Conversations, thoughts, and hope
A few disparate, unrelated, unedited and unrevised reflections from the past two weeks:
I have had to explain the concept of minstrelsy to at least a dozen people over the past fortnight, and have gone further to discuss Orientalism with at least another half-dozen more. The reason I have had to have these conversations is disappointing; the fact that I was able to discuss these issues with people who were willing to listen and wanted to learn more is heartening.
Beacons of hope are welcome in what has been a mostly dark year. The Global Climate Strike (culminating today) gives me incredible hope not just because it is shows that young people around the world care to do something about the peril facing our planet, but in the fact that it feels like all the world is speaking up, together. Too often our worldview is confined to the local, the national; it is rare that civic action makes me feel like part of a global community, and for that, I’m thankful for the Climate Strike and all it is doing. UPDATE: Scott Ludlam says it better than I do:
watching this roll across the timezones like a wave of defiance is making me feel like i live on a planet, rather than a fragmented jigsaw of angry nationalisms. https://t.co/nQLBVhLF69— Scott Ludlam (@Scottludlam) September 20, 2019
They say that if you want something, you need to tell the world that you want it. In that spirit, I’ve decided what I want to do next in my career: explore in the intersection of ethics and digital public services. It is a confluence of my interest and current and past work in digital governance, public policy, ethics and inclusion, and making things better for the people around me, and it is a part of digital public service that is not discussed enough right now. I’ll write more about this later, especially since I’m just figuring all this out right now, but if anyone has any resources, pointers, opportunities, or thoughts, please send them my way.
After the release of a special investigation into the assault of a woman by London Police and into the toxic culture that allows this kind of behaviour to percolate, I’ve read and heard a lot of people saying that they are shocked, that they surprised, and that their perception of the police is irrevocably changed. To all those people, I say: I hear you, and now I know that you didn’t bother to hear us, the communities who have been adversely affected by policing for generations, when we spoke out. Your words of shock and surprise tell me a lot about who you are.
Last week, we announced the launch of Teaching Public Service in a Digital Age, a global initiative to rethink how we teach future public servants (mostly in public policy and public service programs at academic institutions) so that they are prepared for serving the public in our current and future world. If you’re interested in co-designing learning resources on digital fundamentals for future public servants, please get in touch.
I’ve long been enamoured with Liana Finck’s illustrations, but this one really resonated this past week:
ask not what you
can do for
ask what you
can do for me
Jesus got up one day a little later than usual. He had been dreaming so deep there was nothing left in his head. What was it? A nightmare, dead bodies walking all around him, eyes rolled back, skin falling off. But he wasn’t afraid of that. It was a beautiful day. How ’bout some coffee? Don’t mind if I do. Take a little ride on my donkey, I love that donkey. Hell, I love everybody.
Indigenous identity requires a connection to a historic and contemporary community because Indigenous identity is a living collective identity.
Nothing makes you feel more like an old lady than slipping your teeth out of your mouth, except perhaps leaving them to soak in blue liquid in a bowl on the bathroom counter.
A like can’t go anywhere, but a compliment can go a long way. Passive positivity isn’t enough; active positivity is needed to counterbalance whatever sort of collective conversations and attention we point at social media. Otherwise, we are left with the skewed, inaccurate, and dangerous nature of what’s been built: an environment where most positivity is small, vague, and immobile, and negativity is large, precise, and spreadable.
Being on “Sesame” is simultaneously surreal and deeply comforting. If you grew up with it, it’s as familiar as your childhood bedroom — but a fever-dream version, with a cast of adults scooting around the floor on cushioned dollies, staring at monitors while they speak in incongruously high-pitched or gravelly voices that travel out of their perpetually aloft arms.
Our city is a small one, a quiet one. My life mirrors the city: it is small, quiet. My hours these days are filled with reading and listening and watching and walking and thinking. I take in a lot more, and I say a lot less; I am not sure I have things to say, anymore.
When I’ve found the right book, and I’m reading it the right way, reading is fun — head-tingling, goosebump-raising fun. It’s a vivid and continuous dream that is somehow both directed from without and cast from within, and I get to be awake for it. Netflix can wait.
Over the past year, Facebook, Instagram (which is owned by Facebook), Twitter, and YouTube have moved to deemphasize or eliminate key metrics in the name of promoting healthy user engagement. The trend gave birth to a word you won’t find in dictionaries: demetrication.
Like his city, he contains multitudes. In They Can’t Kill Us, he writes beautifully about both Nina Simone and My Chemical Romance, Marvin Gaye and Carly Rae; he owns 93 pairs of sneakers, including the Air Force 1 Low Off-White MCA University Blues he wears for our meeting, and occasionally we talk about DQ on Twitter. Hence the ice cream tour, a frivolous gesture to discuss an often serious and invariably startling body of work.
Dymphna was someone who understood what it meant to recognize the humanity of those who weren’t accorded that basic right by the world around them. The family-care program isn’t miraculous; it is as profoundly human as Dymphna’s life story. It’s proof of how well we can love each other when we practise radical acceptance.
Their therapeutic message, however, threatens to reproduce an all-too-American myth that producing and consuming exquisitely can elevate the value of an exceptional life. These narratives are most powerful when they connect the individual to the collective, the drive for accomplishment to the thirst for communion.
After he’d conducted about 100 interviews with people in their 70s, 80s, and 90s, one thing stood out: many of the people he met missed feeling useful. “There’s this huge demographic of people who have sort of been put aside and told to go off and play bridge and bingo and not contribute to society,” he says. Zumba and lectures were fun, but not fulfilling.
We are sitting with our tea on a bench in the corner of Colman’s backyard: a large rectangle of rich-green lawn with a treehouse that Sinclair built for the kids. A cricket bat has been abandoned in the grass; some toys and a scooter are upended underneath a gnarled birch. Colman apologizes for the disorder and then, after a moment of reflection, unapologizes. “Although I get fed up with the mess and things, it’s exactly what I always wanted,” she admits. She had dreamed of a family since she was 11 years old, but in part because she and Sinclair were in no great rush—they had their first child when Colman was in her 30s, after more than a decade of partnership—she thinks that she was able to savor the experience of motherhood fully when it came. “I wanted it slightly anarchic, noisy, grass with toys on it,” she says.
Jordan is a gentleman: on more than one occasion, he leapt in front of me—really, leapt—to open doors, like he was conscious of a certain type of chivalry, and aware of its effects. But despite his charisma, his bigger aspirations are behind the camera.
“Friends” wasn’t a fantasy during its original run. But I can see why so many people who weren’t alive the first time around have devoured the show on cable and streaming like it’s a tub of ice cream.
Think of it, Rauch says, like leaving a bicycle in the rain. The bicycle may be perfectly fine, but if you leave it outside long enough rust will corrode it. All things considered, Rauch says, the Constitution is in excellent working condition. But its machinery has been left out too long in the rain.
Disease, and the ravaging treatment meant to address it, had caused a fundamental disjunction between my body and my self. Secrets, misreadings, and incomprehension flooded the void. But the framework of narrative medicine also showed me how to repurpose that feeling of alienation.
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