Tag Archives: feminism

Currently Contributing to my Brain’s (En)lightening Storm

Thinking about the larger structures that inform our everyday experiences has sent me into epiphanic raptures since at least my early college days. In the past few weeks, I’ve encountered several works that take a systems view of the pressing issues of our time. Taken together, they seem to coalesce around imagining what comes next for society and planet. At the very least they have all set my brain alight. I hope some of them do the same for you.

Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing’s The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins.

A sample quote ~

We are stuck with the problem of living despite economic and ecological ruination. Neither tales of progress nor of ruin tell us how to think about collaborative survival. It is time to pay attention to mushroom picking. Not that this will save us–but it might open our imaginations.

I first encountered Tsing’s work in my Intro Anthropology course, where we read In the Realm of the Diamond Queen. This helped us understand post-structuralist ethnography. Two years later in our “Commodities and Human Agency” course, I read parts of what was then her most recent book, Friction: An Ethnography of Global Connection. From Tsing, I learned about the critical value of studying the margins: of society, of economies, of history. Mushroom goes even further into this poststructuralist marginalia, incorporating multispecies perspectives into her meandering, riveting storytelling. She leans into the interconnection and impossibility of synthesizing competing narratives, recognizing the whole as mutable and somewhat unknowable. But always worth investigating. Her work, like much of the other work I’ll discuss in this post, allows me to envision a future worth creating and living.

The Next System Podcast on Capital Bias

Specifically, an episode about capital bias and transitioning to an economy driven by worker-owned enterprises. Marjorie Kelly reminded me why I got involved in starting a food co-op five years ago, and why Marx & Engels’ work on capital and labor is still relevant today. She challenges us to rethink the relationship society has with capital, and imagine how it might be different.

“You don’t eliminate capital any more than with feminism you eliminate men–you just change the power relationship.”

Kelly’s work on generative design and capital bias, not to mention The Next System’s larger project, accounts for causality and interconnectivity in our current state of economic inequality and ecological upheaval, among other seemingly intractable systematic problems. That people are committed to working through them gives me hope, and inspires me to join them in whatever ways I can.

Recent Reporting on Artificial Intelligence and Automation

Speaking of work and our ever-transforming economy, I was struck by two articles that dive into the implications of technological innovation: Mother Jones’ “You Will Lose Your Job to a Robot” by Kevin Drum, and The New Yorker’s Dark Factory by Sheelah Kolhatkar. Optimistic these stories were not. But they do important work in further sounding the alarm about where AI and automation are leading our economy and society as a whole, and the fact that perhaps we should be putting policies in place to protect people and their livelihoods. Worker co-ops could be part of the solution, as could universal basic income.

Upstream Radio on Universal Basic Income

Upstream focuses on the social determinants of health, which means their work covers all sorts of fascinating topics, from climate change to the prison system to foodways to education. Its recent podcasts (or “documentaries,” to use their term) have tackled the various models of universal basic income and their potential effects on society. Like The Next System, they imagine the paradigm shifts necessary to enact more livable futures. Also like The Next System, their optimism inspires some skepticism: how on earth would our globalized economy shift away from capitalism? But they have intriguing ideas, and I’m willing to listen and learn whether some of them might be applicable.

Secret Feminist Agenda on Whatever it Damn Well Pleases

Hannah McGregor, co-host of the essential Harry Potter podcast “Witch, Please,” has a new show wherein she addresses current events, pop culture, academic topics, and much more via a feminist lens and in collaboration with intelligent guests. Secret Feminist Agenda has helped me rethink laziness and productivity, parenting, academia, accepting when work is “good enough,” how women are socialized to be cogs in a machine that extracts our labor for very little compensation, and most crucially, how to resist this by living differently in the world. It’s truly a balm in a world that is chaotic and overwhelming.

Hurry Slowly on Rethinking Work as a Sustainable Practice

Speaking of pushing back against the exhausting status quo, the podcast Hurry Slowly is interrogating the ways in which we can slow down and get more meaning out of our professional and personal lives. Guests share different workplace models that value a separation between life and job, reasons to limit smartphone use, and how to engage with nature as a restorative force. The overarching idea is to make a person’s productivity sustainable, and the strategies presented in these episodes are ones I plan to hang on to as I contemplate my future career moves.

Science Vs on Renewable Energy

Finally, I’d like to plug a recent episode of the podcast Science Vs, which asked whether it was possible to achieve 100% renewable energy. Far beyond renewing my desire to get more involved in combating the myriad ill effects of climate change, one of the show’s guests provided validation of my (admittedly rare) propensity to harbor hope for the future. When asked whether he would have children today, energy economist Jim Sweeney had this to say:

Absolutely…I’m not going to give up on the future because there are challenges. There are always challenges. I was born in World War II; my parents had children. So I don’t see that there is any reason for believing that we’re going to go to hell in a hand basket. We will have challenges there is no doubt about it.

All of the readings and podcasts listed above have reinvigorated my desire to go deep, learn more, and look for solutions to some of the major systemic problems society faces. I want more of the work I do to be geared toward building a future that values people and planet. There are many things to work on: climate change, economic inequality, educational access, gender equality, racism and xenophobia, environmental preservation–you name it, it needs some work.

Now to pick something and get started…

 

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Ode to Alan Rickman

“…the late Alan Rickman,” said the host of The Frame.

Hope is one of denial’s most powerful allies. Upon hearing these words on the radio, I was seized with the impulse to stop the car and fact-check, much as I had initially doubted the veracity of Monday’s news that David Bowie had passed away. But this passing was more personal. Or, to be more accurate, I’m a bigger fan of Alan Rickman. He first caught my notice in Galaxy Quest as my preferred type of comedy relief–self-effacing and intellectual–and quickly morphed into one of my secret celebrity crushes. Hearing, unexpectedly, that he had died actually made me feel something.

This past summer, I wrote an ode to Alan Rickman in the style of The Toast’s delightful “If X were you Y” series. Like most of my inexplicable infatuations with older actors, admitting to the depth of my fandom was embarrassing. But in light of Rickman’s passing, I’d like to share it as a sort of tribute.

If Alan Rickman were your boyfriend…

If Alan Rickman were your boyfriend, he would join you and your friends at karaoke, thrilling you all with renditions of 90’s hits sung two octaves lower than originally intended, inciting gales of giggles. After each number, he’d collapse beside you on the sticky bench and high-five whoever was up next.

If Alan Rickman were your boyfriend, at least once a month he’d indulge in some top notch Hans-Gruber-from-Die Hard role play, delighting you with his sensual German accent. Sometimes he would even speak in German. Try as you might to control yourself, you would swoon. Repeatedly.

If Alan Rickman were your boyfriend, he would let his hair go grey for keeps and encourage you to do the same…if that were what you wanted. Some days you would pretend you were living in the 70’s, spend an hour feathering each other’s silvery manes, and go out looking for a drum circle at a park or beach. You would be anachronistically dressed, because you’ve already spent a whole hour on your hairstyles, and really, how far can you be expected to take this whole personal grooming thing, anyway?

If Alan Rickman were your boyfriend, he would never deign to open a car door for you because he knows you are perfectly capable of operating them yourself. Unless of course your arms were full of groceries. But he would never let you carry all the groceries. Unless you had insisted.

If Alan Rickman were your boyfriend, he would not expect you to praise his interpretation of Snape, because you would have made it clear from the get-go that your imagination’s interpretation of the book version of the character is sacrosanct, and to bring up the topic at all would be touching the third rail of your relationship, straining it to such a degree that it would be nigh impossible to recover. Impossible, you’d say! He would be whispering to you in a soothing voice right now to help bring you down from the act of thinking about the dire consequences of such a fraught discourse. Breathe. Breathe…

If Alan Rickman were your boyfriend, you would address each other formally over supper at your favorite greasy spoon (i.e., Mr. Rickman, Ms./Mr. [Your Last Name Here]), and chuckle at the absurdity of it all. You would do this quietly, so as not to distract the other diners from their meals.

If Alan Rickman were your boyfriend, he would graciously accept your offer to pick up the check. You would return the favor, triggering an endless spiral of good-natured reciprocity. Neither of you would tire of this ritual. Because that’s how things work in a fantasy.

If Alan Rickman were your boyfriend, he would understand and respect your need to not see him for several days at a time. You have many things to attend to and important people in your life, not all of whom are him.

If Alan Rickman were your boyfriend, you would never have to ask to reenact the pillow talk scene from Snow Cake. He would always, always offer.

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