This is the midweek version of Culture Study — the newsletter from Anne Helen Petersen, which you can read about here. If you like it and want more like it in your inbox, consider subscribing. The past year has been an exercise in mass compartmentalization: how can you take what’s happening around you, flatten it, then divide it into small enough sections that you can endure it? If you can just get through the summer, you’ll be okay. If you can just get through the week, you’ll be okay. If you can just get through the day, the afternoon, the hour.
I’ve been mostly working from home since March, but every so often, like today, I have to go in for meetings. I couldn’t sleep last night, and it’s been that way every night before I have to go in. I mentioned to my brother how it’s going to be hard adjusting my sleep schedule when work in the office becomes a regular thing again, and he said, “Well, you’ve been going in for high-stress stuff.” (Public meetings where I might be one of the few people wearing a mask in rooms with bad ventilation.) Which is true. My retired parents (in good shape for their age, but still with serious health conditions) live with me, and my nightmare right now is catching covid and passing it on to them.
Most days, when I can hole up at home except for walks outside, I actually feel okay. But when I have to go out and be confronted with people who are acting like everything’s normal, I can’t sleep. 😬
Are you familiar with William Gibson's most recent two books, The Peripheral and Agency? In those, our world experienced a slow motion catastrophe he calls the jackpot. It's a combination of climate disaster, war, toxic politics, and unrestrained capitalism. We are in the jackpot right freaking now.
Great, as ever, friend. I'm sure the last thing you need right now is more dystopian novel recommendations, but my favorite is Moon of the Crusted Snow by Waubgeshig Rice. It's set on an Indigenous Reserve in the far Canadian north. Cell and satellite TV goes out. Then power. No word comes from the "outside world." It really seems like how things could go. I listened to the audio version and loved it.
I loved reading this. So strongly written and true. Like Chris, I want to recommend a book -- Octavia Butler's "The Parable of the Sower," which is incredibly well written and scares the crap out of me because I think it's the most accurate depiction of climate change combined with slow societal erosion we have, and it was published in 1993.
Apologies in advance for the sentence-case long-form sincerity. I thought this was beautifully written and it absolutely captured the unsettled emotion of the moment.
And sure, "Nothing happens unless you move." But I remain troubled by the lack of a way forward: "Maybe that looks like organizing. Maybe that looks like voting." I've got lots of experience in organizing and voting, but at this point, how is that enough? Best case scenario, we move and fight and organize until a new (BIDEN!) administration arrives in January? And we get a slightly improved Congress still operating under obsolete rules? Or. until some half-baked legislative half-measures gets passed by some carefully centrist legislators? But mostly in already-blue states?
I'm yelling at people on twitter as fast and as loudly as I can, but mere "reimaginings of how society could work" is not getting us anywhere, and certainly not fast enough. Sorry. It's all you describe here, but worse.