Sunday, December 20, 2009

Grannies against the machine.

A Brooklyn branch of Target was invaded last week by elderly peace activists protesting children's toys that promote violence-as-play. You can read the full story at Common Dreams. I think this is a really inspiring statement to make, not only anti-war but anti-consumerist too, right as we are approaching the high holidays of greed. It makes me think of my dear pal Stevie Hanley and our conversations about old ladies as the highest form of cultural liberation. He's making a huge drawing full of grandmothers freaking out in spiritual ecstasy which I have been lucky enough to see a several steps along the road to its creation. It's wonderful to see such a loving and holy reworking of a figure by which we are so manipulated, so insidiously, by commercial powers.

The image of the Nonna in the industrialized West is a horrible corruption of a great lineage of cult Goddesses, spiritual and magical figures. In Europe and the US the power of the female, nourishing, life-giving, eternal, wise Gaia has been bent purely to sell things. In an emotionally mean-spirited manner, and through the horrible and perverse powers of personalization in mass-marketing, grannies sell us foodstuffs galore; from yorkshire puddings to hot chocolate, all wrapped up in the good sense comfort to which it runs counter. We have taken the Virgin Mary, and neutralized (and desexualized) her with age, diminishing her powers further even than the Catholic Church managed, and we have made of her one of the icons of capitalism. It's a horrible irony, one which feeds off and re-routes genuine emotions and spiritual desires, callously, in the name of commerce.

To see a group of organized elderly women come together in a political action so opposed to the role assigned them (benign, silent, peace-keeper) is an image that lights up our current self-satisfied apolitical landscape. And I think that it's about time that that other bunch of smugly castrated outcasts (the gay "community") took a lesson from these ladies, and broke the contract they made with mainstream marketing executives (acceptance/tolerance in exchange for high visibility consumption in place of political dissension) in favor of a more radical manifesto. People before products, intensity before image, spirituality before sales.

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