Locked into the present

By MARK TERKESSIDIS

Amid the crisis, there is only crisis. We fall to crisis, we react to crisis, our thinking is dominated by crisis. We estimate the effects it will have on the future. And every crisis is worse than the previous one. The crisis creates the total present, apparently there is no before and no after. Yet we could as well draw lessons from the last “crisis,” which wasn’t a “refugee crisis” but a governmental crisis: it were the (Western) European governments who did not want to believe that Syria was nearby, that a civil war was taking place there and that the situation of the refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Greece was becoming increasingly unbearable. For several years, the UNHCR travelled through Europe and emphasised that the funds for the people cared for by the UN Refugee Commission only covered 40 percent of the needs – and nobody reacted and increased the funds.

The crisis has a history.

With “corona” it is very similar. For a very long time a wide variety of experts and institutions has been pointing out the dangers of a pandemic. But as much as people apparently believe that globalisation can be limited to the trade in goods (while the migration of people is to be prevented regardless), they apparently also believe that viruses can be stopped by Frontex. Since the outbreak of HIV, at the latest, people have basically been pretending that viruses only affect “fringe groups” or non-Western people: Ebola, MERS, SARS, Zika, Dengue, West Nile fever – what did “we” have to do with it? At the same time, the World Health Organization (WHO) has been systematically de-funded by state governments – today it receives two thirds of its funds from the private sector and thus increasingly depends on it.

In other words, this crisis, like any other, has a history.

Since real socialism, planning seems to have become a dirty word; it suffices to make the billions available when the crisis is imminent. The mayor of my home town recently told me that he can hardly communicate the consequences of the “refugee crisis” politically: Before 2015, all the small initiatives, the people with commitment had approached him for small amounts of money – and he had to tell them that the city doesn’t even have 500 euros to give. But then, with the “crisis” impending, suddenly millions of euros were spent. And when the crisis is considered to be over, we put it behind us. During the “refugee crisis”, a vast number of new forms of civil engagement and collaboration have emerged, as well as a myriad of new experiences – but did we learn from them at all?

After the crisis, we pretend that “normality,” this fetish, will return, and that all the pre-crisis mistakes can be committed anew. Right now new methods of problem solving are being tested – for example, in the responsive restructuring of education and labor. But how all these new experiences will be incorporated afterwards? Who will evaluate them? What might authorities learn from them? Without factoring in the lessons of the before and after, the crisis will remain a form of government that is locking is us into the present.

In that case, it is always only crisis.

March 27th, 2020 — Rosa Mercedes / 02
Interface

Olena Lyubchenko on Whiteness, Expropriation, War, and Social Reproduction in Ukraine (via LeftEast): “[…] when we hear on the news that ‘Ukraine is fighting a European war’ and ‘Ukraine is defending Europe’, amid images of fleeing ‘poor white’ women with children prioritized over racialized ‘Others’, ‘Ukraine’ is being made ‘white’ in the global imaginary. That is, “the injunction to ‘return to Europe’ by way of Europeanization is enabled and conditioned on the mythologies of Western civilization, and that Europeanization at once marks (promulgates) and unmarks (naturalizes) racial whiteness” [Nadezhda Husakouskaya and Randi Gressgård]. The paradox is that Europe’s existence as such has only been possible precisely because of the exploitation of global working peoples through expropriation of resources and today neoliberal economic reforms and reproduced by feminized labour.”

Vasyl Cherepanyn about the “inertness, hiding behind the European Wall” (via L’Internationale): “Many Western institutions that have been claiming ‘radical political engagement’ for years, have simply resorted to a white cube radicalism and self-satisfying humanitarianism, too afraid of acting politically beyond their comfort zone and unsettling their publics and authorities by attempting to affect the decision-making process regarding the Ukrainian cause.”

May 28th, 2022

Tatsiana Shchurko on the War in Ukraine, Entangled Imperialisms, and Transnational Feminist Solidarity, via LeftEast (May 2, 2022): “[An] uneven knowledge production and the many implications of the war against Ukraine reveal the dire need to develop a feminist anti-capitalist critique of multiple imperialisms. This language should grow from within the occupied and suppressed communities of Eastern Europe and Eurasia. An anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist feminist positionality grasps that the local is part of a global in an effort to build transnational connections of mutual aid and support against state and corporate violence. For example, statements of solidarity with Ukraine expressed by the International Committee of Indigenous Peoples of Russia and Native American communities along with the anti-war feminist march in Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan) on March 8, 2022, pointing out that the war in Ukraine should be of concern for a broad transnational community, may serve as instrumental examples of alternative anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist solidarities that stretch beyond state regulations and macro-politics and foreground decolonial perspectives, necessary in addressing entanglements of multiple imperialisms. Such solidarities also bring to light hidden interconnections of the past that allowed for distant communities to survive and support each other against the violence of imperialist intervention and its attendant capitalist exploitation. Thus, the march in Bishkek reminds of the socialist roots of the International Women’s Day to call for internationalist, intersectional, class solidarity against imperialism and militarism.”

Vasyl Cherepanyn on that “It’ll take more than tanks to ease Germany’s guilt” (via Politico): “Since the Soviet Union’s collapse, Germany has been imposing neocolonial optics on its Eastern European ‘peripheries,’ and on the post-Soviet space in particular, where Ukraine was long considered a gray buffer zone about which the EU was ‘deeply concerned.’ Germany didn’t bother itself much with differentiating between former Soviet countries’ pasts. Even until recently, any Ukrainian agenda in Germany was often ‘balanced’ with a Russian perspective, so as to not exclude the latter by any means.”

An unnamed anarchist and art scholar, who joined the Territorial Defense Forces, quoted by Olexii Kuchanskyi in an essay on “Digital Leviathan and His Nuclear Tail” (via Your Art and e-flux notes): “At dawn, Dima and I talked about cinema. Dima believes that cinema is inferior to literature as a means of expression because you spend much more time with a book than a film. It’s a really interesting point, something to dig into. I studied at the department of art theory & history and I never thought of it. Dima served in the military after school and worked at the factory all his life. He listens to rap, smokes pot, and tries to have fun. He is thirty-eight, his child was born last year. He likes Wong Kar-wai and is a fan of Asian cinema in general. Dima communicates by quoting Omar Khayyam, Confucius, and other awesome guys.”

April 20th, 2022

Vasyl Cherepanyn (Visual Culture Research Centre, Kyiv) on Putin’s “World War Z” and the West’s deadly “foot-dragging”, via Project Syndicate: “The main feature of this Western condition is constant belatedness. The West has always been too late, incapable of acting ahead and instead just reacting to what has already happened. As a Ukrainian joke went at the time, ‘While the European Union was taking a decision, Russia took Crimea.’ Then as now, Ukrainians wondered, ‘What is the West’s red line? What will compel the West to act instead of waiting and discussing when to intervene?’”

Barbara Wurm on Lithuanian director Mantas Kvedaravičius, killed in Mariupol, via Die Welt: “Kvedaravičius unfolded a whole spectrum of visual anthropology over a decade with only three films [Barzakh, Mariupolis, Parthenon]. It now awaits evaluation and exploration. The time will come. The films themselves make possible an infinite immersion in the matter of the world, between dream and reality, horror and everyday life, facts and phenomenal imagology.”

April 5th, 2022
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