We Issue 5 Journal editors meet together at this brown kitchen table, often with wine or beer. Sometimes in the middle of our meeting, we go outside for cigarette breaks. We talk to explore ways of action and to agree on what is worth printing for you. It is difficult to schedule meeting times. With jobs, childcare, social lives and private time, it seems like we are always finding that one shelf spot behind the raisins to place this project. We frequently disagree on the simplest of terms (language and exchange); when disagreeing we try hard not to see conflict as a problem. We’ve all shared significant experience. We share a desire for social change and visions of the many ways in which it may or may not occur. When speaking and listening to one another we remember collective histories. We seek contexts to make use of these histories. We try embracing differences, either bridging gaps or gaping at the chasms. Ultimately, we now try to appreciate whatever we have between us.
How do we say we?
Arguably, today the act of social networking is commodified more visibly and materially than ever before, so we are not here lightly focusing on ourselves.
In art production the commodification of the social and the erasure of the political is expressed as relational aesthetics, a pseudo-democratic practice that often is reflective of the values of global capitalism.
However, there is some value to the art world's focus on social relations and community. Collaboratively writing this forward, relational aesthetics came up with the magazine’s content. Situating ourselves into a social context is difficult because one is dealing with people's complexities. Recently, the Journal had the opportunity to collaborate with people whose actions we feared might alienate our readership. We faced a tough decision- piss on an opportunity or piss off our community. We decided to check in with our community; asking them, “what do you think about this situation…”, thus choosing to act as though someone holds us accountable. In printing our magazine the important thing is the relationship- building up and maintaining value in the trust that others put in each other toward shared ideals.
How can we work together?
On the occasion of our Move! Activate! Remember! residency at Southern Exposure (SoEx) in San Francisco, we organized a conversation that included Patrick Reinsborough of Smartmeme.org, Issue 5 contributors Sarah Lewison and Julie Wyman of BLW, documentarian Sam Green, and new Students for a Democratic Society organizer Joshua Kahn Russell. The panel drew on each speaker’s practical knowledge on how historic narratives activate and inform contemporary movements.
According to Joshua, the new SDS is a blossoming organization that is nimbly moving into colleges and high schools across the country. The group has taken on the name of the historic SDS (which tore itself apart in 1969) and in so doing inherited a generations’ worth of organizing experience through old SDS members' willing advice. They have also accepted the burden of sorting the old SDS members conflicts. The new SDS’ act of organizational appropriation has essentially uncorked a reservoir of knowledge to nurture this new generation of activists.
The Journal editorial collective finds the new SDS’ experience inspiring because in a moment when so many are acting out history for multiple reasons, SDS has embodied a living history. SDS is notable because it finds itself accountable to its past to stand for something. In this moment awash in the representation of cultures of dissent (Congress faking out on stopping war funding, counter cultural fashions, many people’s economic reality of earning a living through lifestyles, pop music anti-war songs, the DIY media of Youtube etc...) it is refreshing to finally witness the emergence of an apparently effective strategy out of our history.
How do we act?
Social justice and liberation movements have historically reiterated that it is the way we say we (the how) that matters most. In terms of the journal’s cultural production, this thought is expressed as a desire for the synthesis of form and content. What kind of internal structures needs to be in place to be able to act quickly yet democratically in face of external oppression? What structures can actively create their way out of patriarchy? For progressive movements to be successful on a wider scale, they need to be answerable to the broad public scrutiny they often place on their enemies.
In Los Angeles, this thought spooled out recently in the city’s environmental movement- in the failed struggle to save the South Central Farm (one of the largest publicly owned urban garden in North America) from industrial development. An article, published in the LA Weekly, critically reflected upon the Farm’s organizing structure at a time when the farm was fighting for its survival. While we can see this article as weakening the farms’ support, it raises a good question, arguably at the wrong time; when the shit hits the fan, it is too easy to default on paternal models of organizing. Issue five writer Paige Sarlin reflects on how the structure of structurelesness is often the normative one.
How do we say we?
This issue is also an investment into our understanding that we can incrementally stand on solid ground through honest communication. We can get together and identify what is possible, to find where solid action within particular contexts can become real.
(Dorit Cypis suggested that a good political practice would be to meet together with strangers on a regular basis and talk about weighty issues. We don’t all have to be together on the same page. It’s good for everybody.)