Politics

This Is All Your Fault: To Defeat Donald Trump We Need Shared Goals

Voters' toxic self interest brought us the Trump presidency. Only working toward shared goals can get us out of it.

I’ve been sitting in “safe spaces” lately listening to others absorb the collective trauma from a Donald Trump victory. Many people are either in a state of shock or are viewing whiteness with the sort of suspicion a female victim of sexual assault might apply to all men. No doubt, those views are real and legitimate.


Frankly, I don’t believe people would be in mourning if Hillary Clinton won the election and that’s a problem. Maybe that’s unfair on my part but hear me out. Many on the “left” had no problem accepting the violent drone strike program of the Obama administration. Others were willing to accept the catastrophic ways in which neoliberalism swept across the Rust Belt, decimating communities.

Still others did not think police shootings of unarmed African Americans were a big deal. If this is your first time really coming to grips with the fact that racism permeates American society, then there is a problem.

It’s hypocritical for people to deride Trump voters for putting their own self-interests above those of their fellow Americans, when many on the “left” did the same with their uncritical support for policies under the Obama administration and Clinton campaigns that disenfranchised all working-class Americans. Under Obama, a critical mass on the left was largely invested in empire and the neoliberal onslaught, having no problem with its expression; except when it backfired on Nov. 8th.

The surprise at the result of the election is wrapped up in obvious contradictions: people who in many ways capitulated to white supremacy were suddenly upset by it. That sadness was not expressed when structural and systemic violence was doled out on an industrial scale to people who are faceless in our collective consciousness. Americans have to reckon with the kind of society we want to envision. At least Trump supporters do not hide their selfishness.

Hillary Clinton’s record and deeds gave a reasonable indication that she would continue policies that harm working class people of all racial and ethnic backgrounds along with people in the developing world. This alone would prompt anyone from an economically de-industrialized area to be very skeptical of her claims, or simply vote against her. It is not a coincidence that voter turnout in Michigan and everywhere else among African Americans, was significantly lower compared to the two previous elections.

Trump strategically married the longstanding insecurities of white voters about the loss of cultural hegemony with their legitimate economic concerns. Meanwhile, the establishment left courted money and support from the same financial institutions that wrecked the economy in 2008. This election represented the ultimate triumph of self-interest over the common good.

One cannot be complicit in the degradation of their fellow human beings and expect society to remain intact. If people accept the pursuit of wealth and personal gratification at the expense of everything else then the entire society will crumble. The most oppressed and vulnerable groups of people will likely be devoured by the most entitled and emboldened groups. Yet all that will remain is mutually assured destruction. If American society turns inwardly toward destruction, then it is likely that such destructive tendencies will manifest in a foreign policy that promises spectacular human suffering all over the world.

We have to face the reality that American power is not sustainable, and even more so, is not desirable. American prosperity is based on individual consumption and competition for limited resources, and as this election shows, this mind state only results in breakdown and eventual conflict. The very value which we give our lives has to be reevaluated in light of principles not linked to acquiring and consuming for the sake of internal validation.

Photos
"The Astral." Photo by Mikael Owunna.

This Photo Series Is a Much-Needed Counter to Violent Images of the Black Body

"Infinite Essence" is Nigerian-American photographer Mikael Owunna's response to the one-dimensional narrative we tend to see of the black body.

This beautiful, thought-provoking photo series affirms what we already know—that the black body is magical, no matter what odds are against us.

Nigerian-American photographer, Mikael Owunna, touched base with OkayAfrica to share his new photo series, Infinite Essence. The series is Owunna's response to America's issue of police brutality, like the murders of Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Philando Castile and Walter Scott, and the viral and violent images of the dead black body we've seen as a result.

"It has become frighteningly routine to turn on the television or log onto Facebook and see a video or image of a black person either dead or dying, like images of Africans dying in the Mediterranean," Owunna says.

"With this series, I work to counter these one-dimensional narratives of the black body as a site of death and destruction with imagery capturing what I see in my friends, family and community—love, joy, and ultimately, magic."

Owunna worked on Infinite Essence for the past year, and says his creative process began with a feeling. As he notes further, it's was a process of trial and error.

"I was beginning to explore my own spirituality and journey and learning about how black, queer and trans people in particular were respected for their magical abilities in many pre-colonial African societies. I was meditating on this idea of magic and how I can capture that in my work, harkening back to the 'Final Fantasy' video games and anime series I grew up on. How could I capture all of this? I did two pretty disastrous test shoots using long exposures and lights, that did nothing for me artistically.

It had none of the feeling I was looking for. So I went back to the drawing board. I pulled up Google image search results of magic in Final Fantasy and kept scrolling and scrolling and staring at images that had that emotional tug, that spiritual capture of magic and transcendence that I so wanted to bring into the work. As I was staring at the works, a voice in my head told me glow in the dark paints, and then from looking at that I found the world of UV photography. As soon as I saw some sample works in that space, I knew that was the direction the project would go and it was all steam ahead."

Shooting this series was the first time Owunna collaborated with makeup artists Karla Grifith-Burns and Davone Goins to bring his vision to life. "It was powerful and inspirational and brought so much structure to my feeling and thought," he says.

Owunna settled on the name of his series after reading about Odinani, the Igbo traditional belief system.

"Seeking to understand the basics of that, I came across brilliant writing by Chinua Achebe wherein he used the phrase 'infinite essence' and that clicked everything around it," he says. "When I can name something, it brings it to life in my head in stunning color."

Click through the slideshow below view Owunna's series, Infinite Essence. Read his artist statement for the project, where he speaks more in depth of Achebe's work on infinite essence here. The series is also on display at Owunna's solo exhibition at Montréal's Never Apart Gallery from today until April 7, 2018.

"The Astral." Photo by Mikael Owunna.

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