A World Awash in Anger and Fire
August 7, 2019
One of our favorite Toni Morrison’s essays is a reflection on work, identity, and family. It’s an absolute gem full of life lessons: The Work You Do, the Person You Are.
“I tell my students, ‘When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else. This is not just a grab-bag candy game.”
“Anger … it’s a paralyzing emotion … you can’t get anything done. People sort of think it’s an interesting, passionate, and igniting feeling — I don’t think it’s any of that — it’s helpless … it’s absence of control — and I need all of my skills, all of the control, all of my powers … and anger doesn’t provide any of that — I have no use for it whatsoever.”
– Toni Morrison
Will Hong Kong Protests Turn From Tinder to Fire
Increasingly confrontational protests have rocked Hong Kong for nine weeks, with no sign that either side is backing down. Pro-democracy demonstrators continue to face off against riot police deployed by the Beijing-backed government under chief executive Carrie Lam.
On Monday much of the city was enveloped in clouds of teargas, a hail of rubber bullets, and smoke from fires lit by angry protesters, more than 500 of whom have been arrested. The demonstrators spray-painted traffic barriers, bridges and police stations with the words: “If we burn, you burn with us.”
The protests were triggered by a proposed extradition bill that would have sent suspected criminals to mainland China for adjudication. The bill was withdrawn, but when demonstrators showed further resistance to Lam’s leadership and Beijing’s control, their cause gained momentum as the government refused to engage and police tactics intensified. Some protestors then adopted more extreme, violent tactics, including taunting police and throwing bricks and gasoline bombs. They call it their “scorched earth” policy, believing that in order to compel authorities to pay attention, great personal risk must be taken.
So far neither Beijing nor Hong Kong officials have chosen to deploy the People’s Liberation Army, which has a garrison in Hong Kong. Sending in troops or taking over the governing of Hong Kong directly should be an extreme last resort, as it would have huge consequences for both the mainland and Hong Kong. Beijing Warns Hong Kong Protesters: Don’t ‘Play With Fire’ (NPR)
“It was a pleasure to burn.”
- Ever since 2016’s unsuccessful military coup against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, his government has sought to eliminate any reference to Fethullah Gülen, the US-based Muslim cleric blamed for instigating the coup.
- In December 2016, a Turkish newspaper reported that 1.8 million textbooks containing the “objectionable” word Pennsylvania, where Gülen lives in a guarded compound, were removed and reprinted.
- In Ankara, streets named Gülen were renamed. A 2018 report from English PEN, the founding center of the world-wide writers’ association PEN International, said the emergency decree issued after the failed coup had shut down 200 media outlets and publishing organizations, subjected 80 writers to investigation and prosecution, and caused the dismissal of 5,822 academics from 118 public universities.
- And last week, Turkey’s education minister announced that another 301,878 books referencing Gülen had been destroyed. (Guardian)
- Burning of Maya City Said to Be Act of Total Warfare: By linking an ancient text, environmental analysis and ruins, archaeologists have documented a brutal attack. (NYT, $)
- Libraries are fighting to preserve your right to borrow e-books (CNN)
The World’s “Deflategate”
- After President Trump called China a currency manipulator on Monday, Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin said the US will now ask the International Monetary Fund to “eliminate the unfair competitive advantage created by China’s latest actions.”
- It’s the first such move since 1994, and came as international stock markets were plummeting over fears of an escalation in the trade war. On Tuesday China added its voice to the trade war rhetoric with a strongly worded editorial in the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist party, accusing the US of “deliberately destroying the international order” with “unilateralism and protectionism.”
- According to the editorial: “The responsibility of big countries is to provide the world with stability and certainty while creating conditions and opportunities for the common development of all countries.” (Guardian)
- Short on Cash, Businesses in China Rely on I.O.U.s to Keep the Lights On: As the trade war escalates, Beijing needs private companies to pull China’s economy out of its rut. But for some, ready money can be hard to find. (NYT $)
Hiding Behind The Pacific Ocean
- Washington has long relied on Japan and South Korea to help counter China’s rise and the nuclear-armed North. But now that the two allies are involved in their own dispute the Trump administration has been reluctant to get involved to repair the rift.
- The long simmering conflict dates to Japan’s colonial occupation of the Korean Peninsula before and after WWII, and possible reparations owed South Korea for abuses like forced labor and sexual slavery committed during that era.
- The discord erupted into a full scale diplomatic crisis Friday when Japan threatened to slow down exports of materials essential to South Korean industries. By Saturday night thousands of protesters were marching in the streets of Seoul accusing Japan of an “economic invasion.” State Department officials said they wanted the two countries to work it out on their own. (NYT)
- North Korea Accuses U.S. and South of ‘Inciting Military Tension’ (NYT, $)
Time Is Running Out On India’s Drought
- India, home to 1.3 billion people, is among 17 countries identified as having ‘extremely high’ water stress. Qatar, Israel and Lebanon top the list of places with the worst shortages, as climate crisis threatens more ‘day zeroes’ — a term popularized in 2018 when Cape Town in South Africa came dangerously close to running out of water.
- The global director for water at World Resources Institute (WRI) said: “We’re currently facing a global water crisis. Our populations and economies are growing and demanding more water. But our supply is threatened by climate change, water waste and pollution.”
- Oil built Saudi Arabia – will a lack of water destroy it? (Guardian)
- We must change food production to save the world, says leaked report: Cutting carbon from transport and energy ‘not enough’ IPCC finds (Guardian)
- How Hot Was July? Hotter Than Ever, Global Data Shows (NYT, $)
- Climate change: Hungry nations add the least to global CO2: The impoverished African nation of Burundi comes top of a list of the world’s most food-insecure countries says Christian Aid. (BBC)
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Gun Control Groups Are Not Going To Miss Their Shot
- Political momentum has shifted slightly in the year leading up to last weekend’s mass shootings in Texas and Ohio. Major gun control organizations, funded by wealthy supporters like former NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg, and local grass-roots networks across the country have helped enact new laws — mostly in Democratic controlled states — and for the first time in 25 years passed a significant gun control bill in the House.
- The National Rifle Association is consumed by internal power struggles, but the gun lobby still has structural advantages built up over decades, a cheerleader in President Trump, and a Republican-controlled Senate in their pocket. Speaker Mitch McConnell refuses to bring up the gun control legislation passed by the House last February, which would require background checks for all gun buyers.
- Now, in light of America’s ever-increasing mass murders, an array of activist groups are aiming to push Senate Democrats to work harder on the issue. (NYT)
Toni Morrison 1931-2019
- Toni Morrison, a brilliant novelist who changed the course of American literature, died Monday in New York at the age of 88 from pneumonia complications. An often nuanced voice for the black experience, her towering body of work is rich in luminous prose, fearless storytelling and unforgettable characters.
- Morrison engages universal subjects like racism, violence, justice and love in the most intimate and human terms, gracefully merging powerful realism with magic, dream and folklore.
- Author of 11 novels, essays and children’s books, and a long-time faculty member at Princeton University, Morrison was the first African-American woman to win the Nobel Prize in literature (1993); she was one of the rare American authors whose books were both critical and commercial successes.
- Among her celebrated works were Song of Solomon which won the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1977, and Beloved which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1988. Both are available at your local public library.
- Morrison explored black identity in America — particularly the often crushing experience of black women — the redemptive power of community, and the role women play in the survival of such communities. Morrison was a favorite guest and made multiple appearances on Oprah Winfrey’s television book club. (NYT)
- The Nuns Who Bought and Sold Human Beings: America’s nuns are beginning to confront their ties to slavery, but it’s still a long road to repentance. (NYT, $)
“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” – Toni Morrison
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