I can’t bring myself to post a photograph, so here is an orange singing the Habanera from Carmen.
Trump is patriarchy unbuttoned, paunchy, in a baggy suit, with his hair oozing and his lips flapping and his face squinching into clownish expressions of mockery and rage and self-congratulation. He picked as a running mate buttoned-up patriarchy, the lean, crop-haired, perpetually tense Mike Pence, who actually has experience in government, signing eight anti-abortion bills in his four years as governor of Indiana, and going after Planned Parenthood the way Trump went after hapless beauty queens. The Republican platform was, as usual, keen to gut reproductive rights and pretty much any rights that appertained to people who weren’t straight, or male, or white.
Misogyny was everywhere. It came from the right and the left, and Clinton was its bull’s-eye, but it spilled over to women across the political spectrum. Early on some of Trump’s fury focused on the Fox presenter Megyn Kelly, who had questioned him about his derogatory comments about other women’s appearance. He made the bizarre statement on CNN that ‘you could see there was blood coming out of her eyes. Blood coming out of her wherever.’ He also denigrated his opponents’ wives and the businesswoman Carly Fiorina’s face; he obligingly attacked Alicia Machado, the former Miss Universe, in a flurry of middle-of-the-night tweets after Clinton baited him about his treatment of her; he attacked the women who accused him of assaulting them after the grab-them-by-the-pussy tape was released.
How can a music icon and jillion-selling artist still be underrated? Well George Michael was, because he only released new music when he wanted to, he didn’t think every moment of his life was for public consumption, and he expected no praise for his kindness and generosity. Thank you, George Michael.
Let’s start the playlist with Outside, which responds to a very public shaming with defiance and strength.
And the Year of Obituaries continues with the death of Carrie Fisher, who as Princess Leia taught the women of my generation how to fight, resist tyranny, and be the equal of any man, and as a writer showed us that no one has to be perfect, our flaws are what make us strong. The Force is with you, General Leia.
2016 has been HORRENDOUS, and it still hasn’t stopped sucking. Surrounded by such gruesomeness, we tend to lose all perspective. We even start thinking that this horror is normal. Well, it isn’t. This will pass—we don’t know how long it will take, but it will. In the meantime there is something we can do. We can live AS IF the world is a good place, AS IF people are kind, AS IF honesty, decency and justice prevail. This is not denial or airy-fairy optimism, but a form of resistance based on our favorite instrument, irony.
From Letters to A Young Contrarian by Hitchens:
Vaclav Havel, then working as a marginal playwright and poet in a society and state that truly merited the title of Absurd, realised that “resistance” in its original insurgent and militant sense was impossible in the Central Europe of the day. He therefore proposed living “as if” he were a citizen of a free society, “as if” lying and cowardice were not mandatory patriotic duties, “as if” his government had actually signed (which it actually had) the various treaties and agreements that enshrine universal human rights. He called this tactic “The Power of the Powerless” because, even when disagreement can be almost forbidden, a state that insists on actually compelling assent can be relatively easily made to look stupid.
And this stratagem sounds like something out of Clueless! Later in the same chapter:
The process often involved an inversion in the usual relationship between the ironic and the literal. The “People Power” moment of 1989, when whole populations brought down their absurd leaders by an exercise of arm-folding and sarcasm, had its origins partly in the Philippines in 1985, when the dictator Marcos called an opportunist “snap election” and the voters decided to take him seriously. They acted “as if” the vote were free and fair, and they made it so.
No matter how recent history is revised and spun, no matter what disillusionment followed, it was the right thing to do.
While we poke into the wreckage of 2016, we should remember that it wasn’t completely dreadful, even if it feels like it. Hey, gravitational waves were detected. There’s Proxima B and SpaceX. There were wonderful moments in pop culture.
In our personal lives, it can’t have been all dire. Everyone had small victories and big victories. Let’s acknowledge them, and allow ourselves to gloat a little. Tell us about the good stuff that happened to you this year in Comments. I have three things:
1. After two and a half decades of stopping and starting, I finally wrote a novel I didn’t shred.
2. After a lifetime of trying to get my hair to behave, I got a hairstyle I like. (Jay Lozada is a genius.)
3. After a ten-year absence, I visited New York. My timing was off: I figured that by the time I landed, the celebrations would be on. The opposite happened. But New York was exactly the way I wanted it to be: thrilling, tough, slightly scary, vigorous (if somewhat shellshocked), thought-provoking, and also strangely kind. (Lav Diaz said that when he was penniless and without prospects, he would take refuge in the New York Public Library and it became his school. He’s learned something.)
The evidence suggests that people do not practise critical thinking. Or do not want to think. Or do not think at all. It’s so much easier to surrender your decision-making processes to the nearest strongman who claims to have the answers to everything. Freedom comes with responsibility, and who has the energy for that? Yeah, join the hive mind and hide behind the supposed strength of numbers. If you agree with everyone, you can’t possibly be wrong, right?
Nope, it just makes you a scared little waste of evolution. Throughout history people have died to fight and to escape from slavery, but you choose to be a slave. You do not have to be anyone’s tool. Think.
You can choose to be free. We are responsible for ourselves and our fellow humans.
* Star Wars analogy redacted because every viewer naturally assumes she is the hero and not the oppressor.
It’s by rickyvvvvv, and it’ll get you through the many traffic jams you have to endure this week. We’re posting a new playlist every Monday so we need a lot of music. Send your happy playlists to firstname.lastname@example.org or post them in comments.