The Year Reheated
December 29, 2014
In which we reflect on the woes of the Guardianista class, on the great thinkers of academia, and on the mind-shattering wonders of contemporary art.
In January we marvelled at the modesty of the novelist Brigid Delaney, who told Guardian readers that her lifestyle and living arrangements should be determined not by her budget, as is generally the custom, but by her self-estimated importance as a creative person. And therefore taxpayers should pay for her to live in a much nicer flat in a more happening part of town. On the same day in the same paper, fellow creative person Amien Essif bemoaned the fact that “there’s not much money in writing these days.” And so, again, the taxpayer must be made to “subsidise creativity” – including Mr Essif’s own writing on “consumerism, gentrification and hegemony.” For which, it turns out, there isn’t much of a market.
February brought us other elevated sensibilities, among them those of David Dennis, a man who regards the word “serve” as sexist and who, at home, frets about how food is put on plates. For him, meal times are a theatre of patriarchal oppression and fraught with complication. Gender politics also inspired the radical ladies of Columbia University to combat “male-centricity” by making all-girl pornography that is “hard to masturbate to.” Because thwarting masturbation with badly-made erotica is both a “guerrilla action” and “a feminist statement.”
In March the Guardian unveiled its roster of trainee journalists, thereby offering a glimpse of Guardians-yet-to-come. These hothouse talents, for whom lifestyle and pop culture are areas of expertise, promised to tackle “the issues that matter” to an entire generation, from students’ bedrooms and “canoeing to work” to an extended critique of drop-crotch meggings. Meanwhile, the paper’s Leo Hickman looked back on ten years of struggling with ethical purity and the “pangs of consumer guilt” brought on by buying Kenyan mangetout. Being so globally sensitive, Mr Hickman believes that the way to make Kenyan pea farmers richer is to not buy their goods. Despite his displays of piety, Mr Hickman was assailed by his even more pious readers, who pointed out that our fretful Guardianista “cannot be living ethically” or be “environmentally sound” while also having mains power and three healthy children.
April drew to our attention the talents of Ms Keeley Haftner, a taxpayer-funded artist and self-styled educator of the masses, who, in the name of art, deposited garbage on the streets of Saskatoon and was subsequently bewildered by said taxpayers’ lack of gratitude. Oh, and Guardian contributor Paul Krugman was paid $25,000 per month to think about the wickedness of economic inequality.
In May we beheld the fearsome intellect of Ms Lierre Keith, a radical eco-socialist and “gender abolitionist” whose interests include “sabotaging infrastructure” and cutting power lines, on grounds that leaving tens of thousands of people without light and heat will somehow encourage “class consciousness” and the end of capitalism.
Urban Studies lecturer Peter Matthews was a highlight of June, thanks to his concern for litter inequality, though with no apparent interest in how litter actually materialises, and his idea for defending the “poor and marginalised” with a “physically radical intervention” – i.e., demolishing homes nicer than his own. Another June notable was Ms Silvia Murray Wakefield, a “London-based feminist and mother of two,” who finds the World Cup distressing and oppressive, due to her belief that all of womanhood is being “erased” by a sporting event that occurs once every four years.
In July we encountered the transgressively artistic Ms Jane Wang, whose “guerrilla performance piece” on a bridge in Cambridge, Massachusetts had no discernible impact on passers-by. And the Guardian’s Tracy Van Slyke detected an egregious racial subtext in the smoke emitted by cartoon trains.
Academic matters came to the fore in August, thanks to Dr Ben Pitcher, a sociology lecturer, who revealed to the world secrets hitherto unguessed. Specifically, that your furniture choices are informed by the “crisis in white identity,” and that the apparently innocuous Gardeners’ Question Time is in fact “saturated with racial meanings.” When not finding racism in discussions of soil acidity, Dr Pitcher busies himself by pondering “the relationship between race and neoliberal capitalism.” Meanwhile, Canadian performance artist Martine Viale, whose body is “a place of research,” staged a daringly intellectual “infiltration in public space” by flailing about randomly and wrapping her head in yarn. And the performance art duo Mothergirl created “a strategic refraction” by standing on a roadside and bashing themselves with pillows for 90 minutes. Despite appearing unhinged, the ladies were in fact challenging the public “to think critically about their own relationships with feminism, consumerism, and representational visuality.”
In September we felt the pain and hardship of the modern student, many of whom are denied such basic amenities as $13,000 vibrating nap machines. The same month also brought us the deep thinking of the Guardian’s Yomi Adegoke, a specialist in “race, popular culture and intersectional feminism,” and whose racial sin detector was triggered by a pair of prosthetic comedy buttocks.
In October the Guardian’s Felicity Lawrence and Deborah Orr explained to us how we are “in revolt” against supermarkets, which are “horribly antisocial” and the cause of all modern ills. You see, “people don’t have as much money to spend” and therefore – yes, therefore - “we” are turning en masse to “farmers markets, box schemes, bread clubs and food co-ops,” where shopping is less convenient and more expensive. Days later, millionaire socialist Dame Vivien Westwood, whose PVC handbags can occasionally be found marked down to a mere £400, railed against food being much too affordable.
November was enriched by the artistic feats of Mr Joseph Ravens, who regurgitates chewed carrot onto a bird table, and Ms Marilyn Arsem, whose dislike of insufficiently leftwing people, and also democracy, prompted her to crush fruit in protest. Political passion was also at the forefront of a Guardian piece by transgender punk musician Alyssa Kai, who was shocked to discover that punk music may not actually be “the ultimate anti-establishment scene.” There was also another instalment of our ongoing series of tweeted agonies, and we learned that beards are harmful and oppressive on account of their “glorifying behaviours typical of people in white hegemonies.”
The year drew to a close with another harrowing drama on campus, in which students claimed to feel “unsafe” and “traumatised,” and were deemed in need of counselling, due to the fleeting presence of some substandard art. This nightmare scenario was, however, surpassed by an even more traumatic experience, when freshman activist Della Kurzer-Zlotnick was emotionally devastated by a two-letter word that was apparently unknown to her, and which she later described as “violent and triggering language.” Other items of note included the world’s slowest hit-and-run and the development of bionic lingerie, which “automatically tightens in response to breast movement.”
I think it’s safe to say this was a year in which we all learned something.