Jun 28, 2022

by Jean-Marie Mauclet

Something monstrously tragic happened in Uvalde Texas on May 24th, 2022. The latest school mass shooting (at the time), which claimed the death of yet an other 21 Americans: two adults and 19 children. Ten days earlier, 10 daily shoppers were massacred in Buffalo, the city where I landed when I first came to America. Buffalo, where I was confronted, right away, with mysteriously symbolic signs of intergenerational violence … What was the message behind this WW2 Memorial, with a tank pointing its canon at a school across the street, anyway? Not to speak of the next ten or twelve or more shootings, the many victims. Americans, killed, for ever. All this violence, structural or not, acted out or muted is beyond words although words are urgently needed. Beyond time as it alters each of us, young and old, intergenerationally.

The following came to me when, eventually, profound grief overcame my common sense. Sometimes though, as in a Greek tragedy, the loss of common sense brings about moments of clarity, creativity, as one tries to escape the stubborn effects of sideration. Such is the obscure and complex work of catharsis. My own moment of sideration rumbled in as a tide: a flow, an overflow of images, feelings, memories, colors, facts which, as it settled down – it must settle down lest one loses one’s mind – turned into thoughts, now on paper, right here.

* * *

In Buffalo, an 18 years old crashes his car next to a Tops supermarket, kills a security guard in his 50‘s, enters and shoots a 32 years old and nine others between 50 and 82.

In Uvalde, an other 18 years old shoots his grandmother, around the age of 60. He drives 200 miles to a school he had attended previously and proceeds to savagely kill a large number of 10 years old students, whose frightened, disheartened parents, around 30 years of age, converge to the school to confront fate – that of their beloved children – and two teachers, 45 and 48.

These are truly intergenerational tragedies. The span of ages they cover, certainly shows it. Also, the duration of the Uvalde carnage – a measure of eternity – the invasive shadow of doubt it will leave on the soul … for generations to come. How can we not read these murders as the tragic unfolding of bloody intentional, systematic, obsessive scripts ?

And what of those cars the killers drove, substitutes for the legendary horses of some Apocalypse?

Who can decide, or not, to get over this intentionally? It is much too overwhelming. It resembles an archetypal development, worthy of Sophocles: two parallel stages, two parallel massacres, two groups of “others”, victims in America.

Understood this way, ten days in May 2022, have brought forever pain to all, shame to whoever is not left breathless, and catharsis to those who, un/knowingly Jungian, believe that when the tragic reaches such a universal dimension, it drills down into the collective unconscious – so deep down – that it will reveal collective directions for change. It will conjure, upon citizens, a willfulness to become agents of hope.

Surely, in these dismal developments, the Intergenerational appears and shines as an agent of hope. A vehicle for collective survival. The human chain it embodies makes humanity’s past and future cohere. The present is the stage of its reality – we are its present – and we’d better not wager.

Earlier, I mentioned the collective unconscious. I want to extend this notion far enough that it reaches all the way to belonging as a universal psychological force. The farther the reach into the ancestry, the stronger the generational links towards the future. At the end, if there is no intergenerationality, there is no belonging. The depth of one anchors that of the other.

The fact that two 18 year old assassins took down a grandmother and a security guard – both, symbols of authority – before they could reach the stage of their deed is, in itself, revealing of a de facto intergenerational conflict. Of course, the accumulation of facts around the Uvalde event, from the unanswered 911 calls by children to the incapacitated police, do augment the tragic specter. Commenting would be improper, though. Yet, I still want to say that a cleansing catharsis will develop. But only if we collectively grasp the full scope of the tragedies, eyes and minds wide open, tears and screams if need be, deep pain for sure. All the way to our elected officials! Their legitimacy depends on it.

These tragedies belong in times unbound, unmarked by generations. They are intergenerational, unbound, unmarked by generations.

* * *

Let me take an other angle of approach and remember how, when I was 20, I experienced the Intergenerational in my relationship with elders. A dream of a relationship, indispensable. An appeased dialogue which fulfills the human needs of both actors, the young and the much older. So much so that I profoundly wonder about the possibility of an unconscious desire, on the part of young school shooters, to severe this vital intergenerational arc, for reasons which may well reach as deep as “the civilizational”: nebula-like complexity, between eternity and mortality, which only the accumulated wisdom of generations can face without flinching! America, the nation, when will you respect your young and your elders enough? – Never enough.

My grandfather:

There was a deep sense of trust between my paternal grandfather and myself after I was 16 or so. In a family where interpersonal dialogue was inexistent, his reputation was that of a cold authoritarian, at work and at home. I was the only one who could approach him openly. I would even ask him rather personal questions. He would answer and lend me books he had been reading on the subject at hand: my personal educator.

Pierre Labat:

This French gentleman was a 70 years old retired forester, part time game warden, when I met him. Naming him here is offering the world a monument to his kindness, his patience, his wisdom, his humanity. We would hang out after hours, on the bridge over the near stream, as hot summer days were cooling down. He was a considerate listener to a student, uncertain of his choices. At a difficult moment, he gave me the courage, the heart to see family for what it had become, and to refuse it: the blind enforcer of arbitrary norms, the anti-liberation squad! Ultimately, it is thanks to Mr Labat and my grandfather that I found it in me to leave Europe and come to America.

Leo Amino:

In the mid-1970’s, at the Cooper Union in New York, I met the most amazing teacher. How can I forget the (older) man who convinced me, for yet an other switch in my search for meaning, to reconsider architecture and choose art as a more humane, more empathetic, more giving, convivial way to earn a living! Obviously, he himself never hit it rich! But he showed so much dedication to handing down his visions, his general knowledge, his sculptor’s skills, his humanity, that … I am here now, still emulating this great man … whose work, by the way, is presently witnessing a renaissance! There are no negligible artists, there are only myopic art influencers, right?

Interesting to see that the three elders I have stowed in my pantheon are men. I should really have offered Gwylène’s mother a place with them. She would have kept them sharp as she did me. With few, well chosen words, a lot of attention and a great independence of mind, she was a beautifully supportive person. She may have called me an idiot at times but she was always here to participate in our efforts to do good work.

* * *

Now, when it comes to the octogenarian I soon will be, who intends to open up to the 20 and 30 year old members of the collective -50 years younger or more, imagine!- the adventure is, say, not linear! They are so tolerant, so patient, so generous! This is their way to show their strong, resilient character and prove their ability to guide the ancestry into their contemporaneity, to make the ancestors current. Definitely, this is not a job for young men! I can only name four young women, who pursued the challenge and, therefore, are being admitted in my pantheon. Sorry, this is macho speak! Take it back, JM. Anyway … they would never accept to be stored away in a corny-musty temple of praise in any case! A place of honor at my funeral may be more appropriate! In the meantime, women, young women in particular, are the future of the world. Needless to say, the whole anti-abortion horror show, led by mostly very old, very white, very fearful and cowardly men, is but an egocentered, most cruelly vengeful reflexion of their ridicule and irrelevance. Their unhinged misogyny!

Here are the glorious TinyisPOWERFUL winners of the intergenerational contest, in alphabetic order: Asha, Morgan, Rayn, Victoria. Since I have written or am in the process of writing a paper about each of them and their work, I refer whoever to the Reservoir of the WEB-APP. All I need to say is that, every time I meet with them, in person or on Zoom, they basically floor me with their determination. What I have learned fastest, though, is that they are in charge!

“Maybe” … “Well, l will have to think about this.” … “Jean-Marie, would you write something about this, or that, in the Reservoir?” … Such is the language of their diplomacy. In the meantime, the work is being done. And the process strengthens all, young and old. This-here is open, equal, reciprocal intergenerationality!

PS: Let me add that, as in/with community artists in Charleston, Gwylène and l have always assembled with intergenerational (and interracial) teams, from conNECKted to conNECKtedTOO, to TiNYisPowerful. Before that, we either had individual productions, or worked with artists or non-artists our age. Here is their chance to have their voice heard: in the App Reservoir.