On the origin of violence

 

 

It ought not be allowed to happen in such a beautiful place, Arkadij Babtjenko exasperates in his testimony from Chechnya, One soldier’s war in Chechnya (2007). When the sun is shining most wonderfully above the apricot trees, the bodies of dead comrades return from the front in tinfoil bags.

The contrast, between the beautiful surroundings, and the grimmest harvest of human actions, tears apart the emotional defence. Here, where everything could have been beaming and beautiful, everything is beaming and ugly. Why these actions? Granted the abundance of the world, how can it be that a good life for everyone is wasted in ravaging and killing? What is found at the base?

Those who order and execute the killing are, almost without exception, men. Thus, a person included in the category may specifically be called upon to respond the question. A writer belonging to the category may be offered special opportunity to give an answer.

The recently deceased author Norman Mailer left behind a reputation as a male chauvinist and criticizer of women’s liberation. Nevertheless, Mailer may be read as a satiric agitator of stereotyped masculinity, a writer revealing the cult of conventional male culture.

The novel Why are We in Vietnam? from 1967, in Swedish 1969, was perceived as an allegory of the US war against Vietnam. However, the story not only offers an image of the war on the other side of the globe, it also comments upon an historical and current reality and gives an answer to questions about the origin of violence.

Image and alphabetic character; metaphor and reality. The hunting of animals prepares the ground for and gives the 18-year old protagonist DJ practice in accepting the role as soldier bargaining chip in US world politics.

 

 

Directed by older men, including his father, DJ takes on the traditional Western masculinity focusing upon the domination of others. In mantra-like despair, DJ rants about his father’s actions, those that can be explained by ’that dried-out sunbaked smoked jerkin of meat his cowboy fore-ass bears used to eat’. The team of hunters start ’a war’ between themselves and the animals in which ’the hunthills rang with ball’s ass shooting’.

The expedition is led by the chief executive of the company, Big Luke, in charge of the ’superhuge kettle of lobster shit in volume dollars’, ordering the helicopter to circle over the skulls of the chanceless animals. The consequences of violence and death make up the ’flavour of the secret jellies and jams used in the black mass of real military lore’.

The only way to evade the imposed death scare is to join in the killing. To kill becomes the outlet for a sexuality in which the male, to be accepted as normal, must continuously coerce. The practice is accomplished, the enjoyment directed, what remains is the upgrading; from animal to human. In the words of DJ: ’The gnat in the navel of the whole week of hunting’ and: ’Think of cunt and ass – so it’s all clear.’

Carl-Henning Wijkmark’s debut novel from 1972, The Hunters of Karinhall, now in a new edition from Modernista publishing, answers the questions about violence in a way resembling Mailer; Nazism as a lifestyle of Göring, second highest man in the Third Reich. Already in 1934 Göring set up concentration camps, and later on he was responsible for the rearmament and the redoubling of the conscription time.

Göring endeavoured to be an animal lover, but loved to hunt, slaughter and perform the cutting up. And to organize yearly hunting parties where Europe’s top politicians assembled.

The hunting site of Karinhall stands as a model for a nature in which the human impulse to kill is ’stimulating’. The long period of peace has become tiring for the nerves, and the deer in the woods lift their ’white rumps obscenely and contemptuously in the air’. The men need ’something living to shoot at – that is the whole attraction of the thing’. In the same way Göring has eliminated everything ’week or sick or eccentric’ from the German forests, so he and Hitler have ’purified society from foreign and degenerative elements’.

Metaphors and thesis blend in Wijkmark’s deftly told pornography; Göring offers the elite men meat, and meat again, sheep slaughtered by his own hands, and, above all, human living flesh, prostitutes transported from a concentration camp for women, bribed with promises of dismissal, and, perhaps, marriage. The metaphors of war are legion, limbs rise and let off like ’cannons’, the men are in ’the saddle’; and the women, perceived as selected ’female flesh’, are ’rammed’, ’attacked’, and ’served’ in a milieu of the finest castle interiors; animal skin tapestry, animal skin sofas, and animal skin leather hosen.

The women play the role of anxious willing ’prey’ and ’chattels’, marked with numbers, Orwellian ’hunting hostesses’ in the ’House of joy and exuberance’. Perhaps it is due to a 1960’s flight of fancy sex liberalism making the women seem so compliant, perhaps it is the trick of Wijkmark; the perspective, the illusion is steadfastly owned by the male protagonists. The nature-attuned Göring copulates with jaunty German women, in long paragraphs, soon the reader, regardless of gender, is cornered as well.

 

 

The dehumanization of others, in different degrees in relation to different categories, reaches its stylish climax at the end of the novel. Il Duce degusts the result of today’s kill, places the thin snipe halves on his tongue – and is plunged into ecstasy. The foundation for the Rome – Berlin axle is secured.

Politics and satisfaction of the authoritative male body are merged into one. But not as Wijkmark has been interpreted hitherto, in excess and gluttony of food and sex, but rather as an option of a certain type of food and a certain type of sex. Culturally formed choices presented as inevitable expressions of Western masculinity.

A more concrete and explicit scapegoating of nature and misogyny, in which women are solely body and animal, and animal is the same as meat and object, than The Hunters of Karinhall is difficult to find. The example in Wijkmark’s novel, Göring, is well chosen; the Nazi contempt of women was indeed extraordinarily profound, and politically performed; the whole of the German people perceived as a bitch to be seduced and screwed by the means of simple emotional arguments.

Alongside civilians, women, children, and the old, it is young men of primarily under class who for centuries have constituted the cannon fodder of the conquest wars. ’Do you get that into your heads, you fat, smug generals who sent us off to slaughter’, cries Arkadij Babtjenko. The boys, pulling their male limbs in fear and hatred and madness, are transformed into objects and dead meat ’just like pieces of barbeque meat, before we get sent off to the meat grinder, then it is easier for us to die’.

The absurd war and alienation. The greedy war against the people, taking a leap forward assisted by the violence against animals, in metaphor and in concrete action. Conditioned by a sexualized male cult. Affecting also men. No, it ought not be allowed; yet this is what is staged, although the experience, if not the insight, was already so distinctly formulated.

 

Published in Aftonbladet Culture 12th of August 2008, translated from the Swedish

Babchenko, Arkady, One soldier’s war in Chechnya; translated from the Russian by Nick Allen, London: Portobello, 2007

Babchenko, Arkady, Krigets färger, ett vittnesmål, translated from the Russian by Ola Wallin, Stockholm: Ersatz, 2007

Mailer, Norman, Why are we in Vietnam? A Novel, New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1967

Mailer, Norman, Varför vi är i Vietnam, translated from the English by Erik Sandin, Stockholm: Bonniers, 1969

Wijkmark, Carl-Henning, The Hunters of Karinhall, translated from Swedish by George Bisset, New York: Avon, 1976

• Wijkmark, Carl-Henning, Jägarna på Karinhall, Stockholm: Modernista, 2007

 

© Arimneste Anima Museum #9

Lidandelarmet

 

 

Nyckelnovellen i Elefanten på tåget, gömd i dess mitt, berättar om den trakasserade pojken som i sömnen får sina plågoandar att kyssa varandra. Pojken som med hjälp av djurgestalter upptäcker den förljugna världen i fem dimensioner. Traspojken med ett hjärta som inte bara står öppet, utan som har blåst av sina gångjärn, och vars inre blottar den romantiska tragiska döden. Pojken som tar hjälp av djuren för att behålla sitt hjärta. William Kotzwinkles satiriska, poetiska och smått burleska novellsamling nyttjar stoffet från en tjugosexårig mans hågkomster av pojkar och män som enögt trängtande djur i högre mening: bäverpatrullen, örnpatrullen, vattenormspatrullen, ensamvargpatrullen (den som återfinns på latrinhuset); hamnråttor, plattfiskar.

Minnen i vilka flickor och kvinnor är gäckande främlingar samtidigt alltför bekanta kroppar för att bli epikens centrum; bröst och åter bröst, en lärarinna som är en höna som är en kinesisk drake som fruktlöst flyger ut från sin sittpinne och tillbaka igen, alltid redo. Den rebelliske frihetsbegärande hunden Nippy försvinner från familjen i ett ironilöst porträtt; en konstapel som bevistat en älgjakt uppfylls av empati och drömmer om själavandring; en professor lär sig att ljuga utan minsta motvilja i ett vittnesmål som framstår som en uppfylld profetia: ”En fågel kvittrade på fönsterbrädet, demonstrerande studenter kastade en bomb på gatan nedanför – en vanlig dag, ändå satt i ett rum vid University Park i Pennsylvania en farao och skrattade de dånande skratt som påstås komma under första ögonblicken av klarsyn, då man upptäcker att man erövrat tredje graden i ämnet lögn.” Professorn ser ”hela universum rotera, ett skönt skimrande mönster, en lögn av en sådan storslagen och otrolig konstnärlighet att hans egen fåfänga dröm om ett politiskt imperium rasade samman. Vita huset var ett dockhus där barnsliga klåpare lekte.”

Så är vi åter i samlingens första alster om mänsklighetens sentida bloddrypande stolligheter kontra den urtida och skräckinjagande ensamma mammuten och dess diet på smörblommor. Med elefantexistens är författaren som hemma; autentisk, respekterande, humoristisk utan behov av sarkasmer, beredd att acceptera avvisandet från en annan elefant (hona). Författaren-människan-elefanten som förmodligen någon gång arbetat extra på ett forskningslaboratorium. Hen som en gång berövats sin röst eller aldrig fått höja den. Som kan föreställa sig en hund, en gris, en ko, en höna, en elefant, en råttas belägenhet, uppfödd till ting, fråntagen rätten att njuta sitt liv ens en liten jordlig stund; lämnad med insikten: ”Varför föddes jag? Är jag en slav?”

Den sympatiska föreställningsförmågan som ett frälse, det mest dyrbara verktyget, särskilt när den omfattar också de fullständigt olikformade (de vilka ihopfösts till ett begrepp, djur). Romanen Doktor Råtta gestaltar pojken-mannens förtvivlade uppror mot upphöjdhet i förhållande till underkuvade djur. Tematiken i Elefanten på tåget utvecklas till konstfull satir, likt George Orwells Djurfarmen, men mera åtskruvat, samtidigt mera verklighetsförankrat. Laboratorieförmannen kommendanten protagonisten Doktor Råtta huserar på den psykologiska institutionens experimentavdelning, den skarpaste bilden för det mänskliga samhällets förtryckande djurrum: familjehemmet, djurparken, pälslägret, kötthangaren, ägghangaren, mjölkhangaren:

 

 

Kom nu kissekatter får ni tejpas på en ugnsplåt och bidra till grundforskning om vad som händer beteendemässigt i en uppvärmd ugn; kom här vovven får du duscha lite och bidra till att forskningen kan komma underfund med skillnader i motståndskraft i förhållande till de dödliga ångorna och få fram en bättre skokräm till armén: ”Det skulle naturligtvis kräva ytterligare en hel del beaglar, men dem har vi, mina vänner, och Pentagon har medlen. Ni två studenter kan se framemot åtminstone tre års forskning här vid duschkabinen”.

Desertören Doktor Råtta befinner sig på angriparsidan; cynisk, anspänd som den kan framstå som vet att han bedrar: ”Jag inbillar mig gärna att mina lärda uppsatser representerar sista ordet ifråga om djurs beteenden.” Doktorn äger till fullo det vansinne som krävs för att hålla sig flytande i Helvetet; bistå och försvara den fortsatta lögnen om det ”nödvändiga” försöket; hysa förakt för sina gelikar – och svika dem. Doktor Råtta är den kropp som försökt bli som herremännen frukvinnorna med sina eufemistiska hänvisningar till andras vetenskapliga arbeten; grundforskningsprojekt utan nytta, infernaliskt utstuderade plågsamma procedurer på utlämnade andra råttkroppar.

Orden i hans tal ska försvara det oförsvarliga men har motsatt effekt; när de speglar förljugenheten i de vänliga annonserna för råttor till försäljning i Psykologisk tidskrift; när de febrigt försvarar prestigeuniversitetet Columbias studie med femhundrasjuttiotre slag mot en hunds ben för att fastställa tidpunkten för chock; när de urskuldar Creighton-universitetets studie på ett antal hundar utsatta för svält i sextiofem dagar (med ett nytt antal hundar för dubbel check); när de prisar Yale-studien i vilken kattungar placeras i en ugn för att närmare granska uppstående skador på lillhjärnan och pannloberna. Förnedrande försök som skapar sadistisk spänning i laboratoriet. Doktor Råtta är advokaten som vill ”leda mitt folk till dess bestämmelse”, men som egentligen inte är annat än en tortyrkammarens chefsmarionett.

Ingen kammarherre, marionett eller ej, räknar med att de utlämnade kropparna ska nås av de andra brukades lidandelarm. Ingen högsta rangens vitrock kalkylerar med att hämnden ska ruva i de sargade kropparna; sambandet, ju mer torterade av experimentens dödsmaskiner och redskap (ryggmärgspunktionsställning, lungsäcksperforator, dekapiteringsmodul), desto fler och tydligare våglängder i den sargade kroppsmaterien. Rebelliska råttmödrar kalibrerar centralsändaren extrasensoriska instinktsmedier för alla lägre livsformer, signaler som ökar i intensitet ju fler ägare av avskurna tungor, uppfödda för försök, som utsätts; hyperavancerade kommunikationsleder som de mänskliga docenturprofessorerna saknar sinnen att uppfatta.

Luktrevolutionen lidandelarmet far över jorden: hönor, valar, schimpanser, grisar, tjurar, hyenor, örnar, elefanter, björnar, grävlingar, gräsmöss, giraffer, strutsar, rävar, råttor, sköldpaddor nås av lidandedoften som kallar till motståndsmöte via instinktsbandet. Rebellmilisen öppnar burarna, råttornas rebellarmé och propagandamakare vänder sig mot Doktor Råtta och pulvriserar hans omhuldade svårbegripliga vetenskapliga artiklar i tre ex. Doktorns röst övertas alltmer av dem som ”krympt under hälen”, internerat djurfolk som blivit religiösa och lider som mest då ljumma vindar drar förbi om sommaren ”för att plåga oss med smålukter…”

Den aldrig tidigare skådade massmigrationen av djur ger Presidenten och flygvapnet idén att i förment välvillighet skicka stora livlösa silverfåglar, och ja: gorillorna och schimpanserna hälsar godtroget välkommen. Varefter människomilisens stålfågelstreck omvandlar den icke-våldsliga djurrevolten/djurmötet till ett gigantiskt djurförsök, ett sample test, ett mordiskt tvärsnitt av arterna som ”det enda säkra sättet att behandla revolutionärerna för att åstadkomma en rättvis och varaktig fred”.

Det vill säga en utradering av de församlade djurvarelserna. Varelser med särskild förmåga att njuta tillvarons enkelhet pressas platt mot marken; livsformer med särskild förmåga att inse livets ändamål och njuta världsalltets storslagenhet som det speglas genom de egna sinnena, perforerade till humuslager. Suggan: ”Min mening skulle uppenbaras, om jag bara finge stå hela dagen på den lilla vindlande stigen och se på gräset och himlen. Mer skulle jag inte begära.” Elefanten: ”Vad kunde vi väl begära mera av livet, lilla bäck, än att se dig krusas och leka i ljuset.”

Det enda djuret kvar vid liv, allas vår Doktor Råtta, överlever såväl upproret från de enade världsdjuren som människornas utradering av upproret. Doktorns sarkasmer upplöses i intighet; levande död i de övergivna försöksrummen; fullbordad förkroppsligad suggestio falsi.

 

  • William Kotzwinkle, Elefanten på tåget, noveller, [Elephant bangs train, Pantheon, 1969], översättning Gunnar Barklund, Stockholm: Forum, 1972
  • William Kotzwinkle, Doktor Råtta, (Dr Rat, Knopf, 1976) översättning N.O. Lindgren, Stockholm: Rostrum/Forum, 1978

 

© Arimneste Anima Museum #9

Freden på bordet

 

 

Svetlana Aleksijevitj i Stockholms stadshus, intill riksmarskalken, vid honnörsbordet. Flödet av röster hon lyssnat fram, vittnesmålen och vad de förmedlat. Hur människor led. Och hur andra än människor led. Bön för Tjernobyl (Ersatz 2013, översättning Hans Björkegren): ”De skriade på sina olika språk…”

Vad ska de servera Aleksijevitj, vad ska de bjuda på?

Om västerländsk historia kan läsas genuskritiskt och maktkritiskt följer att den kan läsas köttkritiskt. Uppvisandet av släckta djurkroppar har inte sällan varit en utställning, en maktens performance. Hur kan en ko-unge i bitar framstå välsmakande i nutida lägen av välfärd och frivillighet? Vilken är berättelsen som föregick handlingen?

En materiell propaganda, från vuxna till barn: Ta del av denna övermakt, bli delaktig i den. Som i årets julkalender I tusen år till julafton: bäverkroppar, vildsvinskroppar, kalvhuvuden, kalvöron. Ät nu barn.

Men folket, herdarna, bönderna kan berätta. Som i sägnerna om förfäderna på brittiska öarna: ”Animals were seldom killed for their meat. They were too valuable. Without your animals, you starved and frooze. Without your animals, you literally just died.”

På 1000-talet – och som regel under många sekel – åt folket inte gärna sina kalvar och killingar. Getter, får och kor betydde levande värmande kroppar, övermjölk att dricka, ull att klä sig med.

Kroppar som kunde exploateras. Inte övergick folk på 1300-talet, som sägs i tv-julkalendern, från människoslaveri, så kallad trälhandel, till gethandel; bredvid handel med getter fanns utnyttjandet av folkflertalet.

Hur övertalades folk till att bli som sina herrar? Hur kommer det sig att människor kan tro sig mer mänskliga om de gör sig till rovdjur?

Matkulturen ansågs länge amoralisk, apolitisk, given och oproblematisk. Men rovet utgör det absoluta nödläget. Reflektionen upphör, medlidandet trängs undan. Att lyssna tvådimensionellt är det mänskligt möjliga; synkroniserandet av empatin med eftertanken.

Ärtsoppan är den äldsta maträtt vi fortfarande äter.

Samma afton, annat möte. La révolution pacifique. La révolution pour le changement climatique. Den fredliga revolutionen för en fossilfri värld. Enligt Chalmers tekniska högskolas beräkningar om klimatgaser innebär den ordinarie matkulturen i Sverige artonhundra kilo utsläpp per år och person. Lacto-ovo: tolvhundra kilo. Animaliefri: femhundra kilo.

En livsmedelsproduktion som hellre strävar till mindre våld än gör våldet till dygd. En matkultur som förlänger livet hellre än avlivar det. Hur möts Svetlana Aleksijevitj budskap om fred? Mellan människorna, men också med andra än människorna?

10 december 2015

©Arimneste Anima Museum #9

Man-male-machine

 

 

The daughters of feminism took their assignment to heart: Occupy space, conquer territory. In the narrative, in the picture. In the frame. Within the frame. Was it enough?

Heave oneself up to the top of the artist Niki de Saint Phalles’ sculptures outside the entrance of the Museum of Modern Art in Stockholm. Look out and down, direct the lighting, and discover the self-destructing machine by de Saint Phalle’s husband Jean Tinguely. Yes, de Saint Phalle had an intelligent husband-artist-colleague. A culturally formed man endeavouring to reveal the movement that appears to be leading forward but in accelerating speed is moving towards perdition.

Even before Monsieur Hulot, the film director Jacques Tatis’ lost man in androcentric society’s metallic blue landscape, in Playtime from 1967, Tinguely’s meta machines made satire of termo dynamics’ immanent death wish. Like the steam engine of Astrid Lindgren’s Lillebror, when Karlsson-on-the-roof confidently poses as a machinist, Tinguely’s machines destroyed themselves: Puff puff, puff puff. Oups, it went off. ‘Oh, well, it doesn’t matter. I’ve got a heap of steam engines’, Karlsson assures. Lillebror, not yet fully formed man, hesitates rightfully. How many steam machines may go off until the play is ended?

How much of the world’s resources and fossil fuels may the termo-dynamic machine use before everything is wasted? The dominating feminisms started out fine but invested in a future that seemed to jib at the prerequisites of the world. When they had come halfway on their journey, they appeared modest where they should have been grand, assuming where they should have been humble. They forgot the broad perspectives and pretentions of feminist alternative societies; critique of the very design, the material, the mechanics, the fuel, the cost calculations, the sources of revenue, the economic models.

Missing were thoughts about how the building may embrace everybody. Ideas about how society will make ends meet so that it may be handed over long-term colourfully and innovatively functioning. The feminism of Simone de Beauvoir pointed out that women were shaped by culture but overlooked that this is true also for other gender categories; the order-abiding first category (the male) alongside the forms in between. Thus the model for the ideal human being was left without further critique. Women, like other presumably deviating human beings, were exhorted to demand to be able to live as white well-to-do commonly formed male persons, fitting to the white well-to-do men’s kind of societal project. In their urge to be included, the dominating feminisms forgot to criticize the society at its roots.

The desire was to get allowance to enter and take place in the white man-male-machine. The machine that is risking, now somewhat known globally, to permanently drive itself down the marshes. The glaciers of Himalaya are melting, and so are the ices of Arctic. Climate scenes give the image of rupturing coasts; cities, villages falling under the sea surface; storms, draughts, algae blooming. Degrees of climate heat that cannot be stopped, parts of a machine that has already combusted; forget under two degrees heightened temperature. The fossil fuel depletion of the machine from the 1960’s and onward cannot be retracted.

The ones sinking first are those without life insurances and home insurances, internet banks, or pocket money. Those whose share among the not so-well-to-do constantly must be appreciated, since banks and institutes miss out on gender coding the fact collecting. Those who make up around seventy percent of the people living on under a dollar a day and whose share among those living on under two dollars a day is even higher. Every day they are using their backs, legs and arms muscles to carry wood, water, children, building materials, fuels, goods. Chopping and collecting in the forests, in the sugar cane fields and cotton fields, sowing and harvesting the grain, labouring in the industries and sweat shops for low wages during long working hours in dismal working conditions.

If they get paid at all, that is. Globally, the category of women and girls is an underclass, women and girls often being exacted unpaid services to surrounding men. In bed, and in the kitchen of the house, alternately as a sex slave lured by assurances of a job as a house maid in the North. Women make up the majority executing the world’s most physically heavy work, and doing three fourth of all unpaid work. Given that women survive. The UN estimates that since a girl may be considered less valuable, and expensive to marry off, one hundred million girls are aborted or die from starvation or lack of basic medicine.

Yes, the gender marked social catastrophe was, as we know, already here, for every feminist to pay attention to long before the climate crisis caused Western sympathy and so clearly gave witness to dismal allocation politics internationally, nationally and household wise. And dismal allocation environmentally and resource-wise. We ought never forget how Elin Wägner, Rosa Mayreder and many other feminists in the early 20th century analysed with pretensions for humanity but were wrongly dismissed by their future feminist colleagues as simple binary feminists.

Thus, the critique of society’s goal, function, resilience, sustainability disappeared; humanity’s dominion, the relation to future generations, to nature, to nonhuman animals. A similar fate was accorded to the critique of the seamy side of production society in the form of stressed out kids and parents, in the so-called Nina Björk debate two years ago.

To the one inspecting the structure thoroughly – please, here is the exit. To the one presenting an alternative map – go ahead, here is the back door.

However, the radical map does not only scrutinize the machine construction; it may augur the new and the old; merging, tearing apart, rebuilding, letting the light in. Such a map may flicker in creative séance, seemingly mad, however, genially, over suburbs, favelas, countrysides, continents, and urban citadels. The progressive invitation proposes a continuous happening in style of the 1960s, though in a sober state.

Perhaps Tinguely’s kinetic machine constituted a reaction to Claude Lévi-Strauss’ idea about society as a machine. Western society was assumed to develop by differences in potential, expressed by varying forms of social hierarchies. Its machinery was able to perform a lot of work, though, in the process, in the gap between the boiler and the condenser, it consumed and destroyed energy. Less modern societies instead functioned wholly mechanical, like a clock, and created no gaps, no exhausted energy, according to Lévi-Strauss. But their machines were cold, static, and lacked development.

Lévi-Strauss might be a Western scientific icon. Nevertheless, even icons are marked by a position, and the perspective of the icon may reveal unsighted spots. Since the less modern societies, the so-called primitive ones, were actually full of differences: division of labour, hierarchy, especially in relation to sex/gender. What generated the gender division of labour? In Female Power and Male Dominance, On the Origins of Sexual Equality from Cambridge University Press 2000, Peggy Sanday shows how the culture of food influenced the direction: plant- and or crustacean-based societies generated more equal social relations while animal-based societies created less equal social relations.

And, the clock mechanics may be everything but static, like a bicycle in full swing. A non-destructive muscle-building energy creating mechanics may develop like a forward rolling gearwheel building upon the movement by chain reaction.

What genius of simplicity and usage of given prerequisites does not, for instance, the sail express? Like the hand driven computer – the energy efficient that for some reason cannot be sighted in the shopping malls of the North. Why is no modern city using all the energy, now wasted, that is generated by sweating office people in the mechanics of thousands of city gym palaces?

Look across de Saint Phalle’s artwork and sight the norm, the one that does not consist of the many, but the few. A sad but life-threatening minority. The ten percent of humanity formed by almost one hundred percent individuals from the self-appointed superordinate sex, and which, counting in property and financial assets minus debts, own eighty five percent of the world’s resources. Alone in the machine’s powerhouse, indissolubly dependent upon the labour of the majority, this minority is ravaging ground water and oceans; eroding the soil by fodder cultivations for luxury meat consumption; deforesting the tropics to produce, for instance, toilet paper. Wasting biological conditions for humans and nonhumans without being affected themselves, all for the production of goods for more and more people belonging to the middle-income segment.

More and more hot the machine puffs on, in accordance with the calculation. Aready in ancient Greece the proto feminist Plato, in The Republic, described its architecture in the character of Socrates making conversation with his apprentice Glaucon: What do we want, a state in fever, driven by greed and cravings for meat from pigs and cattle, embarking on the pursuit of unlimited material possessions and therefore having to cut a slice of their neighbours territory? Or a simple and more equal society in which everyone may live well off ’wheat-meal or barley-meal, splendid cakes and loaves on rushes and or fresh leaves; salt, olive oil, cheese, different kinds of vegetables, figs, and peas and beans, myrtle-berries and acorns to roast at the fire as they sip their wine’?

It is impossible to know just how a socio economic and technological development might have differed in relation to the ones Plato described. Perhaps the choice was not between two differing societies, perhaps this was a patriarchal figure, a constructed either-or, concealing that in all times there are a thousand movements, a thousand kinds of cog wheels, leverages, bicycles, sails, hand driven computers, wind catchers, sun cells, means of subsistence. But Plato’s point remains important, and it disputes that which is ordinarily taught by society: there are other ways of development compared to the ones of violence and alienation shaped for those who have acquired the power to choose.

The feverish machine has roiled for centuries now, faster and faster, soon there will be no land areas left to ravage. For long it ignored the hunger of the world; the concrete hunger of those producing the goods for the charts of economic growth and the fodder for luxurious meat; the metaphorical hunger for the norms and values assigned the subordinate, but never applied by the power centres of the world. Values that the machine therefore is inherently lacking.

Tinguely’s pretence rational machines were planned to detonate during two exhibitions; in the US 1960, and in Denmark 1961. Study for and End of the World 1 obeyed his master’s command, and exploded. Machine number two refused. It crawled on, as if in quicksand, indisposed to understand its own good. The machine refused to self-destruct; needed help to adjust its logic; from burnout to recreation.

So, time to claim new buildings. Machines in which pathological winning is exchanged for conditions of recycling; machines in which the top result is given to the construction that wastes less and shares the most. Feminist machines that may be montaged and de-montaged. Machines that again and again recycle, resurrect and live, rather than consume, devastate, and fall apart.

 

Photo: Maple leaf, autumn 2019

Published in Swedish, in Bang Magazine 1st of March 2008

©Arimneste Anima Museum #9

Soon it will crack

 

 

Anno 2007

Whose fault is that? And what will save the Earth?

The Earth’s ecosystems show higher temperatures. Draught, flooding, cyclones, rising sea levels; heat waves, fires, most recently in California. In only two years, the Arctic has lost land areas the equivalent of five Great Britain. The ice in Greenland has started to melt, and so has the glaciers of Himalaya; should the warming continue, forty percent of all species will be extinct before 2050.

The tipping points. This is the term the journalist Andreas Malm opts for to depict the critical situation in which life, all life, is at stake. The tipping point is a location in time and space where the content of the chalice overflows. A condition of the Earth caused by Western civilization’s intensified consumption of fossil fuels; oil, coal, natural gas, emissions of methane.

The large discharges of climate gasses started after 1850, but the pivotal change took place as late as 1976-1977. The temperature rose by 0,3 degrees, and 0,2 degrees in the decades that followed. Since 2000 the rate has increased even more, between 1990 and 1999 it was 1 percent, between 2000 and 2004, it was 3 percent.

And now the phenomenon is moving fast, faster than the IPCC (the UNs Climate Panel) can count and faster than anybody could expect. The capacity of Nature to absorb the emissions of gasses is effete, something that was expected to happen at the end of this century. The debilitation is caused by the ecosystems of the world organizing critically, reaching the breaking point. Instead of adjusting gradually to new conditions, the ecosystems collapse. Like the pyramid of a heap of sand that may be piled higher and higher, but with another grain of sand falls.

All climate researchers would not agree with the description of the situation as a pyramid of sand. The IPCC, as of recent awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, has for long abstained from doing so.

Andreas Malm’s book is a monumental referential work of the amassed research now proclaiming the Earth to be in a state of emergency. Not because of the environmental destruction, that since half a century has been put on the agenda by investigators, free thinkers and environmental organizations; but solely due to climate change.

Malm goes about his task properly; beginning with the birth of life; definition, principle, explaining the circle of coal, the great role of blue green algae, the photosynthesis. The reader is brought on an expedition of epochs and eons, and taken on a journey through the revolution of oxygen, the cambric revolution, i.e. when animals appear, and earlier events of mass extinction on Earth.

It is a somewhat brushy educational tour entertained by telescope and microscope, in a jungle where the processes, the concepts, the metaphors from various researchers’ worlds of imagery pile up. Now it is illuminating, now it is a bit confusing.

Some words are key to the theme. Biosphere, referrals, cyclic causality, spandrels, liminality; the concepts give witness to a victory over an outdated view of nature that has impeded insights, and, thus, has contributed to the mistaken prognosis of the IPCC. It is not recommendable to count species just separately; each species must be considered in relation to other species. It is wanting to regard ecosystems as separate, or to miss the fact that organisms are fellow creators of the environment. The progression of nature cannot be understood as exclusively gradual, it develops in leaps, and collapses in landslides.

Malm’s book slows down the discussion simultaneously as it raises the level of emergency. It says: Let us start from the beginning and not exclude how deep the climate crisis is entrenched in our perceptions of life itself. It draws in the reader to share the fascination for natural science and the climate struggle on the side of the critical Marxist-Darwinists Stephen Jay Gould, Richard Levins and Richard Lewontins, writers who see the development as more interacting with the surroundings compared to the view of Richard Dawkin’s and his adapting genes.

Yes, I am on board. But not at any price. Not to the price of overlooking the research tradition that succeeded to zoom in both socially and theoretically, and, thus, was able to pose even broader and sharper critique. Carolyn Merchant, Evelyn Fox Keller, Sandra Harding have shown how the old mechanist view of nature got a head start with Francis Bacon’s misogynist metaphors in the 17th century and how it replaced an earlier cosmic view of nature. In fact, this cosmic view resembles the approach Malm introduces as new and disregarded, an outlook that was early understood by non-European cultures as the web of life. Everything’s connection to everything else.

The Nobel prize discovery 1983 of the complex organization of the DNA-molecule (1948) by Barbara McClintock, for many years shut out by her fellow research colleagues; the interaction between the DNA-molecule and the cell, the organism and the environment outside the organism, is for instance missing in Malm’s reasoning, despite the finding being key to the argument. Also, the metaphors seem unsuspectedly masculine coded; thorn apples, battle fields, battles, attacks, missiles and the examples of cars, producers, and factories.

Perhaps Miss Universe’s Profesora (Catti Brandelius of Sweden) would have emitted her famous statement: “Why this, my mama may have told you.” But, the protagonists in Malms’ book are not mothers, or even men and women. The homo social world, with its production methods, social relations, technology, and nature view, is not the subject of contemplation. Rather, it is to be saved by the masculinity that created it and its climate crisis. Is it possible? Desirable? Sustainable?

Malm’s work is powerful, yet mysterious; if the house is on fire, if a pyromaniac is residing in the cellar and all payable research says that the flames may start at any time, why get lost in the biospheric brushwood? And if the situation is already surprising us, if the collapse of the Greenland ice threatens to raise the sea levels by seven metres, and national emergency is called for at this instance, why not be thoroughly power critical?

In Malm’s book the world remains in the hands of the patriarchal culture. It is a divided world, and a great risk. Andreas Malm promises to write another volume, a sequel, in 2008. In the meantime, may no threshold be reached, no grain of sand be the precipitating one. Biogeochemists in panels and parliament – organize. If most is not done now, chances are it will be too late.

• Andreas Malm, Det är vår bestämda uppfattning att om ingenting görs nu kommer det att vara försent, Stockholm: Atlas 2007 [Fossil Capital: The Rise of Steam Power and the Roots of Global Warming by Andreas Malm, Verso 2014]

Originally published in Aftonbladet Culture 2nd of November 2007, translated from the Swedish

©Arimneste Anima Museum #8

Råd för det demokratiska försvaret

 

 

Finns det principer som är heliga? Kan principer vägas mot omständigheterna? Alternativt kombineras med avvärjande praktik? I ett förord berättar författaren Dalton Trumbo om hur han under andra världskriget avstod från att låta trycka om sin klassiska antikrigsroman Johnny Got His Gun från 1939 (Johnny var en ung soldat, översättning Kerstin Gustafsson 1987; skriven 1938). Beslutet fattades efter att en nazist skickat ett beundrarbrev som visade att bokens budskap riskerade bli utnyttjat i amerikanska nazisters propaganda för fred och pacifism.

Nazister som fredsmäklare och snälla fredsvänner? Det är inte bilden de flesta har av nazisterna, men det var så de ville framställa sig både i Europa och i USA. Nationer och personer och minoriteter som vägrade gå med på diktaten var enligt propagandan emot freden och utmålades som skyldiga till invasionerna och förföljelserna. En i sanning infamt orimlig politisk logik: Går ni inte med på att vi invaderar er, tvingas vi invadera er. Går ni inte med på att vi fördriver och dödar er, tvingas vi döda er. Allt är ert eget fel, vi ville bara bevara ”freden”. I USA kunde nazister ses demonstrera på New Yorks gator med pacifistiska slagord stulna från fredsrörelsen.

Ja, ett passivt USA hade förstås spelat Hitler i händerna. Något Dalton Trumbo i konstens och politikens namn inte ville bidra till. Tidens raster förändrade hans bok och de politiska krafterna kunde missbruka den nya läsningen. Så blev tillfällig självcensur den bästsäljande fredsappellens öde. Trumbo såg till omvärldsfakta för att inte bli en nyttig idiot åt nazismen. Ett drygt decennium efter andra världskrigets slut förhöll sig saken annorlunda – och romanen gavs ut igen (1959 och 1970).

När Dalton Trumbo blev varse tillståndet för sin roman hade han som vänsterman redan genomskådat nazisterna och deras falska tal om fred. Men inte alla var så politiskt insatta, bildade och uppdaterade. Det fanns de som blev lurade – eller lät sig luras. Närapå vem som helst kan bli lurad av bedrägliga aktörer. Idag, med starka högerkrafter i omlopp, utrustade med nya strategier för gamla och dolda agendor, är det något att hålla i minnet. Allt är inte vad det synes vara, och det som synes vara, kan verkligen förhålla sig så.

Varpå vilande debattböcker får förnyad aktualitet. I Denying the Holocaust (1993) visar den amerikanska historikern Deborah E. Lipstadt, nyligen på Sverigebesök med  Antisemitism Here and Now (2019), hur högerextrema agerat sedan andra världskriget för att framhålla nazismen som rumsren och tänkbar.

Lipstadt upptäcker en ombytlig taktik. Först sökte de urskulda den nazityska politiken och Förintelsen, när försöket misslyckades, började de istället förneka. Intressant nog finner hon även att dessa högerextremister som regel omfattade antifeminism med det uttalade kvinnoföraktet som central ingrediens.

För sin kritiska och vasst skrivna bok stämdes Lipstadt i Storbritannien av förnekaren och historikern David Irving – en rättegång hon vann och har skildrat i boken History on Trial (2006), filmatiserad av Mick Jackson med titeln Denial (2016).

Utöver det djupt kränkande mot offren är förnekandet av Förintelsen en märklig företeelse i sig. Hur kan en motsäga något så omvittnat och beforskat? Hur kan en vilja avslöja sig faktaresistent bortom allt förnuft? Tyvärr vet de vad de gör, menar Lipstadt. Genom att upprepa lögner om och om igen lyckas de så frö av tvivel. På så vis uppnår de förvirring samtidigt som de skapar nyfikenhet och kan uppfattas som att de befinner sig på ”andra sidan i debatten”.

Mindre insatta i seriös forskning och kunskap – allmänhet, journalister, politiker – riskerar enligt Lipstadt att bli förda bakom ljuset av dessa yttrandefrihetsmissbrukare i välskräddade kostymer och märkesblusar. I kanadensiska dokumentären Ondskans åklagare – mannen som fällde nazisterna av Barry Avrich (Prosecuting evil 2018) berättar Ben Ferencz, överåklagaren i rättegångarna mot Einsatzgruppen, om en nazistofficers humanitära fasad. Det är en kort sekvens som ställer den nazistiska kamouflagetaktiken i blixtbelysning. Officerens hövliga sätt gjorde det möjligt att bedra än mer effektivt. Se här, vi vill er bara väl, vi vill den totala freden.

Det vill säga freden under stöveln. Fascismens och nazismens modus operandi. Den totala lögnen, den fullständiga oanständigheten. Nazisterna kallade förstaden till Auschwitz, Theresienstadt, för ”staden Hitler gav till judarna”. Rent och snyggt och perfekt, inget anstötligt vid ridån, inget synligt intill stängslet. En kuliss som dolde en motsatt verklighet. När det var försent uppenbarades sanningen. Leendet och friden var en grimas. Och välvilligheten och hjälpsamheten första steget på vägen till utnyttjande och dödande.

Om denna bedrägerimetod har vittnats mångtaligt. Så vad händer om insmygandet av avskyvärda ideologier och praktiker sker i ett senare läge, när de uppfattas som givet orimliga och för alltid förbrukade? En situation Lucía Punezo skildrar i spelfilmen Den tyske läkaren (The German Doctor 2013), baserad på en verklig händelse i Argentina under 1960-talet. Filmen tar sin början i det som utgör vardagskittet mellan människor – tilliten, empatin och förnuftet – och visar hur dessa grundpelare kan exploateras för att förvilla och bryta sönder.

I den nazistiska och fascistiska obstruktionen undermineras förtroendet för de närmaste och att tillhöra kvinnokategorin innebär att betraktas som det mest åtråvärda objektet. Och därmed bli utsatt för existentiell fasa. Finns det överhuvudtaget någon jag kan lita på? Kan något alls tas för givet? Med den ordinära tilliten raserad, utlämnas var och en till moralisk och politisk misstänksamhet, tvivel och förvirring.

Vad är då den praktiska lärdomen? Hur kan fascistoida krafter bemötas och bekämpas – med bibehållen medmänsklighet? Det hållbara svaret är att undervisning i demokratiska värderingar och historia måste ske kontinuerligt och börja tidigt i livet. För den allmänna debatten gäller enligt Deborah E. Lipstadt att inte debattera med förnekare av fakta, särskilt inte Förintelseförnekare, eftersom att synas på samma arena får dem att framstå som legitima motståndare och bidrar till att sprida deras budskap.

Deborah E. Lipstadts rekommendation lyder: förbjud inte deras tal, låt dem yttra sig, motsäg dem. Men medverka inte till att de får en plattform. Ge dem inte mark, legitimera dem inte som giltig motpart. Att medverka i en panel är ett sorts förtroendeuppdrag, därför är inte yttrandefrihet för alla detsamma som en plats i panelen. Lipstadts lösning kombinerar självförsvar, utifrån historiska och nutida fakta och erfarenheter, med hyllandet av grundläggande demokratiska och medmänskliga principer. Ett råd avpassat för vår tid.

 

  • Dalton Trumbo, Johnny Got His Gun,  New York: Bantam, 1989
  • Dalton Trumbo, Johnny var en ung soldat, övers. Kerstin Gustafsson, Stockholm: Prisma, 1987
  • Deborah E. Lipstadt, Denying the Holocaust, the Growing Assault on Truth and Memory (1993), Penguin, 2006

 

©Arimneste Anima Museum #7

Climate, Grub and Politics

 

 

Anno 2007

The airlines, the airlines, the airlines. And of course the cars. This, in summary, is how the great climate scapegoats have been listed until recently. Here, Lisa Gålmark focuses on a climate question we would rather like to forget: the one about food.

According to the UN, the world’s livestock industry contributes more to the emissions of greenhouse gases than the whole transport sector – still we defend ourselves against making politics out of what is found on the plate.

At last the public, that is to say the media, has opened its eyes to the fact that the problems of the world demand personal and everyday decisions. The weather forecasts became heated, one environmental film after the other was aired on state television, and people in cities on the borders of our biggest lakes realized that their city could at any time find itself under water. Even people in Stockholm were beginning to sense that an escape to Helsinki with one’s belongings in plastics bags may in fact become reality. And swish – suddenly it was possible to talk about carbon dioxide equivalents, rationing and changes of electric light bulbs.

So far, so good. However, well ingrained lines of thinking do not disappear straight away, well ingrained patriarchal lines of thinking where one measure is prioritized and blamed for the whole debacle, like a modern scapegoat, to be shoved away, thereby saving the Western world from ruin. For the climate question, the scapegoat is the airlines. It is the airlines that are the bad guys, environmental organizations and journalists assert, most lately the British author George Monbiot in his book Heat. Monbiot calculates and finds that if we only make a transition from fossil fuels to clean energy, the Western world may continue to enjoy today’s standard of living and still save the planet. With one exception: the airlines. We can’t go on flying because the airlines emit enormous quantities of green house gas, which in due time lead to the fall of poor human beings. “Porto Alegre – goodbye”, the Swedish writer Andreas Malm wrote in his review of Monbiot’s book in Dagens Nyheter 13/11 2006.

So then one should stay at home. Draw a line through global network meetings, concerts, and conferences. Forget about flying over the seas and experiencing what it is like to be in a cultural and linguistic minority. Forget about creating peaceful human relations in foreign places. But what if this is the wrong measure? Or: what if this is the right measure but not enough as a measure? What if the climate problems demand a broader outlook entailing the whole of industry, the economic order, our Western patriarchal culture, how it counts only the finished product, and rarely the environmental, human and animal costs of production? What if it even affects how we nourish ourselves, the supposedly neutral and trivial food on the table? Reproduction. The consuming sector. The traditionally feminine, sensitive, and politically ignored food industry. Maybe it is here one should get rid of one’s blinkers if the aim is to clear away climate threats and at the same time show solidarity with the poor people of the world.

Food is part of culture, and in the Western world much of the food consists of animal ingredients, that is to say, meat, egg and milk products from the animal industry. Ever since hunting in the Stone Age contributed at most twenty percent of the food intake, and had as its prerequisite weapons, that in turn could be pointed towards humans, meat from animals has been culture’s highest-valued protein. Meat from killed animals was traditionally nutrition for men in power, and it was not until the late 19th century that animal meat became everyday food for the masses. The meat normativity of the West – the institutions, structures, relations, and acts which uphold the norm that perceives other animals as objects for humans to do whatever they want with, especially to produce and consume as everyday “meat”, is today spreading around the world by advertisements, and by the export of agricultural systems.

For a long time, this norm went free from critique by people otherwise interested in environmental and social issues. Why? Unequivocally it has something to do with the reproductive status of food, its trivial and animal-like status. The grub, the nosh, the food that mother so naturally, self-evidently, and home-sweet-homely, prepared and served – could it really have a political bearing? Should grand/mother have been an important negotiating part in the political problems of the world? Should she not just have put the ham sandwiches on the kitchen table and reminded us that it is getting late? Can it be that the kitchen work of the 20th-century Western housewife actually had a decisive impact on the state of the world today?

Maybe it is due to such patriarchal blinkers – priorities ascribing exclusive political weight to masculine-coded questions – that the whole of Swedish media miss when the FAO’s latest report, Livestock’s Long Shadow (November 2006) shows that the world’s livestock for food production is one of the three largest contributors to environmental destruction and – just listen to this – that it contributes more to climate change by emissions of greenhouse gases than the whole transport sector, including airlines and cars.

Those who wish to show solidarity with the poor of the world, and at the same time desire to do something about the climate problem, should ask themselves: How is environmentally sound agriculture to be organized to sustain a continually increasing human population? Which direction should the food industry take in order not to become a security problem when oil prices climb to a hundred dollars a barrel?

Over the last thirty years the number of wild mammals has decreased to half due to shrinking nature areas, hunting and environmental poisoning. The big fish species in the world seas are near depletion; in forty years all of the fish species used for human food will be gone. Simultaneously, one billion human beings are undernourished. Seven million children die every year because they lack access to food and clean water. According to the WWF’s Living Planet Report, the major part of the growing ecological footprint that humans are putting on the earth – that is to say the production and consumption of the West – is due to the increasing usage of fossil fuel, a usage that has risen nine times since 1961.

The sixties was the period when the intensive animal industry, and with it meat normativity, made its breakthrough in Europe. Since the end of the 19th century, the slaughter industry was the first to use the assembly line and – with the aim of increasing efficiency and turnover – animal factories with small areas and confinement were introduced. This meant: increasing efficiency and turnover in a sector contributing greatly to fossil fuel consumption. Just a few years ago, the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences found that the amount of energy needed to produce one kilo of Swedish meat from a pig would transport the same amount of energy in the form of beans three and a half times around the earth by ship.

Still, today four billion people sustain themselves on a plant-based diet while two billion live on an animal-based diet. Concurrently with the Western export of agricultural systems to Asia, Africa, and South America, the human consumption of animal flesh is projected to double by 2050. Today, soy beans, and maize are given to cows that naturally eat grass and almost all – ninety-five percent – of the global production of soy beans become food for animals in the animal industry. China has gone from consuming a little over 13 kilos of animal meat per person per year in 1980, to 53 kilos in 2004. Between 1992 and 2002, China accordingly increased its import of grain by over 70 percent, most of it to use as fodder in the animal industry.

When more and more animal products are consumed by more and more people – the number of animals raised and slaughtered per year has already reached fifty billion1 – the demand for energy rises at a high speed. So does the demand for grazing and fodder grain areas. Where are the areas to be taken from? The coasts that disappear in the wake of climate changes? The deserts that develop as a consequence of forest felling and over-grazing?

The above mentioned George Monbiot said in an article in The Guardian in 2002 about world starvation that the world in ten years will be forced to make a choice: either an agriculture growing food for animals, or an agriculture growing food for people directly. Here, Monbiot had a point: to do something about starvation in the world, it is no longer only the distribution of food, ownership, and capital that is important; the type of food that is produced is just as important. Recently the Swedish scientist Lisa Deutsch showed that in Swedish animal meat production the animals raised are given fodder up to 80 percent based on raw materials from areas in other parts of the world, for example soy from cleared rainforests in South America and palm oil from rainforests in Asia.

A change of agricultural policies – from an animal industry to a mainly vegetable industry –directed from parliament could be used as a model globally, and this in more ways than the positive effects on climate, seas, rainforests, oil consumption, and area demand. The problem of animal ethics – alarming in itself – may at last find a happy solution. A world without slaughter and animal industries is a world that also takes animals without human language into consideration, thereby relieving itself of a heavy moral burden.

The phasing out of the animal industry would lead to less environmental pollution and poisoning when nitrate from manure would no longer leach into the groundwater and rivers and streams, turning into algae bloom, and eutrophication. The high content of phosphorus in human excrement would become less with more vegetable production instead of animal production. For example, as a study from the Swedish Royal Institute of Technology shows, the water in Stockholm would immediately be one-third cleaner if half of the animal ingredients in people’s food were replaced with vegetables.

The neglected FAO report focuses not only on the consequences of the animal industries on climate change and the environment in general, it also shows that these industries are one of the biggest factors behind the world’s decreasing supplies of fresh water: The production of one kilo of vegetable protein may require 98,000 less litres of fresh water than the production of one kilo of meat from cows (California). And this in a world where already more than one billion people lack access to clean water. (Actually, each person may save more fresh water by abstaining from eating a large hamburger made of animal protein compared to not taking a daily shower for one year.)

Thus, huge economic gains may be made, would society abolish the subsidies that are given to the animal industries: 350 billion dollars per year is granted in support of world agriculture. In the 2004 budget of the EU, half of the tax money was spent on various forms of agricultural subsidies. These state subsidies and credits could be used for more urgent needs than to support an environmentally destructive, energy-consuming and uneconomical agricultural system. What about looking over the tiny investments on women’s shelters, integration, elderly care, pre-schools, animal welfare, and culture? It would not be hard to find activities on which to invest the billions now granted to the animal industry.

That is the measure on a national and international level. The private and the state levels should not be played out against each other. Both may be good politics, and to choose between them is rather a counter-productive result of an antiquated line of thinking: the logic of either-or. Sweden, Swedish companies and households have, all in different ways, backed provincial meat food into becoming the global norm.

For those who wish to do something about their personal part in the climate crisis, and about starvation in the world, there are more alternatives to choose from than the recommendation: “the only thing you have to do is to give up flying.” Recently, the scientists Gidon Eshel and Pamela A. Martin at the University of Chicago found that the amount of carbon dioxide, from production to distribution to cooking and eating, is considerably lower in a vegan diet than in the standard American diet. The vegetable diet causes one and a half tons less carbon dioxide per person per year compared to standard food. Giving up a couple of eggs and a few steaks and hamburgers every week does make a difference and is a good start, the scientists say. This choice can be made three times a day.

How do we stop regarding problems of environmental and social justice as isolated from each other? How does the threat to our world become a start for new ideas and better alternatives? How do we continue to open the borders of the world – in a sustainable and socially justifiable way? How do we make it possible for more people to travel and meet each other? What can be done to support the peasants of the world, 70 percent women, in sustaining themselves and live a good life? More trains and boats, taxes on airlines, research on environmentally sound aeroplane motors. Phased-out subsidies to the animal industries, abolished tariffs on imported refined food stuffs to the EU, a Tobin tax, written-off national debts. Rehabilitated vegetable and sustainable food cultures spread over the world. Etcetera – feel free to add to the list. It is time to demand more than one thing. It is time to look over the whole system. It is time to invite your mother to a dinner of veggie meatballs and root vegetables au gratin.

 

Published in Arbetaren Radar 2007 no 4 (January/February), translated from the Swedish

©Arimneste Anima Museum #6

 

Dissolving love bars

 

 

Romeo and Juliet (class), Othello and Desdemona in Othello (exterior), Fred and Laurence in Xavier Nolan’s Laurence anyways (gender), Chiron and Kevin in Tarell Lavin McCraney and Barry Jenkins’ Oscar winning poetic childhood story Moonlight (sexuality).

Consider all loving relationships that were hindered due to society’s classifying in either confirming or deviating from the stated pattern. Relationships of love which were stopped, but defied, and survived, and moved mountains. Two jazz lovers with a sense of humour run into each other at a ball in London. The year is 1947, one of them has been a volunteer during the war and is now working as a clerk at a lawyer’s firm, the other is a law student at the university. After a few weeks of dating, they decide to get married.

It may sound somewhat trivial. Two people meet, find a common vibe, fall in love for life. Happens all the time. However, Ruth Williams is white and Seretse Khama is black; moreover, he is the successor of the British protectorate Bechuanaland, today Botswana. The couple’s love turns into an intercontinental political subject of highest concern; both the British colonial rule and the families try to avert the liaison even though there are no legal obstacles either in Bechuanaland or in Great Britain.

But the racism of the period is deeply entrenched in the economic and political conditions of power. South Africa’s prime minister Malan, followed by the Nazi sympathizer Strijdom, instates apartheid and bans marriages between black and white people; upon which Bechuanaland, neighbour in the north, becomes a haven for ANC notable activists Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo, and the author Bessie Head. A mixed prince couple harbouring democratic ambitions and settling down in Bechuanaland is unthinkable to the white minority government of South Africa.

And Great Britain prioritizes its own economic interests – the British mining companies’ activities in South Africa – and obeys the South African demands.

On the 10th of March the film director Amma Asante’s [Belle] excellent A United Kingdom premieres. The film is based on Susan Williams Colour Bar, the Triumph of Seretse Khama and His Nation, a book documenting every diplomatic turn and every protest campaign in the battle concerning the existence of the Khama couple.

Large sections of the people in Bechuanaland backed the Khama couple by boycotting  British taxes, and by refusing to cooperate; support organizations in Great Britain cultivated opinion and assisted mass media with argument and facts; racists holding bureaucratic key posts in the British imperial rule were replaced with more enlightened people.

At the same time, students returned from elite universities in the West and created African independence movements that challenged the British colonial system. Supported by a women’s revolution, an overlooked and decisive event told about in the book, but rather skipped over in the film, Botswana became a democracy including women in 1996 with Oxford-educated Seretse Khama as president.

It must be noted that there was a female candidate to the position, Oratile Sekgoma, whom the British refused to cooperate with. A woman in the highest office of the nation “was out of the question”, according to the British. Perhaps it was easy to forget who resided in the seat of honour back home.

Undoubtedly, the love between Ruth and Seretse contributed into shaking the British empire. However, for many years they fought in vain against the economic and political power plays. A private situation construction worker Richard Loving and home worker Mildred Loving in the USA of the 1960’s most probably would have identified with. In Jeff Nichols empathizing film Loving, following Nancy Buirski’s documentary The Loving Story (2011), shown at the Gothenburg Film Festival in February, the couple Loving, she categorized as black, he as white, has a formal certificate to prove their marriage.

To no avail. The police arrests and extradites the newly wed from the state of Virginia. Either they get divorced and move back or they stay wedded and are forbidden to return home. The discrimination laws of Virginia destroy the future of the couple Loving, but racism cannot destroy their love. To both the Lovings and Khamas the option to give up did not exist, their love gave them no choice. Even Richard Loving was affected by racism and was critiqued and heckled by both white and black people. Ruth Khama equally, especially in Bechuanaland, where, among other things, the white colonists shut her out from social life and denied her entrance at hotel restaurants.

The couple Khama and the couple Loving  were interviewed, in their respective time, and separately, by Life Magazine as part of the struggle for the legalization of mixed marriages. Many sympathizing people gave their support – more in the case of the wealthy couple Khama than in the considerably less privileged case of the couple Loving.

How wonderful then that Mildred Loving’s effort for the right to love turns out to be decisive. Mildred’s external environment monitoring of protest marches on television gives her the idea to write to Robert F. Kennedy, who furthers the issue to a law firm willing to take on the case without billing. The case is tried with success in the Supreme Court, which constitutionally abolishes the ban on interracial marriages, accordingly in the sixteen American states in addition to Virginia that still had racial laws.

The couple Khama opened the eyes of the world to loving relationships regardless of skin colour. The case of the couple Loving became the tipping point that made loving legal in the whole of the US. And eventually with an even wider significance: In 2015, in Obergefell vs Hodges, the verdict in Loving vs Virginia was used to criminalize the discrimination of gay marriages in the US.1 Earlier that year, a resolution acknowledging equal marriage rights including same sex couples was adopted by the European Parliament. A reform that was instituted in Sweden 2009, and recently in Finland (1st of March).

Marriage, or not marriage. Living together, or not living together. Loving relationships, or not loving relationships. The choice ought to be voluntary and equal for all. Every year, the 12th of June, Loving Day is celebrated in the USA in remembrance of Mildred’s and Richard’s victory in the Supreme Court 1967. The celebrators are most often of divergent sex, but an increasing number of freely sexed people have started to party before Pride.

Since everyone’s right to be who they are, or want to be, and everyone’s right to love whomever they want to love, dissolves many borders. Considering the dubious attitude of the new American president towards human rights, awareness of this kind is more urgent than ever.

 

Originally published in AAM 4th of March 2017, translated from the Swedish

  • Susan Williams, Colour Bar, the Triumph of Seretse Khama and His Nation, Penguin/Random House, 2006
  •  Not. 1. The film The Case Against 8, 2014, tells about the legalisation of same sex marriages in California.
  •  Picture from the movie, actors: David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike

©Arimneste Anima Museum #6

The Utmost Silence

 

 

reading animality in the fiction of Coetzee

During the 1960s and onward to the beginning of the 1980s the South-African apartheid regime administered one of the most comprehensive censorship policies in the world. Not only books, magazines, films, theatre plays, but also children’s toys, key rings – everything that might contain unwanted messages – were examined. How state censorship affects literature is discussed by the South African author J. M. Coetzee in his anthology against press censorship: Giving Offense, Essays on Censorship, University of Chicago Press (1996).

An author subjected to scrutiny sharpens his/her means of expression and finds ways to get past the censors. But he/she cannot eschew the effect of internalised monitoring – an unaware gagging doing the job for the censor. Mentalities that must be the dream come true for all state censors: Citizens watching over themselves! The philosopher J. S. Mill observed an additional level: ’censure’, the prevailing public opinion as social tyranny, implying intolerance against deviant feelings and opinions, and thus silencing debate.

 

 

A few years ago, in the year 2000 – six years after the abolition of the apartheid system – J. M. Coetzee was criticized for having written pessimistically about the Rainbow nation’s possibilities to survive (the possibilities for blacks and whites living together). A Member of Parliament raged at the novel Disgrace (1999), interpreting it as a murder on the dream of equality in South Africa.  Today the book is used in the South African schools. For a writer, whose authorship is marked by subtle – read censorship smart – criticisms against apartheid, the attack must have felt like cruel irony.

In several of J.M. Coetzee’s books there is an overlooked theme: the relation between humans and other animals, and the ethical questions this relation gives rise to. It can hardly be asserted that animal ethics discussions are exposed to conscious censorship directed by the state. Nevertheless, animals are exposed to comprehensive legal exploitation in the meat- and pharmaceutical businesses, and of this exploitation there seems to be general acceptance. Thus, there is a risk for Mill’s ’censure’: neither the state nor the public has an interest in validating questions about the plight of animals. Interesting, then, is the role the animal theme plays in the drama surrounding Coetzee’s novel Disgrace.

In an article in Journal of Literary studies (2001) the South African literature scholar Wendy Woodward shows how animals in the novel Disgrace may be read as being real beings, rather than, as is usual, as mere metaphors for human lives. And suddenly the terms change for the kind of political interpretation Disgrace was exposed to.

Only if the animals in the novel are read exclusively as metaphors, the interpretation ’murder on the dream of a rainbow nation’ becomes conceivable; and the last sentences may even appear as scornful:

’Bearing him [the dog] in his arms like a lamb, he re-enters the surgery. ”I thought you would save him for another week,” says Bev Shaw. ”Are you giving him up?”

”Yes, I am giving him up”.’

Is the dog one with the dream of equality in South Africa? Has the dog a value of his own? Or are both readings important? If the animals in Disgrace are seen as real individuals, the text is transformed. The tone in the novel changes, another dimension is added, and the death of the rainbow dream becomes unjust, and sad. The protagonist, the aging white man, becomes a disillusioned participant in the murder/murders of the homeless animals, and his daughter’s pregnancy (she keeps the child, the result of a gang rape) becomes the – however tragic – seed to the realisation of the Rainbow dream. Not side by side but in coexistence.

Who would have thought this? That forgotten dogs could lead Parliament Members astray? Without animals, there exist no chances for an equal future.

The interpretation of Coetzee’s animals as bearers of real life rather than as only metaphors is strengthened by Coetzee’s and Amy Gutmann’s book The Lives of Animals (1999) where the situation of animals in the grip of human power constitute the main theme. The book consists of two lectures given by Coetzee at Princeton University about the fictional author Elizabeth Costello, who in turn gives two lectures on the subject of animal ethics at an American university.

 

 

Who is saying what? Is Costello Coetzee? Does Coetzee with his form experiment show awareness of the conditions for discussions on animal ethics? Is the hybrid form of the book a way of evading the informal censorship, J. S. Mill’s ’censure’? Coetzee’s texts have been commented upon by four scholars. The question from literary scholar Marjorie Garber captures the essence of the book’s theme: Are these lectures in fact not about animals but about the value of literature?

However: Why not both? And: Why not also about ’censure’? The significance of the animal theme in Coetzee’s authorship is strengthened once more by Coetzee’s recent title Elizabeth Costello, eight lessons, where the author’s texts in The Lives of Animals are included as the longest lessons, 3 and 4. Here the role of animals in literature and in human society is of importance not only to the interpretation but also in relation to the authorship as a whole. In the Swedish edition, the two lessons have disappeared, and the subtitle ’eight lessons’ has been changed to ’six lessons’ – without any information about this in the book.

In other words: A novel (the English original edition) has become a completely different novel (the Swedish edition) under the pretence of being the same. An illusion is created. The field of vision and the interpretive variations have been curtailed. The protagonist, the author and feminist Elizabeth Costello, has been reduced and the animal chapters (the texts in themselves and the animals in them) have been transformed; from being alive, to being invisible, non-existent. And all of this happening under the utmost silence.

So, the significance of the animal theme becomes once again a kind of politics. In this case there is a soothing paradox: as absentees it is hard to play a greater role.

 

Translated from the Swedish

First published 6th of February 2004 in Stockholms Fria Tidning

©Arimneste Anima Museum #3

The lost parallel

 

 

between literature, images of fruits and flowers, bicycles, and titan legs

The overall relationship between humans and the category of animals is much chronicled in European history. In fact, the human-induced killing of animals was acknowledged by Greek philosophers Aristotle, 384−322 BC, and Plutarch, 45−125 AC, respectively, as a kind of war. In the eyes of Plutarch, the killing of animals had profound impacts on human society; here quoted from Moralia, On the eating of Flesh, lecture II:

‘Even so, in the beginning, some wild and mischievous beast was killed and eaten, and then some little bird or fish was entrapped. And the love of slaughter, being first experimented and exercised in these, at last passed event to the labouring ox, and the sheep that clothes us, and to the poor cook that keeps the house; until by little and little, insatiableness being strengthened by use, men came to the slaughter of men, to bloodshed and wars.’

For most people, there were few or no other choices than to obey the master, the sovereign, the owner of the land, and take part in the killing of others, human and nonhuman, in wars and in hunting. Yet, most ordinary people subsisted on a mainly frugal diet, eating that which resulted from working the soil, collecting fruit and berries from trees and bushes, catching occasional fish from streams and lakes. In fact, the killing of other mammals, ‘meat’, was never a standard feeding ingredient for the European majority. The consumption of animal flesh by the society’s elite constituted rather a manifestation of power, towards other creatures, and towards the people.

However, there were parallel stories and parallel life approaches, such as the one suggested by Plutarch. Would history have staged differently, had Plutarch’s warning of the consequences of killing animals resounded through Europe? Some people may have listened and absorbed his wisdom; and ideally, the European continent would then have developed in more peaceful ways.

Anyhow, in the enlightenment tradition, there are to be found traces of Plutarch’s cross-species non-violence, in the writings of Montaigne, Rousseau, and Voltaire, and among some of the revolutionaries, both English and French, during and after the French Revolution. For instance, in his Tableau de Paris from 1782 and 1783, Louis-Sébastien Mercier states about the frequent slaughtering of animals in the city:

‘But his [a young bull] groans of pain, quivering muscles and terrible convulsions, his final struggle as he is trying to avoid an inevitable death; all this attests to the fear of violence, pain, and suffering. Look at the terrible pounding of his naked heart, his eyes darkening and languishing. Oh, who can contemplate this, who can listen to the bitter sighs of this creature sacrificed for man!’ ‘These streams of blood affect the morals of humanity as much as they affect the body and lead to the corruption of both.’

Mercier’s colleague Olympe de Gouges, in her revolutionary thinking, contested both human slavery in the French colonies and the suppression of women, proclaiming all humans in the world, of whatever sex or colour, to be equally and naturally included in the animal realm, stating humans to be the ‘most beautiful’ of all animals.

In the years following the French revolution, lamenting its failure, writers such as the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley blamed public butcheries and copious drinking habits for the domestic bloodshed that caused the revolution to collapse. Had the people been less accustomed to the slaughtering of animals in the streets, Shelley argued in a manner reminiscent of Mercier and Plutarch, they would not have accepted the violence that affected fellow Parisians, and maybe the revolution could have survived and escaped Napoleon’s dictatorship and wars.

I have hitherto made references to an almost exclusively male non-violence literature tradition. This is, however, no wonder since for most of European history people ascribed to the category of women – half of the population – were generally excluded from formal learning, qualified education, payment, equal hereditary rights, and sexual rights, civil and political rights. Women did probably write on the subject of hunting and domination; however, this writing is still yet to be discovered.

Nonetheless, in fine art, in the same era as Rubens painted the goddess Diana in a romanticising scene of hunting, several women artists painted themselves or other people instead holding animals, caressing animals, tables of fruits, tables of flowers: Lavinia Fontana, Anna Maria Van Schurman, Judith Leyster, Louise Moillon, Raschel Ruysch.

These hyper-skilled artists may indeed have felt, and known by experience, that Ruben’s Diana was not a real person; that she is a figurehead, a pictorial euphemism, an allegory deployed to depict a reality, which, unless you stage as the mock Diana, has little beauty in it.

Chances are these artists rather identified themselves with the hunted animal, thrown to the ground, robbed of its, his or her possibilities and autonomy by humans who might have chosen to do otherwise. Alternative myths of bravery told in these times may also have come to mind: The story of Francis of Assisi making friends with birds and wolves, and the legend of an anonymous woman defending a deer who, having fled through the woods from a hunting party, finds refuge at her human feet.

Despite the fact that world forest areas are shrinking to give way to feedlots for the mass production of beef, causing oxygen levels to fall and reserves for carbon emissions to disappear, thereby threatening the intertwined survival of human and nonhuman, hunting has nowadays become a popular sport. Indeed, modern hunting in the Northern hemisphere, although in itself disruptive to ecological systems, is marketed as an attractive leisure, accessible for people of whatever gender, seemingly natural, but artificially complete, with big heated vans, state of the art technological weapons, and latest countryside fashion clothes.

As many of the things we appreciate and enjoy in modern life are human-made, artfully or not, ranging from bicycles to titan legs, computers, plant meat stuff, and contraceptives, it can hardly be the artificiality that makes hunting remarkable. That which makes luxurious hunting remarkable – in every millennium – is rather the killing of those that cannot defend themselves, the outlook and practice of the one who has everything but goes to war against the one who has nothing but his, her or its own life.

 

First published in Contributor no 12 2016

Photo Planet bicycle by Alexandra Eklöf Gålmark

 

©Arimneste Anima Museum #2

 

 

 

 

Rosana Antolí

 

rosana-antoli-quan-les-linies-son-temps-espai-13-fundacio-joan-miro-foto_pere-pratdesaba-7

 

Hur kan tiden visas som form och upplevelse?

Vikten av att ifrågasätta standarduppfattningar om växande, tid och utveckling som linjärt bestämda är numera erkänd. Inte lika erkänt är varifrån denna kritik stammar: urbefolkningar, miljörörelsen och ekofeministiska tänkare.

Men går tiden att tänka som en egen kropp? En ormliknande dito, hopsnurrad runt sig själv? Med återgångar och upprepade svängar, likväl på väg mot kroppsänden, därmed sitt slut?

Rosana Antolís When lines are time, kurerad av Martí Manen på Fundació Joan Miró i Barcelona 1/7 2016 – 11/9 2016, leker med kronologin som koreograferad materiell rörelse, som installation och som cirkulärt agerande: Hur tänker jag tiden? Hur känner jag den?

Antolí gör kritiken av det linjära till form; uppfattningen om tid som något universellt rakt och platt stämmer inte. Som bild och symbol för vars och ens enskilda upplevelser brister den; händelser återkommer, känslor återkommer, viker av, gör språng, far ut, landar, tycks upphöra men fortsätter i samma kropp inuti ett rektangulärt rum.

Antolís tidsorm av ögonblick som staplas i mängd syns här som medvetandemässigt exakt; i överensstämmelse med och beroende av källan, det unika medvetandet:

Du blir av med din sko, du är fem.
Du tappar din sko, du är trettiotre.
Du får inte på dig din sko, du är sextiosju.
Du är elva, du sviker en vän.
Du är fyrtiotvå, du blir sviken av en nära vän.
Du är etthundrasju, du förlorar din första vän, du får nya vänner.

Att genomleva en känsla, att återuppleva den som en ny känsla som uppstår i den gamla. Hur skulle just min eller din tid, våra liv, se ut om de tog form i böjd materia på detta vis? Vilken sorts riktat trassel summerar vår tid, våra medvetanden? När blir just min tid till en form redo att ställa ut?

 

rosana-antoli-quan-les-linies-son-temps-espai-13-fundacio-joan-miro-foto_pere-pratdesaba-2

 

Det är möjligt att tänka frågor om tiden som individuellt existentiellt mänskligt ontologiska, fastän de samtidigt är samhälleliga och civilisatoriska. Hur skulle olika samhällen – kollektiven av människors och andra varelsers – villkor, kamper, ögonblick, trassel av sett och återsett, känt och återupplevt samla sig i en ringlande ormkropp?

26th of August 2016

In English

©Arimneste Anima Museum #1

 

 

Archive

Nummer #9

Lidandelarmet

Freden på bordet

On the origin of violence

Man-male-machine

 

Nummer #8

The hidden climate poetry

Eco climate poetry

Soon it will crack

Pig? Who?

När börjar freden

 

Nummer #7

Hundens genius

Materialet som gick därifrån

Rävarna raskar över isen

Råd för det demokratiska försvaret

 

Nummer #6

Nanine Vallain

Sophocles’ Antigone

Where is my home? Apropos Kafka

Rosana Antolí

Climate, Grub and Politics

 

Nummer #5

Spökets viskningar eller ”the elephant in the room”

Slick knockout

Skärgårdshavet Saaristomeri

 

Nummer #4

Var är mitt hem?

Antigone

Skin cloths

Soul sister

 

Nummer #3

The Utmost Silence

Dissolving love bars

Hidden figures

Ouaga girls

 

Nummer #2

Freedom connected

Léonora Miano

Oeniga eniga

Röster

Skallgång saknade

The lost parallel

 

Nummer #1

Andrea Fraser

Den dolda ekopoesin

Därför är det dags att göra slut med jaktromantiken

Rosana Antolí