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robertogreco : melancholy   11

Eduardo Galeano: 'My great fear is that we are all suffering from amnesia' | Books | The Guardian
"Most mornings it's the same. At the breakfast table Uruguayan-born author, Eduardo Galeano, 72, and his wife, Helena Villagra, discuss their dreams from the night before. "Mine are always stupid," says Galeano. "Usually I don't remember them and when I do, they are about silly things like missing planes and bureaucratic troubles. But my wife has these beautiful dreams."

One night she dreamt they were at an airport where all the passengers were carrying the pillows they had slept on the night before. Before they could board officials would run their pillows into a machine that would extract the dreams from the night before and make sure there was nothing subversive in them. When she told him he was embarrassed about the banality of his own. "It's shaming, really."

There is not much magical about Galeano's realism. But there is nothing shaming in it either. This septuagenarian journalist turned author has become the poet laureate of the anti-globalisation movement by adding a laconic, poetic voice to non-fiction. When the late Hugo Chávez pressed a copy of Galeano's 1971 book Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent into the hands of Barack Obama before the world's press in 2009, it leapt from 54,295th on Amazon's rankings to second in just a day. When Galeano's impending journey to Chicago was announced at a reading in March by Arundhati Roy, the crowd cheered. When Galeano came in May it was sold out, as was most of his tour.

"There is a tradition that sees journalism as the dark side of literature, with book writing at its zenith," he told the Spanish newspaper El Pais recently. "I don't agree. I think that all written work constitutes literature, even graffiti. I have been writing books for many years now, but I trained as a journalist, and the stamp is still on me. I am grateful to journalism for waking me up to the realities of the world."

Those realities appear bleak. "This world is not democratic at all," he says. "The most powerful institutions, the IMF [International Monetary Fund] and the World Bank, belong to three or four countries. The others are watching. The world is organised by the war economy and the war culture."

And yet there is nothing in either Galeano's work or his demeanour that smacks of despair or even melancholy. While in Spain during the youth uprisings of the indignados two years ago, he met some young protesters at Madrid's Puerta del Sol. Galeano took heart from the demonstrations. "These were young people who believed in what they were doing," he said. "It's not easy to find that in political fields. I'm really grateful for them."

One of them asked him how long he thought their struggle could continue. "Don't worry," Galeano replied. "It's like making love. It's infinite while it's alive. It doesn't matter if it lasts for one minute. Because in the moment it is happening, one minute can feel like more than one year."

Galeano talks like this a lot – not in riddles, exactly, but enigmatically and playfully, using time as his foil. When I ask him whether he is optimistic about the state of the world, he says: "It depends on when you ask me during the day. From 8am until noon I am pessimistic. Then from 1pm until 4 I feel optimistic." I met him in a hotel lobby in downtown Chicago at 5pm, sitting with a large glass of wine, looking quite happy.

His world view is not complicated – military and economic interests are destroying the world, amassing increasing power in the hands of the wealthy and crushing the poor. Given the broad historical sweep of his work, examples from the 15th century and beyond are not uncommon. He understands the present situation not as a new development, but a continuum on a planet permanently plagued by conquest and resistance. "History never really says goodbye," he says. "History says, see you later."

He is anything but simplistic. A strident critic of Obama's foreign policy who lived in exile from Uruguay for over a decade during the 70s and 80s, he nonetheless enjoyed the symbolic resonance of Obama's election with few illusions. "I was very happy when he was elected, because this is a country with a fresh tradition of racism." He tells the story of how the Pentagon in 1942 ordered that no black people's blood be used for transfusions for whites. "In history that is nothing. 70 years is like a minute. So in such a country Obama's victory was worth celebrating."

All of these qualities – the enigmatic, the playful, the historical and the realist – blend in his latest book, Children of the Days, in which he crafts a historical vignette for each day of the year. The aim is to reveal moments from the past while contextualising them in the present, weaving in and out of centuries to illustrate the continuities. What he achieves is a kind of epigrammatic excavation, uprooting stories that have been mislaid or misappropriated, and presenting them in their full glory, horror or absurdity.

His entry for 1 July, for example, is entitled: One Terrorist Fewer. It reads simply. "In the year 2008, the government of the United States decided to erase Nelson Mandela's name from its list of dangerous terrorists. The most revered African in the world had featured on that sinister roll for 60 years." He named 12 October Discovery, and starts with the line: "In 1492 the natives discovered they were Indians, they discovered they lived in America."

Meanwhile 10 December is called Blessed War and is dedicated to Obama's receipt of the Nobel prize, when Obama said there are "times when nations will find the use of force not only necessary, but morally justified." Galeano writes: "Four and a half centuries before, when the Nobel prize did not exist and evil resided in countries not with oil but with gold and silver, Spanish jurist Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda also defended war as 'not only necessary but morally justified'."

And so he flits from past to present and back again, making connections with a wry and scathing wit. His desire, he says, is to refurbish what he calls the "human rainbow. It is much more beautiful than the rainbow in the sky," he insists. "But our militarism, machismo, racism all blinds us to it. There are so many ways of becoming blind. We are blind to small things and small people."

And the most likely route to becoming blind, he believes, is not losing our sight but our memory. "My great fear is that we are all suffering from amnesia. I wrote to recover the memory of the human rainbow, which is in danger of being mutilated."

By way of example he cites Robert Carter III – of whom I had not heard – who was the only one of the US's founding fathers to free his slaves. "For having committed this unforgivable sin he was condemned to historical oblivion."

Who, I ask, is responsible for this forgetfulness? "It's not a person," he explains. "It's a system of power that is always deciding in the name of humanity who deserves to be remembered and who deserves to be forgotten … We are much more than we are told. We are much more beautiful.""
eduardogaleano  garyyounge  2013  memory  amnesia  latinamerica  history  dreams  globalization  journalism  writing  literature  realism  reality  despair  melancholy  activism  revolution  resistance  protest  pessimism  optimism  economics  foreignpolicy  us  uruguay  racism  politics  military  war  peace  context  present  past  nelsonmandela  terrorism  christophercolombus  humanism  humanity  compassion  machismo  collectivememory  small  canon  collectiveamnesia  robertcarteriii  forgetfulness  power  beauty 
april 2015 by robertogreco
Why I'm Moving Back To South Africa
"I am not a person prone to smugness. When I say that my life is the sanest and gentlest a person in our times can hope to live, it is with gratitude, not self-satisfaction. My house is near the center of Oxford, a famously old and beautiful city, and I commute to work each morning on a bicycle alongside a quiet canal. The journey takes no more than seven minutes — eight or nine if I stop to admire the swans; I hardly remember what it is like to sit in traffic or to grind against a stranger on public transport.

I teach at Oxford University where I have a tenured job — a rare privilege in this day and age. The students are clever and hardworking, my colleagues considerate and sane, my days never less than interesting.

Work seldom ends after 7 p.m. On summer evenings, my partner and I often stroll along the Thames into Port Meadow, cross its 300 acres of ancient pasture, and eat in the village on the other side. The light in the meadow is gorgeous from May through September, turning the grass a luminous green I last saw in childhood dreams.

I have just resigned from this job and am giving up this life. In a couple of months, my partner and I will be moving to Johannesburg, South Africa, where I was born. It is a city that heaves with umbrage. “There is a daily, low-grade civil war at every stop street,” the artist, William Kentridge, recently remarked. Sometimes, the war moves up a grade; many friends and family members have stared down a gun barrel over the years, and each act of violence is relived in conversation a hundred times over. It is a city where being white or well-heeled attracts some to beg from you and others to insult you, where life is so palpably unfair that the rich live in a state of astonishing denial while among the poor antipathy runs so deep that if you listen you can hear it hum.

Make no mistake: I am not going to a life of hardship. I will have another tenured job at an institute staffed by some of the smartest people I know; the work is bound to be fulfilling. Labour in South Africa being cheap, we will employ somebody to dust our furniture and polish our floors. And, yet, what we are doing goes against the grain. Between my siblings and my first cousins, there are 11 of us in my generation and nine live abroad, all in rock-solid places like Canada and Australia. I am a Jew. My kind tends to sniff out trouble generations in advance. We like the foundations beneath our feet to run deep. While my move is by no means crazy, I am swimming in the opposite direction.

None of us understands ourselves especially well. We are dark inside and were we to light the whole place up we would go mad. My reflections on my move are no doubt riddled with self-justifications of which I’m barely aware.

There is nonetheless something for which I know I ache, and it is only to be found in my native land. When I lock eyes with a stranger on Johannesburg’s streets, there is a flicker, a flash communication, so fast it is invisible, yet so laden that no words might describe it. This stranger may be a man in a coat and tie, or a woman who wears the cotton uniform of a maid, or a construction worker stripped to the waist. Whoever he is, he clocks me as I pass, and reads me and my parents and my grandparents; and I, too, conjure, in an instant, the past from which he came. As we brush shoulders the world we share rumbles around us, its echoes resounding through generations. He may look at me with resentment, or longing, or with the twistedness that comes with hating; he may catch me smiling to myself and grin. I am left with a feeling, both sweet and sore, that I am not in control of who I am. I am defined by the eyes that see me on the street. I cannot escape them. I cannot change what they see. We may one day fight one another or even kill one another, yet our souls are entwined because we have made another.

I cannot get that on Port Meadow. I can take in the washed-out light and the expanse of green and I can feel melancholy or light or get lost in private thoughts. But the people who pass are wafer thin. I cannot imagine who they are. It doesn’t matter enough. There is too little at stake. I am in essence alone.

That’s one way of explaining my move. There are others. Each way leads to its own conclusion."



"I have just given my best explanation for why I am going home. I am quite unlike Asad. My life is moored to weighty institutions like universities. I have good medical insurance. I don’t take extreme risks. Yet I have imagined the world through Asad’s eyes as fiercely as I can, and have thus been under the skin of a human being I am not. The importance of this experience is ineffable. It is to watch oneself from a distance and imbibe the contingency of who one is and what one feels. This is a secular incarnation of the oldest religious experience.

That is what going home means for me. It is to stand outside myself and watch my bourgeois life prodded and pushed and buffeted around by lives quite unlike my own. It is to surrender myself to a world so much bigger than I am and to the destiny of a nation I cannot control. In this surrender is an expansion, a flowering, of what it means to be alive."
jonnysteinberg  southafrica  home  2015  melancholy  place 
february 2015 by robertogreco
Does Depression Help Us Think Better? | Wired Science | Wired.com
"In other words, Thomson and Andrews imagined depression as a way of forcing the mind to focus on its problems. Although rumination feels terrible, it might make it easier for us to pay continuous attention to our dilemmas. According to Andrews and Thomson, the mood disorder is part of a “coordinated system” that exists “for the specific purpose of effectively analyzing the complex life problem that triggered the depression.” If depression didn’t exist — if we didn’t react to stress and trauma with endless ruminations — then we would be less likely to solve our predicaments."

"Perhaps Aristotle was a little bit right when he declared: “All men who have attained excellence in philosophy, in poetry, in art and in politics, even Socrates and Plato, had a melancholic habitus; indeed some suffered even from melancholic disease.”"
science  psychology  depression  health  jonahlehrer  research  brain  neuroscience  melancholy  socrates  plato  criticalthinking  thinking  decisionmaking  2011 
may 2011 by robertogreco
San Francisco – Pictory
"Looking south down Hyde Street from a balcony in Russian Hill, I thought of all the people drawn to this beautiful city from afar for its promise. Not everyone finds the reality as perfect as their vision. Just like in any city, there’s no shortage of melancholy, unrealized dreams, lost fortunes, and lives ending too soon. But in San Francisco there’s also a persistent optimism that stands out even in the midst of hard times. New things are always being created here."
sanfrancisco  optimism  making  creativity  creating  doing  cities  vitality  dreams  vision  melancholy 
february 2011 by robertogreco
k-punk: Optimistic Melancholia
"This notion of "optimistic melancholia" has a resonance just now, precisely because it's so alien to today's affective regime, to the relentless positivity that Ivor Southwood identifies as central to the sell-yourself culture. Even as it attempts to photoshop out all negativity, this mandatory positivity is only the other side to capitalist realism's hedonic depression. If nothing else, optimistic melancholia reminds us of a culture with a wider emotional bandwidth."
optimism  melancholy  optimisticmelancholia  k-punk  via:blackbeltjones  negativity  capitalism  realism  hedonics  depression  emotions  culture  2010  nostalgia  memory  markfisher 
august 2010 by robertogreco
Wabi-sabi - Wikipedia
"Wabi-sabi is the most conspicuous & characteristic feature of traditional Japanese beauty & it "occupies roughly the same position in the Japanese pantheon of aesthetic values as do the Greek ideals of beauty & perfection in West." "if an object or expression can bring about, w/in us, a sense of serene melancholy & a spiritual longing, then that object could be said to be wabi-sabi." "[Wabi-sabi] nurtures all that is authentic by acknowledging 3 simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, & nothing is perfect."

Wabi now connotes rustic simplicity, freshness or quietness, & can be applied to both natural & human-made objects, or understated elegance. It can also refer to quirks & anomalies arising from the process of construction, which add uniqueness & elegance to the object. Sabi is beauty or serenity that comes with age, when the life of the object & its impermanence are evidenced in its patina & wear, or in any visible repairs."
patina  beausage  imperfection  unfinished  aesthetics  architecture  art  beauty  buddhism  design  culture  japan  japanese  simplicity  perfection  poetry  philosophy  zen  wabi-sabi  marceltheroux  johnconnell  jesserichards  coding  software  refinement  via:lukeneff  melancholy  tcsnmy 
august 2010 by robertogreco
Technology and the novel, from Blake to Ballard | Books | The Guardian
"Technology & melancholia: an odd coupling, you might think. Yet it's one that has deep conceptual roots. For Freud, all technology is a prosthesis: the telephone (originally conceived as a hearing aid) an artificial ear, camera an artificial eye, & so on. Strapping his prosthetic organs on, as Freud writes in Civilisation & its Discontents, man becomes magnificent, "a kind of god w/ artificial limbs" – "but" (he continues) "those organs have not grown on to him & they still give him much trouble at times". To put it another way: each technological appendage, to a large degree, embodies an absence, a loss. As literary critic Laurence Rickels paraphrases it, laying particular emphasis (as Kafka does) on communication technology: "every point of contact between a body & its media extension marks site of some secret burial"…

what we hear in poems is…not signal but noise.…The German poet Rilke had a word for it: Geräusch, the crackle of the universe, angels dancing in the static."

[via: http://plsj.tumblr.com/post/853546736/technology-and-the-novel-from-blake-to-ballard ]
tommccarthy  fiction  science  jgballard  freud  melancholy  technology  futurism  future  writing  history  literature  poetry  books  2010  art  culture  williamblake  frankenstein  donquixote  cervantes  humanity  machinery  kafka  maryshelley  rilke 
august 2010 by robertogreco
Orhan Pamuk's 'Museum' Of Obsession, Innocence : NPR
"Pamuk began collecting the objects that his protagonist Kemal would save before he even began writing the novel. And, in an unusual instance of literature melding into real life, he plans to display those objects in an actual "Museum of Innocence," which he hopes to open in Istanbul in July 2010. The idea for the museum came, in part, from the author's visits to small collections around the world. Pamuk says he's always been attracted to small museums and the "melancholy" that seems to permeate them."
orhanpamuk  literature  museums  melancholy  multimedia  novels 
october 2009 by robertogreco
potlatch: 'post-speculative melancholia'
"But I keep feeling something similar in relation to retail and advertising. The efforts being taken to encourage spending are beginning to feel half-hearted and self-conscious. The VAT cut was issued in the way that a teacher threatens a class with punishment, long after they've lost control over them. Then there is the surreally banal advertising, that probably would have exuded confidence and brashness during the boom years." ... "post-speculative melancholia, in which a sweeping utilitarianism suddenly arises, in which technologies must do something or else get lost and the drugged up sense of nothing mattering is followed by a come-down in which the whole thing seems regrettable."
via:blackbeltjones  economics  crisis  2008  2009  consumerculture  consumerism  postmaterialism  melancholy  latecapitalism  bubbles  recession  advertising  critique  emotions  psychology 
january 2009 by robertogreco
The secret of happiness | It's in Iceland | Economist.com
"There is certainly little risk of eradicating the blues. As Eric Hoffer, an American social philosopher, once observed: “The search for happiness is one of the chief sources of unhappiness.”
happiness  iceland  optimism  us  psychology  melancholy  depression  selfhelp  culture  society  values 
january 2008 by robertogreco
In Praise of Melancholy - ChronicleReview.com
"Most hide behind a smile because they are afraid of facing the world's complexity, its vagueness, its terrible beauties. If we stay safely ensconced behind our painted grins, then we won't have to encounter the insecurities attendant upon dwelling in pos
us  society  culture  depression  complexity  creativity  arts  aesthetics  psychology  emotion  happiness  life  literature  poetry  politics  melancholy  death  ericgwilson 
january 2008 by robertogreco

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