The annotated table of contents below offers a sneak peek at what’s in issue 18. To get the issue delivered straight to your door, subscribe now.
It is an inconvenient truth that there are many people who see the political landscape differently than we do, placing X at the center of their vision when we are sure they should be focusing on Y. It makes sense to try and convince such people that their vision is distorted, but we cross into a different territory entirely by insisting that X is actually a mirage. … In other contexts, this mode of argument has been derided as gaslighting, or denialism, yet it has become increasingly common in liberal and leftist writing.
“Humans may yet ensure that these early years of the Anthropocene are a geological glitch and not just a prelude to a far more severe disruption. But the first step is to recognize, as the term Anthropocene invites us to do, that we are in the driver’s seat.”
Lessons of Defeat
Testimonies of the Arab left
Salih analyzes the failure and aftermath of a radical political movement; Khalifa bears witness to unimaginable cruelty, suffering and endurance. Their books are distinct in style and purpose, and address different experiences in different countries. Nevertheless, each book also continues to speak, unfortunately, to the present moment.
What Was New Atheism?
On liberalism’s fading faith
Much of the recent commentary on the New Atheists and their friends has focused on their flirtation with the worst ideas of the far right, but it might be more instructive to look at what they call for openly: the redemption of rationalist or “classical” liberalism. In this regard, they have at least as much in common with the mainstream centrism reeling from Hillary Clinton’s defeat as they do with Donald Trump’s “deplorables.”
Restoring Lois Weber
The only woman admitted to the Motion Pictures Directors Association, Weber was also the only female director among the 250 founding members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Her notoriety, credentials and budgets rivaled those of D. W. Griffith and Cecil B. DeMille. Yet while the birth of cinema can’t be discussed without reference to these names, Weber’s remains largely unknown.
Symposium: What is the earth for?
[Eliza Starbuck Little]
Orcas are already celebrities in the Pacific Northwest, but the story about Tahlequah’s calf gave the resident pod a brief window onto a wider audience. The narrative was a readymade melodrama: a mother driven to the brink of suicide out of overwhelming grief for her dead child. It was as if nature had produced a Lifetime Original Movie.
The eschatology—the theory of human destiny—put forth by capitalism, does not include this landscape, with its monuments to a world ended mid-breath. But then neither did that of socialism. The prickly feeling up and down my arms is, perhaps, my sense of having come hard up against an entropy that can only ever be forestalled.
Conservation’s Radical Center
I was a conservationist, which supposedly put me on one side of the fight between environmentalists and loggers, yet the conflict had the hallmarks of tragedy. Both sides, and all of us in between, seemed destined to lose what we all valued: the health and diversity of the West’s open spaces.
Stretching the Veil
A diverse group of American writers and activists had been talking about immigration in terms of population management and “environmental integrity” for many years. Now that open-borders activists and environmental groups are no longer enemies it is worth revisiting this history—for their convergence over the past couple of decades illuminates the central political question of our time.
Toward a Useful Ignorance: From connection to coexistence
“Everything is connected” is a fact, not an ethic; it has no meaning, and tells us nothing about how we should inhabit the world, simply that we do. If it implies responsibility, it is silent on what the nature of our relationship to the earth should be: Do we tread lightly? Or are we to take control?
“The absolute favorite part of the job is to see and be a part of the regeneration of a degraded landscape via obedience to the laws of nature and the functions God created to sustain life on this earth. The most challenging aspect of the work is the paradigm shift required to learn to work with nature, not against it.”
This, Too, Was History
The battle over police-torture and reparations in Chicago’s schools
Reparations, especially those with a racial component, have long been treated as, alternately: an incoherent absurdity; a frightening threat; a nice-sounding but impractical rallying cry; or, more recently, in the wake of the National Magazine Award-nominated Atlantic essay by Ta-Nehisi Coates, as a worthy (but still essentially utopian) demand. But within Chicago city limits, reparations for police torture isn’t just a thought exercise, a rhetorical expression about what should exist in a better world. It’s Chicago City Council Resolution SR2015-256: the law of the land.
The Souls of Yellow Folk
Yang and Seung-Hui Cho are both Korean-American. The writer’s jolt of recognition when he first comes across the news of the massacre (“He looks like me, I thought”) presages a morbid feeling of insight. To call it sympathy would be grotesque. But it’s as though Yang recognizes in Cho something like a psychotic embodiment of the rancor buried in The Game. Common to both was the perception of a thriving world “that was never going include them in its hoped-for happy endings anyway,” and which would go on disregarding them for the rest of their null lives unless it was confronted by an act of strength—and forced to pay attention.
The Demon in Democracy
The argument of The Demon in Democracy is unlikely to sway either academics or partisans of the liberal-democratic order, and it is doubtful that it is intended to. Legutko, rather, speaks first to those who remember communism and whose judgment of liberal democracy might change upon seeing its similarity to the ideology they abhor, and second to those who remain deeply discontented with the present order, or find themselves unattached to its pieties. In such readers Legutko aims to arouse regret for the path that has been taken, as well as some hope that an alternative may yet remain open.
“If you really wanted to become a musician,” a friend of my boyfriend told me, “you would have become one. Instead, you became a writer, because you wanted to become a writer.”
I replied with a quote by the novelist John Barth, who also dreamed of being a musician. He said that prose writers arrive at their vocation through a “back door,” some kind of “passionate default.”
On the End
What ought we to be optimistic for?
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