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MICRO CHANGES – JAN/FEB 2019

Article Contributing Creators MICRO CHANGES - JAN/FEB 2019

Brexit and The Policy Changes That Define a Nation

Written by Felix Faillace

So, here we are. Time for a big bowl of Brexit. At the time of publishing, Parliament is holding the vote and soon we will have made a long overdue decision on the toxic relationship it has with Brexit. It is a binary decision, a small change, one of staying or leaving, much like deciding to stay at a party for a while longer or catch the last train home. Except that the party is the EU and the last train home doesn’t let immigrants on board.

Where did this all start? Was it Farage, was it Cameron? Our answer lies deep in our glorious British history (God Save the Queen). From the late 17th century until the early 20th century Britain was the most powerful nation in the world, and by the end of the 19th century Britain ruled over 25% of the world’s population and controlled the global economy. Over the centuries, the Empire faded and a grand disparity developed between the memory of Britannia and the UK of today. In the face of modern challenges, we are left with a superiority complex in our national psyche, and the fact that we can now, in our situation, think we would somehow be better off without the EU, is baffling. Often we like to think that we dominated the globe because we are better than foreigners, but really it’s because we were better bankers.

Past Glory, Thanks to Immigrants

In the early 17th century the newly formed Dutch republic was able to fund the finest trade expeditions through the East India Company. They had established innovative economic instruments, such as the first stock market and the ability to issue bonds to the public, thereby delving into national debt. Holland dominated world trade for a number of decades, winning multiple battles against Britain in the process. However, on the 5th of November 1688, there was a crucial turning point in history as Willem Hendrik van Oranje, better known as William of Orange, landed on British shores and instigated “the Glorious Revolution” in which the Dutch noble took consenting control of the budding empire. Into his new domain, van Oranje imported the pioneering financial institutions of Holland and thrust Britain into the driver’s seat of globalisation.


Prince of Orange Landing at Torbay, engraving by William Miller after J M W Turner (Rawlinson 739), published in The Art Journal 1852 (New Series Volume IV). George Virtue, London, 1852

Today, we are once more at a crossroads in British history, and in the same way these noblemen committed treason and replaced their king, brave politicians must now disregard party loyalties and the “democratic” result of the referendum. There will undoubtedly be change; it is simply a case of whether it will be a return to sanity or a nosedive off the edge of Europe and into economic ruin.

By 1698 Britain had a thriving stock market and the state-funded East India Company was beginning to develop monopolies on the trade between Europe and Asia. Britain even had the money to emerge victorious over France, Spain, and Russia in the Seven Years’ War from 1756 to 1763. Both sides were fairly evenly matched but Britain was able to borrow funds, whilst all the French could do was raise taxes. This war was pivotal in European geopolitics, as the bulk of France’s colonial territories were given to Britain. This failure was felt most acutely by the poorest in France, setting the stage for the French revolution 26 years later.

Britain prospered as a result of the war and they had their financiers to thank for this. Yet most people in Britain perceived their prowess as a result of their innate superiority. They were not aware of the benefits of the stock market – all they saw were the headlines screaming “VICTORY”.

As the nation began to take control of world affairs, the toxic idea of god-granted supremacy began to take root in the British consciousness, a place where it has remained for over 250 years. Of course, the majority of the modern British public doesn’t understand that the glorious Empire was primarily a commercial free trade operation, and this is why it created so much wealth. It was first and foremost a single market, with a single currency, free movement of goods, services, capital and people, and with a single legal framework based on Common Law. Sounds an awful lot like the EU doesn’t it?

The Selective Memory of A Nation

Most of Britain’s success comes down to luck. We have been truly blessed by our geography. As an island, this country is far less susceptible to foreign invasions, and access to the sea allowed his or her majesty to literally rule the waves. This military security meant that Britain was able to focus on other endeavours, such as industrial innovation or improving domestic opportunities. The Magna Carta, Bill of Rights and English Common Law fostered political, economic and civil stability, at a time when other countries were finding their footing as nation states.

While in the 19th century the rest of Western Europe was busy unifying (Germany and Italy), fighting off revolutions (France and Spain) or modernizing from a feudal system (Russia), Britain had already secured a strong national identity and functioning parliament for centuries, keeping the Queen or King in check through heavy dependency on taxation. These are among the most easily identifiable reasons as to why Britain came to dominate, especially for a historian, but, throughout history, it was much easier for the average Brit to point to an inherent national and moral superiority.

For example, we have always ranted and raved about how we ended the slave trade. It is true; the British did blockade the West African coast throughout the early 19th century in order to stop merchants from continuing the trade, whilst being amongst the first European nations to abolish slavery entirely. These actions fully enshrined this effort and many Brits now point to these events as indicators of the morality and benevolence of the Empire.

Official medallion of the British Anti-Slavery Society (1795)

As you might guess, that wasn’t actually the case. In 1793 Britain engaged in war with France and the battles were fought in India, the Caribbean and the Americas, and Britain needed those native populations to support the war effort. Ending slavery was perceived as a move which would raise the overseas political capital of British rule. Slavery was also becoming less and less profitable as mass industry took over, with the slave populations deemed more costly and difficult to control. Successful revolutions had already occurred in territories such as Haiti. Even the forcible ending of the slave trade by the Royal Navy was mainly due to the fact that Britain did not want Brazilian sugar producers to gain an unfair competitive advantage through the use of slave labour.

Again, it was all about the money.

We must not delude ourselves into thinking that it was some moral epiphany that hit British politicians as they walked into the House of Commons one day and realised that enslavement is abhorrent. British authorities have a long tradition of downplaying “their central role in the transatlantic slave trade, while claiming credit for ending slavery.” They preferred to credit the change of heart to Christian lobbying groups such as the Clapham Sect, thereby making the government appear to be both pious and progressive.   

Throughout the 1950s and 60s, there was a steep increase in immigration from ex-colonies and this has led to a visible flaring of racial tensions when combined with the inferiority complex induced by our diminishing imperial might. The two have arrived on British shores simultaneously and led to a staggeringly ironic victim complex, whereby Brits feel colonized in their own land by immigrants from the old colonies. These migrants serve to help the British economy by taking often low-paying jobs and increasing the multiplier effect, never mind the long overdue justice in allowing them opportunities in Britain after centuries of colonisation.

The British public has not been capable of any level of critical introspection or reconciliation, rather remaining begrudged at our new position in the world, as we seek to regain control of our borders at extreme personal cost. However, this sentiment does not exist independently from other factors. It has been greatly exasperated in recent decades by certain economic policy errors, such as not joining the EEC in 1957 at the precise time when the Empire was dissolving.

“We love immigrants. They make great scapegoats.” Photo by Alisdare Hickson

Future Glory, Thanks to Immigrants

Failure to integrate the working class communities of Britain into our increasingly globalized world, followed by harsh austerity imposed on the nation’s poorest, has left many feeling disillusioned and eager to find a scapegoat upon which to drop their insecurities and anger. Politicians such as Margaret Thatcher have redefined the values of modern Britain and have given a legitimate voice to those disillusioned conservatives who simply wish to return to our imperial pre-eminence. However, going back to the old ways implicitly attacks those who represent the new Britain: the hundreds of thousands of economic migrants.

Nowadays, the glory of Britain can be found in our diversity and multiculturalism, but instead, we blame our problems on the social changes experienced in the wake of decolonisation. Many who voted for Brexit did so out of this sentiment. We wish pointlessly for Britannia, yet miss the crucial point that British power was based entirely on free trade and movement of peoples. What 6 words better describe the EU? Perhaps if we were better educated on the true nature of the Empire and not our innate supremacy, we would not have voted to leave the very organisation which continues its legacy.

Abigail C. Keane Article MICRO CHANGES - JAN/FEB 2019

When Fake News Creeps Up on You

Written by Abigail C. Keane

With the emergence of new media, that is, the Internet and all its glorious new forms of communication, the way individuals obtain and spread information has undergone changes beyond what was imaginable a few decades ago. An especially concerning issue is the way we now receive news – if in the past, it was mostly through well-known credible traditional news sources or somewhat questionable gossip, these days, there are millions of unvetted websites uploading and posting news stories that aren’t always 100% truthful (if at all). However, the real problem lies in the fact that it is becoming increasingly difficult to differentiate what constitutes a credible source and reliable information. It has gotten to the point where even known news sites, such as the BBC, are publishing articles on how to spot fake news.

A Brief History of Journalism

The evolution of modern day journalism essentially hinges of the 1947 Commission on Freedom of the Press, also known as the Hutchins Commission, because that was a key step to forming standardized journalistic practices and principles of ethics. After World War II, it became apparent that the freedom of the press was at risk as it was susceptible to the influence of the government and economic power; influence manifests itself in the form of propaganda or advertising.

The main reason changes needed to be implemented, according to the Commission, was to invigorate the press to act as a watchdog and present relatively unbiased news that could criticize the state or other major stakeholders. This idea, calling the media the Fourth Estate, ultimately aimed to protect democracy by preventing external powers from affecting what gets into the news and what doesn’t, how it is presented, etc. Overall, it was a way to ensure that civil society had a voice and that balanced political discourse could persevere.

The point: let truthfulness and accuracy reign in the media.

Photo by Thomas Charters

Regulation and the New Media

This was all well and good while traditional media worked relatively independently and with the established principles of ethics in mind. For instance, in the UK, the vast majority of publication houses (including the media giant Immediate Media Co) are regulated by the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO). Thus, if there are accuracy issues, privacy breaches and such, these problems are addressed by IPSO, and media companies are held accountable.

While it may be true that such regulating practices have their limits, the new media landscape, especially social media, seems to lack such regulation altogether. At the moment, regulation is mainly restricted to matters of hate speech and (age) inappropriate content – even then, not all posts get flagged down.

So, what happens to all the fake news being posted online? Well, mostly nothing. It may get shot down by reasonable individuals commenting under such posts, but removing such information from social media has much broader and complicated implications. Ultimately, regulation policies and codes of ethics are lagging behind the rapid changes occurring in the news and media, changes we haven’t really noticed or paid enough attention to until recently.

The Irony of Democracy

Currently, the main debate taking place is: should we censor fake news? While some countries, such as Egypt, address that question head-on by saying “YES,” other states are in chaos, not knowing how to deal with the problem. The reason fake news censorship is considered so dangerous is that it gives the government, or some other regulatory body, the power to decide what constitutes true and false information. Taken to the worst case scenario, that could imply tyrannical control over speech – a big no-no for democracy.

Thus, we are now at a point where many of us want change, but we are afraid of it – and rightly so.

The concerns being brought up by free speech advocates and lobby groups, though often self-serving, are by no means blown out of proportion. The means through which governments would try to protect democracy, that is, through censorship, could fundamentally undermine democracy itself.

Photo by Randy Colas

Power to the People

There seem to be two paths leading forward: let states censor fake news or let fake news run loose. What many don’t realize is that there’s at least one more option – let the people take action.

Social media doesn’t abide by the rules of traditional media and presents challenges that are seemingly impossible to tackle in tandem with democratic values. Maybe social media, in its current form and with all its flaws, holds the key. Instead of relying on some authority to solve the problem, individuals can call out and denounce fake news posts and sources by themselves. For instance, we can report posts that contain false information – an action many are already taking.

What is more important, and necessary, to correctly identify fake news stories is to critically evaluate them and stop believing everything you read on the Internet. Instead of just blindly trusting whatever information is thrown your way and re-posting that shit, take a minute, do some more research – get your facts straight!

Until states and other regulatory bodies figure out how to deal with fake news (if that time will ever come), people can catch up to the rapid media changes of our time and adjust their mentality. It’s time to stop the trend of deceit, if not by reporting fake news, then at least by thinking about what you’re reading.

MICRO CHANGES - JAN/FEB 2019 Prose Sybrand Veeger Uncategorized

Cries of Flux

Written by Sybrand Veeger

Everything is flux or energy or motion or fire or change so

Everybody is beat, pulse, thump, pump, thump, pump, rush!

I sometimes feel and listen to my neck’s pulse on the pillow when I’m half asleep while imagining my skin translucent I watch my blood race in shoots from my heart to my heart to my heart roaring through ventricles and valves and chambers and pipes and pistons self-orchestrating the fiery flux of this sanguine concerto in thick red minor to which I tend to dream of dancing in straight cardiac tempo echoed by a chorus that inhales and exhales and expands and contracts while inflating sacks of airy oxygen producing exhalations of life and thought and memories and words and dreams and causing inhalations ad absurdum finitum finitum finitum finitum!

“Stop! Bodies never stand still! Accept the bloody fire of flesh!”

Everything is flux or energy or fire or stream or change so

Every soul’s motion parallels the flow of breath and blood!

I sometimes stand beside my spirit’s stream to observe the ebbing flow of consciousness covered by surface currents made of perceptions coloring the mental water that rushes rainbow-dyed by the senses and is carried through by an undercurrent of fears and anxieties and joys and excitements causing the tide of this river of subjectivity which direction is determined by imagination and which flooding is seldom barred by the weak dams of rational thought!

“Stop! Minds never stand still! Accept the perpetual stream of spirit!”
Jonas Guigonnat MICRO CHANGES - JAN/FEB 2019 Prose

Writing Out Of Our Mind

Written by Jonas Guigonnat

New York in the 1970s.

New Babylon, place of hope and despair. Subway lines are its veins, the symbol of its dynamic and destructive power. But there’s something on the trains. A flow of shapes, colors and shadows, awakening this graveyard of rusted matter. But from whom were they? A bunch of eccentric artists trying to communicate with the real world? No, they were simply “writers.”

The subway connects worlds that are foreign to each other. From Manhattan to the Bronx, the Queens of Brooklyn. Those were places of social anarchy. A flow of cultures, worldviews and collective past experiences lived in the limbs of the city. The result of centuries of oppression. But the new world contained within itself the promise of change.

Seriously?

Racial and social discrimination, unspoken rule of the new promised land. Some neighborhoods were the nest of misery, violence, and destruction. Groups of despaired youngsters with none of the promised fruit.

“Work hard and shut the fuck up.” The words of uncle Sam were clear enough.

Many claims, many ideals. From Malcolm X to Martin Luther King, the Watts riots, the Black Panthers, or even the Punk movement. Things were trying to happen. But to what end and for who exactly? The boss was changing his old paternalistic speech, offering freedom to all. At a price, of course. Forget your political and historical claims. Embrace the new freedom. Work well, shop well, travel and sleep. Then everything will be alright.

Unfortunately for him, not everyone was planning to listen to the boss. Small pockets of resistance were born. What were they? And which ones did subsist?

Some rats are hiding far from the spotlight of the day. Writing their name all over again. One even made it to the newspaper in 1969. TAKI183 is his name. A kid of Washington Heights. The New York Times talked about him. Is this not fame? BARBARA62, EVA62, JUNIOR61, CAY61, TRACY168, JULIO204 of STAYHIGH149 believed so, as thousands of other kids. It was 1971, as the writers’ scene continued to grow, new styles were born.

1974-1979, new names were getting up. PHASE2, PART1, BLADE, SEEN, DONDI WHITE, KASE2, LADY PINK, ZEPHYR, REVOLT or LEE. For many, just names – for writers: the hall of fame. Time of evolving styles and creative energy. Bubble- or block-letters, wild style of tag work. Bombing, writing, or scrapping.

Everything can art. Anyone can art.

Photo from a legal “writing” wall.

A local phenomenon. Not here to stay. 1981, the end was near, the city reacting. The people had talked through the mouth of the mayor. Erasing the color, the vandalism, the free tool of expression. But who will remember any of this? A writer’s work is ephemeral. A piece of present dreams, doomed to disappear forever. Was this change to be just a whisper, a wishful illusion?

Some people from the “real” world remarked on those swinging trains coming out of the urban jungle. Worthy of enough attention for a smile, or a picture. A woman, photographer for the New York Post. She has an eye for many things. Traveled on a motor from Bangkok to London, studied art and has a passion for photography. Her spared time is filled with those colors and those letters. She gets used to it, tries to understand. On one of those spared days, she met a fourteen-year-old.

The young writer, named SERANO, showed her his sketchbook. The battle plan for the next piece.

On that day Martha Cooper understood. It had nothing to do with criminality or a childish pastime. No, this was a unique cultural entity, she realized. A symbiosis of many past streams. The letters were their idols, the colors their sacrificial offer. She took many more pictures and met a “king.” One of the few. Codename: DONDI WHITE. King-writers were masters of their craft. Their letters, still fully in use almost 40 years later.

This king was surrounded by another curious person. A middle-class man in his mid-thirties, also intrigued by those riding art-panels, Henry Chalfant. Pictures were also his weapon, but he had another card to play. First movie ever about graffiti-writing? Style Wars in 1983 for the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). A new version of the story was about to begin.

Afraid to lose it to the past. Scared that time wouldn’t show compassion. After meeting each other thanks to DONDI, the 2 photographers decided to change the course of this writhingstory without knowing it. Out of thousands of pictures, a little more than a hundred were chosen. But what for? A project, a dream. Keeping the colored illusion alive, giving it a past, a memory. A book. Nowadays the bible: Subway Art.

Waking up in 2018.

Clear summer night. No wind, no rain. Metal scraps, city rats and dry air. A hatch in the ground is open, need to watch out for the hounds. No one sees it happening, but still, some are still rocking the city.

Graffiti-writing survived. It took over Europe in the 1980s, and later the whole world. The letters traveled far. Not worrying about the boss, not listening to his whining. Let him not understand, for these signs are not meant for him.

Writers are of every background. Without real identity, moving in the darkness, recognizing its value. For where it is dark, the eye can get used to it, and the soul forgets fear.

Frenetic activity for night crawlers. Small-scaled subculture in the 1970s. Worldwide artistic expression in our present time.

Writing has a long history. Many chapters, many lost brothers. But still, we are writing. Expressing ourselves in that very specific way. Participating in the mutation of the movement itself by keeping its memory alive and keeping writing. Writing till there’s no ink left to be shed.

 

Photo from a legal “writing” spot in Amsterdam.

Marten Bart Stork MICRO CHANGES - JAN/FEB 2019 Poetry

Creatio Ex Nihilo

Written by Marten Bart Stork

(A) Small change.
(B) A little different.

A little goes a long way.

Together all the bugs on this planet not only got us outnumbered, but they also got us outweighed.

What’s a little and what’s a lot?
What is big and what is not?

An amount only has meaning in comparison to something else.

The size of something only has meaning in comparison to something else.
What is a galaxy to us could be only the nucleus of a cell.

The cell of a body so big we could never even experience it as such.

What’s small change for you to someone else could mean so much.

Make (a) small change.
(B)e a little different.

What is change?
What is difference?

Change is everything.

Change is the difference between everything and nothing.
The conflict between everything and nothing.

Change is energy.

If an object or an event never change it’s impossible to experience them.

If there is no difference between things it’s impossible to observe the things.

Difference is information.

The difference between 0 and 1

Creation out of nothing.

Everything is the change from nothing into something.

Change is the difference between everything and nothing.