CITIES, how the world works

3xQuestion (rather less rhetorical than they may seem)

1. 1994

The New York Times had an article on the front page asking: why isn’t there class conflict, why aren’t all these people recognizing they have class interests that are being betrayed, lethally betrayed, by Big Business, and why now do people blame government instead of blaming business, and why is the boss never really seen as being the enemy and is rather being seen as a fellow victim? The article laid out in political and sociological terms how much the Right has won and how much the elimination, not even so much of the Soviet system as an alternative – because it never really has been an alternative for us – but of an ideological space marked “alternative”, how the elimination of that has absolutely forced people into simply accepting as a given all the things that are contrary to their own self-interest. You won’t blame the boss because blaming the boss means developing a critique of capitalism as a system and, of course, we all know now that capitalism is the only conceivable system. Look at the destruction of the trade unions, the idea that everybody is downscaling and everybody is being put out of work. No one is getting angry at these corporations anymore because it is simply assumed they will maximize profits at the expense of human beings, and that this is the way that it has to be.
– Tony Kushner interviewed by Carl Weber

2. 2006

How did we get [to the war on terror]? The best place to look for the answer is not in the days after the attacks, but in the years before. Examining the cultural mood of the late ’90s allows us to separate the natural reaction to a national trauma from any underlying predispositions. During that period, the country was in the grip of a strange, prolonged obsession with World War II and the generation that had fought it.

The pining for the glory days of the Good War has now been largely forgotten, but to sift through the cultural detritus of that era is to discover a deep longing for the kind of epic struggle the War on Terror would later provide. The standard view of 9/11 is that it “changed everything.” But in its rhetoric and symbolism, the WWII nostalgia laid the conceptual groundwork for what was to come—the strange brew of nationalism, militarism and maudlin sentimentality that constitutes post-9/11 culture.
– Christopher Hayes, The Good War on Terror: How the Greatest Generation helped pave the road to Baghdad

3. yesterday

Nick Dave’s new book The Death of Bunny Munro, about a man who sits in a hotel room and masturbates fantasizing about vaginas (what elese?, you sort of wonder), is due for release in Australia in August. This is the cover. If I knew whether I think it’s problematic or not, it would mean I have found answers to many questions troubling me these days. I haven’t, so I don’t.

Standard

4 thoughts on “3xQuestion (rather less rhetorical than they may seem)

  1. frances says:

    Problematic? mmm… I thought rather boring, predictable, vacuous and, “uh god, he’s really not trying too hard is he?”.

    It looks like someone was ripping off Peter Saville for any idea at all and somehow ended up putting the closest thing they had on their computer to the Joy Division Closer font together with a Tumblr photo resembling Pulp’s This is Hardcore.

    Troubling only because it is empty of content and tries to perpetuate the semblance of, much like Nick ‘The Las Vegas Crooner’ himself, and not even sexist so much as lazy.

    Which somehow feels worse.

  2. It’s basically exactly the same pose (though rather less naked, and so perhaps more obscene) as Courbet’s L’Origine du monde… I’m sure that’s not a coincidence. Hard to know the connection without reading the book. There’s a good bit on the Courbet painting in Simon Schama’s book Landscape and Memory.

  3. Exactly the two sides of my dilemma, Alison and Frances. This is a clean, smooth, hairless little crotch; nothing like Courbet’s origin of the world (which has quite an effect in real space, even when you know it well).

    I suppose I was confused because I find it somehow beautiful, the cover. But the more I look at it, the simpler, more see-through its beauty becomes; like pulp and like a good Hollywood film, the mechanics of which are easily deductible the second time you see it, and the pleasure of which goes away immediately. Things that are clearly, uncomplicatedly beautiful are perhaps often quite complicatedly dangerous.

  4. Sam Robb says:

    “Prison changed Koestler. It did not bring him the spiritual blossoming that it brought to, say, Solzhenitsyn and Mandela, but it gave him insights about human character that Europe needed and lacked. “The consciousness of being confined acts like a slow poison, transforming the entire character,” he wrote. “Now it is beginning gradually to dawn on me what the slave mentality really is.” By then, the Moscow show trials were under way, with the Politburo member Nikolai Bukharin confessing in public to crimes he didn’t commit, and calling for his own execution. Koestler’s brother-in-law, a doctor, was arrested in the Soviet Union and accused of injecting his patients with syphilis. Koestler began to see a family resemblance between Communism and fascism. He broke with the party. Interned in France as an undesirable alien in 1939, he began to work on “Darkness at Noon,” the book that revealed, for Western readers, the psychological underpinnings of Communist dictatorship.”

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