“There is war, but always elsewhere,” poet Jillian Weise says of reading The Economist. Americans have been watching the world on television since about the late 1940s, and this mediation has pervaded the culture ever since: a plastic wall between us and everything, a world under a dull magnifying glass, whether it’s the inherently distant and artificial (online pornography) or the bracingly, seemingly immediate (Twitter, live video, etc.). We know Brexit is happening, or not happening. We know that people are being starved and otherwise killed in Yemen. We know that Gordon Sondland is a total snitch, but in a hilarious way that only incredibly incompetent and irresponsible rich white men can be.
Yet the war is at home too. In America, there is a settled acceptance that random violence for no reason will just be a thing for the foreseeable future. We’re on the battlefield alone, and still there are casualties in a war of none. “We live in an exceptionally lonely time,” as Felix Biederman has said. In spite of all the connection, we’re disconnected. The Robert Putnam thesis about Bowling Alone seems shallow and nostalgic (our problem is not that we need more Elks Lodges) but something about neoliberal marketization of everything reduces people to a singular dot: a metric, a like, a tweet, an advantage. When Donald Trump said his impeachment-causing discussion with Vladimir Zelensky was a “perfect call,” he was speaking as someone who thinks every single conversation is either won or lost. And he thinks he won.
A lonely speck in the universe, with no thirst for context. No one really wants to be a hungry dot, except for Pacman and the president of the United States.
With that buzzkill, here are our editors’ picks for the week:
- Haiti protests summon spirit of the Haitian Revolution to condemn a president tainted by scandal (The Conversation)
- Noel Ignatiev Understood White Privilege and White Supremacy—and How to Destroy Them (Slate)
- Against Black Homeownership (Boston Review)
- Bestselling Authors Band Together to Dunk on a College Student (Jezebel)
- Common Cyborg by Jillian Weise (Granta)
- Buttigieg Campaign Appeals to Moderate Republicans by Touting Low Approval Rating Among Black Voters (Onion)
- Awkwafina Says She’s Spent Her Life Shattering Stereotypes ‘by Just Existing’ (TIME)
- The D.C. Region Doesn’t Have Full-Time Food Critics of Color. Why That Matters. (Washington City Paper)
- Homelessness Among the Elderly Expected to Triple in 10 Years (Invisible People)
- Essex Crossing Is the Anti-Hudson Yards (NYT)
- My Asian Mom Bought Me a Blond Wig (Human Parts)
- The boy risking his life to collect plastic waste (BBC)
- Tactile Art by John Lee Clark (Poetry Foundation)
- The Young Man One Hopes For – On Wittgenstein’s Family Letters (London Review of Books)
- Is ‘OK Boomer’ the ‘New N-Word,’ or Are Millennials Still Destroying Everything? (FAIR)
- 40 Years Of ‘Morning Edition’: Political Stories That Lasted An Era And Beyond (NPR)
- A rogue cat who ‘will not be contained’ keeps trying to free his shelter comrades (WaPo)