Never Forget That Freedom Is Fragile, Jamming, 24/08/2016

There was one incident at Lunaza that sticks in my mind. There were a lot of wonderful events. Basking in the joy of a new arts and music community’s rebellious and joyful spirit. Talking for an hour or so with my old friend EP at our campsite. 

It is a bit of a strange thing to pop up in the middle of a
field in The Goulds. The local locals didn't much like it.
Photo by the GF.
But there was one incident that expresses not only a perennial problem with being a progressive artist in Newfoundland. It’s also a very local expression of a broader issue that’s dominating contemporary politics in the West. 

Here's a story that’s unique to a very particular place. About an hour or so before their security staff arrived, the field where Lunaza Festival took place was visited by nine teenagers on ATVs and a pickup truck. They knocked over one of the decorative obelisks and almost did the same to their port-a-potties.

Razziki the organizer and I both understood what these creatures were. Skeets. Newfoundlanders know what I mean. Every society has these purposely ignorant, small-minded, perpetually immature, racist, homophobic, bullying dicks. 

But it seems – at least from my perspective – that Newfoundland has a peculiar version of these creatures. The Newfoundland Skeet shares with all its compatriots around the world the same resentment and hostility toward weird and artistic people. Where the Skeet differs, is that he doesn’t seem content to leave them alone.

It doesn’t even seem to matter when an artistic community can make money for the city and the province. No, “Techno music’s all weird and faggoty!” and “What’s all this gay shit propped up on wooden sticks?” These are people who laugh when they break something that belongs to someone else.

Those fuckers on their ATVs don't have nearly the
class that Ricky and Julian have in their little fingers
as they stir the ice in their drinks.
Their attitude is an aggressive hatred of the strange, unusual, and creative, precisely because it’s strange and unusual when their own lives are dulling repetitions. Out on the quad, ride around the dirt roads, eat, sleep, drink, fuck, repeat. Building anything noticeably unique is a demonstration of the futility of their thoughtless lifestyles. 

They hate it, and lash out.

This is a struggle that I think plays out throughout human society in a lot of different contexts. Thinking back on my personal experience over the last few years, I feel as though this attitude has contributed to some of the weirdnesses I’ve noticed in the Toronto startup scene.

I’ve come across a lot of job descriptions that, frankly, seem to chase trends – always just a little too late to really capitalize on them. And when I talk with business leaders, asking them about their ideas, I see bandwagon attitudes fairly often. “Everyone’s really starting to do X, so we’ve got our own spin on it.”

The city’s startup culture has plenty of enthusiasm, but on the whole, seems more intent on following what’s already peaked in Silicon Valley rather than developing fresh ideas and business approaches that grow more organically in Toronto’s and Canada’s cultural contexts.*

* I’m satirizing this attitude with a character in the current film version of You Were My Friend. Madison’s boss at a crashing sharing economy business gives us a lot of laughs with his enthusiasm. Thanks to a timely Patreon donation, that ridiculous man now has the name of my first Patron. I’m glad he has a good sense of humour.

A fear of the strange, of the unusual, of what’s never been seen before.

I’m speaking in very broad strokes when I say this – No, maybe I should say, instead, that I’m focussing on only one aspect to think in very vague, speculative terms, about a disturbing common feature to a lot of events that seem quite different.

Border patrol agents in Arizona, charged with keeping
the foreign out of the country. Did I make a suggestion
there? When does such a suggestion stop being a drunken
speculation and become a philosophical insight?
What does a band of ATV-riding halfwits have to do with the entrepreneurial (self-styled) elite of Canada? They react very differently – one bullies, the other blinds themselves. But there’s a common feature in their aversion to real difference, the genuinely unfamiliar and unusual. 

One group bluntly knocks the weird stuff over. One group just turns away from the weird stuff and pursues familiarity even when the familiar starts to fail.

Consider one application of this idea – aversion to the new and strange as a foundation of many diverse human habits. Over the next few days, I’m going to dig into Etienne Balibar’s thoughts on nationalism and state institutions. 

I’m already seeing aversion to the new and strange as the ground of a lot of the most violent nationalisms of our time. Balibar’s analyses trace how the institutions we live in can encourage those dangerous feelings. 

Call this one a prologue.

No comments:

Post a Comment