Confronted with individual cruelty, acts of hatred, I respond with anger, rage– and justifiably so, I think. But, then, I have to remind myself, that rage is also a cover for fear–not a simple fear of that individual, but a soul destroying fear of how, evil (let me call it that), threatens to rob me of my trust–in everything! Other people, the world, life itself…isn’t that what makes it, ‘evil?’I know that most people who do terrible things, are acting as part of something larger, that the Charles Mansons of the world–those who seem inexplicably evil, are rare. They are the stuff of literature, the Iagos, the Judge Holdens, and they are so threatening, because they seem to embody, as individuals–that sort of almost metaphysical evil, evil as a positive quality–not, as with most of the worst, as having something missing (I think of Kissenger, Pense, McConnel, an emptiness that is filled with the swill of the cultures of power and duplicity. That makes them no less worthy of our anger, but they are not manifestations of metaphysical evil, of demonic power that threatens the very possibility of humanly constructed meaning.I’m telling myself this, because, though I don’t formulate the rage I feel in those terms–I find that too often, I respond as though it were so–thrown onto a Shakespearean stage, the imaginary evil reified in those who wield power–from the elite who make a show of command, the sycaphants who carry out their orders, to the soldiers and cops who defend them. A living nightmare.A nightmare… of my own imagining. A nightmare that threatens to undo me.If they were, evil, in themselves–it would not be imaginary, but they are not. They are, in their actions, if not in their being, if not in what is left of their souls, ciphers. Empty ciphers on the gameboards of history. They can take my life, the lives of those I love, make a ruin of the world–but they do so as players in those terrible games. Like the little plastic and metal pieces on the Monopoly board. Pushed by forces they only imagine they control, around and around, going nowhere, arriving no where. Thy have no Way. And they have no power over me–of what grounds me in my essential trust in the world, in the circle of those I love, in the human family to which I belong.Be angry at what you see! I remind myself, but let me turn my energy to the forces that have made these failed humans do what they do, made them what they are, what they have become! Let me work to understand and name those forces, and stand with others in imagining, and creating a world that fills and nourishes our souls, our love for one another, and the good and terrible earth we must make into our home.
What makes art, revolutionary?
I’m fine with political art. We need it. But that’s still basing its value on use–on the use that is made of it, and not for itself, which is how this fucked up culture judges everything and deprives everything, human lives not the least, of any value but how they can be used, or what can be got from it.
Art that is USELESS is also revolutionary, not because of what it represents, but because it witnesses to the reality of inherent value, of value that can’t be reduced to any exchange.
I love art with a powerful revolutionary messages, and respect those who make it. But please don’t dismiss the not so obvious revolutionary power of holding to a belief in inherent value, autonomous from all else… as we must hold human life as of value, apart from all the ways it can be put to use.