(I think) One of the most subtle and pernicious ways that power is maintained is through the belief that something is too complex to be understood by the average person... That, that thing is too vast and opaque to even know where to start so the "reasonable" thing is to leave it, forget about it, there are professionals somewhere who get it and will know what to do about it, even when we know, viscerally, that there are lies being told, dreams being sold, skeletons being hidden, money being made, graves being dug, doors being closed ... at our expense.
Maintaining and solidifying power is a constant and purposeful enterprise.
That was one of the takeaways from this book. This idea that everything that happens in the Middle East is so impenetrable and cyclical ... that nothing changes ... that devastating and perpetual violence has and will always be the norm, is a myth. A myth that serves white supremacy, American hegemony, the military industrial complex etc.
My first and (relatively) casual enquiry into what was happening in Palestine was the 'Palestinians for black lives' hashtag. I'd had a very basic (and high key propagandized) perception of the Israel/Palestine "conflict". So, I decided to read this because 1) I feel a deep kinship with black/brown people in developing countries (whose (revolutionary) liberation struggles are forgotten/erased) and 2) I want to have a more critical understanding of what elements/factors contributed to (and continue to) the creation and maintenance of this regime.
This was a great primer on the history of Israel's occupation of Palestine. The subtitle of the book is "How terrorism created modern Israel" which accurately sums up Israel's history as a nation-state. The author meticulously describes Zionism's governing principles, it's ascendancy and (re)branding and packaging in Israel and the West and how the intertwining of race/religion/ethnicity is central to that. Apart from being shocked by the violence and pure savagery Israel has drowned Palestinians in for decades, the sustained terrorism that other Jews faced at the hands of the Zionists was a madness, e.g. the mass kidnappings of Jewish children from their parents/adoptive families during the holocaust to forcibly create/establish a Jewish population in Palestine.
The book left me deeply heartbroken. But energized in some ways, to know/learn/think more, to understand deeply and fundamentally that there's no freedom without Palestinian freedom and to be more vigilant and prepared about whichever small ways I can contribute to that... because I know now.
Zionism shares with all settler-colonialist projects the need to dehumanise those it seeks to displace or subordinate.
Economic analysis demonstrates that the Israeli state owes its very existence to its wholesale theft of Palestinians' worldly possessions - land, homes, assets, money, orchards, quarries, 10,000s acres of vineyards, 25,000 acres of citrus groves, 10,000s business establishments, olive groves and machinery. Despite the massive infusion of foreign capital and its claims of modern efficiency, it was in the end the Palestinians that saved the Israeli state from stillbirth: and today Israel reaps vast financial benefits through the theft of Palestinian natural resources, and micro-control of the Palestinian economy, taxes, tourism, imports and exports.
Israel's strangling of Gaza - profound, unremitting violence, even when it is not dropping bombs or shooting its farmers and fishermen - and its violent subjugation of East Jerusalem and the West Bank, are sold as the unwanted burden placed upon a peace-seeking democracy saddled amidst uncivilised neighbours. We are conditioned to accept all this as we are conditioned to accept everything in Israel-Palestine: Israeli invasions are self-defence, and Palestinians resisting its invasions are terrorists.
Last year, during the fever of the American presidential elections, I remember (very) actively and purposefully looking for and reading articles, watching videos etc, of why women (specifically) supported Hillary. I wanted what was clear to me, to be challenged or dispelled - that her primary focus was to serve and further enrich and empower economic elites and the industries they belong to and run, while further assimilating/consolidating herself (and her family) into that class while dressing that entire enterprise as a win for women, all at the expense of Palestinians. Libyans. Somalis. Iraqis. Haitians. Hondurans. Immigrants. Students. Black Americans. Black women. The poor. The abandoned.
And to be really real ... nothing ever (even barely) satisfactorily challenged that ... the arguments were almost always distilled into either "She's not Trump" or "She'll be the first woman president".
I know there are a ton of interesting, interwoven political/sociological/historical reasons as to why, but just seeing it in action (especially by black liberals - which is a different story) was low key amazing. Like, "Wow, this is what their political analysis has been reduced to?"
Reading a book by leftist feminists that critically analyses the dissonance between Hillary's political career and her branding as some sort of feminist champion was really enlightening. The essays were sharp, incisive, thought-provoking ... one of my many favorite things about the book is the consistent push towards a more radical imagining of "politics", i.e. (in the American context) thinking outside the quadrennial reality show of a presidential race and beyond the tyranny of the two-party system and the tribalistic identities/belief systems they engender.
The potential first female president represents a purely cosmetic form of diversity that works against the structural changes that need to be made at every level of culture and politics to expose and depose a political class that has acted with impunity to promote policies that benefit wealthy donors and powerful multinational corporations.
The support of an elite sector of the black political class helped to legitimize hard-line anti-crime policy that proved devastating for low-income populations of color.
The powerful continue to justify their exploitation with everything at their disposal, including the language and platform of equality itself.
Mainstream, professional feminism's "can you have it all?" navel-gazing fixation on the issues of high achieving, mostly white and heterosexual Western women loves to talk about income and college debt in the narrow ways that Hillary's platform demonstrates.
Let us have clear eyes about what Hillary Clinton represents - an authoritarian neoliberal status quo.
I'm not really sure where/how to start but this was ... atrocious.
It had a promising plot: In an attempt to escape dictatorial Romania, a woman working in a clothing factory starts sewing notes with "Marry me" and her contact details into the seams of suits that are shipped to Italy. The notes are found and she has to be questioned.
Except ... that's not what the book was about. The book was essentially her on a train, on the way to the questioning, and thinking about her life and its high/low lights. There was no structure, no narrative, just a seemingly endless stream of consciousness that interrupted itself and without explanation (or reason) jumped back and forth.
So ... it was atrocious.
Here are a few pretty sentences though:
Some things aren't bad until you start talking about them.
Everything happened in a twinkling, the time it takes for one person to assault another.
I think being on the defensive sharpens my desires, much more than being actively on the lookout for someone.
Some people cry out when you beat them, so it's clear when they've had enough. But others just go silent, and then you go on hitting them until they're dead.
Every day brought me further away from other people, I had been placed out of the world's sight, as if in a cupboard, and I hoped it would stay that way. I developed a yearning for being alone, unkempt, untended.
But I realized this craving for solitude was better suited to later life, and that it had affected me too young, too early.
(Side note: Before you say it, I know, the cover is doing way too much. The one I read had a more reserved one 😂)
'The butcher's hook' is a historical fiction, set in 1700's Britain, about how Anne (the protagonist) pushes back/navigates a potential arranged marriage that her father (mainly) was trying to force (coerce?) her into.
What surprised me about the story line was Anne's soft and almost commendable descent (or growth?) into a (psychopathic) serial killer. The motivations behind the killings were complex and I loved that.
- Anne was (sort of) seeing Fub, a young butcher
- Her former teacher found out and threatened to expose this relationship to her father
- She killed the teacher (who had also sexually assaulted her when she was younger)
- Then killed a boy who essentially knew she killed the teacher
- Then killed Margaret (Fub's potential future wife/partner, who appears slightly later) and in the process burns the butcher shop that Fub works at)
Initially, it seemed (to me) like the killings were to create space for her relationship with Fub (because I thought, "Anne, why don't you just kill your dad? Why this long thing fam?") ... but as her relationship with Fub becomes more fractured (as he becomes more indecisive about his feelings, the context of their relationship, their future etc), something happens (I remember getting to the end of the book and thinking, "Anne, is there something you didn't tell me?"). As much as the first killing was about protecting her relationship with Fub, it was also about revenge ... and discovery; the discovery of murder as a logical and viable thing, and what that meant for her as a person. (Sort of like 'Dexter', where he almost equally killed as a form of retributive justice but also because that was how he understood himself ... as a killer. There was a joy in setting up the kill room and dismembering the bodies and saving slides of blood). I mean, she also wanted to kill her baby sister and eventually killed Margaret when she fully knew that Fub was a wasteman 😂
After she kills Margaret, burns the butcher shop and Fub goes to see her the next day ... she's so bored and unmoved by his brokenness and tears. She's almost irritated by these human responses to tragedy, like, "How dare you be so weak and small?"... And, I loved it; this complicated, almost disordered way people feel and react to things, and the lack of language to explain it in a coherent or sequential way, makes me dance a little, because people are complicated and heavy ... and good fiction captures that.
Some bars from the book:
I did not have the words to find out properly what I wanted to know.
I cannot speak. Like a bucket full to the brim, I have been carrying myself carefully in front of her.
He's looking at me as if he'd just bought me and I was worth more than he paid.
He looks damaged, as though he had been broken down to his constituent parts and reassembled ineptly.
I thought he had left me satisfied, but I am hungry again. That is another new sensation.