Interesting look at Brexit in the context of the British elite’s long history of raging incompetence regarding the redrawing of borders, from India the Ireland.
But there is still another, darker way of judging what goes on when elites put themselves in the vanguard of social change: that doing so not only fails to make things better, but also serves to keep things as they are. After all, it takes the edge off of some of the public’s anger at being excluded from progress. It improves the image of the winners. By using private and voluntary half-measures, it crowds out public solutions that would solve problems for everyone, and do so with or without the elite’s blessing. There is no question that the outpouring of elite-led social change in our era does great good and soothes pain and saves lives. But we should also recall Oscar Wilde’s words about such elite helpfulness being “not a solution” but “an aggravation of the difficulty”. More than a century ago, in an age of churn like our own, he wrote: “Just as the worst slave-owners were those who were kind to their slaves, and so prevented the horror of the system being realised by those who suffered from it, and understood by those who contemplated it, so, in the present state of things in England, the people who do most harm are the people who try to do most good.”
Anand Giridharadas on philanthropy.
From a longer and very much worthwhile essay on billionaire philanthropy, and related to Giridharadas’s book, Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World, which I really need to get around to reading…
Also, because it probably bears mentioning: in the modern context, comparing capitalists with slaveowning reads as, uh. Maybe something of a Hot Take. But contextually in Wilde’s time it was pretty common; Marx does it quite extensively in Capital, for example, to the point of all-but calling capitalism in general, in which individuals are effectively coerced under threat of starvation to sell themselves, a kind of “socially acceptable” form of slavery for white people.1 Marx’s point, incidentally, was both that slavery and capitalism are terrible institutions, that the drivers behind both are the same, and that the working class should be the ones to stand the most vociferously against slavery in general.2
So tl;dr, you could certainly have an argument as to the appropriateness of the “capitalism is like slavery!” comparison—both Marx and Wilde are, obviously, Extremely White Guys—but the fact that it was a known argument has probably in no small part contributed to the historic tendency of the right to try and do as much wedge politics as possible between the white working class and communities of color. Which, as we’re probably all aware, has been hugely successful for them.3 So… there’s that.
- “What the working man sells is not directly his Labor, but his Laboring Power, the temporary disposal of which he makes over to the capitalist. This is so much the case that I do not know whether by the English Law, but certainly by some Continental Laws, the maximum time is fixed for which a man is allowed to sell his laboring power. If allowed to do so for any indefinite period whatever, slavery would be immediately restored. Such a sale, if it comprised his lifetime, for example, would make him at once the lifelong slave of his employer.” Incidentally, this exact system is the generally considered to be the most prevalent form of slavery in modern times. [↩]
- “Labor cannot emancipate itself in the white skin where in the black it is branded.” [↩]
- But has not always been the case, for which ref. for e.g. Alan I. Abramowitz’s The Great Alignment: Race, Party Transformation, and the Rise of Donald Trump, which shows some of the statistical trends as they’ve manifested in the US over time. [↩]
The political project of neoliberalism, brought to ascendence by Thatcher and Reagan, has pursued two principal objectives. The first has been to dismantle any barriers to the exercise of unaccountable private power. The second had been to erect them to the exercise of any democratic public will.
At the very moment when climate change demands an unprecedented collective public response, neoliberal ideology stands in the way. Which is why, if we want to bring down emissions fast, we will need to overcome all of its free-market mantras: take railways and utilities and energy grids back into public control; regulate corporations to phase out fossil fuels; and raise taxes to pay for massive investment in climate-ready infrastructure and renewable energy — so that solar panels can go on everyone’s rooftop, not just on those who can afford it.
Neoliberalism has not merely ensured this agenda is politically unrealistic: it has also tried to make it culturally unthinkable. Its celebration of competitive self-interest and hyper-individualism, its stigmatization of compassion and solidarity, has frayed our collective bonds. It has spread, like an insidious anti-social toxin, what Margaret Thatcher preached: “there is no such thing as society.”
Martin Lukacs on collective action.
This is a long excerpt, but one that always bears repeating: individual consumer actions cannot address systemic issues, and convincing you they can is neoliberalism’s greatest trick.
Stop freakin’ falling for it.
So hey did you ever notice that the decline of blogging not only seemed to coincide with the rise of more “informal” social media… but also with the advent of large media outlets actually, like. Paying for blog posts?
Relatedly: So about six months ago I met my friend’s girlfriend, who normally lives halfway across the world from both myself and Friend, for the first time. I only knew Friend’s Girlfriend by her first name, but she nonetheless looked extremely familiar. Eventually, I got enough courage to ask, “So, hey. Weird question, but… did you used to write for The Border House?”
For those of you who don’t remember, The Border House was basically the first website to examine videogames through an intersectional lens. Nowadays it seems almost forgotten, in part (though admittedly not whole) because its market—and its writers—got gobbled up by commercial publications like Kotaku, Polygon, and so on.
As it turned out, Friend’s Girlfriend was, indeed, the person I thought she was, and we had a nice little reminisce about the site. And how it ended. Small fucking world, turns out.
The dragon on her hoard. The horror in its void. The word-spanning AI. The demon reaping souls. Too often fiction portrays the non-human as Other; as a threat to be destroyed, to be conquered… or to be “saved”, assimilated back into the teeming throngs of humanity.
Not this time. This time, it’s the non-humans’ turn. What is life like, to be imperfect. To observe humanity from without? What does it mean to be seen as horrific, to be rejected… and to overcome that? Or embrace it? To embrace it or reject it? And what does our love of these stories tell us can we, as human readers, learn from that about ourselves?
Unnatural Order is an anthology for strange days and grotesque beauty, as the monstrous seeps out from the dark, and makes the light its own.
Sounds awesome? OF COURSE IT DOES! Monsters, man! Monsters! I can’t believe someone gave me and Lyss the opportunity to make an entire goddamn short story anthology of monsters.
Oh, and did I mention we’re looking to launch this at next year’s WorldCon? Because we totally are.
Because that’s a super-tight timeframe, submissions are open, like. Now. Until October. Next month we’ll also be launching a Kickstarter, managed by Rivqa, who you may remember from the totally awesome, multi-award-winning Mother of Invention anthology. The base project is funding (i.e. there’ll be something at the end), but the Kickstarter is for things like paying authors more, commissioning interior art,2 and actually paying the people we’ve currently got volunteering on services like copyediting and layout. For you guys, however, the Kickstarter is a way to, a) pre-order copies of the final anthology, including an exclusive hardback edition, and b) get sweet, sweet monster-related merch. So… definitely keep an eyestalk out.
And, finally, to celebrate: Liesmith will be free on Amazon for the next week. So… monsters! Eee!
Maciej Cegłowski, the guy who created Pinboard, with a (positive) retrospect on his interactions with fandom.
Probably some chuckles in here for anyone who’s ever been involved with any kind of fandom project, and has experienced the overly earnest deluges of enthusiasm that can sometimes accompany them. Also interesting to see an outsider’s reaction to what, from inside fandom, seem like Entirely Normal Tagging Conventions…
One of the things I think it’s very easy to forget, is that fandom is just as full of, say. Data scientists and librarians and coders as it is with any other profession. People bring in norms and conventions from their day jobs—or make up new, better ones in reaction to things they’ve seen done poorly—and they get adopted by other fans and normalized. To an outsider, I suppose it can seem like some kind of spontaneous, magical, wisdom-of-crowds thing—given that fandom identifies as Fandom, not as Profession—but… it’s really not. It’s just a lot of people with a lot of different experiences and skills and knowledge, all coming together to find the most efficient way of producing and consuming poly tentacle sex pollen fics featuring their favorite characters from film/TV/et al.
Let’s dig into “gravitas,” because it’s an ambiguous word, selectively applied. Ever wonder how expression that’s feminine, working-class, queer, or POC isn’t deemed as having “gravitas”, but talking like an Aaron Sorkin character does? Men have “gravitas,” women get “likeable.”
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on words.
Ocasio-Cortez is specifically namedropping Sorkin here because she’s saying this in response to some of his dipshit comments. Also, The West Wing is still a bad show and that’s a take I will now and forever stand by.
As someone who was so scared by the Toxic Shock Bogeyman as a teen and has subsequently never used a tampon because of it,1 this re-look at the “syndrome” was pretty fascinating. And not just for the fact that apparently all the major researchers in the area are dudes who get into prestige fights over whose theory of the causes is correct…
- Not that I’ve had a period for, like, a decade. But still… [↩]