‘There is no such thing as past or future’: physicist Carlo Rovelli on changing how we think about day

3 days ago

Carlo Rovelli tells Charlotte Higgins about his days as a student revolutionary and how his quantum leap began with an acid trip

What do we are all familiar with hour? Language tells us that it ” passes”, it moves like a great river, inexorably dragging us with it, and, in the end, cleans us up on its shore while it continues, unstoppable. Day flows. It moves ever forwards. Or does it? Poets also tell us that time stumbles or sneaks or slackens or even, at times, seems to stop. They tell us that the past might be inescapable, immanent in objects or people or sceneries. When Juliet is waiting for Romeo, day passes sluggishly: she longs for Phaethon to take the reins of the Sun’s chariot, since he would whip up the horses and” bring in cloudy night immediately “. When we wake from a vivid dreaming we are dimly recognizing also that the feeling of day we have just experienced is illusory.

Carlo Rovelli is an Italian theoretical physicist who wants to make the uninitiated grasp the excitement of his field. His volume Seven Brief Lessons on Physics, with its concise, sparkling essays on topics such as black holes and quantum, has sold 1.3 m copies worldwide. Now arrives The Order of Time, a dizzying, poetic work in which I received myself abandoning everything I believed I knew about time- surely the idea that it “flows”, and even that it exists at all, in any profound sense.

We meet outside the church of San Petronio in Bologna, where Rovelli studied. (” I like to say that, just like Copernicus, I was an undergraduate at Bologna and a graduate at Padua ,” he jokes .) A cheery, compact fellow in his early 60 s, Rovelli is in nostalgic mood. He lives in Marseille, where, since 2010, he has run the quantum gravitation group at the Centre de physique theorique. Before that, he was in the US, at the University of Pittsburgh, for a decade.

Carlo Carlo Rovelli in Bologna. Photo: Roberto Serra/ Iguana Press/ G/ Iguana Press/ Getty Images

He rarely visits Bologna, and “hes having” been catching up with old friends. We wander towards the university area. Piazza Verdi is flocked with a lively mob of students. There are flags and graffiti and banners, too- anti-fascist slogans, something in support of the Kurds, a sign enjoining passers-by not to forget Giulio Regeni, the Cambridge PhD student killed in Egypt in 2016.

” In my day it was roadblocks and police ,” he tells. He was a passionate student activist, back then. What did he and his pals want?” Small things! We wanted a world without borders, without nation, without war, without religion, without family, without school, without private property .”

He was, he says now, too radical, and it was hard, trying to share possessions, trying to live without resentment. And then there was the LSD. He took it a few times. And it turned out to be the seed of his interest in physics generally, and in the question of day specifically.” It was an extraordinarily strong experience that touched me also intellectually ,” he recollects.” Among the strange phenomena was the sense of hour stopping. Things were happening in my intellect but the clock was not plan ahead; the flow of time was not passing any more. It was a total subversion of the structure of reality. He had hallucinations of misshapen objects, of bright and dazzling colours- but also remembers supposing during the experience, actually asking himself what was going on.

” And I supposed:’ Well, it’s a chemical that is changing things in my brain. But how do I know that the usual perception is right, and this is wrong? If these two ways of perceiving are so different, what does it mean that one is the correct one ?'” The way he talks about LSD is, in fact, quite similar to his description of reading Einstein as a student, on a sun-baked Calabrian beach, and appearing up from his volume imagining the world not as it appeared to him every day, but as the wild and undulating spacetime that the great physicist described. Reality, to quote the title of one of his volumes, is not what it seems.

He dedicated his conservative, Veronese parents a bit of a fright, he tells. His father , now in his 90 s, was surprised when young Carlo’s lecturers said he was actually doing all right, despite the long hair and revolutionary politics and the occasional brush with the police. It was after the optimistic sense of student revolution in Italy came to an abrupt end with the kidnapping and murder of the former prime minister, Aldo Moro, in 1978 that Rovelli began to take physics severely. But his route to his big academic career was circuitous and unconventional.” Nowadays everyone is worried because there is no work. When I was young, the problem was how to avoid work. I did not want to become part of the’ productive system ‘,” he says.

Academia, then, seemed like a way of avoiding the world of a conventional undertaking, and for some years he followed his curiosity without a sense of careerist aspiration. He went to Trento in northern Italy to join a research group he was interested in, sleeping in his auto for a few months (” I’d get a rain in government departments to be decent “). He went to London, because he was interested in the work of Chris Isham, and then to the US, to be near physicists such as Abhay Ashtekar and Lee Smolin.” My first paper was horrendously late compared to what a young person would have to do now. And this was a privilege- I knew more things, there was more day .”

Albert Albert Einstein ran at the Swiss patent office for seven years:’ That worldly cloister where I hatched my most wonderful ideas .’ Photograph: Keystone/ Getty Images

The popular volumes, too, have come relatively late, after his academic analyze of quantum gravitation, published in 2004. If Seven Brief Lessons was a lucid primer, The Order of Time takes things further; it deals with” what I really do in science, what I really think in depth, what is important for me “.

Rovelli’s work as a physicist, in crude terms, occupies the large space left by Einstein on the one hand, and the development of quantum theory on the other. If the theory of general relativity describes a world of curved spacetime where everything is continuous, quantum theory describes a world in which discrete quantities of energy interact. In Rovelli’s words,” quantum mechanics cannot deal with the curvature of spacetime, and general relativity cannot account for quantum “.

Both theories are successful; but their apparent incompatibility is an open problem, and one of the current tasks of theoretical physics is to attempt to construct a conceptual framework in which they both work. Rovelli’s field of loop hypothesi, or loop quantum gravitation, offers a possible answer to the problem, in which spacetime itself is understood to be granular, a fine structure woven from loops.

String theory offers another, different road towards is solved. When I ask him what he thinks about the possibility that his loop quantum gravitation work may be wrong, he gently explains that being wrong isn’t the phase; being part of the conversation is the purpose. And anyway,” If you ask who had the longest and most striking list of results it’s Einstein without any doubt. But if you ask who is the scientist who constructed most mistakes, it’s still Einstein .”

How does hour fit in to his work? Time, Einstein long ago depicted, is relative- hour passes more slowly for an object moving faster than another object, for example. In this relative world, an absolute “now” is more or less meaningless. Time, then, is not some separate quality that impassively flows around us. Time is, in Rovelli’s terms,” part of a complicated geometry woven together with the geometry of space “.

For Rovelli, there is more: according to his theorising, time itself disappears at the most fundamental level. His theories ask us to accept the notion that time is merely a function of our “blurred” human perception. We see the world only through a glass, darkly; we are watching Plato’s shadow-play in the cave. According to Rovelli, our undeniable experience of hour is inextricably linked to the way hot behaves. In The Order of Time, he asks why can we know merely the past, and not the future? The key, he suggests, is the one-directional flowing of heat from warmer objects to colder ones. An ice cube dropped into a hot cup of coffee cools the coffee. But the process is not reversible: it is a one-way street, as demonstrated by the second law of thermodynamics.

String String theory offers an alternative to Rovelli’s work in loop quantum gravity.

Time is also, as we experience it, a one-way street. He explains it in relation to the concept of entropy- the measure of the disordering of things. Entropy was lower in the past. Entropy is higher in the future- there is more ailment, there are more potentials. The pack of cards of the future is shuffled and uncertain, unlike the ordered and neatly arranged pack of cards of the past. But entropy, hot, past and future are qualities that belong not to the fundamental grammar of the world but to our superficial observation of it.” If I find the microscopic nation of things ,” writes Rovelli,” then the difference between past and future vanishes … in the elementary grammar of things, there is no distinction between’ cause’ and’ effect ‘.”

To understand this properly, I can indicate merely that you read Rovelli’s books, and pass swiftly over this approximation by someone who gave up school physics lessons joyfully at the first possible possibility. However, it turns out that I am precisely Rovelli’s perfect reader, or one of them, and he seems quite delighted when I check my freshly acquired understanding of the concept of entropy with him. (” You passed the quiz ,” he tells .)

” I try to write at several levels ,” he explains.” I think about the person who not only doesn’t know anything about physics but is also not interested. So I guess I am talking to my grandmother, who was a housekeeper. I also think some young students of physics are reading it, and I also think some of my colleagues are reading it. So I try to talk at different levels, but I keep the person who knows nothing in my mind .”

His biggest fans are the blank slates, like me, and his colleagues at universities- he gets most criticism from people in the middle,” those who know a bit of physics “. He is also pretty down on school physics. (” Calculating the speed at which a ball falls- who cares? In another life, I’d like to write a school physics volume ,” he tells .) And he believes the division of the world into the” two cultures” of natural sciences and human sciences is” stupid. It’s like taking England and dividing the children into groups, and you tell one group about music, and one group about literature, and the one who gets music is not allowed to read novels and the one who does literature is not allowed to listen to music .”

The joy of his writing is its broad culture compass. Historicism dedicates an initial hand-hold on the material.( He teaches a course on history of science, where he likes to bring science and humanities students together .) And then there’s the fact that alongside Einstein, Ludwig Boltzmann and Roger Penrose appear figures such as Proust, Dante, Beethoven, and, especially, Horace– each chapter begins with an epigraph from the Roman poet- as if to ground us in human sentiment and feeling before departing for the vertiginous world of black holes and spinfoam and cloud of probabilities.

” He has a side that is intimate, lyrical and highly intense; and he is the great singer of the pas of hour ,” Rovelli says.” There’s a feeling of nostalgia – it’s not anguish, it’s not regret – it’s a feeling of’ Let’s live life intensely ‘. A good friend of mine, Ernesto, who died quite young, gave me a little volume of Horace, and I have carried it around with me all my life .”

Rovelli’s view is that there is no contradiction between a vision of the universe that builds human life seem small and irrelevant, and our everyday regrets and elations. Or indeed between” cold science” and our inner, spiritual lives.” We are part of nature, and so joy and sorrow are aspects of nature itself- nature is much richer than just decides of atoms ,” he tells me. There’s a moment in Seven Lessons when he compares physics and poetry: both try to describe the unseen. It might be added that physics, when departing from its native language of mathematical equations, relies strongly on metaphor and analogy. Rovelli has a gift for memorable comparings. He tells us, for example, when explaining that the smooth “flow” of day is an illusion, that” The events of the world do not form an orderly queue like the English, they crowd around chaotically like the Italians .” The conception of period, he tells,” has lost layers one after another, piece by piece “. We are left with” an empty windswept scenery virtually devoid of all trace of temporality … a world stripped to its essence, glittering with an arid and troubling beauty “.

More than anything else I’ve ever read, Rovelli reminds me of Lucretius, the first-century BCE Roman author of the epic-length poem, On the Nature of Things. Perhaps not so odd, since Rovelli is a fan. Lucretius correctly hypothesised the existence of atoms, a hypothesi that would remain unproven until Einstein demonstrated it in 1905, and even as late as the 1890 s was being written off as absurd.

What Rovelli shares with Lucretius is not only a magnificence of language, but also a sense of humankind’s place in nature- at once a part of the fabric of the universe, and in a specific position to marvel at its great beauty. It’s a rationalist opinion: one that holds that by better understanding the universe, by disposing false belief and superstition, one might be able to enjoy a kind of serenity. Though Rovelli the man also acknowledges that the stuff of humanity is love, and dread, and desire, and passion: all made meaningful by our brief lives; our tiny span of allotted time.

The Order of Time is published by Allen Lane. To order a copy for PS9. 75( RRP PS1 2.99) go to guardianbookshop.com or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p& p over PS10, online orders merely. Telephone orders min p& p of PS1. 99.

Jonathan Safran Foer: technology is decreasing us

21 days ago

Have you procured yourself checking email at dinner, or skipping from book to screen, unable to focus? The closer the world gets to our fingertips, the more we stand to lose

The first time my father looked at me was on a screen, utilizing technology developed to detect flaws in the hulls of ships. His father, my grandfather, could only remainder his hand on my grandmothers belly and imagine his infant in his intellect. But by the time I was conceived, my fathers imagination was provide guidance to technology that dedicated shape to sound waves rippling off my body.

The Glasgow-based Anglican obstetrician Ian Donald, who in the 1950 s helped bring ultrasound technology from shipyard to doctors office, had devoted himself to the task out of a belief that the images would increase empathy for the unborn, and attain girls less likely to choose abortions. The technology has furthermore been used, though, to make the decision to terminate a pregnancy because of deformity, because the mother wants a child of a certain sexuality. Whatever the intended and actual effects, it is clear that the now iconic black and white images of our bodies before we are born mediate life and death. But what prepares us to stimulate life-and-death decisions?

My wife and I debated learning the sex of our first infant before birth. I created the questions with my uncle, a gynaecologist “whos been” delivered more than 5,000 babies. He was prone neither to giving advice nor anything whiffing of spirituality, but he urged me, strongly , not to find out. He said, If a doctor looks at a screen and tells you, you will have information. If you find out in the moment of birth, you will have a miracle.

I dont believe in miracles, but I followed his advice, and he was right. One neednt believes in miracles to experience them. But one must be present for them.

One neednt believe in miracles to experience them. But one must be present for them Jonathan Safran Foer Photograph: Emily Berl/ Getty Images Portrait

Psychologists who examine empathy and compassion are finding that, unlike our almost instantaneous responses to physical pain, it takes time for the brain to see the psychological and moral dimensions of a situation. Simply put, the more distracted we become, and the more emphasis we place on speed at the cost of depth redefining text from what fills the hundreds of pages of a fiction, to a line of words and emoticons on a phones screen the less likely and able we are to care. Thats not even a statement about the relative worth of the contents of a fiction and a text, only about the time we spend with each.

We know that texting while driving is more dangerous than driving drunk. You wont risk killing anyone if you use your phone while eating a snack, or having a dialogue, or waiting on a bench, which means you will allow yourself to be distracted. Everyone wants his parents, or friends, or partners undivided attention even if many of us , especially children, are get are applied to far less. Simone Weil wrote that attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity. By this definition, our relationships to the world, and to one another, and to ourselves, are becoming increasingly miserly.

Novels demand many things of readers, but the most obvious is attention. I can do any number of other activities while watching a TV reveal or listening to music, and I can carry on a conversation with a friend while at an art gallery, but reading a novel demands putting everything else aside. To read a book is to devote oneself to the book. Novels always trafficking in human empathy, always bringing the other closer, always ask us to transcend our perspectives, but isnt that attention, itself, a generous act? Generous toward ourselves?


My father was not present for his childrens births it was customary, then, for men to be in the waiting room. I witnessed my sons being born. My experience was richer, deeper, more memorable and fulfilling than my fathers. Being physically present allowed me to be emotionally present.

We think of technologies as wielders of information and manipulators of matter. Google, we all know, is in the business as they put it of organising and making accessible the worlds info. Other technologies are more earthy the car propels us over land at speeds our legs cannot reach, and the bomb allows us to kill many adversaries in ways our bare hands cannot.

But technologies are not only effective at attaining or thwarting the aims of those who encounter them, but are affective. Technology is not strictly technological. I love you the same I love you issuing from the same person with the same honesty and depth will resonate differently over the phone than in a handwritten letter, than in a text message. The tone and rhythm of voice craft the words, as does the texture and colour of stationery, as does the glowing typeface of the text chosen by our mobile phone manufacturer. We love our Macs more than our PCs because Apple was more interested in harnessing and inflecting the affective resonances of its technology and in restricting a smaller coterie of upper-class to guard and guide these affects so as to create a distinctive ecosystem. We find ourselves played with smartphones in a manner that is we never did with the functional handle of a traditional landline phone because, whereas the first telephone devised by engineers supposing in functional terms, the phones in our pockets nowadays are always built in dialogue with marketers who have carefully noted how colour and curve, brightness and texture, heft and size make us feel.

We consumers forget that technology always plugs into and creates certain affects, the building blocks of emotions, as well as full-blown emotional experiences. We forget this, but successful companies do not. They remember and profit staggeringly. We forget at the expense of who we are.

Most of our communication technologies began as substitutes for an impossible activity. We couldnt always watch one another face to face, so the phone made it possible to keep in touch at a distance. One is not always home, so the answering machine made a message possible without the person or persons being near their phone. Online communication originated as a substitute for telephonic communication, which was considered, for whatever reasons, too burdensome or inconvenient. And then texting, which facilitated yet faster and more mobile messaging. These inventions were not created to be improvements on face-to-face communication, but a declension of acceptable, if lessened, substitutes for it.

But then a funny thing happened: we began to opt the diminished replaces. Its easier to make a phone call than to stimulate the effort to see someone in person. Leaving a message on someones machine is easier than having a phone conversation you can say what you need to say without a answer; its easier to check in without becoming entangled. So we began calling when we knew no one would pick up. Shooting off an email is easier still, because one can further conceal behind the is a lack of vocal intonation, and of course theres no chance of accidentally catching person. With texting, the high expectations for articulateness is further reduced, and the other shell is offered to hide in. Each step forward has constructed it easier simply a little to avoid the emotional work of being present, to convey datum rather than humanity.

The problem with accepting with preferring lessened replaces is that, over day, we too become diminished replaces. People who become used to saying little become used to feeling little. Or simply feeling whats been designed and sold to us to feel.

The novel has never stood in such stark opposition to the culture that surrounds it. A book is the opposite of Facebook: it requires us to be less connected. It is the opposite of Google: not only inefficient, but at its best, useless. Screens offer a apparently endless supply of information, but the true value of the page is not what it allows us to know, but how it allows us to be known.


Like so many people I know, Ive been concerned that telephones and the internet have, in subtle ways, attained life less rich, provided bright pleasures at the expense of deep ones, have distracted me, made concentration more difficult, led me to be elsewhere far too often. Ive received myself checking email while giving my children a bath, jumping over to the internet when a sentence or notion doesnt gone effortlessly in my write, searching for tint on a beautiful springtime day so I can see the screen of my phone. Have you?

Have you found yourself putting loved ones on hold so you could click over to a call from an unidentified number? Have you found yourself conflating aloneness with loneliness? Have you find your relationship to distraction reversing: what was once a annoyance is now attempted?

Do you want to click over to the other call, want to have an email to have to respond to, want even crave the ping of an incoming, inconsequential message?

Isnt it possible that technology, in the forms in which it has entered our everyday lives, has decreased us? And isnt it possible that its getting worse? Almost all new technology causes alarm in its early days, and humen generally adapt to it. So perhaps no resistance is necessary. But if it were, where would it come from, and what would it look like?

With each generation, it becomes harder to imagine a future that resembles the present. My grandparents hoped I would have a better life than they did: free of war and starvation, comfortably situated in a place that felt like home. But what futures would I dismiss out of hand for my grandchildren? That their clothes will be fabricated every morning on 3D printers? That they will communicate without speaking or moving? Merely someone with no imagination, and no anchor in reality, would deny the possibility that they will live forever. Its possible that many reading these terms will never die.

Lets assume, though, that we all have a defined number of days to indent the world with our faiths, to find and generate the beauty that merely a finite existence allows for, to wrestle with the question of purpose and wrestle with our answers. We often use technology to save period, but increasingly, it either takes the saved time along with it, or builds the saved period less present, intimate and rich. I worry that the closer the world gets to our fingertips, the further it gets from our hearts. Its not an either/ or situation being anti-technology is perhaps the only thing more foolish than being unquestioningly pro-technology but a question of balance that our lives hang upon.

One day, nanomachines will see weaknesses in our hearts long before any symptoms would bring us to a doctor. And other nanomachines will repair our hearts without our feeling any pain, losing any time or spending any fund. But it will only feel like a miracle if we are still capable of feeling miracles which is to say, if our hearts are worth saving.

Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer is published by Hamish Hamilton. To order a copy for 16( RRP 20) go to bookshop.theguardian.com or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p& p over 10, online orders merely. Phone orders min p& p of 1.99.

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Isis is as much an offshoot of our global civilisation as Google

1 month, 3 days ago

In the wake of terror attacks, and as Europe unravels, it feels as if we live in divided periods. But civilisation is more united than ever. The challenges facing the future climate change, AI, biotechnology will only bring us closer

Recent events in the Middle East and Europe seem to breathe fresh life into the conflict of civilisations thesis. Western incursions into the Middle East have triggered an Islamic backlash that has driven millions of Muslim refugees westwards and inspired terrorist attacks from Orlando to Nice; now the EU is unravelling as European voters abandon multicultural dreams in favour of xenophobic local identities. Allegedly, this has happened because the west has chosen to ignore the deep logic of history. According to the clash of civilisations thesis, humankind has always been is split into diverse civilisations whose members view the world in different and often irreconcilable styles. These incompatible world view stimulate conflicts between civilisations inevitable, and these conflicts in turn fuel long-term historical processes. Just as in nature different species fight for survival, so throughout history civilisations are systematically clashed, and merely the fittest have survived. Those who overlook this grim fact do so at their peril.

The clash of civilisations thesis has far-reaching political implications. Its supporters contend that any endeavor at reconciliation among the west and the Muslim world is doomed to failure. They further maintain that the EU can work only if it renounces the multicultural fallacy in favour of an unabashed western identity. In the long run, only one culture can survive the unforgiving tests of natural selection, and if the EU refuses to save western civilization from Islamic State and its ilk, Britain had better go it alone.

Though widely held, this thesis is mislead. Isis may indeed pose a radical challenge, but the civilisation it challenges is a global civilisation rather than a uniquely western phenomenon. Not for nothing has Isis managed to unite Iran with the United States, and to make rare common ground between Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah. And even Isis, for all its medieval rhetoric, is grounded in contemporary global culture far more than in seventh-century Arabia; it caters to the fears and hopes of alienated, postmodern youth rather than to those of medieval shepherds and merchants. In pure organisational words, Isis has more in common with a large corporation like Google than with the Umayyad caliphate. The surest sign of a real clash of civilisations is reciprocal incomprehension. Isis, in contrast, sees its enemies only too well otherwise, its propaganda would not have been so effective. It is better, hence, to see Isis as an errant outgrowth of the global culture we all share, rather than as a branch of some mysterious alien tree.

Crucially, the analogy between history and biology that underpins the conflict of civilisations thesis is false. Human groups including human civilisations are basically different from animal species, and historic conflicts differ greatly from natural selection processes. Animal species have objective identities that suffer for thousands of generations. Whether you are a chimpanzee or a gorilla depends on your genes rather than your notions, and different genes dictate diverse social behaviour. Chimpanzees live in mixed groups of males and females. They compete for power by building coalitions of supporters among both sexualities. Among gorillas, in contrast, a single dominant male establishes a harem of females, and usually expels any adult male that might challenge his position. As far as we know, the same social systems have characterised chimps and gorillas not only in recent decades, but for hundreds of thousands of years.

You find nothing like that among humans. Yes, human groups may have distinct social systems, but these are not genetically ascertained, and they seldom endure for more than a few centuries. Think of 20th-century Germans, for example. In fewer than 100 years, the Germans organised themselves into six most varied systems: the Hohenzollern empire, the Weimar republic, the Third Reich, Communist East Germany, the federal republic of West Germany, and finally democratic reunited Germany. Of course they kept their language and love of beer. But is there some unique German essence that recognise their country from all other nations, and that has remained unchanged from Wilhelm II to Angela Merkel? And if you do come up with something, was it also there back in the working day of Goethe, of Martin Luther and of Frederick Barbarossa?

What will happen when computers replace people in an increasing number of jobs? Alex Proyass I, Robot from 2004 Photo: Allstar

The Preamble of the European Constitution( 2004) begins by stating that it describes inspiration from the cultural, religious and humanist inheritance of Europe, from which have developed the universal values of the inviolable and inalienable rights of the human person, democracy, equality, freedom and the rule of law. This may easily give one the impression that European civilisation is defined by these values. Countless speeches and documents depict a direct line from ancient Athenian democracy to the present-day EU, celebrating 2,500 years of European freedom and republic. This is reminiscent of the proverbial blind man taking hold of an elephants tail and concluding that an elephant is a kind of brush. Athenian democracy was a half-hearted experiment that survived for scarcely 200 years in a small corner of the Balkans. If European civilisation for the last 25 centuries has been defined by republic and human rights, what are we to build of Sparta and Julius Caesar, the Crusaders and Conquistadores, the Inquisition and the slave trade, Louis XIV and Goebbels, Lenin and Mussolini?

European civilisation is anything Europeans stimulate of it, just as Christianity is anything Christians make of it. And they have made remarkably different things of it over the centuries. Human groups are defined more by the changes they undergo than by any continuity, but they nevertheless manage to create for themselves ancient identities thanks to their storytelling abilities. No matter what revolutions they survive, they can weave old and new into a single yarn. Even an individual may knit revolutionary personal changes into a coherent life story: I am that person who was once a socialist, but became a capitalist; I was born in Senegal, and now live in France; I wedded, then got divorced; I had cancer, and then got well again.

Similarly, a human group such as the Germans may come to define itself by the very changes it has lived through: Once “were in” Nazis, but we have learned our lesson, and now we are peaceful democrats. You dont need to look for some unique German essence that showed itself first in Hitler and then in Merkel: this revolutionary transformation itself constructs the Germans who they are.

Isis, too, may uphold an allegedly unchanging Muslim identity, but their story of Islam is a brand new tale. Yes, they used some venerable Muslim texts and traditions to concoct it, but if I bake a cake from flour, oil and sugar that have been sitting in my pantry for the past two months, does it mean the cake itself is two months old? Conversely, those who dismiss Isis as un-Islamic or even anti-Islamic are equally mistaken: Islam has no DNA. Just as with Christianity, Islam is whatever Muslims make of it.

Isis wrecked the ancient site of Palmyra in Syria. Photograph: Valery Sharifulin/ Tass

Yet there is an even deeper change distinguishing human groups from animal species. Species often split, but never merge. About seven million years ago, chimpanzees and gorillas had common ancestors. This single ancestral species split into two populations that eventually ran their separate, evolutionary styles. Once this happened, there was no going back. Since individuals belonging to different species cannot make fertile offspring together, species can never merge. Gorillas cant merge with chimps, giraffes cant merge with elephants, and puppies cant merge with cats.

Human tribes, in contrast, tend to coalesce over time into larger and larger groups. Modern Germans were created from the merger of Saxons, Prussians, Swabians and Bavarians, which not so long ago wasted little love on one another.The French were created from the merger of Franks, Normans, Bretons, Gascons and Provencals. Meanwhile across the Channel, English, Scots, Welsh and Irish gradually came together( willingly or not) to form Britons. In the not too distant future, Germans, French and Britons might yet merge into Europeans.

Mergers dont always last, as people in London, Edinburgh and Brussels are well aware these days. Brexit may well initiate the simultaneous unravel of both the EU and the UK. But in the long run, historys direction is clear-cut. Ten thousand years ago humankind was divided into countless isolated tribes. With each passing millennium, these merged into larger and larger groups, making fewer and fewer distinct civilisations. In recent generations the few remaining civilisations have been merging into a single global community. Political and ethnic divisions suffer, but they do not undermine the fundamental unity. Indeed, some divisions are attained possible merely by an over-arching common structure.


The process of human unification has taken two distinct sorts: weak heterogeneous unification and strong homogeneous unification. The weaker heterogeneous sort involves creating ties between previously unrelated groups. The groups may continue to have different beliefs and practices, but are no longer independent of one another. From this perspective, even war is a bond perhaps the strongest bond of all. Ten thousand years ago , no tribe in America had any quarrel with Middle Eastern foes, and no African clan bore grudges towards any European. In contrast, during the second world war, people born on the coast of the Mississippi went to their demises on Pacific islands and European grasslands, while recruits from the heart of Africa fell opposing among French vineyards and Alpine snows.

Historians often argue that globalisation reached a first peak in 1913, then went into a long deterioration during the era of the world wars and the cold war, and recuperated merely after 1989. They fear that new conflicts may again set globalisation into reverse gear. This may be true of economic globalisation, but it ignores the different but equally important dynamics of military globalisation. War spreads notions, technologies and people far more quickly than commerce. War also makes people far more interested in one another.Never had the US been more closely in touch with Russia than during the cold war, when every cough in a Moscow corridor send people scrambling up and down Washington staircases. People care far more about their foes than about their trade partners. For every US film about Thailand, there are probably 20 about Vietnam. The global war on terror simply continues the process of military globalisation.

Photograph: Benoit Tessier/ Reuters

Nowadays, the global unity of conflict is perhaps most apparent on the internet, where Isis and the drug cartels are scratching shoulders with Google and Facebook, and YouTube offers funny cat videos alongside instructions on how to build bombs. Islamic fanatics, murderous drug dealers and geeky hackers dont exist on unrelated planets; they share the same global cyberspace. All are thrilled by the blockchain technology that gave us the bitcoin; all count on easy accessibility via ubiquitous smartphones, and all are antagonised by national governments attempting to wrest control of the net.

Yet the world of the early 21 st century has gone way beyond the heterogeneous unity of conflict. People across the globe are not only influenced by each other, they increasingly share identical beliefs and practices. A thousand years ago, planet Earth was home to dozens of different political models. In Europe you could find feudal principalities vying with independent city states and minuscule theocracies. The Muslim world had its caliphate, claiming universal sovereignty, but also experimented with kingdoms, emirates and sultanates. The Chinese empire believed itself to be the sole legitimate political entity, while to its north and west tribal confederacies fought each other with mirth. India and south-east Asia contained a kaleidoscope of regimes, whereas polities in America, Africa and Australasia ranged from tiny hunter-gatherer bands to sprawling empires. No wonder even neighbouring human groups had difficulty agreeing on diplomatic practices , not to mention international laws. Each society had its own political paradigm, and saw it difficult to understand let alone respect alien political concepts.

Today, in contrast, a single political paradigm is accepted everywhere. The planet is divided between nearly 200 sovereign countries, which generally agree on the same diplomatic protocols and on common international laws. Sweden, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea and Paraguay are all marked on our world maps as the same kind of colourful shapes; they are all members of the UN; and despite myriad differences they are all recognised as monarch states enjoying similar rights and privileges. Indeed, they share many more political ideas and practices, including at least a token belief in representative bodies, universal suffrage and human rights. When Israelis and Palestinians, Russians and Ukrainians, or Kurds and Turks court global public opinion, they all use the same discourse of human rights, state sovereignty and international law.

The world may be peppered with various types of failed countries, but it knows merely one paradigm for a successful country. Global politics follows the Anna Karenina principle: healthy nations are all alike, but every failed nation fails “in ones own” way, by missing this or that ingredient of the dominant political package. Isis stands out in its complete rejection of this package, and its attempt to establish an entirely different kind of political entity a universal caliphate. But it is unlikely to succeed precisely for this reason. Numerous guerrilla forces and terror organisations have managed to establish new countries or subdue existing ones, but they have always done so by accepting the fundamental principles of the global political order. Even the Taliban sought international recognition as the legitimate government of the sovereign country of Afghanistan. No group rejecting the principles set out in global politics has so far gained lasting control of a significant territory.


In pre-modern times, humen experimented not only with diverse political blueprints, but with a mind-boggling variety of economic models. Russian boyars , Hindu maharajas, Chinese mandarins and Amerindian tribal chiefs had very different ideas about fund and taxation, and none was even well informed the existence of such a thing as the economy. Nowadays, in contrast, almost everybody believes in somewhat different differences on the same capitalist topic, and we are all cogs within a single global production line. Whether you live in Mongolia, New Zealand or Bolivia, your daily routines and economic fortunes depend on the same economic hypothesis, the same corporations and banks, and the same currents of capital. When ministers of finance or bank directors from China, Russia, Brazil and India meet, they have a common language, and can easily understand and sympathise with their equivalents woes.

When Isis subdued large parts of Syria and Iraq, it murdered tens of thousands of people, demolished archaeological sites, toppled statues and systematically destroyed the emblems of previous regimes and of western culture influence. Yet when Isis fighters entered the banks and discovered hoards of US dollars covered with the faces of American presidents and English slogans praising American political and religion ideals, they did not burn these dollars. For the dollar bill is universally venerated across all political and religion divides. Though it has no intrinsic value you cannot eat or drink a dollar bill trust in the dollar and in the wisdom of the Federal Reserve is so firm it is shared even by Islamic fundamentalists, Mexican drug lords and North Korean tyrants.

Doctor all over the word will dispense similar medicines made by the same narcotic companies Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

Yet the homogeneity of contemporary humanity is most apparent when it comes to our view of the natural environment and of the human body. If you fell sick in 1016, it mattered a great deal where you lived. In Europe, the resident clergyman would probably tell you that you had made God angry, and that in order to regain your health, you should donate something to the church, make a pilgrimage to a sacred site, and pray fervently for Gods forgiveness. Alternatively, the village witch might explain that a demon had possessed you, and that she could cast the demon out employing song, dance and the blood of a black cockerel. In the Countries of the middle east, doctors brought up on classical traditions might explain that your four bodily humours were out of balance, and you could harmonise them anew with a proper diet and foul-smelling potions. In India, Ayurvedic experts would offer their own theories concerning the balance between the three bodily components known as doshas , and recommend a therapy of herbs, massages and exercisings. Chinese physicians, Siberian shamans, African witch doctors, Amerindian medication humen every empire, kingdom and tribe had its own traditions and experts, each espousing different opinions about the human body and the nature of sickness, and each offering its own cornucopia of rituals, concoctions and remedies. Some of them worked astonishingly well; others were little short of a death penalty. The one thing that united European, Chinese, African and American medical conditions was that everywhere at least a third of people was dead before adulthood, and nowhere did median life expectancy outstrip 40.

Today, if you are taken ill, it builds far less change where you live. In Toronto, Tokyo, Tehran or Tel Aviv, you will be taken to similar-looking hospitals, where you will satisfy doctors who learned the same scientific hypothesis in not-too-different medical colleges. They will follow identical protocols and use identical exams to reach very similar diagnosis. They will then dispense similar medicines made by the same drug companies. There are still some minor culture changes, but Canadian, Japanese, Iranian and Israeli physicians hold much the same views about the human body and human illness. After Isis captured Raqqa and Mosul, it did not tear down the hospitals; instead, it launched an appeal to Muslim doctors and nurses throughout the world to volunteer their services there. Presumably, even Isis doctors and nurses believe that the body is made of cells, that diseases are caused by pathogens, and that antibiotics kill bacteria.

And what builds up these cells and bacteria? Indeed, what makes up the entire world? Back in 1016, every culture had its own narrative about the universe, and about the fundamental ingredients of the cosmic soup. Today, learned people throughout the world believe exactly the same things about matter, energy, period and space. Take, for example, Irans nuclear programme. The whole problem with it is that the Iranians is precisely the same view of physics as the Israelis and Americans. If the Iranians believed that E= mc, Israel would not care an iota about their nuclear programme.

People still claim to believe in different things. But when it comes to the really important stuff how to build a country, an economy, a hospital, or a weapon almost all of us belong to the same civilisation. There are disagreements , no doubt, but then all civilisations have their internal disagreements indeed, they are defined by these disagreements. When trying to outline their identity, people often make a grocery list of common traits. They would fare much better if they made a listing of common conflicts and dilemmas instead. In 1940, Britain and Germany had most varied traits, yet they were both part and parcel of western civilisation. Churchill wasnt more western than Hitler; instead, the struggle between them defined what it meant to be western at that particular moment in history. In contrast, a ! Kung hunter-gatherer in 1940 wasnt western, because the internal western conflict about race and empire would have constructed little sense to him.

The people we oppose most often are our own family members. Identity is defined by conflicts and dilemmas more than by agreements. What does it mean to be European in 2016? It doesnt mean to have white scalp, to believe in Jesus Christ, or to uphold autonomy. Instead, it means to argue vehemently about immigration, about the EU, and about the limits of capitalism. It also means to obsessively ask yourself What defines my identity? and to worry about an ageing population, about rampant consumerism and about global warming without actually knowing what to do about it. In their conflicts and dilemmas, 21 st-century Europeans are very different from their early-modern and medieval ancestors, but are increasingly similar to their Chinese and Indian contemporaries.

Whatever changes waiting for us, they are likely to involve a fraternal struggle within a single civilisation rather than a confrontation between alien civilisations. The big challenges of the 21 st century will be global in nature. What will happen when pollution triggers global climate changes? What will happen when computers replace people in an increasing number of jobs? When biotechnology enables us to upgrade humans, widen lifespans, and perhaps divide humankind into different biological castes? No doubt, we will have huge debates and bitter conflicts over these questions. But these arguments and conflicts are unlikely to drive us apart. Just the opposite. They will construct us ever more interdependent, as members of a single, rowdy, global civilisation.

Yuval Noah Hararis Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow is published by Harvill Secker. ynharari.com

Read more: www.theguardian.com

‘He took sex to the point of oblivion’: Tracey Emin on her hero Egon Schiele

1 month, 10 days ago

His work was once rejected as porn. But the ache, anger and sex frustration in Egon Schieles writhing nudes electrified Tracey Emins adolescence and devoted her special purposes that has never waned. She talks our novelist through his stormiest work

Thats quite rude, says Tracey Emin as we look through the drawings of Egon Schiele. Shes laying on her elbows with her mouth on her arm, almost like shes got to bite her limb to keep her mouth shut, and shes got her arse in the air and her legs are open. Shes got her dress falling down over her breast, her hairs tousled … Having sexuality to the point of oblivion, so theres no return. Thats what that looks like. And thats what makes it really good.

This is a tale of two artists. One is an Austrian expressionist in Sigmund Freuds Vienna at the start of the 20 th century, who have succeeded in shock even its refined erotic sensibilities with the stark sensuality of his images. The other is a adolescent in 1970 s Margate, whose first encounter with said artist, Schiele, was one of the most inspiring events of her life.

It was so clear what he was trying to say, recalls Emin as we sit in her studio in Spitalfields, east London, surrounded by her visceral paints. “Its about” sex frustration, this is about anger, “its about” being fucked up, “its about” being confused. So, in a manner that is, it was probably quite adolescent, you know? Its a little bit like Sylvia Plath, or anything that a moody 14 -year-old would grab hold of. I was looking for something to identify with, because I knew that I was different from other people.

The previous year, as she records in her memoir Strangeland , she had stopped going to school, instead floating between cafes and bars, drinking cider and lying on the beach. In this wayward adolescence in a rundown English seaside town, Schiele gave her direction, the objectives and a sense of who she might become. He was my idea of an artist, she says.

Dirtied by love and life Tracey Emin with her most well known run, 1998 s My Bed. Photograph: Rob Stothard/ Getty Images

It was through her love of David Bowie that Emin found Schiele. On the encompas of his 1977 album Heroes, the singer is photographed with one hand against his chest, the other created vertically. Emins boyfriend explained that Bowie had borrowed his pose from the artist. I bought a volume about expressionism. There was one tiny Schiele painting and suddenly my whole world opened, because, before that, I was only aware of Picasso, Lichtenstein and Warhol, she says. I related to it, because it was about indicating emotion. You could see the anguish he was going through: I am in pain. I am drawing this, but I am depicting this in a different way, because I see it differently from other people. I see it through the eyes of pain.

Bowie channels Schiele Photograph: Publicity image

Who, then, was this artist who could inspire a young person across a century? A new book by Taschen offers a sumptuous tour of his desperate life. Born in 1890, Schiele was part of an Austrian generation for whom the subjective was all. The outside world was false, absurd, mad. They merely trusted their own fictions and fears. In the composer and artist Arnold Schoenbergs 1910 painting The Red Gaze, a face becomes a ghostly mask, the eyes of which blaze with pain. In Oskar Kokoschkas 1914 run The Bride of the Wind, a man and woman are locked together by love at the heart of a storm.

Schiele shared these artists sense of isolation and disclocation. All his angst constructed sense, because he didnt live very long, says Emin. He died when he was 28. Most artists get their MA when theyre 28 now. Egon Schiele he was dead, his wife was dead, most of his friends were dead. If they didnt get syphilis, they died of TB, they died of the flu, they died in the first world war. The AustroHungarian Empire … all of that, its pretty scary periods. The fact that he remained focused on his personal perspective is pretty incredible: the strength in being able to do that at such a young age.

I learned a lot Seated Girl with Legs Spread( 1918) by Egon Schiele. Photo: Politenes of Taschen

As if he could see his own death, which came during the course of its flu pandemic of 1918, Schiele portrayed himself as a suffering Saint Sebastian, penetrated by arrows, or huddled with his wife in a cave. Yet there was one notable discrepancies between Schiele and his fellow expressionists such as Schoenberg. In the 1900 s, he was encouraged by the grand Viennese dream painter Gustav Klimt, whose delight in desire he shared. For a long time, he was considered an erotic artist, says Emin. You could find Schiele at flea market, because it was just considered to be porno junk.

Emin has been conducting a creative the negotiations with the Austrian artist since her teenage discovery. I was so influenced by him it was ridiculous. I was doing my own little versions of Egon Schiele, really and I learned a lot. Some might presume she set this infatuation behind her when she became famous as a conceptual artist in the 1990 s, but you cant get much more expressionist than My Bed, with its sheets dirtied by love and life, its empty bottles and pungent aura of bohemian days and nights. When it was first shown in 1998, it had a noose hanging above it.

Emin always drew, and her depicts are intensely raw from her 1995 image of desperation, Sad Shower in New York, to the new works that surround us today, including a brilliantly dark series featuring an alter ego called The Black Cat Woman. Her affinity for Schiele has not gone unnoticed. In 2015, a joint exhibition of the artists run was held at the Leopold Museum in Vienna. The blue lines of her drawing Crying( 2014 ), shown in that exhibition, crumple into a blotted figure of sorrow that speaks of ache just as clearly as Schieles selfportraits and nudes. Above all, both artists portray the human body in a way that is simultaneously sex and agonised.

More Of You, a work by Emin from 2014. Photo: Ben Westoby/ The artist, courtesy White Cube

Emin and I look at some of Schieles nudes that, until recently, were dismissed as porn. Complied with in a Dream( 1911) is a watercolour of a woman with bright pink teats, black pubic hair and a red vagina. Shes pulling her labia apart and saying: Look at my clitoris. Theres nothing sexist about that. Shes pretty formidable and shes got an attitude and shes saying: Yeah, come near then. Shes altogether in control: shes saying: Do you want it or dont you want it? Its mine. Theres a voyeurism, but shes the person in control.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Keep Calm and Carry On- the sinister message behind the slogan that seduced the nation

1 month, 16 days ago

It is on posters, mugs, tea towels and in headlines. Harking back to a blitz spirit and an age of public service, Keep Calm and Carry On has become ubiquitous. How did a cosy, middle-class joke assume darker connotations?

To get some sense of just what a ogre it has become, try counting the number of days in a week you see some permutation of the Keep Calm and Carry On poster. In the last few days Ive watched it twice as a poster advertising a pub New Years Eve party, several times in souvenir shops, in a photograph accompanying a Guardian article on the imminent doctors ten-strike( Keep Calm and Save the NHS ) and as the subject of too many internet memes to count. Some were related to the floods a flagrantly opportunistic Liberal Democrat poster, with Keep Calm and Survive Floods, and the somewhat more mordant Keep Calm and Make a Photo of Floods. Then there were those related to Islamic State: Keep Calm and Fight Isis on the standard red background with the crown above; and Keep Calm and Support Isis on a black background, with the crown replaced by the Isis logo. Around eight years after it started to appear, it has become quite possibly the most successful meme in history. And, unlike most memes, it has been astonishingly enduring, a canvas on to which practically anything can be projected while retaining a sense of ironic reassurance. It is the ruling insignium of an era that is increasingly defined by austerity nostalgia.

I can pinpoint the precise moment at which I realised that what had seemed a typically, somewhat insufferably, English phenomenon had gone completely and inescapably global. I was going into the flagship Warsaw branch of the Polish department store Empik and there, just past the revolving doors, was a collecting of notebooks, mouse pads, diaries and the like, featuring a familiar English sans serif font, white on red, topped with the crown, in English 😛 TAGEND




It felt like confirmation that the image had entered the pantheon of truly global design icons. As an image, it was now up there alongside Rosie the Riveter, the muscular female munitions employee in the US second world war propaganda image; as easily identifiable as the headscarved Lily Brik bellowing BOOKS! on Rodchenkos famous poster. As a logo, it was nearly as recognisable as Coca-Cola or Apple. How had this happened? What was it that attained the image so popular? How did it manage to grow from a minor English middle-class cult object into an international brand, and what exactly was meant by carry on? My hypothesi had been that the combination of message and design were inextricably tied up with a plethora of English obsessions, from the blitz spirit, through to the cults of the BBC, the NHS and the 1945 postwar consensus. Also contained in this bundle of signifiers was the enduring pretension of an extremely rich( if shoddy and dilapidated) country, the sadomasochistic Toryism imposed by the coalition government of 201015, and its presentation of austerity in a manner so brutal and moralistic that it almost seemed to luxuriate in its own parsimony. Some or none of these believes may have been in the heads of the customers at Empik buying their published tea towels, or they may have just thought it was funny. However, few images of the last decade are quite so riddled with ideology, and few historical documents are quite so spectacularly false.


Imperial War Museum handout of a Dig for Victory poster by Mary Tunbridge. Photo: Mary Tunbridge/ PA

The Keep Calm and Carry On poster was not mass-produced until 2008. It is a historical object of a very peculiar sort. By 2009, when it had first become tremendously popular, it seemed to respond to a particularly English malaise connected immediately with the way Britain reacted to the credit crunch and the banking accident. From this moment of crisis, it tapped into an already established narrative about Britains finest hour the aerial Battle of Britain in 1940 -4 1 when it was the only country left fighting the Third Reich. This was a moment of entirely indisputable and apparently uncomplicated national valour, one that Britain has clung to through thick and thin. Even during the high levels of the boom, as the critical theorist Paul Gilroy flags up in his 2004 volume, After Empire , the blitz and the victory were frequently invoked, constructed necessary by the need to get back to the place or moment before the country lost its moral and cultural bearings. The years 1940 and 1945 were obsessive repeatings, anxious and melancholic, morbid fetishes, clung to as a means of not thinking about other aspects of recent British history most obviously, its empire. This has only intensified since the financial crisis began.

The blitz spirit has been exploited by politicians largely since 1979. When Thatcherites and Blairites spoke of hard selections and muddling through, they often elicited the memories of 1941. It served to legitimate regimes that constantly was contended that, despite appearances to the contrary, resources were scarce and there wasnt enough money to go around; the most persuasive way of explaining why someone( else) was inevitably going to suffer. Ironically, however, this rhetoric of sacrifice was oftens combined with a demand that consumers enrich themselves buy their house, get a new automobile, stimulate something of themselves, aspire. Thus, by 200708, when the no return to boom and bust promised by Gordon Brown appeared to be abortive( despite the success of his very 1940 s alternative of nationalising the banks and thus saving capitalism ), the image started to become popular. It is worth noting that soon after this point, a brief series of protests were being policed in increasingly ferocious ways. The authorities were allowed to make use of the apparatus of security and surveillance, and the proliferation of prevention of terrorism statutes set up under the New Labour governments of 19972010, to combat any sign of disagreement. In this context the poster became ever more ubiquitous, and, peculiarly, after 2011, it began to be used in what few protests remained, in an only mildly subverted form.

The Keep Calm and Carry On poster seemed to represent all the contradictions produced by a intake economy attempting to adapt itself to thrift, and to normalise surveillance and security through an ironic, depoliticised aesthetic. Out of apparently nowhere, this image blending bare, faintly modernist typography with the consoling logo of the crown and a similarly reassuring message spread everywhere. I first noticed its ubiquity in the winter of 2009, when the poster appeared in dozens of windows in affluent London districts such as Blackheath during the prolonged snowy period and the attendant breakdown of National Rail; the implied message about hardiness in the face of adversity and the blitz spirit looked rather absurd in the context of a dusting of snow crippling the railway system. The poster seemed to exemplify a design phenomenon that had slowly crept up on us to the point where it became unavoidable. It is best described as austerity nostalgia. This aesthetic took the form of a yearning for the various kinds of public modernism that, rightly or incorrectly, was ensure to have characterised the period from the 1930 s to the early 1970 s; it could just as easily exemplify a more straightforwardly conservative longing for security and stability in hard times.

Unlike many forms of nostalgia, the memory invoked by the Keep Calm and Carry On poster is not based on lived experience. Most of those who have bought this poster, or worn the various pouches, T-shirts and other memorabilia based on it, were probably born in the 1970 s or 1980 s. They have no memory whatsoever of the various kinds of benevolent statism the slogan purports to exemplify. In that sense, the poster is an example of the phenomenon given a capsule definition by Douglas Coupland in 1991: legislated nostalgia, that is, to force a body of people to have memories they do not actually possess. However, there is more to it than that. No one who was around at the time, unless they had worked at government departments of the Ministry of Information, for which the poster was designed, would have watched it. In fact, before 2008, few had ever seen the words Keep Calm and Carry On displayed in a public place.

The poster was designed in 1939, but its official website, which sells a variety of Keep Calm and Carry On merchandise, states that it never became an official propaganda poster; instead, a handful were printed on a test basis. The specific purpose of the poster was to stiffen resolve in the event of a Nazi intrusion, and it was one in a set of three. The two others, which followed the same design principles, were 😛 TAGEND


and 😛 TAGEND


Both of these were published up, and YOUR COURAGE was widely displayed during the course of its blitz, given that the feared intrusion did not take place after the German defeat in the Battle of Britain. You can see one on a billboard in the background of the last scene of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburgers 1943 film, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp , when the ageing, reactionary but charming soldier detects his home in Belgravia bombed. Of the three proposals, KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON was discarded after the test print. Perhaps, this was because it was considered less appropriate to the conditions of the blitz than to the mass panic expected in the event of a German ground invasion. The other posters were heavily criticised. The social research project Mass Observation recorded many furious reactions to the patronising tone of YOUR COURAGE and its implied distinction between YOU, the common person, and US, the state to be defended. Anthony Burgess later claimed it was rage at posters like this that helped Labour win such an enormous landslide in the 1945 election. We can be fairly sure that if KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON had been mass-produced, it would have infuriated those who were being implored to be pacify. Wrenched out of this context and exhumed in the 21 st century, however, the poster appears to flatter, rather than hector, the public it is aimed at.

One of the few test printings of the poster was found in a consignment of secondhand books bought at auction by Barter Books in Alnwick, Northumberland, which then generated the first reproductions. First sold in London by the shop at the Victoria and Albert Museum, it became a middlebrow staple when the recession, initially merely the somewhat euphemistic credit crunch, hit. Through this poster, the way to display ones commitment to the new austerity regime was to buy more consumer goods, albeit with a less garish aesthetic than was customary during the course of its boom. This was similar to the Keep calm and carry on shopping commanded by George W Bush both after September 11 and when the sub-prime crisis hit America. The wartime utilize of this rhetoric escalated during the economic commotion in the UK; witness the motto of the 2010 -1 5 coalition government, Were all in this together. The power of Keep Calm and Carry On comes from a yearning for an actual or imaginary English patrician attitude of stiff upper lips and muddling through. This is, however, something that largely survives merely in the popular imagination, in a country devoted to services and intake, where elections are decided on the basis of house-price value, and given to sudden, mawkish outpourings of sentiment. The poster isnt just a occurrence of the return of the repressed, it is rather the return of repression itself. It is a nostalgia for the state of being repressed solid, stoic, public spirited, as opposed to the depoliticised, hysterical and privatised reality of Britain over the last 30 years.

At the same time as it evokes a sense of loss over the decline of an idea of Britain and the British, it is both reassuring and flattering, connoting a virtuous( if highly self-aware) customer stoicism. Of course, in the end, it is a bit of a gag: you dont genuinely think your pay cut or your childrens inability to buy a home, or the fact that someone somewhere else has been stimulated homeless because of the bedroom taxation, or lost their benefit, or worked on a zero-hours contract, is truly comparable to life during the blitz but its all a little bit of fun, isnt it?


Unlike many forms of nostalgia, the memory invoked by the Keep Calm and Carry On poster is not based on lived experience.

The Keep Calm and Carry On poster is merely the tip of an iceberg of austerity nostalgia. Although early examples of the mood can be seen as a reaction to the threat of terrorism and the allegedly attendant blitz spirit, it has become an increasingly prevalent response to the uncertainties of economic collapse. Interestingly, one of the first areas in which this happened was the consumption of food, an activity closely connected with the immediate gratification of longings. Along with the blitz came rationing, which was not fully abolished until the mid-1 950 s. Accounts of this vary; its egalitarianism meant that while the middle classes experienced a drastic decline in the quality and sum of their diet, for many of the poor it was a minor improvement. Either way, it was a grim regime, aided by the emergence of various types of byproducts and replaces Spam, corned beef which stuck around in the already famously dismal British diet for some time, before mass immigration gradually attained feeing in Britain a less awful experience. In the process, entire aspects of British cuisine the sort of thing listed by George Orwell in his essay In Defence of English Cooking such as suet dumplings, Lancashire hotpot, Yorkshire pudding, roast dinners, faggots, spotted dick and toad in the hole began to disappear, at the least from the metropoles.

The figure of importance here is the Essex-born multimillionaire chef and Winston Churchill fan, Jamie Oliver. Clearly as decent and sincere a person as youll discover on the Sunday Times Rich List, his various crusades for good food, and the manner in which he marketplaces them, are inadvertently telling. After his initial reputation as a New Labourera star, a relatively young and Beckham-coiffed celebrity chef, his main concern( aside from a massive chain-restaurant empire that stretches from Greenwich Market in London to the Hotel Moskva in Belgrade) has been to take good food locally sourced, cooked from scratch from being a preserve of the middle classes and bring it to the disadvantaged and socially omitted of inner-city London, ex-industrial towns, mining villages and other places slashed and burned by 30 -plus years of Thatcherism. The first version of this was the TV series Jamies School Dinners , in which a camera crew documented him trying to influence the school meals choices of a comprehensive in Kidbrooke, a poor, and lately almost totally demolished, district in south-east London. Notoriously, this campaign was virtually thwarted by moms bringing their kids fizzy drinkings and burgers that they pushed through the fencings so that they wouldnt “re going to have to” suffer that healthy eating muck.


Essex-born multimillionaire cook and Winston Churchill fan, Jamie Oliver

The second phase was the book, TV series and chain of shops branded as the Ministry of Food. The name is taken immediately from the wartime ministry charged with managing the rationed food economy of war-torn Britain. Use the assistance of a few public bodies, setting up a charity, pouring in some coalfield regeneration fund and some money of his own, Oliver planned to teach the proletariat to make itself real food with real ingredients. One could argue that he was the latest in a long line of people lecturing the lower orders on their choice of nutrition, part of an immense building of grotesque neo-Victorian arrogance that has included former Channel 4 displays How Clean Is Your House ?, Benefits Street and Immigration Street , exercises in Lets laugh at picturesque prole scum. But Oliver get in there, and got his hands dirty.

However, the tale ended in a predictable manner: attempts to build this charitable action into something permanent and institutional foundered on the disinclination of any plausible British government to antagonise the supermarkets and sundry manufacturers who funnel fund to the two main political parties. The appeal to a time when things such as food and information were apparently dispensed by a benign paternalist bureaucracy, before customer choice carried all before it, can only be translated into the infrastructure of charity and PR, which is something we learn what happens over a few weeks during a Tv indicate and then keep forgetting it. A permanent network of Ministry of Food stores pop-ups that taught cooking skills and had a mostly voluntary staff were set up in the north of England in Bradford, Leeds, Newcastle and Rotherham, though the latter was forced to temporarily close following health and safety concerns in June 2013, reopening in September 2014.

Much more influential than this up by your bootstraps attempt to do a TV/ charity version of the welfare nation was the ministrys aesthetics. On the cover-up of the tie-in cookbook, Oliver sits at a table lay with a 1940 s utility tablecloth in front of some bleakly cute postwar wallpaper, and MINISTRY OF FOOD is declared in that same derivative of Gill Sans typeface used on the Keep Calm and Carry On poster. This is familiar territory. There is a whole micro-industry of austerity nostalgia aimed straight-out at the stomach. There is Olivers own chain of Jamies restaurants, which allows you order pork scratchings for PS4( they come with a side of English mustard) and enjoy neo-Victorian lavatories. Beyond Olivers empire, middle-class operations such as the caterers Peyton and Byrne blend the sort of retro food common across the western world( lots of cupcakes) with elaborated versions of simple English grub including sausage and mash. Some of the interiors of their cafe( such as the one in Mends on Tottenham Court Road in central London) were designed by architects FAT in a pop spin on the faintly lavatorial institutional design common to the surviving fragments of genuine 1940 s Britain that can still be found scattered around the UK pie and mash shops in Deptford in south-east London, ice-cream parlors in Worthing in Sussex, Glasgows dingier tavern, all featuring lots of wipe-clean tiles.


Make Do And Mend Photograph: Make Do And Mend

Other versions of this are more luxurious, such as Dinner, where Heston Blumenthal provides typically quirky English food as part of the attractions of One Hyde Park, the most expensive housing development on Earth. Something similar is offered at Canteen, which has branches in Londons Royal Festival Hall, Canary Wharf and after its scorched-earth gentrification courtesy of the Corporation of London and Norman Foster Spitalfields Market. Canteen serves Great British Food, brews, ciders and perrys[ that] represent our countrys brewing history and cocktails the hell is British-led. The interior design is clearly part of the appeal, offering a strange, luxurious version of a work canteen, with benches, trays and sans serif signs that aim to be both modernist and nostalgic. It presents the incongruous sight of the very comfortable eating and imagining themselves in the dining hall of a branch of Tyrrell& Green circa 1960. Still more bizarre is Albion, a greengrocer for oligarchs, selling traditional English make to the denizens of Neo Bankside, the Richard Rogers-designed towers alongside Tate Modern. Built into the ground floor of one of the towers, it sells its unpretentious fruit and veg next to posters advertising flats that start at the knock-down price of PS2m.

Closer to reality as lived by most people is a mobile app called the Ration Book. On its website, it gives you a crash course on rationing, when the government made assured that in the face of deficit and blockade the population could still get lifes essentials in the form of the famous volume, with its postages to get X amount of dried egg, flour, pollock and Spam. It is an app that aggregates discounts on various brands via voucher codes for those facing the crunch the people the unfortunate Ed Miliband tried to reach out to as the squeezed middle. The website countries: Our squad of Ministers broker the best deals with the biggest brands, to give you the best value. Is there any better way of describing the UK in the second decade of the 21 st century than as the sort of country that produces apps to simulate state rationing of basic goods, simply to shave a little bit off the price of high street brands?

This food-based austerity nostalgia is one way in which peoples peculiar longing for the 1940 s is conveyed; much more can be found in music and design. Stroll into the shops at the Royal Festival Hall or the Imperial War Museum in London, and you will find an avalanche of it. Posters from the 1940 s, playthings and bangles , none of them later than around 1965, have been resurrected from the dustbin of history and to be laid down for you to buy, along with austerity cookbooks, the Design series of volumes on pre-1 960 s iconic graphic artists such as Abram Game, David Gentleman and Eric Ravilious, plus a whole cornucopia of Keep Calm-related accoutrements. A particularly established example is the use of the 1930 s Penguin book encompasses as a logo for all manner of goods, purposely calling to intellect Penguins mid-century role as a substantially educative publisher. Then there are all those prints of modernist buildings, “re ready for” Londoners to frame and place in their ex-council flats in zone 2 or 3: reduced, stark blow-ups of the outlines of modernist architecture, whether demolished( the Trinity Square car park in Gateshead seen in Get Carter ) or protected( Londons National Theatre ). The plate-making company, People Will Always Need Plates, has made a name for itself with its towels, mugs, plates and badges emblazoned with different British modernist houses from the 1930 s to the 1960 s, elegantly redrawn in a bold, schematic sort that sidesteps the often rather shabby reality of the buildings. By recreating the image of the historically untainted build, it manages to precisely reverse the original modernist ethos. If for Adolf Loos and generations of modernist designers adornment was crime, here modernist builds are built into ornaments. Still, the choice of buildings is politically interesting. Blocks of 1930 s collective housing, 1960 s council flats, interwar London Underground stations precisely the sort of architectural projects now considered obsolete in favour of retail and property speculation.

Many of the buildings immortalised in these plates have been the subject of direct transfers of assets from the public sector into the private. The reclamation of postwar modernist architecture by the intelligentsia has been a contributory factor in the privatisation of social housing. An early instance of this was the sell-off of Keeling House, Denys Lasduns east London Cluster Block, to a private developer, who promptly marketed the flats to creatives. A series of gentrifications of modernist social housing followed, from the Brunswick Centre in Bloomsbury( turned from a rotting brutalist megastructure into the home of one of the largest branches of Waitrose in London ), to Park Hill, an architecturally extraordinary council estate in Sheffield, given away free to the Mancunian developer Urban Splash, whose own favouring of compact flats has long been an example of austerity sold as luxury although after the boom, its privatisation scheme had to be bailed out by millions of pounds in public fund. Another favourite on mugs and tea towels is Balfron Tower, a council tower block about to be sold to wealthy investors for its iconic quality. It is here, where the rage for 21 st-century austerity chic meets the results of austerity as practised in the 1940 s and 1950 s, that a mildly creepy fad spills over into much darker territory. In aiding the sell-off of one of the greatest achievements of that era the housing built by a universal welfare state the revival of austerity chic is the literal extermination of the thing it claims to love.

The Ministry of Nostalgia by Owen Hatherley is published by Verso( PS14. 99 ). To order a copy for PS11. 99, going to see bookshop.theguardian.com or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p& p over PS10, online orders only. Telephone orders min. p& p of PS1. 99.

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Autocracy in persons under the age of Trump: lessons from Hannah Arendt

1 month, 26 days ago

The political theoretician who wrote about the Nazis and the banality of evil in the 60 s has become a astonish bestseller. Should we heed her warns that protesting only feeds the chaos?

In the scramble to make sense of the post-inauguration world, Amazon has been forced to restock a few key titles: Orwells Nineteen Eighty-Four hit No 1 at the end of last week, after Trumps adviser Kellyanne Conway employed the phrase alternative facts in place of some bullshit I just made up. But the astonish hit being long, complex and demanding or, as the online magazine Jezebel described it, extremely metal is Hannah Arendts The Origins of Totalitarianism, first published in 1951. Commentators have been referencing the run since Donald Trumps election in November but rarely has this spurred so many people to actually buy a copy.

In it, the political theorist( she always explicitly repudiated the term philosopher) details the trajectory: antisemitism( not merely hatred of Jews ), imperialism( not merely conquest ), totalitarianism( not merely dictatorship) are considered in their interrelation. Against the necessary background of imperialism, antisemitism became the catalytic agent first for the rise of the Nazi movement then for a world war of unparalleled ferocity and, ultimately, for the emergence of the unprecedented crime of genocide. That much is well established; the chill is in the detail.

When she describes the rise of the despot, which requires a mass not a rabble, you could be reading a sociologists thesis about Trump advocates. The word masses applies only where we deal with people who either because of sheer numbers, or indifference, or a combination of both, cannot better integrate any organisation based on common interest, into political parties or municipal governments or professional organisations or trade union. Potentially, they exist in every country and form the majority of those large numbers of neutral, politically indifferent people who never join a party and hardly ever go to the polls.

She describes, quite brusquely, antisemitism at its incipience: Whereas anti-Jewish sentiments were widespread among the educated classes of Europe throughout the 19 th century, antisemitism as an ideology remained, with very few exceptions, the prerogative of crackpots in general and the lunatic fringes in particular. Yet however you dismissed their mental capacity, this hardcore generated the ideological infrastructure on which a mass movement could be built. It is strikingly reminiscent of John Naughtons description on David Runcimans interesting Talking Politics podcast about the alt-right: People who belonged loosely to this side of the political system is mainly excluded from public discourse. But it just so happened, they didnt go quiet. They went to the net. So, for the best part of 20 years, a network of rightwing echo chambers has been established, upon which was constructed the infrastructure of Trumps campaign.

Demonstrator on Washingtons Pennsylvania Avenue during the Womens March in January. Photo: Joshua Lott/ AFP/ Getty Images

Two phases come out of that. First, that we can see from the comparison that the net isnt responsible for everything. Antisemites detected ways to keep their notions alive and generative without any such advantage, and with all the same forces-out of conservatism and common sense ranged against them. Second, as Runciman asks , what happened to the leftwing networks? Why dont we have effective echo chambers? It is a question that all of us have been asking, one way or another; there is no famine of radicalism on the left.

Here, Arendt brings some liberating insight, described in precis by Professor Griselda Pollock, an expert in Arendt. She talks of the creation of pan motions, these widespread notions that overarch national, political and ethnic components the two big pan movements she talks about are bolshevism and nazism. There is a single justification for everything, and before the single explanation, everything else falls away. She dedicates a portrait of how you produce these isolated people, who then become susceptible to pan ideologies, which give them a place in something. But the place they have is ultimately sacrificial; they dont count for anything; all that counts is the big idea. The left, in other words, isnt necessarily unequal to the task of creating a pan-ideology; but anyone who believed in pluralism or intricacy would have no currency on this terrain. We should be glad not to have been effective in this space, even if it feels like a failure.

Arendt was born in Germany in 1906 and was an academic until 1933, when she embarked on charity run, securing passageway to Palestine for Jewish children and teenagers. The decision was not based on any sudden realisation of Hitlers menace. For goodness sake, she said, laughing, in a television interview in 1964, we didnt need[ him] to know that the Nazis were our enemies. We also knew that a great number of Germans were behind him. That could not shock us in 1933. Rather, she had been alienated from the intellectual milieu by their coordinated exclusion of their Jewish colleagues( Arendt came from a family of secular Jewish lefties ).

The personal problem did not lie in what our foes did but in what our friends did, she said.[ They were] not yet under the pressure of terror,[ but] it was as if a vacuum formed around one. She conducted the refugee run from Paris. Stripped of her German citizenship in 1937, she escaped to New York in 1941 with her husband and mother, via the Gurs internment camp in the Vichy-held south of France.

She was never unclear about the magnitude of the Holocaust, saying, in the same interview: The decisive day was when we heard about Auschwitz. Before that, we said: Well, one has enemies. That is natural. Why shouldnt people have adversaries? But this was different. It was as if an abyss had opened. Amends can be made for almost anything, at some phase in politics, but not for this.

Arendt in New York in 1972. Photo: New York Times Co/ Getty Images

However, she was a controversial figure by the 1960 s, since the publication of Eichmann in Jerusalem, a consideration of Adolf Eichmanns trial and what it uncovered about the nature of the Final Solution and all those who were complicit in it.Opponents accused her of making the Jews complicit in their fate. She repudiated that outright Nowhere in this book did I accuse the Jews of failing to defy but said, that the tone is predominantly ironic is completely true.[ Reading Eichmanns trial] I chuckled countless periods, I laughed out loud. Id likely still laugh three minutes before my certain death.

This is the book that coined the phrase cliche of evil, which has ramifications for both autocracy as a project and the pathways of resistance. But it is also a useful thumbnail of the primacy of language to her understanding of politics; cliches in the service of control, their mundanity, their mendacity, cannot but amuse her. There is also the matter of Martin Heidegger, the philosopher with whom she had a turbulent relationship in the 20 s, and some other contact its extent unclear after the war, despite his links with the Nazi party, even justifying them( it reads like the darkest imaginable romcom But I love him! But hes a Nazi. But I love him !).

Pollock guards against drawing too many of the obvious parallels between The Origins of Totalitarianism and the USs situation today: Islamophobia is not elaborated with the same complexity of tropes and myths as antisemitism and one shouldnt equate them. The work of Arendts that she refers to most often is the one that came directly after Origins, 1958 s The Human Condition. In the Holocaust, we have assured the abolition of the human, Pollock explains, and then she has to write what would actually be an account of the human as a political being. Arendt has two core notions about the human condition( not to be confused with human nature ). First, Pollock explains: Every human life is the potential beginning of something new. Unlike animals, which are predictable each will behave as its mothers behaved something has begun in a human that could be completely different. This is natality. As a result of that, the human condition is plural. The consequences of this are vast: as we communicate and use speech, we demonstrate ourselves to one another in our change, and its in this disclosure that action is generated: we can do something to change the world.

Then comes a really important dichotomy, taking its roots from Greek philosophy: discrepancies between this action and labour, which is what we do to survive. Run is the economic, which comes from the Greek word oikos , which is the household. But they imagined this other source, the political, the source of speech and action. This is what constituted, for the Greeks, the human, and through Arendts prism, natality and plurality are the spurrings of that political self; that is, the political recognises the infinite potential of each human life, while the economic recognises only that part of the human that the project works, that produces. As Pollock says: What she was afraid of was the tendency to devalue action, for the economic to overtake the political.

Taken to its logical aim, the economic overtaking the political outcomes not in the extermination camp but in the concentration camp; certain differences is crucial, Pollock explains. The concentration camp exists not to extinguish life but to extinguish the human. You are removed from moral action, you become a number and, ultimately, you are reduced physiologically to a bundle of reactions, as the body struggles to survive extreme emaciation. If politics is only a decide of economic decisions, then the person is no more than the work they do and the infinite preciousness of any persons potential cascades into a brutal homogeneity, one person indivisible from the next.

To put this in a modern context, official political reality is now being enacted by the modern capitalist industrialist. Politics and economics are, in Trump, indivisible. And although it lookings wonderful that people are demonstrating, its actually rather frightening, because its making a crisis situation in which, ultimately, the protection of law and order justifies the governmental forces in extreme measures. For some of us, its repeating the proto-fascist scenario. Its an old Leninist stunt, the generation of civil unrest in order to assault civic society. In that sense, we are all playing into Trumps tiny hands.

Mark Davis, director of the Bauman Institute in Leeds, points us towards another text, On Violence( 1970 ). I think that gets us closer to whats going on at the moment, he says. She said in that volume that violence and power are actually opposites. When organizations, particularly those of government, start to break down and lose their legitimacy, they lose their power over the everyday conduct of citizens. So what they do as a response to the loss of power is incite violence. Violence floods in to the loss of power rather than being an expression of it.

A placard at the demo at Downing Street in January. Photo: Ben Stansall/ AFP/ Getty Images

Pollock brings us back to demonstrations and what they do to speech, the slogan being a flattening out of complexity, an echo of exactly the same one-idea pan-ideology of the oversimplified worldview they protest against. Im not sure. You can pack quite a lot into a slogan I particularly like: First they came for the Muslims, and we said , not today , motherfucker . Yet I ensure the feeling of these arguments, and wonder, what would Hannah Arendt do? Would she have marched on Downing Street? Davis is conflicted. Certainly, I think there is a lot to be gained from people assembling together to show solidarity. But in a world where the institutions that were protesting in front of are losing their legitimacy and their power, Im not sure that this has the impact that it once did. If we think of evil as this one person, this one big event, then we tend to want to match that with one big display of resistance. But actually, if evil is banal a decide of ordinary, mundane decisions day by day then maybe we have to start living differently day by day.

I still assure the phase in protesting as a concrete expression of solidarity. Id take more, if under assault, from a person who went outside than a person who signed a petition. Tangentially, I have a sudden new faith in the feminist framing of recent demonstrations as womens processions, which does something to allay the intimation of public violence that is always used as the justification of suppression. It seems clear , nonetheless, that it isnt enough: that perhaps Arendts most profound legacy is in establishing that one has to consider oneself political as part of the human condition. What are your political acts, and what politics do they serve?

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The Boy With the Perpetual Nervousness review- a narrative of disloyalty by the church

2 months, 14 days ago

Graham Caveneys defiant, important memoir details how the Catholic establishment fails abuse victims

Pope Francis has taken great strides in challenging all sorts of entrenched attitudes and prejudices in the Vatican that have given the Catholic church such a bad name of late. Progression has been disappointingly slow, however, on the commission he appointed in 2014 to tackle the appalling scandal of clerical sexual abuse. In March of this year Marie Collins, the last remaining is part of the panel who was a survivor of abuse, resigned after a Vatican department failed to comply with the commissions recommendation that it respond to every correspondent who writes in with allegations that they have been a victim. If the curia is resisting such simple steps, how to have faith that they will tackle the bigger underlying issues?

Reluctance to face up to the consequences of clerical abuse remains hard-wired into the structures of the church: an instinct to protect the institution at the cost of the individual who has suffered, and a brick-wall resistance to addressing the profound questions about the nature of vocation posed by such abhorrent behaviour. And so church leaders not all, awarded; surely not Pope Francis tend to speak of historical allegations whenever victims find the gallantry to speak up 20, 30 or even 40 years after events that are not for them in any way historical, but are a psychological and emotional trauma they will live with until their succumbing day.

Individuals like Graham Caveney. The Boy With the Perpetual Nervousness recounts with great courage and candour how, in the 1970 s, as the clever, awkward, nerdy, merely child of devoutly Catholic working-class parents in Accrington, Lancashire, he was groomed by a priest at his local grammar school in Blackburn, and then sexually abused by him.

A casual glance might indicate he has managed to set it behind him he has a successful career as a novelist on music( the voices of the 70 s are one thread of this well-structured, rounded memoir) and biographer of William Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg. But as he describes, without self-pity, Caveney fell out of university, struggled to kind adult relationships, turned to beverage and drugs to blot out the trauma, and on occasion attempted suicide.

The abuse leads you to fuck up their own lives, he reflects bleakly but unsparingly, and a fucked-up life means that youre a less believable witness to the abuse that fucked you up in the first place. Its an ironic trick of memory and survival: abuse induces you want to forget the abuse.

John and Kath, his mum and father, had no idea what was wrong. They watched their beloved boy, in whom they had expended so much hope that he would have more life opportunities than them, change first into a sulky, angry adolescent who refused to go to mass, and then into a messed-up wreck, beset by panic attacks.

They died in 1998 and 2002, still none the wiser. They continued to direct their flailing son back towards his old headteacher for wise advise, never suspecting that Father Kevin ONeill had sexually abused him as a 15 -year-old and set off the downward spiral.

The Caveneys had believed that the youthful, relaxed Rev Kev the Catholic equivalent of a trendy vicar was doing their boy a favor by taking him to theaters, cinemas and restaurants, broadening his intellect. What they couldnt know was that on the way home, the priest they looked up to would turn his vehicle into quiet side-road and force himself on their son. Afterwards, where reference is invited young Graham to go on holiday to Greece with him and a group of others, John and Kath enlisted the help of relatives to scrape together the cost, but it was just a pretext for more abuse.

Its them that I cant forgive you for, Caveney writes, addressing his abuser in the pages of a book that must have cost him dear to complete, the route in which you stimulated their hopes and aspirations the tools of your own needs. Its them who expended their lives worrying if it was something they had done wrong to make their son turn out the way he did.

Given how much Catholic grammar schools from the 1950 s through to the 1970 s were the road by which generations of working-class Catholic boys and girls got to get in life the Irish Christian Friend in my own home township of Liverpool boasted that they took the sons of dockers and built them into physicians it is impossible to believe that the disloyalty of Graham Caveney and his mothers is an isolated incident. How widespread it is, however, remains impossible to know because every bit of information has to be dragged out of a compulsively secretive church that recoils from guessing in terms of deep-rooted, complex patterns of abuse.

And what happened when Caveney identified his abuser in the early 1990 s to Father ONeills religious order, the Marists? Id merely slashed up my limbs, he adds, by way of context. The clergyman was challenged, apparently confessed his crimes, but was referred to a US therapy centre rather than the police. In 1993, he retired with full honors as headteacher. Kath even sent her son a cutting about the celebrations from the local paper. You were always one of his favourites, she reminded him. The report told of ex-pupils lining up to sing the clergymen praises, little suspecting how they too had been betrayed.

ONeill died in 2011, the serious charges against him encompassed up to the grave. He still doesnt seem to appear on any register I can find of abusive clergy. What distresses Caveney almost as much as the churchs failure to involve the police and courts is that he now can never confront his abuser, save in this raw, defiant but important memoir. A part of him, he confesses, still thinks in his darkest moments that what happened was somehow his own fault.

What was it about me? he asks. You watch, theres a bit of me that still believes Im unique, that I genuinely was your prime number, indivisible merely by myself. I dont want to think of myself as part of a pattern, merely another victim.

ONeills old school, St Marys, Blackburn, today has a drama block named after him, an honour accorded despite the Marist order having been told about Caveneys accusations virtually 20 years earlier. Is it plausible that there is no one who knew of them who could have spoken up? Or did they consider that whatever good he had done at the school cancelled out sexually abusing a 15 -year-old in his care? It is part of the same impossible-to-fathom and offensive attitude that now apparently stops Vatican officials answering letters from those reporting abuse, in defiance of the pope.

Quite how long it will take for that prejudice to be defeated, I dont know. But after they have read The Boy With the Perpetual Nervousness , the school governors might at least like to revisit the naming of their drama block, which scratch salt into open wounds.

Peter Stanford is a former editor of the Catholic Herald

The Boy With the Perpetual Nervousness by Graham Caveney is published by Picador on 7 September( 14.99 ). To order a transcript for 12.74 go to bookshop.theguardian.com or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p& p over 10, online orders only. Telephone orders min p& p of 1.99

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Fifty tints of Xi: scores of volumes praising chairman published in China

2 months, 16 days ago

Blitz on bookshelves comes ahead of next weeks political summit and includes tomes including Xi Jinping: Know More, Love More

” This is the first volume I’ve read on Xi ,” acknowledges software engineer Wu Huifeng as he leafs through one of the most recent tomes of China’s prolific president.

It need not be his last.

A Communist party publishing blitz ahead of next week’s political summit entails the shelves of Chinese bookshops are now packed with Xi Jinping-themed works designed to strengthen both his reputation and his rule.

Immediately inside the entrance to the state-run Beijing Book Building, one of the capital’s largest stores, a lately inaugurated showing features at least 50 runs by or about China’s scribbler-in-chief.

” The speech is simple and sincere – quite down-to-earth, I think ,” said Wu, 43, who was perusing one of the most recent publishings, a 452 -page paperback about Xi’s seven years of rural exile during the Culture Revolution that sells for 76 yuan( PS8. 75 ).

Nearby, Fan Yubiao, a 22 -year-old salesman, was examining another recent volume, Xi Jinping’s Discourse on Youth and the Work of the Chinese Communist Youth League.

” Xi’s quite a good person. He’s strict ,” Fan said, praising his leader’s populist anti-corruption campaign which has toppled some of China’s most powerful politicians since he took power in 2012.

The works of Xi- who some now suspect will seek to remain in power beyond the customary decade- boasting titles both stirring and sterile.

At the Beijing Book Building you can buy catchily named volumes including Xi Jinping: Wit and Vision, Xi Jinping: Know More, Love More and Xi Jinping Tells Stories as well as the president’s best-known opus, Xi Jinping: The Governance of China.

Other titles are less enticing: Xi Jinping: Statements on the Construction of a Clean Government and the Anti-Corruption Campaign, Excerpts from Xi Jinping: Comprehensively Managing the Party in Strict Manner, and, for environmentalists, Xi Jinping’s Discourse on Ecological Improvement.

Wu Huifeng, 43, studies a new book about Xi Jinping’s youth at a bookshop in Beijing, China. Photo: Tom Phillips for the Guardian

China’s party-run press asserts Xi’s writings have proved a hitting both at home and abroad. If you believe Xinhua, the official news agency, a recent book of Xi anecdotes sold nearly 1.5 m copies in under four months. The Governance of China has supposedly shifted 6.42 m transcripts in 21 different languages.

” These vivid tales … have opened a window to the essence of Xi’s statements ,” the president of party mouthpiece, the People’s Daily, gushed in a recent interview.

Beyond the constraints of China’s heavily-censored publishing industry, rather more unconventional runs about Xi are also starting to emerge, including a 23-page work of erotic fiction called Xi’s The One.

The synopsis of the book, which sells on Amazon for PS2. 44, suggests it is unlikely to find a publisher in authoritarian China.

” She’s a lonely, overworked waitress in a downbeat Chicago pizza joint and he’s the President of the People’s Republic of China on a tour of the United States ,” it says.” Their stressful, bearing lives are about to heat up like a pizza …”

Here are some choice an extract from China’s Storyteller-in-Chief:

Xi Jinping: The Governance of China, 2014

” When I fulfill foreign leaders, one question they often ask in amazement is this:’ How can one govern such a large country as China ?’ Indeed, it is not easy to govern a country with 1.3 billion people … In such a big, populous and complicated country as ours, we the leaders must have an in-depth knowledge of the national conditions and learn what the people believe and what they want … We must cultivate an attitude of’ governing a big country is as delicate as frying a small fish ‘.”

Xi Jinping: Know More, Love More, 2015

” To love one’s hometown, one first of all needs to know about it. A profound love must be built upon a profound understanding. One can only know more about one’s hometown, by loving it more.

” Communists must hold clear stances as to what they subsistence and what they resist. Their flags must be clear and their postures forthright, especially when faced with major issues of right and wrong .”

Xi Jinping: Wit and Vision( Selected Excerpts and Commentary ), 2015

” Language has a magical power. In his speeches, President Xi Jinping often employs analogies and storytelling to express profound truths. His colloquial, straightforward speech clarifies ideas that many find puzzling, and his excerpts from China’s traditional culture well summarize his topics and thoroughly expound his propositions. His speeches express wisdom in simple speech that packs a powerful, penetrating punch .”

Xi Jinping’s Seven Years As An Educated Youth, 2017

” Xi Jinping’s Seven Years As An Educated Youth is a series of interviews planned and organised by the party school of the Communist party’s central committee[ with those who knew him in the early 1970 s ].

” Even though the events[ described] took place more than 40 years ago,[ the interviewees ‘] precious memories have by no means faded. Everywhere general secretary Xi Jinping left footprints, we have listened attentively to tales of how he went through thick and thin, along with the people[ and] of how he analyse assiduously …[ These narratives] penetrate people’s souls over and over again .”

Additional reporting by Wang Zhen

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Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: ‘Can people please stop telling me feminism is hot? ‘

3 months, 10 days ago

The novelist has been accused of making equality mainstream: isnt that the phase? Plus an excerpt from her new Feminist Manifesto In Fifteen Suggestions

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was in Lagos last summer, teaching a writing workshop as part of an annual schedule that considers her period divided between Nigeria and the US. For much of the year, Adichie lives in a town 30 minutes west of Baltimore, where her Nigerian-American spouse runs as a medic and the 39 -year-old writes in the quiet of a suburban home. When Adichie is in Nigeria, where her parents and extended family still live, she has a house in the vast city she considers with the complicated love and condescension of the part-time expat.

Its an ambivalence with which many Nigerians regard her, too; last year, the workshop ended in a question-and-answer session, during which a young man rose to ask the famous novelist a question. I used to love you, she recalls him saying. Ive read all your volumes. But since you started this whole feminism thing, and since you started to talk about this gay thing, Im simply not sure about you any more. How do you intend to keep the love of people like me?

Adichie and I are in a coffee shop near her home in the Baltimore suburbs. We have met before, a few years ago, when her third novel Americanah was published, a book that examines what it is to be a Nigerian woman living in the US, and that went on to win a National Book Critics Circle award. A plenty has happened since then. Half Of A Yellow Sun, Adichies second and most well known novel, about the Biafran war, has been built into a film starring Chiwetel Ejiofor and Thandie Newton. Her essay, We Should All Be Feminists, accommodated from her 2013 TEDx talk, has remained on the bestseller listings, particularly in Sweden, where in 2015 it was distributed to every 16 -year-old high-school student in the land. The talk was sampled by Beyonc in her ballad Flawless. Adichie has become the face of Boots No7 makeup. And she has had a baby, a daughter , now 15 months old.

Adichie is still somewhat in the blast zone , not entirely caught up on sleep, but has published a short book, Dear Ijeawele, Or A Feminist Manifesto In Fifteen Suggestions, an extended version of a letter to a friend who, after having her own baby girl, asked Adichies advice on how to raise her to be feminist. I have had twin girls myself since our last meeting, so I am curious about her approach , not least because one of my two-year-olds currently identifies as Bob the Builder and the other as Penelope Pitstop. I would like to equip them to be themselves, while defying whatever projections might be foisted upon them. We depict each other baby photos and smile. Welcome to the world of anxiety, Adichie says.

The success of We Should All Be Feminists has attained Adichie as prominent for her feminism as for her novels, to the extent that now I get invited to every damned feminist thing in countries around the world. She has always been an agony aunt of sorts, the unpaid therapist for my family and friends, but having the feminist label attached has changed things, and not only among her intimates. I was opened to a certain level of enmity that I hadnt experienced before as a novelist and public figure.

This is partly why she has written the new volume, to reclaim the word feminism from its abusers and misusers, a category within which she would include certain other progressives, and to lay down in plain, elegant English her beliefs about child-raising.

Dear Ijeawele is, in some way, a very basic situated of appeals; to be careful with speech( never say because you are a girl ), avoid gendered dolls, foster read, dont treat marriage as an accomplishment, reject likability. Her chore is not to induce herself likable, her job must therefore be her full self, she writes in reference to her friends daughter, a selection Adichie has come to elevate almost above any other.

That day in Lagos last summertime, her friends were furious at the cheek of the young mans topic, but she instead liked his courage and franknes in asking it. She replied in the same spirit. Keep your love, Adichie said. Because, sadly, while I love to be loved, I will not accept your love if it comes with these conditions.

Having a newborn has built Adichie believe differently about her own parents, especially her mother. Grace Adichie, who had six “childrens and” worked her way up from being a university administrator to the registrar, taught her daughter to love manner as well as volumes, and was a very cool mum whom she idolised as small children. Nonetheless, and in the manner of most snotty young adults, young Chimamanda went through a phase of being very superior to her mom. Now, the novelist looks at her daughter and gulps.

Adichie recently came across her own kindergarten reports. My father keeps them all. You know what the educator wrote? She is brilliant, but she refuses to do any run when shes rile. I was five years old. She laughs. I couldnt believe it. My husband couldnt believe it. I must have been an riling child.

Its not as if she comes from a family of revolutionaries. My mothers are not like that. Theyre conventional, reasonable, responsible, good, kind people. Im the crazy. But their love and subsistence made that crazy thrive.

Unlike Adichie, who was raised exclusively in Nigeria, her daughter will be raised in two cultures and subject to somewhat diverging social expectations. Already, Adichie says with a laugh, friends and relatives from home are concerned that her mothering is insufficiently stern.

A friend was just visiting and she said to me, Your parenting is not very Nigerian. In Nigeria and, I suppose, in many cultures you control children. And I feel like, my daughter is 15 months, she doesnt have a sense of consequences. And I enjoy watching her. So she tears a page of a volume? Whatever. She hurls my shoes down. So? Its fun. I love that shes quite strong-willed. The joke between Adichie and her husband whom, to her intense aggravation, their daughter looks much more like is that her character cleaves to the maternal side. He says to me, Well, at least we know where she got her personality from. Shes quite fierce.

In the new book, Adichies advice is not just to provide children with alternatives to empower boys and girls to understand there is no single style to be but also to understand that the only universal in this world is difference. In terms of the evolution of feminism, these are not new lessons, but that is rather Adichies phase. She is not writing for other feminist writers, and demonstrates some annoyance at what she sees as the solipsism of much feminist debate.

That morning, on the way to see her, I had read a review of a new volume by Jessa Crispin, entitled Why I Am Not A Feminist: A Feminist Manifesto, a criticism of everything that is wrong with feminism today. If one can get over the eye-rolling aspect of volumes by feminists decrying the feminism of other feminists for degrading the word feminist by being insufficiently feminist, the book does raise questions about where 1 should be focusing ones efforts.

Fashion blogger Chiara Ferragni wears Adichies Dior T-shirt during Paris fashion week, January 2017. Photograph: Edward Berthelot/ Getty Images

The proposition is that feminism has become so mainstream as to be an empty marketing tool, a mere motto on a container or a T-shirt. Without being named, Adichie is implicated in this critique, given that last year she collaborated with Christian Dior on a T-shirt bearing the line We Should All Be Feminists; depending on ones view, this is either a perfect example of pointless sloganeering or a brilliant piece of preaching to the unconverted.

Im already irritated, Adichie says. This idea of feminism as a party to which merely a select few people get to come: this is why so many girls, particularly women of colour, feel alienated from mainstream western academic feminism. Because, dont we want it to be mainstream? For me, feminism is a movement for which the end goal is to make itself no longer needed. I suppose academic feminism is interesting in that it can give a language to things, but Im not terribly interested in debating words. I want people marriages to change for the better. I want females to walk into job interviews and be treated the same way as somebody who has a penis.

Still, one can see a theoretical obscenity about the Dior collaboration: the words of a movement that should be concerned with helping low-income females, used to promote and make money for a wealthy company. On the other hand: what is the damage?

Yes: whats the damage? Adichie says. I would even argue about the theoretically obscene. Theres a kind of self-righteousness to the ultra-left that is hard for me to stomach. Its approach to poverty can sometimes border on condescension. I often think that people who write a lot about poverty need to go and spend more time with poor people. I think about Nigerian women who can hardly afford anything but who love fashion. They have no fund, but they work it.

Adichie mentions a TV soap opera that used to run in Nigeria called The Rich Also Cry, a terrible drama series, she says, that was very popular. But sometimes I think about that title. So, the creative director of Christian Dior is patently a woman of some privilege. But does it then mean that she doesnt have gender-based problems in their own lives? Because she does. Does it mean she doesnt have this magnificent rage about gender injustice? Because she does. Wanting to utilize that slogan was it going to make the world a better place? No. But I think theres a level of consciousness-raising and a level of subversion that I like.

She doesnt believe it was a cynical marketing ploy? No. Sorry. Feminism is not that hot. I can tell you I would sell more volumes in Nigeria if I stopped and said Im no longer a feminist. I would have a stronger following, I would make more money. So when people say, Oh, feminisms a marketing gambit, it makes me laugh.

The bigger issue here is one of scope. Adichies irritation with aspects of what she supposes of as professional feminism is that it runs counter to her ideas as a novelist: that people contain multitudes. She is a brilliant novelist and a serious thinker, and she is also someone who constructs no apology for her own trivial interests. Life doesnt always follow ideology, she says. You might believe in certain things and life gets in and things just become messy. You know? I think thats the space that fiction, and having a bit more of an imaginative approach, builds. And that the feminist speaking circuit doesnt really make room for.

There is much in the new volume about doubled standards, including those governing the images of motherhood and fatherhood. I think we need to stop giving men cookies for doing what they should do, she says, and goes on to explain that her husband, who needs less sleep than her, tends to get up in the night to tend to the baby. On the one hand, I realise that my husband is unusual; on the other, I feel resentful when hes overpraised by my family and friends. Hes like Jesus.

He probably senses shes about to go off the deep end, I indicate, and Adichie smiles to acknowledge how impossible she is. I did all the physical work to produce her! Theres something basically wrong with the way weve constructed what it means to be female in the world.

Photograph: Stephen Voss for the Guardian

This is something she writes about in a lovely passage of the new book about hair. As a child, Adichie and her sisters and every other girl she knew were routinely tortured with a metal comb to subdue their hair, something her brethren were spared. Im glad I wrote that, Adichie says. We had just come back from Lagos and my sister, God blesses her, had already had a talk with me about my daughters hair. She said, You need to do anything about it. With my family, theres an eye-roll and a here-we-go-again with her, and she said to me, Do you want me to send you a decide of combs? And I was like, No, thank you. And I know its going to keep pas. But , no, Im not going to conform in that style. Im not going to have my child go across pain because society expects a certain neatness. It happened to me, its not going to happen to her. And Im ready to have all the battles I need to have.

The original letter on which Dear Ijeawele is based has been shared on Facebook, and while Adichie was in Lagos, a woman whod read it approached her in a store and said, Heres my daughter, look at her hair. She had very loose cornrows that were not neat according to Nigerians. And she said, You inspired that. My daughter is happier, Im happier. And do you know, it was the highlighting of my month.

This is not just a question of image. It is also about time. Women have less day than men, in almost every arena, because their responsibilities to look or act a certain style are more onerous.

It is one of Adichies bugbears that as someone who loves style, she is by default not taken seriously. When Boots approached her to be the face of its No7 makeup range, she said yes, because she thought it might be fun; in the end, she says, it became vaguely alarming. I have no sadness, but you wake up one day and think, what the hell have I done? There were too many of these scenes everywhere. Her phase, however, is that its not that Im a feminist and made a strategic choice to speak about makeup and manner. Its that I was raised by Grace Adichie in a culture in which you care about how you look. Its a part of me I once concealed, because I felt that I had to to be serious. Now, Im only being who I am.

Recently, Adichies identity has been tested under new ways. I wonder if she is less has an impact on President Trump than an American, on the basis that she is less invested in the American story. Quite the contrary, she says. Because theres a part of me that needs a country I can think of as being one that largely works. Which is not a luxury that Nigeria can have. She laughs.

Someone said to me, Now that this is happening in the US, do “youre thinking about” moving back to Nigeria? And I believed , no, because its not any better there. I admire America. I dont think of myself as American Im not. So its not mine. But I admire it, and so theres a sense that this thing I built in my head, its been destroyed.

There is also, she says, something familiar about it all. American republic has never been tested. You might have disagreed ideologically with George W Bush, but he still kind of followed the rules. Here, it feels like Nigeria. It genuinely does. Its that feeling of political uncertainty that Im very familiar with, but not a impression I like. Its ugly. But even worse, because America is so powerful, and so much at the centre of the world, these things have consequences for everyone. Nigeria doesnt have that kind of reaching, so our problems remain our problems.

In January, Adichie and her husband joined the Womens March in DC. It was fleeting, and symbolic, she says, but it “ve given me” the smallest slice of hope. There are all of these people who seem to realise that America has changed by electing an unhinged person. On the other hand, theres a part of me thats very sceptical of too much sentimentality. I hope it translates into people organising and going out to vote.

Long before talking here penetrating the filter bubble, Adichie instinctively subscribed to rightwing blogs and newsletters. She was an early watcher of Fox News, until it became too unhinged and ridiculous. But she has carried on, because Im interested in ideological concerns and how people differ, and how we should build a society. Whats a welfare country? People who have less, are we responsible for them? I think we are. And I think I can make a selfish occurrence, which is apparently what appeals to people on the right. People on the left say we should do it because we should be kind. And people on the right think, Excuse me? But if you say to them, If these people dont get healthcare, they will go to the ER and your tax dollars will pay for it, suddenly they sit up.

Adichie with her husband, Ivara Esege. Photo: DDAA/ ZOB/ Daniel Deme/ WENN

As a result of her reading, rightwing ideology is not something I think is evil, she says. Some. A bit. But, in general, I dont. I have friends who are good, kind people who are on the right. But Donald Trump is an exception. Its not an objection to a conservative, because I dont even think hes a conservative. My objection is an objection to chaos. Each time I turn on the news, Im holding my breath.

Trumps erosion of speech is one of the most frightening things about him, but even progressives, Adichie says, can be sloppy on this front. In response to her new book, a reporter emailed her the question: Why not humanism?( instead of feminism ). To which, she says, I thought, what part of the fucking volume did this person not read?

Its like the people who go around saying All Lives Matter, I say, in response to the Black Lives Matter movement. Right, which I find deeply offensive and very dishonest. Because we have to name something in order to fix it, which is why I insist on the word feminist or feminism.

This, she says, in spite of the fact that many of her friends, particularly black females, resist that word, because the history of feminism has been very white and has assumed girls meant white girls. Political debate in this country still does that. Theyll say, Women voted for … and then, Black people voted for … And I guess: Im black and a woman, so where do I fit in here?

As a result, Many of my friends who are not white will say, Im an intersectional feminist, or Im a womanist. And I have trouble with that word, because it has undertones of femininity as this mystical goddess-mother thing, which stimulates me uncomfortable. So we need a word. And my hope is we use feminism often enough that it starts to lose all the stigma and becomes this inclusive, diverse thing.

This is her goal and her defense, although she still doesnt find why she requires one. Her understanding of feminism is intertwined with her understanding that we all want to be more than one thing. And anyway, she repeats, Can people please stop telling me that feminism is hot? Because its not. Adichie looks excellently vexed. Honestly.

Beware feminism lite: an excerpt from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichies letter-turned-book, Dear Ijeawele

Be a full person. Motherhood is a glorious gift, but do not define yourself solely by it. You dont even have to love your job; you can simply love the confidence and self-fulfilment that come with doing and earning. Please reject the idea that motherhood and work are mutually exclusive. Our mothers worked full-time while we were growing up, and we turned out well at least you did; the jury is still out on me.

In these coming weeks of early motherhood, be kind to yourself. Ask for help. Expect to be helped. There is no such thing as a Superwoman. Parenting is about practise and love.

Give yourself room to fail. A new mom does not necessarily know how to pacify a crying newborn. Read volumes, seem things up on the internet, ask older parents, or just use trial and error. But, above all, take time for yourself. Nurture your own needs.

I have no interest in the debate about females doing it all, because it is a debate that assumes that caregiving and domestic work are singularly female domains, an idea that I strongly reject. Domestic run and caregiving should be gender-neutral, and we should be asking not whether a woman can do it all, but how best to support parents in their dual responsibilities at work and at home.

Photograph: Stephen Voss for the Guardian

Beware the danger of what I call Feminism Lite; the idea of conditional female equality. Being a feminist is like being pregnant. You either are or you are not. You either believe in the full equality of men and women, or you do not.

Teach your daughter to question speech. A friend of mine says she will never call her daughter princess. The word is loaded with hypothesis, of a girls delicacy, of the prince who will come to save her. This friend favor angel and superstar. So decide the things you will not told me to your child. You know that Igbo joke, are applied to pester girls who are being childish What are you doing? Dont you know you are old enough to find a spouse? I used to say that often. But now I choose not to. I say, You are old enough to find a job. Because I do not believe that marriage is something we should teach young girls to aspire to.

Try not to use words like misogyny and patriarchy. We feminists can sometimes be too jargony. Teach her that if you criticise X in women but do not criticise X in humen, you do not have a problem with X, “youve got a problem” with women. For X please insert words like fury, ambition, loudness, stubbornness, coldness, ruthlessness.

Do you remember how we laughed and laughed at an abysmally written piece about me some years ago? The novelist had accused me of being angry, as though being angry were something to be ashamed of. Of course I am angry. I am angry about racism. I am angry about sexism. But I lately came to the realisation that I am angrier about sexism than I am about racism. Because in my rage about sexism, I often feel lonely. Because I love, and live among, many people who easily recognise race injustice but not gender injustice.

Teach your daughter to topic men who can have empathy for women only if they consider them as relational rather than as individual equal humen. Men who, when discussing rape, will say something like, If it were my daughter or wife or sister. Yet such humen do not need to imagine a male victim of crime as two brothers or son in order to feel empathy.

Teach her, too, to question the idea of women as a special species. I once heard an American politician, in his bid to show his support for women, speak of how women should be adored and championed a sentiment that is all too common. Tell her that girls dont need to be championed and venerated; they just need to be treated as equal human beings.

This is a condensed and edited extract from Dear Ijeawele, Or A Feminist Manifesto In Fifteen Suggestions, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, published on Tuesday by Fourth estate at 10. To order a copy for 8.50, go to bookshop.theguardian.com

This article was amended on 4 March 2017. It originally referred to Lagos as Nigerias capital. This has now been corrected .

Read more: www.theguardian.com

I Love Dick review- a treat for the intellect and the heart

3 months, 11 days ago

Transparent creator Jill Soloway recasts the cult fiction about academics in a love triangle into a show thats innovative, well-acted and visually sumptuous

I Love Dick, the latest show by Transparent inventor Jill Soloway, boasts many amazing scenes, but the best is a sexuality fiction that imagines what media would be like from the female gaze. Movies and TV shows are littered with instances of men dreaming about women they are obsessed with but cant have guessed Kevin Spaceys rose-strewn sexcapades in American Beauty but here, a woman imagines being sexually pleasured by a human in a restaurant bathroom. Rather than naked breasts and breathy seductions, we consider waiters carrying plates with stuffed rabbits, a confident guy telepathically intuiting a womans needs, and a stoic stock figure of American masculinity filling out a white T-shirt in such a way that hasnt been ensure since James Deans death.

The woman is Chris( Kathryn Hahn ), a film-maker who has moved to Marfa, Texas, from New York City for the summer while her husband, academic Sylvre( Griffin Dunne ), has a residency for the season. The object of Chriss fixation and annoyance is Dick( Kevin Bacon ), the charismatic intellectual who selected her husband for the program. Dick is described as post-idea, but one budding aesthete at a cocktail party tells Chris that Dicks writing seminar has a two-year waiting list that hes been on for three years.

The show is based on the novel of the same name by Chris Kraus, and both the book and television reveal blur the lines between reality and fiction, intellectual epistemology and academic irony, and fine-fingered love and ruddy-faced lust. Every letter is a love letter, Chris tells Dick in a letter she writes as a short story to try to explain her love, but the protean formats simply construct things more complicated. Things get even more muddled when Chriss neighbor Devon( Roberta Colindrez) determined on stage a play about a couple that moves to Marfa from New York in which the woman detests herself and her husband detests her too.

Working off of a teleplay by Sarah Gubbins, Soloway lays out a series of inventive techniques, including the use of title cards to spell out Chriss narration and the aforementioned surreal fantasy sequence. The best innovation is when the footage turns from video to a series of still photographs, slackening everything down to a series of impressions which give it an intensity and visual fortitude that cant be found elsewhere. However, it is a technique that might construct some viewers streaming the present think that their Wi-Fi connections have abruptly seized up.

The performances are excellent, including Hahns harried film-maker yearn to love and be loved, and Bacons hollow-faced Dick whose misogynistic bravado( he thinks all cinemas by female directors suck) belies a human still mourning his recently deceased wife.

But the real starring of the show is Soloway, who proves here that she is one of the keenest minds working in television today. Like Transparent, I Love Dick is a heartbreaking, insightful and funny look at modern relationships. However, unlike in Transparent , none of these people are detestable. The skewering of the intelligentsia is sharp but accurate, as Sylvre insists that the Holocaust requires reinterpreting, but what keeps the 30 -minute program rolling is the idea of these three people thumping up against a longing for authentic feeling in a world that spoils everything with over-analysis.

While Amazon has yet to order the pilot to series, I can only imagine it is about how relationships become unglued and how artists become creatively unstuck. Just like the pilot to Transparent, this is a very promising beginning that points to a series imploring to be binged , no matter what insanely brilliant format it eventually takes.

Read more: www.theguardian.com