Poetry & Art on the Brink of Extinction


from December, 2009… waiting for the end. When OWS came along two years later… I was ready.

I had this feeling once before, on the third or fourth day of the Cuban missile crisis, standing outside the door of a nearly empty auditorium on the Campus of Wichita State University, listening to a member of the faculty playing a Bach partita for unaccompanied violin. This time, it doesn’t go away. It comes over me every time I look up at the sky.
Below is a comment I tried to leave to a post on pas au-delà, but there seemed to be a problem with the system. As it’s something I think about every time I hear someone complain about Obama’s failure, I’ll post it here. But pay a visit to Matt’s blog–and buy someone you love one of his beautifully crafted cutting boards for Xmas.

We need a revolution… but of what kind?

The problem with blaming Obama is it suggests that, whatever it is that’s wrong, the right individual in the right place, is going to be able to make it different. Even if there were truth to the cliché that the American president is the ‘most powerful man in the world,’ his power is still limited to stirring the soup; he can’t cook up a new reality. His power is borrowed–it belongs to the whole vastly complicated network that created the mess in the first place.

No president is going to start a revolution, and nothing short of revolutionary change is going to get us out of this. I say ‘revolution,’ because I can’t think of a better word–I sure don’t have in mind any historical example I can think of. Not going to help to turn the pie upside down, put the one’s on the bottom on top, but same old pie. And it’s not going to come from the top down. Before power corrupts, it blinds. Even the prospect of destroying all life on the planet isn’t enough to penetrate the belief of those used to having their way, the belief that they are in control, that whatever comes, they–if no one else, will be able to tough it out, to survive and prosper.

I don’t have a picture of how that ‘change we need’ is going to happen, but I’m damn sure it’s gotta be big… bigger than the industrial revolution, bigger than the emergence of nation states… something equal to the neolithic agricultural revolution, the beginning of settled urban life and our invention of the gods. In a way, our imaginations are still dominated by that vision–whether or not we hold to any of the great mythical systems that grew out of it. What we need is nothing short of starting over, of building anew from the ruins… (is this, perhaps, the ultimate challenge to artistic vision…?) trouble is, I don’t think we’re going to have a second chance. We have turned ourselves into collective infants–a two year old–who out of terror and anger at the failure of the gods we invented to define and lead us, are about to destroy everything in a final uncontrollable tantrum.


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