The 2011 Bangkok floods were the worst natural disaster in Thai history. Hundreds died, millions were affected and the monetary toll reached the tens of billions. But the outcome could have been even worse had neighborhood-level informal social networks not quickly mobilized to carry out their own responses to the catastrophe. In cities like Bangkok, where government cannot always be counted on during times of crisis, these networks are crucial to people’s survival. But a growing body of research suggests such networks can benefit all cities â indeed, recent storms in New York and New Orleans have shown how important citizen-led response can be as sea levels rise and severe weather becomes more common. Dustin Roasa reports from Bangkok to recount the tale of how one neighborhood, isolated by the rising water, improvised its own disaster response, and how other cities are readying their own informal networks for the era of superstorms. This special issue of Forefront is part of The Rockefeller Foundationâs Informal City Dialogues, a year-long collaboration with Next City exploring stories and insights from six rapidly urbanizing cities around the world.
Film allows us to examine ourselves in ways earlier societies could not—examine ourselves, imitate ourselves, extend ourselves, reshape our reality. It permeates our lives, this double vision, and also detaches us, turns some of us into actors doing walk-throughs. In my work, film and television are often linked with disaster. Because this is one of the energies that charges the culture. TV has a sort of panting lust for bad news and calamity as long as it is visual. … This is the force of the culture and the power of the image. And this is also a story we’ve seen updated through the years. It’s the story of the disaffected young man who suspects there are sacred emanations flowing from the media heavens and who feels the only way to enter this holy vortex is through some act of violent theater.
Writing from nearby the Boston manhunt, Kirstin Butler ponders a remarkably prescient excerpt from a 1992 interview with Don DeLillo, discussing Libra, his novel about Lee Harvey Oswald. (via explore-blog)
Suddenly taken with the idea of an FBI run by Don DeLillo, where all the agents just ask cryptic but somehow penetrating questions rather than try to solve crimes.
(Source: , via explore-blog)
It actually took me a while to realize I was growing up.
Watching this kind of drama unfold a dozen times — Oklahoma City, Columbine, September 11th, two wars in Iraq, one in Afghanistan, Somalia — it’s easy to think that I’m living through turbulent times, a unique moment.
But, I also know I’m stepping into a river of history, swept along by a flow of tragedies that has been running for much longer than my lifetime. Unfathomable violence has long been a part of America’s history at home and abroad, and I’m only witnessing the most recent end of it. (I’ve been reading about civil rights workers in the deepest South lately, whose friends and communities were the target of heartbreaking vigilante violence, stuff that would leave me wasted for life, but who recognized it as routine.)
Basically, I don’t want to confuse the new with the new to me. I feel like the awareness that what I’m feeling isn’t just about something new, but also more universally held is necessary for wrestling down all the thoughts and emotions I have right now.
What stands out for me, today, is that I’m feeling less numb than ever. Maybe this is a blessing of my lifestyle, but as new episodes of public violence unfold — Troy Davis, Sandy Hook, Kimani Grey, Guantanamo Bay, Boston — I’m feeling myself more gutted, more invested, more vulnerable, and I think it’s the result of being closer to people and experiences that are connected to these events.
I mean, I know people in Boston in a way I didn’t know even a year ago. Shootings in schools have been a sad part of my life since I was in grade school myself, but it means something different knowing people who teach, or are starting to put kids through school themselves. I’m on the outside of much police violence, but I’ve seen enough capriciousness and cruelty on the part of the prison system to get just a sliver (a tiny, bitter taste) of what it might feel like to be endlessly held with no charges, or to see officers walk free after some new crime. I know people who have traveled to war zones and returned changed.
Maybe the point I’m trying to make is that I don’t think that these waves of violence are going to make us numb. I don’t think we’ll succumb in any new way. I think that people have succeeded in spinning love out of tragedy for as long as we’ve had pain and loss, and I think we’re going to keep doing it. There are perhaps certain ways in which these things will become more immediate and vivid thanks to newfangled technology, but it’s no more or less real than the extraordinary history we already have.
Ultimately, I have a great deal of faith in the people I know who are working hard (so. hard.) to make humanity into a softer, more deeply thoughtful version of itself. There are unspeakable things that people have witnessed, and set their minds to ending. That is the reason people aren’t shot down in the streets any more for demanding fair treatment at work; the reason that we put away certain weapons and not used them again; the reason that you see little red equals signs popping up in your Facebook feed instead of symbols of hate.
I think ultimately we’re all made of good stuff, and I want to keep shaping it into something ever more beautiful.
I woke up this morning to the news that Aaron Swartz had committed suicide yesterday. I knew Aaron only in passing, but admired his work, and it’s a pretty obvious loss to the world that he is gone.
I wanted to write this because for the last few months depression has once again been playing a prominent role in my personal and professional life both, and I’ve been thinking about how I was going to survive this thing that I now expect will be with me for my entire life.
As a bit of backstory, it’s been a long journey back to a point where I even think about depression in this way — as a disease (of sorts), that persists, rather than as merely a product of emotional circumstance. For a long time I stridently believed it wasn’t in any way a disease, since the medicalization of depression and mental illness works as a crutch for dominant political/economic systems that would rather institutionalize unhappy people than deal with its own bullshit. I still think that: I mean, if you’re not existentially, crushingly overwhelmed by the injustice in the world (at least sometimes), you’re likely not paying attention in all the ways you should be. The medical system that surrounds mental illness is still primarily one that diagnoses and then superficially treats symptoms of capitalism, be it poverty or alienation.
But not everyone is quite leveled by these things in the same way, and I realize now how susceptible some people can be to the overwhelming feeling of despair that I’ve felt at different points in my life. And these things can be inflicted on you too: if you’ve ever seen someone return from war profoundly changed, and unable to cope, you know what I mean. Depression is something that happens to you, and not always in predictable or fair ways.
(Side note: I think it’s really dangerous and revealing to see people pin blame for Aaron’s suicide on government prosecution. It’s obviously unfair and wrong for someone to be threatened like he was, but there are literally millions of people in this country who suffer equal or greater injustices at the hands of the prison industrial complex who do manage to cope. White folks, and people with privilege of different kinds are susceptible to depression and suicide more than others, and the assumption that this could lead someone to kill themselves reflects a privileged worldview that sees prison life as uncommon, rather than routine as it is for many people of color. Additionally, suicide, like mass shootings are contagious, and venerating someone as a martyr to a cause can very easily drive more people to self-harm. )
For my part, when it comes to dealing with my own particular depression, I’ve not (of late) felt like my options were the ones that Aaron apparently thought he had. But the options I thought I had felt rotten and it led me to think about how I was going to actually really confront this thing that was keeping me from friends, lovers and the work that I care so much about. For a couple months I had been walking around different options — in particular, diving deeper into the various interpersonal behaviors that I’ve come to recognize as a form of self harm (like abandoning relationships, quitting jobs, cutting down friends or colleagues, etc. etc.), or trying to enter therapy.
I know people who have used therapy to some success, and I briefly did so as a kid, but looking at what I realize now might be a lifetime of confronting this thing inside me, I really started to despair at the idea that this was my only or best option. For one, it’s expensive, and thinking about a lifetime of $100 an hour sessions felt incredibly burdensome. But more importantly, I didn’t want to leave this thing — which I had to remind myself, is often enough a fatal disease — in the hands of someone I had a business relationship with. It wasn’t right, it wasn’t sustainable, and I felt like I was putting myself in an incredibly precarious position. I didn’t know what would happen if I lost my job, or needed to leave it for other reasons, and I couldn’t let my mental wellness forever be tied to being able to cut checks to doctors on the regular.
Then there is the other thing which is harder to admit, but no less real, which is that I wasn’t quite ready to give up some part of myself to be treated. Depression is hard, it’s awful, but it’s part of the molten primordial stuff that formed the person who I am today, and I know for certain that without some of the episodes of deep, deep loneliness that I’ve passed through, I wouldn’t be in the place I am now, doing the things that I love.
There’s something internal to the attitude of therapy that I never could square with, in the strict medicalization of mental illness as an illness.
It’s incredibly hard to think of something that fundamental to who I am as a disease. It gave me something akin to vertigo, thinking that a basic part of my identity and perception was malformed, twisted in a way that separated me from the reality that other people were perceiving. It was hard to admit that my internal balance, the emotional and intellectual tools that I use to navigate my life were to be treated as if I were broken.
So, after I felt a few episodes of those self destructive behaviors arising in ways that were distressingly beyond my control, I sat down to figure out what I wanted to do. It was hard to parse out some of the things I was considering from those destructive behaviors (is quitting my job removing a source of stress that exacerbates my depression, or is it me ditching a source of joy to hurt myself again?). I also know for a fact I’m going to have to return to this moment again and again, and I had to keep myself from looking for solutions with the assumption that they would be a final resolution, a hope that had led me to hurt myself or others before. But, I think I came to what I hope is a good place, for now.
Here it is: I’m going to talk about this, with more people, and more openly. For one, I’m really really upset about the stigma that people attach to mental illness, and I want to play my part in confronting that, but I also think that starting this conversation with friends is going to be a part of my self-care. Instead of pouring my heart out to someone I’m cutting checks to, I want to walk through these rough patches with friends and allies so that we can be stronger together as a result. It’s not something I can do alone, and being frank about the episodes of depression keeps me from starting down the narcissistic spirals of self-pity that usually put me in my holes to begin with.
I don’t think I quite knew what that meant when I decided this the first time, and I think I should have thought through how to do this much more carefully, so that my first real attempt wouldn’t have had to come under these circumstances, but here it is. This is part of my life, part of who I am, and it’s something I’m going to deal with for the rest of my life. If you’re reading this far, I suspect you’ll be walking on this path with me in some way, and I hope we can walk together with the hope and love we’ll need to fix so many of the other challenges and sadnesses we will need to confront.
This is also my hope that the other people I know and work with who suffer in the same way will find ways to talk about this in their own way. This isn’t easy, but no one should have to take this alone, and I want to be a part of making it easier for folks like Aaron to find the support and community they need to stay alive.
Using tumblr all the sudden
he was staring at me, scowling. as i passed, he leaned in close to my face and asked if i was hungry. i wasn’t sure what to say, so i told him i was, that i’d skipped breakfast. he looked startled, blinked a couple of times, and then shouted “well grab a snickers, you skinny motherfucker. and then, beat your parents to death.”
This blog is terrific