21 January 2018


1700 by Jeff Hess

21 January 2018


0800 by Jeff Hess

Somewhere among my books on writing I have a pamphlet copy of George Orwell’s Why I Write. While he wrote this in 1946, I’ve chosen to follow the lead of Sonia Mary Brownell, Orwell’s wife of 14 weeks at the end of his life and known as Sonia Orwell, in considering this essay first. In A Note On The Editing, she writes that the essay: [H]as been placed at the beginning of Volume I, as it seems a suitable introduction to the whole collection.

Orwell wrote:

Putting aside the need to earn a living [see Samuel Johnson on blockheads, JH], I think there are four great motives for writing, at any rate for writing prose. They exist in different degrees in every writer, and in any one writer the proportions will vary from time to time, according to the atmosphere in which he is living. They are:

1. Sheer egoism. Desire to seem clever, to be talked about, to be remembered after death, to get your own back on the grown-ups who snubbed you in childhood, etc., etc. It is humbug to pretend this is not a motive, and a strong one. Writers share this characteristic with scientists, artists, politicians, lawyers, soldiers, successful businessmen—in short, with the whole top crust of humanity. The great mass of human beings are not acutely selfish. After the age of about thirty they almost abandon the sense of being individuals at all—and live chiefly for others, or are simply smothered under drudgery. But there is also the minority of gifted, willful people who are determined to live their own lives to the end, and writers belong in this class. Serious writers, I should say, are on the whole more vain and self-centered than journalists, though less interested in money.

2. Aesthetic enthusiasm. Perception of beauty in the external world, or, on the other hand, in words and their right arrangement. Pleasure in the impact of one sound on another, in the firmness of good prose or the rhythm of a good story. Desire to share an experience which one feels is valuable and ought not to be missed. The aesthetic motive is very feeble in a lot of writers, but even a pamphleteer or writer of textbooks will have pet words and phrases which appeal to him for non-utilitarian reasons; or he may feel strongly about typography, width of margins, etc. Above the level of a railway guide, no book is quite free from aesthetic considerations.

3. Historical impulse. Desire to see things as they are, to find out true facts and store them up for the use of posterity.

4. Political purpose—Using the word political in the widest possible sense. Desire to push the world in a certain direction, to alter other peoples’ idea of the kind of society that they should strive after. Once again, no book is genuinely free from political bias. The opinion that art should have nothing to do with politics is itself a political attitude.

First, I was surprised that among Orwell’s four reasons, there does not appear what I think is the most important: the need to understand myself. Perhaps this is a factor of the—overly?—introspective time I live in.

Second, on Sheer Egoism: I don’t think anyone can be writer who is not vain and self-centered. I have long been fond of the notion that to be a writer you must to be willing to walk down Main Street starkers. You can’t do that if you are timid and selfless.

Third, on Aesthetic Enthusiasm: This has been beneath the surface for me across most of my writing. Only recently—in the last five, or so, years, have I begun to think along these lines. This is one of the reasons I’ve become so fascinated with Deliberate Practice.

Fourth, on Historical Impulse: This may touch on my idea of writers writing to understand themselves, but I think what Orwell is writing about is related to a desire for immortality. If I capture a moment, an event, an era, then I live, in a sense, beyond my death. (I am also puzzling over Orwell’s use of true facts. This is a writer who advised that If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out. In our age of fake news and truthiness, the word true may be necessary, but I would have thought Orwell would have considered this redundant.)

Finally, on Political Purpose: I am in total agreement with Orwell’s position here. All writing is objective and all writing—beyond his proverbial railway guide—is meant to further a point of view.

For Orwell, of course, Political Purpose was the purpose that would shape the last dozen or so years of his life. We wrote:

The Spanish war and other events in 1936-37 turned the scale and thereafter I knew where I stood. Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism, as I understand it. It seems to me nonsense, in a period like our own, to think that one can avoid writing of such subjects.

Remember, the Spanish war was personal for Orwell. He didn’t report on the war, he didn’t write about the war, he fought in the war. As a volunteer. No writer can be objective about a conflict in which the writer fired bullets at an enemy. He continues:

What I have most wanted to do throughout the past ten years is to make political writing into an art. My starting point is always a feeling of partisanship, a sense of injustice. When I sit down to write a book, I do not say to myself, “I am going to produce a work of art.” I write it because there is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and my initial concern is to get a hearing.

These were the emotions that brought Animal Farm and 1984 out of Orwell’s imagination, not, however, as journalism, but as literature.

But I could not do the work of writing a book, or even a long magazine article, if it were not also an aesthetic experience. Anyone who cares to examine my work will see that even when it is downright propaganda it contains much that a full-time politician would consider irrelevant. I am not able, and do not want, completely to abandon the world view that I acquired in childhood. So long as I remain alive and well I shall continue to feel strongly about prose style, to love the surface of the earth, and to take a pleasure in solid objects and scraps of useless information. It is no use trying to suppress that side of myself. The job is to reconcile my ingrained likes and dislikes with the essentially public, non-individual activities that this age forces on all of us.

This was true for Orwell in 1946 and this is true for any writer worth a damn in 2018.

20 January 2018


1700 by Jeff Hess

180120 writer's room shaw's corner george bernard shaw
I’ve read before about George Bernard Shaw’s revolving writing studio but I never saw an interior photo befor. The space does have a Time And Relative Dimension In Space feel.

19 January 2018


1900 by Jeff Hess

I’ve said before that evil, like cold and dark, is an absence rather than a presence. Reading Massimo Picliucci’s How To Be A Stoic, has led me to explore another possibility that evil isn’t even an absence of good, but rather an ignorance.

The Stoics held that people don’t really do evil but simply have misguided views of the world that sometimes lead them to do awful things… p. 25

From How To Be A Stoic: Using Ancient Philosophy To Live A Modern Life by Massimo Picliucci

This provides, I think, a good response to the question: Why do good people act badly?


Found in my electronic chapbook.

19 January 2018


1800 by Jeff Hess

180118 red fox backyard wee measow

I can haz din din now…?

19 January 2018


1700 by Jeff Hess

I’m still waiting for my copy of Dan Harris’ Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics: A 10% Happier How-To Book to come in and Oliver Burkeman, writing this morning in Meditation: how to make yourself sit down and do the damn thing for The Guardian, has given me additional reason to look forward to reading the book. I’ve been meditating now for more than 40 years and while I’ve always understood the underlying mechanism of mediating—become distracted, notice that you’ve become distracted, say to yourself, “Oh, I’ve been distracted,” and then, let go of that thought and return your attention to the moment—I never grasped the bigger concept. Burkeman explains”

Getting distracted genuinely isn’t a problem; indeed, noticing when you’re distracted is arguably the whole point—the very moment in which the skill of meditation is developed, equivalent to the moment that you pick up a dumbbell at the gym. “Every time you catch yourself wandering and escort your attention back to the breath, it is like a biceps curl for the brain,” Harris writes. “It is also a radical act: you’re breaking a lifetime’s habit of walking around in a fog of rumination and projection, and you are actually focusing on what’s happening right now.” Getting back on the wagon, over and over, is the practice. And good luck doing that if you haven’t fallen off first.

A similar logic applies to establishing a daily meditation habit, or many other habits, such as physical exercise. If you stop doing it for a while, and then notice that you’re feeling more crotchety, tired or downcast, you’ll have a strong motivation to return to it—far stronger than trying to force things using willpower. Or maybe you’d like to get better at listening to your partner, or not checking your phone during meals, or whatever; again, the more times you notice you’ve failed, the more you’re entraining exactly the presence of mind the new habit requires.

You might think of this as a kind of superhabit, which makes acquiring any new habit easier. If you can turn falling off the wagon into an integral part of the process—even to learn to relish the experience of climbing back aboard—you’ll be using your failure as fuel for success.

You’re not doing it wrong. Or, to be precise: doing it wrong is right.

When I first saw Burkeman’s use of entraining, I thought he’d mistyped. I was wrong. For wetware, to entrain is: to adjust (an internal rhythm of an organism) so that it synchronizes with an external cycle, such as that of light and dark. I like that.

I’m thinking this evening about how I can entrain to adjust my eating cycles to synchronize them with a 12-hour eating/12-hour fasting day where I eat at 0500, 0800, 1100, 1400 and 1700. The bookends are easy, but the two snacks on either side of the lunch are more difficult, but when I fall of the wagon, I just have to get back on. Right?

18 January 2018


1800 by Jeff Hess

180118 tom the dancing bug ruben bolling grub party round-fruit party congress

18 January 2018


1700 by Jeff Hess

When I saw the Republican Party headline—The Highly-Anticipated 2017 Fake News Awards—I knew we were in for a Truthiness fest.

Glenn Kessler, reporting in Fact-checking President Trump’s ‘Fake News Awards’ for The Washington Post, ledes:

The “Fake News Awards” announced on the Republican National Committee website and touted by President Trump pose a conundrum: Does it really count if the news organization admits error?

Regular readers of The Fact Checker know that we do not award Pinocchios if a politician admits error. Everyone makes mistakes—and the point is not to play gotcha. News organizations operate in a competitive arena and mistakes are bound to be made. The key test is whether an error is acknowledged and corrected.

President Trump almost never admits error, even as he has made more than 2,000 false or misleading statements. So with that context, here’s an assessment of the “awards”

Two thousand false or misleading statements? Really?

Well I suppose that 2001 is technically more than 2000—and I give Kessler major journalism props for using “more than” rather than “over”—but come on, who’s really counting?

Kessler is.

Of course, what else would you expect from The Lying Washington Post?

17 January 2018


2300 by Jeff Hess

I think I need to take a lot of breaths, to not respond, to absorb and contemplate.

Also, Is This Racist Racist? and The Actual Forgotten Working Class.

16 January 2018


1800 by Jeff Hess

President Barack Hussein Obama is retired. He did his eight years. Yes, he’s still popular and were it not for the 22nd Amendment—and the threat of his wife leaving him if he did such crazy shit—he would have crushed Donald Trump like a can of diet Coke.

But he did his eight years. We cannot expect him to keep fighting our fight. We have to pick up the load now.

So, wake up America and take care of your own self.

In, Twitter Rock Star Obama’s Silence Must Delight Trump, Nader writes:

Former President Barack Obama continues to mystify his supporters. He is watching his successor tear down what they see as his administration’s hard-earned initiatives to protect the people’s health, safety and economic well-being, while twisting Washington toward more coddled, tax-subsidized corporatism. Yet our former president mostly remains quiet on matters of substance, providing no powerful voice for Americans to rally around.

Mr. Obama is the most popular politician in America. He can command the mass media like no other citizen, should he choose to strengthen the opposition to the corrupt Donald Trump. Even more, he has reportedly the third largest twitter following—a staggering 98 million followers—in the U.S. Of the top ten, all the rest are well known entertainers. With only Katy Perry (at 108 million) and Justin Bieber (at 105 million) exceeding his numbers, Obama’s twitter followers are almost triple those who follow Trump’s daily hard-edged rages that make mass media news.

It is said that to keep such a large fan base, one must tweet daily and frequently. Not so with Mr. Obama. His tweets in December numbered less than a dozen. You’ll remember the last two months of 2017 as a time when Trump and his wrecking crew cabinet accelerated their rollbacks and suspensions of federal programs Continue Reading »

16 January 2018


1700 by Jeff Hess

180116 gavin aung than creative struggle creativity

15 January 2018


1700 by Jeff Hess

In the 21st century national borders—walled or no—are meaningless when wealth flashes between banks across the globe in less time than it has taken me to write this sentence. We can’t build a wall high enough to stop the poisons of the industrial age from burning our lungs, riddling our bodies with cancers and flooding our shorelines with ever-rising tides. The threat to humanity resides in no single nation or even a single continent. The threat is global and demands a global solution, and that solution can only rise from a global organization not of nations or banks but of people.

That is the message I take away from Senator Bernie Sanders’ opinion piece in The Guardian: Let’s wrench power back from the billionaires. Bernie writes:

Here is where we are as a planet in 2018: after all of the wars, revolutions and international summits of the past 100 years, we live in a world where a tiny handful of incredibly wealthy individuals exercise disproportionate levels of control over the economic and political life of the global community.

Difficult as it is to comprehend, the fact is that the six richest people on Earth now own more wealth than the bottom half of the world’s population – 3.7 billion people. Further, the top 1% now have more money than the bottom 99%. Meanwhile, as the billionaires flaunt their opulence, nearly one in seven people struggle to survive on less than $1.25 (90p) a day and—horrifyingly—some 29,000 children die daily from entirely preventable causes such as diarrhoea, malaria and pneumonia.

At the same time, all over the world corrupt elites, oligarchs and anachronistic monarchies spend billions on the most absurd extravagances.

Standard Socialist Sanders fare.

Bernie, however, goes huge:

In the midst of all of this economic disparity, the world is witnessing an alarming rise in authoritarianism and rightwing extremism—which feeds off, exploits and amplifies the resentments of those left behind, and fans the flames of ethnic and racial hatred.

Now, more than ever, those of us who believe in democracy and progressive government must bring low-income and working people all over the world together behind an agenda that reflects their needs. Instead of hate and divisiveness, we must offer a message of hope and solidarity. We must develop an international movement that takes on the greed and ideology of the billionaire class and leads us to a world of economic, social and environmental justice. Will this be an easy struggle? Certainly not. But it is a fight that we cannot avoid. The stakes are just too high.

This is the 21st century version of Karl Marx’s 19th-century conclusion and call:

The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Working Men of All Countries, Unite!

The only effective response to a global threat, Bernie writes, is global action:

A new and international progressive movement must commit itself to tackling structural inequality both between and within nations. Such a movement must overcome “the cult of money” and “survival of the fittest” mentalities that the pope warned against. It must support national and international policies aimed at raising standards of living for poor and working-class people – from full employment and a living wage to universal higher education, healthcare and fair trade agreements. In addition, we must rein in corporate power and prevent the environmental destruction of our planet as a result of climate change.

Bernie echoes another great American socialist, Eugene Victor Debs, who said: I have no country to fight for; my country is the earth; I am a citizen of the world.

Chants of USA! USA! USA! are a distraction.

We are all citizens of the world

14 January 2018


2000 by Jeff Hess

So, I subscribe to the Merriam-Webster Word Of The Day email and this morning the word is Demiurge. If I had no idea what the word means—and I didn’t—I might attempt to parse the syllables and come up with half (demi) impulse (urge), and be completely wrong.

Demiurge, according to MW is one that is an autonomous creative force or decisive power.

When I read that, I immediately associated the word with muse, and I may not be totally wrong on that.

In the Platonic school of philosophy, the Demiurge is a deity who fashions the physical world in the light of eternal ideas. In the Timaeus, Plato credits the Demiurge with taking preexisting materials of chaos and arranging them in accordance with the models of eternal forms. Nowadays, the word demiurge can refer to the individual or group chiefly responsible for a creative idea, as in “the demiurge behind the new hit TV show.” Demiurge derives, via Late Latin, from Greek d?miourgos, meaning “artisan,” or “one with special skill.” The demi- part of the word comes from the Greek noun d?mos, meaning “people”; the second part comes from the word for worker, ergon. Despite its appearance, it is unrelated to the word urge.

I really like the idea that a Demiurge [takes] preexisting materials of chaos and arranging them in accordance with the models of eternal forms.

How do other writers—and all creative folk—feel about that?

14 January 2018


1900 by Jeff Hess

Subject matter and technical skill are not connected in creative endeavors. As we’ve learned in recent months, a lot of very talented men are assholes.

I learned this morning about racist statements made made by Eric Clapton. While I won’t be buying anymore of his music, I’m not about to toss all of his music that I already own like some Hannity fanboy.

So, when I came across John Miller’s A NR stalwart and journalism professor has some advice for fellow scribes on New Republic I didn’t automatically dismiss what he had to say in the way that I did the words of Lee Stranahan.

Miller writes:

As a professional writer, I’m always trying to improve. I’ve studied the work of the top writers. I’ve debated great opening sentences with colleagues. I’ve thought long and hard about things like serial commas, concluding that they are good and necessary (don’t @ me). These days, I’m not only a professional writer, but also a teacher of writing: I run the journalism program at Hillsdale College. The best way to learn how to write is to write, because experience offers the soundest instruction. Yet my students and I also consult sources such as The Elements of Style, by William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White, whose best advice has become a famous dictum: “Omit needless words.” Lots of writers share their wisdom through idiosyncratic lists. I collect the good ones and often give them to students.

Miller’s five include:

  • 1. When in doubt, start with when,
  • 2. Show, don’t tell,
  • 3. Omit needless words,
  • 4. Inspiration comes from work and
  • 5. Sleep on it.
  • No. 4, for me, is the most important and ought to be No. 1, but maybe Miller wasn’t ranking. What he says about inspiration deserves to be tattooed on the back of every writer’s hand:

    Lots of non-writers think that the opposite is true. The late movie critic Roger Ebert put it best: “There is no such thing as waiting for inspiration,” he wrote. “The Muse visits during the process of creation, not before.” Many of your best ideas will come as you compose.

    That certainly is how my Calliope works.

    And I do mean works

    14 January 2018


    1800 by Jeff Hess

    180114 screw-up meter keef knight keith knight

    14 January 2018


    1700 by Jeff Hess

    What happens when the Republican Party can no longer control it’s own crazies?

    Well, first you get President Donald John Trump. But that’s not enough for Trump’s minions. They need more. Much, much more.

    So, they got Roy Moore, the cowboy who had no clue how to ride a horse (and the horse knew it). You’d think that would be a wake-up call, but no. The Republican party is about to double-down on crazy and unelectable. Remember Sheriff Joe Arpaio?

    He’s the guy pardoned by President Trump last August, and Arpaio is very appreciative of that pardon. So much so that he’s running for the U.S. Senate seat opened up by the announced retirement of Republican Sen. Jeff Flake.

    The editors of National Review are freaking. In No, Joe, they write:

    The Alabama Senate race was disastrous for Republicans, who found themselves apologizing for a crackpot accused of serious and potentially criminal wrongdoing. Republicans have the opportunity to avoid repeating the error in Arizona where former sheriff Joe Arpaio, a publicity-made abusive lawman and convicted criminal pardoned by President Trump, plans to seek the GOP nomination. Republicans should say no to Sheriff Joe.

    But will they? Do voters in Arizona read New Republic? A few do, I’m sure, but not enough.

    The editors conclude:

    A limelight-seeking octogenarian petty criminal, a serial abuser of police power, a man who oversaw inhuman and indeed homicidal brutality committed against blind and paralyzed prisoners in his custody, a preening huckster of the first order: Arizona Republicans owe it to themselves to do better.

    It’s hard to imagine how they could do worse.

    Oh no it’s not. (OK, so maybe not worse, but the Republican bar has been set pretty feckin’ low.)

    Clearly the editors suffer from a serious lack of imagination.

    14 January 2018


    1600 by Jeff Hess

    180114 buster for better or for worse pets farly

    14 January 2018


    0800 by Jeff Hess

    So, in the interest of changing my routine for 2018, I’m adding the reading of one essay by George Orwell to my Sunday mornings. I’ll be reading then in the order that they were were published—or at least as close to that order as I can ascertain since publication dates are not always readily available. First up is The Spike, published on 1 April 1931. The essay formed the basis for Orwell’s later book: Down And Out In Paris And London and is as fine an example of experiential journalism ever written.

    Orwell begins his 3,374-word essay:

    It was late-afternoon. Forty-nine of us, forty-eight men and one woman, lay on the green waiting for the spike to open. We were too tired to talk much. We just sprawled about exhaustedly, with home-made cigarettes sticking out of our scrubby faces. Overhead the chestnut branches were covered with blossom. and beyond that great woolly clouds floated almost motionless in a clear sky. Littered on the grass, we seemed dingy, urban riff-raff. We defiled the scene, like sardine-tins and paper bags on the seashore.

    Riff-raff? Orwell, writing about the next day explains:

    At three I left the workhouse kitchen and went back to the spike. The, boredom in that crowded, comfortless room was now unbearable. Even smoking had ceased, for a tramp’s only tobacco is picked-up cigarette ends, and, like a browsing beast, he starves if he is long away from the pavement-pasture. To occupy the time I talked with a rather superior tramp, a young carpenter who wore a collar and tie, and was on the road, he said. for lack of a set of tools. He kept a little aloof from the other tramps, and held himself more like a free man than a casual. He had literary tastes, too, and carried one of Scott’s novels on all his wanderings. He told me he never entered a spike unless driven there by hunger, sleeping under hedges and behind ricks in preference. Along the south coast he had begged by day and slept in bathing-machines for weeks at a time.

    We talked of life on the road. He criticized the system which makes a tramp spend fourteen hours a day in the spike, and the other ten in walking and dodging the police. He spoke of his own case—six months at the public charge for want of three pounds’ worth of tools. It was idiotic, he said.

    Then I told him about the wastage of food in the workhouse kitchen, and what I thought of it. And at that he changed his tune immediately. I saw that I had awakened the pew-renter who sleeps in every English workman. Though he had been famished. along with the rest, he at once saw reasons why the food should have been thrown away rather than given to the tramps. He admonished me quite severely.

    ‘They have to do it,’ he said. ‘If they made these places too pleasant you’d have all the scum of the country flocking into them. It’s only the bad food as keeps all that scum away. These tramps are too lazy to work, that’s all that’s wrong with them. You don’t want to go encouraging of them. They’re scum.’

    I produced arguments to prove him wrong, but he would not listen. He kept repeating:

    ‘You don’t want to have any pity on these tramps—scum, they are. You don’t want to judge them by the same standards as men like you and me. They’re scum, just scum.’

    It was interesting to see how subtly he disassociated himself from his fellow tramps. He has been on the road six months. but in the sight of God, he seemed to imply, he was not a tramp. His body might be in the spike, but his spirit soared far away, in the pure aether of the middle classes.

    Orwell closes his essay with an anecdote in sharp contrast to the above:

    Nobby and I set out for Croydon. It was a quiet road, there were no cars passing, the blossom covered the chestnut trees like great wax candles. Everything was so quiet and smelt so clean, it was hard to realize that only a few minutes ago we had been packed with that band of prisoners in a stench of drains and soft soap. The others had all disappeared; we two seemed to be the only tramps on the road.

    Then I heard a hurried step behind me, and felt a tap on my arm. It was little Scotty, who had run panting after us. He pulled a rusty tin box from his pocket. He wore a friendly smile, like a man who is repaying an obligation.

    ‘Here y’are, mate,’ he said cordially. ‘I owe you some fag ends. You stood me a smoke yesterday. The Tramp Major give me back my box of fag ends when we come out this morning. One good turn deserves another—here y’are.’

    And he put four sodden, debauched. loathly cigarette ends into my hand.

    Who would you rather spend a day with?

    Coming next week: A Hanging…

    13 January 2018


    1800 by Jeff Hess

    In 1969 a group of White, working-class Americans born in the South but living in Chicago came together to create The Young Patriots Organization. An 11-point document came out of that organization—printed using an odd-faux computer font—that was meant to parallel the 10-point manifesto of The Black Panther Party. I abstract the document below, but the entire is worth reading.

    1. CLASS: We see that the key to truly understanding and improving our situation is to truly understand the nature of class society.

    2. WELFARE OF THE PEOPLE: We believe that all people are entitled to adequate food, clothing, shelter and medical care.

    3. PIGS AND PIG POWER STRUCTURE: We demand the end to pigs murdering and brutalizing our people.

    4. SCHOOLS-EDUCATION: We understand that the main purpose of the educational system as it now stands is to make people fit smoothly into the capitalistic class society.

    5. DRAFT: We oppose the draft because it means poor and working class men fight rich mens wars.

    6. UNIONS: The idea of unions was a good thing.

    7. EXPLOITATION OF THE COMMUNITY: We understand that the businessman in the community make their living off of us.

    8. RACISM: Racism is a tool of capitalism to make people fight among themselves, instead of fighting together for their freedom.

    9. RELEASE ALL POLITICAL PRISONERS: We demand the release of all political prisoners.

    10. CULTURAL NATIONALISM: We believe that to fight only for the interests of your close cultural brothers and sisters is not in the interest of all the people, and in fact perpetuates racism.

    11. REVOLUTIONARY SOLIDARITY: Revolutionary solidarity with all oppressed peoples of this and all other countries and races defeats the divisions created by the narrow interests of cultural nationalism.

    All of this is prelude to Michael Harriot’s The Caucasian Panthers: Meet the Rednecks Armed, Ready and ’Bout That Anti-Racist Life for The Root. Harriot writes:

    Despite Martin Luther King Jr.’s protests, the March on Washington and activism, King was assassinated only when he reached beyond race and began talking about class and economics with his Poor People’s Campaign. Malcolm X was gunned down after he talked about including whites in the freedom movement.

    Six months before his death, the charismatic Hampton and his Black Panther Party joined a group of people to organize the Conference for the United Front Against Fascism. Calling the conglomerate the “Rainbow Coalition,” the group included the Puerto Rican Young Lords and a group of Southern transplants who fashioned themselves after the Black Panthers. They had an 11-point plan similar to the Panthers’. They favored armed resistance. There was one major difference about the members of this group, which called itself the Young Patriots Organization:

    They were white.

    Harriot drills down through the lens of Zac Henson, a UC Berkeley-educated economist and scholar with a Ph.D. in environmental science, policy and management and head of the Cooperative New School for Urban Studies and Environmental Justice, and a self-described redneck. Harriot continues:

    Henson doesn’t consider the term “redneck” a pejorative, and defines a redneck simply as “a white working-class Southerner.” He has been working for years to separate redneck culture from its neo-Confederate, racist past and redefine it according to its working-class roots.

    “The only culture that white people and upper-middle-class white people have is whiteness,” Henson explains. “To fit in that class, you must strip yourself of everything else. What I would like to do is show white working-class whites that the neo-Confederate bullshit is a broken ideology. … A lot of the activism in anti-racism is all about white people giving up their privilege in regards to white supremacy. I believe that will never work with working-class whites. You have to find a way to show working folks that anti-racism is within the self-interests of working-class white people. And you have to do that with a culture.”

    Henson is one of the people trying to renew the legacy of the Young Patriots and build the anti-racism redneck movement.

    A key element in that fight, and one Harriot zeroes in on is Redneck Revolt—not to be confused with Antifa—which:

    strongly believes in community defense, the basis of which must be meaningful involvement in our own communities, material support for other liberatory defense groups and survival programs, and an acceptance of the risk we take on when we commit to defending each other. Defense means more than just confrontation. Our relationships with our neighbors are strengthened by breaking bread together, knowing each other’s families and struggles, and becoming accountable to one another. Most importantly, we are willing to take on personal risk to defend those in our community who live under the risk of reactionary violence because of their skin color, gender identity, sexuality, religion, or birth country. For us, that means that we meet our neighbors face-to-face, and stand alongside them to face threats whenever possible. We understand this means that we may also become targets ourselves and become known to their enemies, but we act always with the understanding that those who oppose liberty for all people are already our enemies. Power is built collectively through intentional relationships and networks with each other. The best security measures enable us to act militantly and from a position of strength, rather than preventing us from taking meaningful action

    Harriot continues:

    Redneck Revolt actually showed up at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va., when, it says, it was asked by locals to provide security at Justice Park. Even though Redneck Revolt members were armed, ready and “refused to blink,” Shaun, from Pittsburgh’s chapter of Redneck Revolt, admits that they were surprised by the large number of fascists in attendance.

    “All I can underscore is that we are at a historic moment where we are experiencing a fascist resurgence that feels like something out of the last century,” he said. “I can tell you—it might sound hyperbolic—but I saw thousands of Nazis that Saturday. And every one of them had the same expression on their face: They looked like a 10-year-old boy who enjoys terrorizing things weaker than it. They were looking at everything that doesn’t look like them like food.”

    Redneck Revolt considers itself to be the opposite of right-wing groups like the Oath Keepers and the III% (aka the Three Percenters). Redneck Revolt members not only use their organizing power to recruit and protect communities, but they also meet with other militia groups to spread their message of anti-racism.

    Sounds like an organization I could get behind.

    13 January 2018


    1700 by Jeff Hess

    Over the years I’ve learned of dozens of reasons why writers write, but Siddhartha Mukherjee’s may be one of the most unusual. Writing in Two hours writing, then a researcher knocks on the door with a pipette for The Guardian’s My Writing Day series, Mukherjee explains:

    Why do I write? Or why, for that matter, do some doctors write? Some of us write to bear witness. Some of us tell stories. Zadie Smith once said that the very reason she writes is so that she “might not sleepwalk through my entire life”. On some particularly grim days, I think that I write to induce sleepwalking.

    I think what Mukherjee is talking about when he says he writes to induce sleepwalking is what Robert Olen Butler, Walter Mosley and George Simenon call entering the dream.

    Deeper in his essay I think he finds a deeper, truer reason for his prose;

    My single rule for writing is the same as my rule for science. You cannot know the answer if you don’t know the question. Before I write anything, I ask myself: what is the question that I am trying to answer? When I read a novel, or encounter a poem, or a painting, I will ask myself: what question is the painting, or the novel, trying to answer? This drives my wife and children mad—there are days when the kids refuse to go to museums with me—but it works as a guide to my writing practice. Orwell? He’s trying to answer whether we can build a moral world out of fundamentally immoral people. Sacks: can you inhabit the minds of others who are extraordinarily different from you?

    I really like what he says about Orwell. I’ll keep that in mind for my year of reading deeply.

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