Good news from Philip N. Cohen:
Women’s increasing independence and men’s increasing insecurity don’t bode well for the traditional institution of marriage.
Good news from Philip N. Cohen:
Women’s increasing independence and men’s increasing insecurity don’t bode well for the traditional institution of marriage.
Thought-provoking and delicious stuff from Corey Robin on the Arendt/Eichmann wars :
In the beginning, when the battle first broke out after the publication of Eichmann, the main issue of contention was Arendt’s treatment of the Jewish Councils. But now that most of that generation of survivors is gone, that issue has died down.
Now the main fault line of the battle is Arendt’s treatment of Eichmann’s anti-Semitism: whether she minimized it or not. And that issue, it seems to me, is very much tied up with the fate of Israel.
After all, if the claim could be made, however vulgarly (for this was not in fact Arendt’s point at all), that Ground Zero of modern anti-Semitism was not in fact anti-Semitic, what does that tell us about the presence and persistence of anti-Semitism in the contemporary world? Again, that was not in fact Arendt’s argument, but it’s been taken that way, and I can’t help but think that one of the reasons why the focus on Eichmann’s anti-Semitism plays the role now that it does (as opposed to when the book was originally published) has something to do with the legitimation crisis that Israel is currently undergoing.
The sentence of the day is from Hannah Giorgis:
Humanity is a luxury routinely denied to black women both within media and outside it.
The issue when is comes to viewing black women as angry has more to do with the fact that they are considered to be dumb blonds no matter what they do. I wrote an article about that in 2012 titled la blondeur de la femme africaine so if you read French check it out!
It would be too simplistic and superficial to assert that what is happening in Ferguson, Missouri, the Show-Me state of America, proves that the era of Postracialness either never started or is over. The safest conclusion that can drawn from the unrest in that small town of Middle America is that Obama's America is reeling from its orrnamemtalism, to use a term coined by David Cannadine, and from the illusions of identity, which it is contributing to equal to destiny.
The death of Michael Brown, the following protests, the outrage and the poignant calls for justice that are more about history and its hold on the American experience, the clashes, the backlash, the curfew, the police's reaction and at last its attempt to put a black face on its incompetence by its use of Captain Ronald Johnson as its spokesman and to justify an unfortunate death by criminalization of the youth shot are symptoms of American racialism, its addiction to glitz, fritz and bad ideas, and its puppy love for impotent symbols designed to solve its essentialist and equality issues.
None of these events is new. The narratives are familiar. The story or rather stories have already been written. They will lead to the same comfortable and same dead end for the beliefs are sacralized. Discourse will be sterile between the America of Ta-Nehisi Coates, which is going to point to the gunshot wounds of the dead and history to preach in the wilderness for reparations and for change that they are still waiting for, and the one of Shelby Steele, which is going to point to the present, the tape of Michael Brown allegedly shoving a store clerk and insist on personal responsibility.
The real dialogue on race, which Eric Holder called for at the beginning of his attorney generalship, is impossible for two reasons. The first is all sides want to be listened to as they lecture the other on what it has meant or not meant to be black in America. The second reason is more troublesome and complex: Race in America is no longer about race but about identity and Americans' refusal to acknowledge that its passion for absolute freedom and power make absolute justice impossible while making the quest of equality of the working poor or struggling middle class, a lot of which are assumed to be born bad, problematic.
Thus, America has been, in a sense, postracial since its founding by a few white males. Ferguson, Missouri is just a remainder that blackness is an exotic illusion and a dangerous essentialist and flawed notion which cannot soften America's iron fist. Michael Brown died in Obama's America which loves to get riled up with beautiful and moving speeches but always comes up short when the call for action isn't to do something symbolic as electing a multiracial president. Obama's America is a country which is an addict. It is heavily dependent on the bling whether it is political, social and material and its crack cocaine is hope because it makes it believe that it can be saved by one man and the absolutely appalling and cheap notion that we are the ones that we have been waiting for as if change were a lottery or about finding Jesus.
Whether America and Americana want to admit it or not, they are the one making history now and to use a quote from René Char which Hannah Arendt loved to use, notre héritage n'est précédé d'aucun testament (our inheritance was left to us by no testament). Obama's presidency has provided at least one wonder for America and the world: it has shown that people with black DNA and non-whites are not just impotent tools of history or sacrificial lambs to be used to fix the rotten and prevent the festering and the explosion of long deferred dreams. Obama has shown that a person and a country aren't what they say they are or what history and experience say they ought to be but what they do.
It was, thus, always naive and suicidal to believe that a president and a country with a problematic use of power could understand and do what it takes to make sure that the shooting of an unarmed youth whether it is a crime or an unfortunate accident not become just another deal in. America's long and perilous cycle with its history of violence and essentialism and its unwillingness to change paralyzed by the fear that it would kill its exceptionalism.
In short, there is in all Americans including me a Dinesh D’Souza and he is more difficult to fight than the smartest and fiercest of demons.
Good stuff from Chris Dillow:
(...)terrorists are disproportionately drawn from engineering backgrounds in part because they think that "if only people were rational, remedies would be simple."
Good questions from Jenny Mcphee:
What if we encouraged women to speak out on any subject and when they do, instead of being greeted with heckles, expletives, and threats, they hear applause? What might happen then?
Awesome stuff from Ed Pavlić on his must read article on James Baldwin at 90:
The questions which connect Baldwin’s meetings with Kennedy and with the people on the streets of San Francisco are still unasked. The American idiom to ask and answer them in still eludes us. Today, huge numbers of people assume they can avoid—are clueless as to how connect to—such questions. Post-Racialists. Others, trapped inside the questions, can’t afford to suspect they don’t know the answers. Racial essentialists. The result is widespread dues unpaid as much American experience occurs in denied territory, being uncharted within and un-communicated between people. Panic stricken vacuums abound. What changes, what constants and what illusions made the United States the place that elects a black President? What does black President actually mean? And, for whom does what change, exactly? And, what then? No one engaged these questions and sought terms that would force still deeper ones more intensely than James Baldwin. If we’re serious about what Baldwin’s work can mean in the contemporary world—and evidence mounts indicating that we aren’t[ix]—the place to begin is with a brief look at the structure of the constant changes and changing constants in the musically inflected dimensions of Baldwin’s thought. After that, we’ll examine a few moments in the contemporary culture: a viral Youtube film of street dancers in East Oakland and President Obama’s joking comments about his Predator Drone campaign in the war on terror.
Isn't reassuring to realize that blackness, whatever it may mean, doesn't diminish/sublimate/transform/ affect/eradicate Americanness, however one defines it ?
The sentence of the week from Corey Robin :
Clarence Thomas resents the fact that as a black man he’s not allowed to listen to Carole King.
Oh my gawd, words from John Hinderaker that make one wonder whether he is capable of thinking:
The political motive to make Donald Sterling the poster boy for 21st century racism is obvious, but is he actually a racist? I have never met the man, but it doesn’t seem probable. He owns a basketball team on which 12 of the 14 players are black. The coach is black. Sterling has black friends, like Earvin Johnson; it was an Instagram photo of Stiviano with Johnson that precipitated the fatal argument. Johnson reacted angrily, vowing never to attend another Clippers game. Yet Sterling has long considered Johnson a friend; on the tape, he tells Stiviano that Johnson is worthy of respect.
(...) So an 80-year-old man with a much younger, mixed-race girlfriend is sexually insecure–go figure! He has a friend, a negative-image Iago, who plays on his insecurity and teases him when the mistress posts pictures with black men, however innocent they may be. So the old man asks her not to do it. She can spend all day with black men and even sleep with them, he says, just don’t post photos or attend Clippers games with them. But the young woman already has one foot out the door, and she illegally records her conversation with the old man, and then turns it over to two of the most disreputable gossip sites on the internet.
This sad domestic drama has become the best evidence the Left can come up with of the ongoing legacy of slavery and discrimination. It merits denunciation by the President of the United States, who locates the old man’s sad story in the grand sweep of history.
On the tape, Donald Sterling says, “I love the black people.” I can’t vouch for his sincerity, but there is nothing in the DMZ/Deadspin tapes that belies that sentiment. It is telling that this domestic upheaval between an aging billionaire and his gold-digging, disloyal mistress represents the best the Left can come up with to support its claim that racism and the “legacy of race and slavery and segregation” are alive and well.
America, you have a problem and it isn't about race ! That would be less frightening.
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!
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.
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?
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.
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 .