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I am awash in thoughts and feelings this week. Donald J. Trump will very likely be our next President. This fact has already emboldened hate groups, leaving us to contemplate what the next four years could mean—especially for friends who will likely become targets of bigotry.
Should we go outside and protest? Should we turn inward and lean on our support networks? Do we start thinking about the 2018 midterms? Yes. Yes to all of it. If you need time away from this divisive election, you’ll be welcome to join us when you’re ready. I completely understand, especially if you worked on a 2016 political campaign.
For my part, I am regrouping, considering how I can do more, do better. Some friends have asked me about strategies for resisting surveillance. Digital privacy will become even more important in the coming years, and we should all collectively get better at protecting ourselves.
Ruminating on these topics with my husband Dan Phiffer on our morning run, we came to the conclusion that in addition to dropping our reliance on the outmoded concept of “nature” as Morton suggests, perhaps we also need to dispense with the term “activist”. This might help people like me further embrace the idea that we all have a role to play in facing the challenges ahead. (emphasis added)
Timothy Morton argues that the term “nature” ignores the fact that humans are increasingly a central part of ecological systems, and it doesn’t make sense to draw some boundary between “nature” and “non-nature.” Maintaining a false romantic ideal holds us back from taking responsibility for the habitat us human creatures rely on. And also from seeing how natural systems (no scare quotes!) permeate our urban spaces. This is an ongoing theme in Ellie’s art practice.
Rejecting the term “activist” just takes the shape of Morton’s argument and applies it to something I’ve observed in Occupy Wall Street, and more recently in protest movements like Stop Watching Us. I’ve been seeing a lot of people out protesting for the first time. Which makes me really hopeful! Activism is really just one aspect of civic life, it doesn’t need to be restricted to specialists. Just as one need not self-identify as an “artist” to make a good drawing, calling oneself an “activist” also doesn’t imply a life dedicated to fighting injustice.
But much as there are those who make their livelihood from art, the practice of activism often depends on full-time organizers whose work is sorely needed in the world (which is also the case with artists, I say). I want to avoid emptying the idea of activism of meaning, and instead just flip a small linguistic switch. Striking “activist” from one’s vocabulary just insinuates it within the standard set of Things That Are Done, rejecting the implication that practicing activism deserves a special label. One of the small victories of OWS is that “non-activists” are totally welcome to the rally. Of course we always were, but now we’re growing in numbers. We are ideological creatures, we might as well think like it!
The terms ‘hoax’ and ‘fake’ don’t seem quite right to me. This is theater, plain and simple. The audience—both online and in person (?)—isn’t in on the joke for the first act, but this is all part of the larger theater experience. This video is act 2, and the resulting conversation and press coverage is act 3.
There’s a lot of symbolism packed into these short YouTube videos, but age is one of the more potent ones to me. The central character this video opens with is a stand-in for the many generations who’ve squandered the natural world at the expense of our inheritors. We don’t feel so bad laughing at her in the first act because of what she represents. That she’s already a well-known figure within the Occupy narrative makes the big reveal all the sweeter. Bravo, Yes Men!