Judith Butler isn’t new to me, but neither am I acquainted in any real depth with the ideas they’ve developed or been attached to. I listened to the recorded conversation of a couple of years ago, below, last weekend, and thought the closing comment on the problem of nonviolence — problem I think about a good deal and am far from having an idea of straightforward resolution to — worth bookmarking here.
Now I think if we’re to be nonviolent, we include everyone as important relationships, as constitutive of who we are, even those who live very far away from us or whose names we do not know and whose languages we do not speak. And to say that I value those relationships is to say that . . . to do violence to another is actually to break that relationship. And to break that relationship, even if I don’t know them — I still have an ethical obligation to them, we live in an interdependent world and my ethical obligation is based upon that interdependency, so if I do violence to somebody, I break my tie . . . . But I also attack myself. Because I am not just this person over here, I’m also my relationship to that person. I have refused to acknowledge that I am as a living creature bound to this other living creature. And if I attack that creature, I attack the bond between us, the relationship between us.
That very likely isn’t the clearest expression Butler’s given to this thought. It’s good for some reflection nevertheless. I’m not sure it holds up in entirety. Discussion’s warranted, certainly, but will have to be for elsewhere.
Quote above is part of the brief treatment of the first point, about relationship and obligation. The remainder of this bears listening to, as does the the second point, touching the question of violence and pursuit of a better world.
The National Library of Israel has a YouTube channel, still relatively new but rich in good listening. This crossed my desk (for reasons I suggest in a recent longer post) after I’d taken in a good handful of lectures by Michal Bar-Asher Siegal, hosted elsehwere, on Talmud and early Christianity. For this institution Bar-Asher Siegal coordinated a ‘What Is Talmud?’ series last year that I’m still in the middle of.
The video I’m highlighting, though, is the first posted on the channel, January 2022. This is a talk by New York comics scholar Tahneer Oksman about (mainly) graphic novels by Jewish women. She draws in especially on some of the memoir-like fiction of Israeli Rutu Modan. Modan’s major work isn’t at all new, but I was unaware of her, I confess, until I watched this over the weekend. The Chicago library system has a number of her books, happily. I’ve got several on hold as of last night.
With their episode on Philip Rieff’s Triumph of the Therapeutic of two weeks ago, Know Your Enemy guys Matt & Sam have done three Freud- or Freudians-themed shows now. Let’s call it a trilogy. That one I’ve listened to several times already, and this eventually (today) turned me back to the earlier two.
The second, on Lasch, I’ve mentioned before, in a longer post last year. For my money, it remains the most fun to listen to of these. But each is really good.
[UPDATE: The Lasch episode is of the three also the least directly concerned with 20th-century Freudian currents. A decent supplement here might be James de Llis’ (James Ellis) 2020 conversation with Lasch biographer Eric Miller.]
Listening to James Tabor’s new video chat, below, a one-hour overview of the Bible’s Hebrew prophets treated as single body of literature, led me back for a second listen to Zeb Larson’s conversation with Gene Zubovich, recorded last year for the New Books Network, about Zubovich’s book on Liberal Protestants ascendant in the middle of the N. American 20th century. The Evangelicalism I was brought up in in the ’70s and ’80s was reaction to the Liberal Protestants and rejection of their Bible. The Bible they loved and were energized by was for people like me something rendered effectively foreign. I like this talk from Tabor as among other things a glimpse of their Old Testament and of the religious-political passions it sustained.
Late last month, the U. of Oxford’s Reuters Institute held a video-conference session on current tech-biz topics and the broad problem of doing journalism, concerned to great extent with social media and Mastodon’s answer to Twitter’s Musk turn. Seems to me worth a note here. It happens to have come a day after my longer post about these things. I’m not sure I would have addressed it directly had I listened to it before I wrote that, but it strikes me as good, in any case, for informing reflections on whether social media as large factor in 21st-century global commerce and culture might or might not have today reached a stage of exhaustion.
On many points, you can be sure, this session’s featured expert Dave Lee and I aren’t on the same page. I certainly don’t endorse the tech-boosterism of his comments, toward end, about ‘A.I.’ tools now being pushed in media-industry and consumer applications — ChatGPT &c. (on which). About assumed progress-tending capitalist inevitability underlying in his views throughout, I’d say, we ought to be much in doubt in a general way. With those caveats, I recommend giving him a listen.
There’s a ‘takeaways’ digest provided by the Reuters Institute, by the way, that it may be useful to have a glance at — but only secondarily, in my judgment. I’d be wary of it as synopsis merely.
I’ve found myself drawn into a good deal of Bible and ancient-near-east listening this first month of the year. The greater part of that has been to talks given only a few weeks ago at a conference organized at the University of Haifa in memory of Shaul Shaked, late leading light on Persia and Judeo-Persian culture. (Came across this, I should say, not via any past exposure to Shaked but rather by way of paying a little attention to Yonatan Adler, now busily book-touring his new The Origins of Judaism, whose own talk closes the event.)
These are people at top of their field, old hands, engaging each other as professionals. For most of us, by no means easy listening. Presentations are in English, at least! Wonderful stuff to encounter on YouTube, nevertheless, and it deserves noting. You don’t have to understand everything said, you know, to be able to learn quite a lot. I’ve picked one session, University of Bologna religion scholar Antonio Panaino’s, to include here, below, as suggestion of the scope of the whole — in part because his topic crosses over into early-Christianity territory.
That conference’s people have helpfully thrown up a YouTube channel just (apparently) to house the lecture recordings — link below. It happens, meanwhile, that another channel begun last year is covering similar ground in a more general way and for wider audience, and a lot of the invited lecturers of this December event in Haifa can be heard in conversation there, too. This is an English-language project, Kedem (qedem, קדם), from energetic Russian-Israeli media producer Alex Tseitlin. Very new to me, but I’m already a fan, I think. [UPDATE 1: Some of the Kedem channel’s more appealing stuff is actually re-posting of a series of chats with Israel Finkelstein recorded for the Albright Institute, whose own channel still has the whole thing up for viewing. I’ve added a link to that in the list below.] [UPDATE 2 (22 Mar ’23): Adding one more link below, a seminar conducted by Finkelstein at Uni Zürich in 2018, aimed at scholars but offering snapshot of a lot of current issues in the field, more compressed than the Haifa conference, to anybody interested.]
Southern-UK student Simon Roper’s popular YouTube channel is a favorite of mine. Here he weaves some history around a shift rapidly overtaking in ordinary spoken English, in western-world English-language cultures at least, within roughly the half-century of my own lifetime — and very much still, without doubt, to various degrees a matter of low-grade mundane cognitive (and perhaps also social) discomfort for many of us.
Going to commend to you for viewing / listening a recent video, below, by Vlad Vexler, whose stuff I follow fairly casually and by no means uncritically, for the compressed and (in his own word) ‘cartoonish’ account it offers of the enduring idea of Russian civilization as Christian heir of Hellenistic-Roman imperial world and Hellenic root. Perhaps especially noteworthy in it, for me, is brief mention of 1930s & ’40s Soviet architectural neoclassicism. (Stalin, too, indeed, by a certain implication, belongs to the line of Christian princes — if I can be forgiven a following-on in the cartoonish mode much too rash probably for most folks’ toleration.)
Just to be clear, I’m not so interested in where Vexler is going with his story in the video’s last third or so. His analysis and hedged bets about what’s next for Putin & regime may or may not be worth considering, I don’t know. Likewise those of that yet more prolific and compelling content creator Timothy Snyder! If Vexler’s very compact ‘cartoon’ of a history of Russian national-imperial genealogy in the video appeals to you, though, I’d like to suggest also checking out some, at least, of Snyder’s semester of lectures on Ukraine, completed last month, in which this theme features throughout (and gets developed in less cartoonish fashion — arguably!).
At the time of this posting, by the way, Vexler’s video has been designated ‘age-restricted’ by YouTube and can only be viewed on their site. YouTube’s judgment could be reversed at some point, so I’m keeping the video in my post. Your guess as to why it merits (for now?) the badge of shame is good as mine. [UPDATE: YouTube has rescinded (for now?) the badge of shame, and the video will play below.]
I think the answer to ‘Can we all bring back blogging, together?’ probably has to be No.
I mean, for one thing, blogging never went away (see e.g. the site you’re looking at right now), it merely suffered diminishment. At a certain point a dozen or so years ago the world’s digitally-connected started to see blogging as something without much of a future of its own. And — for a second thing, then — this now more or less universally shared perception is unlikely to change by a great deal, ever, I would say, judging by how things stand at the start of 2023. (For a third thing, though: blogging really sort of made its comeback already a few short years ago, under the name of newslettering, with no want of fanfare.)
None of which is to say that I’m down on this little project from two designer-creators, Ash Huang and Ryan Putnam, to give blogging a boost while ‘social media’ appears to be on the ropes. Quite the contrary! I’ve signed up (just this morning, so a little late according to project setup bounds, I guess) to participate, in fact. I suppose this post itself qualifies as participatory.
Listening off and on today to video of a public event I knew of beforehand and might, a few weeks ago, have chosen to attend in person. (Still really only partly wish I’d gone, delight in many ways though it clearly would have been to experience first-hand. I’m a crowd-avoider.)
How many long-time spouses of men who have so little difficulty talking about themselves and their work, and whose habits in doing so are as set as Spiegelman’s evidently are, will very readily sustain the pleasurable creative effort Mouly pursues, live on stage here, in drawing him along from thought to thought? I suppose there’s professional remove, in part, that she’s able to bring to it in this setting. She sees him as someone — someone of his generation, it may be right to say — whose story and whose stories need to be heard (in this I’d agree wholeheartedly), and she makes the most of the conversational opportunity. In any case, what one imagines could easily have been an interesting older guy’s tedious, perhaps only occasionally illuminating holding-forth is here instead a measured exploration of memories and vital individual perspective.