There is a meme making the social media circuits that depicts two runners on a racing track: one is ahead, but looks back towards another runner who seems to be about to overtake him. The caption reads “Still processing 2020 while 2021 be like…”
Somehow, I think it will take more than a few years for us to catch up. COVID 19’s impact on our social and material worlds has been overwhelming. The Peeps team refers to 2020 as the year of the Rupture, because institutions and structures that we have known to be exploitative, exclusionary and damaging have revealed themselves with steady reliability. The call for police reform, the Black Lives Matter movement, Indigenous pipeline protests (protests, in essence, of government treaty rights violations), sexism, racism, ageism, fatphobia…all have come under scrutiny as social issues born of toxic institutions and the complicity that feeds them. And in 2020 they all boiled over.
When faced with this level of social disruption, how do we even begin to tease it apart and find solutions?
Which led us to the question: how did we get here?
We thought that it was time for an issue on Toxicity and Complicity. This issue looks at how complicit behaviour enables toxic institutions to thrive. Complicity is tricky though: it can be used to do both good and bad things. It can communicate and enable positive social engagement as much as negative. It can exist in the people who turn away from the bully picking on someone in the schoolyard just as much as it exists in the good Samaritan who picks up groceries for their neighbour quarantining upstairs. It exists as much in the hands of the EMT who saves a life while off duty as the doctor who fails to identify a heart attack in a woman of colour due to implicit bias. At its worst, it can be a form of malevolence. But most of the time, it is seen in our failure to challenge ourselves and to face the things that stop us from doing what we can to be the best for each other. And it can exist in the policies we create as much as in the split-second decisions that define us.
“What must be remembered…is that secret complicity that joins the logical and the everyday to the tragic.” Albert Camus wrote this in 1942, about the artistry of Franz’s Kafka’s writing where Kafka illustrates the magical ties between our mundane and daily choices and great tragedy. But it applies just as easily to our current situation in which complicity is the connective tissue between exploitation and the world we live in, to sometimes absurd, and often tragic, result. I might get accused of literary heresy by appropriating Camus’ language, but as we assess our collective tragedies and absurdities from the last year and a half, Camus’ assessment, reframed, asks us to assess the failings of the world we have created through the choices we make everyday that fuel them: to understand what is required of us to do different and better.
I suspect neither author would disagree with my reframing of the sentence to apply to looking at our world today. Each has written, in their way, of alienation and exclusion with tragic and mortal consequences: yes, from the privileged positions of white, European men, but with complicated empathy for those who fall through the cracks. And this is what this issue of Peeps is about: empathy as a solution to the cracks that exist because of the poisonous mix of complicity, complacency and self-interest.
In this issue we hear from Anne Spice, an Indigenous scholar who did ethnographic research at the Wet’suwet’en camp. She speaks of how the idea of infrastructure as defined by the Canadian government fails Turtle Islanders, and Indigenous communities in particular, by refusing to recognize the existing ecosystem as critical infrastructure. She shares her experience of the commitment of Indigenous land defenders in trying to get government and industry to understand that prioritizing commerce over the ecosystem endangers everyone, though it is left to Indigenous Turtle Islanders to defend it.
Elizabeth Roberts, an American anthropologist working in Mexico, shares her insights from her work in Colonia Periférico, a neighbourhood in Mexico City that has created safety from the outside world by maximizing stigma (and the putrid smell that comes with it).
And our third (though not final) piece shared at initial publication has Israeli and Palestinian thinkers living in the West and in Israel speaking to their lived experience of the Israeli apartheid system, cutting through the rhetoric and sharing the on-the-ground colonialism of contemporary Israel.
All of this put into context by the exquisite illustration by Ale + Ale that graces our cover, articulating the complexity and interdependence of the toxic and complicit in our world.
And this was all made possible thanks to Peeps’ first digital issue sponsors, Digital 55 and LiisBeth Magazine.
Digital 55, a design collective committed to cutting-edge content development fueled by deep, qualitative and ethnographic research, came on board to sponsor our artwork for this issue, so all photographs, illustrations and video production are courtesy of their contribution to our work. If you tell them thank you (we do almost every day!) maybe we can get them back for next issue!
LiisBeth is a fantastic digital, womxn-led intersectional-lens centered feminist indie publication that shares stories of radical feminist entrepreneurship. They’re in to support our work both as a women-owned publication and as a publication devoted to deeply researched, thoroughly verified information.
Both of these companies are partners in spirit and in their commitment to bringing Peeps to you.
This issue covers big topics and big thoughts. And at its core, a call to action: a call to look at the places where we each decide we’ve done enough. An invitation to interrogate the policies and standards we all live by, so that we can all help to make a world with fewer cracks, and fewer people imperiled by systems that benefit some at the expense of many.
With that, we need to acknowledge that the production of this issue has been particularly fraught. This issue is dedicated to the family and friends we have lost this year and the incredible people who, despite personal tragedies, helped ensure that we were still able to publish. We stand with you in love and support.
Anya-Milana (A-M) Sulaver has been the Publisher of Peeps since 2018 and Executive Editor of the magazine since 2015, having worked as a cultural translator across film, television and academia for over 20 years. A-M’s work has included documentaries sharing Indigenous histories by Indigenous Turtle Islanders as well as rigorous study of narratives of national context in her MA in Interdisciplinary Studies. At the core of the work across her career is a commitment to ensuring those who have been “written over” are given space to write and speak themselves.
The Italian artists Alessandro Lecis and Alessandra Panzeri have been a studio team, Ale + Ale, since the year 2000. Although their fantasy life has them creating collages in a spaceship orbiting earth, their studio is actually located in France. Seeking an adventure in 2010, these two Italian friends packed up for Paris with their picture files, computers, and a French dictionary. From children’s books to corporate imagery, Ale + Ale’s collaborative work has garnered many international awards.
Sponsorship of illustrations and photography for this issue by