Konnor opened his eyes, city streets coming into focus around him. Everything else had been nonexistent as he drifted within himself.
Now the noise of the city deafened him. Cars, and people rushed by on their way to whatever place they thought they had to go. The hardness of the bench he sat on made him want to stand but he stayed still, the slight discomfort was a welcome distraction.
“You were lost again, weren’t you?” A voice to his left said softly. Konnor looked over to see Sarah sitting beside him on the bench. Her blonde hair rippled occasionally in the light autumn breeze, her cheeks were rosy from the chill. He had forgotten that she was with him.
“Yes.” He had given up explaining how he felt.
“Why do you do that to yourself?”
“My words go unheard, my actions go unnoticed. In the end all of my suffering was pointless. I can’t make a difference because people don’t want anything different, they want things to be the same as they always have been.”
Sarah looked like she was going to say something else, then turned back to watching the traffic. She had only ever known Konnor since he had lost hope, and she had remained longer than those that had known him before.
“You know you can’t go on like this. Eventually you’re going to get trapped in your own darkness again. And then what? It’s what you want but you’ve also told me before about how much you wanted to escape it last time you were there. Do you think you would survive it again?” She said so quietly that her words were almost lost in the noise of the city.
“Is simply surviving enough? Is that all we are here to do? I’ve tried to live to the fullest, I’ve tried to make a difference with my life, and live each moment for the greater good so that our species can continue to evolve. All it accomplished was making me feel alienated from everybody. If I get lost in the darkness again then so be it, if I don’t survive then the world can go on as it is. Comfortably numb in it’s stagnation.”
“No.” She let that one word crack like a whip, pausing for a moment before she spoke again, “The world will not go on as it is. It will go on without you. It’ll be missing one more real person, and you know it needs as many of those as it can get. You see the emptiness of our society, and you feel it more than anybody else, that’s why we need you. If you give up on us like you have given up on yourself then there truly is no hope.” Sarah said, her green eyes burned fiercely.
“You see the world’s pain too. We all cling desperately to what makes us feel okay. Even being broken. Our potential is squandered in routine, and suffering.” His words felt hollow.
“If that is all you think exists then that is what you will see. I know the world needs help, and that’s a heavy burden to carry. It doesn’t invalidate the parts of life that are still beautiful. That’s why we hold on to the hope that we can make things better.”
“How can I help the world when I can’t even help myself?” The question slipped out of him, a glimmer of something more that shifted within his being.
“You have to let someone in. A counselor, a friend, someone. I know that’s hard for you. I know you’re scared to let others see how broken you are but you can’t carry the weight of existence by yourself. You’re so trapped inside your own awareness because you’ve never given anybody a chance to share it.”
She grabbed Konnor’s hand, her skin soft against his, and stared into his eyes. She looked deeper into him than he had ever thought another person would ever be capable of.
Konnor wanted to turn away, to get up, to run. He knew if she saw the truth she would give up on him like everybody else had.
He couldn’t move though.
He couldn’t stop her.
Konnor saw it in the slight widening of her eyes as she realized how dead inside he was. He watched as the same sadness, and emptiness filled her. Tears leaked from the corner of her eyes but she didn’t look away.
She didn’t leave him.
His breath felt forced, and his muscles ached from the urge to turn away. He had let her feel his pain. It was bad enough that Konnor had done this to himself but now he had done it to the only person that actually cared about him.
He watched her struggle against giving into the darkness, eyes closed as she inhaled and exhaled heavily. They sat like this for a long time. Konnor thought he had broken her the same way he had broken himself. Then she opened her eyes, and with tears streaming down her face she smiled at him.
“Please let me help carry this with you,” she said finally.
Waves crashing on the shore
sweeping away the sand.
Wind rushing through the trees,
taking the leaves that cling to the branches.
Waves crashing, wind rushing,
and there you stand amid the chaos.
A piece of you longs to reach out,
to stop the torment.
Another piece knows
you would be swept away
by the waves,
with the leaves and sand.
You once swam the waters
that crash at the mercy of the wind.
But you found the rock
that the wind touches,
but never moves.
Submitted by Thamer Linklater.
Thamer Linklater is a Cree artist from Northern Manitoba. She is a survivor of the Millennial Scoop and works to spread awareness about Indigenous issues. She is currently working on earning her masters at Trent University. In her downtime she enjoys singing, dancing, writing, and painting.
Black Revolutionary Texts This Google Drive resource features prominent Black authors and covers a variety of issues, including class struggle in Africa and revolutionary solidarity.
Master List of Black Revolutionary Readings This resource is organized by topic, including: Introduction to Black Radical Politics; Critical Race Class Studies; Capitalism, Fascism, Imperialism, Neocolonialism, and Settler-Colonialism; Indigenous Studies; and more.
A World Without Police: Study Guide This study guide is intended to help activists understand the police and craft strategies to abolish them. The guide examines the role police play in modern society and how they came to serve this function. It explores the impacts and contradictions of policing, and closes with a look at how communities have resisted police impunity and created alternative means of safety.
Abolition Study Resources These resources are to support anyone who’s interested in learning more about abolition. The texts vary, and there are many different viewpoints and approaches to theorizing and working toward abolition. Some of what is included doesn’t mention abolition specifically but may offer some historical and political education.
Camila’s Abolition Reading List These free/online pieces have shaped the curator’s understanding of abolition and what forms of real accountability individuals can collectively build to address and interrupt cycles of violence.
When Saturn and Pluto met and formed a conjunction in Capricorn on January 12, their connection was so powerful that we still feel the effects of it today. Karma met inner power, consequence met generational transformation. These themes were most strongly felt in work-life balance, ambition, and practicality, all Capricorn traits. When looking at astrological predictions for the coming months, we must not forget the power of the planet of laws meeting the planet of ruthlessness in the sign of goals and motivations.
Jupiter and Pluto are doing a cosmic waltz this year, with three conjunctions all in 2020. The first happened on April 5, with Jupiter in prograde, and the next is set for June 30, with Jupiter in retrograde. In April, Jupiter brought with it expansion and unbridled optimism in a generationally powerful context. In June, these gifts will be transformed into a personal journey towards higher learning, specifically from mistakes. Jupiter retrograde will bring detours into one’s life and when it meets with Pluto it will bring these detours towards our inner powers and our generational strengths and weaknesses.
Venus began its retrograde motion on May 13 in Gemini, bringing with it themes of acknowledging the dark underbelly of our relationships, whether romantic, familial, or platonic. A common misconception of retrograde motion is that it is “bad” in all senses. It is not — it is a time of reflection and realization, a time where the honeymoon phase wears off. Gemini, ruled by Mercury, is energetic and talkative, meaning communication involving relationships may be stunted as we are revealed just how our relationships function.
The Sun enters Gemini on May 20. As stated before, Gemini is ruled by Mercury, which gives this time the themes of expression, charm, and fast-paced living in the day-to-day. This time will make us feel more restless and more social. Frustrations with stay-at-home orders will grow even more. Venus in retrograde in Gemini will also affect these frustrations, making it harder for most people to live at home with whoever they have decided to isolate with. Be cautious and be aware of these influences. They will cycle out in due time.
The new moon is on May 22 in Gemini. This is the time to set intentions and goals for the coming lunar cycle. Look at how you are affected by all this cosmic noise and make a plan for the next 28 days.
Aries: Spending your birthday at home was the last thing you wanted to do, but you did it, and you should be proud of yourself. To keep yourself occupied and your mind off of how your day was stolen, start planning a half birthday or ¾ birthday party. Remember, just because you didn’t get it before doesn’t mean you can’t later. Your loved ones adore your energy and will want to celebrate you no matter how late it is. Your ruling planet Mars is at a relatively stable state in Pisces right now, so take advantage of this stability.
Taurus: Venus is your ruling planet, Taurus, so Venus in retrograde will most likely be a struggle in the beginning. If you’re well prepared, however, it doesn’t have to be. If you haven’t started being introspective about your relationships, now is the time. Try to discover themes in the way you and your loved ones interact. Do something special — the ability to explore new restaurants on takeout apps was made for you, so take a moment to be self-indulgent and include your favorite person (who you’re quarantining with) in the excitement.
Gemini: There is a lot of cosmic chaos happening in your sign this month. The Sun in your sign mixed with a retrograde Venus in your sign will leave you feeling confused and conflicted. Don’t let that ruin your moment — your solar return should be special. You love to be social and be entertained, so schedule a Zoom session for your birthday. Spend time calling people you love, being outside, and picking up new hobbies to keep yourself happily occupied and satisfied. Your season is still your season.
Cancer: Your sensitivity has been tested throughout this entire year with so much action happening in your opposite sign, Capricorn. You have been able to prove to others that you can hold your own when you need to, but it has undoubtedly taken a toll. The retrogrades happening this month can allow you to reconnect with yourself. Venus in retrograde especially can aid you in letting your closest friends know what you need to thrive right now. Your ruling planet, The Moon (which is considered a planet in astrology!) resets itself on May 22. That time will be more important to you than to anyone else. Use it wisely.
Leo: As someone who is a natural leader and hates being told what to do, you want to rebel very badly. You don’t necessarily dislike being alone, you just dislike being told to be alone. Take that power back and choose to self-isolate. Many people are making the choice to disobey orders, so make the choice to do otherwise. Your planetary ruler, The Sun, moves into Gemini soon, which will make you chatty and energetic. Be the leader you are and be the one who plans the Zoom call or the first person to text in the group chat for a while. Once you decide to get up every day and save the world, you’ll feel a lot more in control.
Virgo: Your uncanny ability to clean up everyone’s messes has been a great relief to your friends and family during this time. You’ve been able to express your love in the best way you know how, with help. As Venus begins its retrograde motion, however, you will certainly be heavily affected, as Venus is naturally in fall in your sign. Make sure you have the time and energy to come to terms with your own thoughts this Venus retrograde. You will be far more helpful to others when you help yourself. Your ruling Mercury enters Cancer on May 28, which will help you be more caring and sensitive to yourself. Clever Virgo, do not forget this: you matter as much as everyone else in your life.
Libra: Just like Taurus, your ruling planet is Venus, making this retrograde affect you extra intensely as well. There’s no better time than now for some me-time, Libra, so do what you do best and treat yourself. Order a new fancy face mask for your whole quarantine house to try while you sip red wine and watch a movie. Just remember to keep track of the way your relationships are responding to Venus retrograde and don’t do so much me-time that you neglect said relationships. Communication will be key for you.
Scorpio: Modern astrologers say your ruling planet is Pluto, while more traditional astrologers say it’s Mars. Pluto has been involved in some powerful action, while Mars has been relatively stable, moving into Pisces on May 13. It’s up for you to decide, Mysterious Scorpio: are you the calm or the chaos? Confusion might be arising from Pluto, but you have a stable and dependable old friend in Mars. You’ve always been one to ruminate on your state of being. Don’t let the cosmic clashes get in your way of your own clarity. Though you might feel powerless, you should know you have a deep-set power within you, gifted to you by Pluto. Use it to regain control.
Sagittarius: The ever-adventurous Sagittarius is the most likely of the zodiac to be cursing the quarantine. Your ruling planet, Jupiter, began its retrograde motion on May 14, causing you to be even more frustrated as you become introspective on the very traits that make you you. Be strong, Sag. The opportunity to learn and grow is right in front of you. Your constant exploration of the world doesn’t always have to be physical. If you miss your favorite bar, study its history. If you’re dying to travel, study the language of the place you want to see the most. Everything you love to do normally you can still accomplish.
Capricorn: All the most powerful and rare cosmic events have happened in your sign, Capricorn! This year has been especially tumultuous for you but you are also the most well-equipped to handle it. While others have been struggling to come to terms with the karmic energy in the air, you are well acquainted with it, even more so because your ruling planet is Saturn. Remember that as you encounter each new problem that arises: you were built for this. Your knowledge of the laws of the world will be crucial going forward. All this movement in your sign is a blessing and a curse. Focus on the blessings, leave the curses.
Aquarius: With Saturn as your ruling planet and your oh-so-Aquarius taste for rebellion, you can handle anything that comes your way. You already knew this though. Some more modern astrologers say your ruling planet is Uranus, the planet of rebellion and overthrowing the norm, which does make perfect sense for you. Now is certainly a time for a new normal, so enjoy that. Let your activist side shine through and be a leader for those who aren’t as comfortable with change. It might be scary for you too, but you have the instinct for uncertainty that many lack.
Pisces: Neptune is in your sign, Pisces, and according to modern astrologers, that is your ruling planet (traditionals will argue it is Jupiter). Either way, you have a grand opportunity now for self-reflection. Neptune is the planet of the subconscious, of dreams, and Jupiter is the planet of higher learning and expansion, now in retrograde. You have all the cosmic tools you need to examine yourself, your place in life, and where you want to go. It might be scary, but you will benefit greatly from taking advantage of this opportunity.
As I stepped out into the dark night, the cold air drew my warm blood to the surface. The clovers under my feet bent their stems temporarily to bear my weight.
As frozen droplets of mist melted under my toes, thousands of piercing diamond eyes peered at me through the black sky, winking occasionally.
A deep breath in and a sigh of beauty exhaled.
I scanned the sky for the big dipper: That giant spoon that is always trying to scoop up the north star. Although he will never catch her, he does help those less celestial beings locate that always steady glowing presence.
And tonight, they gave me my sense of direction.
As I my eyes traced from the dipper’s edge straight to the north star, I turned and began my journey.
Sorry or Please
My feet landed at a steady pace to the beat of an imaginary drum.
The wind whipped through the trees, whistling through the puckered leaves, and crickets rubbed their wings to sing.
The night was playing its daily soundtrack. The one mockingbird, getting to an early start, was the star of the show.
As I took long strides, my hips swayed from side to side. I warmed up as I walked further and further away. The circulation in my body flowed faster, keeping up with my pace.
What began as a slow walk, crescendoed to a swift walk. And then the swift walk took off into a sprint. Soon, I was running as fast as I could.
But the Regrets Are Killing Me
Tears streamed from my eyes and streaked the side of my face. Some flew off, while others made their way into the crevices of my ears and into the abyss of my black hair.
What was I running from? From my thoughts? From Death? From Life?
Dirt collected in my toes, huddled with broken pieces of various flora.
Mixed emotions filled my mind. Fragments of memories every time I closed my eyes to wipe the tears.
My heart pounded and my breath was heavy, but I kept running.
The north star had given me a sense of geographical direction, but why couldn’t she direct my mind? Go North thoughts! Head towards a better place.
Or maybe it’s West? Just go in some linear direction! Just move away from this!
We Would Fall Against the Tide
And then I stopped. My body could take no more. Out of breath, I hunched over, and my arms used my legs as support.
Now my eyes were pointed down at the ground at my soiled feet.
My tears went strait to the earth. I could not stop. I continuously produced several drops of rain for select square inches of grass.
My legs eventually billowed, and I was soon on the cold ground. The blades welcomed my skin with soft, chilling touches, while other weeds annoyingly poked at me, trying as hard as they could to get me to stand up.
But I was not moving.
Hopeless and confused, I curled into myself.
Eventually, I ran out of tears. The breathing calmed, my heart slowed, and all that was left was a quite quivering of my lips: from the cold or from the crying? who could tell.
And there, somewhere closer to the north pole, balled up with eyes swollen from the thousand of saline tears that had forced themselves out, then and there… I fell asleep accepting.
Since Bernie has left the race, I’ve participated in a lot of discourse with other disappointed liberals and leftists, many of whom are planning to stay home from voting in the 2020 general presidential election due to the inadequacy of the candidates. I would urge everyone to, at least, vote for House and Senate seats and your state’s ballot measures, even if you must leave your presidential selection blank. I, too, am utterly disgusted in the options voters have been given by the United States’ two major political parties, which is why, since losing Bernie, I have been considering voting third party. My reasoning is as follows.
If you supported Bernie, our current political systems will not facilitate the kind of revolution you want. The Democratic National Committee has never and most likely will never support a socialist or a “democratic socialist.” They are a group of democrats – of centrists – who represent far too many progressives. One could argue that, by voting for the candidate they have handed us, we are permitting them to continue to confine us to likely criminal centrists. I don’t think we have to put up with that. By re-registering as third party (even if the third-party candidates are unlikely to get enough momentum during this election to win), it is possible to send a message to the DNC that they are losing support by nominating subpar, inadequate candidates such as Joe Biden. On the whole, good people do not make it on the presidential ticket,Democratic or Republican, and that needs to change. This is why the counterargument that a vote for a third party is a vote for Trump is short-sighted.
The only way to vote for Trump is to vote for Trump. If someone is choosing not to vote for Biden or Trump because they cannot morally bring themselves to vote for either, that is far from a vote in support of Trump. Quite literally, not voting for either nominee is not voting for Trump and not voting for Biden.
This idea can be harmful. The claim that not voting for the Democratic nominee is effectively the same as voting for the Republican one passively accepts the completely undemocratic two-party system that denies voters a true choice. While it is evident that American politics are dominated by a bipartisan system, this is only true because voters decide again and again that this is how it has to be by discouraging voting outside of these two parties. The political systems under which we are asked to vote do very little to represent the broad views of all Americans, as reflected in the huge policy differences between the most supported Democratic candidates in 2020: Sanders and Biden. This one-or-the-other argument between Biden and Trump perpetuates the divisive two-party system and ultimately prevents progressive change. Discounting minor parties is what keeps us choosing between the lesser of two evils (or, in this case, two assailants).
I see this claim as following directly from the electability-concerned Democrats that aligned more with Sanders during the primaries, but publicly supported Biden because they perceived him as having a better shot at beating Trump. Voting based on who you assume can beat the “other team” does nothing to advance your own political views and, in fact, serves to erase your own voice. Not to mention, voting based on this strategy clearly did not work in the 2016 election, and refusing to nominate the “riskier” candidate is potentially what cost the Democrats the election. Stop voting to win a game and start voting for what you politically and morally agree with. This is the most likely way to create change in the systems that continue to produce incompetent presidential candidates. If you have read and agree with Biden’s policies and would like to see him as president, vote for him. If you don’t and you are feeling unrepresented by the DNC, below are some alternative candidates to compare your values with and to consider.
Third-party candidates for post-Bernie supporters
Gloria La Riva Nominee from the Party for Socialism & Liberation and the Peace and Freedom Party
Gloria La Riva is a socialist activist from Albuquerque, New Mexico. She is first and foremost a vocal activist for bettering the lives of minorities; she can be found at rallies and protests across the nation, although she is currently based in San Francisco, California. She has spoken at marches for immigrant rights, helped organize a movement of Black San Franciscan firefighters against racist and sexist policies in the workplace, has participated in many LGBTQ+ marches and was an adamant adversary of Prop 8 (a California proposition created by opponents of same-sex marriage), and can be found on the picket lines defending women’s reproductive health clinics. She has held leadership positions in the Workers World Party, the Party for Socialism and Liberation, and the Peace and Freedom party. She is the nominee for the Party for Socialism and Liberation in the 2020 presidential election and won the Peace and Freedom Party’s primary, over Howie Hawkins (Green Party candidate discussed below). Her running mate (vice-presidential candidate) is Leonard Peltier, an American indigenous rights activist.
La Riva’s policies follow a 10-point socialist campaign program that emphasizes the importance of human rights, climate change, ending racism, and ending wars. She is more focused on Native rights and mass incarceration than most mainstream candidates and holds different ideals than Democratic candidates on issues regarding gun control. Her major platform ideas include the following:
Racial issues: Pay reparations to Black and Native communities. End mass incarceration of oppressed and working-class people. Prosecute all acts of police brutality. Free all political prisoners.
Climate change: Re-organize under socialism to slow climate change and assure the future for the planet. Seize coal and fossil fuel companies. Stop the destruction of Native lands.
Healthcare: Create a completely free and public healthcare system and make healthcare a constitutional right.
Workers’ rights: Make jobs/income a constitutional right and support the rights of all workers to join unions. Rebuild a fighting labor movement.
Immigration: Abolish ICE and all anti-immigration laws. Amnesty and citizenship for the undocumented. Dismantle the border wall.
Guns: Defend rights to self-determination and self-defense for oppressed peoples. Demilitarize the police and the state. Get gun money out of politics and ban marketing of firearms. Require proof of training in gun safety (not mental health checks as they are believed to deepen discrimination). Use socialism to end the systems that fuel violence.
Foreign policy: Use the military budget to provide for human necessities. Abolish nuclear weapons. Right of return for Palestinians. End U.S blockades. Independence and cancellation of debt for Puerto Rico.
Women’s & LGBTQ rights: Pro-choice. Close the wage gap and end the gender division of labor. Employment, housing, healthcare, and educational equality for members of the LGBTQ community. Reject religious exemption laws that permit discrimination.
Education: Make education free and cancel all student debt.
Housing: Make housing a human right and end all foreclosures and evictions.
Big money: Seize the assets of billionaires and redistribute the resources to the majority. Jail wall street criminals.
To join the Party for Socialism and Liberation online, speak to a PSL representative, or get involved in their organized revolution:https://www.pslweb.org/join
Howie Hawkins Nominee from the Green Party
Howie Hawkins was born in and raised near San Francisco, California, and became a political activist at age 12, angered by the denial of democratic recognition of a minor, multiracial party: Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. He was the first U.S candidate to campaign for a Green New Deal in 2010. He is running for president in 2020 as the Green Party nominee to build the party’s momentum against the two-party system and to introduce their eco-socialist ideas to the public.
Hawkins’s platform is mostly focused on the ideas of the Green New Deal and eco-socialism. Eco-socialism is the idea that climate change cannot be mitigated under capitalism. His eco-socialist Green New Deal begins with a bill of rights for citizens including an employment guarantee, a basic income guarantee, a national health service, and free public education, and then moves onto environmental changes in energy, transportation, and agriculture. His most nuanced ideas fall under the categories of racial issues (police control), education (media reform), and healthcare. His ideas are complex; the following is only a breakdown. His major platform ideas include the following:
Racial issues: Economically empower oppressed communities. Consider reparations for African Americans. Disband the hierarchies of capitalism that keep oppression sustained. Create a police force that is community-controlled through elected neighborhood review boards (a Black Panther model).
Climate change: Move towards 100% clean energy. Implement a progressive carbon tax and a land value tax. Reconstruction of the agricultural system. Nationalize big oil and gas companies. Build an interstate high-speed rail system.
Healthcare: Create a community-controlled national health service. Make the clinics and hospitals publicly owned and governed by a federation of locally-elected boards. Provide secure retirement to all citizens.
Worker’s rights: Guarantee jobs and an income above poverty. Guarantee housing and universal rent control.
Immigration: Open borders. Legalize undocumented citizens and speed the path to citizenship. Abolish ICE and CBP (Customs and Border Control) and replace with an open borders-based administration.
Guns: Convert arms companies to non-profit public enterprises.
Foreign policy: Implement deep U.S military spending cuts and reinvest the money into clean energy. Recommit to nuclear disarmament.
Women’s & LGBTQ rights: Employment equality for members of the LGBTQ community. Separate social and economic benefits from marriage. Confront violence against transgender people.
Education: Free public education from pre-k child care through college. Establish a public wifi, phone, and TV service at lower costs with net neutrality. Reform and control media outlets based on a decentralized, democratic system of public funding, making media sources non-profit and de-commercialized. Re-establish media diversity and break up media monopolies.
Housing: Support homes for all in walkable communities.
Big money: Socialize the big banks. Do not allow the banks to create money for loans. Nationalize big oil and gas companies.
I encourage you to reach out to your representatives about structural alternatives and democracy reform including: implementing a national voting day to reduce voter suppression, instant-runoff voting or ranked-choice voting, abolishing the electoral college, and/or abolishing the U.S Senate. Pay attention to which politicians are funded by the public versus funded by the richest in their parties. Research other ideas for creating a more just system that would not pump out candidates like Joe Biden and stay politically active on social media while in quarantine. Vote in the general election, even if it’s only for seats and ballot measures.
Alt Cape Suspenders is birdiebrackett’s debut full-length album – the first of three released on the same day, including the deluxe/demo album – and it is a journey. birdiebrackett is the solo project of Luke Bravo, a Tulane student and Louisiana native. To partake in Bravo’s journey, though, headphones are required. Sonically and conceptually, it is both dense and dynamic.
The album centers thematically around self-medication and the dark path that one can take in trying to help one’s self. That being said, the album sounds anything but dark with its catchy choruses and lovely harmonies. A good example is “My Baby,” a love song written from the perspective of a heroin addict. The songs “The Girl with the Black Hole Eyes” and “Talking to Myself Again” can stay stuck in my head for days on end. Dare I say, their melodies are addictive.
This conceptual piece is not short on characters, with “Muffin Man” who needs to get his act together and “Ghost Boy” who’s just trying his best to be noticed. The production is full of flanged meandering guitar, lush synthesizers, harmonies on top harmonies, spread far and wide to create a full stereo soundscape. Admittedly, the songs can be somewhat difficult to distinguish; they’re are almost too cohesive.
Concept albums are difficult to come by, and even more difficult to create. Alt Cape Suspenders is a very solid, very respectable attempt at one, and for that reason, I’ll say its overt cohesion is forgivable. On the surface, these are all songs that you can groove to; each one is a vibe. It’s the type of album you’d listen to while tripping on acid while laying under the moss-covered oak trees in Audubon or while drinking on a lazy afternoon, and in both cases, it showcases the irony of the album. It carries the same energy as a conversation between former addicts reminiscing, romanticizing their pasts while in rehab. Inevitably, those conversations end in a mutual acknowledgement that their joy was artificial, a desperate attempt at escaping pain. Their stories end with sobering denouements that justify why they stopped using.
Which leads us to the only issue I have with this album: it’s hard to see its own justification. It is a beautiful, emotionally complex album, but I have trouble finding the song that tethers these drug-induced reveries to reality, no retrospective acknowledgement. Or maybe that’s the point. It’s hard to have a come-to-Jesus-moment when your instinct is to drown it out with “Schedule 1 substances,” as is sung about in “Talking to Myself Again.” After all, it’s not an aural anti-drug campaign. It’s art. You should listen for yourself.
I’m not going to pretend to have any answers. I’m a 20-year-old third-year college student. I don’t have a real medical background. Sure, I was pre-med for five semesters, which my mother seems to think makes me a doctor, but I certainly don’t know the first thing about highly transmittable viruses. All I know is what I’m told so, for now, I’m staying at home and doing my due diligence.
In the middle of a global crisis, it’s difficult to see the distinction between self-care and sloth. According to entrepreneurial Instagram, we should all be starting workout plans and founding online businesses and learning new skills. But let’s be real, that’s not realistic (at least, not for all of us). Also, using productivity as a basis of worth is a tool of capitalism! The machine we are supposed to be raging against!
I’m not saying that lying in bed all day is the ultimate “fuck you” to capitalism. Certainly, you are not sticking it to The Man™ by shirking all responsibilities in lieu of binging Tiger King on Netflix. But I think there’s a balance to be struck between capitalism-driven productivity and self-exploration for the sake of enjoying existence. Now is time as ever to delve into a new hobby, to do something regardless of whether or not you’ll be good at it. Three weeks ago, when this all began, I ventured to Michaels (the craft store) for the first time since elementary school, probably, and bought a sketchpad, Micron pens, and watercolors. As it turns out, I’m not as bad of an artist as I thought.
The purpose of this essay isn’t to stand atop my soapbox and tell you that you have to start crafting or gardening or writing or whatever it is you might feel slightly compelled to do. I don’t think that picking up a hobby will magically transform this literal pandemic into an inspirational era of growth. It’s okay to acknowledge that this sucks. It’s okay to be disappointed about missing a concert or a vacation or your college graduation. You can feel those things while still being sensitive to the gravity of the situation and recognizing the privilege that you might be experiencing within it.
Yes, I said it. The P word. Privilege.
I know it gets thrown around like a football in the hands of frat dudes, inexplicably shirtless on a college quad. You might be tempted to roll your eyes and shove me aside as another liberal SJW, desperate to blame my plight on somebody, anybody. But I’ll be the first to admit that I have privilege, too. Exceptionally so. Honestly, I consider myself incredibly lucky in this present situation. For the first time in my life, I have relative financial stability (meaning that I know I can afford rent for at least one more month). I have my own place in New Orleans, meaning I don’t have to fly home and live with my family for an indefinite length of time. I’m babysitting a friend’s car, I have food for groceries, and I inadvertently stocked up on toilet paper long before the shortages began because I unintentionally kept buying more than I needed, forgetting that I had some hidden up on a shelf at home.
The next time you go to the store and complain about the lack of produce or toilet paper or cleaning supplies, I implore you to take a second to think about the fact that you could have bought whatever you needed, had it been stocked. Yes, it is exceedingly frustrating that we cannot purchase the resources that we need. But I imagine that it would be even more frustrating to be unable to access those resources at all, to have running water and a hot meal be something that only exists in your dreams. I’m not here to tell you that “someone has it worse” because, well, of course they do. If you’re reading this, you at least have access to the Internet, an invisible privilege that most of us mindlessly overlook, distracted by the endless scrolling that consumes us. But again, it’s okay to have the things you have; you aren’t a bad person for having more resources than someone else. Unless you’re a billionaire, in which case, you are a bad person.
My point is, there is much to think about. I hope to use this disruption from regular programming to reflect on myself and on the state of society; I hope to educate myself as much as I can. I know I’m not going to be the person to cure any of our great downfalls, but I pray that things don’t simply return to normal at the end of this, whenever that may be. Now is the time to radicalize. Now is the time to learn. Now is the time to come into yourself. Now is the time to read those books and listen to those podcasts and watch those documentaries you’ve been putting off. Now is the time to learn how to crochet or draw or paint or whatever it is you’ve always told yourself you could never do. You’ve got nothing better to do, do you?
I certainly don’t intend to tout myself as an exemplary model of self-motivation or radicalization, but I do hope that I’ve said enough to get you thinking. These are unprecedented times, as far as our lifetimes go, and the world can be a scary place. But in knowledge and in the arts, we might find some solace.
During this global pandemic, fear and chaos run rampant. In an age where personal anecdotes shared through social media often reveal the realities that those in power withhold, it can be difficult to ascertain an empirical truth that isn’t muddied by hysteria. For this reason, The Dilettante team has collected a list of articles to hopefully provide you with sound advice and reliable information during these trying times. Stay inside, wash your hands, and stay safe!
As an aside: As we sit at home and scroll through an abundance of tweets that play on the gradual loss of sanity that results from isolation, I encourage you to reflect on the psychology of incarceration. Some literature to consider regarding this topic: