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HOUDINI Magazine

Erik Houdini


If Silence is Complicity, What Responsibility Do Artists Have?

In the face of overwhelming injustice and tragedy, silence can be more than just a passive act—it can be complicit. The brutal genocide and ethnic cleansing of Palestinian people by Israel and the United States is impossible to ignore, with more than 10,000 lives taken since October 7th, the majority of them innocent children. The artistic community has always been a mirror to society—reflecting its beauty, its flaws, and its truths. And in these trying times, many artists have risen to the occasion, leveraging their platforms and the power of their voices to condemn this atrocity. Yet, for every artist shouting in defiance, there are those who disturbingly align themselves as pro-genocide, and even more who stand eerily silent. Artists who, through their work, depict tales of rebellion, resistance, and survival yet have chosen to remain mute when these very themes unfold in reality.

As children continue to fall victim, and as the nightmarish partnership of the US military and the IDF embarks on their harrowing mission of settler colonialism, it's impossible to deny the magnitude of the crisis. Reports and evidence are piling up—Israel's chilling "final solution" for the Palestinian people and the US's staggering pledge of $100 billion for camps [1] in Sinai stand as testament to this. The mainstream media's blatant endorsement of the genocide and the glaring absence of genuine representation from our elected officials only deepens the wound. So, in such dire circumstances, we must pose a critical question: What is the role and responsibility of the artists, the creators, those who often serve as the mouthpieces for the marginalized and the working class?

In an society where desensitization to mass tragedies seems almost commonplace, where societal reaction to monumental injustices, such as the ongoing genocide, is reduced to a shoulder shrug and a fatalistic "it is what it is," we must interrogate what this reveals about our collective consciousness. At the intersection of this societal numbness stands the artist. And the art they produce? It is the mirror, reflecting the values, beliefs, and sometimes, the unsettling silence of our communities.

The truth is, artists wield immense influence. As an ardent follower of hip-hop, I can attest to the power of music in shaping thought. It was Immortal Technique's verses that ignited my journey into political consciousness, urging me to delve into stories like that of Mumia Abu-Jamal. When artists dare to speak truth to power, their authenticity resonates. Listeners can distinguish genuine conviction from superficiality; the latter is nothing but hollow words falling on discerning ears.

The haunting silence of artists who've built their careers on themes of rebellion, resistance, and anti-establishment is deafening. These are artists who have beckoned their audience into a community of shared ethos, promising unity and advocacy. But when faced with the ongoing genocide, their reticence is jarring. It's been both a revelation and a disappointment to observe artists like Denzel Curry step up and speak out, while others, whom I've admired and whose art introduced me to punk anthems like "Fuck World Trade" by Leftover Crack, remain conspicuously silent. The same artists who've sung songs of rising above oppression are mute during a pivotal historical moment. Yet, the likes of Kehlani, among others, have not backed down.

Today's heartbreaking news of more than 400 innocent Palestinians killed and wounded in the Jabalia refugee camp during an Israeli carpet bombing using American made muntions[2] only adds urgency to this discourse. The deafening silence of so many artist peers, especially against this backdrop of horror, is glaring.

Artists, whether at the zenith of success or navigating the grassroots, must realize our newfound responsibility. The masses are starved for genuine representation. The mainstream offerings—brands, media, and even art—are mere shadows of their lived experiences. They rally, they rebel, they voice out, yet the pop culture they consume is a mere facsimile of their struggles, offering little depth or real connection. In this sea of superficiality, it falls upon us—the creatives—to bridge this gap. We must reject the shallow, the performative, and challenge the status quo. If we aim to leave a lasting impact and genuinely represent the people, our voices must be unwavering, undiluted, and untamed. Our art must be a beacon of truth in an era of dissonance.

In the era of collapse, it is not enough to merely be Sisyphus, one must embody Atlas as well.

UPDATE 0622am CST 11/01/23: Israel has struck the Jabalia refugee camp again, current death numbers are unknown.
There can be no doubt, to stand in silence is to be complicit in genocide. Is your favorite artist complicit?


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