Agnes Török - Worthless

If you've ever watched "The Usual Suspects," you probably remember the line that "the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist." The same basic idea applies to our obsession with individualism and its concomitant concept of 'personal responsibility': you are free to pull yourself up by your bootstraps, to overcome any obstacles that are in your way, and to become whoever or whatever you want. Thus stated, it's a narrative of redemption and transcendence, bound to inspire anyone it touches.

But while this  attitude reveals the possibility of individual liberation and success, it also conceals the fact that the political, legal, cultural and economic system's logic and structure are rigged to perpetuate the inequalities upon which it necessarily depends. Instead, and because it's much easier to point to a particular individual instead of seeing the invisible structural connections and abstract philosophical presuppositions on which the entire system depends, it will be the individual who will be blamed for her failure to overcome the virtually impossible odds that were stacked against her from the outset.

If you've ever read C. Wright Mills' classic work "The Sociological Imagination," and understood the inescapable interaction between 'the personal troubles of milieu' and 'the public issues of social structure,' the following poem by performance artist Agnes Török, which powerfully exposes the insidious presuppositions embedded in the concepts of personal responsibility and austerity measures, should make you want to go back and re-awaken your own sociological understanding of the relationship between individual biography and collective history.

But maybe what we need is to go from this:

To this:

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