Loaded Words: On writing and revolution

An article, Loaded Words, from a writer and activist who has been very influential to me, Derrick Jensen. One of Derrick’s most quoted and most controversial lines: “Every morning when I wake up I ask myself whether I should write, or blow up a dam.” (see Actions Speak Lounder than Words, 1998, and/or Derrick’s book, A Language Older than Words, a book very influential to me, personally) Read more

Ideas Matter

 

Ideas matter. Policy matters.

While it is true that people can get lost in theory and ideology, as a culture we are in desperate need of a vision and a substantial direction for how to get there. Republicans have never had that, and they never will. They’re holding on to the very same policies and ideas that ruined us to begin with. Even so, we are hungry, our nation and culture is hungry for a new direction and it would be a drastic mistake if liberals underestimated the power of new policies and new ideas.

Many mainstream Democrat politicians are reluctant to take the kind of stand that Elizabeth Warren and Bernie have taken. They seem to be content to wait it out and watch the train wreck that is the GOP. This approach already failed. In the 2016 elections, Democrats were defeated at every level, from the Presidential race down to the local and state level. Being “not a Republican” is a strategy with limited appeal during a period of time when we need a bold vision.

Bernie resonates with so many of us because he takes ideas seriously, and he knows that policy matters. But what is more, Bernie matters because he makes us all feel like we were a part of one movement. He rallied people around the benefits of universal healthcare, the critical need to attack privilege and bigotry, and the deep reform we need in a political system of corporate patronage, a system that that benefits so many in the Democrat establishment.

At this point, it’s ideas that can best unite the left under one vision. It’s ideas that matter, and from a strategic perspective policy matters more right now than attacking Trump because people want to vote for something, and not simply against someone else. A bold progressive agenda will win in the years to come, and in the long-term, it’s the best anti-Trump action that we can take.

https://www.vox.com/platform/amp/policy-and-politics/2017/5/23/15674450/paul-ryan-special-election

The dying hipsters

Christian Lorentzen of Time Out New York argues that “hipsterism fetishizes the authentic” elements of all of the “fringe movements of the postwar era—Beat, hippie, punk, even grunge”, and draws on the “cultural stores of every unmelted ethnicity” and “gay style,” and then “regurgitates it with a winking inauthenticity.” He claims that this group of “18-to-34-year-olds,” who are mostly white, “have defanged, skinned and consumed” all of these influences.Lorentzen says hipsters, “in their present undead incarnation,” are “essentially people who think of themselves as being cooler than America,” also referring to them as “the assassins of cool.” He argues that metrosexuality is the hipster appropriation of gay culture, as a trait carried over from their “Emo” phase. He writes that “these aesthetics are assimilatedcannibalizedinto a repertoire of meaninglessness, from which the hipster can construct an identity in the manner of a collage, or a shuffled playlist on an iPod.” He also criticizes how the subculture’s original menace has long been abandoned and has been replaced with “the form of not-quite-passive aggression called snark.”

In a Huffington Post article entitled “Who’s a Hipster?”, Julia Plevin argues that the “definition of ‘hipster’ remains opaque to anyone outside this self-proclaiming, highly-selective circle”. She claims that the “whole point of hipsters is that they avoid labels and being labeled. However, they all dress the same and act the same and conform in their non-conformity” to an “iconic carefully created sloppy vintage look”.

Rob Horning developed a critique of hipsterism in his April 2009 article “The Death of the Hipster” in PopMatters, exploring several possible definitions for the hipster. He muses that the hipster might be the “embodiment of postmodernism as a spent force, revealing what happens when pastiche and irony exhaust themselves as aesthetics”, or might be “a kind of permanent cultural middleman in hypermediated late capitalism, selling out alternative sources of social power developed by outsider groups, just as the original ‘white negros’ evinced by Norman Mailer did to the original, pre-pejorative ‘hipsters’blacks”. Horning also proposed that the role of hipsters may be to “appropriat[e] the new cultural capital forms, delivering them to mainstream media in a commercial form and stripping their inventors … of the power and the glory”. Horning argues that the “problem with hipsters” is the “way in which they reduce the particularity of anything you might be curious about or invested in into the same dreary common denominator of how ‘cool’ it is perceived to be”, as “just another signifier of personal identity”. Furthermore, he argues that the “hipster is defined by a lack of authenticity, by a sense of lateness to the scene” or the way that they transform the situation into a “self-conscious scene, something others can scrutinize and exploit”.

source: wikipedia

Hipsters: The reincarnation


In early 2000, both The New York Times and Time Out New York ran profiles of Williamsburg, Brooklyn without using the term hipster. The Times referred to “bohemians” and TONY to “arty East Village types”. By 2003, when The Hipster Handbook was published by Williamsburg resident Robert Lanham, the term had come into widespread use in relation to Williamsburg and similar neighborhoods. The Hipster Handbook described hipsters as young people with “mop-top haircuts, swinging retro pocketbooks, talking on cell phones, smoking European cigarettes… strutting in platform shoes with a biography of Che Guevara sticking out of their bags”.Lanham further describes hipsters: “You graduated from a liberal arts school whose football team hasn’t won a game since the Reagan administration” and “you have one Republican friend who you always describe as being your ‘one Republican friend. One author dates the initial phase of the revival of the term from 1999 to 2003.

source: wikipedia

On Being All Political And Shit

Over the last year, my approach and attitude toward politics has evolved. That’s probably true for most of us. A year ago, I was engaged and optimistic about the possibility that Bernie might beat the liberal establishment and make a serious run at the White House. I was in McCarthy, Alaska a year ago, and I went to a Democratic caucus where something like fifteen people showed up, which may not sound like much to you, but McCarthy is a remote community that is literally at the end of the road, way out in bush Alaska, so fifteen people represents roughly half of the winter population. The caucus turned into a party.

But then the establishment struck back and Bernie got booted out, and since then, our political situation has only devolved in a downward spiral of outrage and cultural dysfunction. The worse it gets, the more I find myself single-pointedly posting politically. I can’t help myself.

I don’t apologize for filling my social media with political shit, but it’s odd because I’m not sure that I like it that way. I’d like to broaden my horizons a bit. For example, I’m a new author, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, trying to build a writing career and publish a novel. So from a marketing perspective I know that I should be posting stuff that’s more neutral, less politically charged, in an effort to broaden my influence among potential readers. I know this, intellectually, but it doesn’t stop me. I’m undeterred, day after day posting on politics and power and socialism and, of course, Trump. Is it possible to break out?

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Listen to Your Heart | Watch “Yuval Harari: “Techno-Religions and Silicon Prophets” on YouTube

Yuval Harari is the internationally best-selling author of Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, which is probably my favorite book of 2016. In the introduction to this fascinating YouTube talk (see below), Harari discusses one of the central elements of the modern self and of the modern world: the authority of the individual’s inner voice. We decide essential questions of personal identity, of right or wrong based on our inner sense. We make critical career choices or other life decisions based on how we feel. “Look within,” we tell each other. “What’s your gut telling you?” we ask. Then there’s that ancient Greek inscription that seems to say it all: “know thyself.”

This approach is often derided by religious types. This was certainly true back a decade or so when I haunted churches, seminaries, and other evangelical enclaves. There’s a higher authority than the self, evangelicals would say. For evangelicals, this was biblical authority. For other Christians, it might reside in the church. In conservative politics, the constitution has (for all practical purposes) a biblical authority. But not so fast.

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Putting a damper on things

I often experience a flush of satisfaction in the middle of a good book, and because I have a mild case of eye-strain, most of the books I read these days are audio books.

I enoy reading and writing at the public library in Brunswick, and I don’t get there enough, I reckon. They have study rooms, nice work areas, and a helpful and cheerful staff (cheerful, at least, by librarian standards). They even have a fire room. That’s right, they even have couches in a great room with rugs and wood working and a high ceiling all centered around a roaring, crackling fire. Outside of Maine, I’ve never seen such a thing.

It was in this room that I felt that warm satisfaction that comes from my lifelong craving for story and appreciation for information. I walked swiftly to the restroom and at the door took out my earbuds and tossed them over my shoulder. This was a mistake.

While standing before the open mouth of the toilet, the earbuds worked themselves down my shoulder, slowly and unnoticed, until they eventually slid off entirely. I have pretty good reflexes, so I caught them, but not before the earbuds passed through my stream of urine.

It took some time to clean things up, but it’s a lesson learned, and after all, I had more of my book to look forward to.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon

How I rate it:  4 of 5 stars

What I liked: This is a book with many layers that plays with the theme of reality and fiction, heroes and anti-heroes, heroism and escapism… 

Plot Summary: There is a remarkable inter-weaving of time period (WW2), character development, and subject matters (comic books, superheros, and magicians). Kavalier and Clay seek to transcend the sense of desperation and helplessness they experience, living through the Second World War by way of their creation of comics. They take the hero’s journey, they are both scarred by their pasts, but ultimately they must come to grips with their frustration at being subject to fate and forces beyond their control…

 

The magician seemed to promise that something torn to bits might be mended without a seam, that what had vanished might reappear, that a scattered handful of doves or dust might be reunited by a word, that a paper rose consumed by fire could be made to bloom from a pile of ash, but everyone knew it was only an illusion. The true magic of this broken world lay in the ability of the things it contained to vanish, to become so thoroughly lost that they might never have existed in the first place.

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“I came to ruefully and bemusedly understand that once you’re a Catholic, you’re always a Catholic…This was the world where I found the beginnings of my song. In Catholicism, there existed the poetry, danger and darkness that reflected my imagination and my inner self. I found a land of great and harsh beauty, of fantastic stories, of unimaginable punishment and infinite reward.” ~ Bruce Springsteen