Arts & Culture / Convergence / Entertainment / Health / Politics / Vol. 2 No. 3

Frontline Blues and the Post-Rona Truth

John Fenton, Jazz Combo

Image Credit: John Fenton, Jazz Combo, (1965) n.a., etching and aquatint, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Donald Vogler, 1980.

There has always been enough blood money, mis-education and mass distraction in these dis-United States to erase any memory of catastrophe or atrocity that brought trauma or ethical contemplation to the surface of the national conversation. Problematic, because acknowledging such scar tissue might direct fealty away from the national religion—materialist overconsumption.

Already us academic-intellectual types are being asked to imagine life in a post-pandemic America while the tens of thousands of pandemic dead have yet to be properly mourned or even fully accounted for—some growing colder not in their graves, but in freezer trucks and industrial meat refrigerators. That a substantial portion of those dead by the viral voraciousness of COVID-19 are mature working-class Black and Latinx males only underscores another horrific point—the country’s capacity to look away when such disposable members of the population are, once again, doing the dying in disproportionate numbers. We’ve learned that some in other communities have, by dint of zip code and wealth-disparity, suffered hardly any COVID-related fatalities at all. In certain urban hot spots like New York City, households with median incomes in the six figures have simply exited the infectious Apple for their upstate, eastern-shore, or otherwise separated summer homes—while still others have opted for the New Zealand luxury bunker or Caribbean-island safe house.

For Blackfolk, though, any notion of a post-pandemic cultural sphere should imagine acculturated expressions of collective mourning and grieving and numbing piled onto all our pre-existing war wounds from systemic racist assault, historic and contemporary. Of course Blackfolk long ago evolved emotively efficient means of expressing our complex emotional core—acute and agile musical capacities for plumbing and recombinating the spectrum of joys and pains—to quote from the sacred and canonical Books of Beverly and Maze. Over these purgatorial days of self-quarantine, Black culture has lost several high priests of our number-one universal healing force, our music, AKA Great Black Music Ancient And To The Future: Ellis Marsalis, Wallace Roney, Tony Allen, Manu Dibango, Little Richard. The spiritual energies of these titanic and totemic figures, their genius way with rhythm and song form, contributed to our cultural equilibrium in the best and worst of times. Perhaps they need to become a focusing agent for our tossed-about, turned-out-make-you-wanna-shout post-pandemic cultural reckonings.

What did we gain from their presence and what have we lost in their absence? What liberation strategies and self-determination lessons are we responsible for carrying onward in their names? What did they take with them, never to return, along with gouged-out pieces of our hearts and souls? A man who loved and sacrificed deeply for Blackfolk once told us he could see both more dark days ahead of us and, as well, a glimmer of our people’s version of an American promised land. We remain a people in free fall between those prophetic forecasts of even stormier tomorrows and chimerical paradises left of Neverland. All we’ve ever really had to get us over in the meantime, though, as Mr Robert Nesta Marley sang, are our redemptive songs of freedom. End of That Day, be quite loverly to see our Movement’s post-pandemic yearning avatars generate hosts of such transbluescent revolutions to propel We The People’s aerodynamic and Astro-Black repatriation to the post-distancing, post-quarantined radical group-action party-down frontlines.

What Comes After the Cannibals?

What’s internally and existentially changed most in purgatory is our relationship to time. No longer a coefficient to loot (‘time’ is no longer ‘money’) or as a marker of life-momentum towards attainable goals. The sense that we’re all now floating in a kind of vast, endless, infinite cosmic time vacuum. One where there’s been a suspension of cause and effect relative to economic action–our ability to reasonably predict consequences for not working for the rent. Plague-time has given us a sensation of possessing, for the first time under the reign of das kapital, ‘all the time in the world.’ We own time now, not the other way around, whether we want it or not. All our folks on the medical frontlines, or teaching, or doing other designated essential work are grinding harder than ever, but there’s no end to purgatory in sight, no hint that anybody’s future can be scheduled around the future, near or far. Nothing but tunnel at the end of this light-year.

At a certain point, so goes the sci-fi scenario currently spinning in your head, a substantial faction of the asymptomatic young adults of the world will unite, radicalize, and demand their social lives and occupational futures back from the ageist, anti-viral State. Their revolution will begin within months of the realization that the new normal is endless martial law, extended indefinitely to uphold the suspension of national elections, free assembly, organized dissent, and prior cultural life rituals and routines as they knew them.

They will reject the imposition of universal income on their right to workaholism initiatives; some dark-net hacker among their lot will create bio-digital transaction platforms that will dissolve into their neural pathways. The Crazy Re-Mixers, as they’ll come to be known, will also resist the global reset of personal-computer-age capitalism for the disembodied age of AI that rode in with the plague. This reset will also, due to extreme plague rationing, bring about the demise of American, European, Russian, and Chinese 24-hr.-a-day consumer gluttony, waste, and pollution.

The CRM’s will recklessly and fearlessly begin their rebellion underground with sweaty, spit-swapping, orgiastic, crazy social remixing and re-intimaticizing speakeasies and raves gathering 50, 100, 200, and more of their rebel kind in select urban centers. They will graduate to social redistricting actions via the hijacking of dormant cruise liners and private jets once used by the NBA and other defunct sporting franchises to once again boat and fly transcontinentally– even at the risk of being blown out of the sky. They will raid health-care facilities and stage howling Breathe-Outs and Public Exhalation events. The more psychopathically violent among them will engage in more deadly assaults on the most privileged of the symptomatic.

Concentration camps will be proposed to contain the ‘Under 40 Criminally Healthy.’ But their youthful number and disruptive, anarchic efficacy on various continents will eventually compel a global referendum–and a eugenics crossroads–on the mass-communing rights of the asymptomatically infected and uninfected healthy vs those of the state-facility-quarantined and most symptomatically vulnerable.

Remote, robotically operated care facilities will be proposed for the deserts of Africa, Asia, and India. A mass exodus of the most vulnerably quarantined will be standing on the verge. But then a flotilla of eight-foot-tall extraterrestrial androgynous bruh-sistuh units will suddenly pop out of warp and float off on an armada of astro-naturopathic muthaships–thereby alleviating the disease of global patriarchy by simply showing up, or, when necessary, just letting fools know they best STFU.

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