From DIXIE PHOENIX #15 — July 1997
3888 N. 30th St.
Arlington, VA 22207
Far too many people decide that political/cultural/social analysis does not require thought. Then they write a zine about it. They know they're onto something and they're right: they've found a way to get angry and stay that way. I never found the logic in this, but of course that's because there is none. One can only hope they will embrace life instead of finding reasons to be repulsed and resentful of it before most of theirs is gone.
Fragments was created out of a great deal of thought and observation, which is why I found it so compelling. Even when I disagreed strongly with a hypothesis or two, they were laid out in an earnest—not angry—manner. Furthermore, reading Fragments makes you question what your own thoughts on some of the depressing observations of our modern times.
Apparently, Fragments has gotten some flack from some reviewers for not being conclusive: not offering solutions to the problems he observes. Someone should point out to these folks that an intelligent person may know a car is wrecked while not having the expertise to know how to fix it. In fact, Jim does offers solutions and explore avenues away from what he sees as many roads leading to humanity's destruction.
The issue's theme is 'disintegration' and through several sections of clustered 'fragments', he discusses aspects of society and predominantly American culture that are devolving to a point of near-collapse. I agree that in an era of multi-national mega-corporations, nation-states on overdrive and an economic system that avoids civil liberties and democracy where feasible, we are losing our own humanity, our very concepts of what it is to live decently. However, too much of the argument appears to rest on a notion that we will be able to just scrap the whole works and begin again.
Certainly, at a zine with a name like ours, we know of death and rebirth, but a phoenix rises out its own ashes, not out of nothingness. Reincarnation depends on a previous incarnation: you need to have been from somewhere, be something, to go and be something else. Even if it's a radical opposite of what you just were, it can't be an opposite unless it's opposite to something. And we don't need to limit ourselves to binary opposites either.
Coupled with this issue is another stated notion that we can choose our lifestyles and places in society. Beyond the fact that lives should really not be thought of as a style or commodity, the basic bottom line is we are not brought into the world with a blank slate with which to choose how we'd like to live. No one has ever had that luxury in the history of humanity. While democratic republics such as ours allow a great deal of freedom to attain positions and standards of living, there are certain factors which are ascribed to us at birth. This is not a case for genetic determinism or similar bunk. If you are born without the ability to see, you will face issues that a sighted person will not simply because of the physical facts at hand. Bill Gates children, if he has any, will most likely not have to worry about the cost of college us many other children and their parents will. As one Special Olympics athlete put it: "I'm not disadvantaged, I was born at a different starting position."
What Jim does best in Fragments is make those observations where our democratic republic is less democratic and humane; even where it is more materialistic and downright antagonistic toward human decency. Where it falls short is where it asserts an unspoken assumption that a 'counterculture' is not inexorably linked to the culture: that you may find and replace culture as you might an old gasket.
You are not free from culture any more than you are enslaved by it just as you are not free to live without a pancreas yet are not enslaved by it. Culture is akin to an organ: part of you, Organic. You may make decisions that affect culture just as you may take supplements to alter the insulin and glucagon levels of your pancreas.....but you can't do away with all together and hope that something else will come along. (By the way, anyone is welcome to send me a picture of their conception of a DEMON PANCREAS FROM OUTER SPACE!)
For those whose interest has been piqued by this review-now-essay, I encourage you to order a copy of Fragments. His second issue is slated to be about 'power' and should also be out by the time of this review.