Politics

Irreversible Shift

Irreversible Shift

This should be a single-issue election

Is it any wonder that in a century dominated by surveillance, paranoia, terrorism, rendition, financial collapse and hard borders our language has retreated? Our reality, for years now, has been of individual survival under austerity; the erasure of the public in a city of stagnating wages that in eight years lost half its youth centers and half its nightclubs and saw them replaced with sterile glass towers. One by one London’s houses, monuments, newspapers, and artworks are being eaten up by the searching, liquid capital of Indian steel tycoons and Arab petrolords and Russian disaster capitalists. Of course the language has stopped growing: where are we even supposed to talk to each other now?

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.

Right Effort

There are only so many hours in the day and days in the year, and we must carefully distribute them between work, sleep, activism, and “other” — where much of the pleasure of life is relegated.

Spectacle of Participation

The permanent permanent campaign

Endless campaigns may be seen as evidence of a candidate’s eventual priorities. Some supporters of Hillary Clinton averred happily that she had been pulled to the left by Bernie Sanders, but the fact remains that anyone can be pulled to the left during a campaign, because campaigns have targeted ends: votes. Once those are achieved, they usually have no lasting effect on what the candidate does in office. There are few promises that cannot be broken, or so hedged and circumscribed that they are effectively broken.

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.

Game of Groans

Game of Groans

Green Hitlers, narrative prostheses, and the final episode of the world-pummeling HBO blockbuster

As the fanboys and reply guys will leap to point out, Game of Thrones is set in a fantasy world and thus is not offering us a historically accurate version of the European medieval past. But it is, at another level, just as obviously set in a version of that past, albeit one with giants and dragons and the living dead. And insofar as that temporal orientation is the case, in its final maneuvers the show cheats its viewers of the capacity to respect the very pastness of that past by overlaying a presentist moral logic of political development onto it. In this narcissistic political schema, characters who are untroubled by monarchy are evil, while characters who support electoral systems are good. The effect of this rigged historical framework is to generate a smug sense of quasi-recognition, coating the sedimented layers of a past-that-never-was with a zesty little spritz of incipience.

Eating the Frog

Eating the Frog

David Wallace-Wells’s new book is one of the few honest accounts of the costs, both tangible and metaphorical, of global warming.

David Wallace-Wells’s new book, The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming, reads at once as an innovative look at manmade climate change and also as old news. As Wallace-Wells himself states at points, not much in his book is new. Even the scariest near-term predictions and assessments, like the possibility that “should the planet warm 3.7 degrees . . . climate change damages could total $551 trillion—nearly twice as much wealth as exists in the world today,” or that, at the upper-end of temperature predictions for the end of this century, “humans at the equator and in the tropics would not be able to move around without dying” have been accessible to the general public online or in academic articles and assessments. What is new is the candor of the narrative and relative impassivity with which Wallace-Wells, a career journalist, elucidates the distressing implications of the facts that he reports.