end extreme wealth

Week 53, Day 2: Be People Together

You’ve got to love The Knife. I don’t know a whole lot about them at this point, but how many other groups can you name that have the audacity to include in their liner notes a four-page satirical comic titled “End Extreme Wealth”? The comic takes the form of a UN/World Bank/IMF Power Point, with the presenter inviting different experts to the podium to discuss their roles in the NEW MILLENIUM GOAL of ending extreme wealth by 2015.

The presenters are great. The first “studied people who live in extreme wealth for several years,” including time in a horse polo club and on a yacht, to which the moderator responds, “I can’t believe you actually lived side by side with these people! Were you never scared?” Her project takes the form of building schools for the wealthy in which they could be educated on subjects like “white privilege” and “surplus labor.”

The second presenter’s work is to challenge gender roles in the extremely wealthy, men in particular, since it is men who own a majority chunk of that wealth; his project, “A Small Candle of Hope,” helps them to break their habit of wanting stuff and more stuff, airplanes and helicopters and the like. The third presenter is my favorite. She runs a “micro-snatching” program, in which rich persons’ assets are “snatched” and used in a way to benefit the larger community: a mansion repurposed as living quarters for homeless persons; a private golf course converted into a collective public garden.

The final presenter is in charge of “the biggest and most important project”: planting fast-growing trees around the world’s financial districts and luxury shopping areas, to help stem their expansion and return those areas to forest land; the comic then ends with a group of musicians singing a “We Are the World” spinoff, only this time the call is to “Heal the Rich”: There are people dying! Because of capital accumulation …

As amusing as all of this is, its truths hit hard. The comic is not unlike The Knife; Olof Dreijer and Karin Dreijer Andersson have presented themselves to the world as characters from a comic of sorts, appearing in public in masks (Venetian, monsters, birds, Karin’s infamous “melting-face” mask), performing behind backlit screens, guising their humanness behind artistically cartoonish fashions. But with Shaking the Habitual you get the sense that they have turned a corner, appearing in photos and elsewhere bare-faced, unveiled; they are becoming more accessible as people even as their music breaks ever further away from the mainstream (though might be getting the better for it). It’s as if a line was crossed somewhere, and The Knife realized that if we truly are to heal our world, stem economic injustice, curb environmental destruction, then we have to be people together. We have to be able to see each other. No more hiding behind masks. No more hiding behind money.