Look at me: why attention-seeking is the defining need of our times23 days ago
The urge to belong is universal. So would a better understanding of it help tackle loneliness and explain why stalkers, spree killers and jihadists turn their pain on others?
My night out in Cleveland with the worst men on the internet1 month, 29 days ago
At the Republican convention, Laurie Penny was invited to a rally led by alt-right provocateur Milo Yiannopolous and an unholy cast of characters united behind Donald Trump for whom turning raw rage into political currency is merely a game
This is a story about how trolls took the wheel of the clown auto of modern politics. Its a narrative about the insider traders of the attention economy. Its a tale about dread and disgust and Donald Trump and you and me. Its not a tale about Milo Yiannopoulos, the professional alt-right provocateur who was last week banned from Twitter for directing racist abuse towards the actor Leslie Jones.
But it does start with Milo. So I should probably explain how we know each other and how, on a hot, weird night in Cleveland, Ohio, I came to be riding in the backseat of his swank black trollmobile to the gayest neo-fascist rally at the Republican national convention.
Milo Yiannopoulos is a charming devil and one of the most serious people I know. I have assured the death of political discourse reflected in his designer sunglasses. It chills me. We satisfied four years ago when he was just another floppy-haired rightwing pundit and we were guests on a panel show. Afterwards, we got hammered and ran around the BBC talking about boys.
Since that day, there is absolutely nothing I have been able to say to Milo to persuaded him that we are not friends. The more famous he gets off the back of extravagantly abusing women and minorities, the more I tell him I dislike him and everything he stands for, the more he chuckles and asks when were drinking.
Feminism is cancer is one of Milos slogans, and yet it took him only seconds after learning we would both be at the RNC to offer me a lift to his Wake Up! rally. This time God help me I said yes.
Read more: www.theguardian.com
Is sugar the world’s most popular narcotic? | Gary Taubes1 month, 29 days ago
The Long Read: It eases ache, seems to be addictive and demonstrates every sign of causing long-term health problems. Is it time to quit sugar for good?
Imagine a drug that can intoxicate us, can infuse us with energy and can be taken by mouth. It doesnt have to be injected, smoked, or snorted for us to experience its sublime and soothing effects. Imagine that it mixes well with virtually every food and particularly liquids, and that when given to newborns it elicits a feeling of pleasure so profound and intense that its pursuit becomes a driving force throughout their lives.
Could the savour of sugar on the tongue be a kind of poisoning? What about the possibility that sugar itself is an intoxicant, a drug? Overconsumption of this drug may have long-term side-effects, but there are none in the short term no staggering or dizziness , no slurring of speech , no passing out or drifting away , no heart palpitations or respiratory distress. When it is given to children, its effects may be only most extreme fluctuations on the apparently natural emotional rollercoaster of childhood, from the initial intoxication to the tantrums and whining of what may or may not be withdrawal a few hours later. More than anything, it constructs infants happy, at least for the period during which theyre eating it. It soothed their distress, eases their pain, focuses their attention and leaves them excited and full of elation until the dose wears off. The only downside is that children will come to expect another dosage, perhaps to demand it, on a regular basis.
How long would it be before parents took to using our imaginary drug to pacify their children when necessary, to alleviate inconvenience, to prevent outbursts of unhappiness or to distract attention? And once the narcotic became identified with pleasure, how long before it was used to celebrate birthdays, a football game, good grades at school? How long before no collect of family and friends was complete without it, before major vacations and celebrations were defined in part by the use of this medication to assure pleasure? How long would it be before the underprivileged of the world would happily spend what little money they had on this drug rather than on nutritious dinners for their families?
There is something about the experience of consuming sugar and sweets, particularly during childhood, that readily invokes the comparison to a drug. I have infants, still relatively young, and I believe creating them would be a far easier chore if sugar and sweets were not an option, if managing their sugar intake did not seem to be a constant topic in our parental responsibilities. Even those who vigorously defend the place of sugar and sweets in modern diets an innocent moment of pleasure, a salve amid the stress of life, as the journalist Tim Richardson has written acknowledge that this does not include permitting children to eat as many sweets as they want, at any time, and that most mothers will want to ration their childrens sweets.
But why is this rationing necessary? Children crave many things Pokmon cards, Star Wars paraphernalia, Dora the Explorer knapsacks and many foods savor good to them. What is it about sweets that makes them so uniquely in need of rationing?
This is of more than academic interest, because the response of entire populations to sugar has been effectively identical to that of children: once people are exposed, they eat as much sugar as they can easily procure. The primary roadblock to more consumption up to the phase where populations become obese and diabetic has tended to be availability and cost. As the price of a pound of sugar has fallen over the centuries, the amount of sugar consumed has steadily, inexorably climbed.
In 1934, while sales of sweets continued to increase during the course of its Great Depression, the New York Times commented: The Depression[ has] proved that people wanted candy, and that as long as they had any fund at all, they would buy it. During those brief periods of day during which sugar production outdid our ability to devour it, the sugar industry and purveyors of sugar-rich products have worked diligently to increase demand and, at least until recently, have succeeded.
The critical question, as the journalist and historian Charles C Mann has elegantly put it, is whether[ sugar] is actually an addictive substance, or if people simply act like it is. This topic is not easy to answer. Surely, people and populations have acted as though sugar is addictive, but science offer no definitive evidence. Until lately, nutritionists analyse sugar did so from the natural perspective of viewing it as a nutrient a carbohydrate and nothing more. They occasionally argued about whether or not it might play a role in diabetes or heart disease, but not about whether it triggered a reaction in the brain or body that induced us wishes to consume it in excess. That was not their area of interest.
The few neurologists and psychologists interested in probing the sweet-tooth phenomenon, or why we might need to ration our sugar consumption so as not to eat too much of it, did so typically from the perspective of how these sugars compared with other medications of abuse, in which existing mechanisms of craving is now relatively well understood. Lately, this comparing has received more attention as the public-health community has looked to ration our sugar intake as its own population, and has thus considered the issue that one style to regulate these sugars as with cigarettes is to establish that they are, indeed, addictive. These sugars are very probably unique in that they are both a nutrient and a psychoactive substance with some addictive characteristics.
Historians have often considers the sugar-as-a-drug metaphor to be an apt one. That sugars, particularly highly refined sucrose, render peculiar physiological impacts is well known, wrote Sidney Mintz, whose 1985 book Sweetness and Power is one of two seminal English-language histories of sugar. But these effects are neither as visible nor as long-lasting as those of alcohol or caffeinated beverages, the first use of who are capable of trigger rapid changes in respiration, heartbeat, skin colour and so on.
Mintz has argued that a primary reason sugar has escaped social disapproval is that, whatever conspicuous behavioural changes may occur when infants eat sugar, it did not cause the kind of flushing, staggering, dizziness, euphoria, changes in the pitch of the voice, slurring of speech, visibly intensified physical activity or any of the other cues associated with the ingestion of other medications. Sugar appears to cause pleasure with a price that is difficult to discern immediately and paid in full only years or decades later. With no visible, immediately noticeable consequences, as Mintz says, questions of long-term nutritive or medical consequences went unasked and unanswered. Most of us today will never know if we suffer even subtle withdrawal symptoms from sugar, because well never run long enough without it to find out.
Sugar historians consider the narcotic comparing to be fitting in part because sugar is one of a handful of medication foods, to use Mintzs term, that came out of the tropics, and on which European empires were built from the 16 th century onward the others being tea, coffee, chocolate, rum and tobacco.
Its history is intimately linked to that of these other narcotics. Rum is distilled, of course, from sugar cane. In the 17 th century, once sugar was added as a sweetener to tea, coffee and chocolate, and costs allowed it, the intake of these substances in Europe explosion. Sugar was used to sweeten spirits and wine in Europe as early as the 14 th century; even cannabis preparations in India and opium-based wines and syrups contained sugar.
As for tobacco, sugar was, and still is, a critical ingredient in the American blended-tobacco cigarette, the first of which was Camel. Its this marriage of tobacco and sugar, as a sugar-industry report described it in 1950, that builds for the mild experience of smoking cigarettes as compared with cigars and, perhaps more important, makes it possible for most of us to inhale cigarette smoke and draw it deep into our lungs.
Unlike alcohol, which was the only commonly available psychoactive substance in the old world until they arrived, sugar, nicotine and caffeine had at least some stimulating properties, and so offered a very different experience, one that was more conducive to the labour of everyday life. These were the 18 th-century equivalent of uppers, writes the Scottish historian Niall Ferguson. The empire, it might be said, building on a huge sugar, caffeine and nicotine hurry a rush nearly everyone could experience.
Sugar, more than anything, seems to have attained life worth living( as it still does) for so many, particularly those whose lives lacked the kind of pleasures that relative wealth and daily hours of leisure might otherwise offer. Sugar was an ideal substance, says Mintz. It served to make a busy life seem less so; it eased, or seemed to ease, the changes back and forth from work to rest; it provided swifter sensations of fullness or satisfaction than complex carbohydrates did; it combined with many other foods No wonder the rich and powerful liked it so much, and no wonder the poor learned to love it.
What Oscar Wilde wrote about a cigarette in 1891 might also be said about sugar: It is the perfect pleasure. It is exquisite, and it leaves one unsatisfied. What more can one want?
Children surely respond to sugar instantaneously. Give newborns a option of sugar water or plain, wrote the British physician Frederick Slare 300 years ago, and they will greedily suck down the one, and make Faces at the other: Nor will they be pleasd with Cows Milk, unless that be blessd with a little Sugar, to bring it up to the Sweetness of Breast-Milk.
Women’s rights are on the retreat yet again. Why? | Barbara Ellen2 months, 7 days ago
Donald Trumps ruling attaining it easier for companies to opt out of providing free family planning highlightings the need for vigilance
When modern females are ultimately fitted with their regulation compulsory chastity belts, dare one dream that they’ll come in a range of fairly colours, delightful the documentation and snazzy designs? Or would it simply be the old-school medieval iron trad models? Hey, little ladies, do you think we’d be allowed to choose?
I muse facetiously because, in the US, President Trump has issued a ruling that makes it far easier for companies and insurers to opt out of free birth control to employees on the grounds of religious and moral beliefs, rolling back a key feature of Obamacare. Now that it will become easier to opt out, many more will do so, with the health risks to affect 55 million females. The American Civil Liberties Union( ACLU) and the National Women’s Law Center have announced that they will sue the government over the decision.
Obamacare provisions also encompassed treatment for gynaecological conditions such as endometriosis and polycystic ovarian syndrome. Now, many girls will be worried about being able to afford such therapies. However, these unfortunate girls probably just count as collateral injury. Apart from the huge amount of money that big business will save, the real target there are sexual autonomy, doubtless all sexual independence, but specifically the female kind that a certain mindset have all along wanted to control.
Contraception, though imperfect, was one of the chief liberators of women, taking much of the dread out of sex. Thus, this removal of free family planning could only be about putting the dread back into sexuality. At the least, putting an end to the corporate bankrolling of the more liberal, humanist, proactive and protective approaches to sex.
It should come as no surprise that among the reasons cited for the change were findings that access to contraception incited” risky sex behaviour “. Eh? One would have thought that reduced access to contraception was far riskier and that, for both sexualities, access to barrier contraception would be the least “risky” of all?
However, even believing like this is to participate in the delusion that this is about people enjoying themselves safely. Take away the figleaf of social responsibility and this becomes about stopping people being able to enjoy sexuality when they want, with whom they want, without anxiety of the results of unwanted pregnancy. And when I say ” people”, I mainly mean women.
Not that things are so peachy for reproductive rights back in Europe. Even as an Irish abortion reform referendum is under discussion for next year, a poll has revealed that only 24% of Irish people are in favour of legalising terminations in nearly all cases. Meanwhile, Prof Lesley Regan, the president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, has argued that parts of the 1967 Abortion Act are outdated and that females need faster, safer access to abortion, without the necessity of achieving the approval of two separate physicians- thus far to no avail. The lesson seems to be that it will never be over- there will always be laws that need to be updated and, where needed, protected. Where the Trump contraceptive ruling is concerned, it’s scary enough that it’s such a backward step- yet scarier that it has been so slyly done.
It’s an example of how a quite subtle shifting of legislative emphasis- simply making something easy( the opt-out) that had previously been difficult- could be enough to undermine, or even destroy, major sociopolitical progress, with far-reaching repercussions for women. The imminence of chastity belts or not, this appears to be an era when there’s a real need for women to stay alert- when hard-fought gains could be eroded in an instant with the quiet swish of a departmental pen.
Read more: www.theguardian.com
Jonathan Safran Foer: technology is decreasing us2 months, 23 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.
Read more: www.theguardian.com
Ricky Gervais’s transgender gags present we’re all in a kind of transition3 months, 4 days ago
The comic has been accused of transphobia after riffing about Caitlyn Jenner in his standup indicate. So does dedicating him a favourable review endorse those gags?
Ricky Gervais sometimes gets people backs up and so, it transpires, do reviewerswho write about him. B4 you write another @guardian review endorsing jokes about #trans people, I was advised on Twitter after covering Gervaiss recent reveal, please consider the impact. Gervais dedicates a section of his indicate Humanity to jokes about( specifically) Caitlyn Jenner but also, by sly association, the idea of transgendering more widely. If I tell Im a chimp, I am a chimp, one riff begins, as Gervais makes merry with the culture of identity as self-assertion and ratings dependable laughs with rudimentary monkey business too.
I wasnt surprised by that tweet, because Id been brooding on Gervaiss trans material( and, indeed, his cot death material ), and the degrees to which I discovered it appropriate, or offensive, or funny. Would I have reviewed him more harshly if those gags had been, for example, about race rather than gender? I feel like Im learning every day about gender right now, and I want to write about it sensitively and appropriately. Despite Gervaiss repeated affirmations that he wasnt being transphobic, it seemed clear that he was othering trans people and constructing them seem ridiculous. I stated that he could be callous and objectionable, and that his material was insensitive to trans people.
Sometimes, a comedians apparent opinions, or the style they convey them, can be so unpleasant, that no amount of joke-writing ability, and fantastic material elsewhere in the situated, can redeem them.( Ive found that to be the case with Gervais in the past .) But here, while it would be disingenuous to exonerate Gervaiss trans routine by arguing that it was about Jenner alone rather than trans people generally, it was specific to Jenner to a substantial degree. And Jenners celebrity and her public sparring with Gervais over his Golden Globes speech are fair game.
Gervais argues forcibly in the show as usual that theres no such thing as off-limits in slapstick; theres nothing you cant joke about. I agree with that just as I agree that comics, like anyone else, should take responsibility for what they say, do and impact. He deserves to be called out on his routine poking fun at the idea of transitioning, but I do think that the concepts he zeroes in on( deadnaming; identity as self-assertion) are fertile for slapstick, precisely because theyre new, theyre destabilising, and( whether you welcome them or not) were still establishing where the boundaries around them lie.( A process with which comedy may help .)
Read more: www.theguardian.com
Isis is as much an offshoot of our global civilisation as Google3 months, 5 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?
Read more: www.theguardian.com
Keep Calm and Carry On- the sinister message behind the slogan that seduced the nation3 months, 18 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.
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?
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.
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.
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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Zanele Muholi’s best photo: out and proud in South Africa4 months, 12 days ago
She wanted to be a model, but not many South African bureaux accept LGBTI people as clients
This photograph is part of a series called Faces and Phases, which Ive been working on for a decade. Its about creating positive images of black lesbians and transgender people in South African society, and its dedicated to a close friend of mine who died in 2007 at persons under the age of 25. She was a so-called curative rape survivor. I felt I needed to remember the people that were growing up in front of me, and to find myself as one of us rather than one of them. The project is about us being counted in South African visual history. I think thats true photography to say that you were present.
Most of my subjects are friends or friends of friends, and often activists like me. I photograph people who are already out and fully understand who they are. I dont shoot people that are underage because I dont want them to danger their lives, especially if theyre still dependent on their parents. Its too dangerous.
I took this shooting of Sinenhlanhla Lunga at a friends place in the Katlehong township. I dont use a studio we just threw a blanket over the fencing as background. I think what defines this image is the gaze. Its beautiful; theres nothing superfluous. Sinenhlanhla wanted to be a professional model, but it never happened. You can have a dream of being a visible queer or trans model, but the mainstream hasnt reached that level of acceptance. When we last spoke, she was about to have a child.
Im so happy that were alive, living in a country that is so infested by hate crime. About three months ago, we had droughts in my hometown of Durban and a church leader said they had been caused by homosexuality and same-sex wedding. It was reported in the media, too. Its painful to me because the church should be preaching love. At the end of July, on the weekend of Durban Pride, there were blizzards, inundations and snow it was very strange. I said to a friend: I wonder what the church leaders are saying now?
In the same year this photograph was taken, lots of my photographic equipment and my computer was stolen from my apartment in Cape Town. It was a backlash against my work, and it was a double blow because I lost a lot of unpublished material.
One of the most challenging things about being a faggot visual activist in South Africa is not having access to spaces to exhibit my work here where it would be most important even as I gain recognition abroad. The position of politicians towards LGBTI people fluctuates a lot. When one of us has been killed or there are elections you find a lot of support, and then when its over they come up with a different agenda. Thats why its so important to have our own people in politics, in medicine and in the media.
Faces and Stage will carry on as long as I live we are growing up together. I also give workshops to young women and provide them with cameras to let them document their own lives. Some have even become photographers. That truly arouses me because I know Im not opposing alone.
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Attiya Khan: why I tackled the boyfriend who beat me- and made a film about it5 months, 6 days ago
For the two years Attiya Khan was with Steve, he abused her daily. So why did she choose to make a documentary about an experience that nearly killed her?
Attiya Khan was 16 and a high-school student in Ottawa when she began dating Steve. He was a year older, he was funny, he was smart, he was her first real boyfriend. They started living together almost immediately- and the experience nearly killed her.
For the two years they were together, Steve abused Khan daily. He punched her, he hurled racist slurs against her, he strangled her until she passed out. She was often afraid for her life. Aged 18, Khan operated from the relationship; literally kicked off her heels and ran. And then, 20 years later, in 2013, Khan stopped running. Instead she sat down with Steve in front of a camera and asked: why? Why had he hurt her? Was he sorry for what he’d done?
The result of Khan’s conversations with Steve is A Better Man: an intensely personal documentary that’s often difficult to watch. But the movie isn’t just about one female, about one relationship: it’s a call to action for abusive humen to stand up and take responsibility for their fury and their actions. Before the film’s debut in New York on November 15, as part of the annual documentary film festival DOC NYC, I spoke to Khan via email.
I guess the first question a lot of people might have when hearing about your movie is why you would you want to talk to a human who violently abused you. What constructed you decide to talk to Steve?
I had been bumping into Steve every few years since escaping from him. These encounters were short and we mostly just had small talk. There was one time, around 10 years after leaving him, where Steve asked me to sit down with him and I concurred. We sat in a coffeehouse and he merely cried and recurred “I’m sorry” over and over again. I did not say much. I was waiting for him to say more. I wanted to know what he was sorry for.
Something shifted in me after this. I realized how likely it was that he had been affected by the violence he used against me. This led me to asking him if he would participate in A Better Man. At the beginning, I didn’t know what I would get out of these conversations, I just knew I needed and wanted to have them. I wanted Steve to know in detail what he had done to me and how it has affected every day of my life. It’s time for people who have harmed others to step up and be accountable for their harmful behaviors. It’s also time for people who have experienced violence to have more options to find security, mending and justice.
What did your conversations with Steve teach you about the sources of male violence and aggression?
We know that a lot of people who hurt others were hurt themselves at some phase, which doesn’t excuse their choices to use violence( after all, many people who experience violence growing up do not go on to abuse others ), but it does offer some context. Steve’s own experience of violence before he gratified me influenced his use of violence against me. At one point in the film, Steve says that he use violence to keep me at his side. He was afraid to lose me. Fear is not an emotion that many humen feel comfy expressing. Fear constructs you vulnerable, and most boys and men are learned how to never indicate vulnerability. They’re taught they should always be in control, and often they’re taught to take control by dominating other people. Although it isn’t easy to accept, it does make sense to me that Steve responded to his own anxiety by trying to control me.
You frame A Better Man as a” film that changes the conversation on violence against girls “. Could you explain that change a little more ?
Before I made this film, I worked as a counselor for women fleeing violence. My work in this field has inspired me so much, but it also stimulates me angry how much weight females have had to carry in the movement to end violence against us. If we don’t carry that weight, who will? I think hearing from people who are working to end their violence, and the people who are helping them change, shifts some of the weight off the shoulders of survivors and reminds us all where the responsibility to stop violence actually lies.
How did stimulating the film affect your PTSD ?
During the making of the film I started to heal. Every day I would sit down with Steve, I would feel some of my ache, decades of pain stored in my body being lifted. I felt this change even when Steve did not say or recollect much. This had an impact on my life in major ways. I don’t have nightmares any more. I feel safer leaving the house. When I’m out, I’m not always expecting to be hurt by him or others. I don’t spend as much time thinking about potential dangerous the status and how I would get out of them. I feel more relaxed and am enjoying life more.
Did you ever is considered that Steve should have faced prison time ?
The criminal court system is one track to justice, which is heavily focused on punishment. In my suit, punishment was not what I wanted. Some of us don’t want the person or persons we care for to go to prison, even though we really want the violence to stop.
I also don’t think the threat of prison is always successful in get people to take responsibility for harm they’ve caused. In many cases, people end up denying harm that they know they’ve caused in order to avoid prison. The criminal court system wouldn’t have asked me what I needed to move forward and how the damage could have been repaired. There also isn’t much focus within the criminal court system on rehabilitation and helping those who have harmed others move towards a life without violence. This doesn’t make sense to me.