Behind all this lurks the specter of the self-driving car — the emblem of a paradise in which all transportation, everywhere, is replaced by software that regulates, with serene efficiency, the motion of an entire civilization. This is the vision that animates every regulatory collapse, every public-transportation failure, every taxi driver’s lost livelihood. For the consumer, the system is already automated: you press a button, a car shows up, you emerge at your destination. It is, in the jargon of the Valley, “frictionless.”
The Intellectual Situation
[The] No Fly List contains fewer than 100,000 names; nevertheless, one major airline told DHS that it and other watch lists were generating 9,000 false positives a day — more than 3 million a year. One of the names on the No Fly List belongs to a 7-month-old baby. This result is bad from a civil-liberties perspective, but it may also be undesirable from a harder-nosed angle. What if, in one of every thousand cases, the experience of being watch-listed pushes a suspect over the line into committing an act of terrorism?
Correa’s success was rooted in his administration’s model of commodity-dependent left populism. The model goes by different names. Officially, it is “socialism of the 21st century” or “post-neoliberalism.” Indigenous and environmental activists call it extractivism. Correa’s political opponents, right and left, refer to it as correísmo.
The peculiarity of The Art of the Deal — and what lent Trump’s candidacy its puzzling allure (a plutocrat denouncing plutocrats, an effect of wealth decrying the effects of wealth, a man of the market denigrating the virtue of the market) — is how it simultaneously advances the right’s competing visions of the market.
We began to speak regularly over Skype, about Syria, about Germany. It was October 2015, and refugees were rarely away from the headlines: overloaded boats capsizing in the Mediterranean, vast columns of people walking down Greek highways. In the right-wing tabloids, there were tales of mass invasion and terrorist infiltration. In the liberal media, stories of individual quests: grueling journeys from horror toward safety. In most of them, the curtain fell on the moment of arrival, a safe haven and the tentative hope of a fresh start. I wanted to understand what life was like after the journey’s end.
Fiction and Drama
Growing up, Miriam surmised, was the process by which one became opaque to God, and this was why nobody could read her mother’s mind, or the elders’. Miriam thought of egg whites clouding in a frying pan, and wondered whether she would still have evil thoughts when no one else could see them.
We are filled with joy that you take your riding examination today. From such surmounting of physical boundaries do we prepare ourselves to traverse thresholds where matter dissolves into spirit, where time and space fall away, and where the glorious universe reveals itself to us in its infinite shades of compassion and love. A horse may be just a horse, but for you it is only the first of your many vahanas. You will not fail.
But here, looking through The Magazine, she worries this may have been a mistake. Behold, inside, the whole of America: fashion knockoffs, “diets that work,” stratified wealth, divorce, couture latex, infidelity, single moms, contouring, God, fame, infamy. She thinks, All I have to do is check the facts.
We exist in a society of complex gestures, all running along their own time; we are all interrupting, witnessing, performing simultaneously, and this was much easier to accept and discern when it was believed that all of our movement happened upon an unmoving ground, when it was believed that the ground itself was a dense impaction of dirt and sediment, when we didn’t think about the ground.
I drink all the wine in the cellar before my friend flies into town. It’s just me and two housekeepers, four groundskeepers, and her mother’s best friend, who texts me from the next room whenever she’s leaving for yoga. Whenever I run into her, making coffee in the kitchen or by the pool, she’s stretching with a pained look on her face, her reading glasses twisted on Croakies around her neck.
Trump went out of his way last year to let voters know he still believed they were guilty. This is how he thrives. Now he has grafted his head onto our collective body, with his horror-movie hairdo always in our face. Trump’s head is struggling to control our actions and responses the same way Milland’s head struggled to control Grier’s body in this cheap movie. The devil finds work where he can.
Forty years ago, John Berger called the zoo “an epitaph to a relationship” between people and animals. Today those words could be applied to much of middle-class mass culture: it has become a kind of memorial to the nonhuman world, revived in a thousand representations even as it disappears all at once.
Gone is the task of providing “equipment for living,” in the words of Kenneth Burke, one of Richards’s American contemporaries and soul mates. Instead, the discipline or profession of literary studies aims to produce knowledge about the literature or societies of the past, with no overt purpose beyond the circulation and transmission of this knowledge to a group of similarly trained specialists. Even though the knowledge produced is rich in political content — and is often deliberately political — the use value of that political content must be denied or covered up by vague Enlightenment equivalencies between knowledge and progress at the very moment it appears as professional work.
Winning majorities in the Electoral College and in both chambers of Congress means winning pluralities in all sorts of places. This is particularly tricky at a time when Democrats congregate in cities. Perhaps an attack on monopoly will dislodge the tech bloc and also win Senate seats, but intellectuals on the left do themselves no favors by ignoring the exigencies of the rickety American electoral system.