Burnt Bookmobile


“Changed, if at all”

Q: “How has the situation in Wisconsin changed, if at all, in the weeks since you initially conducted the interview?”

A: It’s certainly devious in how imperceptible that change is and was, both for when there was a “change” and after. You had to seek it out or you have to have been effected, forced to pay attention. Most areas of life were on the surface in no way effected by “the events in Madison.” They were too easy to ignore. And this imperceptibility demonstrates the immense power of the apparatus that keeps everything the same and also the weakness of a struggle that either must change everything or will return to normal.

I’m tempted to compare the situation of seeming powerlessness, the general strike that was threatened and existed in many minds as a slumbering yet awakening beast of a bygone age, and which remains present in many minds specifically as a lack, to a phantom limb. We feel, and are witness to the presence of our absence of power.

What I can share are frustrations, and a kind of shock that corresponds with any subservient march back to work, and that forgets the most important fact of these events, which is that it was not the unions or politicians which made us something to be feared. It was the constitution as a force, however briefly and however foolish, that shocked many, especially those who participated, with fear. Where else did the constant calls for non-violence come from? A million tiny failures repulse us with the horror of our powerlessness, specifically after we glimpsed or dared think otherwise. Not only time will tell how well we will retain this dream, because within a world that has every interest in our forgetting, it would sooner have never happened. Either we will feel the shame of taking part in our own forgetting or we will have to fight and through conflict remember more and more what is at stake in the present.

So yes, a lot has changed, but if one weren’t part of it then it’s as if nothing has and never did. It’s a news story. It’s a protest to be ignored. Life goes on. Now instead of a general strike, or strikes, or sick outs, or walk outs, what remains overwhelmingly are recall campaigns, and talk of electoral politics, which channel and subdue these events into processes that manage them, contain them, count them, and include them in the calculus of the democratic party. One must wait for their turn to put a piece of paper in a box and then go back to work, go back home, go to the mall – all places which we’ve been produced to fit perfectly within. Our presence within them contests nothing, and where contestation is ignored politics hides – the beast slumbers.

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