“Poetry’s circulation and its action no longer conjecture a given people but the evolution of the planet Earth.”
Edouard Glissant, Poetics of Relation
SPIRITUALLY, ETHICALLY, ENVIRONMENTALLY, AND ARTISTICALLY, whiteness, or the culture of abstraction, or high capitalism or necrotic rape-based capitalism or whatever you want to call it at this pointis the shithole.
It’s the eighth anniversary of Haiti’s earthquake.
There are countless ways one can see the future in Haiti. It has always been ahead of its time. Saint Domingue was, statistically, the most rapacious consumer of African labor and destroyer of black lives in the colonies; likewise it produced the most wealth. Haiti’s was the third democratic revolution on the planet, and a military triumph against the planet’s most powerful colonial powers. The first truly successful slave revolt on the planet. The first judicial attempt to vanquish color-based racism on the planet. The magic island upon which Christopher Columbus first set his damning foot.
The place where, heaven help us all, the New World began.
When I was there last month, I spent a lot of time with artists. I saw devout commitment to vision, reverence for the visible and invisible worlds, damning humor, brilliant satire, genius, and collaborative genius. I saw love. I also saw the mystery of withdrawal from an insane reality, the better to nurture poiesis and romance (they go togetherhi Venus) which paradoxically need a little distance from the merely real, the obscenely real, in order to better make love to it. Survival by what Glissant calls opacity. An artists’ separatism; an artists’ marronage. A thousand modes of separatism, of marronage, in a given instant, in a given situation.
Haiti has a lot of experience with the insane effect mad rulers have on reality itself. We are somewhat new at this in the USA, or rather, we’re pathetically new at facing, collectively, this fact. And yet, slavery was mass delusion: a mass delusion arguably more psychotic and damaging than the ones we’re contending with now, which obviously include slavery’s billion consequences. How long will the reckoning take? When will the revolution take? When might a “shot heard round the world” actually root itself in the heart of the matter. Why don’t we study more how suggestible, eminently mislead-able, and idiotic we are as a species? And also some of the unaccountable and the weird ways we have been wise.
It has often seemed to me, not only since last January but really, since 9/11, that we Americans have finally been plunged into the boiling baptismal font of the real truth of the New World. How do you protect what’s sacred when horrible things are happening all around you? How do you know what is sacred when you’re an accessory to constant war, mass incarceration, and state murder? How do you remember what’s sacred when you have so totally ceded your sovereignty to machines you find yourself trying to add it to your shopping cart, even though you know better? You try, you fail, it makes you crazy, you develop a kind of sanityinevitably, a mysticismand you serve that. You turn inward. No matter where else you turn, you are also turning inward. The solitude your machines bring you compels it. The insanity and dismay all around you compels it. The oblivion all around you, the bad music compels it. And all this also compels the yearning to collaborate you feel. I don’t mean collaborating with the evil regime that’s over you. I mean collaborating with friends and enemies, with family and family ghosts, while political talk radio plays all day long in your studio.
There is a majesty that goes way beyond a given zeitgeist and somehow, somehow, that majesty is in some art. It is in the devoutness required of the artists to survive so they can give life. Seeing this again and again last month in Haiti made me wonder anew at art’s timetable, which suddenly seemed, again, a lot more obscure than the orthodox calendar of careers and exhibitions and movements and trends.
As always, there is more to say than can be said. I am no historian, no expert, no scholar. I’m talking to you as a pilgrim.
“Transparency no longer seems like the bottom of the mirror in which Western humanity reflected the world in its own image. There is opacity now at the bottom of the mirror, a whole alluvium deposited by populations, silt that is fertile but, in actual fact, indistinct and unexplored even today, denied or insulted more often than not, and with an insistent presence that we are incapable of not experiencing.” (Glissant, “Transparency and Opacity”, ibid. 111)
When Uranus enters Taurus on May 15, to be in residence there till 2026, it will be an era of earthquakes. It will also be an era, as everyone seems to be singing in unison, of the growing stability of the rising global currency. Of fertile silt bearing fruit and of convulsive beauty.