Archive for the ‘politics’ Category

On evil

JF: I find it interesting you say wild behavior or irrational behavior, but you don’t say things like evil. Do you believe in evil?

HG: Yes, but I think think people have recourse to the word evil much too quickly when they’re talking about terrible behavior. I’ve given this a lot of thought, because when I wrote that book This House of Grief about the man who killed his three children, I was surprised to find how many people would ask me what I was working on. I would say I’m writing about Robert Farquharson, and they would look shocked and disapproving and say, Why? Why are you writing about him? I’d say, Well, there are obvious reasons why you’d want to write about a murderer, and people would get angry with me. They’d say, What sort of bloke was he? How does he strike you? I would start to describe his life and his formation as a person, and at a certain point the person’s face would harden and say, You’re making excuses, with this accusing gesture. I got used to that. It happened to me very often; it was a very frequent thing.

I realized that people protect themselves against thinking about stories like that by saying,This man is evil, therefore I don’t want to think about him, and nothing that he’s done is connected in me in any way. There is no darkness in me that could possibly connect with the darkness in him. People would say to me, Was he mentally ill, or was he just pure evil? There were these simple concepts you could slot into place to make it possible to contemplate such a person. And so I got less and less interested in the term evil as a way of talking about human behavior. Because it’s really a way of blotting it out. Stopping yourself from having to think about it.

From “Helen Garner on Court, Burning Diaries and Violence of Love”, in an interview with John Freeman in LitHub.

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A while ago an American writer friend, Jeremy Adam Smith and I were talking about the shaming of sexting and how misrepresented the practice was in the media. He told me I should write an article about my mothers’ group sexting.. and eventually I did. (It was this article). He also decided to finally tackle the topic himself and wrote two articles on it, one, with his partner.

So, Jeremy’s articles…”Can sexting increase relationship satisfaction?” in Greater Good and “Teens need sext education” in the San Francisco Chronicle.

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This is very supple writing from Kiese Laymon on symbolism very structural solutions with racism. It’s a wonderful use of observational diary writing (the tension in some of them!) and… football to draw you in.”How they do in Oxford” in ESPN.

Right now, I’m eating the best squash casserole I’ve eaten in my life at a restaurant called Ajax Diner. Ajax is on the Courthouse Square, the economic and cultural center in Oxford. There are lots of white folk in the restaurant, and a number of illustrations of Ray Charles and other black bluesmen on the wall. Twice I’ve heard, “We good, but we got to get a running game.”

I keep hearing the names Nkemdiche and Laremy and Laquon and Fadol.

I’m a long way from Jackson, but the taste, the smell and the rhythm of the names uttered in Ajax remind me of home. I have lived, taught and written at a college in upstate New York for the past 14 years. In those 14 years, I’ve never heard a white man say, “Collards pretty good tonight, ain’t they?”

That’s exactly what the white man at the table next to me keeps saying. I love that his color commentary is absent any linking verbs. I feel prideful that these Oxford white folk are eating our food and talking like us, even if they don’t know it.

A few black folk who work in the kitchen come out before I leave. We nod. I don’t feel as good about them eating our food anymore.

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And as Latoya Peterson has written, this is intertwined with an overreliance on (immediate) feelings for determining our direction. Sometimes, the more we try to tune into our feelings the less clearly we see the world. When interaction is sustained, the expression of feelings (good or bad) in response to a piece can be a catalyst for connection. But when writing is not a platform for community, the comments can lack the necessary investment required to make them either consistently ethical or considered. There is so little listening and so much projecting.

In this climate, the catharsis of battles between feminist writers tends to be held above the hard work and generosity of building solidarity. Collectivism, which involves making sense of many perspectives, is lost to an ever-failing quest for consensus. Approval and redemption is sought over complex struggles and structural solutions.

From “More practice, less perfect: how do we navigate the lion’s den of feminist discussion?”.

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Saw this recently at the Queensland Film Festival and it was so, so good.

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Milo peddles a pageant of insincerity that is immediately legible to fellow Brits. Americans understand irony differently, and sometimes not at all. The crowd of excitable young and young-ish people gathered to hear him pontificate believe what he’s saying, even if he doesn’t. Which he doesn’t. And it doesn’t matter.

It doesn’t matter that he doesn’t mean it. It doesn’t matter that he’s secretly quite a sweet, vulnerable person who is gracious to those he considers friends. It doesn’t matter that somewhere in the rhinestone-rimmed hamster wheel of his mind is a conscience. It doesn’t matter because the harm he does is real.

From Laurie Penny’s “I’m with the banned” in Medium.

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This beautifully crafted and argued essay by Zadie Smith in The New York Review of Books, “Fences: A Brexit Diary”..

The tall, narrow Victorian house I bought fifteen years ago, though it is exactly the same kind of house my middle-class friends owned when I was growing up, is now worth an obscene amount of money, and I worried that she might think I had actually paid that obscene amount of money to own it. The distance between her flat and my house—though it is, in reality, only two hundred yards—is, in symbol, further than it has ever been. Our prospective playdate lay somewhere over this chasm, and never happened, as I never dared ask for it.

Extreme inequality fractures communities, and after a while the cracks gape so wide the whole edifice comes tumbling down. In this process everybody has been losing for some time, but perhaps no one quite as much as the white working classes who really have nothing, not even the perceived moral elevation that comes with acknowledged trauma or recognized victimhood. The left is thoroughly ashamed of them. The right sees them only as a useful tool for its own personal ambitions. This inconvenient working-class revolution we are now witnessing has been accused of stupidity—I cursed it myself the day it happened—but the longer you look at it, you realize that in another sense it has the touch of genius, for it intuited the weaknesses of its enemies and effectively exploited them. The middle-class left so delights in being right! And so much of the disenfranchised working class has chosen to be flagrantly, shamelessly wrong.

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