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Archive for November 2016

The OH GOD HELP ME UNDERSTAND THIS reading list

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In the past couple of weeks I have read:

  • Hillbilly Elegy, JD Vance, which was an interesting perspective, despite its fairly comprehensive takedown by various American friends of mine, as well as in media outlets – most recently this, in New Republic, which a friend sent me the other day;
  • Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates, which is beautiful and angry and searing and erudite and basically everyone should read it right now, seriously step away from the internet and sit down and read this book and think about it for several days;
  • The View from Flyover Country, Sarah Kendzior, which is ALSO brilliant and introduced me to many, many new perspectives and ideas, which is quite rare for a book (not because I am totes brilliant and original or anything like that – though, obv, I am – but because the reproduction of ideas in the internet age has become so pervasive that it’s not often you stumble across something that really changes the way you look at things), and which contains this jewel of a quote: “When the most you can ask from your society is that it will spare you, you have no society of which to speak” – which I basically want to scribble on fliers and stuff through people’s letterboxes or daub on walls or skywrite for everyone to see;
  • Chavs, Owen Jones, because I was like: wait a second, self, how come you’re focusing so much on the US disaster and so little on your own? I read The Establishment a while back, which was great, but this is possible better: angrier, smarter, more incisive, and alarmingly prescient for something that was written in 2011.

Here are the articles I’ve liked (or, in some cases, “liked”) enough to post on FB:

And here are some reading lists or syllabi that I’m working my way through:

And so. I read and read and read because I don’t know, yet, what else to do; I read because, as absurd as it sounds, the simple act of gathering and synthesising and analysing knowledge is a featherlight counterweight to the post-truth, post-reality political climate in which we’ve found ourselves enmired. I vacillate between thinking that I’m taking this all too seriously, and that I’m not taking it seriously enough – because that’s what it feels like when you’re in a position of privilege, to see these political changes and to think 1930s Germany and then, again, immediately: no, of course it’s not that, not again. It’s a sign of my privilege to believe us better.

Written by Jess

November 21, 2016 at 6:41 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tho’ much is taken, much abides

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(Washington DC)

I thought I would be writing something different today; I thought I would be in DC to see the first election of a female president. Instead, I was bitterly, crushingly wrong about a popular vote for the third time in the past year and a half, and here we are. Here we are.

I was at a friend’s election party last night, but I left around 11pm when it was becoming clear what the outcome would be. As I waited for two ubers that didn’t show up, I ended up talking to my friend’s concierge, a Zanzibari Muslim, who was clearly only just holding it together, talking about how glad he was that he’d just renewed his passport. Ended up walking the half-hour back to my airbnb, and passed one woman openly sobbing on the street; on my way to the election party I’d shared a lift with another woman having a panic attack. I am trying to keep in mind that, had Hillary won, a large portion of the country would be feeling as terrified as many Americans (and citizens of other countries) are feeling now, but it doesn’t help much.

  • Here is HRC’s gracious concession speech.
  • Here is a full breakdown of the exit polls by gender, age, race, education, income etc. Makes it pretty clear that despite all the talk of Trump being the candidate of the disenfranchised white working class, it was wealthy white voters who won this: Trump wasn’t an anti-establishment vote; he was a protect-my-privilege vote. (Which is a possible explanation for why the polls got it wrong: I suspect that wealthy white voters are more likely to lie about their support for Trump, because they have some awareness that it’s something they should be ashamed of.) (Also interesting to note the difference in income breakdown among Brexiters, which really was swung by the white working class.)
  • Here is a list of organisations that support women, immgrants and the environment, and that oppose bigotry, which will need a whole load of support over the next four years.
  • And finally, here is Tennyson’s “Ulysses”, the final lines of which kept running through my head on my walk home last night. Because words matter, poetry matters, curiosity and exploration and beauty matter, and they always will.

…Come, my friends,
‘T is not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Written by Jess

November 9, 2016 at 7:14 pm

Posted in Uncategorized