Some photos from my day out:
I managed to get away in time.
Other than feeling mopey about the rain, I’ve been counting down the weeks to my upcoming travels, plus reading and writing and working and doing my best to get by. Here’s one last photo of a fun day at work. Summer children’s events are still my favourite.
Links and thoughts for this week:
But the weight of the world is not on any one person’s shoulders—not yours. Not Zoe’s. Not mine. It rests in the strength of the project of transformation that millions are already a part of.There isn’t of course a sharp divide between individual and collective action — seemingly small individual choices are the drops that form the ocean of change — but I do appreciate the reminder to see our choices in proportion and not run ourselves to the ground by buying into the idea that every small misstep or failure is a sign that everything is hopelessly doomed.
That means we are free to follow our passions. To do the kind of work that will sustain us for the long run. It even means we can take breaks—in fact, we have a duty to take them. And to make sure our friends do too.
‘‘Privilege saturates’’ — and privilege stains. Which might explain why this word pricks and ‘‘opportunity’’ and ‘‘advantage’’ don’t. ‘‘I can choose to not act racist, but I can’t choose to not be privileged,’’ a friend once told me with alarm. Most of us already occupy some kind of visible social identity, but for those who have imagined themselves to be free agents, the notion of possessing privilege calls them back to their bodies in a way that feels new and unpleasant. It conflicts with a number of cherished American ideals of self-invention and self-reliance, meritocracy and quick fixes — and lends itself to no obvious action, which is perhaps why the ritual of ‘‘confessing’’ to your privilege, or getting someone else to, has accumulated the meaning it has. It’s the fumbling hope that acknowledging privilege could offer some temporary absolution for having it.
It’s easier to find a word wanting, rather than ourselves. It’s easy to point out how a word buckles and breaks; it’s harder to notice how we do. ‘‘Privilege’’ was a ladder of a word that wanted to allow us to see a bit further, past our experiences. It’s still the most powerful shorthand we have to explain the grotesque contrast between the brutal police killings of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and Tamir Rice and the treatment extended to Dylann Roof, charged with murdering nine black people last month in a church in Charleston, S.C. — captured alive, treated to a meal by the arresting officers, assigned a judge who expressed concern for his family. ‘‘Privilege’’ was intended to be an enticement to action, and it is still hopeful, if depleted and a little lost. It is emblematic of the kinds of pressures we put on language, our stubborn belief that the right word can be both diagnosis and cure.
So, in the end, one must ask whether Orientalism is racism. The answer to this question demands not only a definition of Orientalism — as I have provided here — but also a redefinition of racism, itself. Racism is not merely overt hatred or abuse of people based on race: it is not casual instances of race-based “mockery”. Racism is, more fundamentally, the institutions that perpetuate and allow acts of racial oppression to take place.
But there’s a difference between nice and kind. That’s semantics I guess, but it’s how I feel: Nice is the thing that won’t hold up against meanness and coldness and cruelty; kind is the thing that does. It’s not always proportionate to the effort a person puts in either, though sometimes it is. Apply that however you like.
I have long argued (privately) that our current phase of online activism is very much hobbled by the logic of neoliberalism and its emphasis on the individual, in ways that many of us are completely unaware of. Much online activism exalts the particular at the expense of the collective, rewarding individual episodes of catharsis and valuing them with considerably higher esteem than the more hard-nosed and less histrionic work that sustains a community.And this, which is pretty much exactly why E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars hit me so hard:
This is where we return to Said and his argument that nativism operated under colonialist logic; in addition to the emphasis on individual catharsis, the culture of unchecked rage that sometimes wracks us is also an artefact of patriarchy itself and its lust for competitive, often violent contest. Much ink has been spilled on the masculinism that infects activist discourse, leading to delightfully snarky epithets like “Manarchism,” but we ignore the fact that white cis men are not the only people perpetuating this; it’s a culture, it does not dwell only in those with a perceived “essence.” We often unthinkingly accept and venerate the modalities and methods that patriarchy most favours; rage fuelled, unempathetic, us-versus-them politics is an ideal fit with the political hellscape of modern, neo-liberal patriarchy. It is a world that prizes the atomised particular over the powerful but compromising collective.There’s a post brewing in my head that might never see the light of day, but it’s to do with this, too, and with how I don’t always (or often, or perhaps even ever) want to write from a place of authority. About myself, I mean, and the stuff of my mind and my life — I believe in listening and I’m not trying to claim the right to write ignorantly about other people’s experiences. But even when it comes to what touches me, very often I don’t know, and I want to find out collaboratively without fear or shame. I am searching, I am trying, I am wondering out loud.