care what your economic status is in life, you do not have a right to beat somebody’s ass on the street.” Mayor Nutter continues, indicting parents and deferring to stereotypical rhetoric as the cause to African-American youth unemployment, which in his opinion is the cause of, “…walk[ing] into somebody’s office with your hair uncombed and a pick in the back, and your shoes untied, and your pants half down, tattoos up and down your arms and on your neck, and you wonder why somebody won’t hire you? They don’t hire you ‘cause you look like you’re crazy.”

Instead of opening a forum to discuss how the current cultural atmosphere provides the grounds for violent activity to take place and how we all, government, parents, youth, etc. play an active role in being responsible for the current state of discord, Mayor Nutter downplays the events. Nutter employs similar measures as Prime Minister David Cameron who recommends, “Working with the police, the intelligence services and industry to look at whether it would be right to stop people communicating via [social media] websites and services.” Though it would seem that a larger big brother hand drawing an invisible cage around social media, limiting people’s ability to organize, might only insight further resentment. It might be valid to remember the words of President Kennedy, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible, will make violent revolution inevitable.”

But, for those others, those that refuse to believe the pronunciation: “Change is dead, long live Dysphoria!” For those who disagree with the tactics of looters and violent rioters, but who are troubled by something greater than the acts themselves. The “If there comes a time for change” is much closer to “When the time comes for change” and this serious change creeps inevitably forward regardless of our participation, but the outcome will likely be even less favorable.

It is time now to get up, get informed, get involved, and start teaching our limbs to move again. Do not allow ourselves to be completely crushed or demoralized. Remember we, here, together and now have all the tools and resources needed in one another to have our voices heard and make any kind of change possible. Let us begin discussing what those changes can be, what they mean, why we want them and then how can we go about implementing them. Do not be a whimper, be a fucking roar! But please, at the very least, be present.


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4 Comments »

  • Politics: An Indictment « In Our Words said:

    [...] to capturing Chicago’s cultural backdrop. I discovered this piece, an article he wrote for The New Gay back in September, which discusses the social unrest that had been sweeping the globe. In light of [...]

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