In Which Solnit and BFP Split Some S*it Right Open

So it’s an era of content overload, and I’ve been thinking a lot about how to apply a sort of slow-food/deep-economy/earth-democracy ethic to media making and consumption, and that has me thinking about what kind of media really moves and disrupts and changes and inspires, and I find myself most valuing writing that is rigorous and processed, that simultaneously makes connections between often separated parts and adds layers to seemingly simple conversations, and/or that provokes readers to care about something they haven’t been caring too much about. For instance, on all three points, BFP on the John Edwards drama and Rebecca Solnit on the Olympics.

Brownfemipower starts by saying, “all the angles have been covered beyond to death, pretty much. but there was one thing that i did want to say…” — and then she proceeds to just rip that whole conversation open, revealing how tired and limited the discussion has been pretty much everywhere else and forcing me to remember that, no matter how little I tend to care about electoral politics or marriage or parlor dramas or anything else they’re talking about on TV, every single story is a social story, a political story, with all kinds of deep and layered context and implications.

Which reminded me of Rebecca Solnit’s column about the Olympics (that other presently televised drama I haven’t been watching) in the current Orion, and the way it is both eloquent and critically politicized (as she pretty much always is, as so few writers are), bringing the usual critiques around the Olympics (displacement of local communities, human-rights violations, nationalism) full circle to face the central myths of the Olympics head-on, which makes the critique that much more substantial and devastating:

the Beijing Olympic Games will begin, and television will bring us weeks of the human body at the height of health, beauty, discipline, power, and grace. It will be a thousand-hour advertisement, in some sense, for the participating nations as represented by athletes with amazing abilities. In reality, the athletes will be something of a mask for what each nation really stands for…

It serves the nations of the world to support the exquisitely trained Olympian bodies, and it often serves their more urgent political and economic agendas to subject other bodies to torture, mutilation, and violent death, as well as to look away from quieter deaths from deprivation and pollution. In the struggles for land and resources … bodies are mowed down like weeds. The celebrated athletic bodies exist in some sort of tension with the bodies that are being treated as worthless and disposable.

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6 comments for “In Which Solnit and BFP Split Some S*it Right Open

  1. August 12, 2008 at 2:28 pm

    These are great links — thanks for them. BFP always brings a new angle (or a few of them), and I like Solnit’s piece as well.

    I do think “revealing how tired and limited the discussion has been pretty much everywhere else” is a little tactless, considering that two bloggers here have had posts on John Edwards.

  2. August 12, 2008 at 2:36 pm

    sorry, octogalore! point well taken. i wasn’t even thinking about the two posts here, but i surely could’ve phrased that better to indicate such. bad form.

  3. August 12, 2008 at 5:07 pm

    No worries. Thanks for the quick follow up.

  4. Rockit
    August 12, 2008 at 5:34 pm

    It’s definitely an interesting concept. Whether positive or negative, it seems every country has a certain idea of their national identity, and seeks to act by that idea. For example the US thinks of itself as the beacon of freedom in the world, and so aims to position its actions as part of a quest for freedom, no matter how tenuous or downright false the analogy happens to be. A country such as Japan on the other hand values its civility more, the Russians their tenacity, the French their sophistication, and so on. The traits most valued by a country in its national identity are the same ones the leaders attempt to present to the world as its guiding principles.

    And you see that in a country’s sport. More team sports than individual events perhaps, but in say football/soccer it’s uncanny how often many of the international teams conform to national stereotypes in the way they play. Obviously those stereotypes don’t reach too far over into real life but politicans still often seek to behave along those lines when it comes to international diplomacy. The parallel is probably in that both athletes and politicians are representing their country, and so internalise those ideas more strongly than ordinary people.

  5. August 12, 2008 at 7:30 pm

    The thrust of BFP’s post appears to be that many women in politics started careers on the back of a sexual tryst. Is that actually true?

    I mean, is it really a ‘private matter’ that the core of u.s. government’s recruitment tactics is ‘fucking’?

    How many female politicians of note were recruited by fucking? I can’t name a single one. If you start rattling off a list of famous well-known female politicians – Hillary Clinton, Condi Rice, Barbara Boxer, Nancy Pelosi, Diane Feinstein, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Christine Todd Wittman – I don’t believe any of them got their start as mistresses. Clinton was a wife but has plenty of accomplishments to her own name.

    By comparison Monica Lewinsky and Gennifer Flowers aren’t joining the Supreme Court any time soon. And calling people like Lewinsky and Flowers “women in politics” is quite a stretch in itself. They aren’t in politics any more than a random groupie is in the Rolling Stones.

  6. August 13, 2008 at 2:26 am

    Jessica, that that Rebecca Solnit column is stunning — thanks for posting!

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