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The Gang and the Government

This article was originally published in Arts Everywhere.

By Niki Singleton

This comic started with an unexpected experience I had going to a Jane’s Addiction concert in Port Chester, NY, a couple of months ago. The police presence at the concert was extremely intense, and the anxiety in the crowd over security was really high. My friends and I tried to get to a place on the concert floor where we could see the band because we were too short, but the crowd and the police were completely uncompromising. I was very surprised that the people in this crowd had come to see a band who symbolized individualism and freedom of expression yet they seemed like drones. I thought back to Lollapalooza in the 1990s when the crowd was moshing all over each other and there were no police in sight. What has happened since then to make us so paranoid that we can’t even be free from worry at a rock concert? Was it the Iraq War? . . . Suicide bombings and the Islamic State? . . . The financial crisis? . . . Increase in Refugees? Why has the U.S./Mexico border been armed with drones and there’s a vigilante hate group called the Borderkeepers of Alabama armed at the border to keep Mexicans out? How can a reporter be fined for taking photos of police in Spain? Why has a Muslim woman been made to disrobe at the beach in France?    

Is this escalating militarization of the police that’s happening in what seems like every corner of society fueled by fear of immigration? Victoria Esses, a social psychologist who’s spent 20 years researching the topic, states in this brilliant article in the New Scientist, “Opposition to immigration is widespread in many Western nations. Anti-immigration activists, the media and political elites have created a crisis mentality in which immigrants are portrayed as ‘enemies at the gate’. Immigrantsparticularly non-whitesare blamed for all of society’s woes. Such depictions encourage support for more extreme political platforms.”

The concert experience showed the degree of fear floating around in U.S. society now and made the institutions that uphold and galvanize that fear very apparent. Comparing the current social environment to 1990s Grunge music and that politically charged era, I couldn’t believe how overreaching the police have become and the xenophobia that existed in the crowd. If you can’t be free at a concert, where can you be?    

I thought of how valid Perry Ferrel’s lyrics are now to the Jane’s Addiction song "1%" so I wove them through the comic narrative:    

"The biggest gang I know they call the government. Gang is a weapon the you trade your mind in for . . . You gotta be just like them. The gang and the government. No Difference."    


Niki Singleton is a Canadian drawer, painter, and found material sculptor based in Brooklyn.

[Photo courtesy of Metruka]

[Image courtesy of Niki Singleton]


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