Saturday, 15 November 2014

Science Shows There's Only One Real Way to Listen to Music

Steve Jobs, the man who invented the iPod and ignited the digital music revolution, never listened to MP3s.


Instead, he only listened to vinyl. He felt there was something vacuous about listening to music in a digital form and was surprised at the success of his own product — that so many people had willfully traded quality "for convenience or price." He had good reason to be skeptical.



Digital doesn't hold up: 

Nothing about the way we listen to music these days comm ands attention like or yields the quality of a physical record. Though there is a movement back towards vinyl, there's an even bigger movement towards streaming — and with it, a whole new paradigm for how we hear music.


But it's clearer than ever before that the digital revolution has changed not only how we consume music but what music can do for and to us. Expert scientists have begun to explore the possibility that listening online might totally neuter music's power over listeners.

Their conclusion? It does. Powerfully.

Source: Getty Images


Skipping and skimming:  

Poppy Crum, senior scientist at Dolby Laboratories and consulting professor at Stanford's CCRMA school (Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics), spoke with Mic about the psychological effects our digital music habits are having. 


"True love or appreciation for a piece of music ... comes with depth of knowledge of that music," she said. She cited three important factors in creating a genuine experience with a piece of music — "repeated exposure, iterations and intent" — which can be short-circuited in a "taste and go" environment. To her mind, though, the benefits of streaming in terms of access and broad music appreciation far outweigh the potential negative effects of streaming habits on our emotional experience.

"Those sorts of heightened emotional responses of pleasure and enjoyment and satisfaction come in a way that is counter to rapid, quick streaming and constant exposure to a lot of different things," Crum said.


Skipping and listening inattentively, then, can get in the way of building those connections: "[It] wouldn't be experienced initially, and would bypassed very quickly in a sort of 'taste and go' streaming environment."



But that's exactly how we listen now.  

Recently collected Spotify data illustrates how short our musical attention spans have become. There's only about a 50% chance we'll actually make it to the end of a song. If people are barely listening to a song once all the way through, they're likely not returning to build those emotional connections. If they do, they might not have a foundational experience on which to form them.


Many music professionals have also discussed this lack of connection, and they blame the dwindling quality of audio files for it. When record companies digitally convert recorded music, which consumes a ton of data in its original form, they turn it into the much smaller MP3 format. 


But this compressing process strips about 91% of the actual musical data and fills in the gaps using algorithms. The volume is then jacked up to make up for this lack of distinctiveness, and the resulting waveform is barely recognizable. Not only that, it can actually exhaust your ears to listen to it. It ends up looking like a solid brick of noise, as the following portion of the infographic "A Visual History of Loudness," created by designer Christopher Clark, shows.

Source: NPR / Christopher Clark

Bob Ludwig, a record mastering engineer, believes this is one of the chief reasons people don't engage with albums as deeply anymore. "When you're through listening to a whole album of this highly compressed music, your ear is fatigued," he told NPR. "You may have enjoyed the music but you don't really feel like going back and listening to it again."


Research shows that musical quality has a huge effect on emotional response. A recent study performed by audio researchers at DTS divided a group of listeners into two groups — one that watched a video accompanied by standard stereo 96-kbps sound (Spotify's default audio setting) and the other group listened in 256-kbps audio format. The responses in the brains of the group listening with the 256-kbps audio were 14% more powerful on metrics measuring memory creation and 66% higher on pleasure responses. And this was just 96 to 256 kbps. 


Vinyl records are estimated to play at a whopping 1000 kbps. Music might not just have lost its revenue when it switched to digital; it may have lost its emotional power too.


What the future will hold:  

Though our ability to respond emotionally and intellectually to music has taken a hit in the move to digital, it's clear that music still holds a tremendous amount of power for people. We wouldn't need an unlimited streaming service if it didn't. 

However, music's function may change as we move deeper in our increasingly digitized, technology-dominated world. 


"Music may have been something we were more focused on in the past, an event we could allocate more attention to. It still exists in that way in some sense. Now it's becoming something we distribute our attention across," Crum told Mic. She believes that ubiquitous music enabled by streaming may actually become a vital tool in keeping us focused within a world that continues to fragment our attention spans.


But something will still be lost — not just the cover art on a vinyl, or the existence of a platinum album. What we lose with our new formats and habits for listening to music is a piece of ourselves; the musical part you keep in your heart, not your pocket.


Author / Source:  Tom Barnes for Mic

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

I'm Intersex and My Body Works Just Fine, Thank You

 []


For many intersex people, the condition is still shrouded in shame and secrecy.  ​Children often have their genitalia removed or "tidied up" at birth, obviously without being able to give consent. Because of this, there is little research into the long-term effects of being intersex, but those who have either had their testes removed or their enlarged clitorises mutilated often have long-term hormone problems.

Striving to stop the perpetuation of false information and general prudishness, Quinn recently came out as being intersex in an  ​open letter after MTV's show ​Faking It brought on an intersex character that Emily consulted with them on. 


Emily Quinn. Photo by ​Chloe Aftel


Going back, what were the initial indicators that you might be different?

​ In my case, there weren't too many when I was first born. They would have had to have done a chromosome test to find out. As I was growing up there were small indicators, like, I was always tall with big feet. I have an aunt who has AIS (Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome) as well, and she told my mom that she thought I might have it, so mom took me to the gynecologist when I was ten and that's when we found out. 

But there was nothing visible about me in particular—which is usually the case with complete AIS. If I had responded to the testosterone in my body at all then my genitalia would have "masculinized" a little. But for me that wasn't the case.

Right. So, there's ​CAIS and ​PAIS. What's the difference?

AIS is on a spectrum. You could be completely insensitive, which is pretty much what I am, all the way down to just partially insensitive. So there are—albeit not a lot of—AIS men. I fall under CAIS (Complete Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome) so I present as female, but I have male (XY) chromosomes and testes.

[]


If it ain't broke...

Right. There's no point in having them removed. Unless they herniate or something, or, like I said, become cancerous. But if I get them removed I'll immediately have to go on hormone replacement therapy until I'm 60. The testes are what are making my hormones, so I would need to replace that or I'd develop osteoporosis or go through menopause. I'm very stable right now, health-wise.


So why might some doctors say you should have them removed?

People want to "fix it." Doctors want to fix the problem that they imagine is there. That's the biggest hurdle, that doctors are uncomfortable with the idea that a girl could have testes. A lot of them believe that they have a high risk of becoming cancerous, because there is not a lot of research on women with AIS with their testes.


[]

Why is it important to have the I and T in LGBTI? They're not sexual minorities.

I mean, L, G and B are about sex. T is about gender, and I is about biological sex. But one of the new acronyms that I keep seeing is GSM, which is Gender and Sex Minority. I think having the I in LGBTI is important, though, because we go through a lot of the same things. We feel ashamed. A lot of people are bullied and do feel like they're different, and being in a minority that's related to gender, sex, and sexual orientation, they're connected in lots of different ways. That's not to say that all intersex or LGBT people feel like that. 

It's hard because, with LGB people, there's nothing medical that you can fix (as much as some people like to think their is). And with us, because of a medical diagnosis, a lot of people who are LBGT don't think we belong in the LGB community. But I think that the important things that a lot of LBG people go through—feeling stigmatized, being closeted—are important binders that we can take away from the LGBT movement. They are things we feel on a daily basis, too.

 
Why is it important to you to be such a visible presence for AIS people?

I was told I was the only person like this when I was growing up, and it was very lonely and scary. I wanted to look into the media for somebody to say that they were the same as me. I remember reading about certain celebrities and wanting them so badly to say that they have AIS, just so that I didn't feel like I was such a freak or a horrible person. So that's the main reason. I don't want any kids going through this to feel like that.

I'm in a place where I'm very comfortable with my body, but not a lot of people are, and that's not a good place to be. But more than that, it's about all of these surgeries that happen without consent, on babies, on children that are two or three, even on adults. If people become more accepting about it then we will get more doctors who think twice about operating to try and "fix" us, to try and take away the thing that is making someone else uncomfortable. We're not broken. 


Read Emily Quinn Interviewed by Hanna Hanra on Vice

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

7 Telltale Signs Social Media Is Killing Your Self-Esteem


In this technological age, social media has become a primary gateway to connect with friends and the world around us as part of our daily ritual. Yet what often begins as a harmless virtual habit for some can fast-track into a damaging, narcissism-fueled addiction which impacts negatively upon our self-worth and the way we perceive others.

 
Studies show that up to two-thirds of people find it hard to relax or sleep after spending time on social networks. Of 298 users, 50 percent said social media made their lives and their self-esteem worse. So just what exactly is it about social media that allows it to affect our self-worth?

According to psychotherapist Sherrie Campbell, social media can give us a false sense of belonging and connecting that is not built on real-life exchanges. This makes it increasingly easy to lose oneself to cyberspace connections and give them more weight than they deserve.

When we look to social media, we end up comparing ourselves to what we see which can lower our self-esteem. On social media, everyone’s life looks perfect but you’re only seeing a snapshot of reality. We can be whoever we want to be in social media and if we take what we see literally then it’s possible that we can feel we are falling short in life,” Campbell told AlterNet.

How do you tell if your social network habit is healthy or harmful? If you find yourself feeling stressed, anxious or having negative thoughts after using social media, it may be time for a break. Here are seven telltale signs social media could be negatively impacting your self-esteem…and what you can do about it.


1. Social media disrupts your real-world thoughts and interactions.

If you feel worried or uncomfortable when you’re unable to access social media or your emails, it is likely your social media dependency is compromising your self-esteem. Additionally, if you’re thinking about social media first thing in the morning and just before you go to bed, or you find yourself simultaneously juggling face-to-face encounters with your social media habit like facebooking or tweeting, there’s a good chance social media is disrupting your life in a negative way and may in fact be impinging on your real-life relationships. Time to hit the breaks and take back control of your life.

 
2. Social media affects your mood.


If this voyeuristic habit is affecting your thoughts and feelings about yourself, it is likely harmful to your self-esteem. A new study released last week found a prominent link between eating disorders and social media. Women who spent longer periods of time on Facebook had a higher incidence of “appearance-focused behavior” (such as anorexia) and were more anxious and body conscience overall. What’s more, 20 minutes on social media was enough to contribute to a user’s weight and shape concerns. It follows that the emptier one’s personal life, the more one will be attracted to the virtual world, with bored or lonely people spending more time on social media than those who are busy or active.


3. Real-life interactions are difficult and being alone is uncomfortable.

If you’re struggling with face-to-face connections or find it difficult to communicate, social media may be to blame. Studies have shown social media is a pathway to shallow relationships and emotionally detached communication. An  Australian study found that Facebook users experienced significantly high levels of “family loneliness.” Campbell explains, “Social media is a very lazy way to be in relationship with somebody and impacts on the inability to be alone. We have a generation of kids growing up not knowing how to just sit in their own space because there is constant social noise. Kids are losing the idea of what it means to wait for information—they get it right now. They don’t know that idea of alone time or patience. Technology allows us to have connections when we want it without having to wait, but we’re never going to be able to snuggle up with the computer at night. Human touch remains a fundamental physiological need,” she said.


4. You find yourself envious about what others are promoting.

When we are depressed or down or just feel bad in general, it is easy to become jealous or envious of what other people are advertising about their life, particularly images of alleged happiness or success. This may make us feel inadequate simply because we don’t have what they have or because our self-worth is low. It is important to remember that what you are viewing is only a small sliver of someone’s life, which for the most part, is heavily embellished and mostly rooted in fantasy. When such images are starting to poison the way you look at your own life it may be time to step away from the screen.

5. You relish in others’ misfortune.


If you find yourself happy when other people are unhappy on social media, it may be time to ask yourself whether social media is a healthy psychological choice for you. You may merely be validating your own misery and unhappiness by comparing yourself to others. But even those advertising their tragedies on social media are doing so because they crave attention, whether positive or negative, in a bid to boost their low self-esteem. Christopher Carpenter, author of a study titled “Narcissism on Facebook,” explains: “If Facebook is to be a place where people go to repair their damaged ego and seek social support, it is vitally important to discover the potentially negative communication one might find on Facebook and the kinds of people likely to engage in them. Ideally, people will engage in pro-social Facebooking rather than anti-social me-booking.” If this is you, it’s time to invest in a social media diet.


6. You measure your success by others.

Reality check: the number of contacts or likes a person may receive on social media doesn’t equate with life success. Sure, social media allows us to assume everyone else is feeling and living a better life than we are but what are we really seeing here? It isn’t a person’s whole life, not even a reflection of reality, but merely a glimpse of the life they choose to present through rose-colored lenses. Campbell explains: “When someone has a lot going on and everything they post seems perfect, we think they are lucky but social media is merely a way to project your story onto somebody else—whether you’re projecting from high self-esteem or low esteem, you’re making up a story.” Campbell says it’s more productive to make real-world changes that will help you feel more successful and secure in your life than to spend time building your social media online persona.


7. You’re addicted to the attention and drama.

It’s easy to get sucked into the drama and juicy gossip encapsulated by social media especially when your own real life is lacking any sort of excitement or fulfillment. But this can be a dangerous game to play and often people get hurt. Studies have shown that Facebook contributes to jealousy in relationships and excessive use can in fact damage relationships by virtue of the fact that information a person would not normally share becomes public knowledge. This leads some to desperate measures like becoming amateur private investigators as they embark on a digging expedition to locate incriminating material. Case in point: your fiancé has just been tagged in a picture with a mysterious, half-naked woman. Uh oh! Expend your energy on more worthwhile real-life pursuits which are likely to benefit, rather than impair, your self-esteem.


Need a Solution? 

For those who think their self-esteem is being influenced negatively by social media, Campbell says the most important thing to do is reconnect with your presence and your personal brand—that means unhooking from computer land.
I encourage people to turn off social media and eliminate it from your life. Get back into your real life. If you can’t do that, then start monitoring your usage, particularly just before bed or remove or block specific people that make you feel negative about yourself. Self-awareness is such an important step. If you realize why you’re turning to technology in times when connection or learning new information isn’t critical, you’ve made the first step to reconnecting with yourself. Spring-clean and get back to the real world,” she says.


Author / Source: Jodie Gummow for Alternet

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Comment On Alienation

In the name of ‘public safety’, under the proposed new Ley de Seguridad Ciudadana it is about to become illegal to “offend” Spain, its monarchy, its government, its autonomous regions’ administrations, its flag, its hymns, and its symbols. When asked in a press conference to clarify what exactly might constitute giving offence, the Minister of the Interior Jorge Fernández Díaz (a member of Opus Dei whose father was in Franco’s military), uttered these less than reassuring words: “Offence… is that which is offensive.”

Now I, like many Barcelona residents, am a fairly tolerant soul, yet there are quite a few things I find offensive. So when I learnt about this new law I began to imagine denouncing as offensive cartons of Don Simon sangria, the selling of sombreros on the Ramblas, the unfeasibly giant prawn on the Passeig de Colom, or the price of a T10 metro ticket.

And then I began to dream bigger: a campaign of civil disobedience in which everyone in Barcelona begins to file complaints and denuncias against the things they find offensive to reputations of Catalunya and Spain. The fact that 300 politicians are accused of corruption but only a handful convicted, say; that thousands of families have been thrown onto the streets while bank properties lie empty; that Spain is now the most unequal society in Europe; or that nearly a third of children in the nation are now living in poverty. Imagine the paperwork!

Of course, “that which is offensive” is completely subjective, and not something I want the Minister of the Interior to be the judge of. Because the more that I find out about his new law, the more it becomes clear that the Ley de Seguridad Ciudadana itself is an offence against Spain. I’d love to file a denuncia against it,if only I could find a lawyer with a big enough sense of irony.


The Ley de Seguridad Ciudadana is a series of repressive measures from the national government that will affect everything from playing football in the street to casual marijuana use, but most of all threatens to outlaw meaningful protest itself. On Twitter they’re calling it the gag law (#leydemordaza); Javier Marías writing in El País called its inspiration “innegablemente franquista”. And perhaps that’s also why I’m resorting to low satire in order to find ways to object to it; because if the law passes, it might be one of the few avenues left open for dissent.

According to this “Public Safety” Act you will also not be able to offend or insult the police; gather for an unsanctioned protest or even just promote it via social media; demonstrate outside institutional buildings like Congress; film or photograph the police; wear a mask; show “lack of respect or due consideration to authority”; move out of designated “safe areas” while protesting; you may be subjected to indiscriminate strip searches while entering these “safe zones”, and with help from the new Penal Code, if you ever find yourself up against a police officer in a court of law it will be up to you to prove what they say is untrue. Fines for many of these activities are in the €30,000 to €600,000 range.

It’s worth illustrating just one potential impact of this law on human and civil rights by looking at recent case from the streets of Barcelona. In October last year in calle Aurora in the Raval, eight Mossos d’Esquadra beat local man Juan Andrés Benítez, kneeing and kicking him around the body and head as he lay on the ground. He died the next day in Hospital Clínic. The police cleared the streets of onlookers who had been calling to them to leave him alone. One banged on the door of a neighbour to ask if she had been taking photos; she had, and she then deleted them off her camera. The Prosecutor has just recommended the Mossos be charged with murder. There is strong evidence of what actually happened because two other neighbours filmed the incident. Under the new Ley de Seguridad Ciudadana, they wouldn’t have been able to film the police so providing this kind of video or photo evidence would be impossible. And not only that, but under the new Penal Code if they were to testify in a court of law, the assumption of truth telling would lie with law enforcement; it would be up to the neighbours to prove the police were lying.

It’s hard enough to prosecute police for rights violations at the best of times; the Public Safety Act is tantamount to giving them near impunity.

Do you feel safer yet?



Mistaking the symptoms for the cause

But this isn’t just a human rights issue. The political logic behind the law is brutal and intentional. What the government has done is take the symptoms of the economic crisis – the demonstrations, the fight against evictions, the strikes – and labeled them a public disorder problem. Deliberately refusing to see a causal relation between the austerity they have imposed from above and the thousands of protests (36,798 in 2012 by their own count) from below, they treat them as two disconnected events.

Their solution is not to deal with the root causes of social unrest but to eliminate the symptoms, and the Ley de Seguridad Ciudadana reads like a hit list. 15M camps out in the squares demanding real democracy? The government outlaws tents in the streets. The Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca (la PAH) blockades evictions? The government creates big fines for interfering with the foreclosure process. Anonymous leaks the accounts of the corruption-scandal-ridden Partido Popular on the Internet? The government cracks down on publishing ‘private’ information online. The unions protest the steady downward trajectory of wages? The government undermines the right to strike. The list goes on and on.

This may well backfire. One result of cutting off the options for democratic channels and peaceful protest is that it creates a pressure cooker of social anger – something we can already see in the struggles against corrupt development in Gamonal.

Their vision of democracy is one that is hollowed out, all form and no substance, where public participation in decision-making begins and ends with casting a vote every few years. This law is an attempt to use political fear to enforce compliance to the aggressive economic reforms the PP have no mandate for, what Naomi Klein calls the “shock doctrine”. A government that has lost legitimacy, who can no longer count on the consent of its population, is resorting to ever more draconian forms of control. Ironically, then, the law can be seen as an admission of the government’s own unpopularity and weakness.

The law has passed its first reading and is now under review by various state agencies. It remains to be seen whether it will come into force without amendments, but given that the PP has an absolute majority, there is no reason to imagine it won’t pass. However, this is an important moment to raise objections because there is almost no political support for it outside the government’s own ranks. There is almost unanimous condemnation from notorious anarchists like Amnesty International and Oxfam Intermon, the PSOE, lawyers’ groups, and judges, on the grounds that it violates the rights to free speech, assembly, and protest, and could be unconstitutional. The international press have not been shy to use the word Francoist, whilst Nils Muizniek, Human Rights Commissioner for the European Council in Strasbourg said, “When I see a potential fine of up to €600,000 for holding an unauthorized demonstration in front of a government building, I would like for someone to convince me that that is a proportionate penalty.”

But it would be foolish to rely on NGOs or opposition parties or Strasbourg to defeat this law. It requires action on many fronts. For example, Ada Colau, PAH spokesperson, called for a day of civil disobedience if the law gets passed.

Photo: Jordi Borras


The political uses of jujitsu

It will also require ingenuity rather than activism-by-numbers. Some recent cultural interventions open up interesting avenues and strategies to explore, those based on a kind of political jujitsu where you use the force and momentum of your opponent against them; what Larry Bogad, political clown and Professor of Theatre at the University of California, describes as “creative responses that focus on pressure points in the body politic”. These tactics are often employed when faced with overwhelming odds. One example of this creative jujitsu is how artist Núria Güell used the political censorship of her exhibition about the Catalan police to draw media attention to tactics the Mossos d’Esquadra wished to remain secret.

In early 2013 Güell planned an exhibition at the Museu Joan Abelló in Mollet del Vallés, the town where the Mossos d’Esquadra are trained, that was to explore “the role of police forces in a democratic paradigm, taken as a starting point the indoctrination of the Catalan riot police force (BRIMO or antidisturbios)”. As part of this work she wanted to exhibit the leaked MA thesis of David Piqué, who devises the protocols of action for the antidisturbios, called ‘The Sherwood Syndrome’. This is a five-phase strategy for discrediting and destroying ‘antisistemas’ in Barcelona. The goal is, he says, “the moral and physical defeat of the enemy”, and it has been adopted in other regions too in targeting anarchists.
Güell says, “The Director General of the Mossos d’Esquadra called the mayor of Mollet and said that the exhibition could not take place.” He argued, she says, that “art cannot make parallel judgments to that which is debated in the Catalan Parliament.” With no trace of irony the exhibition about the role of the police in a democracy was censored.

“In the end what they did was convert the censorship itself into the basis for an artistic project, ” Güell explains. She subverted a press conference where she distributed copies of the thesis the police wished to hide, and handed out 2,000 more in social centres and museums. “Sometimes I ask myself what they are afraid of with art,” says Güell. “They must see it as effective in political terms because if not, they wouldn’t be worried enough to censor it.”

The ‘Sherwood Syndrome’ thesis is a refreshingly frank romp through police prejudice and quasi-military strategy, and offers a glimpse into official thinking on how to discredit and destroy political movements. It’s worth looking at in more detail because it reveals some of the logic of the Ley de Seguridad Ciudadana. Notable for its many grandiose references to Julius Caesar, Von Clausewitz, and Sun Tzu, its main message is divide and conquer, to alienate the activists from the rest of the ‘law-abiding’ population.


Piqué recommends using the media to create public aversion to ‘antisistemas’. In order to “annihilate” the enemy, what’s needed, he argues, is a good excuse. The police should provoke “violent acts” to encourage public support for repression, including ramping up the tension through raids in which people are unjustifiably arrested and / or humiliated.

Güell says that Piqué’s thesis was written for a Masters in Public Safety – those words again – and yet “The whole thesis is based on provocation as a strategy… for political purposes. The intention is to resolve social conflicts with violence.” Having provoked violence, Piqué suggests, “the police interaction [should be] deliberately delayed until the damages become socially unacceptable.” The resulting revulsion of the public will create political space for the “appearance of new legal norms”. The final “annihilation” of the “enemy” can then take place.1) Needless to say much of this police activity is illegal.

The divide and conquer strategy Piqué outlines seeks to alienate the general population from any activist cause. This is exactly what the Ley de Seguridad Ciudadana tries to achieve: to isolate and further criminalise social movements from the law-abiding “silent majority” the PP likes to refer to. But in doing so it overreaches. It’s fatal flaw may be that it simply criminalises too many people.

Indeed, far from the public being alienated, if anything social activism seems to be becoming more normal. These days, you can meet people who voted for the PP in PAH meetings asking for help to resist eviction. The European Social Survey presented in Barcelona recently shows a devastating collapse of trust (marks of 1.9 out of 10) across Spain for politicians and political parties who are perceived as corrupt and disconnected, while over one in four of Spanish respondents said they had joined a demonstration over the last year, a far higher rate than in other European countries. , between 2011 and 2012 the number of protests actually rose by 365 per cent.

Meanwhile, not only is the state failing to create a division between social movements and the general public, but not even the ranks of the police themselves are united behind further repression. When asked in an internal survey in 2012, one third of those in the Catalan riot police said they wanted to be transferred out despite higher pay, citing stress, extra workload, and the criticisms they received for the role they were playing in social conflicts. And in late 2012, one of the largest unions of the National Police Force, the SUP, sent an extraordinary letter to the Ministry of the Interior suggesting the government was looking for “a death, whether of the police or a citizen” to distract attention and justify harsher measures against those protesting against the cuts. They also said that continuing along this path would bring Spain closer to having a Francoist police force than the “democracy which it cost us so much to construct”.


The Ministry of Dreams, Hopes & Fears

In December, political performance artist Larry Bogad, dressed as an important government bureaucrat, set up his Ministry of Dreams, Hopes and Fears on a desk in the middle of the Plaça George Orwell. “The name of the ‘security law’ is in itself Orwellian – as a people’s security is actually undermined when their right to free protest is taken away,” he explains. “The fact that George Orwell fought against authoritarianism, to the point of a near-mortal wounding, in the Spanish Civil War, and that Plaça George Orwell was the first public space in Barcelona where the local government installed security cameras, made that location a good place symbolically to protest this law.”

Armed with a suit, a desk lamp, and various items of viciously deployed stationery, he rotated signs in Catalan, Spanish and English that said “Write your Dreams”, “Write your Hopes”, and “Write your Fears”. Participants formed an obedient queue to fill in their forms, which he then duly ‘processed’. This involved anything from arbitrarily censoring them to grinding them in a mortar and pestle to turning them into a paper aeroplane. To those who objected he assigned ‘protest zones’ the size of a single shoeprint, so in order to protest you had to stand on one leg. You could also sign a Contract with the State in which you agree to exchange your liberty for security.

“The Ministry of Dreams, Hopes and Fears,” Bogad explains, “is a sort of gentle, absurd parody on surveillance, submission, arbitrary restriction, resistance and compliance. My character, a silent and callous bureaucrat, accepts the submissions of personal secrets while he mangles, censors, sets alight and smokes, their dreams, hopes, and fears.”

As with Güell, this is political jujitsu, this time using the satirical weapons of over-compliance and over-identification with the oppressor. As Joseph Brodsky says, “Evil can be made absurd through excess… through dwarfing its demands with the volume of your compliance.” There is also something inherently subversive and freeing about it: it is hard to feel afraid when you are laughing.

It’s not that I am suggesting this law can be defeated by the power of clowning – far from it. But using surrealism and defying expectations is tactically smart: if the state wants to divide up people into ‘good’ and ‘bad’ protesters, it would be better to refuse those roles. Why not have the encaputxats picking up litter, or the iaioflautas masked up? Why not flood government offices with ridiculous complaints and things we find offensive against the state?

The Ley de Seguridad Ciudadana, in its extremism and absurdity, offers up an open invitation to creative and audacious new forms of civil disobedience. With this new law, the government has tried to cut off all imaginable avenues for protest. The task now is to discover the ones they couldn’t imagine.


Author / Source:  Katharine Ainger at BCNM

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