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The Bravest Moment in Human History
Rep, Greg Casar, a Texas Democrat, went to the wall for American workers this week, risking his own body to draw attention to the need for federal standards requiring paid water breaks on the job. This sudden need, as Casar’s colleagues have explained, arises from a mean new Texas law that doesn’t allow construction workers to drink water anymore — though that interpretation, you’ll be shocked to hear, is vigorously disputed.
Here Casar is on the verge of collapse, being checked and treated after his heroic act of near-deadly defiance, and you know this is a serious medical situation because of the O² monitor on his finger:
His heroic feat: an eight-hour hunger and thirst strike, fearlessly turning aside all nourishment between breakfast and dinner. Watch video here of a crowd bursting into respectful applause as Rep. Casar takes his first desperate gulp of water after his brutal journey of endurance. The moment has also been captured as a still photograph on the congressman’s website:
Don’t worry, though, as a “team of nurses” safeguarded him on the journey. A full 8.5-hour livestream of Greg Casar not drinking water has been preserved for posterity. Humanity will long remember the moment this man had the courage to do this.
The usually unspoken assumption underlying the consumption of news is that we’re keeping in touch with what’s going on in the world — staying informed about the important things that are happening. But the historian Daniel Boorstin described the news as containing a growing series of “pseudo-events” that are performed entirely for the purpose of being covered, which means that it mostly doesn’t contain information about the world of the actual. If journalists wanted to cover the claim that Texas has forbidden workers to drink water, they’d go to work sites and — note the framing of the second story in the set of headlines above, the one from The Nation — see if workers are drinking water. They will not do this, and so we’ll get an ongoing series of political stunt performances representing a fake claim for people who will “cover” the performance.
I am, of course, thinking about this exchange of performance and recital as I sit in a small Kansas town that the New York Times has declared to be experiencing an explosive cultural and economic renaissance, making its thriving downtown of cool bars and restaurants and boutique hotels into a global must-see travel destination.
At some point we appear to have erased the boundaries around pseudo-events, mistaking declaration for creation.
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