Foreign Affairs

Extraction Rebellion

Extraction Rebellion

A Green Zone of hope

Vast stretches of earth, once rich with vegetation and wildlife, are now barren. Running cracks fragment sun-hardened dirt for hundreds of miles. Increasingly severe dust storms and triple-digit temperatures routinely consume the cities and towns that remain. Electricity is scarce; there are no working fans, air filters, or air conditioners. Water, when available, is often contaminated, but still ingested regularly despite the risks.

The Protests in Hong Kong

The Protests in Hong Kong

“How will it end” is not the right question

What’s been happening here is hard for even the most oblivious tourist to ignore. People try—I’ve seen a guy in jogging gear and earbuds plowing through a mass of protestors—but even the shopping malls and financial centers are regularly teargassed. I hadn’t been to Hong Kong before, and I’ve learned to navigate the city by checking a crowd-sourced map that displays icons representing the locations of protest actions and police presence.

Portraits in Oil

Portraits in Oil

Riches without embarrassment

I do not know what it was like to go, French or otherwise, to the original Louvre when it opened in its revolutionarily repurposed palace in 1793. Maybe everything felt borrowed, maybe it was just as hard to tell the salvage from the wreck. The original Louvre had no qualms about trading on the artistic grandeur of former empires. Nor did the nouveau riche Americans of the late 19th century, eagerly snatching up European art and European prestige. The Louvre Abu Dhabi hardly breaks from tradition.

Then WeCame to the End

Then WeCame to the End

WeWork’s contradictions

What happened since August wasn’t the consequence of the kind of investigative journalism that felled Theranos, or the long-foreshadowed public tumble of an Uber. It was more akin to a Twitter cancellation. Long known facts were re-aired in a new climate. What was once amusing or somewhat confusing was now, in a new light, merely horrifying. The hopped-up teenagers and amorphous social media celebrities who direct cascades of moralistic condemnation at mediocre movies and TV shows were replaced by middle-aged men moralizing about and condemning a 220-page SEC document on Twitter, in real time.

There Are Some Fires That Get Put Out, and Some That Don't

There Are Some Fires That Get Put Out, and Some That Don't

Grenfell, two years on

As well as sadness, the air of the vigil contained a throb of rage: two years on from the fire, the government’s failure to make any meaningful steps towards accountability continues to spark fury. When it was his turn to take the stage, British-Iraqi rapper Lowkey, who witnessed the fire and wrote a piece that has become something of an anthem for the tragedy, used the opportunity to denounce neoliberalism in verse. Just a few months prior, models and activists wearing 72 Dead and Still No Arrests? How Come? t-shirts had occupied the runway at a London Fashion Week event, a demonstration organized by the advocacy group Justice4Grenfell. Strictly speaking, the shirts’ claim is no longer true—Reis Morris, a community member who lost family in the fire, is currently serving a two-month prison sentence after allegedly threatening a fire chief during a conversation about the fact that the tower’s plastic cover was coming off. A few blocks away from the tower, someone has strung a banner with the words I am Reis Morris along the side of an overpass. There are some fires that get put out and some fires that don’t.

One Part Retribution, One Part Redemption

One Part Retribution, One Part Redemption

On Binyavanga Wainaina, 1971–2019

Wainaina was in fine form the day we met, a mind on fire, and a cultural worker at the height of his powers. So the news this past week that we had lost him so early at age 48, of a stroke, hit my world hard. I had seen him in Berlin a couple years back, at one of the gatherings at Savvy Contemporary art gallery. He had suffered a racist attack while in Berlin, but was unbowed and determined to continue his sojourning. For many of us in diaspora, losing Binyavanga Wainaina felt like we were left with one less heartbeat in our chest. We have to spread his message to the world; we have the technology.

The Origins of European Neoliberalism

The Origins of European Neoliberalism

The real source of neoliberalism in Europe is neither technocracy nor hegemony but a problem specific to the continent: intergovernmentalism

The real source of neoliberalism in Europe is neither technocracy nor hegemony but a problem specific to the continent: intergovernmentalism. Accordingly, left nationalists in parties such as the British Labour Party, France Insoumise, and Germany’s Die Linke have the correct intuition about where a progressive politics can overcome neoliberalism—at the national level—but their flirtation with breaking out of the Union is the wrong strategy for achieving that goal. To address intergovernmental problems, national lefts must join forces at the European level. As voters across the Union prepare to elect a new European parliament next month, the question that confronts the European left is whether it can find the common ground needed to counter neoliberal discipline both through and beyond the nation-state.

What Will They Think of the Megadisasters to Come?

What Will They Think of the Megadisasters to Come?

Dispatch from the Extinction Rebellion protests in London

Mass arrests are part of Extinction Rebellion’s strategy to raise the profile of the climate emergency. “The action itself is not actually that important. It’s the going to prison that’s got cultural relevance,” Roger Hallam, an XR founder, said in a short documentary made by The Guardian. Just a few days into the protest, hundreds of arrests have already been racked up: there are reports of activists being booked as far away as Brighton, Luton, and Essex because London jails are overwhelmed. When the police decide to arrest XR members, they usually do so by issuing Section 14 notices, which can be done if officers believe that a stationary protest “may result in serious public disorder, serious damage to property or serious disruption to the life of the community.” Technically, the police monitoring the XR actions are in their power to declare this at any time they see fit, but in reality, for reasons of optics or understaffing, they often choose to watch how things progress from the sidelines. The rhythms of the protest are strange: long periods of calm punctured by sudden moments of drama when the police decide to move in on one area or another in a coordinated attempt to clear it.