Friday, December 05, 2008

Thoughts on Reading (Well, Skimming) This Week's New Yorker

  • Is it just me, or does Naomi Klein sound like a truly irritating person? I can tell Larissa McFarquahar thinks she is, but is she really?
  • On the other hand, I am less irritated by Tracy Morgan's character on 30 Rock than Nancy Franklin is.
  • Articles by Ian Frazier and Adam Gopnik. Bonanza! If only Malcolm Gladwell had one, too, the Trifecta of New Yorker Awesomeness would be complete.
  • This whole issue gives the impression that the entire New York Metropolitan Area is battening down the economic hatches in a big way. But for most people I know, things are not so different than they were a few months ago. Maybe the economic crisis is less severe here in Vancouver. Or maybe the New Yorker people are looking more at the high fliers, who are bound to be more affected. Or maybe I just live under a rock.
Apropos of nothing, except maybe the Naomi Klein article: Could someone remind me what is the matter with liberalism? From the left, I mean, not the right. It came up in an online discussion a few weeks ago and has been nagging at me ever since.

I'm embarrassed to ask, because this is one of those things I should know already. But either I never did really know and only pretended to, or I once knew and have forgotten in the vagaries of middle age.

I asked RW, daughter of old lefties, and she started singing the old Phil Ochs song, "Love Me, I'm a Liberal." She then glossed it, explaining that liberals are reputed to be hypocrites who only care about being liked.

And, okay, but I mean aside from that.

5 Comments:

Blogger Arwen said...

Uh, in some critical leftist circles I've run into it's the noble-savage Rousseauian hangover. Come in with our big enlightened western solutions and sort of organize things smugly and wonder why everyone's yelling at us. Solutions that nobody wants, imposing rather than listening, making it about a Palidan rather than fascilitating someone else's vision.


And for other more ... anarchist leftist circles, it's all the focus on propriety and manners and education and niceness instead of action and smashing the... whatever we're smashing today.

Those are two critiques I've seen, at least, from the left, and usually from the intersectional stuff.

Probably more out there.

9:41 PM  
Blogger Arwen said...

Also! I'm sure Naomi Klein would be a hard person to hang out with. Hugely. She is a... believer, I guess. You know? I'm not so good with believing 'properly'.

But never-the-less I'm hugely proud of her; she's a very sharp agitator, with an interesting and important re-frame, and she's making a real difference in the more moderate dialogue. One of the very biggest parts of this recent bubble was the hysterical belief in the free market being a cure-all and nothing to counter it; she is one of those with a sharp pin.

I do tend to find the sharp pins personally hard to cope with, but I think they're important to the dialogue overall, I suppose. Bad at forming coalitions and working together, though. They tend to be purists. She strikes me as a purist.

( 'Course, she's pissed at Amnesty. So she's in my bidness. )

9:53 PM  
Blogger elswhere said...

After Googling "Naomi Klein Amnesty International" I feel like I must have gotten dumber in my middle age, because I looked at two different articles and still don't totally understand what she's got against Amnesty. I mean, Amnesty wasn't DESIGNED to be anti-Capitalist, they were designed to be anti-torture. It's like me getting mad at my screwdriver because it won't hammer nails. Different tools for different jobs, you know?

10:08 PM  
Blogger elswhere said...

And your (Arwen's that is) explanation of the critique of liberalism is more or less what I thought. I just thought maybe there was more to it.

What happened was, I got slammed for merrily expressing relief that the Canadian Thanksgiving isn't all mixed up with a dubious story of happy Pilgrim & Indian feasting. Someone pointed out (accurately) that Canada's history vis a vis the First Nations is extremely bloody & terrible, and then sarcastically said something like, "but if we can ignore it then it's all okay! Yay liberalism!"

Which, well, I got pissed off and replied in a high-horse way that's kind of embarrassing in retrospect. And which everyone ignored, and now I'm sure no one even remembers it but me.

But I think part of my indignation came from her hitting a sore spot. nobody's tossed "liberal!" at me that way in quite a while, maybe never, directly (oh, except one guy who was mad that I wouldn't give money to his cause when he came canvassing once) and I probably am one, whatever it means, and if it's a BAD THING than I'd like to know exactly what kind of bad lefty I am. So I can be ready next time, if I ever end up in a fray again.

I'm such a bad lefty that I HATE frays, so being in one took me unawares.

10:16 PM  
Anonymous rachel said...

It's funny (or maybe it isn't) but I've been finding myself WANTING to talk about politics this past week, what with all the excitement in Parliament (even if it all turned out somewhat crappily). I was all ready to give my take on Liberalism, and its Problems, but first I turned with great eagerness to find out who Naomi Klein is and what THAT was all about...

And, well. Bleah. She makes me want to go stick my head up my ass again.

I need to think some more before I say anything more, though, because I find it difficult to dissect my response.

1:20 PM  

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