From Marguerite Duras:
(...) when women don’t write about desire, . . . they’ve entered the realm of plagiarism.
From Marguerite Duras:
(...) when women don’t write about desire, . . . they’ve entered the realm of plagiarism.
From Ta-Nehisi Coates :
People who take a strict binary view of culture ("culture of privilege = awesome; culture of poverty = fail") are afflicted by the provincialism of privilege and thus vastly underestimate the dynamism of the greater world. They extoll "middle-class values" to the ignorance and exclusion of all others. To understand, you must imagine what it means to confront algebra in the morning and "Shorty, can I see your bike?" in the afternoon. It's very nice to talk about "middle-class values" when that describes your small, limited world. But when your grandmother lives in one hood and your coworkers live another, you generally need something more than "middle-class values." You need to be bilingual.
David Brooks polluted the American 'culture' debate with mediocre thinking and thus, it is just desperately obnoxious and wasteful!
The sentence of the year, so far, from Simon Waxman:
In some respects, identity politics is a monster the left has unleashed upon itself.
The sentence of the day from Martha Vicinus:
Sexuality, unlike race or gender, is most often seen in terms of identity, rather than power.
Awesome response from Philip Roth to the assertion that he is considered to be a Jewish American writer:
'An American-Jewish writer' is an inaccurate if not also a sentimental description, and entirely misses the point. The novelist's obsession, moment by moment, is with language: finding the right next word. For me, as for Cheever, DeLillo, Erdrich, Oates, Stone, Styron and Updike, the right next word is an American-English word. I flow or I don't flow in American English. (...)The American republic is 238 years old. My family has been here 120 years, or for just more than half of America's existence. They arrived during the second term of President Grover Cleveland, only 17 years after the end of Reconstruction. Civil War veterans were in their 50s. Mark Twain was alive. Sarah Orne Jewett was alive. Henry Adams was alive. All were in their prime. Walt Whitman was dead just two years. Babe Ruth hadn't been born. If I don't measure up as an American writer, at least leave me to my delusion.
Please, Ta-nehisi stop you are going to make me puke!:
"I am not raising 'nothing niggers,'" my mother used to tell me. "I am not raising niggers to stand on the corner." My mother did not know her father. In my life, I've loved four women. One of them did not know her father and the other two, very often, wished they didn't. It's not very hard to look at that, and seethe. It's not very hard to look at that and see a surrender, while you are out here at war, and seethe. It not hard to look around at your community and feel that you are afflicted by quitters, that your family--in particular--is afflicted by a weakness. And so great is this weakness that the experience of black fatherlessness can connect Barack Obama in Hawaii to young black boys on the South Side, and that fact--whatever the charts, graphs and histories may show--is bracing. When Barack Obama steps into a room and attacks people for presumably using poverty or bigotry as an excuse to not parent, he is channeling a feeling deep in the heart of all black people, a frustration, a rage at ourselves for letting this happened, for allowing our community to descend into the basement of America, and dwell there seemingly forever. (...) There are moments when I hear the president speak and I am awed. No one, from the offices of the White House, could have better explained to America what the George Zimmerman verdict meant. And I think history will remember that, and remember him for it. But I think history will also remember his unquestioning embrace of "twice as good" in a country that has always given, even under his watch, black people half as much.
Ah a deep thought from Ta-nehisi Coates!:
Racism is a kind of fatalism, so seductive, that it enthralls even its victims. But we will not get out of this by being on our best behavior—sometimes it has taken our worse. There's never been a single thing wrong with black people that the total destruction of white supremacy would not fix.
The power of shame is shameful particularly on race men people!
Well, best wishes to all for the new year (ah it's a world cup year yeah!) and here's a sugary excerpt from Fredrick C. Harris:
What started as a philosophy promulgated by black elites to “uplift the race” by correcting the “bad” traits of the black poor has now evolved into one of the hallmarks of black politics in the age of Obama, a governing philosophy that centers on managing the behavior of black people left behind in a society touted as being full of opportunity. In an era marked by rising inequality and declining economic mobility for most Americans—but particularly for black Americans—the twenty-first-century version of the politics of respectability works to accommodate neoliberalism. The virtues of self-care and self-correction are framed as strategies to lift the black poor out of their condition by preparing them for the market economy.
For more than half of the twentieth century, the concept of the “Talented Tenth” commanded black elites to “lift as we climb,” or to prove to white America that blacks were worthy of full citizenship rights by getting the untalented nine-tenths to rid themselves of bad customs and habits. Today’s politics of respectability, however, commands blacks left behind in post–civil rights America to “lift up thyself.” Moreover, the ideology of respectability, like most other strategies for black progress articulated within the spaces where blacks discussed the best courses of action for black freedom, once lurked for the most part beneath the gaze of white America. But now that black elites are part of the mainstream elite in media, entertainment, politics, and the academy, respectability talk operates within the official sphere, shaping the opinions, debates, and policy perspectives on what should—and should not—be done on the behalf of the black poor.
I need to read Amartya Sen's latest book.
A good reason to read and to love Belle Waring:
The past is a region ruled by the soft bigotry of low expectations. We all allow it to run up against the asymptote of any moral value we hold dear now. We are moved by the ideals of Thomas Jefferson even though we know he took his wife’s little sister, the sister she brought with her as a six-month old baby, the very youngest part of her dowerage when she married him—he took that grown girl as a slave concubine, and raped that woman until he died. We would all think it a very idiotic objection to The Good Soldier Švejk that women weren’t allowed to serve in the military at that time and so it didn’t bear reading. My favorite part of the Odyssey is book XXII, when Odysseus, having strung his bow, turns its arrows on the suitors and, eventually, kills them all. This is despite the fact that he and Telemachus go on to hang the 12 faithless maids with a ship’s cable strung between the courtyard and another interior building, so that none of them will die cleanly, and they struggle like birds with their feet fluttering above the ground for a little while, until they are still. There is no point in traveling into the land of “how many children had Lady MacBeth,” but, at the same time—the suitors raped those women, at least some of them, and likely all, if we use our imagination even in the most limited and machine-like fashion on the situation. Still it is my favorite, because I am vengeful.
(...) Paula Deen polls way better among Georgia Republicans than the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Favorability/unfavorability: Paula Deen 73/11, Martin Luther King Jr. 59/28. And that’s just the people who are willing to say they don’t like MLK on the phone. How many of them do you think hate him more than that?
Hum, well at least Cornel West is consistent. Is that a good thing? I don't know but he is onto something.
Old, but great stuff fromm Amitava Kumar:
As an Indian, I’m raising my kids in the firm belief that sooner or later, everyone in this country [America] is going to look like Kal Penn.
That would make America the handsomest country in the world and an Abercrombie & Fitch's wet dream!
Sugary excerpt of the week so far from Zoe Holman:
Discussing the traditional role of corporeality in protest, Judith Butler recently noted that: “if there is a body in the public sphere, it is masculine, free to create, but not itself created... When male citizens enter into the public square to debate questions of justice, revenge, war, and emancipation, they take the illuminated public square for granted as the architecturally bounded theatre of their speech.” By contrast, the female body has customarily been associated with the sexual, the childish, the labouring and the pre-political. This being the case, Butler argues for the need to interrogate and challenge the division of gendered bodies into “one that appears publicly to speak and act, and another, feminine, foreign and mute, that is generally relegated to the private and pre-political sphere.” (...)
Boobs can be fun. Boobs can be frivolous, primal or sexy. For this reason, they are compelling. In the right context, they might prove powerful. But they are also distracting. And for those women wishing to enter the theatre of political speech to debate questions of justice, emancipation, war, or indeed the sales tax on tampons, to achieve something more than lechery and to be taken seriously, they may prove a diversion.
En quelle année sommes-nous ?
Perhaps my problem with it has more to do with no longer finding feminism to be a useful filter through which to look at the world. The Fourth Wave of feminism (apparently it is a thing, yes) looks exactly like the Third Wave of feminism, and endlessly recapping Girls doesn't seem to be making the world a safer place for women. The two "feminist" works I liked the most recently actually didn't have that much to do with outright feminism: Depression by Ann Cvetkovich and Why Love Hurts by Eva Illouz. (Also: Monoculture by FS Michaels.) They were more about, how do we live within this structure -- or outside this structure -- that was built by the patriarchy without losing our minds. This is the way things are set up, by capitalism and by that whole white male thing, and let's write about what that does to a person. Not just women, which is an important part of it. It has nothing to do with the rejection of feminism, and Brazilian waxes never come up for debate at all! It's about feminism just being one weapon in your arsenal. Your mighty, mighty arsenal.
From Helen Epstein :
The administration’s neglect of human rights in Africa is a great disappointment, since the president began his first term by laying out ambitious new goals for the continent. In July 2009, when his presidency was only six months old, Barack Obama delivered a powerful speech at Cape Coast Castle in Ghana, the point from which millions of African slaves were shipped across the Atlantic. He called on African countries to end the tyranny of corruption that affects so many of their populations, and to build strong institutions that serve the people and hold leaders accountable. The speech seemed to extend the message of his much-discussed Cairo address a month earlier, in which he called for a new beginning for Muslim relations with the West, based on non-violence and mutual respect. Many thought that the policies of the new president, himself of Kenyan descent, would depart from those of the Bush administration, which provided a great deal of development aid to Africa, but paid scant attention to human rights.After more than four years in office, however, Obama has done little to advance the idealistic goals of his Ghana speech.
Oh Well as the one himself once said words matter and the trouble here starts with the fact that having an 'african' policy doesn't mean much for there is no africa. Moreover, the saddest fact is that reality when it comes to Obama's deeds in countries on the african continent doesn't matter because of the worst and most dangerous anti-intellectual form of identity politics.
I bet that at least some Nigeriens are happy to have a drone base in Niamey.
From Nidra Poller:
Contraception and abortion alone could not bring about the desired transformation of the female condition. They were the technology. The metaphysics was what has become known as “gender studies.” In the early days of Women’s Liberation it was makeshift ideology peddled in volumes of look-alike fiction and non-fiction best sellers shouting that maternity was a drag, femininity a hype, sexual differences induced by cynical manipulation, love and marriage an extension of the military industrial complex, and men were chauvinist pigs. No more pink for girls and blue for boys. Sexually marked toys were not abandoned but switched: cars and trucks for girls, dolls and tea sets for boys. Women wanted, or were told they wanted, something called equality.
The harbingers of this “sexual revolution” were, more often than not, closet lesbians. Later we not only discovered that they were lesbians telling heterosexual women to kick their men in the balls and out of their lives, they were also playing stereotypical sexual roles in private, some as simpering mistresses to others more macho than any man could be.
I'm so speechless that I've lost my French!
Awesome stuff from Hilary Mantel:
Marie Antoinette was a woman eaten alive by her frocks. She was transfixed by appearances, stigmatised by her fashion choices. Politics were made personal in her. Her greed for self-gratification, her half-educated dabbling in public affairs, were adduced as a reason the French were bankrupt and miserable. It was ridiculous, of course. She was one individual with limited power and influence, who focused the rays of misogyny. She was a woman who couldn’t win. If she wore fine fabrics she was said to be extravagant. If she wore simple fabrics, she was accused of plotting to ruin the Lyon silk trade. But in truth she was all body and no soul: no soul, no sense, no sensitivity. She was so wedded to her appearance that when the royal family, in disguise, made its desperate escape from Paris, dashing for the border, she not only had several trunk loads of new clothes sent on in advance, but took her hairdresser along on the trip. Despite the weight of her mountainous hairdos, she didn’t feel her head wobbling on her shoulders. When she returned from that trip, to the prison Paris would become for her, it was said that her hair had turned grey overnight.
Antoinette as a royal consort was a gliding, smiling disaster, much like Diana in another time and another country. But Kate Middleton, as she was, appeared to have been designed by a committee and built by craftsmen, with a perfect plastic smile and the spindles of her limbs hand-turned and gloss-varnished. When it was announced that Diana was to join the royal family, the Duke of Edinburgh is said to have given her his approval because she would ‘breed in some height’. Presumably Kate was designed to breed in some manners.
Beauty is always unproblematic and uncontroversial when it is/appears to be empty and yes, David Cameron can't read.
Food for thought from Alice M Milller via Balkinzation:
Contemporary sexual rights work has some of this same tendency in the hands of the nations who have picked up the standard as part of their geopolitical positioning. Moreover, perhaps because sexual rights has had to gain credibility as a form of rights work, advocates have often mistaken respectability for respect. There are many moments in which ‘progress’ in the sexual rights claims of one group has been made by the strategic clambering of one group up the ladder of respectability over the backs of others. Some sub-groups ascend the sexual hierarchy by conforming to as many of the prevailing standards of sexual legitimacy as possible. Other advocates seek the longer and more difficult route of changing the standards of sexual legitimacy for everyone. Think of the respectability attached to monogamy, sex without money, regulated fertility. These short cuts to advance by groups are not new problems, or unique to sexuality, nor are they likely to end—they are part and parcel of social struggles.
I agree with Kweli Jaoko on this with the usual caveat that I don't agree with the west/rest division:
The banality, say, of tweeting and hashtagging, is part of the socio-historical through which misogyny becomes reflexive. Banality becomes the training we put ourselves through to make misogyny reflexive. What might it mean to understand misogyny through the kind of training that produces reflexes? Certainly the banality of tweeting and hashtagging labors to traffic the misogyny of #TeamMafisi and pass it off as ordinary, everyday, as part of the affects and intensities exchanged through the internet, and therefore something one must put up with. The fallacy is that misogyny is slightly inconveniencing.
As Western media deploys an Orientalist lens that locates rape and misogyny squarely in India—meaning, in the Global South, outside the West, and, yet again, as the need to save brown women from brown men—I would like us to think locally. Misogyny is not just a problem in India; in Kenya; or on Twitter. It is a problem everywhere, including here in the West from where I write.
Well it is always easier and satisfying even to criticize the barbarians rather than to recognize the world has, how should I put it, a woman problem!
Sugary excerpt of the best article I read last weekend from Scott Reynold Nelson on Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained, which I'm planning to see because of what Roger Ebert said about it and because I don't want Spike Lee to be right in this case :
Immediately after the Civil War, African-American men built these powerful, folkloric characters in a world where slavery had ended but attacks against black men and women had intensified. The stories of quiet, unpredictable, and violent men who were fearless and died at the end could be simultaneously cautionary tales about the dangers of challenging white authority and covert stories about the thrill of resistance.
They are fantasies about striking back. Yet they are frank about how dangerous fighting back could be. Bad-man stories passed into rhymed insults called "the dozens," then into blues songs, then into rap, and finally into hip-hop.
They were also emulated and twisted by white interpreters into "coon" songs popular for decades, then by Jim Croce in "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown," and finally wended their way into blaxploitation films. Indeed, the stories have been so distorted that it is difficult to learn about the original songs, the parodies having outshone the originals. The legendary African-American bad man became irresistible to white interpreters simultaneously fascinated and repelled by the image of a quiet, violent, fearless black destroyer. The bad-man story that freed people told about slavery and its aftermath was quickly converted into the story of the sullen black stranger, the zoot-suit Negro with a razor in his pocket, the dangerous ghetto demigod.
From the great Pankaj Mishra:
The European idea of the nation-state, realized after much horrific bloodshed in Europe itself, was always a poor fit for Asia’s diverse mosaic.
Joseph Roth, who grew up in the multinational Hapsburg empire, was appalled by the imperatives of modern nationalism, according to which “every person must belong to a definite nationality or race” in order to be treated as an individual citizen. Roth, a Jew, suspected that members of minority groups, like himself, would be relegated to third-class citizenship, and vicious prejudice against them would be made respectable in the new nation-states built on the ruins of multinational empires.
The ethnic cleansers of 20th century Europe proved him right. It required a monstrous crime and a repentant political imagination to institute peace between warring European nations and soften attitudes toward minorities.
The battle against bigotry is far from over; Europe’s long and violent past today looms over its inevitably multicultural future.
Ah I have always found fascinating the idea that some things are inevitable especially when it is based on the assumption that ethnicity is destiny and identity!
The problem with modern voters is not that they are selfish, but that they are often ignorant and irrational. That problem cannot be solved by restricting corporate and union-funded political speech. Obviously, corporate and union-funded speech sometimes seeks to exploit political ignorance. But the same is true of speech funded by the media, political parties, activist groups, and others. In a political environment where the electorate is often ignorant, whoever is allowed to engage in electoral speech has a strong incentive to take advantage of that ignorance.
I agree with Somin even though I am trouble by the elitism (but right) of our shared viewpoint. However, my discomfort is soothed by the realization that America and Americans don't want an educated citizenry because of the belief, that politics is about identity and that illusory thing called culture. In other words, people should always vote who they are and never what they know.
In Obama's America it isn't knowledge that is power, but identity.
Sugary excerpt of the day from Lynn Parramore :
Cultural memory and prejudice form strange currents in the Southern mind. The power of the fear and antipathy of the black man has been diluted, but it’s still there, and it's easily stoked by unscrupulous politicians. But it’s easy to just stop there, and you won't have a clear picture if you do.
If you look closer, there’s something else. The Harley Davidson guys and their Southern brethren who put rebel flag stickers on their rides are signaling that they still strongly identify with a war in which their ancestors found themselves on the wrong side of history and fought a losing battle. White men in other regions of the country don’t really get what it feels like to know that your people were defeated in a war by their own countrymen. There’s a feeling that they lost so much for this Union to stay together that they’ll be damned if they are going to admit another defeat by recognizing that America is currently in decline. That is too much for the heart to bear.
Aah, I have to admit this type of analysis just drives me bonkers for it evokes the despairing consensus in America that identity and culture are solely about collective memory and history. I resent that idea because it takes me back to the Fascist dictum that people think with their blood.
A troubling assertion from Anatol Lieven:
White middle-classes in America have become more accepting of people of other colour (at least in public), without by any means necessarily becoming more tolerant of people of other culture. Successful integration still requires assimilation to conservative middle class values, including nationalism and religion.
I wonder what does Lieven mean by 'people of other culture' and whether to him people of other colour are different than members of the American white middle classes.
This from Ta-nehisi Coates depresses me deeply even more than America's collapse in the Ryder Cup yesterday :
It's all well and good to say black people should be more like Martin Luther King Jr. But it should be noted that the country answered King's hypermorality with unremitting violence, culminating in him being shot in the head.
At one point does the past stop to condition the present and to determine who/what people ought to be. I know race is comfortable and sells, but come on at some point it becomes no much irrelevant as a rotten and shackling concept.
To beyond the placid glitz I don't think 'black people' should be lie Martin Luther King, they should just be themselves which means taking the risk to accept that 'blackness' is not an identity.
I disagree with Anouar Majid on this:
Muslims are struck in an impossible bind: They are totally dependent on the West for all the good things in life but are fanatically attached to religion as a marker of their separate identity. By being unable to be fully Western, they have forced themselves into an orthodox corner. Fanaticism is the result.
Westerners and Western-educated folk who apologize for Muslims by invoking the depredations of the West are not helping make things better. Muslims don’t need to indulge in a victim mentality; they need to develop their societies, build stronger economies, cultivate the arts and and encourage innovation and critical thinking in all fields. Neither self-pity nor piety will get them there.
Question: do we choose who we are or are we just always part of a whole we didn't choose?
Quote of the year from Jacob Zuma, the President of South Africa, who epitomizes the fact that the end of Apartheid in his country didn't mean the end of misogyny:
I wouldn’t want to stay with daughters who are not getting married. Because that in itself is a problem in society … Kids are important to a woman because they actually give an extra training to a woman, to be a mother.
Sugary excerpt of the day from Jina Moore :
In American newspapers and on American TV, Africans remain objects—of violence, of poverty, of disease, and ultimately of our own compassion. Like the abolitionists’ stories of the Jamaican slave revolt, our compassion narratives ultimately are not about the people in whose name they are told. They are about us. We like these stories because at some level, we already know them, and because they tell us we are caring, and potentially powerful, people.
As always I have to assert that 'Africans' don't exist. Africanity is the first, most potent and seemingly most invicincible colonial invention.
I agree with Chris Dillow on this with one caveat, I am trouble by the assertion that certainty and overconfidence are masculine traits:
Politics is still dominated by the silly masculine traits of certainty and overconfidence.
Why? Here's a theory. What people (or the media?) want from politicians is not an ability to take decisions, which requires the recognition of uncertainty.Instead, they want is a false sense of certainty, a "strong leader" with a "clear" direction. And this demand favours macho politicians, even if they are poor decision-makers.
Sugary excerpt of the day from Stanley Fish commenting on the dishonest, vile and more importantly willfully stupidly ideological 'documentary' on Obama from Dinesh D'Souza who must have perfected at Dartmouth what seems to come naturally to him, prostitution :
(...) the meaning of America is continually contested in essays, books, backyard conversations, talk shows and, most of all, in elections. It is often said, and it is true, that the opposing parties in an election have “different visions for America.” There are many ways of describing the alternative visions offered to us in a year like this; but describing one of them as un-American and its proponent as a foreign intruder is not to further discussion but to foreclose it and to replace the contest of ideas with the rhetoric of demonization. (Democrats have been as guilty of this as anyone.) Obama may have a vision for America that you don’t like, but it is a vision for America put forward by an American. If you don’t like it, vote against him, not in the name of Americanism but in the name of the ideas and outcomes you, also an American, prefer.
In short, Obama is as American as apple pie. Unfortunately that fact isn't enough to make him a good president.
I found it thought-provoking, compelling and even morbidly ironic that Obama is considered "foreign," European, and even socialist when it is Mitt Romney who spent critical parts of his youth in France. It tells me that Romney is actually more worldly than Obama and that fact explains, in great part, in my opinion, his obvious discomfort with his political 'family.'
I agree with Zadie Smith on this:
(...) people of colour do not think of themselves as exotic or other to themselves. We think of ourselves as white people think of yourselves, as central to ourselves, and not some stylisation, political points, added extras: none of those things. We are ourselves.
I hate with a passion the expression 'people of color!' It is as repugnant as 'human beings with a uterus' would be.
Interesting and informative stuff from Thenmozhi Soundararajan:
Caste exists wherever Indians exist and it manifests itself in a myriad of ways. The Indian diaspora thrives on caste because it is the atom that animates the molecule of their existence. In the face of xenophobia and racism abroad, many become more fundamentalist in their traditions and caste is part of that reactionary package. So, what does caste look like in the US?
Quite like in India, it is the smooth subtext beneath questions between uncles, like, “Oh! Where is your family from?” It is part of the cliques and divisions within those cultural associations where Indians self-segregate into linguistic and caste associations. It continues when aunties begin to discuss marriage prospects. They cluck their tongues softly, remark about your complexion, and pray for a good match from “our community”.
Sugary excerpt of the day from Linda Kelsey on Helen Gurley Brown:
During the 14 years I worked at Cosmopolitan, in two separate stints, rising through the ranks to the position of editor from 1985 to 1990, I wrestled with what critics saw as the contradictions at the heart of the magazine, but I also firmly believed – and still do – that the enduring success of Cosmopolitan is down to the fact that it has never shifted its focus from the things that really matter to young women, as laid down in the blueprint set by Helen Gurley Brown when she launched US Cosmo.
What are these things? Love, of course. And sex. And work. And men and relationships in general. These are the priorities in young women’s lives and in the 40 years since Cosmo launched in the UK, these priorities haven’t changed. What has changed dramatically is women’s sense of empowerment. Women are more confident in every aspect of their lives. They assume equality rather than having to fight for it every step of the way. They are in no hurry to marry or have children, though most still want to have a long-lasting partnership and a family. They are free to enjoy sex without guilt.
But are they still vulnerable? Of course they are. Do they still worry whether he’ll ring or notice their cellulite. Don’t we all? Do they still find it hard to negotiate relationships? Well, that’s the nature of relationships. Do they have sexual hang-ups? Not all of us have the sexual sangfroid of Samantha from Sex and the City.
I have nothing to say.
Sentence du Dimanche from Chris Dillow:
There's a difference between being a woman and acting like a woman.
I suspect that Dillow is right, but for some reason that irks me.
At last Walter Mead says what I have been saying for 4 years, Obama is a WASP:
In his own way, however, President Obama is one of the neo-Waspiest men in the country. He is not a product of Kenyan villages or third world socialism. He was educated at the Hawaiian equivalent of a New England prep school, and spent his formative years in the Ivies. He has much more in common with Harvard-educated technocrats like McGeorge Bundy than with African freedom fighters and third world socialists of the 1970s.
Barack Obama is neither a citizen of the world nor an exotic creature, he is as American as Georges Bush!
The sentence of the day from a post from Annie over at Harry's Place:
Lets praise this black person who, unusually, is able to act contrary to her nature and be objective in considering the legal position.
True, there is no way we can defend ourselves against insane shooters. But I suspect Australia, England, Germany and Canada have about the same percentage of crazy people that we do. It's just that they can't get their hands on firearms so easily. Nor do they sell assault rifles over the counter in those nations.
You know what? The hell with it. I'm tired of repeating the obvious. I know with a dread certainty that I will change nobody's mind. I will hear conspiracy theories from those who fear the government, I will hear about the need to raise a militia, and I will hear nothing about how 9,484 corpses in a year has helped anything. That is a high price to pay. What depresses me is that half of my fellow countrymen are prepared to pay it.
The trouble with Roger Ebert's view point isn't that it is wrong, but rather it ignores the singularities of America. For most Americans, it is those singularities that make America America.
Gun control is not at the center of American politics precisely because Gun control advocates refuse to believe that the issue isn't about reason, safety, common sense and what is sensible in the rest of the world, but rather about Americana, identity, emotionality, the need for Americans to remain faithful to what they consider the ideals and the ‘being’ of their nation. The point isn't that guns are as American as apple pie, but rather than the NRA (National Rifle Association) has been more effective than its adversaries in making Americans fee that it is and in making guns part of the American imaginary and of their way of life.
I've learned the hard way that the surest way to lose a political debate in America is to compare the American way of life with the ones of the rest of the planet because Americans don't like to their country to be compared to others for they believe that comparisons diminishes its exceptional nation and its greatness .
You don't compare Michael Jordan unfavorably to Steve Nash when you want him to listen to you or to convince him that you are right .
Thought-provoking stuff from Kris Coffield:
It's easy to metaphorically claim that our processes of individuation are colonized by prior experience. Conscious, material changes are often induced by phenomeno-affective events. Just consider the obvious case of a solder returning from war with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, after seeing his comrades killed by an improvised explosive device. What is far less obvious, however, is the narrative dimension enjambing affectivity. One can't reduce everything to narration, as some misguided postmodernists do. That said, there exists a very real sense in which selfhood is ideated, as well as individuated, such that our introspective beliefs become more than egoistic Quinean existential qualifiers. In other words, the myths we tell ourselves about our 'selves' are every bit as fictional, textual, and material as other fictions, while remaining integrally related to our individual being, and sense thereof.
Sugary excerpt of the day from Junot Díaz:
White supremacy is the great silence of our world, and in it is embedded much of what ails us as a planet. The silence around white supremacy is like the silence around Sauron in The Lord of the Rings, or the Voldemort name which must never be uttered in the Harry Potter novels. And yet here’s the rub: if a critique of white supremacy doesn’t first flow through you, doesn’t first implicate you, then you have missed the mark; you have, in fact, almost guaranteed its survival and reproduction. There’s that old saying: the devil’s greatest trick is that he convinced people that he doesn’t exist. Well, white supremacy’s greatest trick is that it has convinced people that, if it exists at all, it exists always in other people, never in us.
I am going to munch on Díaz words for a bit while wondering what the impact of his argument would have been if he had used the word 'men' instead of using 'white.'
As always great stuff from Glenn Loury and John McWhorter. Happy Independence day!
Alain Badiou on France, its present and its future or rather lack of one:
Identities here are more frozen. It’s a country in latent crisis, a former planetary great power, with a particular universality, which does not know what to do with its lost greatness. From this point of view, France is at least as much a world being unmade as a world being made. My proposition is that we have to put an end to France. (...)I’ve thought for a long time that France should merge with Germany. I’m very happy, moreover, that other people, such as Michel Serres, now share my opinion. There is no future for France alone. The European combination is teetering, as we’ve seen with Greece, and everyone understands that France and Germany form the hard core of Europe. A merger would make it possible to stand up to the other economic great powers, which neither France nor Germany, nor Europe, is capable of doing today. The French and German economies are already intertwined, so let’s have this hard core realized politically! That could be in the form of a federal state, as is already the case with Germany.
It's good to see that some things never change and that Badiou is still a bold idealist at his best and an unadapted and stubborn ideologue at his worst.
Sugary excerpt of the day from Noman Geras:
A different kind of analogy may serve to underwrite the meaningfulness of people affirming their English identity, despite the lack of any parsimonious definition of Englishness. Think of sporting allegiances. Supporting a football (baseball, cricket) team makes sense to millions of people, where the identification amounts to not much more than wanting one's team to win, taking an interest in its long-term fortunes, the players who play for it, and so on. Being a supporter - of Manchester United or Liverpool, the Yankees or the Red Sox, Australia, England or the West Indies - is, or at least can be, a form of identity-affirmation on quite a 'thin' basis, when judged against life's other concerns. Some people, uninterested in or hostile to sport as a major preoccupation, find this difficult to understand, but they shouldn't. We are who we are and look for markers of this. Even if we are believers in universal rights, global justice, human equality, few people are satisfied with the identifier 'human being', and a sporting allegiance is merely part of that more general phenomenon. How much less puzzling is it that someone might feel attached to their much 'thicker' national identity and what they see in it of positive value...
I have a small question: Are people who they say/think that they are or simply what they do?
One of my favorite songs at the moment is Fela Kuti's Colonial mentality. I find it to be both profound and hip while disagreeing fully with its title and its message, which is a proof of the universality and greatness of Kuti's music (it is difficult but to enjoy it, I have to ignore his politics and his misogyny).
I stopped a long time ago to believe that there is such a thing as blackness and africanness/africanity. I have realized that the quest for authenticity is similar to Caligula's destructive and impossible one for the sun in Camus's play in the sense that it always ends with a witch-hunt for there must be monsters to blame for shortcomings and traitors to chastise for their refusal to be 'true africans' or whatever else is considered to be pure or socially acceptable.
Colonial mentality is a great song with a political message that I despise because it is culturalist and defines identity in terms that are too absolute and too reactionary to be productive. To put things bluntly, since existence precedes essence, what matters is the choice for people aren't being in themselves. Whether a mentality is colonial or not is no longer an essential question for what matters is individuality and responsibility. That said, the song is awesome and Fela Kuti's message is worth listening too because although his conclusion is erroneous, it is both legitimate and pertinent while being too self-absorbed and ideological to be complete.
Before commenting on the Trayvon Martin case, I have decided to wait, learn more and meditate to avoid just feeling outrage. It isn't constructive and reinforces a narrative of powerlessness, which bugs me.
I agree with Ilya Somin on this:
No one has a special moral obligation to another person merely because they happen to share the same race or ethnicity.
Sugary excerpt of the day from John Quiggin over at Crooked Timber:
(...)there’s a striking difference between Republican tribalism and the kind of identity politics that has long characterized parts of the left. Left identity politics typically involves focusing one aspect of your identity (gender, sexuality, race, religion, class) and organizing around issue that affect the relevant group. We spent a lot of time in the 70s arguing over whether gender trumped class and so on, and getting nowhere, with the result that the left side of politics, to the extent that it can be viewed in these terms, is, as Haidt puts it, a coalition of tribes.
But that’s not true of the right – it’s core tribal appeal is to white, anti-intellectual, non-feminist, non-poor, Christian, heterosexuals who identify themselves, and others who share all these characteristics as “real Americans’. The problem they face is that each of these taken individually is a majority characteristic, the majority of people deviate from the model in one way or another. So, the way to defeat Repub tribalism is to peel off everyone who is on the wrong side of one or another of their culture wars, and reduce them to a minority.
Quiggin is almost right for the wrong reasons. American politics suffers from the focus placed on identity instead of actions. To use Quiggin 's terms, I don't think that political tribalism is worse than identity politics, I just think it is a different strain of the same bacteria that is ruining the political discourse in a country that desperately needs to talk about its present and its future. The issue is that it s obsessed with its past and its essence when what matters is its actions and the welfare of its citizen not the salvation of their soul .
The sentences of the week and possibly of the year are from Anita Diamant:
The basic insight of feminism is that women are human beings. I don’t think you can be a serious Jew and not be a feminist.
Ow, I'm all verklempt! I just wish someone would explain to me what it means to be a feminsit!