:: Essays

The Wreckage and Squalor of Lionel Shriver’s Political Statements published 15/06/2018

It doesn’t take a genius to see that the structures in America that favour the white and well off, regardless of ability, are paralleled in England. In fact, to an outsider arriving in England for the first time (which Shriver was, which I was), they are starkly visible: a university admissions policy that favours those who attend private schools regardless of their ability, a creative sector that excludes talented and gifted who can’t afford an unpaid internship, and reliance on informal networking that repeatedly excludes those who aren’t born into it. I thought I knew about the unfairness and brutality of class stratification when I was growing up, but it wasn’t until I got to England that I really got it, could put my hand under the pump and call out water. Even coming from the United States, a country rife with racism and class stratification, England’s parsing and categorising, assumptions about what people can do and exclusion of them based on those assumptions, was a shock.

By Linda Mannheim.

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Hunter of the Self: Luis Oyarzún Peña’s Diario de Oriente published 12/06/2018

For Oyarzún Peña, the value placed on action in China has diminished an emphasis on the spirit, and on that sentiment of death which animates a certain perception of life. ‘The Chinese do not seem to have ever had great existential forebodings before death, which helps one to better understand their placidity, their lack of tragedy, their lightness and their current capacity to build a new society without feeling any anguish over the inevitable passing of time.’ Creation comes from the dynamic confrontation with mortality and a time that exceeds our presence, but the Chinese are living in ‘the naked time of eternity’. As Oyarzún Peña visits the Great Wall, observes workers in Loyang and reads a little book on mysticism ‘as an antidote to the excess of social exteriority’, he writes that ‘I am surprised not to perceive in China—perhaps due to my own inadequacy—expressions of human love. I see more organization, more social conscience than charity, flames of active love, love of one’s neighbor.’

Jessica Sequeira on Diario de Oriente by Luis Oyarzún Peña.

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Building the Dream: Lego Friends and the Construction of Human Capital published 11/06/2018

In his classic 1955 essay “Toys,” semiotician Roland Barthes commented that in modern plastic toys “…the child can only identify himself as owner, as user, never as creator; he does not invent the world, he uses it.” In looking at these Lego Friends sets, we pose questions about what sort of owners and users the child becomes when they build and play with these toys, as well as how the toys invite ambiguity and complicate Barthes’s critique of modern plastic toys. We also consider this line of toys as part of the constellation of cultural products that reflect and reinforce the millennial generation and the ways in which this generation become adults.

By Christopher Schaberg, Ginger Brimstein, Waverly Evans, Paige Franckiewicz, Nino Hernandez, Terran Lumpkin, Anahi Molina, & Adelaide Wight .

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There’s No Such Thing as Fake News (And That’s Bad News) published 09/06/2018

It seems everyone these days laments the polarized condition of democratic politics.  It is widely agreed that fake news is a central cause of the degradation of our political culture.  That there is accord on this point is noteworthy.  Perhaps the consensus on fake news offers a swath of common ground amidst all of the divisiveness?  Maybe our shared condemnation of fake news provides a basis for a broader plan for rehabilitating democracy?

Such optimism might be premature. 

Robert B. Talisse argues that fake news is fake news – and that’s bad news.

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Psychedelics and Education: A conversation with Kenneth Tupper published 06/06/2018

Ethnographers have documented the shamanic and psychedelic practices of indigenous people for centuries. This 1560 account from the Catholic evangelization of the Aztecs, by the Franciscan missionary Bernardino de Sahagún, was published in a pharmaceutical trade publication in 1951 (the piece allegedly caught the attention of the banker Gordon Wasson, who then went on to become the 20th century’s most influential ethnomycologist). Points of resonance with western experiential education (e.g. the vision quest) are evident, but these indigenous practices are more likely to be conceptualized by westerners as superstitious ritual rather than as means of gaining meaningful knowledge about the cosmos or human condition.

Lindsay Jordan talks psychedelics with Ken Tupper.

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Norkore – Excerpt from See You Again in Pyongyang published 04/06/2018

We know from Dennis Rodman that the Marshal’s two favorite songs are the themes from Rocky and Dallas—tunes that undoubtedly implanted themselves in the young Jong Un’s brain during his own adolescence, growing up in Switzerland—which were played over and over again by an orchestra on the night of their banquet together upon the basketball player’s first visit to Pyongyang. In addition to this stylistic influence, the Moranbong Band has layered electronic beats, dance breaks, and soulful vocal acrobatics that channel Whitney and Mariah. Concerts are replete with synchronized dance moves, laser light shows, and digital video backdrops showing footage of missiles blasting off into the sky, ecstatic marching soldiers, and the biggest rock star of all, the Marshal himself, swarmed with hysterical citizen-fans.

An excerpt from Travis Jeppesen‘s account of life in Kim Jong Un’s North Korea.

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The buried Tea published 30/05/2018

The flat horizon is sucking down the light, swiftly now, along with the parched heat, cooling, turning cold as the white sun is replaced by a white moon and the once dazzling cobalt sky reduced to black. Day drops into night. Conscious into subconscious. The desert devouring both.

To desert is to abandon. Forsaken. This Negev Desert—Israel perpetually at war.

By Dian Parker.

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Manufacturing Dissent: (The Revenance of 1968) published 27/05/2018

On the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the “Mai ’68” Paris student uprising & “Pražské Jaro” (Prague Spring), it is more than just timely to consider the systematic appropriation & reinvention of the idea of dissent that has occurred in their wake, both within the corporate-state apparatus & the erstwhile fringe-phenomena of populist extremism. Confronted by the virtual criminalization of protest in many socalled Western democracies; by rampant commodification & the normalisation of dissent within the culture industry; & by the bold resurgence of neo-fascism inside the political mainstream, what forms can active resistance take? And is there a future in such a political landscape for the idea of an avantgarde?

Louis Armand wonders about ‘Mai 68’ and the future of the avant garde.

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A Personal Golgotha published 19/05/2018

It’s all DIY  – hardly proof-read and done too fast in between day jobs to be anything but jump-start writing. So forget about the writing. What matters is what its about. It adds up to a boss reading list and a cranked up gang of characters smoking up the haunted back bars of the eerie early morning. 3:AM’s been around since 2000 and I joined Gallix’s punkstorm early on. It’s one of the oldest literary sites on the web. And back in the early days there was hardly anything out there so we were literally making it up as we went along.

Keep Up: a 3:AM backlist.

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Silence as Resistance in Aamer Hussein’s Stories published 15/05/2018

Like the addict, the immigrant—the foreigner visible as foreigner—has a compromised subjectivity and does not have the right to stay silent. Speech is demanded at every moment—the confessional speech of self-identification, of naming what one is, confirming and reinforcing through such speech that one is indeed the suspected Other. The position of the migrant of colour in the West is a position of hypervisibility, of a constantly and ubiquitously denied privacy. Every moment is policed. The confession is extracted constantly, demanded as the extractor’s right. Violence embedded in the fabric of the everyday, in life’s minutiae, its smallest moments, its most mundane. Forced speech—the denial of the right to stay silent—is, for the foreigner, an organising principle of everyday life in the West.

By Ali Raz.

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