More than a feeling

Brooklyn: A Personal Memoir
With the Lost Photographs of David Attie
by Truman Capote
Let this be the last election in which Republicans are allowed to vote against people voting. To win office, you must be required to win more votes, rather than suppress or decrease the number of voters. The only way to be prepared to govern – not reinforce your advantages, not reward your nests or feather your friends, however the saying goes. Unfettered capitalism has done more to undermine capitalist systems than an army of Engelses and a brigade of Marxes. Speaking of whom, To the Finland Station:

“To the Finland Station” is different. The structure is simple: the decline of the bourgeois revolutionary tradition after the French Revolution, as Wilson sees it reflected in the writings of Jules Michelet, Ernest Renan, Hippolyte Taine, and Anatole France; the emergence of revolutionary socialism, seen through the writings of Saint-Simon, the communitarians Charles Fourier and Robert Owen, and Marx and Engels; the triumph of Communism, illustrated by the careers of Lenin and Trotsky. There are things Wilson minimized that would have complicated this narrative: the persistence of a non-Communist socialist ideal in Western Europe; the liberal tradition in Russian politics (to which Nabokov’s father belonged); the success and failure of the Mensheviks, of whom Wilson did not make much. And, of course, if the book were being written now, the vicious side of Marxist and Leninist thought, mostly a subtext in Wilson’s account, would guide the narrative, and the story would touch down in Siberia or Berlin rather than at the Finland Station.

But we don’t read “To the Finland Station” as a book about the Russian Revolution anymore. What draws us now is the subtitle: “A Study in the Writing and Acting of History.” History is the true subject of Wilson’s book, and what he evokes is what it felt like to believe—as Vico and Michelet, Fourier and Saint-Simon, Hegel and Marx, Lenin and Trotsky all believed—that history holds the key to the meaning of life. The evocation is successful because when Wilson began writing “To the Finland Station” he believed in history, too. He thought that history had a design, and that the Depression was an event fully comprehensible within the context of that design: it was the long-predicted collapse of the capitalist order. “To the Finland Station” is valuable as a window on the nineteenth century, but it is also a poignant artifact of the nineteen-thirties, a time when many people thought that history was something you could get on the right side or the wrong side of. It was an idea indistinguishable from faith, and Marx was one of its prophets.

It’s a dirty foul that American school kids don’t learn about Jules Michelet. We must get beyond this aversion to learning about certain histories, be it socialism or the 1619 project, whatever. The less you know, well, the less you know and suddenly another Trump falls off the turnip truck yesterday and the corporate types get summoned to the cut of his jib, obscuring the more accurate assessments, ‘something just ain’t right with that boy.’

Image by David Attie, 1959, from the NYRB

Since 2001, the US has admitted roughly 750,000 refugees

Syr flagsand none have been accused of involvement in domestic terrorism aimed at the US homeland, as pointed out by The Economist and included in Juan Cole’s excellent list of why we shouldn’t be so cowardly about accepting refugees:

8. The US owes these refugees. Without the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, there would have been no al-Qaeda in that part of the world, and no al-Qaeda offshoots like Daesh/ ISIL. Why do the governors (most of whom supported the invasion of Iraq) think the US can go around the world sowing instability and being responsible for creating the conditions that lead to millions of refugees but then can avoid the responsibility of ameliorating those broken lives?

Number 8 is important but the whole list is good. As Pierce pointed out, when the president of France confirmed yesterday that they would accept 30,000 Syrian refugees, the argument is effectively over. Sorry, this pandering foolishness must end. Yes, people can be and are scared. But the ones we should be focused on are those forced to leave their homes with young children.

Image via Reuters.

Brave Old Monde

Man with futbol_s'coeurSo… more income, more money, should mean we could work less, right. So… what happened? People at every notch on the spectrum are working more than ever, and feel like they are. The marginal utility of more and more money notwithstanding, we have affirmed the precept that our work equals our worth. Full stop. What about all the things we are supposedly working for?

Just in case you weren’t jealous enough of the French already, what with their effortless style, lovely accents and collective will to calorie control, they have now just banned bosses from bothering them once the working day is done.

Well, sort of. Après noticing that the ability of bosses to invade their employees’ home lives via smartphone at any heure of the day or night was enabling real work hours to extend further and further beyond the 35-hour week the country famously introduced in 1999, workers’ unions have been fighting back. Now employers’ federations and unions have signed a new, legally binding labour agreement that will require employers to make sure staff “disconnect” outside of working hours.

deal, which affects around 250,000 employees in the technology and consultancy sectors (including the French arms of Google, Facebook, Deloitte and PwC), employees will also have to resist the temptation to look at work-related material on their computers or smartphones – or any other kind of malevolent intrusion into the time they have been nationally mandated to spend on whatever the French call la dolce vita.

Easy for the Guardian to be cheeky about this, but some acknowledgement of just how out of whack things have become – with constant access to technology – it’s not if you want to be connected, plugged-in, whatever. You are. What now?

The idea of being without four bars (Bukowski: “They got the wrong kind of bars in this place.”) or wifi seems so quaint as to be misplaced and perhaps even inappropriate. What’s left of your life? What does leisure time even mean? Let me look it up on freakingcrazylifeapedia.

L’air over there

off1The government of France is thinking post-nuclear energy and developing off-shore wind farms in the North Atlantic:

Long reliant on nuclear as its chief source of energy, France is having to think long and hard about its energy strategy in the face of increasing public questioning about the safety of nuclear after the Fukushima disaster and greater evidence about the potential future high financial costs of the technology. The decision by the French government late last week to award tenders to build offshore wind farms to produce 2 GW of energy suggests that wind power is high up the Elysée’s list of alternatives to nuclear.

French energy minister Eric Besson said the decision would create up to 10,000 new jobs and “position France among the leaders of the offshore industry,” when making the announcement that a consortium led by energy giant EDF and engineering firm Alstom had won a bid to build three wind farms off the coast of northern France. Spanish energy firm Iberdrola and French engineering giant Areva secured the rights to build a fourth farm, he said. The two consortia are expected to invest around €7 billion to install 2GW of offshore wind energy capacity, according to Besson.

I’m sure all kinds of batailles are raging there about whether climate change is real, too.

Via Juan Cole.

Shades of Violet

The Green Blouse, 1919, Pierre Bonnard
“Vermillion in the orange shadows, on a cold, fine day,” Pierre Bonnard wrote in a sketchbook on one of his daily walks near his home, at Le Cannet, north of Cannes. Born in 1867 in a suburb of Paris, he settled in the South of France in 1926 with his reclusive wife, Marthe, remaining until his death in 1947. Such atmospheric observations infused the paintings that dominated the artist’s last three decades: window-framed landscapes and radiant domestic scenes depicting his wife going about her day. “The late interiors give you an understanding of how truly modernist he was,” says Dita Amory, a curator with theMetropolitan Museum of Art in New York, who has organized the first exhibition devoted to these works, opening January 27. “Shadow is never gray or black. It’s violet or purple.”

Bonnard made his mark early as part of the Nabis (“prophets” in Hebrew), the self-named group, including Maurice DenisÉdouard Vuillard and Paul Sérusier, that met at the Académie Julian, in Paris, in the late 1880s and experimented with suppressing perspective by using decorative pattern and flat areas of color. In the first decade of the 20th century, Bonnard struck out on his own. Dividing his time between the city and the country, he painted active street scenes in Paris and worked with professional models. By 1912 — when he bought a small house in Vernonnet, near Giverny, and his life with Marthe became more secluded — he had forged a distinctive technique, using oppositional hues that vibrated across his spatial fields.