Michael Divine

Writings : On Politics


Art is a political act. It is to say HEAR ME. So how do we use that voice? My art can be very political at times – like First World Problem Child. However, it’s never intended to take sides (tho I’m sure my views can be distilled from my work) but rather it is meant to grapple with this facet of our human experience.

Our Histories

Our histories are what make us. They define us. Just as the rivers carve our canyons and winds shape mountains, the oceans we inhabit are fed by countless tributaries stretching backwards through time. If we were to find poison in the Gulf of Mexico (and certainly that’s not too hard) we would search back through the streams that led there and find from where it came. If we find that there is poison in the ocean of our now we have to ask where it came from. So we look back through the threads of time and find the cause - the disease, hate, or shame. Familial patterns or social prejudices. Ignoring our histories, glossing them over, trying to forget - it doesn’t help anything. Erasing the parts we don’t like doesn’t change them. 

Highlighting the parts that support the person with the highlighter as the victor, maketh not a victor. 

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Art Making in Times of Trial

"What is the point of making beautiful things, or of cherishing the beauty of the past, when ugliness runs rampant?"

Alex Ross - Making Art in a Time of Rage

I've seen multiple pieces, posts, inquiries regarding the act of art making when times are tough. When people are marching in the streets, when the freedoms, rights, and liberties you live with every day seem to be snatched away, who are you - who am i? - to sit here painting, writing, doing this creative act which seems a step or two removed from the direct actions others are taking every day? Where do people draw their battle lines and where are the front lines? Am I less engaged because I am not out there fighting, yelling, demanding that, for instance, my streams not be sullied with the debris of coal companies?

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There Is No Place for Hate Here

First World Problem Child (detail) - Michael Divine

My public face is reasonably apolitical. I intend for my art and writing to inspire a brighter, more beautiful, and more hopeful world. I do my best, most times, to let it just be that. I think that there's so much in the way of politics already that I don't feel a need to bombard you with more. Afterall, as they say - if you aren't outraged already, then you aren't paying attention. And it's never been my intention to outrage you all the more.

But here's the thing: in recent days, the beast of racism, of sexism, of xenophobia has reared its head in this country in ways that I thought unimaginable. And it is all in the name of economics and politics. Those things ultimately - on their own, are not political. To call them "political" is to do a disservice to the humans who are affected by these attitudes every day. They are issues of hate and division and fear. While those are the tools of politics, they are not politics not in and of themselves.

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Having and Having Not: Homelessness in Los Angeles

A new law passed by the LA city council prohibits homeless people from owning more belongings than can fit in a 60-gallon trashcan with the lid on, and allows police to summarily confiscate any tents that are still standing on public property during daylight hours.

The law is a response to Los Angeles's epidemic of homelessness -- a rise in homelessness that's clocked in at 20% of two years.

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Why I Vote (And Why You Should Too)

First World Problem Child (detail) - Michael Divine

The same old story: "Why vote? Voting doesn't make a difference. Politics isn't real. It's all smoke and mirrors. An illusion to keep you distracted." It's a common story - in one form or another - told by a disproportionately large section of people my age and younger. I'm 38. So that's a lot of people!

Getting people to believe that 'politics isn't real' is a great way to con a populace into apathy and inaction. Each group, each subsection of the population, seems to have it's own methods of doing so. It saddens me to watch people slip into sleep like that. Buddhism and Hinduism can use 'karma' - we are where we are and our lot in life is just our karma playing out, from the local to the national to the global level. It pacifies people. It keeps them from affecting changes. Christianity offers the carrot of eternal reward in Heaven and that God will judge, not man, so let things go. We all are guilty.

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Some Thoughts on ‘Gifting Circles’

The other day a friend - a 24-yr old woman - asked me what I felt about "gifting circles" - what I knew about them and how it jived with me.

I said I felt that these gifting circles prey on an innate greed* along with an innocence and naiveté in people. They operate under the guise of 'female empowerment' or 'manifesting abundance' and the 'law of attraction' (which is about the most materialistic spiritual belief system out there) and this 'circle of sisterhood' where women can share what they are going through, etc. Yet, at its core, there is this offer of an up to $40K 'dessert' they will receive when they reach the inner ring/top of the pyramid/head of the table, etc. Having nothing to do with sisterhood, that is the ultimate driving force leading people to join. After all, most women already have a circle of girlfriends to share with.

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It’s not all just pretty pictures: The Politics of Life

One might think that one might surmise from the general nature of my work and my posts that I'm not a particularly political minded person. I almost wish that were true. What is true is that I pay attention to the politics. By that, I don't mean just the 'political figures' but ALL of it. In my opinion, it's all politics. Since man first understood the connection between ego and a sense of power there have been politics. Unfortunately, today there is a deeply rooted connection between money, politics, and power. This quality is a sad thing to watch and yet it is what shapes the most important affronts to our health and well being from an entity outside of our own minds that exists today.

And it comes at us from all fronts - from the health care to the war mongers to the internet freedoms to the agricultural debacles to the religious pandering... it doesn't seem to end.

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Relative Freedoms

As a kid growing up in the 80's there was this beast, interspersed between grammar school doldrums and the Transformers, that simmered half a world away and it was called Communism. It threatened to nuke us all if we didn't nuke it first. Ronald Reagan gave speeches. We hid under our desks or out in the halls to prepare for possible nuclear war. (Like that'd ever help....) This vague threat loomed in every movie we watched and every cartoon - always as some vaguely caricatured Russian or German speaking in terms of "Comrade" and wearing a hat with earflaps because we all knew it was cold in communist Russia and the Commies had to keep their ears warm.

Like a shot in the dark, in 1990,and just before we all sank into the national teen angst of grunge rock, there - plastered across our TV screens - the Berlin Wall, that one barrier between Us and Them, fell. Or, rather, it was knocked out with pick-axes and shovels and bare hands; the result of diplomacy, politics, and changing tides. From the comfort of my living room, at the age of 14, images of people celebrating a newfound sense of freedom flickered across the television screen. This was momentous for them and, for us, a new vague sense emerged: that something had changed and we were all a little more free and could breathe a bit more peacefully knowing that not so many nuclear warheads were trained on us. I'd grown up wanting my MTV just because that's what MTV told me I wanted. They grew up wanting their MTV because they couldn't even turn it on when their parents weren't home. They weren't allowed it at all. Now they could scream it out loud if they wanted to. Now they had the freedom to voice their opinions and excel at their dreams, should they choose to. With that freedom of choice, we have far more than we realize.

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Globalization, Capitalism, and the Magic Kingdom

Globalization is a movement - a force - that is sort of rolling along and, at this point, cannot be stopped, whether or not protestors want to admit it or not. If you use the internet, look for deals on things from far away, read blogs by Indian authors, enjoy Manga comics, anything really - then you are a part of it as well and to look backwards is to get nostalgic for a cultural museum. I bring this up because I've been reading a very interesting and illuminating book on the topic. I can't say I agree with everything the author has to say and it is certainly coming from the direction of the more right-wing Republican doctrine of less government/tariffs/trade restrictions - more free market economy than I can agree with - but it puts forth a lot of interesting information that is helpful in illuminating how we got to where we are in this economic "meltdown" today.

The book is called "The Lexus and the Olive Tree" by Thomas L. Friedman and was published in 2000. Friedman draws some very clear parallels between the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Communist structure and the rise of the internet and the global marketplace. In a post-WWII/Cold War world, markets were closed off to one another, communication was limited, and countries were able to put safe curtains around themselves. You never knew what was going on in another country, other than what your government told you and, as far as they were concerned, you were better off because of that. With the fall of the Berlin Wall and the opening up of communication lines between nations, investors and individuals, people began to realize that they could expand their trade and, subsequently, improve their lives. We might want to say - oh the Amazon tribe or the African Bushman is better off without the TV or the cell phone or the computer but that is only because we have some kind of retrospective thinking and, while we are immersed in it one way or the other, the more technologically advanced cultures want to keep these "cultural museums". As he says:

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The New Egypt: The Dark Side of Dubai

They say that Egypt was built on the backs of slaves for rich and powerful pharoahs. We marvel at their feats. These days, rising out of the desert, Dubai glistens like some sort of mirage in the desert. It too is a city being built on the backs of slaves, quite literally. over 300,000 slaves to be exact. Working and toiling under the ho desert sun, not begin paid, fed barely enough to survive... for the Shiek. Not much different than the ancient Egypt we learn about. And who is to stop it? It seems the slowly crumbling world economy is grinding the building and construction to a halt but...

Learn more here: The Dark Side of Dubai

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