The plan is working. Or maybe it’s backfiring. In either case, I have solidified a seat on the newest Citizen Participation Requisite Group (CPRG) of post-Secession Seattle.
This particular CPRG is being convened by a joint effort through the Post-Secession Office of Aesthetic Curation (PSOAC), aided by the Cultural Commodities Bureau (CCB) that operates under the Office of Economic Dominance (OED). Civic bureaucracy, am I right? Shit, I’m practically a walking glossary of municipal acronyms these days, so the systemic matrices aren’t new to me. This recent shift of my own positioning inside it, though, is interesting.
You see, my name isn’t in the pool of Sanctioned Community Representatives. The City of Seattle codified Sanctioned Community Representation at least a decade ago, even before secession from the U.S. (perhaps pre-Pandemic); some say to serve its expedition, some say to prevent it, but the whys don’t matter much these days. The point is, I shouldn’t have made it past even the first step for designation.
The initial screening algorithms adopted by a previous CPRG for the process should have found the nodes in my network too varied, thus my identity index too malleable, thus my future behavior too precarious, etc. I’m just not a desirable clearinghouse, per protocol.
The algorithms were meant to advantage the kind of social profile predictability that correlates with things like being well-resourced, naive, having a shallow political or identity analysis, or other patterns of indifference and/or oblivion that correlate to the behavioral patterns of noobs, transplant careerists and, of course, Technocrats.
That’s all to say: Old Seattle heads, especially Maker field workers like me, we’re meant to get filtered out early. They never say so in the CPRG rejection transmissions, though, because just as “preservation” guidelines in city building codes used to mandate, it is desirable, even imperative, to maintain façades.
Do you remember those pre-Pandemic “preservation” days? The days where developers could take, for example, a 100-year-old neighborhood institution in a historically redlined district, gut it entirely, fill it with luxury residential units, rooftop dog runs, tech workers, and high-end retail, and still be praised for “heritage stewardship” so long as a façade was maintained.
I can’t count how many public subsidies and tax breaks were doled out to pre-Secession construction barons before the Technocrats — under King Bezos I himself — took over municipal development. All in the name of façade maintenance.
We should have taken those building codes as omens. We should have done a lot of things. Point is, the CPRG rejection transmission passive aggressions and the never-ending stream of CPRGs themselves share this common purpose: to maintain façades. But, I digress.
My CPRG is tasked with designing a procedure for the revitalization of “cultural workers,” an objective identified by two prior CPRGs and mandated by another, to build a pool of citizens who might preserve, maybe even increase, the stock of “cultural spaces” that remain in Seattle.
Why? Well, all feel-goody, woo-woo, Kumbaya, high-quality, municipal PR, overall art-washing aside, this is necessary simply because the Technocrats feed on culture. It is good for their morale, thus productivity, thus capital, to have controlled doses available for consumption.
In a sense, this CPRG objective itself explains, in part, why I made it through the selection process. Sanctioning my participation as a Maker, or what they call “cultural worker,” is a form of façade maintenance we used to call “tokenization.”
In earlier Maker days, someone in my circle would have been quick to “call-out” and question the efficacy of my voluntary tokenization. They’d have scoffed at the idea of civic engagement in a repressive state, spouted staunch words about reform versus revolution, and maybe even recited that famous Audre Lorde quote to me. You know, the one about how “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” They might have even done that without actually doing SHIT themselves. And damn, how that used to piss me off. But now, I miss it, because lately I’ve had to have these arguments alone, in my mind, to keep my wits sharp. The other Makers who remain within city limits are too busy just existing to have much of an opinion on my CPRG appointment.
What was once thriving, creative evolution was absorbed into NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) activism during the post-Pandemic Transition and is now little more than scattered pockets of shadowy squats, ever-wandering encampments, and clandestine collectives of nobodies that give rise to unsanctioned acts of artistry every so often.
Surviving Maker activity occurs only through autonomous solo missions in post-Secession Seattle. Decentralization became our chief strategy of self-defense after the Failure of Cultural Reconstruction. It’s lonely, but it works. Or maybe it doesn’t. Maybe it backfires.
In either case, there’s no one to help me suss it out anymore. No one to tell me if my own solitary operation might finally breach the impact of what have come to be known as the Transitional Tactics or be absorbed by them. No one to quote me Audre Lorde.
So, instead, as I work the unplanned plan, I recite the words to myself again: “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.”
And If that’s the case, I ask myself, why even bother? Why accept this appointment? Even worse, why be complicit? And to that I’d respond in my own mind, “Yes.”
Although these CPRGs are definitely Tactics from the Technocratic toolbox, culture — real Culture — will always be ours.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from all my years in Seattle, it’s this: As long as façades are maintained, the inside of any edifice — building, industry, hell maybe even a dystopic post-Pandemic philanthro-technocracy — can be, if not dismantled, quietly gutted and repurposed.
So. The plan is working. Or maybe it’s backfiring. But in either case, I’ve just registered my new Citizen Status and booked access to one of those new hologram chambers they recently installed along the Pike Pine Skid Row.
I want to be fully present for tomorrow’s virtual briefing with New City Hall, at least as present as whatever the newest viral variant will allow for.
Anyways, out of transparency and the distant prospect of posterity’s sake, I am leaving these field notes and archives down here with this final disclosure: Despite all my mental preparation, I have nothing but reservations, even foreboding, about shedding the shield of anonymity that’s kept me extant in the subterranean so long.
For better or for worse, for any chance at change over this mundane new same, tomorrow I begin my term on Citizen Participation Requisite Group No. 403,328.
It’s still too early for me to say whether I hope to see you there. To any Makers out in the field that remain, Godspeed. In these strange bends of time’s crease, may you break free and find peace.
This piece is Julie-C’s first offering for #FreeTheArtist, an ongoing experimental series exploring the intersection of creative equity, cultural resilience, and community self determination in 2021, the Year of the Creative Economy.
Julie-C is a hip-hop artist and community organizer hailing from the Coast Salish Autonomous Zone/Technocratic City-State of Seattle. Stream her latest album Sovereign Queen Archives Vol. 1 on all platforms here, and follow her on IG @JouleSea and @ForeverSafeSpaces.
Featured Image: Photograph by Austin Design under a Creative Commons License; Composite artwork by Julie-C.
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