Issue 2/2020 - Come Together!

On Our Way to a New Mentality

Anna Daučíková

I have in mind a time span beginning with our present situation back to when the Eastern communist regimes started to turn to capitalism. They found themselves jumping from one precariat to another, from one anxiety to another, making those few who quickly made a fortune greedy and corrupted, many areas impoverished, and in-between a vast number of people to wake up slowly from their infantilism.
There, in the former Soviet satellites also other things were happening at that time: the almost immediate rise of nationalisms, the church spreading its influence over education and politics, poverty and in the renewed contacts with the rest of the world—a surprising wonder—the appearance of feminism. In exchange for the former false emancipatory propaganda which had simply robbed women of their agenda and possibility of a profound criticism of patriarchy, the new feminism met a harsh rejection and the first post-Soviet feminists understood quickly what an immense task, indeed an educational agenda, this was. They settled down mostly in the academic field.
Looking back at these hasty, hurried changes in the 1990s, which met us unprepared and made us fall into so many traps, I still can!t stop wondering:
How come we allowed to end up with the church taking over public discourse (Slovakia, Poland) and getting so well accommodated in the sphere of politics and business (Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Austria); becoming a part of all kinds of financial manipulations, turning into a corrupted structure hiding and camouflaging paedophilia and sharing interests and bonding with neo-fascists.
The church wasn’t and still is not seriously asked to answer these questions and manages to resist all the criticism. Today I know what I did not recognize then—it is an implicit part of how capitalism functions.
Then (in the early 1990s), some words used by politicians, those who stepped into politics not to gain supremacy but to fight the existing toxic power, turned out to be a language of boring fairy-tale: love, justice, humanity, truth. At a larger scale some other things have completely disappeared from our public discourse, they have no relevance any longer: atheism, universal values, solidarity, social empathy, equality—imperceptibly, these all became old hats.
So, what do we do? We are acting in the privileged sphere of art. We are in search of answers for a number of urgent questions. Most of the time, I have the feeling that we are stuck in our own world, arrested in a bubble, an experimental space searching for a way of change. I think we also try to be a change in itself, at least I want to believe we do.
We have arrived at a time of urgency: no doubt we stand in the midst of dangerous processes, and compared to earlier times, we do know about it. The action radius of our awareness is wide as never before. We are living our society’s perceptible and imperceptible fascization, the rise of violence, lowering the value of human life, and a total crisis of trust. The fear and poverty make crowds of people get on the move. Not only in politics, also in the realm of art this calls for a new immediacy—we have to find new means of reaction—instead of the continuous liking and disliking on Facebook.
I don’t have a recipe. In my work I am trying to focus on “detail.” In any social struggle, the detail is what gets omitted right away, the struggle which nevertheless takes its start from a very detailed experience. And in the further course of things it is always the detail that remains suppressed. I am thinking about the possibilities of questioning identity politics, which is the base of every nationalism, neoliberal conformism, a perfect manoeuvring tool for silencing a protest.
The October revolution back in 1917 brought up the idea of a New Human, which after 75 years resulted in the completely enslaved Homo Sovieticus. Today, in capitalism, the question is how do we bring to practice a New Mentality. At this point, it is about talking together, sharing, distinguishing, searching, challenging—and not giving up.

Statement made at the meeting Upon Us All Equally, Bucharest, 7–9 November 2019.