Lift Every Voice

I've got a few new subscribers, so I want to make sure I welcome everyone properly.

Lift Every Voice

Hi all!

I've got a few new subscribers, so I want to make sure I welcome everyone properly. I'm Ashok, I teach community college, and I like talking about poetry, art, philosophy, and the news. If you like, you can read a bit more about me here: About Ashok.

The last few weeks I've read Camus, Joan Didion, and Rita Dove. I'm working through a small book on Fascism and taking a bunch of notes on it. That small book is masterful in how it summarizes debates and thinkers. What I'm wondering about and sharing right now revolves around politics and aesthetics. Camus in "Create Dangerously" talked about this outright; Didion's "On Self Respect" introduces a concept good regimes should help foster; Rita Dove's Playlist for the Apocalypse, well, says it all.

If you've got any questions or comments, please do reach out! Here's a short list of media I've consumed recently that I think you'll appreciate:

Lift Every Voice and Sing

As soon as you hear this, you'll look at the number of views–only 163k in 3 years!–and start sharing it everywhere. There are some pieces of music that you listen to and learn something new each time. Bach's "Passacaglia in C minor," for example, or Rachmaninov's Vespers. I'll just say that I've been listening to this over and over and there's a lot going on.

The True Power of Truth Social

On The Media's "Trump Found Guilty; The Right-Wing Media Were Prepared For It" is so much deeper than a news explainer. Like, you think you know how the internet and social media work, as we're here every day. And so it's shocking to hear that a site like Truth Social, an absolute joke of a site, has credibly made Trump a multi-billionaire because of the shares he owns. And that, even with a small audience, it exercises massive power over right-wing messaging, creating rhetoric which seeps not only into mainstream narratives but into no less than Joe Biden's own thinking (e.g. his terrible use of the word "illegal" during the SOTU; a border policy which means to portray him as right-wing lite). I came away from this episode convinced I knew nothing about how influence works, except maybe this: your influence has nothing to do with your numbers.

I recommend listening to the entirety of that OTM episode. The interview with Lynsey Addario, a war photographer, reflects deeply not just on our need to know, but art, tragedy, adrenaline, and trauma. Addario talks about the "relationships" that are crucial to photojournalism. How in the blink of an eye she's seen entire families she knew killed. There's a lot here pushing me toward pacifism, full stop.

The Congestion Pricing Disaster is not just an NYC thing

I had a discussion about whether we're hearing about NY Gov. Hochul pulling the plug on a congestion pricing plan because NYC is where a number of major news organizations are headquartered. There's obviously some truth to that, but still, the issue resonates well beyond NYC. I live in Texas. The fact that the congestion pricing plan is law meant to fund a subway system in dire need speaks to a theme I'm all too familiar with: executive overreach.

In Texas, of course, executive overreach is ubiquitous. It may involve Greg Abbott provoking fights with the federal government over the border. Or violating the spirit (and likely letter) of the state constitution with his push for vouchers. Either way, the legislature as a lawmaking body representative of the people is ignored. Something similar is going on in New York: the Governor is panicking because Republicans are angry, so she's taken it upon herself to suspend popular legislation. I will not comment on the current situation in the White House, in part because Congressional dysfunction makes a more active executive necessary. However, I will say some critical voices in Congress are being ignored when it comes to foreign policy or seeing justice done.

Still, for those of us wondering how we'll die in a traffic accident, congestion pricing works. London lowered their number of accidents and fatalities. I don't want to say any one policy is a panacea, but when you've got a potentially good policy THAT IS ALREADY LAW and the plug is pulled on it, that speaks volumes.

Marisa Kabas' op-ed, "New Yorkers are faced with a terrifying question after Gov. Hochul's costly gambit," is fantastic. Here's an excerpt which I'm sure we'll be returning to:

The impact of Hochul’s decision will surely reach beyond the city’s boundaries: New York was set to be the first U.S. city to implement congestion pricing, but it would not have been the first in the world. When Stockholm implemented a similar program in 2006, the city saw an immediate 20% drop in traffic. They also saw reductions in childhood asthma cases and a decrease in pollution. London and Paris, too, have congestion pricing. But thanks to Hochul’s decision to abandon it here, she may have doomed the idea — and the potential for positive impact — for the entire country. And with the state of Texas asking residents Friday to avoid using cars due to dangerous levels of ozone, it’s urgently needed stateside. 

Abraham Josephine Riesman, "My Grandfather the Zionist"

Every minute on "Al Gore's own Internet" (not my phrase, I know someone else said it) an essay is published that can permanently change the way you think. Riesman's reckoning with her grandfather's immense legacy–he was a war hero who understood how dangerous fascism was–will not let you go. Watch how she presents a world full of rocks and hard places, making navigation near impossible:

In 1948, the Zionists declared the formation of the State of Israel in the midst of a civil war between Palestinians and Jews, then went on to defeat invading Arab armies and reach an armistice. In the process, more than 700,000 Palestinians were driven from Israeli territory by systematic force or threat, although American coverage of that exodus was patchy and often biased toward the Israeli narrative. My grandfather, likely unaware of the extent of the Palestinians’ plight, held esteem for newborn Israel (as he put it, “I identified with Israel, as I did with America, as the great liberating force”), but it was largely for a pragmatic reason: No one else wanted the European Jews who had survived.

Riesman's prose does not shy away from the full horror of this situation that colonialism/imperialism created. 700,000 people are forced to move; no other country wants to bring in survivors of the Holocaust. She uses the word "exodus" to describe the Nakba, bringing to mind an incredible piece by Arielle Angel written at the outset of this war: "We Cannot Cross Until We Carry Each Other."