Robin James: SCOTUS to US: There is no such thing as civil society
Civil society was something that existed among white Europeans and which was supposedly lacking among indigeneous peoples across the rest of the globe. Because personhood and all the rights that go with that status were thought to exist only in civil society and not in the state of nature, it was then no violation to colonize land thought to be in the state of nature or to treat people thought to be in that state as property. Social contract theory used the idea of “civil society” to justify the colonial/racial project of excluding non-white people from personhood.
By de-funding public education, rendering public space inherently more risky, and eliminating the right to privacy in one’s sexual and reproductive choices, these three decisions all eliminate the existence of a key element of classically liberal social ontology: the civil private sphere (i.e., the realm of civil privacy, the private sector, etc.). Put simply, they’re reworking the way the U.S. Constitution models the relation between public and private from the classically liberal model the framers used in the 18th century into a neoliberal one premised on the idea that, as Margaret Thatcher infamously put it, “there is no such thing as society.” In this neoliberal model, there is no civil society (e.g., public space, the realm of individual civil privacy, etc.) and the state only exists to enforce the boundaries of the patriarchal racial capitalist framing of the domestic private sphere.
Ashley Fetters: What to Ask Instead of ‘How Are You?’ During a Pandemic (The Atlantic)
Everyone’s doing badly. We need better questions to ask.
Tannen is partial to “What am I interrupting?” as a conversation starter for phone calls. Meanwhile, Butler recommends “Are you still holding up okay?,” which can work as a succinct check-in before moving the discussion to other matters: It tacitly acknowledges the circumstances but nudges the respondent toward a succinct yes-or-no (or “More or less!”) answer. In my own conversations, I like to go with “What’s your day been like so far?,” which moves the long-term circumstances into the backdrop and asks for only a small, trivial morsel of information.
But with close friends and family, especially, continuing the mutual charade of “I’m fine, thank you” can seem pointless when both sides know that neither of them is fine. These settings are where “How are you?” belongs these days: where the asker is prepared for an honest answer.
Due to COVID-19: Documenting the signs of the pandemic
During the coronavirus pandemic, daily life has come to a sudden standstill and businesses have had to respond. Signs on storefronts announce operational changes but these messages are also brimming over with solidarity, shared responsibility, and cautious optimism. This project attempts to document the temporary signs that have gone up across our communities.
Juliette Kayyem: After Social Distancing, a Strange Purgatory Awaits (The Atlantic)
Life right now feels very odd. And it will feel odd for months—and even years—to come.
The simplistic idea of “opening up” fails to acknowledge that individual Americans’ risk-and-reward calculus may have shifted dramatically in the past few weeks. Yes, I’d like to go meet some girlfriends for drinks. But I am also a mother with responsibilities to three kids, so is a Moscow mule worth it? The answer will depend on so many factors between my home and sitting at the bar, and none of them will be weighed casually.
Our reentry will be slow. There could be another wave. Adaptive recovery is going to last a very long time—and it will not feel normal at all.
Rachel Miller: The Answer to All of Your Social Distancing Loophole Questions Is No (Vice)
Viruses don’t operate by potential carriers’ best intentions. They operate exclusively by our actions.
No in-person first dates or group exercise classes. No jaunts to your parents’ house or trips back to the city where you actually live from wherever you fled to a month ago. No IRL baby showers or walks with friends or spontaneous trips to the grocery store for "just a few things." The place where you are, at this moment, is the place you need to stay. It’s going to be this way intermittently, and maybe even constantly, until there is a vaccine for COVID-19.
But a lot of folks are still approaching coronavirus from a place of, What are my personal odds of illness, and, if I get sick, of surviving the illness? versus, How can I not harm other people?
As much as this hurts, it is also the way one can expect to feel during a crisis. If it felt mostly fine and easy to manage, it wouldn’t be a once-in-a-lifetime, five-alarm public health disaster. Whenever I am feeling particularly frustrated, I find that it helps me to remember that this, in large part, is what a sacrifice is. Feeling awful is not good, but it is right—that is, it is correct. The collective sense of helplessness and sadness and rage and overwhelming desire for things to be different and “normal” again is the grief. The solution—if we can even call it that—is just to sit with your fury and your despair and your fear for a little while.
But if you know, deep down, that your question is just a fresh rephrasing of, “May I be granted one (1) exception to the CDC recommendations in order to be a little less uncomfortable because I think my needs are more important than others'?” The answer is no. Someday the answer will be yes. I’d say I can’t wait for that day, but I can, and I will—because it’s right and we must.
Peter C Baker: ‘We can’t go back to normal’: how will coronavirus change the world? (The Guardian)
The long read: Times of upheaval are always times of radical change. Some believe the pandemic is a once-in-a-generation chance to remake society and build a better future. Others fear it may only make existing injustices worse.
It’s not just the size and speed of what is happening that’s dizzying. It’s the fact that we have grown accustomed to hearing that democracies are incapable of making big moves like this quickly, or at all. But here we are. Any glance at history reveals that crises and disasters have continually set the stage for change, often for the better.
The argument, in its simplest form, is this: Covid-19 has revealed the political status quo to be broken. Long before anyone had heard of the new coronavirus, people died of diseases we knew how to prevent and treat. People lived precarious lives in societies awash with wealth. Experts told us about catastrophic threats on the horizon, including pandemics, and we did next to nothing to prepare for them. At the same time, the drastic measures governments have taken in recent weeks testify to just how much power the state does have – the extent of what government can accomplish (and quickly!) when it realises it must act boldly or risk being seen as fundamentally illegitimate. As Pankaj Mishra recently wrote: “It has taken a disaster for the state to assume its original responsibility to protect citizens.”
For years, in mainstream politics the conventional line – on everything from healthcare to basic living expenses such as housing – has been that even if the world has its problems, expansive government intervention is not a feasible solution. Instead, we have been told that what works best are “marketplace” solutions, which give large roles to corporations motivated not by outdated notions like “the public good” but by a desire to make a profit. But then the virus started spreading, governments spent trillions in days – even going so far as to write cheques directly to citizens – and suddenly the question of what was feasible felt different.
From this perspective, the task today is not to fight the virus in order to return to business as usual, because business as usual was already a disaster. The goal, instead, is to fight the virus – and in doing so transform business as usual into something more humane and secure.
For anyone making this argument, the contrast between 2008 and the present crisis is striking. Compared to the opaque financial crisis, with its credit default swaps and collateralised debt obligations, the coronavirus is relatively easy to understand. It is a dozen crises tangled into one, and they’re all unfolding immediately, in ways that cannot be missed. Politicians are getting infected. Wealthy celebrities are getting infected. Your friends and relatives are getting infected. We may not quite all be “in it together” – as always, the poor are hit worse – but there is more truth to the idea than there ever was in the wake of 2008.
In this, the optimists believe, there is hope that we might begin to see the world differently. Maybe we can view our problems as shared, and society as more than just a mass of individuals competing against each other for wealth and standing. Maybe, in short, we can understand that the logic of the market should not dominate as many spheres of human existence as we currently allow it to.
Although Covid-19 is likely the biggest global crisis since the second world war, it is still dwarfed in the long term by climate change. Yet the two problems have suggestive similarities. Both will require unusual levels of global cooperation. Both demand changes in behaviour today in the name of reducing suffering tomorrow. Both problems were long predicted with great certainty by scientists, and have been neglected by governments unable to see beyond the next fiscal quarter’s growth statistics. Accordingly, both will require governments to take drastic action and banish the logic of the marketplace from certain realms of human activity, while simultaneously embracing public investment. In other words, to think of this new level of state intervention as a temporary requirement is to ensure that we continue barrelling down the path to climate disaster.
The world feels awfully strange right now, but not because – or not just because – it is changing so fast and any one of us could fall ill at any time, or could already be carrying the virus and not know it. It feels strange because the past few weeks have exposed the fact that the biggest things can always change, at any minute. This simple truth, both destabilising and liberating, is easy to forget. We’re not watching a movie: we’re writing one, together, until the end.
Tricia Wang: You Can Learn Something From The People Of Wuhan (BuzzFeed News)
Media has focused on the top-down, authoritarian response in Wuhan. But the way ordinary citizens handled the crisis should be replicated across the world.
Federal and state responses to coronavirus are becoming more organized, but the magnitude of this crisis requires massively sustained bottom-up efforts too. This is why mutual-aid networks, caremongering, local delivery for at-risk populations, and neighborhood slack groups are being activated like wildfire across the US.
Thread by @FaithNaff: THREAD: Let's talk about morality and the "job" of being a landlord. There's been a lot of talk during this COVID-19 situation about rent freezes.
Having a thing and making someone pay you to use that thing does not in-and-of-itself constitute a job.
No human being will ever go a day in their life not needing shelter. At no point do you not need a place to live. The need for shelter in a specific area may be temporary, as in the case with hotels, but we always have to have somewhere to call home.
Jedediah Britton-Purdy: The Only Treatment for Coronavirus Is Solidarity (Jacobin)
We live in an interwoven, interconnected world where an injury to one is truly an injury to all. We must confront the coronavirus with solidarity and fight for a society where the health of all is more important than profits for a few.
The scramble reveals a class system in which a mark of relative status is the power to withdraw. If you have wealth or a salary from an institution that values you, and enough space at home, you might be able to pull off the essentially absurd trick of isolating yourself for a few months by drawing down the global web of commodities on display at Costco and Trader Joe’s. But for the 50 percent of the country that has no savings and lives paycheck to paycheck, or in small apartments with little food storage, or has to hustle every day to find work, this is simply impossible. People will be out every day, on the subways, at the gas stations, choosing between epidemiological prudence and economic survival, because they have no choice but to make that choice.
“Wash your hands” is good advice but also a poignant reminder that this is not the sort of problem that personal responsibility can solve. Epidemiology is a political problem. It’s not hard to sketch the steps that would ease our cruel situation: a work stoppage, massive income support (unemployment payments with some universal basic income in the mix), a moratorium on mortgage foreclosures and evictions. Treatment for coronavirus and potentially related symptoms should be free and comprehensive, no questions asked (about immigration status, for instance), so that no one goes untreated because of fear or poverty. This is all, in the most straightforward sense, good for everyone. It is also how people look out for one another’s vulnerability and need when they see one another’s problems as their own.
It takes a vast and intricate infrastructure to keep us all running in one another’s service, and in the ultimate service of return to capital: from highways to credit markets to the global trade regime. The fact that these interwoven systems are tanking financial markets around the world at the prospect that people might need to spend a few months sitting at home rather than hurrying around exchanging money shows how finely calibrated they are to profit, and how totally lacking in resilience to shifts in human need.
Connor Wroe Southard: ‘Parasite’ and the rise of Revolutionary Gothic (The Outline)
An emergent genre explores how class conflict is always part ghost story, and how the only answer is insurrection.
Interpreting Parasite and Us in tandem, regardless of their differences, helps us understand crucial and complicated elements they share. In both movies, the violence enacted by the subterranean specters is emotionally and morally fraught — exactly who deserves to suffer or die like this, and why? Is it doing anyone any good? Once we understand these movies as Revolutionary Gothic, it becomes clear that’s the wrong question. We’d have to start with: Why wouldn’t we expect spectacular violence to erupt from the hidden violence of forcing human beings underground? Why would we expect the ghosts we’ve created not to haunt us?
Revolutionary Gothic is less about the inevitability of overthrow than the inevitability of rupture, of all that haunts us coming back for a reckoning. These stories don’t try to comfort us with victory; they unsettle us with the implications of ongoing defeat.
Dan Brooks: Raising a person in a culture full of types (The Outline)
We probably shouldn’t be telling children that who they are determines what they do.
This admittedly fine point is not just a matter of language; it also carries an ethical implication. The coward can’t really be blamed for doing cowardly stuff, because that’s his nature — the same way you can’t blame the kitchen table for being hard and heavy when you stub your toe. But the difference between human beings and objects is that we do not have fixed natures that determine our behavior. When I say I didn’t do the dishes because I’m lazy, I’m talking around the fact that I could have done them but chose not to. The illusion of a fixed nature gives us an excuse to repeat bad behavior. To insist that what we do determines who we are — and not the other way around — is to make freedom and therefore responsibility a part of our worldview at the most basic level.
Freedom is scary, though, because it is the freedom to become something other than what you are now — something you cannot predict. It’s easier to think of yourself as a type of person, riding along with yourself and playing out the behaviors your type does. It’s comforting to think that you did what you did because of who you are, even if who you are is bad, because nothing is more frightening than the feeling that you are about to change into someone else. Ask any 12 year-old.
Siobhan Leddy: We should all be reading more Ursula Le Guin (The Outline)
Her novels imagine other worlds, but her theory of fiction can help us better live in this one.
Le Guin’s carrier bag is, in addition to a story about early humans, a method for storytelling itself, meaning it’s also a method of history. But unlike the spear (which follows a linear trajectory towards its target), and unlike the kind of linear way we’ve come to think of time and history in the West, the carrier bag is a big jumbled mess of stuff. One thing is entangled with another, and with another.
As well as its meandering narrative, a carrier bag story also contains no heroes. There are, instead, many different protagonists with equal importance to the plot. This is a very difficult way to tell a story, fictional or otherwise. While, in reality, most meaningful social change is the result of collective action, we aren’t very good at recounting such a diffusely distributed account. The meetings, the fundraising, the careful and drawn-out negotiations — they’re so boring! Who wants to watch a movie about a four-hour meeting between community stakeholders?
We will not “beat” climate change, nor is “nature” our adversary. If the planet could be considered a container for all life, in which everything — plants, animals, humans — are all held together, then to attempt domination becomes a self-defeating act. By letting ourselves “become part of the killer story,” writes Le Guin, “we may get finished along with it.” All of which is to say: we have to abandon the old story.
We are still learning how to tell stories about climate change. It is fundamentally a more-than-human problem, one that simultaneously affects all communities of people, animals, plants — albeit asymmetrically. The kind of story we need right now is unheroic, incorporating social movements, political imagination and nonhuman actors. In this story, time doesn’t progress in an easily digestible straight line, with a beginning, middle and end. Instead there are many timelines, each darting around, bringing actions of the past and future into the present. It collapses nature as a category, recognizing that we’re already a part of it. In a climate change story, nobody will win, but if we learn to tell it differently more of us can survive.
Malcolm Harris: ‘Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat’ Is a Marxist Fantasy Come to Life (Eater)
Alienation is not only a feeling of detachment from the world, in Marxism it is a condition of literal theft. Workers exit the day with less than they had when they entered — Americans know this instinctively if not explicitly, which is why our national dream is to “work for myself” before a company “uses me up.” A reality show about the line cooks at a moderately expensive brunch place wouldn’t feel anything like Nosrat’s slow-food explorations; there’s nothing calming or even appetizing about the corner-cutting necessary to cook for someone else’s profit. When it comes to food, industrial efficiency is often gross.
Contrariwise, unalienated labor is sublime. This is virtuosity performed for its own sake, and it’s the truth behind the saying “the best things in life are free.” For example, hallowed above all on fine-dining TV from Top Chef to Chef’s Table is the concept of the “family meal” — the pre-service food that chefs cook for their restaurant staff. Unlike the alienated dinners they’ll serve later, family meal is a place for experimentation and risk. You can’t buy your way in, it’s the workers’ privilege alone. Most creative professions have their version of the family meal, and those of us who work in those jobs are willing to trade a lot for the occasional unalienated moment when we can give and/or receive work directly.
Now that the rich are no longer required to pay taxes, death has become the sole universal human predicament.
Renouncing one’s own greed, understanding oneself as one small participant in the infinitely long conga line of history, is reassuring, as is the idea that you can contribute to the well-being of those who will survive you. In fact it’s the only real (by which I mean, lasting) balm for the fear that is the inevitable companion of life.
This is real. The living, breathing bodies in this room are real. I am not an avatar, a set of preferences, or some smooth cognitive force. I’m lumpy, I’m an animal, I hurt sometimes, and I’m different one day to the next. I hear, I see, and I smell things that hear, see, and smell me. And it can take a break to remember that, a break to do nothing, to listen, to remember what we are and where we are.
We’re building on a web littered with too-heavy sites, on an internet that’s unevenly, unequally distributed. That’s why designing a lightweight, inexpensive digital experience is a form of kindness. And while that kindness might seem like a small thing these days, it’s a critical one. A device-agnostic, data-friendly interface helps ensure your work can reach as many people as possible, regardless of their location, income level, network quality, or device.
We all participate in the propagation of gendered ideas in one way or another. Even ignoring your assigned gender and being an eclectic mix of traits that you don’t see as gendered can serve as a point of reference to people around you. Every aspect of a person can serve as a source of inspiration for others that helps unlock a part of themselves they weren’t aware of before, or it can serve as an example of what they are not. Every instance of identification is also an instance of a meme reproducing.
Joe Keohane: In Praise of Meaningless Work (The New Republic)
Yes, we should all hope—demand, even—that the workplace of the future will be governed more by respect and sensitivity than cupidity and the Peter Principle. But until that day comes, we should embrace not the meaningfulness of work, but its meaninglessness. The cold, unromantic transaction. The part that keeps food in our bellies and a roof over our heads. The part that, theoretically, gives us our nights and weekends. Let’s demand that recompense, first and foremost, and deal with the rest later. With unemployment falling to pre-recession levels, employees are hopefully gaining the leverage to say enough. The prayer is that the line will be drawn, and managers will then see that the way forward is actually very simple: Hire good people. Treat them well. Help them succeed. Compensate them fairly. Let them go home.
Virginia Pasley: On Campus Racism And The Fairy Tale Of The P.C. Police (NPR)
Maybe we shouldn't worry so much about the students who ask that others consider their feelings and their histories, the ones who don't want to talk to reporters, the ones who would like people to stop wearing Native American headdresses or blackface to Halloween parties. Maybe we should worry more about the students who seem hellbent on doing whatever they'd like, history or context or plain old manners be damned. Instead of worrying about the students who point out violent threats on Yik Yak, worry about the students making threats.
Elizabeth Plank: Why We Love Angry Men, But Hate Impassioned Women (PolicyMic)
In other words, a man is angry because he cares, while a woman is angry because she's an emotional wreck. Men who are angry don't only get more respect, status, and better job titles — they also get higher pay Despite the fact that men can use anger to achieve status, women may need to be calm in order to come off as rational. You know, so that people don't think they're PMS-ing, or whatever.
Why Universal Health Care Is Unambiguously Necessary for America
Given the importance of medicine, I feel that it would be useful to clarify this issue. I will explain clearly, and with evidence, why it is that universal healthcare of any sort would be better than the current system in every significant way. If you find yourself disagreeing with this assertion, I ask that you read on before replying, as all conceivable objections will be addressed and resolved.
Anders Zanichkowsky: Why I Oppose Marriage Equality
I have two main problems with the marriage equality movement: 1. That its operation takes a tremendous amount of money, energy, and attention away from far more pressing issues. (Sometimes this is clear and direct, such as California spending $43 million on Prop 8 while $85 million was being cut from HIV/AIDS services. Sometimes this is more subtle, the successes of which can be measured when every single straight person I know uses their approval for same-sex marriage to demonstrate their allyship to me.) 2. That its strategies actively work against movements for queer economic justice, by removing capitalism, meaningful immigration reform, and gender/sexual deviance from the discussion entirely.
clever title tba • Why I almost defriended everyone who had an HRC logo as their profile photo this week
Listen, either you know nothing about the HRC and you posted the photo without bothering to ask any questions about what actual cause you were supporting: disturbing. Or you actually do know about the HRC, and its policies, and you posted the photo anyway: more disturbing. Either way, the net effect is the same: the alignment between the HRC and the “gay rights” movement is solidified, attention and funding is directed towards the HRC and away from organizations that actually support coalitional politics, and yes, one more step is taken—away from the possibility of actual social change for those populations (undocumented immigrants, transgendered youth, the thousands of black and Latino men targeted daily by the prison industrial complex, for instance) that are actually in material need.