Week In Review
The Week In Review is a roundup of interesting, inspiring or thought-provoking things I've read this week. "How are you to imagine anything if the images are always provided for you? To defend ourselves...we must learn to read. To stimulate our own imagination, to cultivate our own consciousness, our own belief system. We all need these skills to defend, to preserve, our own minds." -- Adrien Brody
I'm so sorry things have been quiet around here! There's a bit [ok, a lot] of change in the air in my life and I'm eager to tell you about it in the days to come...until then, here's the week in review.
Hypernormalisation and the Cult of Prada | Olivia Singer, AnOther Magazine
“I didn’t want to do the 70s… but it came out naturally,” [Miuccia Prada] said backstage. “It was an important moment for protest, for humanity. Now, protest is very necessary.” It would be too easy for Prada’s current sentiment to refer simply to the right-wing bent of contemporary politics. In fact, the liberal left finds itself, presently, in a particularly strange situation, fractured by competing discourses and isolated within digital echo chambers...
Here, Mrs Prada seemed to be reminding us of those activists who once determined the personal to be political and sought revolution through action rather than Facebook status; of the importance of authentic, human reality during a time when detachment is bearing particularly frightening consequences.
Trump is obsessed with what his staff wears. Don’t let their costumes distract you. | Robin Givhan, The Washington Post
Appearance matters, particularly at the White House. In some small way, the unruly, inartful, messy nature of politics is tempered by the dignity and solemnity of the place. There is something laudable about dressing in a manner that shows respect for everything that the White House represents. President George W. Bush understood that when he decreed jackets and ties for men entering the Oval Office. And in 2009, when President Obama loosened those rules, it caused a stir in official Washington. It also makes sense that if one wants to be taken seriously by a wildly diverse populace, it helps to embrace the universal style markers of professionalism, seriousness and authority. People also tend to stand up straighter and be more focused when their attire is more formal and elegant...But image is always secondary to substance. It may briefly distract from a narrative or add to it. But surely, it can’t change it.
As Trump pushes for U.S. manufacturing, 'Made in America' is losing its luster in the fashion world | David Pierson, Los Angeles Times
Long before Trump campaigned on the promise of reviving domestic manufacturing, time-tested labels such as Gitman Bros., Filson and Red Wing Shoes were touting their “Made in USA” roots and encouraging customers to buy American menswear at a time when competitors had long fled to cheaper countries. They rode a wave of popularity in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis as trendsetters began rejecting fast-fashion brands like H&M and embracing traditionally stodgy ones like Brooks Bros. — an acknowledgment that it was better to buy pieces that lasted than support wasteful fads...
Now, some of those same companies, as well as more recently established ones, are wondering what the “Made in USA” label will mean under the new administration. Will it continue to stand for craftsmanship and style, or amount to an endorsement of Trump’s policies — or even the president himself?...“Is ‘Made in USA’ in danger of becoming ‘Make Made in USA Great Again’?” said Jonathan Wilde, editor of GQ.com...
Donald Trump, the refugee ban, and the triumph of cruelty | Dylan Matthews, Vox
...what is uniquely repulsive about Trump’s travel restrictions and refugee ban. It’s not just that they’re dumb, or wrong-headed, or unjustified. They’re cruel...Public cruelty, the cruelty of governments and the men and women who run them, has an end; it is meant to achieve something, whether that be racial purity and national rebirth, or a classless industrialized society, or more modest goals, like satisfying nativist urges to preserve the racial and religious character of the nation, or at least not let it change too much. And this kind of goal-oriented cruelty is enabled by the unique and vast ability of governments to instill fear in those over which they wield power.
It is easier to be cruel as a public official, because it is easier to see one’s victims as an abstraction.
Republican leaders vehemently condemned the suggestion from the billionaire upstart who was then leading in the GOP primary race. “Offensive and unconstitutional,” were the words of Mike Pence—before he joined Trump’s ticket as his vice president. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said it was “not conservatism.” Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell called it “completely inconsistent” with American values. Even former vice president Dick Cheney said it “goes against everything we stand for and believe in.”
...Still, since Trump signed yesterday’s executive order, no major Republican leader has yet spoken out against Trump’s order.
The Economist’ Just Downgraded the US From a ‘Full Democracy’ to a ‘Flawed Democracy’ | John Nichols, The Nation
A country must maintain an 8.00 rating (on measures of the electoral process and pluralism, civil liberties, the functioning of government, political participation and political culture). The US rating was 8.05 last year. It is now 7.98; and index ranking for the US has fallen to number 21—just behind Japan, just ahead of the Republic of Cabo Verde. The United States is not ranked with the world’s authoritarian states; it’s in the company of Bulgaria, France, India, and Mongolia. But the US is no longer ranked in the “full democracy” category with Australia, Canada, Germany, and the United Kingdom. And it is ranked well below social democracies such as Norway (#1 on the 2016 Democracy Index), Iceland (#2), and Sweden (#3).
For small-d democrats who are worried about Trump and Trumpism, the latest Democracy Index provides vital perspective. The new president is a bad player. He disrespects and disregards democratic values, encourages distrust of democratic infrastructure, and expresses disdain for the essential source of information in a democracy: a free and skeptical and questioning press that is willing to speak truth to power.
But even before Trump entered the presidential race, the crisis was real, and it was metastasizing...the combination of big-money politics; lobbying abuses that tip the balance of power to corporate interests; underfunded and dysfunctional media; assaults on labor rights; the gutting of voting rights; and the manipulation of election systems by partisans was undermining the infrastructure of democracy.
And as one democracy stumbles, others rise.
For a long time, [the political situation in West Africa] was an all-male club and members called each other "my brother president". Indeed they still do, even though there have been two female interlopers in the past decade. Members did not care very much how "the brothers" came to be heads of state. You could be elected to the position in dodgy elections, or in fairly conducted elections and then change the rules, you could assume the position through a coup d'etat. For as long as you could show you had firm control over your country, you were a "brother president"...It is difficult to determine exactly when things began to change but gradually fortunes changed for the personalities who had appeared to be perpetual opposition figures.
Environment & Humanity
How A Hollywood Prop Artist Could Help Stop Poaching At Its Source | Jason G. Goldman, Good Magazine
Though the nation’s indigenous cultures have eaten sea turtle eggs for centuries, illegal poaching has drastically reduced populations...Yet a poacher is just one cog in a massive criminal enterprise: Arrest one and he or she will quickly be replaced. Addressing the problem means identifying middlemen who transfer eggs into the global marketplace, as well as their transportation routes and storage facilities. To stop this crime before sea turtles and their eggs disappear forever, wildlife rangers will need to trick thieves into revealing their networks.
Biologist Kim Williams-Guillén, who directs scientific research for conservation group Paso Pacífico, is working with Hollywood prop stylist Lauren Wilde to test a creative solution: a handcrafted decoy called the “InvestEGGator.” A poacher who swipes one will unwittingly help map out a vast criminal system via GPS and a trail leading authorities and conservationists to a potential bust.
How Bucking the Climate Change Accord Would Hinder the Fight Against HIV/AIDS | Brian King via Truthout
While there have been remarkable improvements in combating the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the Global South, managed HIV faces other challenges beyond accessing lifesaving drugs. Food production and food security, which are tied to shifting climate dynamics, place additional burdens upon social and natural environments in resource-scarce settings.
Managed HIV is survival, and this survival depends not just on access to antiretroviral drugs but also on a gamut of social and environmental resources that have become necessary to meet health needs in the era of global climate change.
Our New Age of Contempt | Karen Stohr, The New York Times
It may seem as though the best response to Trump’s contempt is to return it in kind, treating him the same way he treats others. The trouble, though, is that contempt toward Trump does not function in the same way that his contempt toward others functions. Even if we grant that Trump deserves contempt for his attitudes and behaviors, his powerful social position insulates him from the worst of contempt’s effects. It is simply not possible to disregard or diminish the agency of the president of the United States. This means that contempt is not a particularly useful weapon in the battle against bigotry or misogyny. The socially vulnerable cannot wield it effectively precisely because of their social vulnerability.
The better strategy for those who are already disempowered is to reject contempt on its face. Returning contempt for contempt legitimizes its presence in the public sphere. The only ones who benefit from this legitimacy are the people powerful enough to use contempt to draw the boundaries of the political community as they see fit. Socially vulnerable people cannot win the battle for respect by using contempt as a way to demand it.
What did you read this week?