From the Editors

Arcading around (U.S. Thanksgiving edition)

It's been a dramatic few weeks, as the Occupy protests have converged with the demonstrations for public education that have been ongoing for the past few years.

In the midst of it all is the U.S. holiday that we call "Thanksgiving," a nineteenth-century invention whose complex history reveals the double-tonguedness of concepts like "gratitude," virtues that can all too easily come to serve as ideological covers for injustice. "Gratitude" is an affect of quantity, specifically of abundance; gratitude rewrites all quantities as forms of abundance by changing our feelings about that quantity, rather than by changing the quantity itself. The idea seems perhaps anachronistic in this, the age of statistical panic. Gratitude in the risk society means reorienting our feelings about quantities that constantly shift, and that are, as in the stock market or political polling, increasingly determined by feeling itself.

Against the shifting numerical virtualities of Wall Street is now counterposed the quantitative language of Occupy: "income inequality"; "99%." Protesters are so often accused of ingratitude, especially protesting college students, especially the young. Occupy is in some ways about refusing to construe a shrinking share in the nation's wealth as abundance.

And yet perhaps it is only by returning to the feelings that we have about quantities, and the material conditions that those quantities signify, that gratitude can emerge as something other than ideology. I would hazard that there's a reason "you are the 1%" doesn't have quite the ring a rallying cry needs.

For "we are the 99%" is also a declaration of abundance: as many as are disenfranchised, so many can create change. "Gratitude" need not rest on complacency, nor on a rug under which history's traumas have been carefully swept. It can be an insistence on the value of hitherto unseen resources, a thorough reconfiguration of what "counts." In a political moment in which corporate wealth is unprecedentedly powerful, the occupation of physical space is a gratitude that demands that we consider once again the human bodies and minds that will "count" on election day.

In honor of Thanksgiving and the challenges that "gratitude" poses in 2011, here's a link to a list of Thanksgiving recommendations from the Native American advocacy organization Oyate.

And of course, the Arcading around of this post's title—a roundup of some of the places you may have seen Arcadians in the wild in the last few weeks:

 

Thanks for the links, folks! A happy and thoughtful Thanksgiving to all.

Natalia Cecire's picture

Lecturer in English and American Literature, University of Sussex.