Everyone I know says that things are just moving faster, but I was still shocked to discover that this month begins the second year of Field Notes. Taking stock before rushing on, I must say it has been a great adventure so far. For this I thank: publisher Phong Bui, who invited me to the politics spot, and the staff at the Rail, who manage to get the great ship launched every month. Thank you, Sara, Walter, Don, and all those who work with you.
And thank you, writers, who rose to the occasion. From you I’ve learned what Field Notes is about, because this too is something one only comes to know in the process of making it. I’ve wanted Field Notes to contribute to the comprehension of the historical spot we’re in, and I think we’ve done that. What we’re about is accurate description of the state of affairs, and clear analysis of how it got that way and where we might take it in the future.
What we have to offer was clarified, for me, by Naomi Klein’s review of Steve Fraser’s important new book in last Sunday’s New York Times. Wishing for the kind of book she likes to write, she looks for “argument” in “story or development of characters;” with the good-hearted bonhomie of the jetset leftist, she laments the absence, from Fraser’s historical account of the eclipse of mass movements challenging capitalism, of “the leaders” of various movements striving to ameliorate the ongoing impoverishment of daily life—as she puts it, “today’s dreamers,” who give credibility to “hope.” I don’t mean to pay more attention to Klein than is her due (for that, see “Capitalism, Utopian and Scientific” in November’s Field Notes) but only to use these insipid phrases as an occasion to say that Field Notes is not particularly interested in dreamers or in hope, or in “characters,” for that matter.
The world we’re in is grim. There’s pleasure to be found in it, individual and collective. But it doesn’t inspire hope (despite the old Obama bumper stickers still peeling from the odd Prius or SUV). In fact, as all this month’s contributors agree, the “thing with feathers” is a lure, distracting attention from the need to act now, directly, on the ongoing disaster that social reality amounts to. How the forces needed to do that can assemble themselves is a problem not to be solved by telling stories. Humanity will, or won’t, rise to the challenge. If it does, “leaders” will have little to do with it, judging from past experience. But everyone who thinks, everyone who talks, everyone who writes in the attempt to work out the state of things and how we can push it over into the world of expansive experience that is, as the Stones put it, “just a shot away,” can help. Field Notes is eager to hear from you.
Paul Mattick is the Field Notes Editor.