[NetBehaviour] Why Media Hide the Suicide Protest of MalachiRitscher

marc marc.garrett at furtherfield.org
Wed Nov 29 16:58:30 CET 2006


Hi Patrick,

 >My question is whether others felt this way too, and from an individual
 >response, that might be part of the answer.  I'm not proud of it, but
 >his death deserves honesty from those in his city who were on the
 >sidelines.

The problem with the word honesty, is that we no longer have a cultural 
agreement in respect of what it really means (probably never had it), 
there is no consensus. Other than what is deemed to be true via 
controlled and mediated decisions from top-down. The word 'honesty' is a 
plyable term (and we all play with this word as well), that can be 
exploited and adapted accordingly, just like any human is manipulated 
and socially constructed in various degrees by state imposed trends of 
the day.

I feel that perhaps if we reconsider, and sidestep the word 'honesty' 
and focus on a word such as 'dignity'. If dignity is taken away from us, 
then we beome nothing but submissive subjects to all forms potential 
abuse. We can be condemned as distant items of awkward curiousities, 
that then in the end become 'invisible' and without a voice.

Unfortunately, it has been proven that even having a voice does not 
change the social constructs that are ham-fistedly imposed by 
governments and their greedy meddling ways. A good example of this is, 
when millions around the world protested against the war in Iraq, in 
march 05, two years after assault began. Even with demonstrations taking 
place in over 30 cities across the planet, as part of an international 
day of action. Voices were ignored...

If there is a kind of honesty, or rather a kind of 'truth' in this 
lesson, it is that that us the 'people' are not actually considered 
worthy to listen to, only in the form of something so blindly limiting 
as the extremely shakey, so called democratic voting process - which in 
our western cultures only promotes well healed, well financed political 
groups, rather than more grass roots political organizations. Just 
listen to the news and see who gets listened to, and who gets allowed 
air play, and you begin to realise that our media institutions are not 
reflective in their obversations, and are not actively questioning why 
they only just limit air time to the main parties in respect of of politics.

 >From a larger media-institutional standpoint, there's the implication
 >that these things "don't happen here", right?  America (an odd principle
 >in itself, in that the US does not constitute the continent), is the
 >"greatest country in the world", "Land of the Free", and "Home of the
 >Brave", and why-the-hell-would-
 >anyone-set-themselves-on-fire-over-anything-we're-doing, right?  It
 >makes sense that there would be more press on O'J' Simpson's
 >semi-fictional murder book  ( ;) ) than Malachi.

I'm still waiting to see where the bravery is...

Disempowerment, kills multi-cultural and consensual options, limiting 
the possibility of ever having real change in our lives, due to all the 
main outlets, being in gate kepted. And this happens in all walks of 
society, unless we tackle the awkward issue of male orientated 
reactionary agression - and its negative and sadist behaviour over those 
who cannot directly change their own situations and feelings on such 
matters of community values and personal empowerment, as shared with 
others. Then we are just going to continue in falling into the traps, 
that our (slack) leaders endlessly fall into all of the time.

We need to expand out of this myopic and mono-cultural behaviour and 
begin to become different in our everyday lives, learn positive lessons, 
such as what movements such as the feminists taught us years ago, in 
bringing a personal poilitique into the frame and build on that somehow. 
It is not systems or academic frameworks that will get us out of this 
gradual slump, it is 'us' as humans building 'real' space for ourselves 
to share mutual values on our own terms, beyond the canons and remits 
handed down by the sadists and rulers of the world. We know that they 
the rulers do not care - if not, one must be pretty autistic or just 
oblivious in the extreme. SO, what have got left? Ourselves.

To kill one's self, is to only take control in an inverted manner. Which 
of course is a choice, and no one (usually) can stop that action or 
decision - in most circumstances. In fact, it seems that people dying is 
not a problem unless it interferes with certain corporate protocols and 
missions of certain religious or institutional beliefs, or health 
related organisations standard policies. And of course family relations. 
But to commit suicide, I see as an human right - lets face it. It seems 
that our governments are extremely adept in killing people via their 
shameful policies because of their spurious reasons, which we know, are 
never good enough. But if one takes one's own life it is frowned upon. 
Now if they could gain some affiliated story-line that they can market 
and use in a media context. Then I am sure that something assuch as one 
individual may cause questions, or a response in some way.

The other thing is that humanity on the whole, are really a bunch of 
selfish, greedy, shallow and cowardly space-wasters and do not give a 
damn...

what do we do then?

marc

 >New Media Artist Kanarink posted on the Netbehaviour list about Malachi
 >Ritscher's act of self immolation in protest of the Iraq War in Chicago
 >on Nov. 3rd, 2006.  He burned himself to death on the side of the
 >Kennedy Expressway near downtown Chicago during the morning rush hour.
 >He was a part of the arts and music community, and people who knew him
 >told me that he was quiet and affable, but did not seem a person who
 >would "go that far".  Malachi was one of fewer than ten US citizens to
 >protest in such a way, and it barely brought a blip on the radar.
 >
 >Last month after we had an art lecturer at our department at Columbia
 >Chicago, we went out to dinner, and a couple of us had known Malachi for
 >years (not me, however - I'm new to the town.)
 >
 >A couple notes here.
 >First, I'm pretty appalled with myself to say that I've had to focus
 >really hard in order to manage adapting to a large city.  Therefore, I
 >mentioned over dinner that I'm not sure what I would have done, had I
 >seen him in flames.  However, I think it's pretty obvious that I could
 >have written about it, and therein lies the disconnect in American
 >culture, and that gives me pause.
 >
 >It's like when the Drexel Building burned down across the street before
 >my eyes (8-story, 1887 Louis Sullivan construction, 5-11 fire!).
 >Somehow it just seemed unreal, and I sat there in my office, watching
 >the sheet of flame and smoke stream off the leading edge of the building
 >while firefighters fought the blaze.  I stayed there until we were
 >evacuated; I knew I was in a lot of danger, but somehow didn't feel it
 >viscerally.
 >
 >My question is whether others felt this way too, and from an individual
 >response, that might be part of the answer.  I'm not proud of it, but
 >his death deserves honesty from those in his city who were on the
 >sidelines.
 >
 >Another perspective is that of Richard Roeper at the Chicago Tribune,
 >who said that, "...with all great respect, if he thought setting himself
 >on fire and ending his life in Chicago would change anyone's mind about
 >the war in Iraq, his last gesture on this planet was his saddest and his
 >most futile."  There may be another key element - a real cynicism about
 >simple acts of direct dissent and their effectiveness.  As an extended
 >member of a high profile activist group, the goal is often the press,
 >and the effectiveness of the act seems to be left to the public
 >zeitgeist.
 >
 >
 >>From a larger media-institutional standpoint, there's the implication
 >that these things "don't happen here", right?  America (an odd principle
 >in itself, in that the US does not constitute the continent), is the
 >"greatest country in the world", "Land of the Free", and "Home of the
 >Brave", and why-the-hell-would-
 >anyone-set-themselves-on-fire-over-anything-we're-doing, right?  It
 >makes sense that there would be more press on O'J' Simpson's
 >semi-fictional murder book  ( ;) ) than Malachi.
 >
 >But here's the most disturbing thing - in a period when the US media
 >seems to be looking for any port in a storm for the criticism of the
 >Iraq War, _why_ didn't they latch onto this with the tenacity of a pit
 >bull?  It's so completely bizarre, more bizarre that if I had driven by
 >the fireball, numbed by the city and the American "will to
 >productivity", having to process it before reacting.
 >
 >So I guess the question is why people don't care more about Malachi?
 >Now that I've had the time to reflect on it, I think his death is one of
 >the most important events to have happened in the city in 2006, and
 >deserves being told again, and again, and again.  
 >
 >How can anyone not be mortally touched when someone has the will to
 >voice their convictions so forcefully?  I'm meditating on this, and Hope
 >people have a response.
 >
 >There are great links on Malachi here.
 >http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malachi_Ritscher
 >
 >
 >
 >
 >
 >
 >Patrick Lichty
 >- Interactive Arts & Media
 >  Columbia College, Chicago
 >- Editor-In-Chief
 >  Intelligent Agent Magazine
 >http://www.intelligentagent.com
 >225 288 5813
 >voyd at voyd.com
 >
 >"It is better to die on your feet
 >than to live on your knees."
 >
 >
 >
 >
 >_______________________________________________
 >NetBehaviour mailing list
 >NetBehaviour at netbehaviour.org
 >http://www.netbehaviour.org/mailman/listinfo/netbehaviour
 >
 >


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