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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

Quote of the day: PLEASURE

September 29, 2020

PLEASURE

It can be easy to believe pain has a monopoly on profundity, that we access truth or salvation through suffering, from the story of Christ’s crucifixion to the mundane ravages of our own daily lives. But perhaps the Western obsession with Turkish baths, in all its fantasizing and fetishizing, has been in part an attempt to claim pleasure as something more than indulgence, more like a mode of survival. Pain claims so much of us; why not give pleasure its due when we can?

Visiting the hammams of Istanbul was like taking a rigorous course in pleasure itself, a syllabus committed to exploring the granular texture of bodily enjoyment, and to proving that pleasure holds its own pathways to meaning, that it might matter most at precisely those moments when it seems most out of place. Life finds unexpected ways to make this argument. In line at the grocery store a few weeks after I returned from Istanbul, just a few days before lockdown, with my own cart full of diapers and Pedialyte, I admired the cart of the elderly woman standing in front of me. It held nothing but cookies and beer. Her cart seemed to be telling me, You’ll need those diapers, but that’s not all you’ll need. She had so many years of living under her belt. I bet she knew a fair amount about pleasure, and also about endurance — how each permits the other, and how impossible they are to separate.

Pleasure demands presence. It invites you to inhabit your body more fully; no part of you is held at remove. For centuries, the Turkish bath has embodied the seductive prospect of seeing other people’s bodies not simply physically exposed but also psychically exposed, caught inside the particular vulnerability of enjoyment. There can be a radical honesty to pleasure, a profound nakedness in surrendering fully to unguarded, un-self-conscious states of enjoyment. It’s harder to hide or dissimulate when you’re enjoying yourself.

–Leslie Jamison in the New York Times Magazine

Quote of the day: ACTIVISM

September 27, 2020

ACTIVISM

We use the terms “demonstration” and “protest” interchangeably, at our own peril, like we interchangeably use the terms “mobilizing” and “organizing.” A protest is organizing people for a prolonged campaign that forces racist power to change a policy A demonstration is mobilizing people momentarily to publicize a problem…The most effective protests create an environment whereby changing the racist policy becomes in power’s self-interest, like desegregating businesses because the sit-ins are driving away customers, like increasing wages to restart production, like giving teachers raises to resume schooling, like passing a law to attract a well-organized force of donors or voters. But it is difficult to create that environment, since racist power makes laws that illegalize most protest threats. Organizing and protesting are much harder and more impactful than mobilizing and demonstrating. Seizing power is much harder than protesting power and demonstrating its excesses.

–Ibram X. Kendi, How to Be an Antiracist

photo by Emma Howells for the The New York Times

Quote of the day: KINDNESS

April 11, 2020

“Kindness”

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to gaze at bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

–Naomi Shihab Nye

naomi shihab nye

(photo by Ha Lam)

Quote of the day: WARREN ON WALMART

May 18, 2019

WARREN ON WALMART

[Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth] Warren grew up in Oklahoma, the youngest of four children. When her father lost his job, in the early nineteen-sixties, and the family lost their station wagon and very nearly their house, her mother, who had a high-school education and no job experience, supported them by getting a minimum-wage job at Sears. That’s no longer possible, Warren argues, and there’s no disputing her evidence: “Adjusted for inflation, the minimum wage today is lower than it was in 1965—about 24 percent lower.” The nation’s largest employer is Walmart, which reported $14.69 billion in profits in 2015. The seven members of the family who founded the company, the Waltons, “have more money than 40 percent of our nation’s population put together,” but Walmart’s wildly underpaid employees get by only with assistance from the federal government. Warren writes, “The next time you drive into a Walmart parking lot, pause for a second to note that this Walmart—like the more than five thousand other Walmarts across the country—costs taxpayers about $1 million in direct subsidies to the employees who don’t earn enough money to pay for an apartment, buy food, or get even the most basic health care for their children.”

–Jill Lepore in The New Yorker

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