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robertogreco : modesty   9

radically careful, or carefully radical | sara hendren
"I’m working on a book in earnest now, and for that I’m getting caught up on my woefully patchy knowledge of design history. The last bunch of years have been devoted to design-build processes and to literacy in disability studies and socially-engaged art practices, and far less so to the history and theory of design proper. It’s time! I was musing on Twitter about how so much of my own design is redesign, and my friend and mentor Anne Galloway pointed me to an obvious place to start thinking about redesign: Bruno Latour’s essay “A Few Steps Toward a Philosophy of Design.” I’m thinking still about this apt description of design’s essential modesty:

“President Mao was right after all: the revolution has to always be revolutionized. What he did not anticipate is that the new ‘revolutionary’ energy would be taken from the set of attitudes that are hard to come by in revolutionary movements: modesty, care, precautions, skills, crafts, meanings, attention to details, careful conservations, redesign, artificiality, and ever shifting transitory fashions. We have to be radically careful, or carefully radical… What an odd time we are living through.”

Radically careful or carefully radical! But it will never do to simply hide in this modesty (saying that our work is merely ‘design,’ a ‘drawing together,’ as Latour says, instead of, say, ‘building’). Why? Because that apparent modesty can also collapse into romantic ambivalence, anemic timidity, a shelter from critique.

Much more to think about there, including his exhortation at the end to practitioners—a call to think about the very tools themselves and how they might be configured to represent the fullness of context and contradiction in this practice that is always re-making. Re-design as all design.

Among many other things, I’ll be reading through CMU’s Transition Design bibliography as well. Expect some notes here from those rich sources."
sarahendren  2017  care  caring  radicals  radicalism  revolution  brunolatourdesign  annegalloway  modesty  design  timidity  criticism  carefulness 
july 2017 by robertogreco
My hijab has nothing to do with oppression. It's a feminist statement – video | Comment is free | The Guardian
"Hanna Yusuf asks why a simple piece of clothing is seen as the very epitome of oppression. She says many women find empowerment in rejecting the idea that women can be reduced to their sexual allure – and we should not assume that every women who wears the hijab has been forced into it"
hannayusuf  hijab  islam  modesty  women  gender  capitalism  2015  sexuality  liberation  feminism  religion  france  femen  oppression  empowerment 
june 2015 by robertogreco
The Secret Auden by Edward Mendelson | The New York Review of Books
"W.H. Auden had a secret life that his closest friends knew little or nothing about. Everything about it was generous and honorable. He kept it secret because he would have been ashamed to have been praised for it."

At literary gatherings he made a practice of slipping away from “the gaunt and great, the famed for conversation” (as he called them in a poem) to find the least important person in the room. A letter-writer in the Times of London last year recalled one such incident:
Sixty years ago my English teacher brought me to London from my provincial grammar school for a literary conference. Understandably, she abandoned me for her friends when we arrived, and I was left to flounder. I was gauche and inept and had no idea what to do with myself. Auden must have sensed this because he approached me and said, “Everyone here is just as nervous as you are, but they are bluffing, and you must learn to bluff too.”

Late in life Auden wrote self- revealing poems and essays that portrayed him as insular and nostalgic, still living imaginatively in the Edwardian world of his childhood. His “Doggerel by a Senior Citizen” began, “Our earth in 1969/Is not the planet I call mine,” and continued with disgruntled complaints against the modern age: “I cannot settle which is worse,/The Anti-Novel or Free Verse.” A year after he wrote this, I chanced on a first book by a young poet, N.J. Loftis, Exiles and Voyages. Some of the book was in free verse; much of it alluded to Harlem and Africa; the author’s ethnic loyalties were signaled by the name of the publisher, the Black Market Press. The book was dedicated “To my first friend, W.H. Auden.”

"When he felt obliged to stand on principle on some literary or moral issue, he did so without calling attention to himself, and he was impatient with writers like Robert Lowell whose political protests seemed to him more egocentric than effective. When he won the National Medal for Literature in 1967, he was unwilling either to accept it in Lyndon Johnson’s White House during the Vietnam War or “to make a Cal Lowell gesture by a public refusal,” so he arranged for the ceremony to be held at the Smithsonian, where he gave an acceptance speech about the corruption of language by politics and propaganda."
charity  humility  modesty  whauden  2014  edwardmendelson  audiencesofone  theleastofourbrothers  attention  listening 
february 2014 by robertogreco
Wendell E. Berry Lecture | National Endowment for the Humanities
[via: ]

"“Because a thing is going strong now, it need not go strong for ever,” [Margaret] said. “This craze for motion has only set in during the last hundred years. It may be followed by a civilization that won’t be a movement, because it will rest upon the earth.
E. M. Forster, Howards End (1910)1"

"The economic hardship of my family and of many others, a century ago, was caused by a monopoly, the American Tobacco Company, which had eliminated all competitors and thus was able to reduce as it pleased the prices it paid to farmers. The American Tobacco Company was the work of James B. Duke of Durham, North Carolina, and New York City, who, disregarding any other consideration, followed a capitalist logic to absolute control of his industry and, incidentally, of the economic fate of thousands of families such as my own.

My effort to make sense of this memory and its encompassing history has depended on a pair of terms used by my teacher, Wallace Stegner. He thought rightly that we Americans, by inclination at least, have been divided into two kinds: “boomers” and “stickers.” Boomers, he said, are “those who pillage and run,” who want “to make a killing and end up on Easy Street,” whereas stickers are “those who settle, and love the life they have made and the place they have made it in.”2 “Boomer” names a kind of person and a kind of ambition that is the major theme, so far, of the history of the European races in our country. “Sticker” names a kind of person and also a desire that is, so far, a minor theme of that history, but a theme persistent enough to remain significant and to offer, still, a significant hope.

The boomer is motivated by greed, the desire for money, property, and therefore power. James B. Duke was a boomer, if we can extend the definition to include pillage in absentia. He went, or sent, wherever the getting was good, and he got as much as he could take.

Stickers on the contrary are motivated by affection, by such love for a place and its life that they want to preserve it and remain in it. Of my grandfather I need to say only that he shared in the virtues and the faults of his kind and time, one of his virtues being that he was a sticker. He belonged to a family who had come to Kentucky from Virginia, and who intended to go no farther. He was the third in his paternal line to live in the neighborhood of our little town of Port Royal, and he was the second to own the farm where he was born in 1864 and where he died in 1946."

"Because I have never separated myself from my home neighborhood, I cannot identify myself to myself apart from it. I am fairly literally flesh of its flesh. It is present in me, and to me, wherever I go. This undoubtedly accounts for my sense of shock when, on my first visit to Duke University, and by surprise, I came face-to-face with James B. Duke in his dignity, his glory perhaps, as the founder of that university. He stands imperially in bronze in front of a Methodist chapel aspiring to be a cathedral. He holds between two fingers of his left hand a bronze cigar. On one side of his pedestal is the legend: INDUSTRIALIST. On the other side is another single word: PHILANTHROPIST. The man thus commemorated seemed to me terrifyingly ignorant, even terrifyingly innocent, of the connection between his industry and his philanthropy. But I did know the connection. I felt it instantly and physically. The connection was my grandparents and thousands of others more or less like them. If you can appropriate for little or nothing the work and hope of enough such farmers, then you may dispense the grand charity of “philanthropy.”

After my encounter with the statue, the story of my grandfather’s 1906 tobacco crop slowly took on a new dimension and clarity in my mind. I still remembered my grandfather as himself, of course, but I began to think of him also as a kind of man standing in thematic opposition to a man of an entirely different kind. And I could see finally that between these two kinds there was a failure of imagination that was ruinous, that belongs indelibly to our history, and that has continued, growing worse, into our own time."

"It may seem plausible to suppose that the head of the American Tobacco Company would have imagined at least that a dependable supply of raw material to his industry would depend upon a stable, reasonably thriving population of farmers and upon the continuing fertility of their farms. But he imagined no such thing. In this he was like apparently all agribusiness executives. They don’t imagine farms or farmers. They imagine perhaps nothing at all, their minds being filled to capacity by numbers leading to the bottom line. Though the corporations, by law, are counted as persons, they do not have personal minds, if they can be said to have minds. It is a great oddity that a corporation, which properly speaking has no self, is by definition selfish, responsible only to itself. This is an impersonal, abstract selfishness, limitlessly acquisitive, but unable to look so far ahead as to preserve its own sources and supplies. The selfishness of the fossil fuel industries by nature is self-annihilating; but so, always, has been the selfishness of the agribusiness corporations. Land, as Wes Jackson has said, has thus been made as exhaustible as oil or coal."

"In such modest joy in a modest holding is the promise of a stable, democratic society, a promise not to be found in “mobility”: our forlorn modern progress toward something indefinitely, and often unrealizably, better. A principled dissatisfaction with whatever one has promises nothing or worse.

James B. Duke would not necessarily have thought so far of the small growers as even to hold them in contempt. The Duke trust exerted an oppression that was purely economic, involving a mechanical indifference, the indifference of a grinder to what it grinds. It was not, that is to say, a political oppression. It did not intend to victimize its victims. It simply followed its single purpose of the highest possible profit, and ignored the “side effects.” Confronting that purpose, any small farmer is only one, and one lost, among a great multitude of others, whose work can be quickly transformed into a great multitude of dollars."

"Statistical knowledge once was rare. It was a property of the minds of great rulers, conquerors, and generals, people who succeeded or failed by the manipulation of large quantities that remained, to them, unimagined because unimaginable: merely accountable quantities of land, treasure, people, soldiers, and workers. This is the sort of knowledge we now call “data” or “facts” or “information.” Or we call it “objective knowledge,” supposedly untainted by personal attachment, but nonetheless available for industrial and commercial exploitation. By means of such knowledge a category assumes dominion over its parts or members. With the coming of industrialism, the great industrialists, like kings and conquerors, become exploiters of statistical knowledge. And finally virtually all of us, in order to participate and survive in their system, have had to agree to their substitution of statistical knowledge for personal knowledge. Virtually all of us now share with the most powerful industrialists their remoteness from actual experience of the actual world. Like them, we participate in an absentee economy, which makes us effectively absent even from our own dwelling places. Though most of us have little wealth and perhaps no power, we consumer–citizens are more like James B. Duke than we are like my grandfather. By economic proxies thoughtlessly given, by thoughtless consumption of goods ignorantly purchased, now we all are boomers."

"In this age so abstracted and bewildered by technological magnifications of power, people who stray beyond the limits of their mental competence typically find no guide except for the supposed authority of market price. “The market” thus assumes the standing of ultimate reality. But market value is an illusion, as is proven by its frequent changes; it is determined solely by the buyer’s ability and willingness to pay."

"By now all thoughtful people have begun to feel our eligibility to be instructed by ecological disaster and mortal need. But we endangered ourselves first of all by dismissing affection as an honorable and necessary motive. Our decision in the middle of the last century to reduce the farm population, eliminating the allegedly “inefficient” small farmers, was enabled by the discounting of affection. As a result, we now have barely enough farmers to keep the land in production, with the help of increasingly expensive industrial technology and at an increasing ecological and social cost. Far from the plain citizens and members of the land-community, as Aldo Leopold wished them to be, farmers are now too likely to be merely the land’s exploiters."

"In thinking about the importance of affection, and of its increasing importance in our present world, I have been guided most directly by E. M. Forster’s novel, Howards End, published in 1910. By then, Forster was aware of the implications of “rural decay,”10 and in this novel he spoke, with some reason, of his fear that “the literature of the near future will probably ignore the country and seek inspiration from the town. . . . and those who care for the earth with sincerity may wait long ere the pendulum swings back to her again.”"

"“The light within,” I think, means affection, affection as motive and guide. Knowledge without affection leads us astray every time. Affection leads, by way of good work, to authentic hope. The factual knowledge, in which we seem more and more to be placing our trust, leads only to hope of the discovery, endlessly deferrable, of an ultimate fact or smallest particle that at last will explain everything."

"No doubt there always will be some people … [more]
wendellberry  capitalism  corporations  economy  imagination  stickers  boomers  2012  economics  land  place  memory  industrialists  philanthropy  charitableindustrialcomplex  culture  art  liberalarts  humanism  humanity  rural  farming  history  debt  affection  knowledge  materialism  howardsend  emforster  ruraldecay  agriculture  aldoleopold  environmentalism  environment  sustainability  destruction  destructiveness  local  scale  mobility  change  adaptability  adaptation  evolution  ecology  technology  machines  alberthoward  wesjackson  johnlukacs  growth  data  quantification  wealth  remoteness  jamesbduke  industialism  power  greed  consumerism  plannedobsolescence  nature  corporatism  allentate  property  ownership  effectiveownership  human  humans  limits  limitations  modesty  democracy  wallacestegner  via:markllobrera  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  babyboomers  control 
september 2013 by robertogreco
In Memoriam: Chris Marker : The New Yorker
Marker’s modesty is that of a devoted craftsman and an exquisite aesthete: a nonperformer, a nonsinger, a nonathlete, a former writer who didn’t continue—he did the one thing that he cultivated with an unyielding devotion.
thinking  culture  cinema  chrismarker  modesty  focus  film  filmmaking  devotion  via:litherland 
august 2012 by robertogreco
Leonard Cohen, "How to Speak Poetry" - Acephalous
"The poem is nothing but information. It is the Constitution of the inner country. If you declaim it and blow it up with noble intentions then you are no better than the politicians whom you despise. You are just someone waving a flag and making the cheapest kind of appeal to a kind of emotional patriotism. Think of the words as science, not as art. They are a report. You are speaking before a meeting of the Explorers' Club of the National Geographic Society. These people know all the risks of mountain climbing. They honour you by taking this for granted. If you rub their faces in it that is an insult to their hospitality. Tell them about the height of the mountain, the equipment you used, be specific about the surfaces and the time it took to scale it…

Avoid the flourish. Do not be afraid to be weak. Do not be ashamed to be tired. You look good when you're tired. You look like you could go on forever. Now come into my arms. You are the image of my beauty."
simplicity  modesty  expression  via:charlieloyd  language  information  science  accuracy  precision  truth  art  writing  process  leonardcohen  poetry 
may 2012 by robertogreco
In the lap of luxury, Paris squirms - International Herald Tribune
"Some French intellectuals want to go much further, calling for the death of the entire luxury industry as a sort of national ritual of purification. "Since the ancient Greeks, luxury goods have always been stamped with the seal of immorality," said Gilles Lipovetsky, a sociologist who has written several books about consumerism. "They represent waste, the superficial, the inequality of wealth. They have no need to exist." ... President Nicolas Sarkozy, formerly known as "President Bling-Bling" ... and the former British Prime Minister Tony Blair hosted a conference of political leaders and Nobel Prize-winning economists to find ways to instill moral values into the global economy. The old financial order had been "perverted" by "amoral" and uncontrolled capitalism, Sarkozy said, deploring the fact that, "the signs of wealth count more than wealth itself." He praised the "return of the state" as a regulator of capitalist excess."
wealth  society  france  austerity  simplicity  slow  excess  capitalism  materialism  values  morality  politics  nicolassarkozy  crisis  consumption  luxury  credit  markets  modesty 
january 2009 by robertogreco

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