Book Review: DISCORDIA By Laurie Penny and Molly Crabapple

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“Discordia: Six Nights in Crisis Athens,” written by Laurie Penny and illustrated by Molly Crabapple, are recent notes from the underground, published in October of 2012, that remain quite relevant to this unfolding story. As much as things seem to move at a breakneck pace, and trends seem to abruptly shift, some truths are here to stay. It was on September 17, 2011, not very long ago at all, that Occupy Wall Street galvanized a new generation of protesters seeking a better world. That spirit of change rippled across an unstable world. In the summer of 2012, the focus fell on Athens, the hotspot of the global financial meltdown. The highly corrupt Greek government was especially hit hard when its debt-addled financial chickens came home to roost. The Greek government’s response to the crisis was a series of severe austerity measures. Riots and chaos followed.

Journalist Laurie Penny saw an opportunity to document firshand a significant hisotrical event and invited illustrator, Molly Crabapple, to join her. Much like a teaming up of Hunter S. Thompson and Ralph Steadman, Penny and Crabapple immersed themselves in the subject at hand prepared to report back on what they found: the violence, the drugs, the sex, and the intimate thoughts of a lost generation. It is a remarkable undertaking with impressive results. And you need to read this 140-page ebook. You can find it here and you can also seek out more information on the publisher, Random House Vintage Digital, over here.

Molly Crabapple and Laurie Penny find themselves in Greece right after the elections and the narrow defeat of the leftist coalition, SYRIZA. That coalition was seen as the best hope for dealing with the crisis. Instead, an ineffectual government makes matters worse. The rise of a facist party, Golden Dawn, having gained seven percent of the seats in parliament, signals even more dire times ahead. There is no doubt that Golden Dawn is neo-Nazi. Reporting from the bloody streets of Nikaia, Penny finds numerous murders of immigrants directly linked to Golen Dawn. After she uploads some video footage of the violence, she gets a chilling response back in Greek: “Don’t cry. Soon the time for hunting Pakistanis will begin in earnest.”

Penny does a great job of sharing her personal observations. Make no mistake, this has gotten personal for both Penny and Crabapple. This is subjective reporting getting to the heart of the action in the spirit of gonzo journalism. We are brought intimately close to Greek citizens of various walks of life. The prevailing fear is that Golden Dawn is, as the saying goes, “winning the hearts and minds of its countrymen.” Despair hangs heavy over those who would resist. We sympathize as we take in conversations and take in a view of Athens amid dark highrises, due to an ordered cutback on electricity. The haze from the shallow bowl of pollution is only releived by the Aegean Sea twinkling in the distance.

What lies ahead is a desire to fight on. If the left is not getting through to the masses, then the left must learn to more actively engage. If the general public has concluded that the Occupy movement was a flash in the pan, Penny is hear to tell you that this is not true. In the last year, Penny reports, there’s been a systematic global police crackdown. In North America alone, there have been 7,500 protesters arrested. But the protesters are not done yet. Penny sums it up with a line from the Bible, from Jeremiah: “The harvest is past. The summer is ended, and we are not saved.” It is not meant to be read as defeat but as a fact that the struggle continues.

And if you should think that all of this is not your problem, the coda to this book is very apt. Penny describes what happened once she and Crabapple had returned to New York City. It was on September 17, 2012, the first year anniversay of the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations. This is what happened, the text read round the world: There is Molly Crabapple, neo-Victorian cartoonist simply standing on a street corner when she decides to take a snapshot of the NYPD’s tidy work at pushing back protesters. For this, Crabapple is plasticuffed and sent to jail. She manages to Tweet: “Arrested.” Housed in a cell with other women who had been picked off the street for doing the same thing, Molly Crabapple is jailed for twelve hours. When simply taking a photo lands you in jail, you really have to wonder where we’re headed.

Be sure to pick up your digital copy of “Discordia” and, if you happen to be in New York, you’ll want to view a special art show of Molly Crabapple’s work related to Occupy and beyond entitled, “Shell Game” at Smart Clothes Gallery. You can read more about it here.

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Filed under Gonzo Journalism, Hunter S. Thompson, Journalism, Laurie Penny, Molly Crabapple, news, Occupy movement, Ralph Steadman

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