“We’re the middle children of history man, no purpose or place. We have no Great war, no Great depression, our great war is a spiritual war, our great depression is our lives. We’ve been all raised by television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires and movie gods and rock stars, but we won’t and we’re slowly learning that fact.”
An Andean fog descends upon the Colombian capital, engulfing it in a timeless shell. A civil, guerrilla and drug warfare ridden history travels in its eerie haze. Yet its assault on the streets of Bogota’s old quarter, La Candelaria, is stymied by the vibrant tones of street art. Bogota’s grafiteros are the middle children-fighting a spiritual war.
Over the past two decades, socio-political, economic and technological advances have arguably enhanced the human experience. This generation has been largely untouched by the conflict, economic maladies and social unrest to the extent faced by an early 20th Century global community finding its footing. Today our battles focus on improving our rights, where our previous endeavours would have fought to create or defend them.
“I see all this potential, and I see squandering. God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables; slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need. “
The ‘spiritual war’ we face is endogenous to our environment. In the West, our battle is coming to terms with the consumerist society we have created, and questioning how to weight our values within it. In October 2012 a ‘WATERisLIFE.com’ video campaign went viral on YouTube. The video showed Haitians standing amid shanty huts, reading out ‘first-world problems’ such as ‘I hate it when my phone charger doesn’t reach my bed.’ Although its aim was to demonstrate the banality the ‘western world’, it still puts into perspective how spheres of concern shift as our basic rights are fulfilled.
For others, a spiritual war is about questioning their place in society. The growth of Islamic extremism illustrates how a proxy war to battle a western society, believed to be impeding freedoms, in reality is a redirection of anger from those finding themselves at the margins of society. Their frustrations have seen them indoctrinated into Jihad, and xenophobic organisations such as the English Defence League and British National Party, to find some semblance of voice.
A decade on from the 9/11, the Arab spring has demonstrated how the changing global environment has given humanity the opportunity to change the historic foundations forged for them. Social media provided the tipping point to battle against oppressive political regimes-and fuel a spiritual war for the Arab world’s people, who are trying to improve their positions in society.
In Bogota, the walls on each street tell a different story, from the anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist spray-paintings by the artist Toxicomano, to the feminism and poverty graphics of Bastardilla. On one Bogotano garage door, a large mural of a young woman carrying a rich man and his belongings on her back comes into view. Despite the humid afternoon mist fanning the capital, the deeply etched Spanish word ‘culpa’ or blame is easily readable on the rich man’s crucifix. ‘The poor and rich cannot live in harmony’ adds Ana, my guide. ‘The details, the messages and the colours are so impressive that some property owners actually pay the grafiteros to spray paint on their walls’. Where the spray-paint can is symbolic for anti-social behaviour, Bogotanos have made it their sign of defiance and empowerment, their canvasses become their voice.
As we reflect on our place in society and choose our ‘spiritual war’, we must select our creative voices over our destructive ones to give ourselves a purpose and place, and to make a mark on history, where we are ‘the middle children.’
- The Dharma of Fight Club. (elephantjournal.com)
- We are consumer… (roadtoworldtour.wordpress.com)
- Fight Club (Movie) (wsolarsurfer.wordpress.com)