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In a society so ideologically hostile to failure and weakness, and sold on go-getting, even those have made it tend to camouflage their pasts. One result of this self-suppression is a calamitous loss of morale, even identity. Assessing the effects of her experience of poverty on her sense of worth, [Joyce Carol] Oates once confided to her journal, “I place myself psychologically below even the decent respectable working-class background of my childhood.” [In Elizabeth Strout’s fiction,] Lucy[ Barton]’s cousin Abel, who used to hunt for food with her in dumpsters, becomes a corporate chieftain in Chicago, his suits tailored by a man from London, but wealth and suave consumption habits bring no salvation; his wife, appalled to hear of his early indignities, urges him never to share them with their children.

Pankaj Mishra, “Writing the Other America”

Whatever pays you, you can’t get it out of you. You have to own that it sustains you.

Leslie Jamison, “The Assistant’s Loft”, in “Petty Cash”

[A] philosopher [is] one whose profession is to delight in understanding.

Anne Carson, Eros the Bittersweet

It turns out that budget constraints, in all their artificiality, had spared us from facing the all-too-limited willingness and capacity for collective action. Now if you hear someone arguing that we cannot afford to bring billions of people out of poverty or we cannot afford to transition the energy system away from fossil fuels, we know how to respond: Either you are invoking technological obstacles, in which case we need a suitably scaled, Warp Speed-style program to overcome them, or it is simply a matter of priorities. There are other things you would rather do.

Adam Tooze, “What If the Coronavirus Pandemic Is Just a Trial Run?”

[P]eople can’t, unhappily, invent their mooring posts, their lovers and their friends, anymore than they can invent their parents. Life gives these and also takes these away, and the great difficulty is to say Yes to life.

James Baldwin, Giovanni’s Room

[T]hey recognized right away that I was a real person. And they’ve probably never seen one before.

Eustace Conway, in Elizabeth Gilbert, The Last American Man

In all these [constructivist] views, an instance of anger or elation does not reveal its causal mechanisms—a marked contrast to the classical view, in which each emotion has a dedicated mechanism in the brain, and the same word (e.g., “sadness”) names the mechanism and its product. In recent years, a new generation of scientists has been crafting psychological construction-based theories for understanding emotions and how they work. Not every theory agrees on every assumption, but together they assert that emotions are made, not triggered; emotions are highly variable, without fingerprints; and emotions are not, in principle, distinct from cognitions and perceptions.

Lisa Feldman Barrett, How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain

Back when [“Chapo Trap House”] had a near-monopoly on socialist podcasting, there was a common misconception that the only way to be a proper radical, at least online, was to mimic the temperament of the dirtbag left. Ideological preferences were conflated with affective ones; people who objected to “Chapo” on aesthetic grounds were sometimes suspected of being insufficiently committed to the cause. This presupposed that American politics consists of a single spectrum, on which Nazi-punching is to the left of civil disobedience and insults are to the left of arguments. But there isn’t just one spectrum; at the very least, there’s a quadrant grid, with policy goals on one axis and temperament on the other. The x-axis ranges from a fully planned economy to anarcho-capitalism; the y-axis ranges from solicitous Socratic dialogue to misanthropic bullying. They vary independently.

Andrew Marantz, “The Post-Dirtbag Left”

[Edward] Snowden said commercial malware such as Pegasus was so powerful that ordinary people could in effect do nothing to stop it. Asked how people could protect themselves, he said: “What can people do to protect themselves from nuclear weapons?

“There are certain industries, certain sectors, from which there is no protection, and that’s why we try to limit the proliferation of these technologies. We don’t allow a commercial market in nuclear weapons.”

David Pegg and Paul Lewis, “Edward Snowden Calls for Spyware Trade Ban amid Pegasus Revelations”

[M]aybe that was all I really wanted—to feel all the same things I was used to feeling, and to do the same things I was used to doing, the only difference being that I had a little more time, and a little less work, and a slightly higher opinion of myself.

Lydia Davis, “The Letter to the Foundation”