By Vyvian Raoul
March 20th, 2020
“Fuck power, and lets just take care of each other.
Most people know that politics is failing. That’s not a theory or my point of view. They can see it, they can feel it. The problem is they just can’t imagine an alternative. They lack confidence. I simply blanked out all the advertising, I turned off the ‘tell-lie-vision’, and I started to think for myself. Then I really started to meet people – and, trust me, there is nothing as great as meeting people who are getting on with their lives, running farms, schools, shops, and even economies, in communities where no one has power.”
– Benjamin Zephaniah (DOPE 6, Summer 2019)
If we’re looking for silver-linings, one might be the rupture in the public imagination caused by the crisis. The status quo is suddenly suspended and what might be possible seems up for grabs again.
Already advertising makes little sense. Finger lickin’ good has quickly moved from mouth-watering strap-line to stomach-turning public health nightmare. It’s not hard to imagine celebrity endorsement getting short-shrift in the new world order. Does branding matter anymore when you just need something to wipe your arse with? Advertising’s dominion over our desires is suddenly shaken loose by the reality of necessity.
At its best, subvertising has attempted to imagine what alternative worlds might look like. By interrogating the right to the city through interventions in advertising infrastructure, it raises questions over the ownership – and, therefore, control – of our public spaces. But it can also gesture towards new realities, from demands for economic and racial justice to anti-capitalist critiques of climate catastrophe – or even just the simple joy of not being sold anything.
The question now is what emerges. It would be naïve not to think that could be an even-more-authoritarian nightmare: it might be equally dangerous not to imagine otherwise. When the entire world is de facto on strike, maybe it also makes sense to question wage labour? Can we think about property rights differently when they restrict access to something everyone needs, like a vaccine? Mutual aid has gone from the title of an obscure book by a former Russian prince that only anarchists know about to a widespread, everyday practice – solidarity is now seen as essential to survival, in fact.
Once the death grip of capitalism – so firmly held in place by public relations/propaganda – has been loosened over our collective consciousness, let’s ensure it never takes hold again…
Vyvian Raoul is a writer and an editor at Dog Section Press.