“The crowd is not a community. It doesn’t rely on traditions. It doesn’t have a history. The crowd is not held together by unstated norms or an obscene supplement that extends beyond its own immediacy (although crowd images and symbols clearly shape the reception and circulation of crowd events). Rather, the crowd is a temporary collective being. It holds itself together affectively via imitation, contagion, suggestion, and sense of its own invincibility. Because the crowd is a collective being, it cannot be reduced to singularities. On the contrary, the primary characteristic of a crowd is its operation as a force of its own, like an organism. The crowd is more than an aggregate of individuals. It is individuals changed through the torsion of their aggregation, the force aggregation exerts back on them to do together what is impossible alone.” Jodi Dean, Crowds and Party Read more
Today is a really weird day. We are inaugurating a president who won by being crass, by encouraging violence toward dissenters, by being racist, xenophobic, pro-sexual harassment, anti-people-with-disabilities, and interestingly, anti-elite. He seeks revenge on critics and opponents. He lies as if repeating a claim over and over will make it true (latest: it’s very rare to have a concert at the Lincoln Memorial). He does not appear able to control himself on Twitter in the wee hours of the night. He is not interested in protocol. Read more
I joined a yoga studio in the first week of January. It wasn’t even a New Year’s resolution. I tried to make plans with a friend, actually a former student from Bryn Mawr, and she said she was going to the yoga studio she just joined, so I said, ok, I’ll do that. It’s a hot yoga studio, as I mentioned in my post about how hot yoga made me think about cold running again. It’s really hot, like 105º in 40% humidity. The first yoga classes I ever went to were in a Baptiste studio on Walnut right down from the Penn Book Store in University City in Philadelphia. The classes were packed. But it felt like a serious workout. I’d run the mile and a half from my apartment to the studio to get warmed up. I don’t recall ever having had a conversation with a teacher there, except this one time when I was hungover and smelling of cigarette smoke when I must have looked like I was going to fall over and pass out and a teacher looked at me with a kind of smirk and asked me if I was ok. I might have still been drunk. Read more
Soon after the election in November, I heard someone read Hans Christian Anderson’s short story “The Emperor Has No Clothes” aloud. We know the story as one about an emperor who thinks he has a beautiful new set of clothes, but does not so he walks around naked. The people of the city are aghast but no one says anything until a child calls out, “The emperor has no clothes!” But what this summary leaves out is all the ways that fears of not appearing wise contribute to the fiasco and make fools of the whole community. Read more
One of the most compelling arguments that William Clare Roberts makes in his new book, Marx’s Inferno: A Political Theory of Capital, is that the market dominates not only workers but commodity producers. Rejecting the moralism of socialism, which suggests that capitalists just need to be kinder and gentler, Marx argues that the subjects of capitalism are not individuals who could make more ethical decisions, but the relations of production. It is because capitalism is unable to render individuals free that capitalism dominates everyone under its purview. Read more
In last week’s episode of blackish, the character played by Laurence Fishburne tells his grandson about the other parts of the “I Have A Dream” speech that no one ever talks about. In this week’s issue of the New Yorker, Rachel Aviv documents how the prosecutor of the Angola 3 opposed the Black Panthers to the non-violence of Martin Luther King, Jr. In American public discourse, King is the respectable Black man to Malcolm X’s violent scary Black man. Accepting King becomes a marker of diversity and inclusion that allows individual white people to absolve themselves of racism without confronting and changing the racist structures of their worlds. Parts of King’s speeches get used to conjure images of diversity and to lend support to colorblind public policy. But much of King’s speeches point to his call for justice, freedom and equality.
Fifty years after the “I Have a Dream” speech, in 2013, the Supreme Court eviscerated one of the key legislations to come out of the Civil Rights Movement, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Unfortunately, this decision was not reached because there was no longer any evidence of discrimination in access to the vote. The economic inequalities King addresses in his “I Have a Dream” speech similarly remain today. Thus, King’s concern with the follies of political gradualism in this speech seem all the more pressing. Read more
You should see La La Land. You should see it on the big screen. As soon as the credits rolled, I said aloud, that film was better than I thought it was going to be. The reason you should see it is not because it is a musical. The reviews I have read or heard, like Anthony Lane’s in the New Yorker and the discussion of the movie on Slate’s Culture Podcast, talk about the movie as if it’s sole contribution is in being a musical. I would say the musical element is both central to the film’s themes and incidental to what makes the film worth seeing. Read more
Yesterday I made a trip to my local Goodwill, which I do semi-regularly. I worked through the racks, examining the degree of wear, looking for stains and holes, checking the brand names. It got me thinking about going to Village Thrift at Broad and Olney in Philadelphia after school – I went to Girls’ High right across the street. I didn’t really like to go. The store always smelled. I was never very good at finding good pieces. My older sister on the other hand was a thrift store force. She was patient. And she was very discerning. I’d run out of energy about a half hour in and want to leave and she’d say ok, and then start looking through another rack that she hadn’t worked through yet. She’d pull out everything that could possibly be worth wearing and then we’d have a cart purge at the back of the store when we were done. Even though I could only stand about a half hour to her hour and a half, there was always such joy in the good find. Read more
When I lived in South Texas, where I took my running up another level, I got used to running in the heat. In serious heat. Summers could run more than 100 days with temperatures over 100 degrees. We used to say there was a warm season and a windy season, which was also warm, but with wind. I think my blood thinned. It was hard. I would have to work on drinking enough water every day to make sure that I didn’t get dehydrated. I would feel sticky just walking out the front door. But I rarely decided not to run just because of the heat. I’d just wait for the sun to go down (which let’s be honest, didn’t help that much).
Since moving to Indiana, I’ve been running in the cold. The real cold. I ran the Jingle Bell 10k in Indy in the middle of December in below freezing temperatures. I ran fast–for me. I even won something. The week before Christmas, I was in Spokane and ran everyday in below freezing temperatures on snow and in snow. It was amazing. Unlike running in the heat which feels to me like a sap on my energy, running in the cold is invigorating. It wakes you up. Cold running makes me happy. Maybe because running releases the hormones that combat depression that winter often makes us prone to with the shorter days and the grayer weather. I’ve been running on snow and ice in both Indiana and most recently in Spokane, Washington and find that running in the snow and ice slows you down but is an amazing core workout because you have to work those muscles just to stay upright.
My first winter in Indiana I was not thrilled by the idea. I ran on treadmills, but I don’t like the treadmill. It doesn’t let me adjust my pace the way I would like to, the way that allows me to respond to my body and do what feels good, as I discuss here. But it was so cold! I invested in some gear: I bought a running hat and running gloves, more warm running clothes, I already had a running windbreaker. With the right gear, I feel pretty good out there until about 15º and below (once, running outside my phone stopped working and said it was overheated, but since it was 10º outside, I decided that that’s the only temperature-related notice they have). A colleague suggested doing a short five minute workout in my house so that I would already be warmed up before going outside, so I started doing that. But still, there were days that I just chickened out because of the cold.
I’ve been thinking about cold running because I have returned to hot yoga in the last week–I’ve gone everyday for the last five days. When I first started doing yoga in graduate school it was at a Baptiste hot power yoga studio in University City in Philadelphia. I liked the workout. I would smell myself sweating out the toxins. But boy is it hot (Bikram yoga, which is the bread and butter of this studio, puts the heat at about 105º with 40% humidity). With this return to hot yoga in the context of a cold running routine, I’m not nearly as excited by the heat as I used to be. It’s great. I like the sweat. But I don’t know. Maybe it’s because I’m twelve or fifteen years older than the last time I did real hot yoga. Maybe it is because this studio is really not messing around about the heat. Maybe the heat just makes you think about cold. Maybe it’s because after a cold run my lungs feel bigger, like all the cold air rushed in and hasn’t left, while hot yoga makes me feel like I am never quite getting enough air. Instead of feeling like a respite from the cold, the hot yoga has me missing cold runs.
I never thought I’d be looking forward to the cold runs. But here I am. Beep beep boop.
I’ve watched a couple episodes of Leah Remini’s exposé of Scientology that has been airing on A&E. In the first episode, Remini interviews a woman is encouraged to cut herself off from her daughter who has left the Church of Scientology and has become a vocal critic of it. Remini explains this process of “In Scientology you are also led to believe by disconnecting from your son or daughter or brother or divorcing your husband is because you are helping them to get back in the good graces. By you saying, “I’m not talking to you,” we’ll straighten you out. You will come to your senses, and come crawling back to the church to get help.” I grew up in a church that employed this sort of “church discipline” with the same thinking that the pain of being cut off from people would compel you to change.
These same people would argue against what they called “legislating morality.” What they mean is, you can’t make people not racist or sexist through the law, and they see laws aimed at protecting people from racism and sexism as actually aimed at changing the privately held views that some people have about others. By calling it “legislating morality” those on the right make it seems like those laws violate individual rights or privacy in some way. Those kinds of arguments continue to be made about whether business owners should have to serve customers whose sexuality they think is wrong or provide reproductive healthcare to women.
Through this past campaign season, I began to realize something I’ve personally experienced writ onto a larger scale. Social conservatives actually want to make the lives of certain people–gay people, trans people, people who have sex without being married–unpleasant, difficult and unhappy following the same logic of Scientologist disconnection or Christian excommunication. Not having healthcare or visitation rights or shared parenting and inheritance rights, not being able to have your driver’s license changed to the right sex, to use public restrooms without harassment, to have your testimony believed by law enforcement will “straighten you out” or make you “come to your senses” about sex and sexuality. I just want to point out that this approach is akin to parental discipline. As much as conservatives bemoan the government’s involvement in making society better and call it paternalistic, this approach is more emphatically paternalistic that busing kids to produce desegregation is. The paternalism that certain people have to have about other people’s lives where they think that by creating difficult conditions in their lives that could only be changed by changing what those certain people find wrong about other people’s lives will actually change those people, discipline them into their view of righteousness, is immense.
The initial concern of those who did not approve of the way they thought morality was being legislated seemed to be that how we think about the world should not be a matter of legislation. Indeed, while some people think sexism is right and do so with the full protections of the First Amendment, we have decided pretty much that as a community we won’t allow for at least overt sexist policies and practices. These same religious conservatives who criticize legislating morality want the law to make people’s lives more difficult and painful in order to get them to live otherwise. This disciplinary strategy–not even in a Foucaultian sense but in a parental sense of disciplinary–aims to use the law to cause people to suffer with the “loving” motivation of getting them to change. This disciplinary strategy would seem to be a means not only of changing the way that people live but of the way they think about what is good and right, about what they want.
It’s one thing to disagree with people, but another to want to discipline them into agreeing with your view of how they should live by making them miserable.