The politics of life

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This post is about an album, only it is not about an album at all. (let’s get this out of the way — In several weeks, a new Climate Soul EP will be released.) It seems a very bizarre time to be announcing a release– after all, the world is gripped in currents of disease, in many senses of the word. We are seeing not only the way in which physical sickness can take hold and spread across vast swaths of the Earth; we are also seeing the ways in which our political systems perpetrate injustices that reveal a hatred of life. Profit-seeking meets authoritarianism meets centuries-old precedents of racial and environmental injustice– all of these combine to create regimes in countries across the globe, including and especially the US, that suffocate people and the Earth. Life itself is threatened by politics: This, too, is an age-old story, and we live in it today.

As I write this, protests for racial justice and an end to police brutality have erupted across the United States, and in other countries as well in solidarity. The protests were most immediately instigated by the murder of an African American man named George Floyd at the hands of four policemen. His murder is the most recent in a very long line of assaults and homicides against African Americans by white police officers. It is also the most recent instance of these police officers in no way receiving just punishment for their brutality– simply because of their uniforms and the color of their skin. Histories, bodies and spirits are on the line in these protests, which are taking place despite the COVID-19 pandemic: One form of health and life is being risked in the fight for another.

“The politics of life” is a phrase which has been on my mind a great deal these past few days. I have been thinking about what it means to defend life– in particular, what it means for our politicians to defend life. True and real defense of life means many things. It means protecting people from physical disease– such as this coronavirus pandemic. It means protecting people from physical harm at the hands of each other– from violence such as police brutality. It means dismantling systems, processes and ideologies that threaten people’s sense of sanity and will to live. And of course, it means protecting the non-human world– the ecosystems which support our lives, and deserve to live and thrive in their own right. A just politics of life would protect and fight for all of these things. The neo-fascists leaders of the world, such as Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro, have brutally and unapologetically been doing the opposite.

The politics of life are in their hands, and they are in ours. They can be affirmed by how we see the world, what we choose to fight for, and the ways in which we appraise and value life on this planet– the life in each other, and the life in nature.

The Climate Soul EP is titled Anima, which gestures towards several meanings.  Among them are: (in philosophy) the soul or animating principle of a living thing; (in Jungian psychology) the inner self of a person that is in touch with the unconscious, and/or the unconscious feminine aspect of a person. All of these definitions stem from the Latin word anima, and its Indo-European root, meaning:

“a current of air, wind, air, breath, the vital principle, life, soul”

To breathe… to breathe… this need and call has become a cornerstone in the movement for racial justice, in environmental movements, and in our own private cries for the liberty of our spirits.

The EP is named after this word and concept to suggest the fundamental means by which we are connected to the world around us. I wrote the songs on this album in the hopes that they might gesture towards a deep and affirming politics of life which can take us to any number of landscapes in this world– the landscapes of nature, the landscapes forged through our interactions with culture, the landscapes which keep us sensitive and the landscapes which keep us going.

This post is in honor of all those who have fought for life in the past, are fighting for life now, and in the process are putting their own lives on the line, in defiance of leaders who have no idea what the word “life” even means.

Til soon.

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