A Radical Cut In The Texture Of Reality

April 28, 2016

Hannah Black Quote


Down in Atlantis the curator showed me around the space, gesturing to invisible artworks that will soon be expensively shipped from far away to fill the room. I am the least famous and the least rich and the least well paid artist; I am paid partly in the fame of other artists. I am paid pyrrhically in the currency of my desire to be seen on my terms. My desire has almost as many social claims and credit operations on it as a straight man’s sexuality; both are supposed to justify the movements of capital that provide the basic infrastructure of contemporary art. Overdetermined, my art-making suffers the fate of all socially appointed agents of desire; it becomes intermittently impotent, and terrorized by the threat of its own softness.

- Hannah Black, Dark Pool Party


April 24, 2016

Hannah Black Quote


From Los Angeles I write, “Perhaps getting to know a person is like getting to know a city.” The plate glass windows of downtown, the way you are with your friends; the dull suburbs of a half-hidden unhappiness. On the East Coast I’m an animal and on the West Coast by a miracle I am changing back into a woman. But what kind of woman? At night I’ve found a wall inside myself and I try to describe it. I can’t stop crying! I hate myself! I’m a real girl! The wall inside is stone, it doesn’t have a body or a part time job. The person I’m considering falling in love with just as soon as I can stop crying, which should be any year now, brings me a book called Architecture without Architects to distract me from the luxury of my tears. In the book, white colonialists describe the buildings that seem to them miraculous, built invisibly, built by no one. I touch a black and white page to show that I love the image of an ancient city in the desert in Morocco. But imagine, I say, thinking of labor and domination, how terrible it was to build it. My person says, with certainty, because she is always sure, “They built it only at night.” By what light? I ask, looking at her. I can feel my eyes, which are nothing. She says, “They built it only on nights with a full moon.” My inside cracks, now it’s outside and I don’t deserve anything. There is anxiety in my touch but we are comradely now and then, both surprised for example by the thought of Hegel as a baby. Yes perhaps even Hegel can grow up to be a woman from time to time.

- Hannah Black, Dark Pool Party 


April 23, 2016

work that dares to remind us


"Rich and Poor is art in resistance, a work that dares to remind us of our capacity for revolutionary love..."

- Jade Colbert in The Globe and Mail


April 15, 2016

The Stopping Number


I feel five books is the perfect
number of books for a
writer to publish
I have published five books
I want to stop at this perfect number
I want to stop before I ruin it
but I won’t stop
I will ruin it
five books is a somewhat arbitrary
symbol of literary perfection
but I have so much anxiety
about everything being too much
everyone doing too much
moving past strong youthful desires
continuing only out of habit
for one moment
you’re in sync with the zeitgeist
or so they tell you
then the moment is gone
one cannot simply fly into the air
to have some perfect overview
of one’s entire life and practice
one is down in the trench with it
in the muck of it
unable to fully see
what is coming from where
if, like me, you have no desire to kill
only to survive
take the risk of being where you are
you can feel the number five
is the stopping number
yet cannot ground this feeling in anything
or for that matter actually stop
the stopping number
who wants to stay in this trench forever
I finished five books
without ever looking back
and wish
as I now look back
I could turn
not to salt
but to stone


March 15, 2016

Rich and Poor launches and events


I will be presenting my new book Rich and Poor at these fine events:

April 16, Ottawa:
Ottawa Writers Festival
BookThug Spring Launch with Jacob Wren and Phil Hall
The Manx, 5pm
Facebook Event

April 18, New York:
Print Screen: Jacob Wren and Close-up
Walter Reade Theater / Lincoln Center, 7:30 pm

April 21, Toronto:
BookThug Spring 2016 Launch Party
The Garrison, 7 pm
Facbook Event

April 28, Montreal:
BookThug spring launch
w/ Joni Murphy, Malcolm Sutton, Stephen Thomas & Jacob Wren
Drawn & Quarterly Bookstore, 7 pm
Facebook Event

May 6, Toronto: 
Pages Unbound Festival
All Our Bad Ideas: Jacob Wren & Jordan Tannahill
Jackman Hall, 9 pm
Facebook Event 

Rich and Poor Facebook Page
Order Rich and Poor



March 10, 2016

To be a beast and still be happy: An introduction to The Seagull


[This text was written as an introduction to the production Une Mouette et autres cas d’espèces created by Hubert Colas/Diphtong Cie. This free adaptation of Chekhov's The Seagull will also feature texts from Édith Azam, Liliane Giraudon, Angélica Liddell, Nathalie Quintane and Annie Zadek]

(Note: All sentences in quotation marks are lines from The Seagull. Most of them have been altered considerably but a few I left as is. Page numbers refer to the Laurence Senelick translation, Norton edition, 2010.)

We read a quote on the Internet. In a letter to A.S. Suvorin – dated April 13, 1895 – Anton Chekhov writes: “The bourgeoisie loves so-called “positive” types and novels with happy endings since they lull one into thinking that it is fine to simultaneously acquire capital and maintain one’s innocence, to be a beast and still be happy.” Chekhov’s father was a serf and we fear today, in the year 2016, the entire world is drifting backwards towards feudalism. Wikipedia says that: “The decline of serfdom in Western Europe has sometimes been attributed to the Bubonic Plague, which reached Europe in 1347, although the decline had begun before that date.” Russia is certainly not in Western Europe. In Russia, once again according to Wikipedia, feudalism was not abolished until 1861.

Along with feudalism, when we look towards the future we see war, famine and plague. Of course, if we look at the past we see much the same thing. When we look towards the future we also see nothing, since we have little idea what will actually happen in the future, just as we have little idea what has actually happened in the past. Chekhov died at age 44 and we are also currently age 44 (in this sense the author is speaking for all of us.) There is something classical about dying. There is something avant-garde about dying. The future is always a future we will not necessarily live to see.

We are wondering what The Seagull would be like if it were a play not about art but about activism. If instead of talking about ‘talent’ they spoke of action and repression. Page 78: “New forms of protest are what we need. New forms, and if there aren’t any, then we’re better off with capitalist totalitarianism and environmental collapse.” How can we imagine what comes next, how might it transcend the bland magic of our small daily lives? If ever there was a time for us to seriously ask ourselves such questions it is certainly right fucking now. Page 85: “There is not a lot of brilliant activism these days, it’s true, but in general the level has improved considerably.” La Commune de Paris, May ’68 – are these precedents we can continue to seize and build upon or simply the last gasps of a potential lost and long gone. All over the world, at every protest, lines of riot cops in full gear, helmets, shields, tear gas: an intimidation that might almost be described as pristine. As they surround us, we find ourselves trapped in the provincial life of no longer being able to imagine a future with any further potential than the present, or any greater charm than the past. There are no riot cops in The Seagull. There are only the riot cops working the kettle – stopping the blood flow – within the cholesterol-choked valves of our hearts. (That last line was quite bad, and it’s reasonable to assume the author hoped it would be cut.)

In its time, The Seagull was of course lightly censored. In some strange way, today we long for censorship. That someone would care enough about our words to bother banning even a single one. When you are marginal artists how do you know what it means to take an axe to the world and split it in two like a rotting log? What would Chekhov have written about the Russian revolution if he had been alive for its beginning or its end? (He died one year before the Revolution of 1905.) Were the ways in which Stalin censored the arts of his time in continuity with the very same censorship Chekhov so frequently experienced? Did Stalin get the Russia he wanted? Does any leader or artist ever get what they actually want? Page 79: “I wanted to get married and I wanted to be an author, but I didn’t manage to do either one.” We wanted emancipatory politics and a sustainable future, but instead got a well-written first act in front of a serene painted lake. So many we now know want little more than to move to the country and live by the water, to be close to nature and watch the fish so brilliantly die. When we write these things we feel immature. When we speak them we feel even worse. We only feel okay when we post them on the internet.

Carl Pope writes: “In 1915, as the American economy boomed, the huge supply chain that supported horse-drawn transport – harnesses and horseshoes, wagons and buggies makers (13,000 of them), farriers and blacksmiths, hay balers and feedmills – looked like a robust and vital segment for deploying capital. 1920 was the year of “Peak Horse” in the U.S.. By 1940 it was gone. This was not “low-cost”, incremental progress. It was an economic disruption so fierce that the phrase “buggy-whip maker” became a business simile for loser.” His point is that coal and oil might soon go the way of the horse and carriage. Page 105: “Forgive me, I bow down to your talent, I’m ready to give up ten years of my life for your sake, but horses I cannot give you.” We have always wanted to live in a city with no cars. Wouldn’t it be paradise to live in a city with no cars, like a theatre that blends intimately with the most graceful and sublime aspects of daily life? Why does the automobile industry get to decide how each city is built and made? If there were no cars and no plastic, how much oil would we really need? In just twenty years, between 1920 and 1940, the horse and buggy almost completely disappeared. Things can change so quickly. Karl Marx died in 1883. He never saw an automobile. What are the things that we’ll never see? And would we even want to see them if we somehow had the chance? The future is always a future we will not necessarily see.

Page 111: “To find out how it feels to be an effective activist. How does change feel? How do you realize you’re changing the world?” Page 115: “What do you call changing the world? I’m never satisfied. Worst of all is when I become paranoid and barely understand what useful action is. I feel that if I’m an activist I have an obligation to help the people, their suffering, their future, discuss science, human rights, et cetera, et cetera, and I do help people, exhausting myself; I’m attacked from every side, I make people angry. I hurtle back and forth like a fox hunted by the CIA. I see that capitalism and surveillance keep moving farther and farther ahead, while I keep moving farther and farther behind…” To fight the beasts and still be happy, since an activist life is often also a broken one. To move to the country and live as if your most vicious enemies were boredom and your own neuroses. To fight the beasts and fail, be crushed, while the beasts eat good dinners, take luxury vacations and go to the theatre. To fight your own beast, the crypto-fascist that lurks in each and every one of us. We need new forms, while no one believes new forms are even possible. But anything is possible, or if not anything than certainly a wide variety of possibilities we spend our time working as hard as possible not to consider. How could Chekhov ever have imagined we’d be speaking these things about him 112 years after his death?

Karl Marx died in 1883. The modern automobile was invented in 1886. Anton Chekhov died in 1904. The Russian revolution took place in 1917. Oil and coal will have more or less completely been phased out by 2045. Some of the people here tonight, watching us perform this introduction, will die in 2052, 2058, 2061, 2070, 2075, and other years that we won’t bother to list. Page 128: “People with no conscience but plenty of pretensions have nothing better to do than criticize the ones who are trying to make a difference. It’s a comfort to them, I’m sure.” Have nothing better to do than list the years that complete strangers may or may not die. Because, if nothing else, the little daily dramas we incite, inflame and endlessly play out are at least a distraction from the fact that each and every one of us might in the end die. But no one will die here tonight, on stage or off, if everything goes as planned. Page 129 (or page 121, lines 11 and 12): “If ever my life is of use to you, come and take it.”

Between this sentence and the next sentence, two years will have passed. Time goes so quickly. Money is often connected to tragedy. Page 138: “It’s dark outside. Somebody should tell them to pull down that barricade in front of the consulate. It stands there bare, unsightly, like a skeleton. When I was going by last night, I thought somebody was on it, crying…” Even more than a city with no cars we would like to live in a world without money. Money is an abstraction that allows cold savagery to exponentially increase. Page 140: “If money ever burrows into your heart, you’ve got to get rid of it.” Where there’s wealth there’s exploitation, endless gradations of poverty that shred possibilities and in the end force you to kill either something inside yourself or anyone near by. But, of course, none of that matters here tonight. Reality must not be strong-armed into confronting idealism. You turn on those closest to you when no one else is in range. Things can turn so quickly. Different temperaments will view the same few facts as completely disparate realities. Page 146: “There were moments when the world showed some talent for screaming or dying, but those were only moments.” Life is only a series of moments, but moments don’t pay the rent or give meaning, so we superglue them together with narrative. A beast that tells stories, a beast that buys and sells the stories we will never have a chance to live, a beast that exposes paradoxes, paradoxes that get us thinking and therefore do not help us in any way to act. Money is the lie that makes things possible, so possible we could weep. Page 160: “Now I know, understand, that in our work – it doesn’t matter whether we protest or run for office – the main thing isn’t success or failure, the things we feared or hoped for, it’s knowing how to endure.”

How to endure, how to smile when your boss effortlessly humiliates you in front of the others, when you have to scramble, hustle or betray someone in order to get by, or settle for less, or take more at the expense of others or at the expense of the world. To be a beast and still be happy, or smile politely as you endure being some happy beasts prey. To have your children hate you but pretend they don’t because you continue to give them money. Or have your children love you, but be so broken they barely know how. This is only the introduction. The introduction comes at the beginning, when what comes after is still in the future. The future is always a future we will not necessarily get to see. But anything can be the future. We can predict the worst, or hope for the best, or use every trick in our arsenal to manipulate what comes next – but as we whittle away our lives, while telling ourselves we are doing the exact opposite – the future can, will be and remains potentially anything. And, at the same time, it is always bound to look more than a little bit like the past. Page 160: “By chance man comes along, sees, and with nothing better to do destroys… Subject for a short story.” Or subject for a destroyed play.


February 25, 2016

The DJ Who Gave Too Much Information (Monthly Rework)


PME-ART will be presenting a The DJ Who Gave Too Much Information (Monthly Rework) twice at La Vitrola:

March 28th

April 25th

A pile of records and a record player. For every record we have a story at the ready. This performance explores the way music infiltrates our personal and social lives, affecting our understanding of love, work and how we think society works.

Création: Caroline Dubois, Claudia Fancello & Jacob Wren
Continuation : Marie Claire Forté & Adam Kinner,
Performance : Claudia Fancello, Marie Claire Forté, Adam Kinner & Jacob Wren

28 mars & 25 avril 2016
La Vitrola : 4602, boul. Saint-Laurent
Portes/Doors: 19 h
Performance : 20 h
Contribution volontaire/Pay What You Can (10 $ sugg.)

Bonus: A letter about The DJ Who Gave Too Much Information

Coproduction: FFT (Düsseldorf) Collaborations: Noorderzon Festival (Groningue), Studio 303 & OFFTA (Montréal) With the support of The Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec, The Conseil des arts de Montréal and The Kunststiftung NRW (Arts Foundation of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany).


February 24, 2016

Always Closer to a Satire


A few weeks ago I posted on Facebook that I was seriously terrified that Trump had a real chance to win, and mentioned the history of Fascism in the twentieth century as a corollary to this fear. Then I had a few weeks of not really believing it was possible. It seemed too much like my worst fears come true, or even more improbably: a satire of my worst fears coming true. But now, once again, it seems to me that this satire is becoming more and more likely. The worst is always closer to a satire of the worst, which I suppose is what makes it so utterly terrifying.


February 23, 2016

What Pleasure Is (Unfinished Fragment)


There are two short quotes from Jean Genet that continue to haunt me:

Anyone who’s never experienced the pleasure of betrayal doesn’t know what pleasure is.


What is not futile in this world? I’m asking you: what is not futile in the last analysis?

These words express negativity. But negativity with energy, tangled up in the concurrent desire for something better. They are taken out of context, and it’s been a long time now that I no longer remember exactly where I first found them. (I believe in Genet’s final book Prisoner of Love.) Somehow, over the years, these two lines have become part of my life. I feel that I’ve betrayed people, and I feel that everything is futile, and Genet is there, somewhere in the back of my head, to tell me that all of this is almost all right. Of course, it’s not actually all right, not at all. But in such pure negativity there is will and there is struggle. Also: there are things I believe I might be able to change about myself and things it seems will most likely never change. Futility and betrayal fall into the later category. In the end, I probably have no choice.

When I write, I often try to balance it out, not let negativity always take the lead. As I do so, there is always another part of me that thinks: what if you were to completely let go, just write the most negatively, nihilistically negative texts you are capable of. What might happen then? The reason I believe I generally don’t do so is because, even though my experience of life is predominantly negative, I understand this is not the case for everyone, and I want my writing to reflect their experience as well. I want my writing to be larger than myself, to let in things that I see in the world but don’t necessarily relate to. Through editing, such things can momentarily become part of my worldview. It might be a trick but it is also strangely true. It is true as I’m writing, but when I’m not writing the negativity once again, for the most part, dominates. In writing this, I believe I’m attempting to get at something more general about art. Art is the artist plus the world, the artist struggling to let in as much of the world as possible. Or, at least, this is the art I desire. In doing do, it is more than possible that the artist betrays the world. And it is even possible that such betrayal is transformed into a kind of secular grace. Alchemists once hoped to transform lead into gold, and from this desire laid the groundwork for modern science. What do artists start with, and into what do they hope it will transform?

I want to believe that activism is not futile. I know it can accomplish things. When I think of everything that successful activism actually requires, I also think of the somewhat well-known Camus quote: “We must imagine Sisyphus as happy.” (It seems my entire consciousness had been overtaken by a series of short citations.) Sisyphus can never get that fucking rock to the top of the hill. It is an eternal undertaking. There are small victories along the way, but the struggle actually never ends. What would it mean for Sisyphus to betray this struggle. He cannot. He has no choice but to keep pushing.

It is often said that artists also have no choice but to keep making art. That if they are true artists, yet for whatever reason stop making things, they will be unhappy. To keep going, to persevere regardless of the circumstances, is a kind of happiness. Or pleasure. Or betrayal of the greater happiness to be found in doing nothing.



February 12, 2016

Introduction to Taking Care


[This text was originally published as an introduction to the Taking Care section of Truth is Concrete: A Handbook for Artistic Strategies in Real Politics.]

In my book Revenge Fantasies of the Politically Dispossessed, I wrote about a group of activists who attend something referred to only as “the meetings.” What exactly the meetings are is never made entirely clear. However, a few things are explained. The meetings take place in a dystopian near future in which the activists in attendance have good reason to fear that, if they were to engage in effective acts of protest or civil disobedience, they would be arrested, tortured and perhaps killed. Their weekly gatherings are therefore a kind of refuge from this harsh reality. A place to talk, reflect, attempt to re-invent the left and prepare for a time when activism will be effective once again. When that time comes, because of the ongoing discussions that make up the meetings, they will have considered all options and be ready. Many readers saw these meetings as a satire on the ineffectiveness of the current left, but this was definitely not my intention. (In fact, at the end of the book, I break the fourth wall to explicitly state that I do not want the book to be read in only this manner.) The idea for the meetings had far more to do with my own personal frustration, with looking at the desperate state of the world and not knowing what to do, where to start, how real long-term change might begin and continue.

I remember first reading The Critique of Cynical Reason by Peter Sloterdijk, how I was fascinated by the concept of ‘enlightened false consciousness’, that we can clearly see all the structural inequalities we take part in perpetrating but still do little or nothing to change them. Or, on a slightly different register, I often think of an anecdote I once heard about Charles Mingus, who regularly began his concerts by playing the Duke Ellington standard Can’t Get Started. When asked why, he would apparently reply: ‘because that’s my problem in life, I can’t get started.’ All of this is a way of speaking around the fact that I have enormous sympathy for, and curiosity about, anyone who can get started. Who finds ways to break the inertia of relative privilege and set off on the endless and impossible task of improving the world. I don’t feel qualified to judge what might be more, or less, effective strategies in such matters. I fear that ‘the road to hell is paved with good intentions’ but, at the same time, also embody a much greater fear of my own ineffective paralysis.

We might say that all of the texts and projects in the following chapter take place on the other side of the line from where I stand. I am on this side of the line, along with much of the world’s population, where I’m definitely not doing enough (if I’m doing anything at all), and they are on the other side, where they are doing at least something, if not quite a bit more than that. On the other side of the line many strategies are invented and become possible. From WochenKlauser’s “concrete improvements of existing social circumstances” to Minerva Cuevas’s offering of “unexpected products”; from Michal Murin’s rehabilitation of his old friend Milan Adamčiak, assisting him from homelessness towards a renewed artistic practice, to Christoph Schlingensief’s equal treatment of superstar and differently abled performers; from the vacuum cleaner’s act of starting his own mental health institution and detaining himself within it to the necessary design-based paradigm shift that is Permaculture.

Again and again, I feel I am reading about events a little bit further along the path than I am. (Or, since I don’t particularly believe in progress, a little bit further around the circle that will endless continue unless our complete extinction cuts its short.) This feeling reminds me of the well-known last lines from Rilke about gazing at the Archaic Torso of Apollo: “for here there is no place
/ that does not see you. You must change your life.” It might be a simplified reading, but I have always seen these lines to mean that experiencing great art leads towards the realization that the way one is living is not nearly enough. ‘You must change your life’ doesn’t suggest that there is only one right answer, only one possible change, a right way and a wrong way and you must choose correctly. It is more about opening possibilities, opening up a window and letting in some air, wondering anew what can and cannot become part of our more general reality.

Notions such as care, kindness and compassion might help us find a basis for where such personal shifts can take place. Here we are in a territory of fragile humanism, about as far away from the ‘no future’ punk rock nihilism that was one of my personal entry points into art and creativity. If I can get past my anxiety that all punks become boring hippies in the end, I can see that conceptual strategies that allow for more generous social relations, to put it rather bluntly, often feel good when you take part in them. In their book On Kindness, Adam Phillips and Barbara Taylor suggest that Freudian or Hobbesian conceptions of people as inherently selfish or cruel turn our gaze away from something we already know: that behaving with kindness towards others occurs continuously, on all levels of society, and is in fact highly pleasurable. We are capable of selfishness but equally capable of generosity. The suggestion that we are not, or that one quality is more prominent in human nature than the other, is little more than propaganda for selfishness.

The strategies suggested in this chapter are varied, at times in conflict with each other, very much open to every kind of criticism. When you mix art and politics you open yourself up to a barrage of difficult questions from all sides: that the work is not political enough, that it takes the wrong political position, is naïve, is only a band aid on the problem it seeks to address. Because so many projects along these lines step outside of the safety of an autonomous artistic position, the grounds upon which they can be criticized become increasingly unstable. If I criticize a painting or a novel, the forms my criticism might take are fairly well established and, most of the time, reasonable limits are adhered to. But if I criticize an art project in which addicted, homeless sex workers and politicians are placed together on a boat in order to engage in dialogue, other levels of questioning rapidly, often confusingly, arise. How do I feel about the rights of sex workers? How do I understand sex work in relation to other kinds of work? How do I feel about activists (or artists) engaging with the state? How do I understand the social role of the state? Is it possible, in a short time, to set the parameters for a long-term solution to such a complex, ongoing problem? Where does charity end and empowerment begin? For me, such works have multiple agency: they assist the people more directly involved in the situation while at the same time opening a space in the imagination, suggesting that every social problem has multiple imaginative solutions if only we change our habits of thought.

Of course, changing our habits of thought is not nearly enough. Capitalism is a way of thinking, but is also a system that enriches the lives of few at the expense of the lives of many. To state the obvious: where there is suffering, most likely there is also economic profit. I suggested earlier that ‘kindness towards others occurs continuously, on all levels of society.’ I believe this to be true on an interpersonal level, but it does little to ameliorate the fact that structural inequality will put profit before kindness each and every time. If we start with the metaphor that I am on one side of a line, and on the other side are those who have taken at least the first step towards making small or large improvements; we might also suggest that along with me, on this side of the line, are many who take a considerably more vicious self-interest in maintaining the current status quo, who are working towards building up this metaphorical line into a totalitarian-capitalist prison from which they hope we will never escape. (And who likely wouldn’t put the matter in these specific terms.) Still, obsessing over these cruelties will get us nowhere. We are clearly not going to solve all the problems of the world in one fell swoop. Perhaps the only way is to start is as close to ourselves as possible, one small step after another, working towards situations in which possibilities might increase over time, looking around and feeling where our natural desire to care might be put to best use.

Criticality has become such an unquestioned staple of theory and art. However, it seems to me, a caring attitude does not require us to call upon our most critical selves. A critical outlook is often a defensive position, a desire to rip off the veil of surface appearance and get to the real stuff underneath. Yet not all truths are hidden. At times, surface appearances might be speaking to us so clearly and directly that, obsessed with what else might be there, we do not hear them. An art project that helps a friend in need, a friend who has fallen on hard times might, in offering another alternative, reveal some of the hardness present in this constant need for greater critical insight. To see someone in need, to try to help them, does not require the sophisticated critical apparatus that is so often celebrated as the only basis for complex thought. It only requires a belief that change is possible, the very belief that certain strains of critical thinking so often undermine.

Coming full circle, returning to Revenge Fantasies of the Politically Dispossessed, I can see now that part of the problem, part of the shortcomings within my own thinking, can be found in the title, since the characters in Revenge Fantasies are not truly dispossessed. They are dispossessed in the same way I feel myself to be, as a reasonably privileged, straight white male living in a wealthy country (Canada) currently being run by a government I completely disagree with. I have a certain amount of power that I could direct towards social change but cannot feel exactly what this power is or how I might use it, what other people I might form coalitions with and what specific issues we could organize around. I feel myself to be dispossessed but I don’t see how to bring myself into solidarity with those even more dispossessed than me. If I were to do so, it seems I would be setting off on an unknown path: most likely some (or many) of the people around me would change, as might my worldview. What are the things closest to me to which I can most usefully contribute? How does my misguided sense of dispossession, of alienation, prevent me from doing so? How does it short-circuit my compassion?

By each dealing with one small, yet specific, situation (and in the process bringing themselves closer to it), the projects and desires in this chapter remind us that focusing on immediate concerns, caring about someone or something within reach, can be a way of grounding ourselves. Reality is never just one thing. Luc Boltanski writes: “Reality suffers from a species of inherent fragility, such that the reality of reality must incessantly be reinforced in order to endure.” So many of the images and words that surround us continuously enforce and suggest the idea that, as Thatcher famously pronounced, ‘there is no alternative.’ There is certainly no heaven on earth we will all someday achieve. But there are as many alternatives as we are able to imagine, little pinpricks of hope, shifting moments for potential change. All we need to do is step over the line, take the first step. I wonder if some day I might.


We need a different...


We need a different vision of the world. A vision in which our survival depends on our symbiotic interdependence with other living things. A world in which, yes, we eat things, but other things also eat us.