Disaster & Resistance Review

By | Monday, June 22, 2020 Leave a Comment
When I was high school, I had a vague sense of business and the government being corrupt, but no real knowledge to base that on. I'd hear occasional news stories about some mega corporation getting a minor slap on the wrist for some major illegal dealings, but nothing terribly deep or substantive. Just enough to get the sense that when Michael Douglass gave his "greed is good" speech in 1987's Wall Street, I had an instinctive negative reaction. Despite the applause given to the character in the film. Despite the numerous people in the audience who cheered him on as a role-model. I had the sense that corporate American was bad, but it was more instinctive than substantive.

Of course, I also realized that I couldn't ignore the capitalist society I was living in, so I made a lot of choices that were more practical for my comfort and survival. I chose not to pursue a professional career in comics, in large part because the pay is shit and, for any of the roles that sounded creatively attractive to me, the work was unsteady and provided zero benefits. I initially chose to go into graphic design because then I could make a comfortable living while still engaging in some degree of creative expression. And while I've since largely gotten away from design and work mostly at a kind of managerial level, that was more a matter of survival than trying to climb the corporate zigurat. It had become increasingly evident that I wasn't that talented a designer and fresh-out-school graduates could be hired much more cheaply.

In my years in corporate America, I learned how the game is often played. It absolutely disgusts me, and I'm terrible at playing it -- which is why I'm not making two or three times what I'm currently making. I'm not complaining, mind you! I make a pretty comfortable living, but if I had played by the "greed is good" ideology that permeates American business, I could be raking in considerably more. But throughout my career, I've gotten first-hand knowledge and experience dealing with the ideas that I only had a vague sense about as a teen. I've never had the power or influence to change things appreciably, but I've been witness to many compassionless discussions that reduce people to faceless numbers and statistics.

And with the internet, I've had more access to more information. I've spent more time learning about what goes on behind closed doors. I've seen more evidence of more backdoor deals. Not to mention that I'm simply older than I used to be, and have the benefit of having had more time to learn more. You know the saying about how people become more conservative as they get older? Well, the more I see and learn, the more radical I seem to get. Which brings us to Seth Tobocman's Disaster & Resistance.

Disaster and Resistance
I only recently discovered Tobocman's work but he's been working in underground type comics for years. But whereas creators like Harvey Pekar often spoke to their personal experiences, Tobocman speaks on a more political level. Disaster & Resistance is a collection of his short comics (typically 1-6 pages) on a variety of topics from the first decade of the 21st century. (The book was first published in 2008.) From student protests to Hurricane Katrina to Kenyan oil fields.

There are couple things really striking about the book. First, I read through it and, while Tobocman clearly indicates which events he's writing about and places them within their proper chronological context, everything felt amazingly current. Much of it felt like he was talking about today. I was actually really surprised when I saw the 2008 copyright date; I had assumed the book was maybe a year or two old because it seemed to speak very much to a 2020 audience. Second, because Tobocman covers a fairly wide range of topics, reading them all back to back presents a greater sense of just how corrupt things are. That vagueness I mentioned having as a teen was in part because I'd see one story here and another story there over an extended period. Seeing all of these pieces in short order gives the reader a much better sense that these types of issues are pervasive.

Tobocman doesn't present these pieces as if there's some cabal behind everything. It's not a conspiracy theory. It's just that greedy rich men always act in their own Gordon Gekko-ish self-interests and don't give a shit about who's hurt or killed in the process. We're not up against the Illuminati or any single closed group like that; we're fighting against an ideology that benefits only those in power, those with the most money, the 1%. Those people aren't out to "get us" per se; we're just inconsequential collateral damage. We're in the way of their amassing more wealth than they could ever hope to spend. Tobocman illustrates that very clearly here.

The government does not care.
I think that's perhaps why the book feels so current. We're having demonstrated to us on a daily basis right now that our governments do not care about us. I'm speaking from an American perspective, of course, but that's plainly evident in countries the world over at the moment. With so many governments actively working against best practices for a pandemic in an effort to line their pockets with every more money, with so many corporations unabashedly throwing "essential" workers into the maw of COVID-19, with so many of the ruling class flagrantly violating the few pandemic rules they've even bothered to put in place, with protesters against the system being literally beaten to death... it's more clear than ever that the people in power do not care about you at all. We see that over and over again on the news today, but Disaster & Resistance shows you that this has been going on for years and years. What's on the news might be specific to 2020, but the ideology that brought us here is not.
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