November 22nd, 2011 / 6:52 pm


On November 22, 2011, at approximately 2:05 PST, at the time of this post’s inception, a version of UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi walking to her car (with the parenthetical “higher quality,” as proposed by the uploader) had been viewed 873,526 times three days after it had been posted. Its like-to-dislike ratio was 4485:91 (or, ~49:1).  It captures the 2:39 minutes endured by Katehi and relished by us all for her to walk to her car through a considerate berth of protestors, silenced in their greatest form of protest. This is when I began to take them seriously. It is one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen, in its humanity, restraint, and ultimate respect for another human being. Of course, we understand that Katehi is being publicly shamed, and judged, and the silence is indignantly rhetorical. A less popular version, shot from another angle, its camera operator incessantly “a little behind” and somewhat crouched, had, at the same point in time of this composition, 98,064 views, with a ~55:1 like-to-dislike ratio. Although it is parenthetically and ostensibly “HD, best quality,” it will forever remain a subordinate version of the greater version, the latter’s historicity democratically bestowed by the aesthetic inclinations of the people: they preferred the perpendicular “real time” camera angle, the purplish fragmented light and sporadic halos caused by an array of camera flashes perhaps heightening this eerie inverse Coronation of the Queen. Media accelerates history, and it seems Katehi will go down as the Chancellor of a large liberal California University who was to be held responsible for the violent assault by her police on her civilly disobeying class; and all the PR letters from the Chancellor’s office carefully crafted by administrators with Master’s degrees to both justify and mitigate, could not assuage the gross verity of pepper-spray being casually administered on a group of solemn protesters, whose imminent tears would be heard over cameras, some of them held by the protesters themselves, as they shook and writhed towards vertigo — all emitted through the quicksand of memory known as the internet, in truncated and fragmented versions of the same event, each vying for a piece of history. Sometimes it is difficult to ask a question when the reward of silence has just commenced. What would you have done? I don’t believe there are good people and bad people, and a line in between. That would assume I’m on the right side, and my world ends the moment I believe that. This post is an elegy for seeing things from another angle.

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  1. deadgod

      The shaming was a powerful moment, but was that really when you “began to take [the Occupy protesters] seriously”?

      I mean to ask whether there isn’t something compelling – many things – about at least some of the arguments the OWSers are fragmentarily and self-righteously making.

      “[H]umanity, restraint, and ultimate respect for another human being” are values exactly the opposite to those enacted by “Wall Street” (and, in my view, by fiscal ‘conservatism’ generally).  Sometimes, standing up for those values as political-economic determiners descends into raucously messy disrespect, but, you know, keep your eyes on the long-term cascade-up transfer of wealth over the past three decades or so and have as much patience as you can with these damn kids.

  2. jackterrier

      I’ve never been been a big fan of yours Jimmy, but this was awfully good.

  3. Anonymous
  4. SuckMyPasolini

      Fantastic post, Jimmy.

  5. Matt Tyler

      Last three lines get a standing ovation.

  6. William Owen

      I’ve appreciated the principle behind OWS since it started, but the last two weeks have made me feel for them in a way I hadn’t before. I worried where it would all go, what would happen when bone biting cold snapped them up one by one and tossed them back into their homes. They were angry about the right things I thought, but they weren’t exactly offering legislation and hounding politicians.

      Their WILL has come through now. They have put it on display for the world to see revealing the shane coating of their hearts. And it wasn’t a matter of them not already having the iron fucking balls to see this through, they just had not had the chance yet to show us, to tell people like me, who’ve spent years getting out the vote and knocking door to door to educate and fundraise for the environment (lifetime NYPIRGer in my heart of hearts) that they were willing to take a punch in the face and stand back up. They are playing through to the endgame.

  7. Wall Street Journal | HTMLGIANT

      […] Jimmy Chen, Angles […]

  8. Bowerbird #29: Twenty Hertz Thousand Hurts « avian architext

      […] Sometimes it is difficult to ask a question when the reward of silence has just commenced. La douleur exquise gets at the emotional heartache, specifically, of being the one whose love is unreciprocated. We can take a punch. We might have a sensation of a unified integrated consciousness, but it’s actually individual sensations popping up with whatever you’re particularly conscious of in one moment. Value’s just what relationships are built through sequence, through temporal distribution. Yet there is a timelessness to this event. And it’s interesting to think that somewhere out there, light years away, a lonely, dark, and slowly freezing planet may be bulleting through the galaxy. A good theory rules explanations in and out, and if it rules out the wrong explanation that will become clear over time as you pursue your theory guided research. The larger lesson is that the brain is a neural tangle of near infinite possibility, which means that it spends a lot of time and energy choosing what not to notice. It’s not a perfect measure, but it gives you an idea. […]

  9. BeMightee

      nicely done.