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

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

Soul sister

 

 

The Mad Hatter, mad from the mercury in the glue the workers had to endure in the British sweatshops of the 1840s, says to Alice in Wonderland when she is lamenting the situation: ‘You have lost your muchness, Alice. You were much more muchier before.’ After having deliberated upon this, Alice decides in favour of her muchness. To make use of her freedom, and become a champion. By becoming a champion she is the one who kills the Beast, the war machine / the body prison / the patriarchy no one has mastered before.

Utopias can be the same as nowhere, can be the same as doom. Utopia is an unrealistic place and we are living in it to a large extent already. But let me start from the beginning. A wordless relation may be perceived as more profound than one filled with words. In Swedish the term used is ‘djur’, in latin animalia, or metazoa. In English the term is ‘animals’, originating from the latin animal, signifying with soul (anima).

In other words, those who breathe, those who have a soul. Those who have spaces of air to fill with consciousness. However – nota bene – no envy is justified here. ‘Animals’ is a term we ourselves are included in; man is also an animal.

Yet – among humans, the most common nonhuman animal is not a being who breathes. The most common nonhuman animal in human society is a being whose breathing has been extinguished. Extinguished consciousness. Extinguished body.

In Carolee Schneemann’s performance Meat Joy, exhibited at the First Festival of Free Expression at the American Center in Paris 1964, a group of almost naked people move around each other, and around meat parts of sausages, chicken, and fish. The group radiates energies of pleasure.

The artwork Meat Joy lets the bodily move. If not entirely freely, then at least openly. The bodies blend in voluptuous embraces. Senses and flesh are united. Living bodies are united with dead bodies. The art work’s element of meat food product blends the living flesh with the extinguished rotting meat.

The artwork is a free expression of sexuality against a backdrop of war. Intimacy and eroticism are staged against the aggression in Vietnam and Cambodia where the soldiers’ sex lives are destroyed (that is if their bodies survive). Young people’s tenderness and playfulness are transformed into anger and madness in the stench of dead bodies.

Schneemann’s work may be interpreted as a fulfilling of the patriarchal existence. Since human (by tradition) is the same as man, and man (historically) is the same as killing or commanding to kill, beginning in the obtaining of dead flesh as food, the being who has killed, or has survived the killing, becomes more of a human, and to consume that which is killed is transformed into an ideal erotic act.

The kind of protein chosen (the extinguished body of another animal, that which we call meat), requires killing, requires callousness of spirit. The one who aims to kill must learn to harm and to extinguish the breathing of the other. This is how the everyday practice of aggression begins. As a repetitive feature turned into a food habit that ingrains culture and evolves into a driving (necrophilia) force for dominance, and war.

A cultural force that contributes to civilization’s consumption of other species; in the aberration that the survival of other species is not intertwined with humanity’s own survival and that the nourishment and survival of mankind require the killing of others. In the aberration that the breathing of the human is not dependent upon the breathing of others, and that wordless consciousness does not count.

What have they done to the Earth?
What have they done to our fair sister?
Ravaged and plundered and ripped her and bit her
Stuck her with knives in the side of the dawn
And tied her with fences
And dragged her down

The Doors, ‘When the music’s over’ (Strange Days, 1967)

Jim Morrison’s ecofeminist despair is poetry’s depiction of and protestation against an attack war that resembles rape: The world is not to be harmed. The world is too indispensable to be exploited. And some paths are too beautiful to be mowed down. Some areas are too wonderful to be scrutinized. The gain is too small (or, too trivial, or harmful). The advantage is too small, and the price is too high.

But the materialized utopia of the exploiter is the same as the cutting down without repercussions. And deliberations are unnecessary since the Earth’s other beings are not regarded as someone’s sister.

In this kind of reality, meat from dead bodies becomes more valuable than other kinds of meat (meat from mushrooms, soya, fruit) since the bodies cost more energy and work (i.e. ravaging) to produce. Thus meat from killed animals is seen as more valuable because it requires more resources, thus requires more from society’s economy than the equally valuable plant protein (produced without war).

In such an economic order, animals are forcefully inseminated and lawfully covered in barns and well locked up facilities. Producers of cow milk may launch milk from Swedish farms on the market as ‘come a little closer to nature’, and The Asthma- and Allergy Association may sponsor TV-commercials speaking of meat parts as ‘safer food’, only a few months after the global H1N1-epidemic (originating from animal industries).

In such a global public space, silence resides when the Environmental Programme of the UN, in a report on the World Environmental Day 8th of June 2010, says that the two most important problems the world faces are the usage of fossil fuels, and agriculture’s focus on animal production (meat and milk from animals).1

The country’s political parties close their eyes, and stage an unaware replica of the artwork Meat Joy: All of them, with the exception of the Left Party, gather to enjoy extinguished animal bodies at a Swedish hamburger chain’s advertising party, in Almedalen, the biggest political festival of the year. They bring the barbecue into the garden and pull off the plastic cover from the meat packages.

And the Baltic Sea and the Saaristomeri Sea are filled with mud and algae. At another place, where the Swedish consumption affects even more, the corals of the seabeds turn white. The earth molders. The freshwater reserves runs dry. The forest areas are reduced. Cultivated land areas are diminished. The oxygen content decreases.

Peak Oil is followed by Peak Meat. The choice of protein, the choice to destruct animals and nature to obtain a certain type of food, pushes up the food prices at the world’s Southern continents. Simultaneously, the current family norm propagates mankind beyond the sustenance of the Earth (plus ninety million humans every year).

In a reality of impossibilities, utopia becomes unthinkable. In the endeavor for utopia, dystopia is created; the humans who contribute the least to the destruction (women and the young) are the ones who have to fight the hardest against getting rammed by the Beast’s ravings and temptations.

Hitherto humans in the category of women have attained liberation on the condition of not changing society’s direction. Not changing its glue and building components. If they, when having reached the steering wheel, have wished to turn the ship, they have had to say farewell. In this way, we are, not the least by our mothers, brought up to become pillars and backbone in the prevailing machine: lured into shopping, cooking, and being very afraid.

The obstacle to a joint liberation of the trivially extinguished bodies (Bos Taurus, Galliformes, Sus scrofa domestica, Melengridiane, Struthio camelus, É quus caballus and other species) is the arrogance humans show other humans. When the superordinated at the steering wheel of the Beast not even look minimally to their own species (regardless of sex and gender) – the right of everybody to a decent living standard, food to sustain one’s body, sexual freedom, and a membership in a union – they will hardly care about the necrophilia food culture they have created.

So – time to choose one’s own muchness. The liberation of animal bodies may give also human bodies the freedom to enjoy their own living flesh. Materializing their own humaneness, the uniqueness of our own species, and each and everyone’s personality, is to take what we want.

Nobody wants the imprisonment and the standing of no chance. And – the essentially common: Nobody wants the forceful covering. The kidnapping of the offspring, the confinement, the cramming, the rottenness and the stench, the hurting, the horror in the farming facilities, the assembly line of slaughter.

As we perceive it, nobody who is conscious wants this either.

No being who breathes. No soul sister.

Before performing her deed to kill the war machine, Alice convinces herself:
‘Why, sometimes I have believed as much as six impossibilities before breakfast.’

The Hatter gives her his support:
‘It is an excellent habit.’

In a world that has gone mad, it is indeed an excellent habit.

 

©Arimneste Anima Museum #4

Published in Bang Magazine, #3 Summer Issue 2010, translated from the Swedish.

  1. About the UNEP Report.

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

 

 

Därför är det dags att göra slut med jaktromantiken

 

 

Jakten har en ”potential att utgöra en länk till ett mer lyhört sätt att befinna sig i världen”, den är en möjlighet för människan” att återinträda i en meningsfull dialog med sin omgivning”, menar Helena Granström i en artikel i Expressen av den 17/9-16.

Det låter angenämt. Vem vill inte framstå lyhörd och dialogvillig?

Men det är svårt att föreställa sig hur sådana dygder ska återinträda genom jakten på andra varelser. Hur gevärskulor från det hobbyutövande jaktlaget som genomborrar den jagade, spränger dess blodådror och kroppsorgan, klipper dess band till avkomma och flockfränder, avbryter dess givna chans till levnadsbana, skulle kunna utgöra länken till ett lyhört förhållningssätt.

Vad är lyhördhet, vad är en dialog? Är ömsesidighet lika med att skjuta ned den andre? Vilken sorts civilisation smyckar sin föreställning med sådan orwellska av tvärtomspråk? Onekligen finns en mystik, en föreställningskonst kring jakten och dess förmenta nödvändighet som inte har så mycket med verkligheten att göra.

Men denna mytologi har djupa rötter, som i illustrationen till  artikeln, Rubens målning med Diana och hennes nymfer på jakt. Är Diana verkligen Diana eller representerade hon något annat för det dåvarande patriarkala samhället? Är Diana i sin utstyrsel unik, eller snarare mystiskt lik, andra kvinnor som målats av manliga konstnärer?

Hur kommer det sig att Diana inte målades av någon av Rubens samtida konstnärer inskrivna i kvinnokategorin – Lavinia Fontana, Clara Peeters, Anna Maria Van Schurman, Judith Leyster, Louise Moillon, Mary Beale, Raschel Ruysch, Elisabetta Sirani?

Varför är vi inte mera intresserade av vad dessa konstnärer målade istället? Eller av vad de unga begåvade kvinnorna i ”fel” samhällsklass skulle ha målat om de hade givits möjligheter?

Rättvisekänsla för parallella historiskt eller nutida underordnade berättelser kräver lyhördhet och dialog, att riktigt lägga örat och hjärtat till. Människor äger denna förmåga av naturen, och behåller den med uppmuntran, träning och medveten gödning.

Men kan också genom förhärdning förstöra den. Detta vet alla krigsherrar, inklusive dagens: Träna de unga rekryterna i att döda andra varelser – gärna små och utsatta som hos nazistarmén under andra världskriget när vrida huvudet av kaninungar och strypa hundvalpar var modellen – och soldaternas emotionella beredskap att döda människor är fulländad.

Ett faktum som ringar in det väsentliga: Mänskliga kulturer bör ta hänsyn till naturens villkor och begränsningar, men det vackert särskilda med oss människor är just att vi kan välja. Undvika förhärdning och dödande, eller som förordades i ovan nämnda artikel, inte undvika förhärdning och dödande, utan göra dödandet till ett ideal av ”intimitet”.

Ja, det sistnämnda valet ekar verkligen av igenkännligt maktspråk, som när hustru/partnermisshandlaren försöker rättfärdiga sig: Om jag njuter intimitet när jag våldför mig på dig, så är väl därmed våldet en del av kärlekens natur?

Jaktens våld och dess rättfärdigande är både en individuell och samhällelig genushistoria med resonans i vår tid, med dess hänsynslöshet och kapitaldrivna naturförstörelse, av forskare döpt till Antropocen. En tidsålder som inrättade den historiska jaktens förhärdning som materiellt ideal, inte som mänskligheten borde ha gjort, som brott och tragik.

 

©Arimneste Anima Museum #1

Bild: Louise Moillon 1610–1696

 

 

Archive

 

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