Look here

I’m fighting the impulse that people–a vast majority of people by my humble reckoning–are not capable of deciding what is in their best interest.  Maybe my attitude is a product of the twenty-four-hour-cable-news-cycle-pandemic that’s currently infecting anyone with the remotest interest in current events.  It’s the most likely explanation really.  But perhaps it’s a sensation that’s always been there in my psyche, hanging-out around the corner from the joint where my favorite brand of socialism set-up shop all those years back, waiting for the exact moment to round the bend and pull a knife on my conscious mind as it unexpectedly happens by.

I bring it up (of course) because of politics and the current state of the world.  I watched over the weekend as political operatives from left and right retreated to the safety of their respective corners over Trump’s latest idiocy and attempted to rain hell-fire and brimstone down on the the opposing encampment who were just as dug in and feeling just as fiery.  Neither side changed anyone’s mind on the other side though because the two sides live in completely different realities.  

The brilliance of Trump is *not* that he’s the greatest showman, or a master negotiator or any of the other titles he’s self-bestowed.  Trump’s brilliance lies in his ability to infiltrate the exact moment where our conscious mind is going to make the decision as to whether or no something is factually true or not and in the case of the ill-informed or angry or just plain stupid, convince them of an alternative truth.  That’s to say he’s figured out how to abuse the fictions we have collectively created as a species–our single largest asset and the ability which has allowed us to conquer the world–and turn it against those who lack the capacity to understand what is happening, tricking them into doing things that are not even remotely in their own self interest.  

Human’s rule the world because we were blessed with imagination.  It’s our gift to the universe.  The fictions that we have created includes but is not limited to, all religions, all monetary systems, all boarders and all educational pursuits.  

We made all of that shit up.  It wasn’t there and then we dreamt it up and it was there.

Even if you believe in some fire and brimstone God, or maybe the Geco-esque God of capitalistic Greed is more your speed, all of those ideals were penned by human hands–not a single omniscient being was present in the writing of any of our religious, geo-political or social doctrines.  We invented the constitution and liberalism and Twinkies and Canada.  We just pulled this shit literally out of thin air.  It wasn’t ordained by God and willed into being.  There wasn’t a lightning-bolt with the old testament duct-taped to it.  

Nope.  Some people sat down, came up with an idea, got enough people to believe in that idea so that it was no longer cult and then people started believing in Jesus, or Nazism, or dollars or the internet.  We fucking invented duct-tape just like we fucking invented the old testament. It’s obviously not as simple as that on many levels but at it’s core, our fictions become “real” to us not when they are birthed into our conscious minds but rather when we tell other people about our ideas and enough other people start to believe them to be truths that they stop being cult and become real.  Real like Fox news or taxes.    

And there’s the tie-in to Trump.  With the advent of the internet, the way that we as a species consume communication requires no work anymore.  It’s not as though we need to read textbook to establish the reasoning behind what the conclusion is.  We just scarf down the Apple News headline and don’t bother to even read the supporting text.  We’re not even reading cliff-notes regarding the communications we ingest in our daily lives.  If we did we would understand the amount of actual data which is being discarded when we read a headline about the latest, horrible, batshit crazy thing that some un-woke, moron did.  We would have done the required reading and thereby we could understand the importance (or lack of thereof) in every word presented to us, or in every podcast diatribe we listen to, or in whatever talking points that expert panelist is espousing when their message reaches our brain for processing in that critical moment where we decide whether or not something is true and real.

Also with the switch from a handful of news sources which would pick through the stories which are deemed important enough to pass-along to the general populous, fact-checked, stripped-down and retransmitted for mass-consumption,  to a system of notification headlines Twitter and Facebook where anyone can break any story and it can reach millions with no vetting, zero fact-checking and with most-likely dubvious intent, we have turned our greatest strength into a high-capacity magazine, fully-loaded, semi-automatic AR15 which we’ve turned on ourselves while repeatedly pulling the trigger.

This is what Donald Trump has figured out.  If you reach enough of the right kinds of people–the people who don’t take the time to understand context.  The kind of people who don’t have the capacity or the openness of mind or strength of conviction to admit freely that they don’t fully understand something.   The kind of people who feel wronged by the world, people who have had a hard life.  If you can find and reach enough of these people and tell them a story–a really great bit of fiction that is easy for them to believe–maybe one that makes them feel better about themselves or the situation they are in or the people they dislike or the world that we live in–and enough of those people come to believe that fiction, well, then by virtue of being human that fiction becomes real and far more malevolent than the constitution and liberalism and Twinkies and Canada.  

The sad truth is that Trump’s truths are easier to swallow for a huge portion of Americans.  They make more sense and like I pointed out in another literary excursion, the only thing authoritarians ask for in return, is blind loyalty and if you lack the understanding of what is really happening, loyalty costs you nothing.  So he becomes their guy!  They’re with him all the way!  MAGA MAGA MAGA!  The hats go on, the chants get louder, his words are their truth!  Look at the crowd sizes and they all believe.

From 30,000 feet we can see what’s happening.  He’s a two-bit carnie who says “look here” and all the suckers look and swear that the ball is under the middle shell when there never was a ball to begin with–the trick was getting 61,943,670 suckers to believe he was actually playing the game to begin with.  They provide him and each other with all the truth they all need.  They willed and birthed Trumpian fictions from lies into truths.  

“Look Here” shot on my Mamiya6MF on Kodak Tri-X film at 1600, processed at the Icon.  


There’s a quick simple story behind this image that I rather like. 

I made this image during a trip to the Marciano to see Yayoi Kusama’s ”with all my love for the tulips, I pray forever.”   We were just about to leave the exhibit after having shot a million and a half photographs when Anna Maria and I both turned to each other at the same time, from across the installation and without having planned it, attempting to make a candid image of the other ‘experiencing fine art.’  

I don’t think I’ve ever seen the image she made of me,  but here is the one I made of her.  All of that lovely hair framed with a simple white t-shirt and that long skirt and accessorized with a leather tote and safety booties on her sneakers, flanked left and right with nothing but polka dots.    

That’s my girl, my love and my muse.  

Muse-ums, LA 2018.  Mamiya6MF on Kodak Tri-X +2.  Processing by the Icon.  


I read an interesting article about the Society of Political Psychologists’ annual meeting where one presenter delivered a paper predicting that over the course of the next few decades that the number of real, western-style democracies will shrink until only a few small hold-outs remain, but only as shells of their once former glory.  In their place, the author Shawn Rosenberg suggested that right-wing authoritarian populist governments will pop-up like mushrooms after the rain.   

Democracy is devouring itself and we're to blame.

Freedom is hard-earned and demands more from us than we have become accustomed to giving.  We don't read anymore.  We don't take the time to devour information, assess it's meaning and decide what is true and what is false.  We've retreated to our own corners favoring the soft-bubble-wrapped safety of our social media feeds where we always have a friend who agrees with us and likes our post even if it's shit, or wrong or bad.  We don't confront real problems but rather judge from the untouchable position of behind a keyboard defaming anyone who isn't liberal enough, or conservative enough or gay enough or woke enough. 

Why would we do it any other way when this way is so easy?  

And that's the issue.  Democracy requires discipline, logic, intelligence–all of which are hard earned qualities if they are capable of being earned at all.  One could argue that with the huge influx of information provided by social media that we have a more democratic system in place with an electorate capable discerning more of what is "happening" now more than ever, but what has transpired is almost the opposite.  Instead of a consensus to major newspapers and television stations filtering through the bullshit and arriving and varying opinions about something that is fundamentally true, we've blown-up the entire carefully constructed, truth-filtering safety-net. Blown it the fuck-up in fact. Instead, we opt for our social media to inject (dis)information directly to our feeds and into our heads (since we’re totally addicted to our phones), reinforcing that which we believe to be true so that in the end, it becomes true regardless of whether or not it is in fact, factually true.  Bucking against that trend and figuring out what is *really happening* and what it *really means* takes time and work and effort all of which our modern conveniences have told us we no longer need.  Our news gets prepackaged and Postmate'd directly to our phones like two hour Prime delivery of celery, beats and carrots for our latest juice cleanse.   

This isn't because of Trump, this is because we're lazy, undisciplined and stupid…

And we want so desperately to believe that we are smart and right and understand everything happening around us even though the world is so complex that we desperately need the smartest people around us to explain what the fuck is actually happening.  That would mean an admission of guilt.  That would mean admitting that we don't know or can't explain, or didn't bother to try to figure it out.  When people are left to figure it out for themselves in these echo chambers they migrate towards simple solutions and who offers simpler solutions that the right-wing, populist authoritarians?  It's the immigrants, it's the liberals or it's the gays or blacks or the women with their pesky bodies and abortions.  

Democracy demands that we are tolerant.  Democracy demands that we be understanding.  Democracy demands we share our country with those that look different that we do, love different than we do, pray different than we do and ultimately think different than we do.  It first and foremost requires an unwavering acceptance of the fact that Democracy is the most important societal framework in a citizen's life–that it sits atop all else–a religion before religion.

Authoritarianism requires only one thing, blind faith–believing in the doctrines of the leader with no need of proof, or justification, just the sole requirement of loyalty.  

Unwavering loyalty.

Once he's secured that loyalty, the leader will tell you who and what to fear.  Only the leader can save you from those scary black people coming to steal your shit or those pesky liberal women who only want to kill unborn babies.

'White+Black' shot on a Mamiya6MF on Kodak Tri-X, pushed +2 at the Icon. 

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