In line with Pamphelteer's advocacy of anarchist calisthenics, we wish to propose another mode of subtle, non-violent resistance one can employ in his everyday life. In short, it is the decision to live "as if".
As regaled in Christopher Hitchen's Letters to a Young Contrarian, Vaclav Havel was a poet and playwright living in Czechoslovakia under Communist control during the Cold War before he became the country's first Democratic President in 1989. As a young dissident in the 70s, Havel's key insight was that resistance in the insurgent and military sense was impossible. No leader would emerge that might lead the Czech to freedom. The system of control was so overwhelming, so totalizing, that reform from within the system would be impossible. In 1978, Havel published an essay entitled The Power of the Powerless wherein he advocated for living "as if" things were different, namely that Czechs possessed personal freedoms outside the realm of government authority. His key insight in the essay was that the "lie" of Communism was perpetuated by repeated, mundane acquiescence to the pressures of the regime and that by flaunting the minor rituals imposed by leaders, citizens could create for themselves a "bubble of freedom".
The pressure to participate in "Instagram activism" and, more recently, the amount of fear you express concerning the coronavirus are both modern examples of these kinds of pressures. If you didn't put up a black square on Instagram, you're a racist. If you're not scared of the coronavirus, you're selfish, the reason for the variants, and deserve the worst if you get sick with it. Neither of these attitudes or pressures reflects truth in any sense of the word.
In his time, Havel and his followers would hold open meetings to plot against the Communist regime "as if" such things were not prohibited. He and his followers were repeatedly jailed and released until leaders lost interest in punishing them entirely, much like a neighborhood menace that cops tire of arresting. As it became impossible for the regime to crack down on open dissent, the Communist governments of Central and Eastern Europe slowly crumbled, defeated not by out-and-out violent resistance, but instead by the slow drip of irony, sarcasm, and humor expressed through citizens flaunting orders. A government cannot possibly control 100% of human behavior no matter how much data they may have.
Examples abound of political dissent in this vein. Rosa Parks in the 1960s acted "as if" she could sit wherever she liked on the bus. Alexsandr Solzhenitsyn in the 1970s acted "as if" a Russian scholar could write truthfully of his country. As Hitchens states, "Both characters, by behaving literally, acted ironically."
Something to ponder this weekend.
Jerod Hollyfield's new column on the recent Anthony Bourdain documentary and the controversy around using A.I. to voice some of his lines reminds us what real documentaries are about: not politics. He suggests some great documentaries at the end of the essay to dig into this weekend.
Thanks for reading.
📰 General News
- U.S. Jobless Claims Remain at Elevated Level After Steady Declines (WSJ)
- "Claims have hovered between 368,000 and 424,000 since late May, elevated above pre-pandemic levels but significantly lower than early in the pandemic. The 2019 weekly average, ahead of the pandemic, was 218,000."
- In total, there are around 3 million claims against 9 million open jobs.
- Some percentage of those must be entry-level positions requiring five years of experience, right?
- Senate Infrastructure Final Vote Expected as Soon as This Weekend (WSJ)
🏦 Financial News
- Businesses Are Loading Up on Credit. Spending Could Follow. (WSJ)
- Cryptocurrency tax changes spark clash between White House, key Democratic senator (Politico)
🏆 Perks of the "New Normal"
- Target to pay 100% of college tuition and textbooks in bid to attract workers (CNBC)
👁 From the Woke Archives
- Why you shouldn’t take any crime stats seriously (Vox)
💭 Head in the Clouds
- The slow collapse of Amazon’s drone delivery dream (Wired)
- U.S. to Set Electric-Vehicle Sales Target of 50% by 2030 (WSJ)
- These are good-sounding numbers. 2030 is a nice even year and 50% is a nice even number. They undoubtedly look nice on a spreadsheet.
- France Gave Teenagers $350 for Culture. They’re Buying Comic Books. (NYT)
- The laissez-faire nature of what citizens can buy with the funds has lead many to consider whether more restrictions on what can be purchased are necessary.
- The program intended to foster an interest in more highbrow art and culture among France's youth.
- It'd be interesting to see the US adopt a similar program to cultivate an interest in art and culture that is not produced by Netflix and Marvel.
🚨 Police for me, but not for thee
- ‘Defund the police’ hardliner AOC spent $34k on private security in the first 6 months of 2021 (American Thinker)
- Cori Bush: I’m going to make sure I have private security but defunding the police needs to happen. (Twitter)
- "Suck it up. Defund the police. Build your own police force, loser."
🦠 What's In A Virus?
- New York auto show canceled due to the spreading Covid delta variant (CNBC)
- Biotechnology Greed Is Prolonging the Pandemic. It’s Inexcusable. (Undark)
- U.S. developing plan to require foreign visitors to be vaccinated, official says (Reuters)
- No word on whether the requirement will extend to illegal migrants
- Florida tween takes on school board to call for mask mandate (CNN)
- New Greta Thunberg just dropped
🖊 Anthony Bourdain and Documentary Artifice: Roadrunner: A Film about Anthony Bourdain stirred controversy for manufacturing voiceover of its late subject. Documentary film has more pressing issues. (Read)
In case you missed it
- Losing Christopher Hitchens by Jerod Hollyfield (Read)
- Entourage's Last Stand by Jerod Hollyfield (Read)
- 'Mr. Smith Goes to Washington' and the Evergreen Ills of American Politics by Jerod Hollyfield (Read)
- Avuncular Tom by Jerod Hollyfield (Read)
😷 The discussion around masking kids in schools rages on. Despite the panic coming out of rags like the Tennessee Lookout who published a piece yesterday entitled '“This is real and this is happening”: Tennessee pediatricians urge masks, vaccines as kids’ COVID cases rise', American children under the age of 18 are still the most unthreatened demographic on the entire planet. The article, written by Anita Wadhwani, reads as if the goal was to stoke fear in spite of facts that do not warrant it. After much journalism declares the existential threat posed by unvaccinated, unmasked children, this quote comes out: "Of the 12,783 individuals who lost their lives to COVID, just six have been children under the age of 10 and 5 among children and young people under the age of 21, according to health department data." Even still, the MNPS Board voted to bring back the mask mandate to schools yesterday.
- Tennessee farmer gets another win in lawsuit against USDA (Center Square)
- Farmer's case challenges a provision in the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) that allows for automatic loan forgiveness up to 120% of the federal loan for farmers or ranchers who are “socially disadvantaged,” which is defined as “Black, American Indian/Alaskan Native, Hispanic, or Asian, or Hawaiian/Pacific Islander.”
- Tennessee targets water, sewer, broadband projects for new COVID relief spending (Center Square)
- The spending will include $1.35 billion on sewer-and-water infrastructure and $500 million on broadband expansion.
- Guy Fieri opens newest chicken joint in town (WSMV)
- The 5 Spot joins growing list of Nashville venues requiring proof of vaccination for entry (WSMV)
- Tennessee's vaccination pace nearly doubles as delta variant reignites COVID-19 (Tennessean)
- Music City Grand Prix: A Fan’s Guide to a Grand Ole Grand Prix (Scene)
- Franklin couple starts slow, then goes full bore on produce, flowers (Homepage)
- Downtown land sells for $34M (Biz Journal)
- Hermitage Avenue land sells for $1.3M (Post)
- Boutique hotel eyed for East Nashville (Post)
- Gulch tower restaurant space sells for $5.8M+ (Post)
- Midtown recording studio property sells for $3M (Post)
Good to Know
🧠 The three-or-four-hours rule for getting creative work done (Read)
For Your Curiosity
🪒 Peter the Great’s Beard Tax (Read)