Talking about reality

“Fantasy is probably the oldest literary device for talking about reality.”

-Ursula K. Le Guin

via PaleGirl


Messianic inheritance

“A messianic promise, even if it was not fulfilled, at least in the form in which it was uttered, even if it rushed headlong toward an ontological content, will have imprinted an inaugural and unique mark in history. And whether we like it or not, whatever consciousness we have of it, we cannot not be its heirs. There is no inheritance without a call to responsibility.”

—Jacques Derrida, Specters of Marx (1994)

No one person decides

“And although it’s easy to assume that stampedes are caused by panicked crowds running away from something in fear, Seabrook found that, in general, that’s only true in fires. In most stampedes, the crowd is churning toward something. In the United States and Europe, stampedes are rarer than they are in the developing world, and they don’t tend to happen on religious occasions. Americans and Europeans stampede for other causes: Black Friday sales, rock concerts, and sporting events. No one person decides to stampede. But if there’s a connection between what attracts a crowd and what a society holds dear, then stampedes are a deadly illustration of those values.”

—Ruth Graham, “The Hajj Stampede: Why Do Crowds Run?

Pre-empting politics at the service of the human person

“[Editor’s Note: The following section, which was in the prepared remarks, was not included in the speech.] Here I think of the political history of the United States, where democracy is deeply rooted in the mind of the American people. All political activity must serve and promote the good of the human person and be based on respect for his or her dignity. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” (Declaration of Independence, 4 July 1776). If politics must truly be at the service of the human person, it follows that it cannot be a slave to the economy and finance.”

—from TIME’s transcript of Pope Francis’s speech to Congress on Thursday, 24 September 2015.

God’s own currency

Eisenhower did all he could to bring his brand of piety into the White House. He insisted on opening all his Cabinet meetings with prayer. While he was in office, the phrase “under God” (borrowed, perhaps, from the Spiritual Mobilization campaign) was incorporated into the Pledge of Allegiance and the words “In God We Trust” were printed on the nation’s currency. There was minimal debate about the matter: When the House Committee on Banking and Currency discussed it, there was one lone dissenter—a Jewish representative from Brooklyn, who noted, somewhat weakly, “If we are going to have religious concepts—and I am in favor of them—I don’t think the place to put them is on our currency or on our coins.”

—Kim Phillips-Fein, “Laissez-Prayer,” a review of Kevin Kruse’s One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America

“He’s vowed never to take an invention to school again.”

“At a time when the World Economic Forum ranks America as 48th in the quality of its math and science education and the Organization for Economic Development ranks American students as 27th in math and 20th in science, we’re arresting a child who wears NASA shirts and builds machines in his spare time — and we’re doing it because the education professionals charged with guiding his development can’t tell the difference between a clock and a bomb.”

Ezra Klein on the arrest of 14-year-old geek Ahmed Mohamed.

If you don’t like living in poverty, why don’t you educate yourself for a better career?

“I have a better idea — why don’t you start valuing my time as highly as you value yours?

The most underpaid workers are often the ones you’d miss if they weren’t there. Restaurant cooks and servers, clerks in stores, the people who clean your house or mow your lawn or take care of your kids or of you when you’re old or sick. We do the things you can’t do, or won’t do, because you’re doing other things. I’m not saying you should stop doing those other things. Those things you’re doing are good things, possibly great things, hopefully wonderful things!

I understand that there are some skills that are rarer or more necessary or valuable than others. But not only is my time and labor not as highly valued as yours, it’s legal to deliberately keep me in poverty. And yes, every time an employer hires anyone at less than a living wage, or at part-time hours, it is a deliberate choice. Employers make it because they can, because they can get away with it. Because it’s legal to pay a wage that I can’t live on even working 40 hours a week. It’s legal to use scheduling software to justify cutting hours to 20 a week. To pay certain employees half of the minimum wage and expect patrons to make up for it with tips.

It’s legal to jigger schedules so that employees must make last-minute arrangements for child care or transportation. It’s legal to force employees to either cancel plans or lose their jobs. Once upon a time, it was possible to work a day job and a night job. But when you never know when you’re going to work for even one job, it’s virtually impossible to hold down two unless you have some sort of skill you can freelance. Add the realities of child care, transportation, and communication into the mix, and most low-income workers can forget it.”

—Christine Gilbert, “I get food stamps, and I’m not ashamed—I’m angry”