There was a fantastic review of Ursula K. Le Guin’s ouvre in the summer edition of Dissent by Sarah Jones. This was by no means the first time the author’s name has come up for me. She has been in the background of my political consciousness for some time, peeking out most recently with this piece and and the interview of Kim Stanley Robinson that was on the antifada earlier this year.
So, I was excited to dig into a copy of The Dispossessed, Le Guin’s 1974 SciFi classic last weekend after wrapping up the sometimes sentimental collection of short stories by Toshio Mori in Yokohama, California. It is always reassuring to me to be reminded that brilliant artists such as Le Guin have always been wrestling with ideas like the abolition of state-violence, sexual liberation, and radical forms of education and government. I expect to continue being inspired by what has started off as a genre-defying bit of genre-fiction.
Le Guin’s work is distinctive not only because it is imaginative, or because it is political, but because she thought so deeply about the work of building a future worth living.
What better way to celebrate the ongoing criminal investigations of the Trump Administration (now with Congressional support! wow!) than by registering to vote/ updating my address for voting by mail?
One of the most encouraging facts I’ve absorbed recently about the charred and broken American political system is that the number of actual voters is increasing. Obviously voting alone is not going to get us out of the mess we’re in, but it helps. And voting by mail increases the likelihood that your ballot will actually be counted properly, since paper ballots cannot be hacked or otherwise altered without leaving some concrete evidence behind.
So, in addition to supporting your local labor union, joining a wildcat strike, worker action, be sure to register to vote and vote.
The big thing that caught my attention and got me excited about this is the suggestion at the end that teachers should consider making their own classrooms historic sites:
Making Your Classroom the Historic Site
Funding, geography or lack of institutional support may prevent educators from taking students to an exemplary historic site—but you can still bring the best practices of historic sites into your classroom.
I think the author here was attempting to include teachers for whom field trips may not be an option, but actually, why shouldn’t ALL teachers make their classrooms historic sites? It is an invitation to students to think critically about the institution they attend, the curriculum they study, the habits and routines they engage in. This is actually a great way for teachers to think about their classrooms too– by deconstructing the phenomenon of the “field trip” altogether and engaging students historical minds daily in this fashion.
I am just beginning to dive in to some of the details of this ongoing series of actions in Hong Kong. But I am excited to have been able to use a bilingual interview with an activist (Agnes Chow Ting) spokesperson for the “Scholarism” group in Hong Kong for one of my English expression classes. Scholarism eventually merged into the Demosisto group which is I believe at the center of the current actions. It was a bit of a sensitive issue in class because there is one student who is Chinese in that class and I wasn’t sure how she would react. Japanese media (and as a result, my students) tend to focus on the unrest as a means to criticize the Chinese government in a kind of superior jingoistic fashion. And my Chinese student has often But I think I made it clear that the reason why I brought this text into the class was out of respect for the Chinese student activists and their connecting politics with their education in a meaningful and powerful way.
Exactly what is the connection between education and radical politics in this situation is still something I want to investigate. Obviously the connection that this NYTimes headline suggests of a 1-to-1 process of “radicalization,” doesn’t ring true because it ignores the underlying contexts of that education as it takes place. Anyway, more soon…
We need to learn, or re-learn, how to build comradeship and solidarity instead of doing capital’s work for it by condemning and abusing each other. This doesn’t mean, of course, that we must always agree – on the contrary, we must create conditions where disagreement can take place without fear of exclusion and excommunication.
I kept hearing again and again about this 2013 essay on some of the socialist podcasts I subscribe to– The Majority Report family of podcasts, but also Chapo Trap House, and Best of the Left too. The Antifada podcast has aparently created a vampire-centric spin-off inspired, in part, by this article as well. I’m glad I finally got a chance to read it. Though I am unfamiliar with the particular comedian and the imbroglio that was the impetus for the article, it certainly seems to ring true. The final caution about how social media ought to be used for revolutionary aims is particularly clarifying. And Mark Fisher’s call to resist the erasure of class in whatever form that erasure may take is essential.
Wanted to take note of this new podcast from Dissent magazine, Know Your Enemy. I’ve been having trouble subscribing to it through the app I usually use due to a problem I don’t understand with the RSS feed. But the content looks pretty good– basically opposition research, or histories of some of the individuals and organizations that have populated the political right of the United States since the end of World War 2.
Perhaps I’ll follow up on this after I’ve had time to digest more of the show itself. Right now there are only about 7 episodes available. But if the quality of Dissent‘s other podcast, Belabored, is any indication, this one will be a good one to follow as well.
August 6— It’s an overcast and windy morning. There was an occasional drizzle on my way into work. The school and the city just observed the anniversary of the first nuclear carpet bombing. 74 years ago today this city was reduced to smoldering, irradiated rubble in carpet-bombing targeting civilians, designed to strike terror and hopelessness into the hearts of the Japanese population and win the Pacific War ahead of a Russian invasion of the Japanese mainland. It was a unique bombing only in terms of the type of weapon used. Otherwise, it is I think fair to say that bombings like these continue into the present day, initiated by the American Executive, left unchecked by the Congress and largely ignored by the American populace. These bombings still target civilians and kill tens of thousands of innocent people every year in places like Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen and Somalia. End the American Capitalist Death Cult!
Portrait of Sadako Sasaki – a young girl who became the symbol of the innocent lives lost in the bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima and to the brutalities of World War II. Artwork by Joëlle Jones. From Red Flag Magazine: https://redflag.org/magazine/issue-6/wish-upon-a-crane/
This piece I found on consortiumnews.com was written in June by William J. Astore. It’s a great summary of America’s obsession with “air supremacy.” Astore calls the American Military Industrial Complex a “cult,” as do the authors of the “Eyes Left” podcast, which I highly recommend.
Great article from the online version of Teaching Tolerance. The “Uncivil” podcast that the article recommends is fantastic. I have listened to all of the episodes, and I’m hungry for more. Podcasts as a medium or vehicle specifically for historical research holds particular value/ promise/ energy for precisely the reason that this article proposes in its opening lines: “Radio has the best pictures.” Listening to an audio program like a podcast– particularly if it is well produced, with music and the occasional sound effect– is such and effective communicative tool. Propagandists beware. Propagandists take note. Podcasts, when accompanied by appropriate notations and references (=hyperlinks), are the antidote for corporate fake news.