IT HAS been many years since France last had a revolution, or even a serious attempt at reform. Stagnation, both political and economic, has been the hallmark of a country where little has changed for decades, even as power has rotated between the established parties of left and right.
Until now. This year’s presidential election, the most exciting in living memory, promises an upheaval. The Socialist and Republican parties, which have held power since the founding of the Fifth Republic in 1958, could be eliminated in the first round of a presidential ballot on April 23rd. French voters may face a choice between two insurgent candidates: Marine Le Pen, the charismatic leader of the National Front, and Emmanuel Macron, the upstart leader of a liberal movement, En Marche! (On the Move!), which he founded only last year.
The implications of these insurgencies are hard to exaggerate. They are the clearest example yet of a global trend: that the old divide between left and right is growing less important than a new one between open and closed. The resulting realignment will have reverberations far beyond France’s borders. It could revitalise the European Union, or wreck it.
Read the rest of this article at: The Economist
I saw Get Out twice within 24 hours of its release. The first time was at a theater in Jamaica, Queens, 20 minutes from my house; the second was 90 minutes away in Union Square, a completely different neighborhood, tax bracket, and demographic. Why spend another $15 to see the same two-hour film?
Because it ultimately amounts to two different movies.
Get Out, Jordan Peele’s directorial debut, follows a young black man named Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) as he spends a weekend meeting the family of his white girlfriend, Rose Armitage (Allison Williams). It’s set at the Armitages’ suburban home, where Chris encounters a disturbingly gruesome truth that’s an allegory for the insidious and innumerable ways in which racism manifests. The psychological core of Get Out is the black interior, the common psychosocial landscape shared by black people when they are a minority population. So much so that I knew watching it in a predominantly white theater would be a drastically different experience. Peele accurately represents that interiority through the use of staple horror genre devices: haunting paranoia; surreal, out-of-body episodes; and viscerally terrifying symbolism.
From the beginning, Chris fluctuates between self-protective suspicion and the will to believe in a well-meaning world. When he questions Rose’s failure to tell her parents that he’s black, a slight stutter reveals both his anxiety about how he will be received and his insecurity about even bringing it up.
Read the rest of this article at: The Outline
Is Consciousness an Illusion?
For fifty years the philosopher Daniel Dennett has been engaged in a grand project of disenchantment of the human world, using science to free us from what he deems illusions—illusions that are difficult to dislodge because they are so natural. In From Bacteria to Bach and Back, his eighteenth book (thirteenth as sole author), Dennett presents a valuable and typically lucid synthesis of his worldview. Though it is supported by reams of scientific data, he acknowledges that much of what he says is conjectural rather than proven, either empirically or philosophically.
Dennett is always good company. He has a gargantuan appetite for scientific knowledge, and is one of the best people I know at transmitting it and explaining its significance, clearly and without superficiality. He writes with wit and elegance; and in this book especially, though it is frankly partisan, he tries hard to grasp and defuse the sources of resistance to his point of view. He recognizes that some of what he asks us to believe is strongly counterintuitive. I shall explain eventually why I think the overall project cannot succeed, but first let me set out the argument, which contains much that is true and insightful.
Read the rest of this article at: The New York Review of Books
The Trials of White Boy Rick
“Good evening, everybody,” WXYZ anchorman Bill Bonds said, leaning in toward the camera. “Tonight we’re going to show you something we don’t think you’ve ever seen before on television.”
It was the tail end of July 1987, the depths of a hot and humid summer in Detroit. Bonds had a toupee, a strong jaw, and a crisp voice. He was a product of the city’s white working class, with a habit of getting into bar fights, and his voice slipped easily into disdain. “Wait till you see the evidence of the arrogance that we’re talking about,” he said, “and the ha-ha-ha attitude.”
The viewers tuning in to WXYZ that night, from Detroit’s poor black urban core to its tony white suburbs, had grown accustomed to bad news. The city was the homicide capital of the United States for the third year running. Crack cocaine had invaded Detroit—a virus passed hand to hand, block to block, in plastic baggies—and sent an already declining city into a steeper dive.
The rising star on the local crime beat was Chris Hansen, an ambitious young reporter for WXYZ. (The rest of America would meet him years later on NBC’s Dateline and as the host of the series To Catch a Predator.) Hansen and his cameraman had been embedded with the No Crack Crew, the street unit of a U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and Detroit Police Department joint task force that was trying to zero in on the city’s major suppliers. Hansen had spent more than a year on patrol with the unit, and the footage he brought back was the centerpiece of the five-night special report that Bonds was now presenting to his viewers.
Read the rest of this article at: Atavist Magazine
What is Global History Now?
Historians cheered globalism with work about cosmopolitans and border-crossing, but the power of place never went away
Well, that was a short ride. Not long ago, one of the world’s leading historians, Lynn Hunt, stated with confidence in Writing History in the Global Era (2014) that a more global approach to the past would do for our age what national history did in the heyday of nation-building: it would, as Jean-Jacques Rousseau had said was necessary of the nation-builders, remake people from the inside out. Global history would produce tolerant and cosmopolitan global citizens. It rendered the past a mirror on our future border-crossing selves – not unlike Barack Obama, the son of a Kenyan father and white American mother, raised in Indonesia and educated in the Ivy League, who became the passing figure of our fading dreams of meritocracy without walls.
The mild-mannered German historian Jürgen Osterhammel might serve as an example of that global turn. When his book The Transformation of the World: A Global History of the 19th Century (2014) came out in English, one reviewer baptised him the new Fernand Braudel. It was already a sensation in Germany. One day, Osterhammel’s office phone at the University of Konstanz rang. On the other end of the line was the country’s chancellor, Angela Merkel. ‘You don’t check your SMSs,’ she scolded lightly. At the time, Merkel was on the mend from a broken pelvis and the political fallout of the Eurocrisis. While recovering, she’d read Osterhammel’s 1,200-page book for therapy. She was calling to invite the author to her 60th-birthday party to lecture her guests about time and global perspectives. Obsessed with the rise of China and the consequences of digitalisation, she had turned to the sage of the moment: the global historian.
It’s hard to imagine Osterhammel getting invited to the party now. In our fevered present of Nation-X First, of resurgent ethno-nationalism, what’s the point of recovering global pasts? Merkel, daughter of the East, might be the improbable last voice of Atlantic Charter internationalism. Two years after her 60th birthday, the vision of an integrated future and spreading tolerance is beating a hasty retreat.
Read the rest of this article at: aeon