DISCOVERED: Evidence That Lil Peep Was Murdered?!

Lil Peep: Like many a revolutionary, died young.

21 year old up and coming rapper Lil Peep was recently found dead of a suspected drug overdose in his tour van. While the police have yet to release their report, Little Peep’s death may not have been an accidental overdose but part of a carefully orchestrated plot by the Alt-Right.

Since the public displays of violence in Charlottesville and Portland that brought widespread condemnation; failed attempts at false-flag operations; failed attempts at disinformation campaigns; failed attempts at re-branding themselves and failed attempts at recruiting, the Alt-Right is now adjusting their tactics to targeted assassination of current (or potential) political activists!

While I haven’t read any of the police reports, autopsy reports, spoken with anyone that knows him or have made any effort to, what’s below will clearly show that Lil Peep was murdered as part of an Alt-Right conspiracy.

Lil Peep: Experimenting with Cocaine & Karl Marx

Little Peep’s drug use was widely publicized by himself and others. Less often discussed in articles and interviews was his views on his family life, his Russian background, and his burgeoning crypto-Radicalism. While the music world has long been associated with drug use such that it is viewed as natural, experimenting with Marxism and radical theory is another story.

The following three Instagram posts were captured before they were archived and show evidence of Lil Peep’s flirtation with Communist literature as well as a photo of the plug for his radical thoughts – his grandfather, who he names as a Communist and a “bad ass”.

Historically suspicion of Communist Party membership was considered just cause for being denied employment; ability to enter into the United States; ability to join a union or a professional organization who membership is required for work; being forced to answer questions about personal political beliefs in public; inability to purchase housing; firing from one’s place of employment and blacklisting artists/workers. This was especially evident in creative careers.

Why would the owners of businesses that rely on creative work do this? Because artists  visibility makes them influencers whose individualistic habits and (sometimes) anti-bourgeoisie values can conflict with conventional social mores and by limiting the realm of the politically possible by spreading fear throughout the society – this group can better project hegemony.

Local, state and Federal governments – instruments of social control by capitalists within bourgeoisie democracy – were in on the game too. They prevented Communist artists/activists from traveling; from running for elections; from working in all forms of government service; etc. in addition to funding those artists that they saw as “more aligned with American values.”

However with the 1992 collapse of the USSR and challenges in courts as to it’s legality, this has  come to be seen as anachronistic and has not enforced anytime recently.

The Alt-Right’s desires a return to an atmosphere of Anti-Communism, since Communists reject the prejudice against the various religious, racial and ethnic groups the Alt-Right defines themselves against.  From this lens Lil Peep’s burgeoning interest in Marx and Lenin (“Vlad in the back”) is a subversive act. With no valid pre-text for state repression, halting Lil Peep’s potential Marxist influence on American became a private matter for the Alt- Right.

Lil Peep Killed for Being A Future Russel Brand

If it seems unlikely that Lil Peep was on his way to becoming the number one Marxist threat in America, consider Russel Brand’s evolution from drug addict to revolutionary and it’s relationship to the rise of Communist-sympathizer Jeremy Corbyn in the United Kingdom. Those who enjoy consuming drugs often find thfind the senses pleasurable when stimulated often enjoy recreational, and other, drug use. This  enjoyment in the physical sense often find themselves

Brand’s personal story  from heavy drug user to left-wing spiritually-oriented revolutionary is one that it’s not hard to see that Lil Peep could have followed. Hypothetically, for example, instead of promoting Xanax use he would say this his desire for it actually stemmed from the suppressed alienation that he was feeling and that the real way to deal with this feeling was not continued self-medication but worldwide communist revolution? Given the size of his followers, even a small fragment of them becoming radicalized could have a significant political impact.

Secondly, consider who some of the major supporters of the Alt-Right are: Silicon Valley Wiz Kids. The people that are most likely to have created technology that would allow themselves to combine someones digitized personal life and a number of world scenarios together in order to determine who potential radicals will be. This would allow them to then target people that work against their interests of white ethno-state.

Lil Peep Murdered Before Turning Radical

The symbolism of an anarchy sign on Lil Peep’s face tattoo provides further proof why the alt-right would view him as an existential threat beyond the Instagram photos that he archived (maybe because he was threatened?!). He could literally be the new face of American radicalism.

If this seems like a bit of a leap, consider that there’s a large number Anarchist perspectives. Though they may not use the term themselves Lil Peep, like Brand practiced lifestyle, or individualist anarchism.

Notice that anarcho-capitalism is not represented here, because that’s not anarchism.

Often associated with Benjamin Tucker or Max Stirner, who Marx and Engles criticized extensively in The German Ideology, individualist anarchism grants neigh little validity to dictates of the state or society. Legal prohibitions against drug use and the concomitant effects that the Drug War has had on other countries, like Colombia, are seen as as particularly egregious and criminal.

Individual Anarchist social critique’s are wary of group activity, seeing near total social atomism as the ideal. Within a number of circles, this not genuinely considered to be “anarchism” as people drawn to such views can be drawn into racist politics if they come to see class as emerging from race or ethnicity as well as anarcho-capitalism if they reject class. There’s serious merit to such a position placing it outside the tent. A third option is to gain historical consciousness and move left instead of right.

Coming to recognize that it is because capitalists control the major functions of the state that the state is why the state is the way it is – rather than the state qua state it is as such – leads to a very different conclusion. By recognizing the importance of empirical, material history and class struggle for obtaining those liberties, people turn to syndicalism, collectivism, socialism and communism. This is the path that Russel Brand has gone.

Little Peep Assassinated by the Alt-Right?

DADDY by @adamdegross

A post shared by @lilpeep on

The evidence for a potential assassination goes beyond mere heresay. There are rumors of chat logs – similar to the Breitbart email leaks and the Charlottesville chat leaks – that were intercepted as part of an ongoing AntiFa right-wing monitoring campaign. In these logs it’s suspected that there are comments specifically made by Milo Yiannopolous in a manner that’s derogatory to Lil Peep.

Milo Yiannopolous’ affection for public affection of Donald Trump as Daddy is well known, and apparently he was very upset by the fact that Lil Peep had a tattoo of the word Daddy on his chest.

It is pure conjecture that Milo Yiannopolous was the actual person within the alt-right that directed the assassination of Lil Peep, but given his connections to the pharmaceutical industries and Silicon Valley it certainly makes sense.

When will we see justice for Lil Peep’s murder?

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Please be aware that it was the author’s intent to be read as humor/satire meant to mock the various alt-right outles that said there was going to be civil war in America on November 4th. At least that’s what the !? in the title and eclectic intellect categorization was intended to indicate to the reader. I’ve never listened to any of Lil Peep’s music before not did I hear of him before he died.

Review of “The Idea Writers: Copywriting in a New Media and Marketing Era”

The Idea Writers – Copywriting in a New Media and Marketing Era by Teresa Iezzi with an afterword by Lee Clow and Jeff Goodby is an in-depth look at the state of today’s copywriting and brand creativity in today’s advertising. With insight on creative process and campaign development from the industry’s leading creatives, Iezzi provides solid advice for copywriters at all stages of their career – from those trying to break into it to those trying to become more involved with branding. A useful guide for industry professional understand brand creativity today, the book actually starts with a detailed examination of the changes in the digital realm that have completely remade the advertising industry before jumping into a number of case studies.

The rise of smart phones, social media and other internet phenomenon’s have fundamentally changed that manner in which advertising and copy-writing relates to consumers of media. Iezzi quotes New York University Interactive Telecommunications Program professor Clay Shirky in the book Here Comes Everybody, to make her point on the depth of this change: “We are living in the middle of the largest increase in expressive capability in the history of the human race.” Because of this the general rulebook that governed advertising affairs for over a hundred years is no longer applicable and for that reason, it’s a more exciting and potentially creatively rewarding time for those in the “since Bill Bernbach put art directors and copywriters together and proved that effective advertising could be witty, quotable and uplifting rather than a dreary recitation of “unique selling points.”

Though this is the case, Iezzi doesn’t dismiss the importance of the ad work created and books written by the Fathers of Modern Advertising such as Rosser Reeves – a pioneer in writing for the emerging media of television, the man responsible for the idea of the Unique Selling Proposition (USP) and the person who was the inspiration for Don Draper in Mad Men. What does Iezzi see as the thread that connecting those such as Reeves, Bill Burnbach, and David Ogilvy? Simple. Effective story-telling.

Quoting the book A Whole New Mind: Why Right Brainers Will Rule the Future by Daniel Pink, Iezzi points out how it is the ability to detect patterns and create narratives, to understand human interaction, to seek and convey meaning that are the new marketable skill sets rather than the ability to write a perfectly crafted headline according to a pseudo-scientific formula. These skill are important not only as many marketing agencies in the present are just likely to be producing an app or a web experiment as a form of commercial communication but also in the age of greater corporate scrutiny it’s important for corporations to at least appear that they are doing the right thing.

Another challenge of today’s copywriter is being able to telling a story across multiple platforms while involving the consumer in that story – something also gone into detail in Storyscaping. Here the views of Gaston Legoburu and Darren McColl matches that of Iezzi on the future of advertising. They both state that design and story are key for informing the interaction that plays out between brands and consumers. With this in mind, creatives can achieve the goal of having their customers message proactively talked about and shared by people that will at best transition into brand ambassadors and at least increase sales during the increase in brand awareness.

Building on this Iezzi adds the following:

“The copywriter (is) responsible for putting things into the world, and those things should be useful, entertaining or beautiful, or all of those things. They should make people feel better, not worse, about them- selves, the brand involved and living in the world in general.”

Advertising has to offer an entertaining reason for people to even acknowledge its existence. I’ve heard a variety of numbers but I’ve yet to see a source for the number, but I’ve heard that it’s something like 85 percent of ads go unnoticed by people. Not surprise given the large amount of messages that are being sent past them every day. As Gossage himself words it: “The fact of the matter is that nobody reads ads. People read what interests them, and sometimes it’s an ad.”

In addition to the analysis of the history of marketing and how the qualities of the new digital age impacts modern marketing, Teresa Iezzi provides a lot of valuable case studies for effective campaign processes and final products as well as giving instructions for those that are establishing themselves as a brand.

The book closes with a number of considerations for career development one someone is already in the field that could be distilled into the words “influencer marketing”. If there are events where what you do will be discussed, put yourself forward as a speaker or panel member. If there’s a story written about the kind of work you do, contact the writer and send her some of your work to keep in mind for next time. Apply the same self-promotion guidelines to your personal projects and you’ll always be wanted by people in the marketing industry.

 

40 e-Commerce Key Performance Metrics to Track

Retail is undergoing a massive shift due to mobile devices and shopping from personal computers such that an ever increasing number of retail  stores are either teetering on the brink of bankruptcy or have already gone under. Why? Consumers spend more and more time on mobile devices discovering, researching and purchasing products. Here are some numbers to consider:

From 2014-2015 online sales grew by 23%.
From 2015-2016 online sales grew by 15.6%.
From 2016-2017 online sales grew by 14%

According to Forrester Research, which tracks various metrics to predict customer engagement trends, by 2022, online shopping will account for 17% of all retail sales.

No surprises there as even at a brick and mortars stores customers will use their mobile devices to discover, compare and ever purchase competitors products.

To develop their online business presence in order to  increase sales, marketers in the e-commerce field need to ensure they are tracking web conversions and measuring the right KPIs. Here are 44 essential metrics every business engaging in e-commerce should be measuring.

Business Sustainability Metrics

 

Sales Revenue

 

Customer acquisition cost (CAC)

 

Amount of revenue gained from inbound marketing.

 

Cost to acquire a customer.

 

Average order value

 

Average revenue per business transaction.

 

Customer lifetime value (LTV)

 

Predicted sales amount over the entire future relationship with your business.

 

Percentage of returning customers

 

Percentage of people who come back and buy more after making the initial purchase.

 

Sales conversion rate

 

Percentage of visitors who convert into customers.

 

Revenue generated from marketing campaigns (marketing ROI)

 

Calculate how much revenue is generated for all marketing activity

 

Website Engagement Metrics

 

Site availability

 

Determine if you can access a website by going to its URL and view the site’s content as expected

 

YoY traffic changes

 

Compare the number of visitors for one period to the same period the previous year

 

Time on site

 

Measure how much time visitors spend on your website

 

Number of pages visited

 

Measure how many pages a visitor views per session

 

Sales conversion rate

 

Calculate the percentage of website visitors who become your customers

 

Average order value

 

Calculate how much revenue each order brings to your business

 

Orders by session

 

Measure how many orders each session (visit) brings to your business

 

Shopping cart abandonment rate

 

Calculate the ratio of the number of abandoned shopping carts to the number of initiated transactions

 

Customer/User Experience Metrics

 

Pageviews per user

 

Measurement of how easy/engaging is the website.

 

Page abandonment

 

Measurement of how many visitors leave a page before completing the desired action.

 

New users/repeat users by pages

 

Measure how many new visitors your website pages get versus the number of repeat visitors.

 

Bounce rate

 

Calculate the percentage of visitors to a particular website who navigate away from the site after viewing just one page.

 

Loyalty Metrics

 

Customer lifetime value (CLV)

 

Predict how much profit a customer will bring over the entire relationship with your business

 Repeat purchase rate  Percentage of current customers that come back to shop again
 

 

Paid Search Advertising Metrics

 

 

Spend

 

Amount of money spent on advertising for a given date range.

 

Clicks

 

Measurement of times users click on your ad.

 

Impressions

 

Quantity of users saw your ad.

 

Click-through rate (CTR)

 

Number of clicks divided by the number of impressions.

 

Cost per click (CPC)

 

Average cost for a single click (calculated by dividing the total cost of your clicks by the total number of clicks).

Conversions Measure how many times a click turned into a business result – be it sign-up, a sale, orother action taken by the user).
 

Conversion rate

 

Number of conversions divided by the number of clicks.

 

Cost per conversion

 

Measurement of the price for this form of marketing per conversion.

 

Social Media Advertising Metrics

 

Network referrals

 

Measurement depicting the contribution of discrete social networks to traffic.

 

Social media conversions

 

Measure conversion by social networks to understand which ones bring the most valuable shoppers.

 

Clicks

 

Quantity of users clicking on your ad and being referred to your landing page or sales funnel.

 

Frequency

 

Means for determining posting schedule to prevent annoying your audience.

 

Relevance score

 

Calculation of how successfully your current ads are performing.

 

Email Metrics

 

Open rate

 

Calculation of the percentage of email recipients who open a given email.

 

Click-through rate

 

Calculation of the percentage of email recipients who clicked on links in a given email.

 

Conversion rate

 

Calculation of how many people that clicked-through completed a business transaction.

 

Bounce rate

 

Calculation of the percentage of emails were attempt at delivery failed.

 

List growth rate

 

Calculation of the rate your email list is growing.

 

Email forwarding rate

 

Calculation of the percentage of people who forwarded email.

Ready to see the above key performance indicators for your e-commerce business grow and start doing more business transactions? Ariel Sheen will help develop your Facebook and Google ad and content marketing campaigns to help brands engaging in e-commerce increase their ad and search ranking performances. Scale your business faster with his marketing services by contacting me now.

On the Weakness of Trump Jr.’s Halloween Candy as Socialism Analogy

As income inequality worsens within countries around the world and more people grow disillusioned with the neo-liberal verities that justified their immiseration as well as the politicians which has been spouting them, more people have been rethinking whether or not policies based on socialist principles might be a better option. In fact with the recent election of Lee Carter, a marine veteran that identifies as a Democratic Socialist, along with a number of other left of center populists and socialists we might even be seeing the pivot begin to become a trend. This is making a lot of people nervous.

The Washington Post recently published an editorial  decrying changes in language and politics as neo-bolshevism. The American Culture and Faith Institute recently published findings from a survey which outlets like the National Review are up in arms about. Why? Because younger people are becoming more sympathetic to socialism! Also in on the furor is the Victims Of Communism Foundation, they also published the results of a different survey that much to their and others dismay, also found that younger people view socialism favorably! Lest this seem like the new American generation simply is ignorant to the realities of socialism, it’s worth noting that this trend wherein socialism is seen as desirable is not just in the U.S. but a sentiment found in the former Soviet Union as well.

 

It’s in this context of   growing demand for systemic political and economic change, that the son of the current American president, Donald Trump Jr., decided that he would use his following on Twitter to try to educate his followers on just how unfair, unjust and undesirable socialism is by posting the photo and text that I’ve screenshot on the right. The post, rightfully so, was mocked by a number of outlets, including Vice and Twitter.

A few days later Liberal (not leftist) Chris Hayes posted the following on his Twitter account. I can’t say for sure whether or not this was in response to Trump Jr’s tweet, but it does touch upon the (1) the correctness of Socialist analysis, (2) just how slow in coming to understand want Trump means for America and (3) that the received truths from most outlets (i.e. non-Marxist) are no longer valid.

Why Trump Jr is Wrong: Selective Redistribution is not Socialism

As many on Twitter pointed out, as far as analogies go Socialism = Halloween is a pretty bad one. But this isn’t something that is unique to Trump Jr. There’s a long history of purposeful misrepresentation of socialist thought and ideas by the media outlets of the wealthy going back over a hundred years. Puck Magazine was one such outlet that previously paid artists to publish cartoons of dirty, foreign socialists to discredit them. The sensibilities have changed, but the essence hasn’t.

Now people like Dinesh D’Souza, a man convicted of violating campaign finance law, not only seek to discredit socialism, but to transform it’s meeting so that the whole of the philosophy comes down to is “redistribution” and to claim that the the Democrats are in fact descended from Nazis. Thus, according to the new logic of the presumptive ruling class, World War II was really just leftist infighting between socialists in Germany and Russia and the US. By the by, this means that the Nazis actually won WW2 because, remember, FDR was a National Socialist…

The problem with all of this is, the logic turns to dust when you look to the seminal author on capitalism, Adam Smith. Here is from one of his maxims on taxes:

The Wealth Of Nations, Book V Chapter II Part II, Appendix to Articles I & II, p. 861, para. 12.

The subjects of every state ought to contribute towards the support of the government, as nearly as possible, in proportion to their respective abilities…

Smith also includes four additional maxims that ought to inform how it is that taxation should transpire. That said, while tax percentages, sources and allocation is certainly a contentious dynamic, but there’s nothing inherently “socialistic” about it. Social, yes, interaction between people. Socialist? No. That refers to principles of social and economic governance. While there are a variety of views on public ownerships of good and services – such as public schools, roads, national parks, etc. – but to claim that they are “socialist” is to mistake what socialism really is – the dictatorship of the proletariat.

Marx’s Major Theoretical Writings Are About Capitalism, Not Socialism

If that last phrase of that last sentence needs some unpacking, that’s understandable. Unlike the language and theories that Freud and the circles of readers and practitioners of the artistic science of psychoanalysis developed, Marxism hasn’t entered into the popular lexicon. This shouldn’t be that surprising given the indoctrination in our schools and churches that Communism/Marx is unAmerican, the fact that America has a long tradition of anti-intellectualism; state and para-state actors that seek to dissuade those that have made their way to Marx from acting on it and an entire cultural apparatus that is owned by a numerically small but politically powerful class that does not want to see or hear of their property being threatened.

Dictatorship is a heavily loaded term and it’s worth noting that as is conceived in Marxian though, the term does not necessarily refer to a personalistic style of political rule, but to control over political institutions. Marxists say that currently, living in the class society that we do, we live under the dictatorship of capital. It’s purely descriptive.

The proletariat is the group of workers that know they live in a class society and want to halt class rule through organized political struggle. The proletariat is categorically not the working class as a whole, who may not be active in the political economic struggle.

Class struggle, however, is just one component of Marxism socialism. There’s a large body of primary literature (and for free, thanks marxists.org!) as well as secondary literature that can explain the varieties of socialism, be it How to Read Karl Marx, Towards the Understanding of Karl Marx: A Revolutionary Interpretation or David Harvey‘s website.

Class Struggle! But What Else?

From my conversations around college campuses and at political events, validated by Jon Stewart, I think it’s fair to say that as a whole Socialism/Marxism as ideologies tends to be conflated with economic leveling and giving greater political power to the people. Because of this unfortunate desire to appear “in the know” thousands of pages of theory and decades of history are obfuscated and I think that this focus distracts from the fact that there are a number of his non-revolutionary concepts and intellectual innovations within Socialist and Marxist literature.

I say non-revolutionary as there are a large number of writers on every possible locations on a political map that agree with a some of his concepts and interpretations of historical developments. I’m not going to cite them all, instead an excerpt of this article from Harvard Business Review shows that class struggle isn’t specifically socialist or Marxist:

“Have these people never heard about Teddy Roosevelt excoriating the “malefactors of great wealth,” or his cousin Franklin getting Congress to raise the tax rate on top incomes past 90%? Americans have been pillorying the rich on and off for more than 200 years, and our economic system has survived and mostly thrived. In fact, the political and labor-relations compromises occasioned by what you might call class warfare have on balance surely made the country stronger.

What’s been unique, or at least highly unusual, has been the environment in which entrepreneurs and business executives were able to operate from the late 1970s through the early 2000s. Taxes dropped, high-end incomes exploded, and hardly anybody complained at all. Far from complaining, in fact, the news media for the most part celebrated the recipients of those exploding incomes for their boldness, creativity, and economic importance. It was a pretty stinking awesome time to be a plutocrat: You got to make billions of dollars, pay far less in taxes than you would have a quarter-century before, and get your face on the cover of Forbes or Fortune (or maybe even the top of your head on the cover of HBR).”

After you’ve read that entire article, which is worth your time, I’m sure you’ll agree. However, unless you were familiar with socialist/Marxist thought, you wouldn’t know this and just think it’s just some “foreign” ideology.

Marx and the Many Schools of Economics

Understanding how societies operate is difficult and requires a specialized vocabulary to talk about various components. In the process of gaining deeper knowledge within an academic discipline, ones’ lexicon and scholarship grows such that one can come to understand a variety of schools in relationship to one another and how the effects of their policies are. It’s because of this – lack of study on the subject – that Trump Jr. makes such a poor analogy for socialism. One might consider that as a capitalist he might “have ideas”, but all this means is that he’s able to extract surplus value from people not that his position as such a historical agent makes his version of theory superior. It’s not.

But Trump Jr. is not alone in his ignorance. If polled via mTurk, I think that less than 5% of people could give me an accurate definition of any number of terms used by Marx, be it alienation, commodification, division of labor, fetishism, solidarity, mode of production, etc. I believe the same would be true for concepts introduced by Marx’s later interlocutors like Gramsci with hegemony, Rosa Luxembourg’s analysis of reformism or Trotsky with permanent revolution. What great potential for a poll! Those the believe that schools have indoctrinated children with collectivist thought could finally have proof of it as knowledge of those words and other ideas related to it would quantitatively demonstrate public school led to collectivist thought!

Despite such claims, I would propound that with Trump there is a rise of people with a racial and nationalistic language for thinking through their politics, and I’m not alone in this assessment.

Socialism, or Barbarism

The middle class does not exist in the US anymore and as nationalism becomes the new watchword for determining US policy, American workers need to come to realize that they have more in common with a worker in China than they do with their own employer. Not history, language or culture, of course, but their economic precariousness and the fact that they compete with each other in the labor market due to a world connected by cargo shipping containers, transportation networks and a variety of shops.

The Right has been using racial and nationalistic language as well taking a few pages from Joe McCarthy’s anti-communism playbook – as evidenced by the header image at the top of the page. However in the end it is less about fears of “others” than the precariousness of American’s status to which they are appealing.

“You will not replace us” is anxiety about globalism and it’s ability to decimate regions once industries leave for greener pastures (and less labor laws). It’s taken a while for enough people to come to this perspective, but people are slowly recognizing that the economic game has been so changed in the past 30 years that they want the rules to change too. Neoliberalism is increasingly becoming a dead letter and in it’s place will either go Socialism or Barbarism…

What is the Global State of Socialism? What Does that Mean in America?

While I’ve focused on the American case as we zoom out of our focus and head onto the world stage we see that Socialism, that cause for much American intervention in countries that elected such politicians, is not seen as such a bug bear.

In China, Xi Jinping is announced as a contributor to Communist thought and practice in the vein of Marx and Mao. Vietnam remains radicalized by their experiences with European colonialism and like China are a single Communist party state.

In Europe, Spain‘s PODEMOS party rules the country and while their leader Pablo Iglesias is not a Marxist, they are socialist in orientation. Same goes for Greece, where the current leader of the Syriza party, Alex Tsipras, continues to battle against Germany and the international credit market. While no longer a part of the EU, in the United Kingdom, Jeremy Corbyn, an avowed Trotskyist, is revivifying anti-austerity politics and helping to turn the Labour party in a working class party rather than a neoliberal party.

In Venezuela, Maduro’s PSUV won heavily in the regional elections. In Colombia Rodrigo “Timonchenko” Londoño, the former leader of the FARC, a Marxist guerrilla organization, has announced he will be running for president. In Bolivia, Evo Morales has presided over a decade of socialist-inspired reforms. In Brazil, the Temer government cannot gain legitimacy and it looks like in 2018 Lula will return at the head of the Workers Party.

In Kerala, India the Washington Post positively describes the large socialist movement on the opposite end of the “Red Corridor” wherein a Maoist-inspired insurgency fights the government.

In Rojava, anarcho-communist Murray Bookchin has found a new audience amongst Kurds fighting for a socialist nation and those that are inspired to help them.

Many other developed nations, such as Denmark, Finland, NorwaySwedenCanada, Australia and New Zealand are not socialist, but have such a robust social safety net that it’s nothing like the American notion of capitalism.

What does all this going on mean in America?

At the most general level, I think it means that Americans ought to familiarize themselves with socialist literature. There’s a whole lot of false misconceptions as to what socialism is out there. There’s a whole lot of people that think American socialists want to bring North Korea, Cuba or U.S.S.R. to America and despite s#!tposting that hints others, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

That said, Socialism is a huge topic with a lot of debates within – take it all in slowly and with a grain of salt for as is to be expected in politics, there are underlying motives both professionally and ideologically operating here.

Lastly, I think it’s worth pointing out that people should also meet with other people in their community to talk about their experiences in relation to what they are reading in order to make sure that they understand things correctly and to help form bonds. It’s a whole lot more engaging and enjoyable than hearing an analogy that literally makes you stupider from the son of a reality T.V. star that would love to have more of your money because they tricked you into thinking that the modern American iteration of Socialism wouldn’t be a treat…

 

Review of “The Ten Principal Upanishads”

“Neither neglect your spiritual nor your worldly welfare. Always learn and teach. Forget neither God nor Ancestor.”

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The Ten Principal Upanishads, this edition translated and edited by Shree Purohit Swami and W. B. Yeats, are the most sacred texts of the Hindu religion. These are not God’s words to man, but an incarnation of revelation captured by Rishis that contain the ultimate Truth and the knowledge that leads to spiritual emancipation that are considered the distillation of the best of Vedic metaphysical and speculative thought. From the Upanishads the central doctrines of Hinduism are derived, the philosophy of yoga is developed, and through dialogue with Buddhism that a number of sects on both sides emerge. This is what Paramahansa Yogananda and many other yogis have studied throughout their lives. Worth nothing, a number of the benefits of such practices as those written about within are increasingly being verified by modern Western science – both as it relates to mental health, healing and general social welfare.

This particular collection contains only ten of the traditional one-hundred and nine Upanishads and are intended as an introduction to the uninitiated. The specific texts of this collected are titled thusly: Isha, Kena and Katha, Prashan, Mundaka, Mandukya, Tattiriya, Aitareya, Chhandogya and Brihadaranyaka. The text is different from the one I studied at the International Meditation Institute in that it has removed a number of the repeating phrases that are of a ritualistic nature that are normally interspersed throughout. Thus while it is not the best edition for a religious scholar, the essence of it – the delineation of the path of Spirit and its importance for life – remains. This conceptual translation is not, however, without its own merits. Yeats, a poet, maintains some of those mantra-like refrains (i.e. “May peace and peace and peace be everywhere.”) and has musical qualities and well-worded conceits.

 

Each lesson within the collection of Upanishads meditates upon and interrogates themes ranging from the correct means of thinking so as to avoid disturbing thoughts but also how to properly fixate on the eternal Spirit that animates all human beings and material things. As progress is made in the pursuit of the Spirit, one comes closer to finding enlightenment and ending the cycle of re-birth. The essence of their teachings is that Truth cannot be known intellectually, but embodied through continued action inflected with faith. There are various stages in a person’s development towards moksha, or liberation, as well as reasons for why they may not achieve is.

Various forms of Vedic practices

Speaking on the myriad components of spirits, the Upanishads state the following:

“Worship spirit as the support, be supported; worship Spirit as the Great, become great; worship spirit as the mind, become mind. Bow down to Spirit as the sole object of desire, be the goal of all desire; worship Spirit as the master of all, become the master of all”

It is because of such passages, and many others like it, that a large number of corporate cultural leaders are embracing and encouraging others to use Mindfulness practices – which is a de-sacralized form of Hinduism/Buddhism – in the workplace.

I’ve certainly seen how such practices help increase creativity, presentness and productivity while decreasing tension in the workplace. I am, however, suspicious of such initiatives unless it’s practiced from the top down as otherwise it seems to me to encourage the type of workplace apathy that leads to larger social issues (i.e. you shouldn’t ask for a raise when you’re worth it, but instead just be happy with what you have as you are Spirit). All in all, however, meditation, yoga, chanting, reflective silence, and other Vedic practices, are beneficial as it helps to realize the Spirit. I’ve been reading this book prior to and after my yoga practice at Flying Tree Yoga school, found myself feeling lighter as a result of it and will likely reread it again soon.

*

In closing, here’s a great video by Alan Watts on what the Spirit is:

Reflections on a Former Lover’s Suicide in the Context of #MeToo

Recently I learned that a former significant other of mine committed suicide. While fifteen years had passed since we were an item and in that time we’d drifted apart, I still found myself profoundly affected by this news. Especially so as something that to a large extent defined and lead to the destruction of our relationship suddenly became something that wasn’t taboo to discuss.

Given the aims of #metoo and it’s importance for helping to initiate conversations that lead to policy solutions which stop the culture of rape in America, I decided to write a memoriam that would add to the conversation. Lest it seem I’m taking liberties with someone else story, I’ll point out I’m only speaking with the same openness that Krystal modeled in the descriptions of her struggles with mental and physical health and substance usage for years on her blog (NSFW) and on her social media accounts. What follows is thus a long format rendition of her #metoo story, from my perspective, that I hope will not only give evidence for the need for more action to be taken to prevent rape and give appropriate support to those that have been assaulted.

Shade Going Through the Field of Time

*

The first time I heard Krystal say the phase Beauty is pain was to explain something to me was when we were getting ready to go out to a goth club.

We were together in her bedroom at her parent’s house. The door was open. I was 18, she 16. I helped her tie up a black, lacy imitation-whalebone corset. She said that in the context of explaining how my concern over drawing the strings tight that she have difficulty breathing was unnecessary. “Beauty is pain,” she half gasped half said due to the pressure, “and I want my bust to look it’s best for you tonight. Tighten it more. So I can barely breathe, that’s fine. My boobs will look banging.”

We’d then only been dating a few weeks, so at the time I thought that Beauty is Pain was merely a witty comment of hers. Krystal was quick, perceptive and had a way with words. But during our brief relationship I came to realize that there was something more to this phrase. She’d repeat it in a number of different contexts, like it was a mantra, like it was a logic ever present in making itself felt in human existence. That night, however, I didn’t pick up the fullness of what all she meant by it.

I was reminded of this all a few days after I’d learned of the news of her suicide. I tried logging into an old email account I hadn’t used in ages and, sure enough, was granted access. I re-read the pages and pages of emails – something that now seems strange to say in this texting age – and a flood of memories came back from when we were teenagers. Most of our epistles concerns the  stereotypical topics you’d expect of adolescents, but there was another current beyond the banal and the flowery phrases of adoration exchanged in the first stages of infatuation.

Silk, from personal notebook #3 2001

In those sections where we outlined the way we understood Spirit; the shapes of our fears and how to deal with them; the outlines of the larger things we longed for; all these showed the divide between our world-views. Krystal reflections about life seemed raw and dark. Bitter. For me, while always open to admit that that murk that exists, I always tried to aim for light. I’m not saying I knew then she would take her own life, merely that there was a difficult to negotiate divide and her penchant for darkness extended beyond fashion style.

Because of her appearance – my freshman-year college roommates told me with more than a hint of envy in their voice how she looked like a goth Victoria’s Secret model. That night that I tied her up and we went out? She wasn’t even carded by the same bouncer that closely scrutinized the one legal ID, mine.

We danced together and socialized. I wanted her to get to know my friends so didn’t dominate her presence. Whenever she wasn’t directly next to me in our small group, however, male strangers would try to talk to her. She was respectful, but when conversation turned to flirtation she would quickly quit them and come over to stand close to me to show who she was with. Feeling juvenile pride at their rejection and her selection of me, I fawned over her. One person in particular – a long blond haired older man (which for me at the time meant late 20s)  – caused her to draw me in especially close. Uncomfortably so. The pressure around my ribs didn’t make me worried they break, but the crush of bone against bone was no pleasant sensation.

At first I thought this might be an ex that I was unaware of. A little tipsy, I mentally prepared for a fight, but he just smiled and continued to walk on. I looked down at her face and saw an expression that I did not then and do not now know fully what it was, other than that it haunted me. I whispered in her ear “Who was that?” and she responded “No one, I’ll explain later.” When we got home, she shared her story with me.

Portrait 2012

Several weeks before her and I started dating, she’d been raped by that man. At a party that he’d drove her too, he’d drugged her drink, cornered her and then forced himself upon her. The way she described it, she was in a murky haze due to whatever he’d dosed her with. She could see what was happening, but couldn’t get her body to move in the way her brain wanted. She willed it, yet couldn’t fend him off. This was why she was so affected when we were out together – she’d just seen that man that literally stole her virginity.

I’d later learn that this same person had tried the same thing with two of my female friends. In my novel Unraveling the very graphic, violent scene towards such a person with similar physical features as her rapist is a variant of the recurring fantasy that I had towards this person at this time.

Already prone to depression before, she explained, the traumatic experience had significant effects. She had recurring nightmares, felt anxious when around other people, took to cutting and became averse to most of her male friends. Beauty is pain, she explained, as it causes such strong desires in others that many people are willing to do unethical or immoral things to obtain or experience the object of their desires. She didn’t wholly despise her attractive visage, but felt it was like something that she didn’t entirely want either. It was a burden. A flood of what she was struggling with continued out and she ended it all with, ” …and you’re the first person that I shared this all with”.

I felt pride that she trusted me so much. I knew that our relationship and the disclosures she’d made implied a clear duty on my part. But how exactly to help her? Well, that I didn’t know. And it bothered me. A lot. So much that I thought about ending the relationship. It wasn’t because she’d been raped. No, I didn’t think that she was somehow tainted to her core as a result of her assault. No, it was learning the extent which she had suppressed so much of her emotional life that made me question whether or not a healthy relationship was possible going forward.

Portrait of Ariel Sheen

If this sounds shitty, it is, but full disclosure I’d already started to lose the initial enthusiasm I had for our partnership. Even before she told me this I’d picked up that something wasn’t “right”. I told myself, however, that it was the height of inhumanity to leave her side after she’d opened up to me like that as it’d likely lead either to her further close off from others or take her own life, something I learned that night we talked that she’d already tried before. I decided that I’d stay in order to try and do the best that I could to help break her out of the consciousness that kept pulling her back to the trauma’s she’d experienced.

At first, it worked. The bad dreams lost their frequency and intensity. She stopped cutting as often, but communicated to me that she’d only stopped as I’d asked her to.  Beauty is pain and sometimes in order to keep it alive you must make sacrifices. However the lessening or disappearance of each particular symptom didn’t mean that she’d overcome the effects the event had had on her. New ones started popped up or came back. Like the panic attacks. Hearing her describe the horror she felt being around people made my heart go out to her. But on the practical side it meant that each time I’d want us to go out, I had to mind a dangerous mine field that was our communication. I didn’t want to be selfish, but I wasn’t enjoying being wholly selfless either.

As our relationship continued I felt that our time was increasingly being occupied with issues related to her handling her rape trauma. It affected nearly every area of her thinking  and I started to resent our relationship. I told myself at the time that I stayed as I was optimistic. She was, after all, making steps to move past it so that she was less reactive to the many things which triggered her. Enough time has passed, however, that I don’t now think that that’s true. For one how she helped herself seemed to me to be a form of slow self-annihilation. As for why I stayed, it was more  aversion to shame for leaving someone for being raped in a bad place. It was a good intention, but the execution of which meant for an unstable relationship foundation.

“I’d Love To Break Your Heart”

To help “heal herself” Krystal illicitly obtained anti-anxiety meds like Xanax. While she was pleased with the way they made her feel vacant, to me that was exactly why she shouldn’t take it. The drugs shut up some the darker angels of her nature, but didn’t provide genuine relief from the underlying issues. She needed to come into her own, not numb herself.  Beauty is pain, she said with a face that was both vacant and bitter, you got what you wanted and now you don’t want it anymore but something else. 

My not knowing how to properly address the impact of the trauma was a major reason I ended our romance. At the time I hated myself for such a rationale. Now, however, I accept it as my having acted the best way I knew how. In fact, I should have ended it way sooner rather than let it drag on like a slowly removed band-aid as there was no way for her to have had a foundation for an romantic interpersonal relationship until she had a foundation for a healthy interpersonal relationship.

“Discarded Broken Dreams”

Krystal later tried therapy to help with the myriad issues she struggled with. During one of our intermittent talks she expressed aversion to talk therapy. In her blog you can read of her talking about her struggles with depression and antipathy towards the psychiatrists that labeled her bipolar. The dynamic she protested then matched the dynamic that has so previously scarred her: a male older someone handing out drugs that impact the mind to deaden the senses.

Whether or not this affected treatment, it seems to me that repetition compulsion in part explains the intermittent changes in medication and categorical disdain for the people she had to talk to in order for her to be provided with meds. After I completed my training at FICAM in 2013, she sent me an email expressing interest in doing bioenergetic therapy with me. I was happy at the thought of it as I was confident I could help her make some major inroads in releasing the energies she’d internalized, later proven true, but as she lived across the country this never happened.

Self-Portrait 2008

I know she knew this too at the time because things between us afterwards were amicable. For years after our split we socialized amongst mutual friends on a not-so irregular basis and wrote each other intermittently. After I got engaged, she even sent a nice note saying she felt happy for me as she’d not ever seen me appear so consistently joyful in pictures.

“Faithful Only She”

Lest it seem like I’m turning a whole life into the effect of a single traumatic experience let me be clear: These memories aren’t the only things that I remember about Krystal. In fact it is far from the thing that defines her in my and other’s mind. Krystal was kind and smart and creative and an amazingly talented photographer with hustle. Hearing her talk with the passion that she had about the arts that she practiced always impressed and inspired me.

Her self-made zine was an impressively put together outlet she curated from the creatives that were drawn to her. Her dark humor made some laugh and others squirm. She was an all around awesome girl and young woman. I’m detailing the long-lasting effects of the trauma as while I can’t honestly draw a straight line from that trauma to her choosing to kill herself, I also feel that had she not been drugged and sexually assaulted at 15 then she would likely still be alive.

“Creatures”

And it’s because of the fact that is far from an isolated incident, that with social effort could become less prevalent, that I focus on Krystal’s rape when memorializing her art and life following her death. I’m writing this not just to exposit on depression, trauma and their impact on romantic relationships – but as a base for action.

Those of you that read this that own her prints of Krystal/Cannibalized’s work, I’d ask that you please send me high-rendition scans of them along with typical archival info (name/date/etc/). I’d like to curate a collection of her photos and sell the prints in a hardbound book with the profits going to RAINN. If I can help fund one of their programs for someone that needs help like Krystal did, then I’d feel the work that I’ll put into it would be worth it.

Self-Portrait 2011

 

Racial Controversy in Advertising and How To Avoid The Need For Apologies

 

I was waiting for another “advertisement campaign gone wrong” news story to happen to contrast the way in which the messages in traditional magazine style graphic ads differ with what can be done with content marketing and sure enough Dove does me the favor of running an ad that many are calling racist and is now facing a boycott of their product.

In this article I’m not going to judge the intentions of the people involved in this Facebook-based advertising campaign, but I will defend their intentions by stating I believe the screen grabs below that spread like wildfire across Twitter misconstrue the nature of the ad – which isn’t nearly as direct in implications as this.

Instead, I’m going to show why it is that people claim it is racist; touch upon some of the ways in which a marketing messaging can be engaging and controversial but not offensive; and finally present a brief content marketing proposal that Dove could have instead done which would provide more value for their current and would be customers.

Racism in American Skin Care Marketing

   

Controversial marketing can be very effective, but if not done properly it can also lead to undesired press. Because of this it is important to always keep in mind the perspectives of the people being depicted or implicated in advertising.

One need not agree completely with all the views of prominent African American cultural commentator Ta-Nehisi Coates as to the power of whiteness to recognize that in the United States whiteness has been lauded as an definitive quality for culturally dominant standards of beauty and truth; legitimate political power and authority; etc. Additionally, one need not agree completely with Malcolm X to recognize that the media has a huge impact in how communities perceive themselves.

In this sense we can come to understand that the brouhaha is less about the manifest content – a skin cream that whitens – but the latent content, or social context, in which it is promoted.

To put it another way the issue at stake, pardon the pun, is not black and white but is specifically about what many people see as a culture that continuing to reinforce a social and economic order that denigrates and exploits black people. Because of this, these these types of advertisements are seen as ideologically supporting such a structure and why Proctor & Gamble’s ad is so celebrated for being the opposite.

Cultural Sensitivity in Polarized Times and What Stays With Consumers

   

Skin whitening creams aren’t the only type of product and services whose communications run the risk of being labelled racist and alienating customers.

Surf pulled a number of ads like the one above, which is especially ironic given criticism over roles and awards given to black actors in Hollywood films. In the wake of controversy over the defending hate groups prior to demonstrations in Charlotesville and their subsequent Twitter post shown above, the ACLU has changed their position on defending all groups right to free speech and apologized for their posting. State Farm’s Twitter account briefly became

What these and the Dove ads miss is cultural sensitivity that would allow them to see how how black people and their allies could feel that such marketing messaging contributes to a culture that denigrates blackness.

While not speaking on race but sexual preference, Dan Cathy of Chick-Fil-A’s reflection on the comments he’d made regarding gay marriage summaries provides a good insight in what companies should consider when approaching their messaging:

“Consumers want to do business with brands that they can interface with, that they can relate with. And it’s probably very wise from our standpoint to make sure that we present our brand in a compelling way that the consumer can relate to.”

If a consumer feels that a company is attacking them in their advertisement, intentional or not, it puts th consumer relationships at risk.

Great Content Marketing That Deals With Controversial Content

The problem with addressing or depicting controversy in advertisements is not necessarily that it gets attention, but what further message is then transmitted from it. Though many people purchase products such as bleaching creams or Surf detergent in order to get their skin or clothes whiter, the underlying message of “Darkness is undesirable” leads to wasted ad buys and time spent on handling criticisms. It’s for this reason that content marketing is particularly effective.

This is one of the reasons why Zillow and NerdWallet’s Content Marketing is doing such an amazing job. Not only are they both producing functional tools for people to used, but they are also coming out with reports like: Rising Rents, Stagnant Wages, And the Burden of Unstable Housing and Seeking Medical Debt Relief? Crowdfunding Rarely Pays Off the Bills.

Hiding Controversy in Plain Sight

   

Chances are as you read what my good examples of controversial choices for marketing content was you may have thought the following contentions:

  • These don’t deal with race.
  • These aren’t controversial.
  • I’m comparing apples and oranges.

Regarding the first point you are absolutely right. I will, however, provide an example of what good content marketing that deals with race looks like below so I hope you’ll overlook this. As for them not being controversial let me explain how they are.

Your friends, if they’re good friends, will certainly give sympathy for expressing anxiety and frustration over your income and how your daily struggles wouldn’t feel so burdensome if you just earned just a few percentage points in your salary and some level of support. Your employer, who holds the power in making such a determination, is less likely to be as welcoming to such expressions and less likely to offer support – though this is changing.

The future of health care in America is so highly contested by a variety of actors that have stakes in saving and losing money that protests and coordinated movements to sway legislators have erupted all over the country. Regardless of one’s view of what is to be done, information is power and this goes to show that private philanthropy is not doing nearly enough to prevent people from death or life-changing debt.

As for the third contention, that’s a partial truth as they are different in format but as they are at their root marketing messages such a distinction is spurious and only gives heft to the claim of many advertising professionals today that content marketing is king. Unlike the visual-only ads, these content marketing projects do not veil the conditions of American political economy but make unveiling it their purpose. The value-proposition of Zillow and NerdWallet’s content marketing is educational rather than mere single grahpic attention grab whose only message is: “This lotion will whiten your skin”.

What Could Dove Have Done to Raise Brand Awareness Instead of Publishing An Ad the Replicates Racist Tropes?

Like many other people,  I Feaking Love Science. Like many publishers, I also love survey based projects. Not wanting to go into too much details, it was with this in mind that I thought of some alternatives that Dove could have developed instead of the racially insensitive ads.

Were Dove to take a content marketing approach instead of the traditional single graphic ad for their campaign they would have had their marketing team produce content that educates about skin and race via an aesthetically engaging depiction and explanation of the science of skin color.

Were Dove to take a content marketing approach they could have presented the findings of a survey asking about perceptions of whiteness that combined analysis of their results with that of previous studies in an engaging manner. There a lot of them on race in relation to aspects of American society and such a study that examines original research (Legal, psychological, etc.) along with the number produced, their findings and analysis of other qualities over time would contribute to the national conversation instead of being seen as just more evidence for one position or another.

Controversial Content, But Without The Baggage

One of the reasons content marketing is such an amazing field is that the value it creates is not as ephemeral, being more than a mere image, but also as it can be continuously updated, and parts of it can be repurposed. Like solely visual advertisements it seeks to gain a consumer’s attention, but because of the format it is able to do so without the baggage and and in a more organic manner.

If you want to assure that your company’s time is not wasted by apologizing for an insensitive advertisement and are interested in learning more how controversial content can help your marketing, reach out to me, Ariel Sheen, and ask about how I can help build up on-site material or how I can build you a content marketing campaign.

Not only do I have a track record of successful content marketing campaigns, but my extensive studies in America’s history and culture means you won’t end up with lots of press about how you inadvertently promoted racially insensitivity.

New Translation of Pablo Neruda’s poem “The Dead Woman”

La Muerta, or The Dead Woman, was written by Pablo Neruda. I was reading a bilingual edition of this book at El Cafe de Otraparte and didn’t like the translation so have transcribed my own below on the right side, linked to where other translations are below and then explained why I think my translation is preferable to theirs.

Si de pronto no existes,
si de pronto no vives,
yo seguiré viviendo.No me atrevo,
no me atrevo a escribirlo,
si te mueres.Yo seguiré viviendo.Porque donde no tiene voz un hombre
allí, mi voz.

Donde los negros sean apaleados,
yo no puedo estar muerto.
Cuando entren en la cárcel mis hermanos
entraré yo con ellos.

Cuando la victoria,
no mi victoria,
sino la gran Victoria
llegue,
aunque esté mudo debo hablar:
yo la veré llegar aunque esté ciego.

No, perdóname.
Si tú no vives,
si tú, querida, amor mío, si tú
te has muerto,
todas las hojas caerán en mi pecho,
lloverá sobre mi alma noche y día,
la nieve quemará mi corazón,
andaré con frío y fuego
y muerte y nieve,
mis pies querrán marchar hacia donde tú duermes, pero seguiré vivo,
porque tú me quisiste sobre
todas las cosas indomable,
y, amor, porque tú sabes que soy no sólo un hombre
sino todos los hombres.

If suddenly you do not exist,
if suddenly you no longer live,
I shall live on.I do not dare,
I do not dare to write it,
if you die.I’ll keep living.For where a man has no voice,
there, my voice.

Where blacks are beaten,
I cannot be without energy.
When into prison my brothers go,
I am with them.

When victory,
not my victory,
but the great victory
comes,
even though I am mute I must speak;
I shall see it come
though I am blind.

No, forgive me.
If you don’t live,
if you, beloved, my love,
if you have died,
all the leaves will fall on my chest,
it will rain on my soul night and day,
the snow will burn my heart,
I shall walk with cold and fire and death and snow,
my feet will want to march to where you sleep, but
I’ll stay alive,
because you wanted me above all things indomitable,
and, my love, because you know that I am not only a man
but all humankind.

Why My Translation is Better

Where my translation differs from the other versions is as follows.

In the third stanza seguiré should read as a statement of commitment to life rather a phrase that a book with some sort of platitudinous title on coping with grief would tell you to repeat over and over again in a mirror until you start to feel that you are “back amongst the land of the living” and thus no longer “trapped in the past/in death”.

The fifth stanza I’ve changed for the following reasons. First, the other translators incorrectly attributed the Castilian meaning of the word rather than the Chilean. While generally sensible, any Spanish speaker that’s travelled know that there is a wide variety regional dialects and meanings. Here’s an screenshot of a Chilean Spanish Slang Dictionary:

If that’s not enough to convince you why my iteration is better, consider this – while “not being dead” may sounds poetic, it doesn’t imply the same sort of implication of commitment to ameliorating racial oppression that was a major component of Neruda’s politics. Pablo Neruda was an ardent Marxist, a member of the Communist Party and was a politician and diplomat under President Salvador Allende. The lines as they were slightly obfuscated something that Pablo Neruda would have been highly attuned.

As it was worded,
it suggested that the “I” of the poem – which is later on characterized as indomitable – respond to racial oppression merely by oneself not succumbing to death. Using a dictionary definition rather than an informal one thus loses the implied need for material commitment to oppressed peoples liberation evidenced in my rendition of “I cannot be without energy”. People in perilous situations that require great physical endurance to survive are able to exert themselves past the point they would normally collapse because of the importance of their actions. My rendition captures this, and for similar reasons the next two lines of the stanza is also lacking verisimilitude to what I believe to be Neruda’s intent.
Embed from Getty Images

As it was,  the “I” of the poem implied a commitment to revenge seeking or some kind of adventurism. That’s not, however, the case as Neruda would be very familiar with the concept of solidarity. Now I understand and even appreciate why it’s rendered that way, for the sake of sound, but I also think it’s important not to declaw the meaning behind the words of a poet who was assassinated by the government of General Pinochet with the assistance of the C.I.A.

Marchar en Chile

In the eight stanza I changed “breast” for “chest” as pecho is both and. Following that I think the translation is again playing fast and loose for the sake of sound. Neruda uses the word marchar, to march, and in the translation it’s replaced with walk, or caminar. While one certainly walks in a march, the collective sense implied in the Spanish word is lost in the old translation.

Lastly, I changed the last line from “all men” to “all humankind” as the gender specificity within Spanish nouns need not apply to the English rendition given the alternative which more accurately symbolizes socialism’s aspiration for universal solidarity.

“Don’t do with love, what a child does his balloon, that having ignored it, then loses it crying.”

Buy yourself a copy of Neruda.

The Struggle for Catalonian Independence and Art

82 years after the Asturias Revolt, and 78 years after the end of the Spanish Civil War Republican unrest is now mobilized enough again that politicians in Catalonia believe that independence from Madrid is a possibility. Spain has always had a special place in my heart and thus I’ve been closely following the events in Catalonia regarding their movement for independence. As a populist movement not only does it’s development lend itself to new forms of art, which I will briefly talk about below, but it also allowed President Maduro of Venezuela to troll Prime Minister Rajoy with the phrase, “Who’s the Dictator Now?” after Rajoy was critical Maduro’s response to U.S. backed attempts to destabilize the country and to bolster indigenous people’s attempts to create their own national governments, like in Kurdish Iraq. Massive Social Mobilization Across Catalonia These photos show the millions of participants in the protests that were part of the huelga general (general strike) called for by all the Catalan trade unions. According to the Catalan government the general strike was the largest economic paralyzation in the history of Catalonia. Reports I’ve read state how one of the many chants that  reverberated in dozens of cities across Catalonia, was “The streets will always be ours!” The reason for this stems from the fact that people were upset with Spanish state repression and police violence against the #CatalanReferendum, in which 90% of the voters voted for independence from Spain. Their claim that the streets belong to them reflects the fact that police from outside the region had to be brought in to control it.

Workers Against the State While the police were celebrated by small crowds in other regions for the oppression they would bring to their neighbors, Catalonian farmers blocked the ports to prevent more police officers from coming in, to prevent police vehicles from coming in and to otherwise hamper the movement of those that were already brought off shore to “reign in” the movement. The Huelga General, or General Strike, called by the Catalan unions is supposed to be the largest in history and has paralyzed commerce throughout the region.

The State Against Workers and Democracy 

“The worker who becomes a policeman in the service of the capitalist state, is a bourgeois cop, not a worker.” – Leon Trotsky

Not all social services workers were willing to fight for the status quo, here we see firefighters that are attempting to keep the police from preventing people from going to polling stations. Other powerful photos of what’s going on there depict ballot boxes connected by chains to large concrete blocks to prevent police from confiscating them. Reports from all outlets depict greater  90% of those that voted wanted independence.

Is History Repeating Itself?

Let’s clean them out! – 2017 Comrade Lenin is Cleaning the World of Scum – 1917

100 Years on from the Russian Revolution and it is still inspiring people around the world trying to get free from oppression and exploitation. While reading some Spanish language news media, I came across the above poster on the right and was tinkled pink (or is tinkled red more appropriate here?) as it is a variation of the famous Lenin poster that I placed on the right. While the forces driving Catalonian independence are nationalist and not anti-capitalist – the region’s history as a Libertarian Communist/Radical Republican stronghold during the Civil War are well documented.

Or is History Adapting to the Conditions of the Present?

While I found myself resonating with the Escombrem Los! image and the illustration above to the left as it combines a famous photo by Robert Capa called Loyalist Militiaman at the Moment of Death, Cerro Muriano, September 5, 1936  with a depiction of the current suppression – this is one of the examples where historically powerfully iconography is repackaged in a way that’s not really appropriate. The anti-monarchic sentiment may be the same and there is similar dissatisfaction with the government on it’s spending choices – it’s not an international revolutionary movement.

The Future is Unwritten, But Has Certain Limits Brexit, massive youth unemployment and brain drain to Germany, growing nationalist movements – the hopes for a united European Union is starting to unravel. Just like the Catalonian independence movement is not likely to become a clarion even for those disaffected with the neoliberal world order nor is it that Catalonia will again be a testing ground for new weapons. And yet these historical images are still being used by those on the ground now as a reference for understanding the present.

While this is to be expected, it’s worth recalling Karl Marx’s famous quote on the subject: “Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living. And just as they seem to be occupied with revolutionizing themselves and things, creating something that did not exist before, precisely in such epochs of revolutionary crisis they anxiously conjure up the spirits of the past to their service, borrowing from them names, battle slogans, and costumes in order to present this new scene in world history in time-honored disguise and borrowed language.”

A More Appropriate Art of Protest

While there are certainly groups within the Catalan nationalist movement that wish to make the referendum for nationhood similarly a vote for socialism, this is a vocal but small group.

Because of this, I believe, a more appropriate aesthetic is less that which pulls from a revolutionary tradition and more one that sees it as solely a transfer of powers. It’s a lot less sexy, but a lot more accurate. It’s also a lot more dangerous, as continuing the state in this regard will not necessarily ameliorate the anxieties expressed in such social mobilization and opens up the way for new ones.

The Return of Fascistic Unity

Embed from Getty Images

Regardless of one’s position on Catalan independence, it’s worth noting the strong similarities with those against it and those that wish to make the United State a white ethno-state. It’s said that a picture says a thousands words, so notice the swastika tattoos on this anti-independence Catalan demonstrator at a National Unity rally in the centre of Barcelona during Catalonia National Day on September 1.

The struggles in the street over symbols, history and power will continue so long as profound dissatisfaction with the distribution of political and economic power continues. However, reliance upon old verities such as nationhood or race that once made people feel secure will not provide a genuine out for such problems. I hope that the electoral aspirations of the Catalonians are achieved, but also feel that should independence happen the hopes that they have will soon be lost given what will be their diminished power in the current world order.