See No Evil?

Capitalism would be a fascinating spectacle to watch from afar, if I wasn’t living in it. This is why the criticism put upon the system I read in books seems so less harsh than when I re-iterate the same words whilst walkingdown a town centre street: reading it in a book is like reading about a far off world, especially when you’re sat snug in your chosen space for relaxing contemplation. However, as soon as I take a step into the real world I realise that I am partaking in interpassivity: the words I am reading are performing my anti-capitalism for me; so I need not feel shame whilst I sit a chain cafe (so generic that a branch in one city plays the exact same compilation CD, with the pretence of random songs, as a branch in another city 30 miles away) partaking in one of the newer consumer phenomena’s, of drinking in continental-themed cafes. I walk outside. I’ve soaked up my anti-capitalism from the book like the kid who soaks up his thick milkshake in the, now unfashionable, downtown eatery McDonald’s, and now I will calmly put in my earphones and listen to some ‘guilt-free’ non heavy-going 1990’s indie music and wait another day until my discontent grows back like a 5 o’clock shadow from at which point I am ready to do everything the same way again tomorrow.

I couldn’t help thinking about the idea of interpassivity after reading a section about the functional purpose of the Walt Disney Film Wall-E in Mark Fisher’s Capitalist Realism. The term Interpassivity, named so by Robert Pfaller – who I’ll make no pretence about knowing anything about – has stuck with me more so because it seems to have named the raging-doubts I sometimes have about my morals in relation to my artwork. I have often been really annoyed with myself about why I am so inept in actually tackling concerns, internal and external, whilst continuously reeling out works which confront these concerns, and now it seems likely that I let my creative juices perform my protests, demands, beliefs for me, seen as I do really feel really less troubled by my actions within the real world, after exorcising my major concerns on a piece of paper. Of course, I believe in the necessity of art and in the necessity for me to be making it, but this concern doesn’t cease because the problems around (too large to singularly do anything about, or ones that do appear to be in my grasp) don’t cease either. And it all boils down to a questioning of what is a good person and what is a bad person.

Is a good person someone who is, whilst being loving and caring and generous towards friends and family and all in his/her vision, working for a business that is indirectly contributing to the suffering of many people in far off countries? And this is a crude example as we all have blood on our hands if one takes into account the omni-potent presence the mega corporations have in all our lives. Is what makes him/her bad simply that they are partaking in a life which is causing bones and logs to pile in other parts of the world and know that they are, feel bad about it, but refuse to do anything different and carry on?

If someone has no knowledge of the effects their lifestyle might be contributing to, they see no evil, feel no wrong, surely then they cannot be judged as being a bad person? But when one grows up, sees all the evil, but carries on soaking up the consumer-laden lifestyle they were building and expecting whilst younger and doing nothing to change once they see the destructiveness’ linked to this lifestyle, are they a bad person? Or is it because, despite what anybody might see/be aware of, the brightest lights flashing before our eyes, the loudest voices all seemingly shouting in unison, assure then convince us that living this way is OK “don’t worry about it” ?

Of course, those issuing these ‘re-assuring’ words don’t actually think all is OK. However, we all just keep bolstering the mainstream even if we doubt it severely underneath due to conventional manners in which we communicate with each other (and when someone does “tell it like it is” one is liable to leave their company for the more cosy-speak from others), and we can all partake in interpassivity like I do (At least Fear that I do).

Whether we experience the effects of peak oil, climate extremes or the boot of an increasingly more authoritarian government (which is likely anyway if either of the first 2 occur) the life we are living, the democracies that working peoples have battle hard to win (no matter how mock-democratic they are at present), will be forced to change/contract massively. If we carry on accepting that Capitalism is the only way, and that all we are able to do is to try our best for ourselves and family within its confines, then the majority of us (in the west also) are going to find life very bleak, in comparison with today (even if today is blighted by apathy and anxiety for tomorrow’s world), perhaps as bleak as it was for our great grandparents and their parents, grandparents.

Just listening to stories about my own grandparents’ struggles in pre-welfare Britain cannot help but make me massively concerned, and half expectant of struggles of an equal measure for own generation’s children’s’ future’s, especially as massive slashes to public spending, and the ideological extremity of capitalist thinking appear to have won over as the choice of method to get the machine running again to deliver the world out of this current global recession.
Yet, as much as I know that a new way of living is needed, and needed fast (a new way which can probably only start from grass-roots upwards), I do very little to get involved, in trying to begin this about. I feel meekly unnerved when I see protests from pressure groups in the street, not because I don’t agree with them, but that them being there simply confirms the reality of my concern, and my instinct is to flee the vicinity. As much as my domestication’s, habits etc, cause me profound discontent and worry, a mixture of sources have installed so much fear into me that I feel – what Mark Fisher’s Capitalist Realism called – reflexive impotence, and all thought becomes negative from which the only outlet for it is more art, or the kind of rant I am making here; more drawings and writings which few will see, and fewer still will be seriously moved by.
Yet the last thing I would want to do here is spread apathy. I wish, eventually, to be partaking in some form in a movement which can show people that capitalism isn’t the only way, and that a change doesn’t have to be a change to something worse.

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About John Ledger

A visual Artist, eternal meanderer and obsessive self-reflector by nature, who can’t help but try to interpret everything from within the tide of society. His works predominantly take the form of large scale ballpoint pen landscape drawings and map-making as social/psychological note-making. They are slowly-accumulating responses to crises inflicted upon the self in the perplexing, fearful, empty, and often personality-erasing human world.

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