Occupy Comics Review: love letter to an ongoing struggle

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The Occupy Comics anthology was finally released a few days ago via Black Mask Comics and it is nothing short of breathtaking. It is an example of the the great things than can happen when the spirit of the DIY punk attitude converges with some of the greatest talents in the comic industry. What they have produced is a love letter to one of the most inspiring social movements in recent history. The comic is alive. It is a living, breathing collection of stories and art that will live on and, just like the movement itself, continue to inspire for generations to come.

The project was organized by Mat Pizzolo and funded by a simple Kickstarter page.  A few of the of the contributors include Charlie Adlard (The Walking Dead), David Lloyd (V for Vendetta), Ben Templesmith (30 Days of Night), Joshua Dysart (Swamp Thing, Unknown Soldier), and the legendary Alan Moore (Watchmen, V for Vendetta, From Hell).

There are vignettes and short stories about everything Occupy: historical snippets of the Homestead Massacre, the Occupy Sandy efforts to assist people out in Far Rockaway, and the touching story of a family getting evicted from their home. All these works serve as powerful stories that encompass the struggle for social justice. Occupy Comics explores many different aspects of the movement, including a vignette from an “evil” banker that engenders sympathy from even the most anti-capitalist of Occupy supporters. The work is poignant while being non-partisan when it comes to the ideological vistas represented in OWS and that is one of its greatest strengths.

Anyone who participated in Occupy Wall Street before its main hub in Zuccottii Park was was brutally razed by Michael Bloomberg and his repressive army will immediately be transported back to the park where all of the great discussions, activism, interaction and protest took place on a daily basis. Reading through the comic is like opening a time capsule to the days when thousands of people were coming down to the park or marching against all of the impunity and criminality that precipitated the largest global economic crisis since the Great Depression.

One of the highlights of Occupy Comics is the brilliant essay by Alan Moore. His piece alone is well worth picking up the anthology. He wrote a 23 page article entitled, “Buster Brown at the Barricades: Foment in the Funnies and Comics as Counter-Culture.” Many people have been writing off Mr. Moore lately because of his acridity and criticism of the mainstream comics writers and the industry as a whole. Perhaps he hasn’t read a lot of their work. Perhaps he is a little jaded, but he is correct in his lamentations and opinions and his article proves that he continues to be passionate about comics and the power that they have wielded throughout history, both politically and as a story telling device. By reading his piece one gets the sense that his criticism comes from his sadness and frustration over the potential of what comics could be if they were not hijacked by the philistines in the entertainment industry.

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His article also reads like the perfect condensed history of the comic book: From its beginnings on the back of stones that nameless toilers stacked on ancient Egyptian pyramids to the Prohibition bootleggers that smuggled their booze from Canada, comics have always been a medium where the dispossessed, illiterate and unloved found solace, where the origins of the political cartoon scribed on an unused carton in 17th century Italy spoke truth to power. Occupy Comics is the perfect manifestation of that power and potential. It is a throwback to the origins of comics and a contemporary protest piece that will stand the test of time and serve not as a monument to a movement defeated, but a rallying cry to a struggle that continues every hour of every day.

To purchase this comic go here

NASA funded study warns of societal collapse-or, godspeed you bleak civilization!

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A trending article in The Guardian, along with a recent study funded by NASA written by Safa Motesharrei, Jorge Rivas and Eugina Kalnay, warns of the imminent collapse of global civilization. In their paper they maintain that two major themes reoccur throughout history that contribute to the collapse of societies: “(1) Ecological Strain and (2) Economic Stratification.” They also say that technology will only solve so many issues before it becomes obsolete at preventing the collapse. It sounds alarmist, but in 2014 the precariousness of planet Earth and the fragile fabric holding it all together becomes more strained every day.

They point out that societal “collapse” often appears as trivial but is indeed backed up by historical data. “The rise-and-collapse” process has occurred many times over the centuries and for largely the same reasons. From ancient Babylon, Mesopotamia, Sumeria and Maya, civilizations rose to great heights only to precipitate eventual collapse and downfall. They observe that the rise-and-collapse of civilization is the norm rather than the exception to large agrarian based civilizations.

One would not be mistaken for feeling compelled to believe that modern society is prone to the same fate. In fact, not only does their study, along with the thousands of years of the historical record say so, but so does any observation of the current state of the global capitalist economy. Capitalism, from its very inception, is a system based on compound, exponential growth. This, of course, is a great problem on a planet with finite resources. The ecological strain that the planet is currently undergoing due to this phenomenon is one of hitherto unprecedented heights. From global warming to resource extraction and unimaginable pollution the Earth is under extreme duress at the same time the expanding middle class in China is being told that with market discipline they will be able to behave like consumers in the U.S. This obviously is not sustainable but the system is not built to effectively and critically think about this. With every country under the the spell of global capitalism the rapacious onslaught on the world’s natural resources will continue unabated for the foreseeable future in the name of GDP, “progress” and “modernity.” Something has to give, the question is when.

The second major theme, economic stratification, is also rampant throughout the world and growing more acute in the U.S. each day. The Wall Street Journal reported that the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at its highest point ever on March 5th, 2013. There are indicators all over that illustrate how the richest of the rich are doing better than ever while the poor and working class are suffering at near immeasurable levels. In 2012, the top 10 percent of  earners took home more than half of the country’s income– the highest recorded level ever.  Porsche reported its best year ever in 2012 and anyone living in NYC can simply walk down the street in Manhattan and see just how many high rise luxury rentals are being built, in fact, 2013 was the largest luxury real estate boom in NYC history. This explosion of wealth for the 1% is contrasted by the continued immiseration of the proletariat. Poverty has risen in the U.S. since the Great Recession despite the ostensible “recovery.” And perhaps the most condemning  report from Oxfam recently found that “Almost half of the world’s wealth is now owned by just one percent of the population, and seven out of ten people live in countries where economic inequality has increased in the last 30 years.” This stratification is extremely dangerous to political systems, particularly in the democratic tradition, as the disparities pose serious threats to political inclusion, government stability and the general welfare of people.

The specters of the past are not haunting us, they are already here, waiting to usher in the end of civilization as we know it and from the way things are going we welcome it.

At least we will have a soundtrack for it. . .