All of our thoughts and lore of Bigfoot center on a basic question – but is it real? This is the key concern here. Not Sasquatch, but Reality. The key concern is a test of science. The questions we ask are more in line with forensics. Hair. Footprints. DNA. Fossils. Carbon dating. As the 17th Century Enlightenment philosopher Sir Francis Bacon said the ambitions of science, “My only earthly wish is… to stretch the deplorably narrow limits of man’s dominion over the universe to their promised bounds… [nature will be] bound into service, hounded in her wanderings and put on the rack and tortured for her secrets.”
Because of all this outsourcing and privatizing of social responsibility, all this onus placed on individuals. It makes social movements, movements of solidarity, harder to create. In the last Gilded Age, the Progressive Movement changed politics, driven by social solidarity and evangelism. Same went for the Great Depression, driven by organized labor and grassroots democratic socialists. Can there be another wave? A Green New Deal? What quorum of power will drive this most critical turn? Could it be the first generations in human history that are being brought up in a world so bleak that extinction is literally possible?
What, in short, is in the periphery of Adonis, what in the shadows, behind the movie set kitchen? What is left unsaid? I can’t help but fantasize about the contents of the superhero’s garbage can. Does he recycle? What’s left of the now contaminated residuum of those single-serving wrappers of Cliff Bars? Are his Almond milk containers and plastic jugs of pea protein clogging up a landfill? Those leftover tins of tuna and sacks of raw, organic almonds, once lovingly stored in his stainless steel Frigidaire, now finding their way to the ocean to be inhaled by a sperm whale?
This may be dismissed off-hand as the bizarre world of the madman, but it’s indicative of a broader social pattern of grave suspicion of social reality, a kind of full flowering reifying the post-truth world we’ve found ourselves in. Entertainment has conquered reality after all, and buried the world of facts with it. Everything became suspicious, cynical. Art or entertainment no longer a reflection of the real world, but its hall of mirrors absorbing reality itself. Only when everything became an absorbing simulation, reality became somehow more melodramatic. It was emotional. It was meaner, fearful, dumber. The masters of the suspicion proliferated in tandem with the explosion of the phony world, and everyone’s lost their minds.
La Mer from Fragile Dignity on Vimeo.
Trumpism is like the political embodiment of those men who put truck nuts and noxious coal burners on their diesel pickup trucks filling up the streets with plumes of black death – what aficionados call “rollin’ coal,” or “Prius repellant.” Youtube has a plethora of videos where a couple of rednecks are yuckin’ in up watching their buddies billow plumes of death from their tailpipes on liberal roadside demonstrators in their pink hats. A glance at the comments below the videos and it’s clear who is watching ecocidal resentment porn – one read something like “nice job, should be using mustard gas though.”
It reveals to us a strange mix of cultures. One is the ordinary functional modern Houston, the air conditioned oil boom town, celebrating its entrepreneurs, robust business and hustler culture. The other is the extraordinary just under the surface, the rich texture of human community which is sadly amnesiaed in more mundane times. In Harvey, we see these dueling ethics clash in amazing ways, and reveals how Houston’s disaster could hopefully open our minds to learn how to survive the future peril of a new climate reality.
Given this context, Fearless Girl has an even more insidious, surreal quality. It’s like when Mercedes Benz appropriated Che Guevara at an auto show to promote their new cars as revolutionary. Or like when the Washington DC Martin Luther King Memorial is unveiled as a white statue. This is a function of capitalism as a political ideology, however, to absorb all dissent, to obfuscate criticism, sanitize history and flatten social space with a halo of social and political amnesia.