Archive | About

Complexity is the hidden door in the wall, the blurted confession, the patchwork of irony furring our lives. It is the canned tuna I see piled up in a friend’s kitchen. This particular friend is from a tiny village in the Sierra Norte, and he is a major critic of the United States and an advocate of natural, non-GMO, unprocessed fresh food. He loathes supermarkets and their packaging and advertising. He once held a birthday party in which the central dish was the spiny chayote squash that grows on his mom’s property. He and his wife have a newborn baby, and we are at his house to celebrate. There, in the kitchen, stacked high with boxed milk straight from the supermarket, is the canned tuna, on which they have come to rely in the fervor of new parenthood. It is so incongruous I laugh. It echoes the image of another friend of ours, a cynical, sarcastic hipster from Mexico City who works as a curator, decked out in a feathered headdress, being bathed in ceremonial smoke during a Mexica wedding ceremony. Or my husband, the gentlest soul a tiny Mexican pueblo did birth, armed with a rifle in full camo in the rain on an Ohio winter morning. Instead of seeing these as anomalies, I begin to see them as entry points: the places where people become accessible, human, where we find empathy.

Sarah Menkedick, “On Oaxaca, Early Pregnancy, and Motherlands”

Like [Roger] Scruton and most other old-school conservatives, I believe that healthy mediating institutions are essential to a healthy society. And I think he is right in noting how relentlessly the Left attacks such institutions. But international capitalism does too, because every healthy mediating institution, by providing security and fellowship and belonging to its members, reduces its members’ dependence for their flourishing on what can be bought and sold. Neither the Left nor the Market want to see such institutions flourish, though their hostility sometimes stems from different agendas.

I’m usually allergic to generalizations in these matters, but let me risk a big generalization: I think what we have seen and will continue to see in our social order is the fragmentation of institutions and their effective replacement by platforms.

Alan Jacobs, “Platforms and Institutions”

I believe that a truly “good” family is one that is deeply and in fact primarily concerned with the behavior of its members towards other people. That instead of reinforcing indifference, exploitative behavior, arrogance about class, race or gender, blind allegiance to the state, and cruelty towards sexual partners, they systematize methods of accountability. In this way, each family member would grow up with a loving practice of opposition, with the commitment to psychological insight, individuation, and a means of discussion that emphasizes context, objective, and the order of events. Blind adherence would be the definition of “disloyalty,” as it is detrimental to peace and justice. Our model of relationships within groups can be transformed from obedience to biology, biological assumption, or simulacra of biology, emphasizing instead the ethics of each individual’s actions, cumulative consequence, and the necessity of self-criticism. In other words: accountability.

Sarah Schulman, Conflict Is Not Abuse: Overstating Harm, Community Responsibility, and the Duty of Repair

The judicial response to [Trump’s] executive order [on visas] has been both lauded as heroic and derided as lawless grandstanding. Our point is more sociological: This is the way judges behave when they do not believe, with the Court in Mott, that the president “is presumed to act in obedience to his duty until the contrary is shown” and when they do not presume with the Court in Luther that “the high responsibility [the president] could not fail to feel when acting in a case of so much moment, appear[s] to furnish as strong safeguards against a wilful abuse of power as human prudence and foresight could well provide.” This is how courts behave when they cannot begin with the premise Obama began with about Bush: that the president is a good man.

Benjamin Wittes and Quinta Jurecic, “What Happens When We Don’t Believe the President’s Oath?”

[O]ften as you’re finishing with one question you have usually produced another, just the way that you extrude clay through a hole. You got your piece but you left this big bunch of shit and then you want to make something, you go back to what you left behind.

Maggie Nelson, in Maggie Lange, “Maggie Nelson Writes Books Like She’s Hosting a Party”

It’s a barren feeling to know at the age of twenty-five that you’ve already lived the most intense period of your life, that a vividness has blazed up and short-circuited something in you and you will remember what it felt like to be alive but not feel it again, and you won’t even want to remember, can’t bear it, it’s too ploughed with guilt and pain. It seemed all of a sudden like a wind had slacked off and I was left leaning off-balance in a world something considerable had passed through. Once I had choices. Then it was as if my life leaped out of my body.

Forrest Gander, As a Friend

The civil society organisations I’ve encountered here in the US seem to be scrambling to understand how to respond to the quickly-changing political environment. Now, US-based organisations need to take a moment to listen and learn from counterparts in countries where authoritarian governments have been in power for years, and where trust between government and civil society has long been broken (if it ever existed).

For too long, “partnership” efforts have been far more about getting perceived “developing” countries to be more like “developed” countries. Finally it’s becoming clearer that that relationship should be anything but one-way and linear.

Zara Rahman, “Moving Civil Society into the Digital”

There’s no question that civic engagement is a way to stand firm against the degradation of a representative system of government. At the same time, recasting the fundamental building blocks of civic engagement not as essential tools of public engagement available to all citizens in all times, but as acts of resistance we deploy only against extraordinary threats to our system, is a quick way to get those acts tagged as radical rather than normal.

Alyssa Rosenberg, “Calling Basic Civics ‘Resistance’ Will Only Make It Harder to Stand Up to Trump”