What we are and what we are not
Black Elephant is born in confinement and nourished by diversity and Earth’s abundant life and beauty. It is a rare animal at the intersection of a media brand, an artistic current, an influence ecosystem and a think-tank.
Black Elephant specifically embraces the metaphor of the house of modernity formulated by the Gesturing Towards Decolonial Futures (GTDF) collective and Vanessa Andreotti: it holds that we need to stop describing the myriad crises we face as deriving from external, exceptional threats to the house of modernity when actually these crises are a product of the violent, unsustainable practices required to build and sustain the house itself.
Black Elephant's values
Black Elephant holds that conversations in the northern hemisphere about whether and when climate and civilizational breakdown might occur are themselves a symptom of civilizational breakdown and of the aloofness of the 10% richest (those whose net worth is equal or superior to $93,000) and supposedly best educated humans. If you belong to the poor or even the middle class in the Philippines, Bangladesh, the Horn of Africa, the Sahel, Kinshasa, Sao Paulo or Honduras/Nicaragua, climate and civilizational breakdown are part of your daily reality right now.
Black Elephant recognizes that we have become a civilization of un-endearing toddlers and smooth talkers. It calls on us all to walk our talk and in so doing, to grow up and become wise.
Black Elephant is therefore about pondering the difference between problems and predicaments. It sees our present and the era opened by Covid-19 as a seminal moment in the human trajectory, an invitation to pause and take stock of these contradictions and unsustainability and to resist the Cartesian urge to fix and solution predicaments which unlike problems have no easy fixes.
Black Elephant holds that growing up is among others about pausing and taking stock of the insanity of our present without looking away or re-acting to it. It posits the notion that there are different kinds of hope and that there is such a thing as toxic hope: i.e. the hope that we can maintain the current global system going.
Black Elephant disputes the notion that what has happened on planet earth since the Enlightenment should be the only or even the main prism to understand where we stand and where we need to go from here. It holds that something broke down when we went from a fundamentally nomadic to a fundamentally sedentary species. It holds that our contemporary predicaments are not decades or centuries but millennia in the making.
Black Elephant is therefore about reembracing elements of our ancestral nomadic worldview. We walk together with others in conversation: listening and holding silent spaces to mourn, reflect, and breathe.
Black Elephant is infused by the nascent understanding of epigenetics and the understanding that our DNA is modified by experience. That trauma and resilience and other traits are transmitted through generations. And that claiming that colonization, empire and slavery bear limited relevance to our present because they are decades or even centuries old and therefore “behind us” is nonsense.
Black Elephant has a strong element of African DNA. It holds that Africa concentrates all the contradictions of our present. Without romanticizing the African experience, Black Elephant believes it holds crucial lessons for the world at large. That Africa isn’t solely a geography but a lens through which we can reassert our common shared humanity, a prism we can use to stop othering each other and to stop othering nature.
Black Elephant offers a radical critique of the addiction to growth we call capitalism and is animated by the awareness of the original meaning of the term “economy” (management of the household). It therefore recognizes the deeply oxymoronic nature of the phrase “global economy” and that the latter has become a metastasizing superorganism out of anyone’s control. We aim to confront human indifference to inequality and tackle our addiction to growth without forsaking technological innovation and the role it plays in our lives.
Black Elephant is skeptical of notions of good and evil and favors those of healthy and sick instead. We recognize that we are all part of the problem and can all be part of the solution to our troubles. Today’s white supremacist can be tomorrow’s saint.
Black Elephant values neighbors and community and thrives on local expertise, slow movement, frugality, simplicity, humility, goodwill, honesty and propriety. We do not shirk from addressing the elephant in the room. We often disagree, sometimes fiercely, but we go out of our way to hear each other and put ourselves in each other’s shoes, remaining mindful that all truth and knowledge claims are informed by incurable human ignorance. We therefore stay clear from attitudes of contempt and self-righteousness, the signature political emotions of our age.
Black Elephant is the work and play of generalists and regionalists, rich and poor, worker and thinker, and embraces all manner of kin, human and other-than-human.
Black Elephant believes that sharing our collective wisdoms in this moment may address stubborn problems and worn-out and dangerous perspectives, even if we ourselves hold on deeply to some of them.
Black Elephant hopes that such conversations generate new stories and opportunities fundamental to living in planetary commonwealth.
Black Elephant evokes our pachyderm neighbors with their thick skins, sharp memory, generous care of their young and their manner of walking together.