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Jonas Guigonnat Prose ROOTS - MAR/APR 2019

Roots of a Rocking Political Event: The Brexit

Written by Jonas Guigonnat

The Tale of the Old King and the Dandy

The world around us is unlike anything it ever was. Changes operate permanently, even on a microscopic scale, technocrats transform mass-politics into digi-democracies and most of the western world asks itself what its identity really is.

Not that long ago the democratic world-view was claiming a victory on history.

Divisions between folks, ideologies, cultures, nations and continents were meant to make place for the last step of human modernity toward world unity. History was to show us how progress works toward its (democratic) accomplishment.

The past seemed – for a while – tangible, real and existent on its own. What we were told from above was the truth. Facts were facts, we heard, there was thus apparently no reason to doubt our version of the world and its history.

Those ideas came from old king Europe, who had, for a short historic while, the world in the grasp of his hand.

He once believed in being at the center of the universe. Every bit of wealth, knowledge and kingdom had to belong to him. When he discovered the West Indies – a little more than 5 centuries ago – he transformed the place into his own private garden and called it the Americas.

But this old king had a bad habit: turning his own children, who considered themselves lands, against each other in a fight to the death.

Some of them, who were sent to the American garden to be its guardians, had enough of this game, refused to obey and rebelled against their father. They discovered, far away from him, on that other continent, the possibilities of becoming an entity of its own – independent.

This new independent country had to be funded on values that were subversive to the old king, almost to the point of arrogance. Otherwise, they would have been destroyed by the one they were facing.

The conflict that followed was to be of legendary proportions, the old king trying to annihilate the rebels, who were developing and strengthening their new identity in the heart of the battle. As a result of that war, out of the ashes, rose the American Dandy.

Almost a century and a half later, some of his other children, fighting to divide the colonized world between each other, ultimately brought destruction to the old king – a conflict he ultimately lost after the whole world settled its score with him twice in half a century.

Without being the only or real winner coming out of the two world conflicts, the American Dandy was far stronger than the dying king, but willing to negotiate the new world order with what remained of him.

The young American Dandy was using norms and values familiar to the surviving children, they were easy enough to be understood by all. Those values were also to be universal and true for all humans, in the name of progress.

Let’s just doubt the idea that this progressive version of history really is the root of our chaotic present.

Photo by Gui Avelar

Stepping Out of the Fairytale

Human memory is the filter transforming the complicated soup of what lies behind us into a meaningful past. Collective memories are ones of political motivations and institutional signature. What we are told is thus nothing more than… what we are told.

It is then possible to see the last 70 years as something else than as a race to peace and unity. This race makes sense in a specific discourse: the American version of the democratic world-view, which did win many conflicts in the twentieth century to bring peace to the whole world. But every process, as far as the past is concerned, fluctuates and eventually changes into something different than what it was.

The transatlantic network wasn’t just a question of ideals.

With Stalin and Russia, as the biggest winners, taking all of the Balkan countries for himself, on the east side of the European continent, the clock was ticking. Some in Western Europe, out of the ruins of their country, saw the choice between a transatlantic world and a Soviet one as a devil’s choice.

Leaping Back In

But the Dandy had an ally in that choice: the dusty old British lord.

The British lord was, from the start, a part of the European family. But he liked to believe that he was different from the rest, an island thing as they say. At the end of World War II, he got that right in a way, and may have been the only one not really on the losers side in Western Europe. He was weakened and it paid.

Though he distrusted everyone and believed for a long time that he was meant to rule the world, he accepted the proposition made by Dandy – who was once his son, now considered a retarded nephew – while knowing he had to lose his colonies in other continents to close the deal.

With the British on his side, the Dandy thought it was just a question of time before the stubborn old king would give up his defense and accept his rule.

But in an unexpected turn of events, two of the king’s children, the French general and the almost totally destroyed German warlord, were creating a back-stop that was meant to diminish the dependence of West-Europe toward any foreign force in the future. The old French general was hoping to keep his colonies, and the vanquished German to avoid the same humiliation he experienced when signing at Versailles in 1919.

Old king Europe had to transform himself to survive and, making his way up between the Dandy and the Russians, he became at first an economic force to be internationally considered. But this new Europe wasn’t to play an important political role again just yet.

The ball was rolling in unexpected ways.

Shake Off the Tale

After two decades of struggle against too much influence from any party, and the refusal of decolonizing countries in Africa and Asia, the new Europe had, at the end of the 1960s, to pick a side. As an isolated rebel continent, it could not have stood against the forces at play.

The voice of the British neighborhood was still clearer to hear. They were asking for collaboration with the Americans. A compromise was the only option, and it was clear the old continent wasn’t going to take a dominant position in the negotiation. The dispute for the main vision of Europe was just starting.

It comes finally to one crucial decision: how centralized to make the politico-economic Europe.

To France, where centralization is the core of politics, it couldn’t be centralized enough. For the British it was the opposite, states had to maintain full sovereignty and use a political Europe mostly to keep peace and trades stable. Regulations were to be imposed only if necessary. Two visions still dividing the monopole of today’s European Union.

The dispute continued in the 70s and 80s, with new mythical figures like the conservative Margaret Thatcher on the British side (known as the Iron Lady for her toughness), the French socialist, François Mitterrand, and the German liberal, Helmut Kohl, coming on stage.

The moves that were made were tactical, each party realizing that hasty decisions could put the fragile collaboration in danger.

But then, a wall fell down.

The political balance inside of the European project itself, was to be shaken as a consequence of that falling wall, and some processes to be accelerated. The discussion about centralization took a new turn, as all of Eastern Europe, that was now free of the Soviet rule, was potentially to

“participate” in the project.

For the ones fond of centralized powers, it was clear that nothing could be done without strong political structures. European norms, values, and thus rules, had to be broadly accepted in order to receive an entrance ticket. The structures that had to ensure that this process went well could only be legitimately anchored in strong treaties and regulations.

A strong center of power in Europe was needed more than ever.

But the balance of power was also to in doubt. Germany became a whole country once again, reuniting east and west, but the implication were complex. The war that ended four decades earlier was still fresh in collective and individual memories. A strong Germany didn’t sound like a bright idea, knowing “what happened last time.”

Maybe also for that reason, even more power was given to the center of this symbiotic entity that was called the European Union. At its center was a French-speaking city located in Belgium: Bruxelles. The back-up place had to be in Strasburg, a French city which has been alternately German and French since the war between both countries in 1871. Compromise was thus made, in a way.

France emerged as one of the “rightful” founding fathers of the European project, and, without a doubt, was the most powerful, historically, politically, and economically. Therefore, he was also the most legitimized one to supervise the whole affair. Margaret Thatcher accepted on behalf of the United Kingdom (anything but too strong a Germany).

Photo by Jaime Casap

Towards an Ever Closer Union

Few things were refused by the British, like the Euro as a unique currency; the Iron Lady gave in on many points. The ball seemed to stop rolling and the traditional dispute about Europe to fade away. But this was just for a little while.

After a short period of happily ever after, between 1993 and 2001, the international atmosphere changed radically following the events on September 11, 2001. Wars were to be started again (mostly in the Middle-East) and the idea of the foreigner as an enemy came back into our daily lives.

Aside from the fear of terrorism, social problems were developing due to the enlargement of the European Union. Without frontiers, the continent was full of better opportunities for those living in countries trying to reconstruct themselves after almost 50 years of Soviet rule.

Some countries were more popular than others, as much for those running from conflicts in the Middle-East, as for the East-Europeans eager to make something new out of their lives. But Great Britain, and England in particular, was the Eldorado (as the “Jungle of Calais” shows us France would not be). Desperate souls from all horizons wanted to reach the new promised land.

The traditional reservations of Great Britain toward the centralized European project were, in this context, easy to revive. It is already clear where that ultimately brings us to.

Brexit is the End of a Long Tale

The reasons discussed above (among many others) may have contributed to the British voting for Brexit. Looking for the roots of this rocking event, one may stumble on the complexity of all kinds of processes, many of which aren’t always clear to us. What will happen is even less possible to answer – even a month before it happens.

Time will give its answer, laughing at us, as usual, when revealing the new reality emerging out of panic and chaos.

Jonas Guigonnat MICRO CHANGES - JAN/FEB 2019 Prose Sybrand Veeger

CHAOS: A SCHIZOLOGUE

Written by Jonas Guigonnat and Sybrand Veeger

“The canals are quiet, the streets are almost empty.

Nothing disturbs the water, not even its own chaotic movement.

It’s one of those late winter nights that the city offers as a pause to tortured souls.

The stream whispers that things and lives are meaningful, that fearing death is meaningless.

How soothing are the whispers, the illusions of stability and of meaning!

Yet a volcanic Chaos boils underneath the calm, impenetrable surface,

It boils laughing at us, underneath this surface-screen through which we see the world,

It boils in deep laughter!

We might as well take more drugs now,

The effect is ultimately as fictitious as the freedom to choose not to…”

“Wait! Don’t forget that we can think!

Say that order, meaning, coherence

Are just the layers of a screen that we can’t penetrate  –

Say that freedom, causality, science, beauty are but figments on this screen

Merely illusions –

Say that All is really Chaos!

Aren’t we part of All?

Aren’t we laughing too through our thinking?

Ha! This makes sense! We’re Chaos laughing at itself!”

“The stature of the houses accentuates the holograms of order and balance!

Great, intricate, ancient structures of…. nothing but stone and wood –

Products of human history, of a mighty and wealthy past – of a Golden Age!

…produced by blood, fish, tulips, crosses, and crowns:

Merely coincidences, pure randomness…

And we trust in the stability of their construction,

And we indulge in the fake progressive sequence of their production,

Mythological fabrications of nothing but stuff?

Acknowledging the unceasing chaos – isn’t this too much for us to bear?”

“Yes! All will always be too much!

Because the flow of the stream is the flow in us,

Because the shaking water particle mirrors our spirit in flux.

How vital, how life-affirming,

How profoundly calming is the necessary randomness of the world,

What are time, progress, history, if what’s real is

The purity of Chaos –

If only there was more!

And that we sense it, that we can sing it with our thinking:

We are but the world singing to itself!”

“Enter me cabalistic cannabis!

Mend my fractured mind with fumes of clairvoyance and mystique!”

“And now that you’ve given me what I’ve wished for,

I’m rid of illusions – of false and destructive conclusions.

I see how disgusting we are,

Surrounded by impenetrable screens that project unreal meaning,

Unreal order, unreal time, unreal history, unreal truth, unreal contact:

Ticking, scrolling, tapping away – how thoughtless and banal!

Are we bound to this self-made nutshell and

Pointless dot in the vastness of Chaos?”

“Yes! Bounded in this very nutshell,

We can crown ourselves kings of infinite space!

For we participate in vastness,

For we too, like the world, are ever changing!

No order, no system, no symmetry, no history, no rationality:

What more can you wish for?

Now nothing holds us back from affirming Chaos!”

Jonas Guigonnat MICRO CHANGES - JAN/FEB 2019 Prose

Under A Butterfly’s Wing

Written by Jonas Guigonnat

Finally, the night has come.

At this time inappropriate thoughts get a free pass. The unclear mind is ready for endless ambulations, accepting – with the quite welcome help of narcotics – the challenge of the unknown.

“The unknown?” one may ask with a grin.

If one dares ask himself what kind of knowledge, which truth, is irrefutable, it may take more than a lifetime to find any convincing answer. So far, humanity has been working on it for, let say, a millennium or 10, but still trying and still failing. (A large dosage of the narcotic is now needed)

Let’s try to follow that thought.

None is true, but does that makes things unreal? We see things, hear, taste, touch and smell them, but how do we know what things are? (Shit that’s a tricky one)

We need to know how to behave, to have an impact on the world and to reach our goals, individually and collectively. Tempting, the idea that with enough – or the “right” – knowledge, individuals may possess the blueprint to do just this.

But there is always a catch, somewhere, around the corner, waiting for the right moment to reveal itself. In this particular case, it is clear which one. Our dear old friend: chaos.

Photo By Ian Parker

The theory speaks about a butterfly in Guatemala and the effect of its battling wings. Where does it bring us? To a tsunami in Indonesia, or an avalanche in Tibet, who knows. That’s the torturous point – nobody does.

Those trying to read into the future fail consistently. Economists and their always “surprising” worldwide crises, historians and their surely speculative understanding of the past applied to the present, or tech-scientists trying to robotize the world and intelligence itself. The battling wings have done it again, brought confusion to humanity, showing that our lives are at the mercy of this butterfly effect.

Are you listening? Is it your heartbeat? Or maybe mine? Are you scared? Are we? If the butterfly possesses such a power, but that ‘we’, ‘you’, ‘he’, ‘she’, ‘I’ are not able to see it coming… What then?

Photo by G ambrus

To embrace the chaos seems the only option. Let’s take some more of that narcotic, but without brackets this time. Pupils dilated, on the edge of insanity, no emotion is strong enough to tame the roaming nothingness. Let the mind float until it finds an anchor, an illusion, a childly consolation for the impossibility of human understanding.

Each of our movements is a battling wing, every respiration, even the blink of an eye. The storm is thus coming from nowhere, everywhere at the same time. No rest for Chaos. The dance doesn’t have a start, nor a finish. The flow is constantly destroying human dreams, bringing them back to their essence; emptiness and superficiality. We build as if heaven can be reached. But what if the destination doesn’t exist, where is Babylon really going? In the silence of the night, nobody knows.

One may say that our hopes and strives are to forget, that none of our emotions, or perceptions count. There will only be smoke to chase, blurring every piece of reality. What if one dares to accept Chaos, divinity of permanent change, and its microscopic transformations that build and destroy civilizations? Then, the possibility of life will have many more meanings, asserting the realness of change and revealing the lie behind stability. The gods of nature may send as many butterflies as they want, we shall respect the force of their wings and maybe, only maybe, deploy our own.

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.