Dissent: Summer 2019

This summer’s issue of Dissent focuses around the concept of the nation, with discussions about nationalism, open borders, colonialism and immigration. It’s an interesting edition and has some good articles and reviews as well. There’s an interview with former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, the history of Ghanan independence, and the recent political history of Turkey.

The Frontier Closes In: Perhaps the one article that I’ve found myself thinking about the most is this review of Greg Grandin’s The End of the Myth: From the Frontier to the Border Wall in the Mind of America. Given the spate of mass shootings that plagued El Paso and Dayton this past week, people are searching for answers to the question why these young white men are committing these atrocities, and how the President’s rhetoric is spurring on this racism and white nationalism. Grandin’s theory is that as American expansionism ran out of room as the frontier was closed, American interests took a colonialist turn toward the Pacific and Caribbean. Following the invasion of Iraq it’s had nowhere to turn, and has since focused on the southern border with Mexico. This historical expansionism has long been used to distract or delay the reckoning of America’s social ills, and now that it is no longer available, we find ourselves having to deal with these problems.

Two Paths for Millenial Politics: Timothy Shenk asks what millenials are going to do next, and who they’re going to look to for political leadership moving forward. As the first millennial candidate for president, Buttigieg gets a thorough critique here, and is contrasted with Bernie Sanders, millenial’s seemingly current favorite. The author is not kind to Mayor Pete, and catalogs Mayor Pete’s political shrewdness and the difference between the presentation of his memoir and his stump speech.

Jacobin founder Bhaskar Sunkara’s The Socialist Manifesto (on my to-read list) gets a good bit of mention in this article, mainly as a riposte to Buttigieg’s liberal posturing. There’s a lot of talk about the ongoing war within the Democratic party and the future of political organizing around climate change.

Share this one with Pete Buttigieg fans.

Ursula K Le Guin’s Revolutions: I’ll admit that even though I’ve been a huge sci-fi fan over the years, I’ve never read any of Le Guin’s work. I may have picked one of the Earthsea novels when I was a pre-teen, but I don’t think I made it very far into it before abandoning it. Sarah Jones’s short piece is a nice homage to Le Guin and the unique voice and politics that she brought to the genre over her decades-long career.

There’s a good portion about The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas (pdf), which is a short four page story that is one of Le Guin’s best known works. While Jone’s description of it didn’t make me give it another thought, it did coincidentally turn up in my attention a day or two later when I turned on one of Sam Harris’s lessons in the Waking Up app where he read the entire thing. I clearly recall having a visceral reaction to it. Harris’s piece doesn’t seem to be available outside of the app, but he specifically mentions this episode of the Very Bad Wizards podcast, where they discuss the story at length.

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