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The new fascism. (A personal and artistic response).

November 21, 2016

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‘It is far too late and things are far too bad for pessimism.’ Dee Hock

We are again living in the shadow of fascism. I don’t use the term lightly or as an insult. I am describing what I see.

I never imagined this. The history I learned in school playing out again. I assumed history was the past, would remain the past. History as warning, lesson, curiosity. Not prophecy.

The American election is just the latest, catastrophic manifestation of a new fascism: the re-election of the human-rights abusing government in Australia; Golden Dawn in Greece; the Polish Government; The NF in France; Brexit, with it’s Nazi-era propaganda posters. The chief strategist of the incoming US administration is openly linked to white-supremacism. Openly neo-fascist parties across Europe say they expect huge gains off the back of the recent US election. Beyond ‘The West’ violent, inhuman voices dominate the media and thug-governments, not from the fringes but at the very centre of power and wealth.

Dispossession and disempowerment, debt and despair – a landscape of fury where the powerless turn on the equally powerless, justified by gender, nation, race or religion. It is  actively encouraged by the powerful oligarchs and corporations who bestride the globe.

The powerful and rich are doing what they have always done, entrenching their power and wealth. They meet in Davos and watch the world burn. It is as if human history is a blood sport to them, watched gleefully from the corporate hospitality tent.

We are in the shadow of resurgent fascism. The President-elect claims to represent the ‘common man’. A commodity-trading UKIP con-man brands himself  a ‘man-of-the-people’. They stir up primal hatred then ascend in a gold-plated lift to the Penthouse and leave us to fight among ourselves.

Buffoons. Fascist buffoons. Like Hitler, Mussolini, Franco. Narcissistic heralds of apocalypse.

Sometimes people ask why ‘decent’ people in Germany in the 1930s did not protest, resist, rebel. One day that will be asked of us.

What did I do when the fascists came back?
How to respond?

***

I propose this to myself.

I can only propose to myself.

Others must make their own choices – that’s the world I believe in; a world where difference is celebrated, where we respect the right of others to make other choices.

I speak to myself at this time, and write this to see if I can live according to the ethics that I claim to live by.

I am an artist.
I will not apologise that I am an artist.

I will continue to be an artist.
Making art is not trivial or indulgent.
I do not see art as only an instrument in some other struggle.
I celebrate art, in all its indefinable permutations.

The future is imagined in art.
The present is made beautiful, understandable, communal by art.
The past is remembered through art.
Life needs art.

I will not tell others what art should be.How can I celebrate diversity if I demand homogeneity?
I will not let others tell me what my art should be.

I will find my way to serve.
I will serve.

Art is individual, social and political.

In a time of fascism, the social and political are unavoidable.
I will consider the consequences and implications of my work with redoubled scrutiny.

I will ask if my work connects me with those I want to be allied with, or, by default, with those who are the oppressors.

If I am offered work or funding, I will ask myself what is being bought from me.
If a government offers funding, what are they buying from me?
If a business wants me – a university or a corporation – what are they buying?

Am I willing to sell?
If I am funded to represent my country as an artist when my country is nationalistic and racist, does the good I hope my work achieves outweigh the damage done by legitimising the new fascism?

Does my work give succour, concealment or legitimacy to those who destroy my friends, my colleagues, my communities?
Am I being paid to normalise and legitimise the unforgivable?

I will NEVER normalise fascism.

We are asked to accept the ideology of these times as ‘part of the acceptable spectrum’.

I reject that.

Fascism, racism, nationalism, prejudice, oppression, are off the ‘acceptable spectrum’, however many vote for them.

If I accept some facet of fascism as normal, I open the door to the next ‘unacceptable’ becoming normal.

I will not be complicit in this.

When fascists appear in public, on the media, on our streets, they must be named as extremists, as inhumane, as dangerous.
Politely, if necessary, but uncompromisingly.

We will be asked, continually, to normalise extremism.

This is what the powerful want.

I refuse.

I will be unconditionally supportive and generous towards those who make different choices to mine.

I do not own other people’s ethics.
I do not own other artists’ work.
I will enthusiastically support and promote work and work-practices I do not like, if I feel they are genuine attempts to offer a progressive vision.
I will not make enemies of allies by assuming I know how they should act.

I will unconditionally accept those whose anger or fear is turned towards me because I make different choices to theirs.
I will not hate those who support fascism. They too, mainly, are the powerless and dispossessed.
My battle is with the system that breeds fascism, with the rich and powerful who manipulate it.

I will not try to silence those with whom I disagree or who make me uncomfortable.
I will not apologise for who I am, nor ask others to apologise for who they are.
I acknowledge privileges I enjoy and know that sometimes my privilege must be willingly given away.

 

I will support those who work inside the system.
I will support those who work outside the system.
I will support those who work against the system.
I will support those who work in the cracks between systems.
I acknowledge that I mainly occupy cracks between systems.

That is where my major efforts lie.
Others will work in other ways.

There will be compromises.

There are always compromises.

I will consider, accept, justify and own my compromises.
I will respect the compromises others make.

If I question their choices, I will respect their right to be different.
I will support those who choose to resist differently to the ways I choose to resist.

This above all:

I will redouble my commitment to laughter, to joy, to enthusiasm, to passion, to ridiculousness, to kindness, to radical generosity, to experimentation, to the truth of the body, to learning, to self-reflection and to love. 

Yes. Love.

We must build visions and realities that are so filled with joy and love that those who currently embrace hatred and fear want to dance with us instead.

We must, all in our own ways, build better ways of being together.

I will celebrate diversity, even when it makes me fearful and uncomfortable.
I am allowed to be fearful and uncomfortable.

***

Some years ago I sat with a South Indian dancer and her partner in Chennai. We talked about the spectres of right-wing extremism she identified in India, and that I saw in Europe. I wondered if we were in a re-run of the 1950s – a dark decade that served as prelude to an explosion of radical hope. She wondered if we were in a re-run of the 1930s, the prelude to holocaust and catastrophe.

I do not know.

Perhaps it will be decided by how each of us now chooses to respond.

‘This above all. To refuse to be a victim. Unless I can do that, I can do nothing.’ Margaret Atwood.

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