Margaret Haines, 26 August 2018

Last night, she saw their film. It was not art, she decided. It was disingenuous. Propaganda for a blossoming career.

She left the cinema in a rush, took a yellow taxi to the hardware store and stood amongst the plants. Potted beauties marked down from 99 cents to 50. The whole floor was breathing. Take. Me. Inhale: Take. Exhale: Me.

Sobbing palms amongst glistening new garden tools. Forks and shovels twisting like new hands, pointing and insulting: fuck. you, from a clenched metallic and thin thumb.

Emerald green and bumblebee yellow. Fluorescence, for sale. Lush succulents in glass. It was the true parasite of her emotional labor, all this art elsewhere. Empathy demanded. Lazily. Camaraderie. She hated having to look, it was vampiric to ask her to always look.

She entered her apartment, exhausted. Before she saw the film, she was alive. This line was ringing in her head, upside down, funneling: What are the parasites of desire that fund a nation?

She walked slowly to the bedroom and turned to her left. On the couch was a small bag. Its fabric was yellow and green.

It moved. A small kitten, the orange kind. Eyes from another world. Green eyes, a small face. Left over from a magical experiment in control since 8000 BC. Pets. The cat’s spine curved into a rude question mark, demanding food through an aerobatic semi-circle.

She fed the kitten fruit loops. With milk. Lap lap lap.


Yellow was piss. Black, White, Yellow, then Red. The alchemical stage Kitrinitas, the awakening and union before the reddening. A solar burst before lifeblood. Her own skin so translucent that blood showed up blue-green next to sicklywhite. A small incision, ruby red. Lap lap lap.

In the getaway taxi, I cheated myself like I knew I would. It never got old, this complicit self-destruction. She lifted one finger to the kitten’s now sleeping dull brow. To be greeted by the sun was simple, its rays focusing-in on her tight skin, asking for something. Prayers of SPF and smoked glass.

The small bag on the floor caught the alien star-beam filled with dust. Yellow and Green.

Yellow and Green are the colors of the American skate brand Shake Junt. Shake Junt spray-paints their logo to the grip tape. Not on the back of the board, on the black grip tape, like spraypainting coaled iron.

Shake Junt’s Venus

She stands on the balcony of the small apartment, surrounded by police to shield the politician next door threatened by anarchists. The young men chew, stash beer, and guard the house for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Their labor congratulated by violence at midnight. Adam is explaining to her, over the phone from LA, the evolution of Shake Junt’s branding. Adam: it’s anti-corporate. Radical subversion to form a strict code of classic outlaw, beyond conventions. Sensational stunts, vehemently against Clinton-era political correctness. And then wildly successful sobriety. Their letters are large and cool, sometimes a woman appears shamelessly on the board’s underbelly. It’s what has happened to the Venus, she’s on a skateboard. Revered through a masc’ed thicket still.

Their mode has a precedent, rebellion as a form of cosmic jest. The Templars promising secrets, making everything up for a hapless listener and overzealous novice. Toying with supremacy. It’s an important game, breaking walls with smoking wit, crossing vulgar. Jack Kerouac writes in Playboy: When they come and stone you at least you won’t have a glass house, just your glassy flesh.

She wants to believe. Look, there goes Shake Junt’s defiance of convention, queering: the brand’s inherently chaotic and rude skepticism, a bigger splash in a sea of an attention economy cajoled by opiate and mind numbing photo apps. It’s like Cocteau at Le Tabou after The War, obscene, existentialist, Dada throwing roasts, and all Art Moderne, post-punk, in Paris.

Neo Conservatives: Neolithic Double Billed Ax

Is subversive rhetoric ever really radical, if it can be harnessed and co-opted by the Grand Old Party? It’s Kemp’s, Williams’ and Trump’s strongest weapon: time immemorial fascism dressed up as anti-establishment punchlines.

In 2016, Zizek appears in a viral video. High on cocaine with the same twinkling and daring eyes as Trump before he calms then riles a crowd, about to get away with something, about to dare to stare at Diana naked, risk being turned into a stag. He tells the camera, on a busy street, looking effortlessly chaotic and convincing: Trump would be better, “only some kind of shakeup can save us.”

Vice Magazine in 2002: its pages flaunt neo-Nazi propaganda nudged between photographs of a lookalike Chloe Sevigny. Vice Magazine in 2017: a platform for white supremacists of Charlottesville, soft branding for the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer.

Skateboard brand Independent Truck Co. uses an iron cross as its logo. The team is at first concerned that the sign looks too much like the Nazi cross, but concedes because the Pope wears the same cross. The designer is in love with the logo, it must work. The Cross is not Christian or Fascist of course, but Phallic, cut down the center to remind of union. The Neolithic double-billed ax that would be the beginning of the end of the ubiquity of the goddess, female deities and the beginning of the monotheistic solar god and fraternity, the cult of the one-eyed father.


She meets the neuroscientist in Paris in May 2017. He writes to ask to visit her, the first thing he says is: empathy is about performing and being present to save yourself. It is never the passionate act of altruism. It is an act of the present to protect your future. It is the purest form of individualism masquerading as altruism. The present is chaos, and empathy your shield for the future.

Empathy’s etymology is lost in translation, the ancient Greek (empatheia) meant shape-shifting obsession, intense emotional state, unbearable emotional engagement, positive or negative, hatred even. The evolutionary etymology: you heedlessly enter the body, mind, and spirit of another, like a snake, enveloping another’s learned survival strategy for your own gain, benefit, win, kill. The reciprocal struggle continues until threatening action is replaced by the other’s inaction acquiescence to your cause, simplicity and emotional depths feed you within the process, and so you feel emotionally alive, cheaply.

The Edible Woman’s Ax

I have a dream the night before the 2016 US election, my red Pontiac is multiplied and crowds highways, parking lots. Everyone is driving my car, a car that looks like a casino on wheels. Grey interior. Red Coat. Lights. 1994 but it could be 1985. Cockroaches graze the interior. Guns loop through the inside, chastising glass. Too lazy to change the design, instead darts are thrown the distance in the engineering room back at GM. Bullseyes and calendars of high thongs until 2008. Georgia State Secretary Kemp swallows an angel cake shaped like a woman holding a rifle and a double billed ax. She is in his body. He walks to his truck, his stomach protrudes: pregnant with pain and emotions he has never felt. He swishes back a bottle of alcohol-free whiskey, lifts his pants to shift his testes, and falls backwards. Dead at Walmart. Frozen, eating shit on the ice-cream colored floor. Feeling and chewing on marrow and veins and muscles he once flexed at a gun-range Sunday cocktail for the NRA, trying to make it great. Empathy demanded: a weapon, circles, swells and strangles, like a spell or smoke meant to devour and smite.

[ Compassion Empathy Redux.]

– Republican vulgarity, absurdism and anti-establishment brandishing make rhetorical demands of its enemies: as a matter of course, a reserved rhetoric and a (rhetorical) empathy are formed to fashion a declamatory distance.

The contemporary political and PR fluid-ease with the term, empathize: is compassion.

Allan Sekula in Dismantling Modernism, Reinventing Documentary (Notes on the Politics of Representation) in 1978: I will say it again: the subjective aspect of liberal aesthetics is compassion rather than collective struggle. Pity, mediated by an appreciation of “great art” supplants political understanding.

In 2006 and 2008, Obama: “What we have in this country is not a federal deficit, but what we have,” mouth pressed in millisecond meditation, “is an empathy deficit.”

In 2010, writer Jeremy Rifkin explains how at age 8 a flushed child realizes that life is fragile and that the body, a quiet armor, decays. The encounter with mortality is met with empathy: your plight is shared & love is a practice, like the everyday, for the everyday. Empathy does not exist in heaven, but requires the hellish mortality contracts of earth to form.