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Limbs-in-limbo

April 5, 2017 — Leave a comment

If there is one thing that is striking about everyday life in Trump’s times, is that at the surface of it, nothing has changed. Why of course, you would cry in protest―what do you expect to see, craters in the pavements opening up, lava firing away, the now unsalvageable populace now screaming away in panic?

No, of course not. The same kind of rhetoric has come up, after all, time and time again, in Greece at the peak of its own crisis―the usual “why are your cafeterias still full” moronic line of argument. I did not expect to see this kind of spectacle. But what is striking in the brief time between Trump’s swearing in and the present moment―only sixty-odd days, mind, but at this moment in history this is something of an eternity―is how most people seem to have switched from being shell-shocked, to denial. I think that is what it is, denial: not complacency (which would require a full admission of what is going on) nor, exactly, resignation―well hopefully not, plus it must surely be way too early for that. Denial: a creeping sense that what is happening isn’t real and that, if one were to try and ignore it it might, it might just go away. In my talks with friends, comrades, strangers, the same recurring thing comes up: surely Trump will be impeached, it is only a matter of time, look at all those Russia links, plus―this one is new―they don’t seem to be letting his administration pass anything through, anyway. So, goes the inadvertent conclusion, all one has to do is wait for the fruit to ripen and fall off the tree: a question of when, not if.

This is what the people say when they speak. But the bodies, as they move through the city, tell much of a different story. They are masses-in-limbo, no longer expecting, not waiting for the next phase, but knowingly trapped in an in-between that will certainly not end any time soon. For no matter what happens in the highest echelons of power, the credits to legitimate, liberal democracy have rolled already―whether the audience decides to leave the cinema or not doesn’t make much of a difference to this fact. Whatever happens “next” is of no significance importance. The bodies know, and they in turn radiate through their shiftlessness, that life as we had known it so far is gone.

They know that what is to follow is a long limbo, an in-between that becomes our here-and-now, certain in its uncertainty, unexpectedly reassuring in its bleakness. Why rush? The place is here, and the time is now―and we’ll be here and now for some while.

I am back in the States, for the second time in as many months, for the beginning of what will be a long journey of documenting and trying to get a grip of urban life in Trump’s America – the affirmatively captivating contradictions, the tensions, the despair and the hope that oozes through the great cities of a not-so-great country. As the narrative of crisis is repeated, time and time again, in the places that I happen to traverse the world over―Athens to London, to New York―and as the present as we have known it evaporates, the only question that feels to matter is, what next? A permanent displacement of the present into the future leaves an ever-pending present.

What happens in the city in these times? A quiet revolt, a denial the grandiose spectacle, a retreat―but is it defeatist?―to the intimacy of our minuscule, everyday space where the catastrophe can be skived off, perhaps even averted, it feels.

To be continued.

via OpenDemocracy

Trump is the logical culmination of a culture: the narrator of a democratic apparatus that has come to conceal itself behind the mother of all TV shows: the US Presidency.”

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President Barack Obama and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras at Maximos Mansion in Athens, Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016. Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Press Association. All rights reserved.

Yesterday, as I began to write these lines, Air Force One was descending on Athens’ airport, bringing the US President to our city: not the delirious orange-haired one, but the One Still There Even Though Most Of US Have Forgotten He Is Actually Still In Charge. Obama, the liberal darling of so many inside and beyond the US border, is the president under whose watch 2.5 million people were deported – more than any other US president in history and directly comparable to the “2-3 million” pledged by Trump.

Under Obama, the US has continued and excelled in its business-as-usual war, carnage and destruction the world over. But admittedly, under his watch this hell was now delivered with some impeccable puns, flawless speeches, making us feel warm inside and a sense of humility we can all relate to. Right?

A superstar, a great showman of a President? Check. But Trump is also those exact same things – perhaps in many ways more skilful than the Great Man himself: Trump read into the anguish of millions and tapped into it before the liberal elite had time to utter “let us respect and uphold the values of the US constitution”, or some gibberish of that kind.

Trump is the logical culmination of a culture that commenced with Obama: a complete and utter reliance upon the single showman (and yes, it will be a man) as the narrator of a democratic apparatus that has come to conceal itself behind the mother of all TV shows: the US Presidency. Continue Reading…

via Verso Books

There was a time when the world felt like an ocean of normality, bar your occasional pocket of carnage and destruction: I am talking way, way back in early 2016. Up until that time the Greek territory was hailed or vilified (depending on how you would see it) as one of these unruly exceptions, an impressive outlier that would grip so many to the point of coming to experience it first-hand. Upon descending in Athens, these far-flung visitors would invariably comment on how eerily peaceful it all was: cars were still driving up and down streets strikingly devoid of any enormous craters spitting out lava or fire. Despite the crisis, people were still walking around peacefully, not running nor screaming in agony. The fact that the signature Athenian cafés and bars were still in their place would become the object of scorn, something of a proof that the crisis was not much more than a bloated exaggeration on the side of us unruly Southerners who had it too good to let things change now.

Roads, pavements and street lamps (minus the odd defunct one, it must be told) were also still there: an impressive feat for those who had been caught in the swarm of the apocalyptic-talk, seemingly believing an austerity package (or three) ought to create, right there and then, an enormous rupture in the ground that would instantly swarm the screaming thousands, syphon them in and spit them out into a new urban streetscape of endlessly burning cars, knocked-down buildings, vacant lots and the smell of sulphur only just overshadowing the roar coming from the tilting ground as the next legal package was being voted in parliament: you get the picture. Continue Reading…