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robertogreco : maureendowd   3

BOMB Magazine — Rebecca Solnit by Astra Taylor
"AT One of the most interesting ideas in the book is the concept of “elite panic”—the way that elites, during disasters and their aftermath, imagine that the public is not only in danger but also a source of danger. You show in case after case how elites respond in destructive ways, from withholding essential information, to blocking citizen relief efforts, to protecting property instead of people. As you write in the book, “there are grounds for fear of a coherent insurgent public, not just an overwrought, savage one.”

RS The term “elite panic” was coined by Caron Chess and Lee Clarke of Rutgers. From the beginning of the field in the 1950s to the present, the major sociologists of disaster—Charles Fritz, Enrico Quarantelli, Kathleen Tierney, and Lee Clarke—proceeding in the most cautious, methodical, and clearly attempting-to-be-politically-neutral way of social scientists, arrived via their research at this enormous confidence in human nature and deep critique of institutional authority. It’s quite remarkable.

Elites tend to believe in a venal, selfish, and essentially monstrous version of human nature, which I sometimes think is their own human nature. I mean, people don’t become incredibly wealthy and powerful by being angelic, necessarily. They believe that only their power keeps the rest of us in line and that when it somehow shrinks away, our seething violence will rise to the surface—that was very clear in Katrina. Timothy Garton Ash and Maureen Dowd and all these other people immediately jumped on the bandwagon and started writing commentaries based on the assumption that the rumors of mass violence during Katrina were true. A lot of people have never understood that the rumors were dispelled and that those things didn’t actually happen; it’s tragic.

But there’s also an elite fear—going back to the 19th century—that there will be urban insurrection. It’s a valid fear. I see these moments of crisis as moments of popular power and positive social change. The major example in my book is Mexico City, where the ’85 earthquake prompted public disaffection with the one-party system and, therefore, the rebirth of civil society.

AT So on the one hand there are people responding in these moments of crisis and organizing themselves, helping each other, and, on the other, there are power elites, who sometimes, though not always, sabotage grassroots efforts because, as you say at one point, the very existence of such efforts is taken to represent the failure of authorities to rise to the occasion—it’s better to quash such efforts than to appear incompetent. The way you explore the various motivations of the official power structure for sabotaging people’s attempts to self-organize was a very interesting element of the book.

RS You are an anarchist, aren’t you?

AT Maybe deep down. (laughter)

RS Not all authorities respond the same way. But you can see what you’re talking about happening right after the 1906 earthquake. San Franciscans formed these community street kitchens. You weren’t allowed to have a fire indoors because the risk of setting your house, and thereby your neighborhood, on fire was too great—if you had a house, that is. People responded with enormous humor and resourcefulness by creating these kitchens to feed the neighborhood. Butchers, dairymen, bakers, etcetera were giving away food for free. It was like a Paris Commune dream of a mutual-aid society. At a certain point, authorities decided that these kitchens would encourage freeloading and became obsessed with the fear that people would double dip. So they set up this kind of ration system and turned a horizontal model of mutual aid—where I’m helping you but you’re helping me—into a vertical model of charity where I have and you lack and I am giving to you. Common Ground, the radical organization for community rebuilding, 100 years later in New Orleans chooses as its motto: “Solidarity not charity.”

AT The charity model fits hand in hand with the “we need a paternal, powerful authority figure in a time of crisis” mindset that your book refutes. Do you think people need to be led?

RS Part of the stereotypical image is that we’re either wolves or we’re sheep. We’re either devouring babies raw and tearing up grandmothers with our bare hands, or we’re helpless and we panic and mill around like idiots in need of Charlton Heston men in uniforms with badges to lead us. I think we’re neither, and the evidence bears that out."



"RS I started that book when I was almost 30. The Nevada Test Site was the place that taught me how to write. Until then I had been writing in three different ways: I had been writing as an art critic, in a very objective, authoritative voice; I had been writing as an environmental journalist, also with objectivity; and then I had also been writing these very lapidary essays on the side. It felt like three different selves, three different voices, and explaining the test site and all the forces converging there demanded that I use all those voices at once. So as to include everything relevant, it also demanded I write in a way both meandering and inclusive. A linear narrative is often like a highway bulldozed through the landscape, and I wanted to create something more like a path that didn’t bulldoze and allowed for scenic detours.

My training as an art critic was a wonderful background because it taught me to think critically about representations and meanings, and that applied really well to national parks and atomic bombs and Indian Wars. It was great to realize that I didn’t have to keep these tools in museums and galleries—it was a tool kit that could go anywhere. Also, I was trained as a journalist. A journalist can become an adequate expert pretty quickly and handle the material, whereas a lot of scholars dedicate their life to one subject."
rebeccasolnit  atrataylor  elites  elitism  humans  humannature  power  2009  insurrection  resistance  caronchess  leeclarke  charlesfritz  enricoquarantelli  kathleentierney  timothygartonash  maureendowd  fear  neworleans  katrina  disasters  solidarity  grassroots  activism  charity  authoruty  patriarchy  control  writing  howwewrite  nola 
june 2015 by robertogreco
On Smarm
"It is also no accident that David Eggers is full of shit."

"Smarm should be understood as a type of bullshit, then. It is a kind of moral and ethical misdirection."

"The old systems of prestige are rickety and insecure. Everyone has a publishing platform and no one has a career."

"What carries contemporary American political campaigns along is a thick flow of opaque smarm."

"Romney clambered up to a new higher ground, deploring the divisiveness of dwelling on his divisiveness."

"Through smarm, the "centrists" have cut themselves off from the language of actual dispute. In smarm is power."

"A civilization that speaks in smarm is a civilization that has lost its ability to talk about purposes at all."

"Joe Lieberman! If you would know smarm, look to Joe Lieberman."

"The plutocrats are haunted, as all smarmers are haunted, by a lack of respect. On Twitter, the only answer to "Do you know who I am?" is "One more person with 140 characters to use.""

"To actually say a plain and direct word like "corrupt" is more outlandish, in smarm's outlook, than even swearing."

"Anger is upsetting to smarm. But so is humor and confidence."

"Immense fortunes have bloomed in Silicon Valley on the most ephemeral and stupid windborne seeds of concepts. What's wrong with you, that you didn't get a piece of it?"
criticism  culture  smarm  snark  daveeggers  malcolmgladwell  2013  tomscocca  buzzfeed  heidijulavits  isaacfitzgerald  daviddenby  bambi  arifleischer  lannydavis  leesiegel  cynicism  negativity  tone  politics  writing  critique  mittromney  barackobama  michaelbloomberg  ianfrazier  centrists  power  redistribution  rebeccablank  civilization  dialog  conversation  purpose  jedediahpurdy  irony  joelieberman  marshallsella  billclinton  mainstream  georgewbush  maureendowd  rudeness  meanness  plutocrats  wealth  publishing  media  respect  niallferguson  alexpareene  mariabartiromo  gawker  choiresicha  anger  confidence  humor  spikelee  upworthy  adammordecai  juliachild  success  successfulness  niceness  tompeters  bullshit  morality  ethics  misdirection  insecurity  prestige  audience  dialogue  jedediahbritton-purdy 
december 2013 by robertogreco
The Builders' Manifesto - Umair Haque - Harvard Business Review
"What leaders "lead" are yesterday's organizations. But yesterday's organizations — from carmakers, to investment banks, to the healthcare system, to the energy industry, to the Senate itself — are broken. Today's biggest human challenge isn't leading broken organizations slightly better. It's building better organizations in the first place. It isn't about leadership: it's about "buildership", or what I often refer to as Constructivism. Leadership is the art of becoming, well, a leader. Constructivism, in contrast, is the art of becoming a builder — of new institutions. Like artistic Constructivism rejected "art for art's sake," so economic Constructivism rejects leadership for the organization's sake — instead of for society's. Builders forge better building blocks to construct economies, polities, & societies. They're the true prime movers, the fundamental causes of prosperity. They build the institutions that create new kinds of leaders — as well as managers, workers, & customers."
constructivism  innovation  business  economics  future  design  productivity  umairhaque  leadership  barackobama  middlemanagement  finance  2009  policy  politics  healthcare  creativity  motivation  work  management  administration  builders  organizations  value  evanwilliams  billgates  wallstreet  elinorostrom  matttaibbi  nicholaskristof  maureendowd  benbernake  mohammadyunus  statusquo  sarahpalin  nelsonmandela  power  thomasfriedman 
december 2009 by robertogreco

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