Category Archives: riptides

From Rights To Obligations

Today, shares in a dystopic “gig economy” company (Uber) will be offered to a public apparently willing to swallow even the most outrageously distorted narrative.

Concurrently,  the CEO of one of the most toxic companies in history (Amazon) has announced his plan to “build a road in space”:  “Do we want stasis and rationing or do we want dynamism and growth? This is an easy choice. We know what we want. We just have to get busy.”

Oh my. A man apparently addicted to “getting busy.”

Earlier this week saw the release of a report documenting abundant evidence of accelerating extinction rates while craven officials licked their chops over the opportunity to drill drill drill; busy, busy, busy.

In the midst of this death dance of neoliberalism, we turn to a historian who has devoted a lifetime of research to recuperating and celebrating histories of resistance to the commodification of every living and dead thing: Peter Linebaugh.

Excerpts from a recent interview below, with images from Doris Salcedo’s “Shibboleth”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Law of Ecocide

This week, with much sadness, we take note of the untimely death of one of the most extraordinary environmental activists of our times: visionary barrister Polly Higgins.

Higgins devoted her life towards establishing ecocide as a crime against the whole of life on Earth. The following tribute by Satish Kumar, editor emeritus of Resurgence and Ecologist , underscores the deep significance of her life’s work:

 

 

Below, her proposed legal definition, relayed from Eradicating Ecocide. We also link to two videos, the first recording a conversation with Charles Eisenstein dating from 2013, the second a recent interview with Real Media.

 

 

 



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We note that as of this writing her death is still not mentioned on her website; that is as it should be, since her pioneering work will certainly be continued by her skilled and devoted legal team. Subsequent conviction of those responsible for the plunder and devastation of Earth’s ecosystems will be her lasting legacy.

 

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An Ecology of Intimacy

This week, we return to the voice of Leanne Simpson with excerpts from a longer essay published in 2016, critiquing the pseudo-reconciliation process launched by the “liberal” Trudeau government in Canada.

As Jill Stauffer so brilliantly demonstrates in her pioneering book Ethical Loneliness, a false reconciliation does nothing but retraumatize the victim while further entrenching the moral sanctimony of the perpetrator.

Images link to Simpson videos, also worthy of deep listening.

 

 

 

 

 

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House On Fire

As at COP24, that shamefully inert gathering inside a former Polish coal mine towards the end of last year, the only person who made any sense whatsoever during the annual Davos Festival of the Exalted Egos: Greta Thunberg, as she broke the stupefying complacency with a concise call for urgent action towards the creation of a radically new political and economic paradigm.

The panel to which Thunberg had been invited had been scheduled to discuss “Responses to Climate Disruption”. She rejected that theme out of hand, and instead held a roomful of leather-loafered feet to the fire. Much media hubbub was generated by an economic historian who dared to suggest that the world’s ultrarich should pay their fair share of taxes; Greta’s words were treated as if someone had released a methane burp beneath the lavish buffet table.

Excerpts below, with images from a series of Scorched Earth paintings by Lynn Christine Kelly.

 

 

SCORCHED EARTH 13

 

 

SCORCHED EARTH 32

 

 

WE MUST CHANGE EVERYTHING

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We took note of a quote from Hermann Hesse used by Lynn Kelly on her home page, relayed below:

 

 

There is the heart of the new paradigm,

in the heart of the trees, now scorched:

the ancient law of life.

 

 


On Behalf of the Crushed

During a week when the most mindless power struggles distract attention from fresh evidence of a climate breakdown endgame for which few are prepared, we turn to a lucid essay by Costica Bradatan, author of Dying For Ideas: The Dangerous Lives of Philosophers. The essay is worthy of close reading in its entirety; excerpts below, with images from the studio of Richard Kurtz, whose sublime visions are on display this weekend at the NYC Outsider Art Fair.

 

 

INVULNERABLE (DETAIL)

 

 

INVULNERABLE

 

 

INVULNERABLE (DETAIL)

 

 

INVULNERABLE (DETAIL)

 

 

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The next sentence in the cited text from Simone Weil strikes us as even more important:

“Unless one has placed oneself on the side of the oppressed, to feel with them, one cannot understand.”

Among the oppressed, we would include the countless non-human species of life that disappear each day from the biosphere. Do we really think that we are exempt from the rhythm of erasure, incarnate within the Sixth Extinction?

 

Let us place ourselves

on the side of all life forms facing elimination

as a result of toxic human supremacism. 

Only then will we be able to navigate

with deepest humility

into a viable future.

 

 

 


Nothing On Earth

All the flap about the abysmal behavior of a pouting POTUS obscured deeper meanings surrounding the centennial of an armistice for a war that was supposed to end all wars. Of all the writing marking the occasion, an essay by William Vollmann in the Smithsonian best conveys the horrors of those years.

Brief excerpts below, with details from — and a source photograph for — John Singer Sargent’s painting, Gassed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Last Holiday

Now comes a guest essay by our roaming poet-correspondent Jon Swan, with images added by DP:

An ancient film – it came out in 1950 – called Last Holiday and featuring Alec Guinness, tells the story of a modest farm-equipment salesman who, diagnosed as having a fatal form of cancer, withdraws his life’s savings, buys a set of handsome second-hand clothes and a car, and drives off to spend his last holiday at a posh resort, where he meets and charms influential people, falls in love, and encounters a cancer specialist who assures him that he has been misdiagnosed and has years to live. Overjoyed, our hero hurries back home to prepare for his new life and, swerving to avoid a dog lying in the middle of the road, crashes, and is killed.

Now, here we are – nearly three quarters of a century later and it seems that all those who can afford to travel are hurrying off to spend one last, or next to last, or just one more holiday – in Amsterdam, for example, which was visited by 18 million people in 2016 (a million more than the total population of the Netherlands); or Barcelona (population: 1.7 million), which last year attracted more than 32 million tourists; or the sinking city of Venice (permanent population: 55,000), which annually attracts 20 million milling tourists; and so on. These massive visitations substantiate the observation of German novelist and poet Hans-Magnus Enzensberger: “Tourists destroy what they are looking for by finding it.”

 

WE FOUND THE CANAL!

 

It’s not only the presence of so many people in such little space that creates havoc with local customs and prices, as well as the costly problem of collecting and disposing of waste; it’s the way the hordes are arriving, especially those disgorged by cruise ships.In a recent report, NABU, Germany’s Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union, pointed out that, while cruise ship companies try to make cruising appear an environmentally friendly tourism sector, “one cruise ship emits as many air pollutants as millions of cars.” The press release explained: “This is because sea-going vessels use heavy fuel oil for their engines, a fuel that on land would have to be disposed of as hazardous waste. Heavy fuel oil can contain up to 3,500 times more sulphur than diesel that is used for land traffic vehicles.”

Furthermore, NABU reported,cruise ships lack the kind of exhaust- abatement technologies that are standard in trucks or passenger cars, and the stuff they spew from their snow-white chimneys – black carbon, in particular — contributes “massively” to global warming. “Almost 50 percent of the warming of the Arctic is attributed to black carbon,” the report points out. Coincidentally, an August 29 Rolling Stone article by Jeff Goodell noted: “The Arctic has been heating up faster than any other place on the planet. Last winter, temperatures in the Arctic were 45 degrees Fahrenheit above normal.” The article bore the headline: “The Melting Arctic Is a Real-Time Horror Story — Why Doesn’t Anyone Care?”

 

CRYSTAL SERENITY ON ICE

 

While the cruise ships befoul the air at one level, the airplanes that ferry the well-to-do to their vacationland dreams are laying down layers of global-warming C02 in the skies above. In July 2017 The New York Times published an article by Tatiana Schlossberg that bore the headline Flying is Bad for the Planet. You Can Help Make It Better and that starts off by stating:  “Take one round-trip flight between New York and California, and you’ve generated about 20 percent of the greenhouse gases that your car emits over an entire year.” According to some estimates, Schlossberg notes, “about 20,000 planes are in use around the world, serving three billion passengers annually. By 2040, more than 50,000 planes could be in service.” Meanwhile, perversely if not irrationally, to encourage “brand loyalty,” airlines reward frequent fliers with so-called free miles.

On July 5 of this year Medium, an on-line platform, published an article by Douglas Rushkoff, a highly regarded media theorist, which bore the headline Survival of the Richest, with the subhead stating The Wealthy Are Planning to Leave Us Behind. It was promptly picked up by The Guardian, which ran the piece under the headline How Tech’s richest plan to save themselves after the apocalypse. The article describes the author’s surprise at being invited, for a hefty fee, not to give a talk but to take part in a series of one-on-one meetings with hedge-fund millionaires anxious to know, for instance, which region will be safest during the coming climate crisis, or how do I maintain authority over my security force after The Event – this being their euphemism for environmental collapse, social unrest, nuclear explosion, and so on.  Aware that they would need armed guards to protect their compounds, they wanted to know how would they pay the guards once money was worthless.

They were, Rushkoff writes, “preparing for a digital future that had a whole lot less to do with making the world a better place than it did with … insulating themselves from a very real and present danger of climate change, rising sea levels, mass migrations, global pandemics, nativist panic, and resource depletion.”

 

SURVIVAL SUPPOSITORY

 

Both those wealthy enough to cruise or fly in pursuit of happiness and the super-rich are, in all likelihood, not unaware of the diagnosis for our survival as a species on planet Earth – doomed unless we radically alter our priorities, including reducing our dependence on fossil fuels — but appear unable to break the habits that have become symbolic of affluence and proof of our standing in society, or are just part of doing business as usual. We have been everywhere, and now look where we are – our foot on the pedal, going faster and faster, unable – unwilling — to swerve in time to avoid the smash-up of our civilization, not to mention the demise of our reckless species.

 

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Absence and Emptiness

This week, we note the death of fellow desperado philosopher Paul Virilio. Below, a montage of excerpts from a 2012 interview, bristling with ideas that have become ever more urgently relevant, as the world careens into dark spirals of toxic algos and avatars.

The images are details pinged from the extraordinary gunpowder paintings of Cai Guo-Qiang, featured at a recent exhibition at the Prado.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Virilio writes in Open Sky that one day the day will come when the day will not come; that day has come for him, in this fleeting iteration. May his ideas reverberate through the cosmos, jamming the fear.

 

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A Broken System

As the political circus continues to release one tragic clown after another into the remnants of the public sphere, we urge DP readers to turn attention away from the delusional ringmaster and focus on the national prison strike now underway.

Demands are listed here.

From all the many important voices that have come to the surface, we relay an excerpt from an anonymous “jailhouse lawyer” representing the organization Jailhouse Lawyers Speak, addressing issues of racial terror and prison slavery:

 

 

Next follows an excerpt from a Democracy Now interview, transcribing the voice of  made by Heather Ann Thompson, author of Blood In the Water: the Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy.

 

 

 

 

To repeat the last part of Ms. Thompson’s final sentence:

People standing together to let us know this system is broken and we’ve got to change. 

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What It All Means

On this day, seventy-three years following the second use of atomic weapons against a largely civilian population, we turn to Günther Anders with an excerpt from a presentation delivered to the Sixth World Congress of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War in 1986; the untitled painting (added by DP) is from the imagination of Kazuo Shiraga, and dates from 1962.

 

 

 

The entire address is worth close consideration, and might well have been written following Fukushima, or even yesterday, and let us meditate on these lines in particular:  

For what has to be done is to harass these people who are both not very bright yet also all-powerful and capable of deciding at their whim whether or not humanity will exist; we certainly have to curtail their power.

 

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