Posts Tagged "g"
“A hundred years ago [Benjamin] Franklin said that six hours a day was enough for anyone to work and if he was right then, two hours a day ought to be enough now.”
Lucy Parsons spoke those words in 1886, shortly before the execution of her husband, Albert. The two had been leaders in the eight-hour-day movement in Chicago, which culminated in a general strike, a rally, and the throwing of a bomb into the crowd in Haymarket Square. Albert Parsons, along with three other “anarchists,” was hanged for the crime, though he’d already left the rally by the time the bomb was thrown. Lucy kept up the fight for the rest of her life, working with anarchists, socialists, the Industrial Workers of the World, and the Communist Party for the cause.
Women like Lucy Parsons were at the heart of the struggle for the shorter work week, an integral part of the labor movement until the end of the Depression, which saw the forty-hour week enshrined in law after the defeat of Hugo Black’s thirty-hour-week bill. As Kathi Weeks writes in “‘Hours for What We Will’: Work, Family and the Movement for Shorter Hours” in Feminist Studies 35, after World War ii, the demand for shorter hours was increasingly associated with women workers, and was mostly sidelined as the forty-hour week became an institution.
“Not only wages — I am thinking here of the ‘female wage’ and the ‘family wage’ — but hours, too, were constructed historically with reference to the family,” Weeks notes. The eight-hour day and five-day week presumed that the worker was a man supported by a woman in the home, and it shaped expectations that his work was important and should be decently paid, while women’s work was not really work at all (even though, as Weeks notes, the gender division of labor was supported by some paid domestic work, done largely by women of color). The postwar labor movement focused on overtime pay and wages, leaving the women’s issue of shorter hours mostly forgotten.
But the power of the eight-hour-day movement was that it didn’t require the worker to love her job, to identify with it for life, and to take pride in it in order to organize for better conditions. The industrial union movement rose up to organize those left out of the craft unions, the so-called “unskilled” workers who recognized that they were not defined by their work and that they wanted to be liberated from it as much as possible. That, in their minds, was what made them worthy of respect, not their skill level or some intrinsic identity.
- A Day Without Care by Sarah Jaffe for Jacobin
A well-known writer got collared by a university student who asked, ”Do you think I could be a writer?”
”Well,” the writer said, ”I don’t know… . Do you like sentences?”
The writer could see the student’s amazement. Sentences? Do I like sentences? I am 20 years old and do I like sentences? If he had liked sentences, of course, he could begin, like a joyful painter I knew. I asked him how he came to be a painter. He said, ”I liked the smell of the paint.”
Hemingway studied, as models, the novels of Knut Hamsun and Ivan Turgenev. Isaac Bashevis Singer, as it happened, also chose Hamsun and Turgenev as models. Ralph Ellison studied Hemingway and Gertrude Stein. Thoreau loved Homer; Eudora Welty loved Chekhov. Faulkner described his debt to Sherwood Anderson and Joyce; E. M. Forster, his debt to Jane Austen and Proust. By contrast, if you ask a 21-year-old poet whose poetry he likes, he might say, unblushing, ”Nobody’s.” He has not yet understood that poets like poetry, and novelists like novels; he himself likes only the role, the thought of himself in a hat. Rembrandt and Shakespeare, Bohr and Gauguin, possessed powerful hearts, not powerful wills. They loved the range of materials they used. The work’s possibilities excited them; the field’s complexities fired their imaginations. The caring suggested the tasks; the tasks suggested the schedules. They learned their fields and then loved them. They worked, respectfully, out of their love and knowledge, and they produced complex bodies of work that endure. Then, and only then, the world harassed them with some sort of wretched hat, which, if they were still living, they knocked away as well as they could, to keep at their tasks.
from mariecalloway:“I got a little tired of this idea of an authorial voice of complete knowledge or perfect wisdom. I got really tired of being in readings and having people much older than myself saying ‘Oh, you’re so wise, you’re so full of wisdom.’ But I don’t know anything! What you’re reading is an imitation of what wisdom sounds like. And so I got very tired of that voice, because it really is just a voice. There are other ways to demonstrate the fact that you’re pretty much put down midstream. It’s like you’re being thrown and you have to make it up as you go along. I read a lot of existentialism when I was writing this book, but it doesn’t have to be high theory. You know it yourself. You’re so profoundly inconsistent from one moment to another. The shock of your life, for instance, is to be shown a letter you wrote from five years ago. You usually can’t even recognize the voice. I wanted to express that feeling of self-alienation or the sense of not really having a self at all. For so many novels, it’s like they’ve taken characters and got them on a pin. The point is to make them squirm, to ridicule them, to judge them, and pronounce this final conclusion, which is usually a faux liberal ‘Ahh…But no one knows anything in the end.’ Full of judgement, full of opinion, full of certainty, and I just found it quite suffocating.”
Zadie Smith interview for Interview about her latest novel NW (viaanotheriteration)
I find this quote interesting mostly for the end bit: I feel like there are styles of writing that are just appropriative or violent or oppressive, that reproduce fucked up dynamics of perception, and it’s really hard to talk about it when it’s a matter of style rather than content.
But I don’t know that the alternative necessarily has to do with self-alienation, or that a self-alienated voice is the clear answer…
Like David Foster Wallace’s writing voice: the pleasure of it, for me, comes from the way he brings together verbal tics and gestures and a neurotic conversational voice all the while showcasing an immense brilliance (in his own words: “sort of like a smart person is sitting right there talking to you”), and so much of the fascination of the voice is watching the performance of an affective schizophrenia surrounding his own thought: sometimes he’s obviously amused by his own brain, sometimes he’s annoyed with it, sometimes he’s embarrassed by it, always he is extremely careful to apologize for it… when I first read it I felt like my experience of self-consciousness had never been so literalized.
And no one is more articulate about the faults of David Foster Wallace’s voice than David Foster Wallace’s voice — I wish I had my copies of his texts so I could show you, these truly dazzling performances of self-reflexivity — so smart about its own limitations.
But, at least in this one essay he writes, it’s a voice that doesn’t shut up and listen. It doesn’t decenter.*
Is it ridiculous to ask for the creation of an authorial voice that can shut up and listen?
(It doesn’t matter if you’ve shut up and listened in the past. This is part of the seduction of this voice: it performs having listened A LOT and experienced A LOT, and so that’s why it has A LOT TO SAY.)
What do I mean by shutting up and listening? I don’t mean budging under the weight of a more forceful or brilliant authority. I feel like many people are capable of that. And perhaps this is also what the dfw voice performs: it’s a voice that’s obviously been subjected to a ton of brutal self-punishing. It’s totally capable of being like: “That’s so right. You’re so right,” as long as the “right” words are being said.
What I mean is really trying to take in other perspectives as authorities, too, no matter how“well” or “poorly” they articulate themselves: even if they are angry and discomposed, even if they offend you while they say it and even if you are ultimately right to be offended by some of the things they say. I mean decentering yourself. I mean: I know that you are having a complicated and subtle reaction right now to what I am saying, but I don’t care how brilliant you are, or think you are, or want to make me think you are (is it helpful to suggest that there is probably a castration complex lurking at the bottom of all this): I don’t want to hear about your self-awareness right now! Or your self-alienation! Or your self-anything!
I’m wondering if there isn’t some relationship between this David Foster Wallace voice and liberal white Americanness: first speak, then apologize. Apologize for speaking, even. But then, keep talking.
Ella’s complaint: Whenever I have been present in a conversation about race, and there’s a white man in the room, it somehow always becomes about his feelings about race or about being called a racist.
This is a post celebrating my conversation with Jane about queer and race. I feel like we really decentered ourselves. A dfw voice might make a joke about self-congratulation right now, but I am post-that, I am post-dfw voice.
* This post is the baby of my own very complicated relationship with David Foster Wallace’s essay about Standard American English. I think it’s in A Supposedly Fun Thing but I’m not sure. Anyways, he relates a story about being a professor of writing at the University of Illinois and having a black female student. She writes in some kind of non-standard English, I forget how he racializes it: basically she’s not writing in Educated White English. He recounts his very complicated and distraught reaction to her writing, maybe he even praises it, and he recounts a conversation he had with her in which he explained that her writing would never be seen as legitimate unless she wrote in, and he capitalizes it, Standard American English. He analyzes the whole thing with great compassion. Maybe he even goes into the economics of it, the class analysis of it. He’s really sad about the whole thing.
But, like, fuck man, couldn’t you have at least quoted her writing in the essay? Instead of shielding it from our supposedly delegitimizing eyes? And also: is this what has made your writing the way it is, is that why you are so good at what you do, because you are afraid of the delegitimizing eyes of white people? Because you are really good at giving the punishing eyes of white people* what they want, because you are one?
* lol maybe I should call my best-selling woman of color memoir “the punishing eyes of white people” – really I am just riffing on this Eve Sedgwick quote – towards an anti-oedipal writing?
I have come to reject skepticism as an identity. Shared identities like skepticism are problematic at the best of times, for numerous reasons, but I can accept them as a means of giving power and a voice to the disenfranchised. And indeed, this is how skeptics like to portray themselves: an embattled minority standing up for science, the lone redoubt of reason in an irrational world, the vanguard against the old order of ignorance and superstition. As a skeptic, I was happy to accept this narrative and believe I was shoring up the barricades.
However, it’s a narrative that corresponds poorly with reality. In the modern world, science, technology and reason are central and vital, and this is widely recognised, including at the highest level. On any major political decision, the technocrat speaks louder than the bishop, or anyone else, for that matter. Sure, Bush and Blair were noted god-botherers, but if you seriously think that, say, Gulf War 2 was their decision alone, or that that “God wills it” would have convinced anyone they had to convince, then you’re subscribing to a cartoon view of history. Such decisions are always calculated, reasoned, and backed by dozens of accommodating scientific experts.
Science has a high media profile and a powerful lobby group: in the midst of a global recession and sweeping government cuts, science funding has generally held up or even increased. Hi-tech corporations have massive wealth and influence, and their products are omnipresent and seen as ever more desirable. In fact, the world today would be unthinkable without the products of science and technology, which have infiltrated into almost every economic, political and social process. We live in a world created by and ever-more dependent on science, technology and reason, in which scientists and engineers are a valued and indispensable elite.
That’s right: the nerds won, decades ago, and they’re now as thoroughly established as any other part of the establishment. And while nerds are a relatively new elite, they’re overwhelmingly the same as the old: rich, white, male, and desperate to hang onto what they’ve got. And I have come to realise that skepticism, in their hands, is just another tool to secure and advance their privileged position, and beat down their inferiors. As a skeptic, I was not shoring up the revolutionary barricades: instead, I was cheering on the Tsar’s cavalry.
The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.
Esquire [has] published a strong early contender for the year’s most appalling foray into music criticism. Ostensibly reviewing the debut album by Lana Del Rey, Tom Junod’s piece soon wanders away from that to discuss the Nature of Woman and Song Today. A dismissive reference to “our wives” and their listening habits suggests that he is not feeling it. Junod’s awkwardly vain prose style galls on its own – “mechanistic melismata,” “drizzly samizdat,” and “wan wastrels” all appear in a single sentence – but the greater offense is his exegetic condescension towards female musicians, and how many male critics get away with the same hustle.
Anyone who attempts to explain “the state of the female singer” will probably feel dissatisfied with whatever they imagine it to be. “Once it seemed that every great girl singer was capable of generating her own style and fomenting her own revolution,” Junod laments. Now they all sound like “precocious 12-year-olds keeping secrets” or “machines.” After seguing to Florence and the Machine via limp wordplay, he specifies the devices that pop stars remind him of: sex toys. “Beyoncé and Gaga, Rihanna and Ke$ha: They share little but an ability to impart an awareness that whatever their music pretends to be about, it’s really about becoming Beyoncé, Gaga, Rihanna, and Ke$ha—about living up to their porn or (in Stephani Germanotta’s case) their drag names.”
Beyoncé inherited her Creole mother’s maiden name as a tribute. “Rihanna” dates back to both Old English and ancient Arabic; it’s her middle name, but then pop already had a Robyn. And aside from the vertical stroke, “Ke$ha” is what appears on that woman’s birth certificate. Sorry, Beyoncé! You may have erroneously thought that your music is “about” hard-won female independence, or the joys of creative fidelity, or making people dance, or, as Daphne Brooks once wrote, “what it means to lose, and to have, and to possess.” But you’re a silly girl with a trashy name. The real theme of those albums was demonstrating your fuckability for Tom Junod.
“Because of Edison’s patents for the motion pictures it was close to financially impossible to create motion pictures in the North American east coast. The movie studios therefore relocated to California, and founded what we today call Hollywood. The reason was mostly because there was no patent. There was also no copyright to speak of, so the studios could copy old stories and make movies out of them - like Fantasia, one of Disney’s biggest hits ever.So, the whole basis of this industry, that today is screaming about losing control over immaterial rights, is that they circumvented immaterial rights. They copied (or put in their terminology: “stole”) other people’s creative works, without paying for it. They did it in order to make a huge profit. Today, they’re all successful and most of the studios are on the Fortune 500 list of the richest companies in the world. Congratulations - it’s all based on being able to re-use other peoples creative works. And today they hold the rights to what other people create. If you want to get something released, you have to abide to their rules. The ones they created after circumventing other people’s rules.The reason they are always complaining about “pirates” today is simple. We’ve done what they did. We circumvented the rules they created and created our own. We crushed their monopoly by giving people something more efficient. We allow people to have direct communication between each other, circumventing the profitable middle man, that in some cases takeover 107% of the profits (yes, you pay to work for them). It’s all based on the fact that we’re competition. We’ve proven that their existence in their current form is no longer needed. We’re just better than they are.”
from The Pirate Bay’s press release regarding SOPA and PIPA (via davidfinchers)