Note — Jul 12, 2020

Jia Tolentino on Practicing the Discipline of Hope

In a weird twist of (non?) serendipity, I’ve seen Tolentino’s name and articles pop up and be raved about in recent years but somehow never got around to reading any. Shocking, I know. In this interview she shares some really smart, on point, and clearly presented opinions on what the pandemic has revealed, where the world is headed, on having kids, racism and inequality, and freedom. As usual, there are a few quotes below but I felt like highlighting the whole thing.

That capitalist individualism has turned into a death cult; that the internet is a weak substitute for physical presence; that this country criminally undervalues its most important people and its most important forms of labor; that we’re incentivized through online mechanisms to value the representation of something (like justice) over the thing itself; that most of us hold more unknown potential, more negative capability, than we’re accustomed to accessing; that the material conditions of life in America are constructed and maintained by those best set up to exploit them; and that the way we live is not inevitable at all. […]

Melted permafrost, dead coral reefs, no more birds, whales engorged with plastic, much of the world’s population living as refugees from one thing or another, permanently disturbed weather, semi-constant natural disaster, cause and effect disrupted for all but the wealthiest—scarcity increasing the rationale for selfishness rather than for cooperation, and also Twitter still exists. […]

I don’t think the future is going to be good. I don’t think there’s an ethical justification for having kids in a world that’s accelerating in these directions. But I am committed to the idea that the world can be better, and I have some amount of faith that being human, being able to love, is still an untouchably and unpredictably generative thing—worthwhile, across unknown contexts, in and of itself. […]

But on an individual level, I’ve been thinking about what it means to normalize the everyday surrendering of advantage—to put an ideology of equality in practice at a time when it’s obvious that voting once a year or whatever is not going to be enough. […]

I’m also suspicious of the way that Not Being Racist is a project that people seem to be approaching like boot camp. To deepen your understanding of race, of this country, should make you feel like the world is opening up, like you’re dissolving into the immensity of history and the present rather than being more uncomfortably visible to yourself.