Gucci For Government

You have to marvel at the thick headedness of the writers, editors and commentators at The New York Times. Even now, in the midst of a deepening economic crisis, growing economic, social and political inequality, raging racist social and political realities, a deepening crisis of the state, an all out attack against the last bastions of social welfare protections for citizens, the near complete corporatisation of most every facet of public life and concern, they still find the time to vomit out garbage.

This is a New York Times ‘fashion critic’ – what the fuck is that? trying her hand at politics. I suppose in a day and age when Ivanka Trump can attend meetings at the G20, why not, you would say. Indeed, you would have a good point. After all, even Chelsea Clinton – this most vacuous and privileged of individuals, made a few million dollars as a pundit on national television. 

Regardless, it is amusing to read what I am sure will soon be revealed to be a parody piece perhaps accidentally published a few months too late after April Fools day.

“Clearly a political party is not a fashion company. And the stakes, for all of us, are much higher in the voting booth than in the fitting room. But before everyone takes umbrage at the idea of ever connecting the two or conflating what is often stereotyped as superficial with what is considered substantive, it’s worth remembering what caused the epiphany on both the high street and the haute street: the advent of the educated consumer.

Isn’t that what we want for the electorate, too?”

Clearly…a political party is not a fashion company. Or, should we remind Ms. Friedman, that a political party is also not a profit making corporate enterprise beholden to shareholder value, but ideally a representative of will of the people who participate in it to serve and provide for their interests and their protections. A political party is also not a marketing gimmick, judged merely by its ‘messaging’ or PR campaigns, or brand, but by its ability to represent the citizenry from the smallest town to the largest urban centre. A political party is not a product company, offering a range of colors and styles, or price points and service levels, to meet the needs of various ‘consumers’, but a social organisation that operates as the core of a public democracy, and that represents and negotiates the interests of a vast and diverse set of citizens to whom the party, and the state itself, are beholden and in the service of.

Of course, Ms Friedman’s distorted and ignorant writings are unsurprising given the way she opens her account which quotes one Professor of Economics, and then goes on to suggest that Corbyn, Macron and Trump are merely different brands, and not in fact, the complex reflection of long socio-political histories of three very different and distinct national and political trajectories. No, they are merely 3 options ‘chosen’ by the ‘free consumer’. Or, as she says:

“In all the explanations of voter behaviour that have been floated over the past few months, the one that I can’t quite get out of my mind is a recent comment from Tony Travers, a professor of government at the London School of Economics, who told The New York Times that “people are switching loyalties, not tribally, but like consumers.”

He was talking about the British election last month and the defection of so many presumed Conservative voters to the rumpled promise of Jeremy Corbyn, but he could just as easily have been talking about the French election and rise of that shiny new brand otherwise known as Emmanuel Macron. Or even the 2016 election in the United States. After all, on each occasion, voters shopped around before committing — or deciding to stay home.”

Erased are the decades of social humiliation and suffering of the vast majority of British citizens under Conservative and New Labour governments. Gone is the unemployment line, the crumbling healthcare, the abandonment of welfare programs for single mothers, the elderly, the sick, the homeless etc, gone is the rising inequality, and the gloating of the bankers over the hungry bodies of the miners, gone are the specific policies and priorities of governments beholden to capital and capitalist, and indifferent to citizens. No, the people ‘merely’ bought a product when they voted, not voices a protest or express and demand for social and economic change. For the likes of Ms. Friedman, Corbyn is merely product ‘at the point of delivery’, when in fact, everything he talked about fundamentally would mean a dismantling of Gucci, and the parceling out of its rubbish products to the many over the few! People chose a politics and infact, refused the branding. The French – not so much. But that is a different issue. Macron is a Gucci ‘manager’ if there ever was one!

The inanity and emptiness of a sentence like ‘…voters shopped around before committing – or deciding to stay home’ is barely worthy of a mention. But I will make one point – the suggestion that citizens are today nothing more than consumers, is the ultimate neoliberal fantasy and false claim. It is little more than the final cul-de-sac into which our new, elite, liberal class has found itself trapped. Stuart Hall captured the mindset and world view of this barbaric class in a series of essays he wrote about New Labour and the rise of neoliberal ‘managerial’ government in the UK, which involves…

”’…the marketisation of the state’s governing and administrative practices, the transformation of public service individuals into ‘entrepreneurial subjects’ and the adaptation of the machinery of the state to the ‘mission’ of ‘entrepreneurial governance’. Central to this reconstruction of governance and the state is the enthusiastic adoption of a ‘Public Choice’ approach to the public sector. This ‘shift[s] the balance of incentives from input to delivery and…in the 1980s led to the contracting out of services, the spread of internal markets and outright privatisation. It is the main source of the drive to reconstitute citizens as consumers” (‘New Labours Double Shuffle’, Stuart Hall)

…and furthermore, as far as the citizen is concerned, our liberal neoliberal ideology…

“…inculcate in the population at large a new habitus; making into a new kind of common sense habits and practices which the new ‘free market’ consumer focused conception of ‘governance’ requires. This approach is effective well outside the machinery of the state. Slowly but surely, everybody – even if kicking and screaming to the end – becomes his/her own kind of ‘manager’. The market and market criteria becomes entrenched as the modus operandi of ‘governance’ and institutional life. Media commentators (Ms Friedman, take note!) and the press know no other language with which to address public issues….the role of the State is not to support the less fortunate or powerful in a society which ‘naturally’ produces huge inequalities of wealth, power and opportunity, but to hep individuals themselves to provide for all their social needs – health, education, environmental, travel, housing, parenting, security in unemployment, pensions in old age etc….” (‘New Labours Double Shuffle’, Stuart Hall)

Only if the entire idea of a republic, of a democracy is now finally dead, that we can actually read such pieces by such ill-equipped and ill-informed and ignorant individuals, and not gasp in horror. It is fundamentally shocking to see how quickly a slight degree of bourgeois comfort has allowed most to jettison their commitment to a public democracy, and public interest. It is surprising to read such entirely wrong essays in our newspaper of note – perhaps not. But it is a stark reminder that the crass and naked capitalism and neoliberal assault on most all our public services that we are currently witnessing, isn’t just an anomaly because of Trump, but at the core of the ideology espoused by the most influential and widely read newspaper in the country. That is, it is mainstream thought.

I bet most people who read this tripe never thought twice about what they were being told. I bet they did in fact think that selecting politicians today is merely an exercise in branding, and not one in politics. I think that Ms Friedman is yet another example of how disconnected, isolated and disdainful our media has become of the citizenry, and of our democracy. Choking on their millions, rent stupid by their mindless consumption and self-righteousness, these commentators have lost all sense of the reality of our lived struggles. Is it any surprise that they never saw the apocalypse coming?

What can’t Gucci teach the democrats? Quite simply: a commitment to public service – to education, to health, to our environment, to consumer protections, to welfare programs to protect the single mothers, the elderly, the homeless, to return to a politics where the state acts as a balance between the few who will always gain under a capitalist system, and the many who will lose, and ensure the resources and wealth is managed to offer the most with more, and create opportunities for those who have much to overcome and yet have much to give. that is, to act in the interest of the people, of the public, and not merely in the interest of profit and rate of return. Ms Friedman needs to shut the hell up, or perhaps, step out of her 5th Avenue Brownstone, and pay attention to the details of how her beautiful Gucci-ridden life is actually enabled.

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From “Headmen” To “Hitmen”–A People Brutalised Yet Again

Another photographer turns up at another manufactured ‘traditional’ geography, and produces another set of racist, reductive and entirely fake set of images. I don’t mean ‘fake’ in the way that most photographer’s get all concerned about. I mean ‘fake’ in a much more serious way, one that reduces people to social, political and historical caricatures and makes them into concocted objects for class titillation and voyeurism. And this American magazine–mired deep in the heart of American imperialism, its violence and its brutality–publishes the images and accompanies them with what can only be described as one of the most incredibly ahistorical, obfuscatory and infantile articles I have read outside of stuff frequently published by Time Magazine and/or The New York Times.

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Thomas Sankara’s Restless Children

Eyes Of Aliyah–Deport, Deprive, Extradite Initiative By Nisha Kapoor

I have publicly and on this forum very explicitly argued against the strange ‘disappearance’ of black/brown bodies that are the actual targets and victims of our ‘liberal’ state policies of surveillance, entrapment, drone assassinations, renditions and indefinite detention. I recently argued:

“Western visual journalism, and visual artists, have erased the actual victims of the criminal policies of the imperial state. Instead, most all have chosen to produce a large array of projects examining drone attacks, surveillance, detentions and other practices, through the use of digital abstractions, analogous environments, still life work or just simply the fascinating and enticing safety of datagrams and charts. Even a quick look at recent exhibitions focusing on the ‘war on terror’ or wars in general, have invited works that use digital representations of war, or focus on the technologies of war. An extreme case of this deflection are recent projects on drone warfare that not only avoid the actual brown/black bodies that are the targets of deadly drone attacks, but are not even produced anywhere near the geographies and social ecologies where drone attacks continue to happen! Yet, these works have found tremendous popularity, though i remain confused what kinds of conversations or debates they provoke given that the voices of the families of those who have been killed, are not only entirely missing, but people who can raised the difficult questions about the lies and propaganda that are used to justify the killings, are also entirely missing.”

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Public Release of “The Sinner”

This is my first feature length documentary film and we–Justice Project Pakistan, with the guiding support of Sarah BelalRimmel Mohydin and others at Justice Project Pakistan, are finally releasing it.

And we are doing it first in Pakistan.

The film takes us into the world of capital punishment in Pakistan through the life of one man; Jan Masi. Jan Masi worked as an execution for nearly 30 years, and claims to have executed over 1800 people. He started his work in the enthusiastic pursuit of revenge for the execution of Pakistan’s Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto.

This isn’t a typical documentary film. No talking heads. No linear story-telling. No polemics or moral grand standing. No righteous exclamations against capital punishment. Instead, Jan Masi, his life, his scars, his fears and despair, act as metaphors for the meaning of capital punishment in Pakistan, and the consequences it has on the broader Pakistani society.

Sudhir Patwardhan

Sudhir Patwardhan.

Can you discover ‘an influence’ after the fact?

What do you call someone who seems to embody your eye, your sensibility, and yet you had never seen his / her work, and yet, when you now see it, you see the ‘influence’…the similarities?

Is he confronting the same questions? Is he seeing this incredibly complex and multi-layered world with the same desire to depict it as close to that complexity as possible?

I was taken aback. The aesthetic pursuit is so familiar. It is as if he is a step ahead of me. He is a step ahead of me.

I am going through these images–gorgeous, striking, unique, and no, I refuse to give you some ‘European’ reference to understand them in any way. They are Patwardhan’s and his alone. But I want to make them as photographs.

They are the photographs I would make if in Mumbai. It is beautiful stuff. It makes me want to go and make photographs.

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Make It Right For Palestine, November 4, 2017

Be there. Hyde Park. Speaker’s Corner. London. 12:00 noon. 4th November, 2017.

The Polis Project…Is Up And Running

If you can’t join them, then just do it on your own.

We launched a new collective focused on research, reportage and resistance. The specific goals and objectives are being developed as we speak, but the idea is a simple one: to collect under one banner a group of individuals from different fields – artists, writers, academics, photographers, intellectuals, poets and others, who are consistently working against the grain. In this time of collective conformity, and a media sycophancy to power and extremism, some of us felt the need to create a small space where people are still determined to refuse the agendas of political power, debilitating capitalism, nationalist extremism and neoliberal idiocy, and remain fools in their hearts, and idealists in their souls.

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Short Doc: “As If A Nightmare”;The Story Of Former Bagram Prisoner Abdul Haleem Saifullah

 

We are commemorating 9/11 this week, but by remembering the ‘other’ victims of that event that few chose to remember. These are the brown bodies that rarely make it into visual media projects, that since 9/11, have chosen to hide behind digital representations, data charts, and other visual forms that do a lot, but never permit us to see or hear the brown and black people who actually suffer the consequences of drone attacks, sweeping surveillance, targeted entrapment, renditions, indefinite detentions, torture and other forms of inhumanity that today liberal minds seem to be able to easily justify.

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Short Doc: “Prisoner 1432” – The Story of Former Bagram Prisoner Amanatullah Ali

 

We are commemorating 9/11 this week, but by remembering the ‘other’ victims of that event that few chose to remember. These are the brown bodies that rarely make it into visual media projects, that since 9/11, have chosen to hide behind digital representations, data charts, and other visual forms that do a lot, but never permit us to see or hear the brown and black people who actually suffer the consequences of drone attacks, sweeping surveillance, targeted entrapment, renditions, indefinite detentions, torture and other forms of inhumanity that today liberal minds seem to be able to easily justify.

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10 Things To Consider…

I recommend that photographers, photojournalists, documentary photographers remember these wise words by Tania Canas, RISE Arts Director / Member – I am copying and pasting it here. As brown and black bodies are stripped of their clothing, as brown and black children are dehumanised to mere misery, as brown and black women are reduced to simply victims, as ghettos and brothels and refugee camps and slums become the ‘paint by number’ formula for White photographer’s career and publishing success, it becomes increasingly important that those of us on the receiving end of White ‘largesse’ begin to build obstacles, speak back, and refuse / reject these ‘representations’ and their reductive, violent and brutal narrative frames. We have lost too much, and are in danger of whatever little we have left as humans and as histories, if we permit this process to continue.

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