Saturday, 4 March 2017

No Man (Or Woman) Is an Island

So, what's new? At our end, nothing much. The weather's still terrible. The UK still largely lacks functioning plumbing. Rampant murderous Nazis are still in charge of the White House.

Shit weather and crap British plumbing are normal phenomena. Rampant murderous Nazis lording it over Capitol Hill, however, is not normal. The journalist Sarah Kendzior exhorts us, in an article in The Correspondent, to keep a record of what things were like before the regime, to help us remember what normality is like. Kendzior says:
Write down what you value; what standards you hold for yourself and for others. Write about your dreams for the future and your hopes for your children. Write about the struggle of your ancestors and how the hardship they overcame shaped the person you are today.

Write your biography, write down your memories. Because if you do not do it now, you may forget.

Write a list of things you would never do. Because it is possible that in the next year, you will do them.

Write a list of things you would never believe. Because it is possible that in the next year, you will either believe them or be forced to say you believe them.

It is increasingly clear, as Donald Trump appoints his cabinet of white supremacists and war-mongers, as hate crimes rise, as the institutions that are supposed to protect us cower, as international norms are shattered, that his ascendency to power is not normal.

Here is our contribution to the record of normality: Jonny contacting us on social media to express his frustration with British plumbing.

Normality: Friends ranting about things that upset them in a semi-respectful manner.
Let us also write about the struggle of our ancestors, and how the hardship they overcame shaped the people we are today. The words "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free" have been quoted a lot in recent times. We absolutely appreciate these words, as representing the principle of offering asylum to refugees. We are all either refugees or the descendants of refugees, and we need to remember that it is not that long ago since Europeans emigrated en masse to the United States, seeking security, religious freedom, employment, and the ability to walk down the street without being shot in the head or tortured. The immigrants and refugees arriving in Europe and North America today are emigrating for the same reasons, and there is frankly no excuse not to treat them humanely.

We also need to remember, however, that the reason so many people were able to settle in the United States a hundred years ago was that Native Americans were driven away from their lands. Native Americans' struggle for survival is still going on; The Standing Rock camp was razed just the other week, apparently clearing the way for the Dakota Access Pipeline. It behoves us to remember that the reason some people are able to live a life of liberty and in pursuit of happiness is that other people were stripped of their human rights.

Frankly, being a decent human being can be a difficult task, and require some pretty rampant multitasking. A good starting point, however, that makes everything relatively simple, is Caitlin Moran's definition of feminism: 
The five rules of feminism: 1) Women are equal to men. 2) Don't be a dick. 3) That's it.

Let's try not to be dicks, everyone! Can we do that?

We actually received a message, semi-recently, from Ellis Island, the starting point of many an American dream, nightmare, and feverish fantasy. Shewee Fiend Friend went there to visit. She writes:

Today we went to see the statue of liberty and Ellis Island
Here you enter the migration processing

Here a brave migrant approaches the loos
Pictures of successful loo operators line the walls
(I don't know who that dude is, btw)
(it wasn't even that busy, I just couldn't be bothered to wait)

Imagine this is your first pee in America
You'd think you'd be careful to leave it clean behind you, look after your new home
Unwashed Europeans ruin everything

This was the cleanest one
The hook is uselessly placed right in the corner

As you can see, these same sinks have been in use since the centre opened in 1890

It was not the worst experience of my life
For a New York loo it was above average even 
 The German journalist Günter Wallraff has the honour of giving name to investigative journalism in the Swedish language; wallraffande. However, a woman pioneered investigative journalism in Sweden half a century before Wallraff. Her name was Ester Blenda Nordström, and she kicked arse in no uncertain manner! In 1914 she took work as a maid of all work on a farm, and wrote a piercing and humorous piece of social critique. In 1922 she travelled third class to the United States, publishing her sharp, witty observations, which were recently republished as a book called Amerikanskt: Ester Blenda Nordströms resa i USA 1922 (Lund: Bakhåll förlag, 2015). Ester Blenda Nordström, when she got to New York, was harassed by a mansplaining piece of human garbage disguised as a customs officer, and was refused entry and locked up, until her friends got her out. Here's what she has to say about the detention centre at Ellis Island:

We can't be arsed translating all of this, but basically the customs officer is described as a mansplaining, jumped-up bully with dirty hands.

Let's finish with a Festive Video about everything being just the same as usual.

Festive Video - Reba McEntire, The Day She Got Divorced

Related Reading
Are You British? Does Tap Sanity Elude You? 
A Note on Desperate Measures

Masha Gessen, Autocracy: Rules for Survival 
Alexey Kovalev, A Message to My Doomed Colleagues in the American Media
Sarah Kendzior, We’re heading into dark times. This is how to be your own light in the Age of Trump
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