Sever the Sightlines

[S]haming has social meaning. It characteristically results in a desire to sever the sightlines between the self and the other. We talk about wanting to hide our faces and the characteristic look of shame—the head bowed, the eyes lowered. But that’s not the only way of achieving such separation. Rather than hide, one can instead do away with the onlooker. ‘He who is ashamed would like to force the world not to look at him, not to notice his exposure. He would like to destroy the eyes of the world,’ as Erik Erikson famously put it (1963, 227).

— Kate Manne, Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny

Civilization Is Relative

The Invention of Race // Throughline Podcast

“[Franz] Boaz introduced ideas into American life that shape how we think about the world to this day. Race is a construct, culture is relative, Western civilization is not inherently greater. History is not linear, and neither is human progress.”

Controlling Experience

Writing is control. The part of the university in which I teach should properly be called the Controlling Experience Department. Experience—mystifying, overwhelming, conscious, subconscious—rolls over everybody. We try to adapt, to learn, to accommodate, sometimes resisting, other times submitting to, whatever confronts us. But writers go further: they take this largely shapeless bewilderment and pour it into a mold of their own devising. Writing is all resistance””

— Zadie Smith, Intimations: Six Essays

Moral Monsters

I’m terrified at the moral apathy, the death of the heart, which is happening in my country. These people have deluded themselves for so long that they really don’t think I’m human. I base this on their conduct, not on what they say. And this means that they have become, in themselves, moral monsters.”

— James Baldwin

I Don’t Know How to Speak

I speak a lot, I mean, a lot of words, and I rush, and it always comes out wrong. And why is it that I speak a lot of words and it comes out wrong? Because I don’t know how to speak. Those who know how to speak well, speak briefly. So, there you have my giftlessness—isn’t it true? But since this gift of giftlessness is natural to me, why shouldn’t I use it artificially? And so I do. True, as I was preparing to come here, I first had the thought of being silent; but to be silent is a great talent, and is therefore not fitting for me, and, second, it’s dangerous to be silent, after all; well, so I finally decided that it would be best to talk, but precisely in a giftless way, I mean, a lot, a lot, a lot, to be in a great rush to prove something, and towards the end to get tangled up in one’s own proofs, so that the listener throws up his hands, or, best of all, just spits and walks away without any end.”

— Fyodor Dostoevsky, Demons (via Erica Avey)