Archive for October, 2020

In this week’s New Yorker

October 23, 2020

This week’s New Yorker is an especially good issue.

On the hard news front, there are two excellent reporting pieces. In “Safety Last,” Eyal Press writes about how Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia (yes, son of the late Supreme Court Justice) has gone about weakening worker protections during the pandemic. It would be more shocking if it isn’t all too depressingly consistently with this Administration, which has routinely hired cabinet members whose values and experience are antithetical to the realms they’re now overseeing. And Rachel Monroe’s “Stolen Valor” investigates the world of military impostors — elected officials, candidates, and others — and the outraged veterans who have made it their mission to expose them.

Then there are a bunch of profiles of smart, fascinating people whose names are new to me:

  • Moxie Marlinspike (almost certainly not the name on his birth certificate) is the creator and CEO of Signal, the end-to-end encrypted messaging service, interviewed by Anna Wiener for “Privacy Settings.” Among other things, before Signal, Marlinspike created a browser extension for Firefox called GoogleSharing, which “pooled users’ activity on Google services and anonymized personal information, scrambling individual activity and assigning it to generic proxy identities. This prevented Google from building user profiles, and from collecting information from services that did not require a log-in. Marlinspike no longer maintains the software, but it is still available to download, for free, on GitHub, and has a successor, DuckDuckGo, a search engine that strips queries of identifying data.”
  • Saidiya Hartman, a writer and academic whose scholarly work on untold stories about Black life (especially Black women, especially the legacy of slavery) earned her a MacArthur Fellow and who has also appeared in a Jay-Z video (“4:44”). Alexis Okeowo wrote the story (“Secret Histories”).
  • Rita Indiana, an amazing 43-year-old 6’3″ lesbian musician and novelist in the Dominican Republic, a superstar in her country where she is known as the Monster (La Montra, in the local dialect). Daniel Alarcón tells her story in “Songs for the Apocalypse,” which mentions a bunch of songs and videos you’ll want to look up online {“After School,” “El Juidero,” “El Blue del Ping Pong,” and my favorite “La Hora de Volvé”).
  • Jennifer Walshe, a queer Irish composer about whom music critic Alex Ross writes an essay called “Sublime Chaos,” describing her work as “mystical Irish Dadaism.”



Quote of the day: ACTIVISM

October 2, 2020

ACTIVISM

You understood the dangers of American policing, the criminalization of Black, native, and brown people, 50 years ago. Your activism and your scholarship has always been inclusive of class and race and gender and sexuality. It seems we’re at a critical mass where a majority of people are finally able to hear and to understand the concepts that you’ve been talking about for decades. Is that satisfying or exhausting after all this time?

I don’t think about it as an experience that I’m having as an individual. I think about it as a collective experience, because I would not have made those arguments or engaged in those kinds of activisms if there were not other people doing it. One of the things that some of us said over and over again is that we’re doing this work. Don’t expect to receive public credit for it. It’s not to be acknowledged that we do this work. We do this work because we want to change the world. If we don’t do the work continuously and passionately, even as it appears as if no one is listening, if we don’t help to create the conditions of possibility for change, then a moment like this will arrive and we can do nothing about it. As Bobby Seale said, we will not be able to “seize the time.” This is a perfect example of our being able to seize this moment and turn it into something that’s radical and transformative.

One of the things that you’ve talked about that I hold on to is about diversity and inclusion. In many industries, especially the entertainment industry where I work, those are buzzwords. But I see them in the way that you taught me during our conversation for 13th. These are reform tactics, not change tactics. The diversity and inclusion office of the studio, of the university, of whatever organization, is not the quick fix.

Absolutely. Virtually every institution seized upon that term, “diversity.” And I always ask, “Well, where is justice here?” Are you simply going to ask those who have been marginalized or subjugated to come inside of the institution and participate in the same process that led precisely to their marginalization? Diversity and inclusion without substantive change, without radical change, accomplishes nothing.
      
“Justice” is the key word. How do we begin to transform the institutions themselves? How do we change this society? We don’t want to be participants in the exploitation of capitalism. We don’t want to be participants in the marginalization of immigrants. And so there has to be a way to think about the connection among all of these issues and how we can begin to imagine a very different kind of society. That is what “defund the police” means. That is what “abolish the police” means….
      
We haven’t been talking a lot about that period of Occupy. I think that when we look at how social movements develop, Occupy gave us new vocabularies. We began to talk about the 1 percent and the 99 percent. And I think that has something to do with the protests today. We should be very explicit about the fact that global capitalism is in large part responsible for mass incarceration and the prison industrial complex, as it is responsible for the migrations that are happening around the world. Immigrants are forced to leave their homelands because the system of global capitalism has made it impossible to live human lives. That is why they come to the U.S., that is why they come to Europe, seeking better lives.

–Angela Davis, interviewed by Ava DuVernay in Vanity Fair

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