Chuck talks to historian Kidada Williams about her book "I Saw Death Coming - A History of Terror and Survival in the War Against Reconstruction." www.harvard.com/book/i_saw_death_coming/
I have my world builder hat on and my world builder gloves and boots. Of course, can’t forget my world builder safety goggles. I hastily contrive a fertile crescent from what’s lying around my mind. Rolling hills of green, a forest of cedar trees. A couple of rivers that will one day be called the Euphrates and the Tigres. I’m gonna say it’s about eight thousand years ago, before the marking up of a lot of clay tablets with stories. There’s not a great deal materially left from that time that could refute me. It was an oral culture, but before the advent of most of the oral traditions that were later recorded, and most likely adulterated, in more tangible fashion. So long ago, people had only in the previous four thousand years even come to sense themselves as distinct from all the other things in the world.
Most of what people created were stories and songs and rhythms. Those items were constructed of vibrations. Almost as soon as they were appreciated, they would blow away in the wind like a sake cup of pure oxygen served as an amuse-bouche at an irrationally expensive trendy restaurant. Or a burp. But much more important than a quarter cup of gas because these vibrations were early strokes sculpting the kind of species we were going to become.
I take it back, forget about the geographical location. This could happen anywhere. I’m going to tell you a story now, and this is just between you and me and the invisible power of wishing: there once was a time when the vast majority of people were intelligent, contemplative, and respectful of each other, even of those less intelligent, contemplative, and able-bodied.
Everything was so new no systemic ideas of disdain, prohibition, or guilt had yet taken hold. No one knew what laziness was. All the labor – the tending of the wild growth from which food was gathered, the grinding of seeds into pastes and powders, the weaving of plant fibers, the caring for what domestic animals there were – all that took at most a couple of hours each day. The rest of the day was for finding out what being a human was all about. Because, however long people had been in existence, there were always freshly-minted people coming into existence who barely knew what was going on around them. Or inside them, and had yet to explore the nature of the relationships woven around and through them.
They weren’t savages.... read more
For the current job I’ve been hired to do, one of my duties is to open a tab of Instagram stories or reels or whatever they’re called and let them play, one after the other, on a dedicated iPhone on the desk next to my computer. About an hour and forty minutes takes care of all the new ones each day. I’m also tasked with monitoring and responding to regular Instagram posts, messages, and comments. The most onerous thing about it is the influencers.
No one really knows what an influencer is or how they become what they are. Maybe there are already detailed treatises on the subject, but those would be premature. The true historic scourge of the influencer has yet to ripen and play out in its fully poisonous catastrophe.
Tied for most onerous is being exposed to the inspirational motivational pep-talk life-coach-y messaging of so much Instagram content. It’s not only influencers who are responsible. Such admonishments, aphorisms, and quotations are in fact most often posted by your rank-and-file poster of content, of which there is a multitude. Millions upon millions of foot soldiers parroting and re-posting self-help and positive-attitude formulations from the likes of Dale Carnegie and Khalil Gibran, misappropriated, out of context, often misattributed or garbled, some of it initiated by influencers, some just scraped from the walls of the web while gathering acorns and bluebird feathers for a cyber-dreamcatcher.
I conflate the inspirational and the motivational into one grand annoyance for a reason. They annoy me. They annoy me grandly. I begin at a negative philosophical position. Announce to me what you consider to be a universal truth, and my initial reaction is, “No it isn’t,” and we may proceed from there.
“Be a blessing and you will get blessed.” Yes, because the universe is a transactional venue, like global free trade, or a vending machine! You put your blessings in the slot, and you get a candy bar!
“Turn ‘I hope’ into ‘I will.’” Your attitude makes all the difference when they come to shut down your drag queen story hour, blow up your power station, shoot your offspring, or fire randomly into your house of worship!
Tell me “The arc of history is long, but it bends towards justice” and I will say to you “tell me that again and the arc of my foot is gonna bend... read more