Welcome to the Working Week ☁ Sunday, January 14
I’m back from Rio de Janeiro, and the new semester starts this week. I’m in preparation mode for many things, and I will move head on into all of them. Here’s a linkroll:
☁ A guide to dissertating; I think it’s a good guide for everything grad school-relevant.
☁ “I Started the Media Men List,” by Moira Donegan. See also: shitty men in academia list.
☁ Korean and Chinese recipes for dayyyyyyyyyys. See these recipes for arepas, date + guava grilled cheese sandwiches, and eggplant salad!
☁ Get a hobby for yourself, and try not to monetize it if you can help it.
☁ Logic is a really cool webmag on tech. This interview with Fred Turner on Silicon Valley’s ideological origins and foundations is fascinating and confirms how morally dead the industry is as it tries to institutionalize itself. Information is not neutral. Coding workshops are probably bunk and use similar traps to for-profit schools.
☁ If you can’t take an African diaspora class, take a peek at this resource on the African diaspora in the Caribbean.
☁ Blogs still live, especially in the form of lifestyle blogs. Lifestyle blogs aren’t really my thing (they’re like instagram before instagram), but these, design-wise, are visually interesting. Thank you Kailey for sharing these! oh happy day ✿ scathingly brilliant ✿ i want you to know ✿ aww sam ✿ keiko lynn ✿ in my sunday best ✿
☁ I watched Devilman Crybaby on Netflix and I have very strong feelings about it. I’m very happy Masaaki Yuasa is getting his shine, so in the meantime, watch Ping Pong the Animation.
Tchau for now (〃´∀｀〃)ε｀●)
I recently wrote a longform essay on the history of web communities pre-social media. Or rather, I argued that despite being understood as ephemera, the fragments left over from dead websites provides folks (historians, archivists, whoever) great material to piece together the histories of digital life, especially since conflict and memory are the glue that puts them together.
While that paper was for a class, I’ve been left thinking about how that paper could have grown. I’ve realized that that meditation on web communities was informed by several themes I’ve been meditating on in the past and present; especially the presumption that “blogs” or other old form web community spaces (LiveJournal, BBS/forums, fansites, etc) are a lost art at best and dead at worst. (more…)
I am my own architect, deusa, destroyer and redeemer, and hope. I decide.
2017 was my year of ownership: of joy, pain, and learning to learn all over again. It was a great year for personal growth. I dislike the idea that people must struggle in order to rise to a higher plane, because most suffering is unnecessary. But in a world were we like abbreviations and shortcuts; perhaps the definition cut short for “rise from adversity” is the “ability to do deep inner processing without sinking to the pit of self-aggrandizing despair.” If that is what it is, then maybe there’s some value in having to go through that, like a routine wash cycle.
I achieved so much of my strategic plan for this year. I did not complete it all, but I made so much headway. Later in the year, I taught myself to care less about external criticism that I imagined in my head. I am getting better at dismissing that mean, defeatist menace from being the majority of my feedback. They are one opinion, one choice, one option, out of a dozen versions of myself. I am consulting with the other versions of myself more. I need them on my team.
I enjoyed dystopian/(post) apocalyptic fiction a lot. It reminded me of the immense resources I have: community, imagination, and resilience. No matter what happens, I will make a way out of something, God willing. Thank you to Liu Cixin, Octavia Butler, and Tomino Yoshiyuki for their contributions to the world. Shout out to femme tech and science, and the black girl podcastsphere.
Things I ______________ :
albums: björk – utopia, bomba estéro – amanecer; tyler, the creator – flowerboy; gorillaz – humanz; soma – somablu; jay-z – 4:44; kendrick lamar – how to pimp a butterfly; jazmine sullivan – reality show.
podcasts: black girl in om; cerebronas; still processing; femme too deep; how to survive the end of the world; locatora radia, never before with janet mock; olhares; poc; phdivas; the call; the read; the funambulist podcast; woodland secrets; we want the airwaves
animation: ping pong the animation; big o; haven’t you heard? i’m sakamoto; acca; space patrol luluco; acca 13 territory inspection department; one punch man; mononoke; serial experiments lain; gundam unicorn; steven universe;
fiction: three-body trilogy; a variety of self-help books that are too long to list; the boss series.
song: kendrick lamar – you ain’t gotta lie (momma said)
“Rosa de frente con la vista hacia abajo” feat. Rosa Covarrubias Rolanda, by Carl van Vetchen.
– deep care
– deep love.
I am working on my focus.
– Femme Too Deep by Baby Ange: “Focus as Resistance.”
– Woodland Secrets by merritt k: “Gita Jackson.”
– “Well, I guess I am ugly then” by Joy Mohammed.
– How to Survive the End of the World by Autumn Brown and adrienne maree brown.
Sailor Saturn & Sailor Moon in “The Shining Shooting Star: Saturn and the Messiah,” Sailor Moon S (February 11, 1995)
“The past is never dead. It is not even past.”
What do you got to offer?
Tell me before you we off ya, put you deep in the coffin
Been allergic to talkin’, been aversion to bullshit
Instead of dreamin’ the auction, tell me just who your boss is
Niggas be fugazie, bitches be fugazie
This is for fugazie niggas and bitches who make habitual line babies, bless them little hearts
You can never persuade me
You ain’t gotta lie to kick it, my nigga
You ain’t gotta lie, you ain’t gotta lie
You ain’t gotta lie to kick it, my nigga
You ain’t gotta try so hard
Studying history is a large part of my self-care. It helps me make sense of my current moment and humanity. Finding Ida B. Well’s story, in her own words, liberated me from years of institutional self-hatred and fear that dehumanization, neglect, and despair is totalizing. Perhaps my practice is analogous to an astrologer: my knowledge acts like an oracle. I come to it over and over again.
And like horoscopes, history is of a piece of knowledge. Like I said, it is not totalizing. History is not prescriptive.
We live in trying times, and institutions are failing us. It is disorienting to read that the choice to bring a child into the world is more likely not to be mine. Instead, I am more likely to die because of preventable disease because medical institutions in the U.S. hate black women. The tax bill will make any little wealth folks have accumulated into zero or worse. QTPOC are dying, their families are being ripped apart by the state. This is the tip of the iceberg when the rest of the world comes into view, but every sheet of ice is nauseating and potentially fatal. It is demoralizing and penetrates our wellbeing as a spear drives into a heart.
The elders will tell us that we are not doomed.
History, and the knowledge it provides, is not a linear track of eternal progress. Progress and justice are not guaranteed in any particular moment. Progress and justice are projects, and they are propelled forward by each generation, who pass the baton to the next generation when the previous one is ready to pass on into the larger universe. You are tired of race metaphors, but they are apt: our work for liberation, justice, and peace is a marathon, not a sprint. Pace yourself and do not work yourself to an early death.
If history is not prescriptive, but is still medicine, it is joined by other health practices. You do not take medicine by itself: the doctor and pharmacist suggest other forms of relief to join your recovery efforts: sleep, nutritious food, plenty of fluids, exercise, and leisure to rest your mind. In many cultures, people seek out traditional forms of wellness and medicine, and tap into those practices simultaneously with Western medicine.
While history is not prescriptive, it can guide us. It has lessons and insights. There is terror and destruction, but even within that bleakness there is hope. People created and embodied joy to survive; to give birth to hope that traveled and continues to travels across time and space. This is one of the many blessings from the ancestors. It is also a reminder that institutions never had our backs, but we retained and improved on ways to maintain our wellbeing as best we could without them. I have been calling on elders and ancestors. Recently, my grandmother has come to meet me in my dreams. She comes as she likes, but it is always to bring back an abundance of warmth, compassion, wisdom, joy, and safety. She reminds me of where I am, and where I will be. That I will be victorious in life and death.
We have some tools. Our families (bio or chosen), our communities, mentors and mentees, our wellness practices, the elders, and our ourselves. We have ourselves.
Our hope remains within us, and our communities maintain our spirit. When both are gone, we perish.
Hope is a practice.
Care is a practice.
Justice is a practice.
Remember death. Remember community, present and passed on.
Mark Aguhar (February 17, 2012)
I plan to write more about this. In the meantime, the oracle provides resources:
– Alexis Pauline Gumbs, “We Can Learn to Mother Ourselves: The Queer Survival of Black Feminism 1968-1996,” Dissertation.
– Still Processing (Jenna Wortham & Wesley Morris): “We Care for Ourselves and Others in Trump’s America;” “Black Health Matters”
– Audre Lorde, ‘Introduction‘ from the Cancer Journals (1980)
– Evette Dionne, “Audre Lorde Thought of Self-Care as an ‘Act of Political Warfare,'” Bitch (February 18, 2016)
– Start with “Latham Thomas,” “Ashlee Marie Preston,”Melody Ehsani,” and “dream hampton” on Erica Williams Simon‘s the Call. Then listen to the rest of the first and second seasons.
– James Cone: “the Cross and the Lynching Tree,” Bill Moyers Journal (November 23, 2007)
– Khalil Gibran Muhammad: “Confronting the Contradictions of America’s Past,” Moyers & Company (June 29, 2012)
– Kendrick Lamar: “You Ain’ Gotta Lie (Momma Said),” To Pimp A Butterfly (March 15, 2015)
– Alexander Weheliye, Habeas Viscus: Racializing Assemblages, Biopolitics, and Black Feminist Theories of the Human (2014) & “Black Life”
I read through a New Yorker article, by Joshua Rotham, on a movement that pushes for people to stop having kids. Referred to as the anti-natalist movement, adherents argue that because human suffering is immense and reaches all forms of life beyond the human race, humans should stop procreating. Essentially, as the article title suggests, while existing life is better than death, “not being born is better” than being born at all. The article profiles South African philosopher David Benatar, who has become known for promoting this movement through his academic work; however, what sets him aside from other anti-natalists is that he is not a nihilist/misanthrope. His concerns come from a space of compassion: suffering is worse than pleasure, and no one should have to experience. If you’re interested in what he has to say, you can continue reading the article here.
It’s interesting that I stumbled upon this article this morning, because I used to hold a similar view for several years. Then, I was a lot closer to the rawness of trying to kill myself due to despair from anxiety and severe depression. My central concern was passing on mental illness and raising my theoretical child an anti-black world, along with miscellaneous, but interconnected, worries on parenting, cycles of abuse, etc. I thought that these concerns were compassionate. I don’t think I should have suffered in the way I did, and I don’t like hearing that others go through the same harm. In general, I don’t believe people should suffer, and I try to help them avoid it (to my own peril most of the time lol) at all costs.
But the answer, for myself and in relation to others, is not to argue that everyone should cease to exist to avoid suffering. I don’t agree with the Weber/(Protestant) Christian ideal is to suffer for reward or intellectual insight and emotional growth. But it is selfish to presume that your version of compassion should be the universal understanding or choice for others who also have to contend with their own suffering. This is particularly poignant to me irt racism and Afro-pessimissim. Racism, especially anti-black racism, is deeply entrenched, vast, and penetrating in our world, leading to material, psychological, and social damages that have fatal costs. When folks are focused on the existence, presuming that the deepness of the problem is seemingly infinite, the answer becomes that black people are doomed, forever. It misses the point that black people exist and continue their lives outside the frame of whiteness, and see themselves as human beings, deserving of the things human beings deserve and look forward to. There is nothing so totalizing that it closes off hope and possibility for change.
The other problem with the anti-natalist view is that its understanding of compassion assumes that accountability and justice are impossible. Like many Afro-pessimist works, accountability, justice, and change are highly unlike, or outright impossible. In doing so, it forecloses responsibility for peoples’ bad behavior. The desire and work towards responsibility and accountability, I believe, is compassion in action without selfishness. It seeks to resolve an problem with an eye towards accountability and justice. Of course, such things are many times elusive, and because of greed, laziness, contempt, etc (alllll the isms), they are passed down as work for several generations. This perhaps privileges a long-view of history, which does not follow a linear path to progress (in fact, it zig-zags all over the place, as the African and African diaspora cases make clear). But gains are made when we continue to work, continue to believe in the transformation of the world into what it could be, and continue to joy in spite of injustice and suffering. In short, it is refusal to indulge in the selfishness of a totalizing framing of suffering.
This may be the actual selfish part of this essay, but I deserve to receive and distribute joy. I deserve to work towards building a world with less suffering my hypothetical child. As someone who lives with a multitude of privileges in the wealthiest nation on Earth, I deserve to labor against the conditions that enable human suffering to exceed what it needs to be, because it is man-made, not natural. Simultaneously, the specter of racist degradation, violence, and death is forever here, but I spite it by living a fulfilled life with a family, joy, accountability, and hope, just as my ancestors did and my descendants will continue to do. Life is worthwhile.
In conclusion, anti-natalism on the surface appears to be a compassionate ideology, but it is just as selfish as it presumes its counterpart to be. It lacks imagination and creativity when (not) addressing human suffering head-on. Ironically, it also shares the sexist, racist, and profoundly ableist thoughts that inform the population capacity/control movements. So, basically, hard pass. Nah.
Being sick adds a different dimension to refusal. My body refuses to cooperate to the demands of the outside world, like productivity. My body is healing me, and I have to listen and be still with that. The ability to heal is an indicator that I’m overall in good health. It is okay.
November puts an accelerator on time: demands, responsibilities, and Daylight’s Savings Time. And now, exams. I need to adjust my schedule so I can sleep more and work more diligently during the day. My body does better that way; otherwise, depression becomes my long-time companion. I think my own company, as cheerleader and higher self, is a better friend.
There’s something fantastic and exhilarating about being on the tip of something wonderful. Even if it doesn’t happen tomorrow or soon, knowing that it will happen at some point is a nice feeling. I’m blessed.
Women of Color in america have grown up within a symphony of anger at being silenced at being unchosen, at knowing that when we survive, it is in spite of a world that takes for granted our lack of humanness, and which hates our very existence outside of its service. And I say symphony rather than cacophony because we have had to learn to orchestrate those furies so that they do not tear us apart. We have had to learn to move through them and use them for strength and force and insight within our daily lives. Those of us who did not learn this difficult lesson did not survive. And part of my anger is always libation for my fallen sisters. – Audre Lorde, “The Uses of Anger: Women Responding to Racism,” Sister Outsider: Essays & Speeches by Audre Lorde
The Funambulist is quite good. I also recommend their podcast. Highlights:
– Mehammed Mack: Virilism, Clandestiny and Alternative Modes of Being Queer & Arab in France
– Mabel O. Wilson: Can the Master’s Tools Dismantle the Master’s House?
– Nacira Guénif-Souilamas: Design of French Structural Racism
– Alexander Weheliye: A Black Critique of the Concept of Bare Life
Complement to the Funamblist: Here There Be Dragons podcast.
I really enjoy Soma’s music.
I am embodying a practice of refusal. Studying histories of race, racism, race relations, and systems of harm gave me a language to process and discuss my past and ongoing experiences with psychological violence and interpersonal neglect within white suburbia + its institutions. From my late teenage years on, I slowly adopted a built a vocabulary that privileged resistance. I vigorously consumed information, from books to news to tumblr posts, to learn how to be better at resisting.
Resisting agains harm creates stress in the body. Anticipating harm maintains stress in the body. My depression, my off-and-on companion of 17 years, thrives off on stress. Years ago, I recognized what this was doing to my body, but I kept going. If not me, who will push against misogynoir/homophobia/xenophobia/etc etc in X space?
Will the world collapse if I refuse?
The world did not collapse. My body did not collapse. I became more free.
I love life. I love myself. I love what my body can do. I love that I am blessed enough to have the option to refuse.
The world is not ending; it is getting more difficult for most of us. For some of us, the difficulty remains the same, but its form has changed/is undergoing a change.
I will take the opportunity to shape my life, in spite of that, like my ancestors before. And I have the best moment to do that, to spin the silk that crafts a gorgeous, intricate web for myself, my loved ones, and the things that matter.
I do not have any words of hope for anyone else but myself. This is compassion of the highest degree, for myself.
Onwards. I’m mine.