Gordon Parks, Untitled, 1968
From the Cleveland Museum of Art:
Regarded as a major photojournalist, Gordon Parks has also earned considerable distinction as a writer, poet, novelist, composer, and filmmaker. In 1949, he was appointed a staff photographer for Life magazine. and produced remarkable photo-essays on a wide range of personalities, events, and topics, including Winston Churchill, Paris fashions, Harlem street gangs, the civil-rights movement, and South Africa. Photographed at an odd angle and through the bars of a bedframe, this poignant image depicts a young boy working on his homework in bed.
ROXANA ROBINSON, ON WRITING IN THE MORNING.
…and a happy new year.
(This may be the only thing I will ever post regarding the Mayan apoca-whatever)
Songs of coffee : Letter #1
In the heart of a little village, a few kilometers from the most ancient vestiges of the Mayan civilization, a community of small coffee growers has assembled to discuss their passion – a gathering of wise and noble faces. I raise the now global question of the posited end of the world on this 21st of December.
My question is greeted with nothing less than a burst of laughter, making light of the international anxieties purveyed by the world’s media.
One of them explains: “Our calendar announces the end of an era, and thus, the beginning of another. This December 21st marks the beginning of this new era. Our Mayan civilization will be renewed.”
Then, he adds: “We have given much to the world. The successive invasions here have been nothing more than a brief interlude on the scale of our history and that of humanity. The fears of the end of the world are merely one interpretation of our calendar that is reflective of a state of mind.”
Read the story in full right here.
The claims put forth by myself and the myriad of other Syrian analysts, including the “instant” and “sudden” analysts who keep popping up like popcorn from the oddest places (I found two in my bathroom closet), can be right or wrong, or conditionally so. But they might be on- or off-mark for the wrong reasons to the extent that one is divorced from the local context, and divorce comes in shades, from the cold calculating “methodist,” to the uninformed sympathizer, to gatekeepers of interests far removed from the well-being of Syria and Syrians. Yet, they all participate and play with equal enthusiasm. Syria is a game now, played by states, institutions, analysts, activists, journalists, bloggers, tweeters, and artists who are often only remotely connected to the real lives of real people enduring real conditions there. We produce snapshots of reality that are divorced from the cumulative history of pain and experience that have led to that reality. These snapshots become a reflection of observed people’s nature and eternal disposition not their circumstances, pragmatism, and dignity. We then monolithicize and essentialize them, and coalesce them into a single body of thoughts, terms, narratives, and/or paradigms that have been conjured up by analysts and politicians from times gone by. We finish the article or our tweet, save, send, close, and turn away. We can do that. But those living in Syria do not have that luxury.
Jadaliyya Co-Editor, The Triumph and Irrelevance of Meta-Narratives Over Syria: “Rohna Dahiyyah” (via jadaliyya)
I said to them, I need you to know that I love you all very much and that it’s going to be OK because I thought that was the last thing they were ever going to hear.
Teacher Kaitlin Roig, who ushered 15 schoolchildren into a bathroom when she heard shots at Sandy Hook.
|Baba:||So...you're deleting your school to focus on facebook, huh?|
|Baba:||You know what my comment for that is?|
|Baba:||"I will delete you from my house if you do that."|
That sort of attention constitutes us as a particular kind of sharing subject, confirming that we are “being ourselves” when we produce data, validating the primacy of documents over immediate lived experience.
Political theorist Jodi Dean derives this from the demands of neoliberalism for flexible, self-starting subjects willing to convert all of life into capital:
“Neoliberal ideology does not produce its subjects by interpellating them into symbolically anchored identities (structured according to conventions of gender, race, work, and national citizenship). Instead, it enjoins subjects to develop our creative potential and cultivate our individuality. Communicative capitalism’s circuits of entertainment and consumption supply the ever new experiences and accessories we use to perform this self-fashioning — I must be fit! I must be stylish! I must realize my dreams. I must because I can— everyone wins. If I don’t, not only am I a loser but I am not a person at all. I am not part of everyone. (Democracy and Other Neoliberal Fantasies, 66)”
Once this sort of documentation takes hold, life becomes a pretense for recording, and social being becomes alienated as “communicative capitalism.” Lives are lived merely to be confessed and monetized on social media, which confer significance to otherwise meaningless seeming events. Getting likes on a photo of a meal is more “significant” than eating it.
Nathan Jurgenson calls this “the Facebook eye”: we experience the “present as always a future past” as we process experience in terms of how we can rebroadcast it in social media. “Our brains always looking for moments where the ephemeral blur of lived experience might best be translated into a Facebook post; one that will draw the most comments and “likes.”
-Rob Horning for The New Inquiry
It’s funny, though. We profess all this stuff about social media being an egotistical roller coaster but that doesn’t stop us from liking/seeking the recognition anyways.
But anyhoo, this essay gets better the more you read. One of the most comprehensive dissections of what it means to be part of the ‘facebook generation’ or whatever.