Philip Kobylarz
Civil Disobedience as Literature- a Review of Dissent: An Anthology to End War and Capitalism (Edited by Mark Lipman, Vagabond, 2023)

That we exist in an era of Post Truth as the Serbian-American playwright Steve Tesich coined way back in 1992, the question seems to be what shall we make of this existential conundrum? What can only befuddle the small percent of Americans who consider themselves thinkers is the long history of acceptance of fiction as fact, the mythologies of nationalism. A short story entitled The Gulf of Tonkin was once writ by the powers that be to rationalize the slaughter of hundreds of thousands in Vietnam and Cambodia, who we now freely trade with and are buddy-buddy to. War. Death. Lies. Suffering. Then, comodification. The underlying algebra of capitalism.

More recently, decades of the intentional absence of practicing the craft and art of critical thinking brought us to the internationally accepted Becketian play called “The Weapons of Mass Destruction”. How the war machine needs to feed on thousands upon thousands of innocent, civilian lives, that time literally in Ur- the nexus of world civilization, just to show the world how greed and stupidity have not learned one lesson from the Tale of Gilgamesh.

The only truth that inglorious capitalism needs to hold near and dear is unbridled, unlimited consumption and the mass production of shitloads of waste. We have far beyond breached the point of Chomsky’s prophetic Manufacturing Consent. We now eat information in a 24/7 cycle and much of this diet consists of half-truths and lies, propaganda, and endless Bernaysian marketing so blatant it has lost all attempt at subtlety. Want. Need. Use. Discard. Repeat.

American brand capitalism, that is ever so not friendly like Finland’s, also only invests and creates that which is fake. Ersatz everything. As long as the irreality seems real, it’ll do. McMansions, two political parties that act as one, billionaires scheming together companies that sell only the wish for wealth-the list is eternal.

If we mainline resentitivetive reality, it morphs via the rhetoric of utter bullshit. Any idea can be spoken, posted online, and it immediately is received as factual. Though this can only be understood as incomprehensible and irrational to any literate human, Lipman in his forward points out that in a wholly Nietzschean sense, authenticity is dead and our factory-produced culture is what killed it.

To counter the media’s mind-numbing, soul-crushing cycles of breaking propaganda, one of the realms of the sacred word still can be found in the art and act of poetry. Most Americans would be shocked to know that even our so-called Founding Fathers, such as John Quincy Adams and Benjamin Franklin, wrote verse. In this era in which language is prostituted to convey factional agendas, poetry still has the power and promise to be the last refuge for sanity. In an era in which the worldwide country club of oligarchs set the immoral tone of capitalism’s sickly, perverse zeitgeist, how many of the planet’s billionaires are writers, artists, musicians? We need not wonder why. The truth is no longer a desired commodity. Those of us who took the time to read this odd bird called literature, we who respect principles, ideals, and Allah forbid, ethics- we’re the twelve percent of the properly evolved. Those of us who are in the know, although a tiny group of the vast populace, are nevertheless, legion.

We call this “New” world invention of a country both a democracy and a republic when its neither, as Lipman reminds us in the introduction. ‘Merica is a mockumentary entitled “The Land of the Free” when we all very well know that our economic system does not give one cent of profit away as it constrains us into the slavery of impossibly priced homes, low-paying shit jobs, embarassingly bad healthcare, and due to the endless financial struggle we all must bear, the very ugly reality of forever segregation and the stupidy of racism.

Lipman, with this gathering of poets and visual artists, puts forth a radical suggestion that we live in a world much more terrifying and censored than Orwell’s Oceania. He cites the need for an intellectual Copernican Revolution as a solution to the self-centered multiverses we are all trapped in, with our economic Sisyphean trap that forces the self’s needs and desires to be tantamount in a dog-eat-dog world of ladder climbing, wealth accumulation, and self-centeredness high on semi-lethal doses of exotic coffee milkshakes and energy drinks.

We live in a time in which everything now needs to be re-thought through a radically different, critical perspective. We had a foothold in the Occupy Movement. We have hope in the concept known as Antifa. This is the book that passionately shows us how bad things really are, as it offers brilliant versified suggestions of how to defeat the new totalitarianism rooted in an economic system created to exploit the little guy.

Too many of us who lean left, consider ourselves as progressives, merely exist in the realm of thoughts, but not words committed to paper, and deeds that stem from them. More criticism is needed. Action is necessary.

This collection is a form of action. It is anti-propaganda that reveals how the corrupt burden of capitalism makes us feel. This book is Thoreau’s civil disobedience come to fruition.

Complacency is a sin. Silence is often murder. Inaction allows the system to thrive. In her poem “If You Want to Talk About Your Hatred of War,” Florence Weinberger reminds us:

and you begin with generals and presidents
then move on to slaughter,
hunger, blunder, profit, etc.

can you also confess you get all your news from TV
at dinnertime listening to the wayworn explain themselves
to journalists

who can’t catch every word, the babble overlapping
like an Altman movie

the woman with her hidden face inaudible in her native language
the translator trying to keep up with no adjectives for her eyes

do you really need a word by word translation?
You know she’s pissed or scared or sick, maybe all of it,
and she’s holding

this skinny kid, hard to tell how old it is,
and it hurts yet you keep eating
and you keep watching; you have to.

We all know how we feel about the economic system imposed upon us. It is now time to act. Unbridled capitalism is destroying this country. Let this collection be our bible. Let the artwork inside, brilliantly satirical and trenchant in its poster-izing of the wasteland that our culture has become, be cut out to adorn our walls. Let us social justice warriors unite in this common cause that has brought us to the battlefield for the future of our country: the war that is being waged against dissent itself.

Dissent is the only alternative.