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This is a personal project by @dellsystem. I built this to help me retain information from the books I'm reading.

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21

One of Salih’s fundamental insights is about what she calls the conundrum of nationalism. She and her comrades believed that they stood at the center of a political map: “To the east the socialist camp, to the west the capitalist one and in the middle, at the very beating heart, the national independence movements of the third world.” But her small Marxist contingent would be quickly consigned to this map’s margins. “The only struggle in town, the only one of real interest to the masses,” Salih writes, was nationalism: it was the real foundation of the students’ political consciousness—whether they knew it or not—and it trumped their radical but often superficial leftism at every turn.

It was also the means by which the young Egyptian regime could be sure to guarantee its own survival. Any attempt to question economic inequality and political repression could be recast as an attack on the newly independent nation. “The explosion of the student movement onto the political scene was the result of a crack in the walls of the regime’s house, a house of which it was still, nonetheless, the undisputed master,” Salih writes. “The masses were sympathetic to the student movement because it ‘pressured’ the regime, not because it sought to overturn it. … The people’s worst fear was the destruction of the regime at the hands of the country’s enemies.”

Just like the student activists of Salih’s time, the secular progressive activists who had found themselves lionized, briefly, as “revolutionary youth” in Egypt in 2011 were quickly sidelined by Islamists, the military and foreign powers. They continued to take to the streets for several years but drew dwindling crowds. They discovered, like their predecessors, that they were a vanguard with only temporary, contingent mass support. Soon they were accused of being foreign agents, puppets in the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood, Iran, Qatar, Israel, the United States: the same enemies who had supposedly orchestrated the initial protests against President Hosni Mubarak in 2011 with the purpose of weakening Egypt.

—p.21 Lessons of Defeat (19) missing author 7 months, 3 weeks ago

One of Salih’s fundamental insights is about what she calls the conundrum of nationalism. She and her comrades believed that they stood at the center of a political map: “To the east the socialist camp, to the west the capitalist one and in the middle, at the very beating heart, the national independence movements of the third world.” But her small Marxist contingent would be quickly consigned to this map’s margins. “The only struggle in town, the only one of real interest to the masses,” Salih writes, was nationalism: it was the real foundation of the students’ political consciousness—whether they knew it or not—and it trumped their radical but often superficial leftism at every turn.

It was also the means by which the young Egyptian regime could be sure to guarantee its own survival. Any attempt to question economic inequality and political repression could be recast as an attack on the newly independent nation. “The explosion of the student movement onto the political scene was the result of a crack in the walls of the regime’s house, a house of which it was still, nonetheless, the undisputed master,” Salih writes. “The masses were sympathetic to the student movement because it ‘pressured’ the regime, not because it sought to overturn it. … The people’s worst fear was the destruction of the regime at the hands of the country’s enemies.”

Just like the student activists of Salih’s time, the secular progressive activists who had found themselves lionized, briefly, as “revolutionary youth” in Egypt in 2011 were quickly sidelined by Islamists, the military and foreign powers. They continued to take to the streets for several years but drew dwindling crowds. They discovered, like their predecessors, that they were a vanguard with only temporary, contingent mass support. Soon they were accused of being foreign agents, puppets in the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood, Iran, Qatar, Israel, the United States: the same enemies who had supposedly orchestrated the initial protests against President Hosni Mubarak in 2011 with the purpose of weakening Egypt.

—p.21 Lessons of Defeat (19) missing author 7 months, 3 weeks ago
27

Salih had become a Marxist as a teenager because she could not accept that the world was “a place of boundless suffering.” “The militant,” she wrote, “is someone who responds to a form of collective awareness. He steps into the movement for the sake of correcting the ever-crooked balance between truth and history.” Salih was never able to accept the crookedness of that balance—and it ended up unsettling her own life. She had trouble finding a place for herself, socially and professionally, in Egypt, and wrote part of The Stillborn while traveling alone in Europe. Decades later, she remarked, “I keep colliding with that ever-widening abyss between what is and what should be.”

[...]

Yet Salih continued to value Marxism as a way to see the world: “Marx was the last of the great thinkers, and part of my brain will always tick with a mechanism acquired from the world of his ideas.” Her own bitter experience, however, taught her to be deeply suspicious of ideology and how it could turn into a deadening, stultifying force rather than a means to engage with the world. She invoked Milan Kundera’s notion of totalitarian kitsch: a sort of “violent sentimentalism embodied in a collective dream of salvation.” When you embrace this kitsch and its ready-made certainties, you insist that you have all the answers, and “you refuse the human being as a world unto herself, alive with contradiction.”

—p.27 Lessons of Defeat (19) missing author 7 months, 3 weeks ago

Salih had become a Marxist as a teenager because she could not accept that the world was “a place of boundless suffering.” “The militant,” she wrote, “is someone who responds to a form of collective awareness. He steps into the movement for the sake of correcting the ever-crooked balance between truth and history.” Salih was never able to accept the crookedness of that balance—and it ended up unsettling her own life. She had trouble finding a place for herself, socially and professionally, in Egypt, and wrote part of The Stillborn while traveling alone in Europe. Decades later, she remarked, “I keep colliding with that ever-widening abyss between what is and what should be.”

[...]

Yet Salih continued to value Marxism as a way to see the world: “Marx was the last of the great thinkers, and part of my brain will always tick with a mechanism acquired from the world of his ideas.” Her own bitter experience, however, taught her to be deeply suspicious of ideology and how it could turn into a deadening, stultifying force rather than a means to engage with the world. She invoked Milan Kundera’s notion of totalitarian kitsch: a sort of “violent sentimentalism embodied in a collective dream of salvation.” When you embrace this kitsch and its ready-made certainties, you insist that you have all the answers, and “you refuse the human being as a world unto herself, alive with contradiction.”

—p.27 Lessons of Defeat (19) missing author 7 months, 3 weeks ago
145

The next day, the class watched footage of Kitchen himself, filmed after he was released from jail but before he won his settlement. Someone off-camera asks him to describe his post-release life. Kitchen tells them he hardly sleeps. That the mere sight of a Chicago police car sends him into a full-body terror, which is why he’s had to leave Chicago, the only city he ever knew. “It’s hard,” he says. “It’s hard, it’s hard. It’s like a dream to me, sitting up here with you. It’s like, at any moment, this could get taken away from me all over again.”

It had been easy, perhaps, to joke about Michael Kill: a caricature of an old white villain on the wrong side of history. But there were no jokes to tell about Ronald Kitchen. “Do you know how many of the police went to jail?” asked a black girl toward the front of the class, referring to all the other Midnight Crew members besides Burge. It wasn’t the first time one of Douglas’s students had posed the question, and it wouldn’t be the last. Each time, the answer was the same: zero.

—p.145 This, Too, Was History (135) missing author 7 months, 3 weeks ago

The next day, the class watched footage of Kitchen himself, filmed after he was released from jail but before he won his settlement. Someone off-camera asks him to describe his post-release life. Kitchen tells them he hardly sleeps. That the mere sight of a Chicago police car sends him into a full-body terror, which is why he’s had to leave Chicago, the only city he ever knew. “It’s hard,” he says. “It’s hard, it’s hard. It’s like a dream to me, sitting up here with you. It’s like, at any moment, this could get taken away from me all over again.”

It had been easy, perhaps, to joke about Michael Kill: a caricature of an old white villain on the wrong side of history. But there were no jokes to tell about Ronald Kitchen. “Do you know how many of the police went to jail?” asked a black girl toward the front of the class, referring to all the other Midnight Crew members besides Burge. It wasn’t the first time one of Douglas’s students had posed the question, and it wouldn’t be the last. Each time, the answer was the same: zero.

—p.145 This, Too, Was History (135) missing author 7 months, 3 weeks ago
150

“I’m still confused,” a girl said one day. What she was confused about was all the other cops besides Burge who had tortured. “How did they not go to jail?”

Douglas gave a tight smile, the smile of a person trying not to give in to the unpleasantness of the news they had to deliver. “You expect things to work the way they’re supposed to work, not the way they actually work,” she said.

Douglas pushed Takeaway One because she wanted her students to understand the truth of the world they lived in—but also, it was clear, because she wanted them to be safe. More than once, she drew her students’ attention to the case of Marcus Wiggins, a black thirteen-year-old tortured by the Midnight Crew. “Why would they torture a thirteen-year-old? Why are they torturing a thirteen-year-old? I need an answer.”

A Latino boy in the front row began to venture a response. “For suspected—”

Douglas cut him off. “But why? I want you to look at everybody in this room. ”

He hesitated. “Maybe… because they can. They’re using their authority.”

Douglas nodded, then pushed the point a step further. You might think of yourself as kids, she told them, but that didn’t mean “they” would see you that way too. “You might be playing. You might think: I’m a kid. But no.” This was why it was important for them to be careful. Important not to joke around—not to act like kids—in the presence of cops. Important not to assume that things work the way they’re supposed to work. During a discussion about the Ronald Kitchen case, a rail-thin boy in what looked to me like an updated version of nineties skater wear posed a question: “Like, what was special about Kitchen so the police went after him versus any other kid on the block?”

“I don’t want to say this,” said Douglas. “But it could happen to you.”

“It doesn’t seem that way,” he said.

“But it is that way,” said Douglas.

—p.150 This, Too, Was History (135) missing author 7 months, 3 weeks ago

“I’m still confused,” a girl said one day. What she was confused about was all the other cops besides Burge who had tortured. “How did they not go to jail?”

Douglas gave a tight smile, the smile of a person trying not to give in to the unpleasantness of the news they had to deliver. “You expect things to work the way they’re supposed to work, not the way they actually work,” she said.

Douglas pushed Takeaway One because she wanted her students to understand the truth of the world they lived in—but also, it was clear, because she wanted them to be safe. More than once, she drew her students’ attention to the case of Marcus Wiggins, a black thirteen-year-old tortured by the Midnight Crew. “Why would they torture a thirteen-year-old? Why are they torturing a thirteen-year-old? I need an answer.”

A Latino boy in the front row began to venture a response. “For suspected—”

Douglas cut him off. “But why? I want you to look at everybody in this room. ”

He hesitated. “Maybe… because they can. They’re using their authority.”

Douglas nodded, then pushed the point a step further. You might think of yourself as kids, she told them, but that didn’t mean “they” would see you that way too. “You might be playing. You might think: I’m a kid. But no.” This was why it was important for them to be careful. Important not to joke around—not to act like kids—in the presence of cops. Important not to assume that things work the way they’re supposed to work. During a discussion about the Ronald Kitchen case, a rail-thin boy in what looked to me like an updated version of nineties skater wear posed a question: “Like, what was special about Kitchen so the police went after him versus any other kid on the block?”

“I don’t want to say this,” said Douglas. “But it could happen to you.”

“It doesn’t seem that way,” he said.

“But it is that way,” said Douglas.

—p.150 This, Too, Was History (135) missing author 7 months, 3 weeks ago
169

The way I remember things, I bought my copy of The Game in a Waterstones bookstore on Oxford Street, sometime in 2008—the same year Yang wrote his essay—and I didn’t feel wonderful doing it. I was embarrassed, for a start. Buying the book seemed like solid evidence of inadequacy as well as being faintly seedy. But I went ahead anyway, motivated in large part by the fact that a friend of mine’s older sister (I was twenty, she would have been 22 or 23) had slept with me twice earlier in the year and then lost interest, although not before I’d managed to massively overinvest. It stuns me a little to think about it now, but the disappointment was so fierce it lasted for months afterwards, maybe even the guts of a year. In hindsight, the emotional shock seems both far less important—I mean, thank god—and still real enough to be disconcerting when I consider it. You grow up and get at least a little tougher, sure. But if you’ve ever had a lesson in how completely you can be wiped out by the vagaries of somebody else’s attention, it stays with you.

I bring up this old piece of personal debris because it seems to me now that what Strauss and his kin were advertising was something like a vaccine for that feeling of nullity. Getting women into bed is the overt goal. But (if I can hazard a generalization) what eats at the loser male most desperately isn’t the lack of sex exactly, it’s the sense of being powerless to make yourself matter—the lamest of all invisibility cloaks. Horny and sad as I was as a twenty-year-old, I don’t think it would’ve occurred to me to put it that way, and perhaps it doesn’t occur to most of the people who buy these books. Still, something like that is the trap you’re trying to escape. Like a lot of our culture, The Game feeds off the idea that sex and romance are the central—if not the only—sources of adventure open to most people, and from there it preys on the anxiety of what it would mean to be cut off from those possibilities. And at the bottom of that pit are the terrors of being someone to whom nothing ever happens; a nonperson, somehow excluded from living because you can’t persuade the world to look at you. In his essay, Yang zeroes in on the instinct for revenge flickering inside the pickup artist’s system (“the wicked gleam in the eye of a man putting one over on the world”). It’s the bitterness of people who know what it’s like to be ignored.

—p.169 The Souls of Yellow Folk (169) missing author 7 months, 3 weeks ago

The way I remember things, I bought my copy of The Game in a Waterstones bookstore on Oxford Street, sometime in 2008—the same year Yang wrote his essay—and I didn’t feel wonderful doing it. I was embarrassed, for a start. Buying the book seemed like solid evidence of inadequacy as well as being faintly seedy. But I went ahead anyway, motivated in large part by the fact that a friend of mine’s older sister (I was twenty, she would have been 22 or 23) had slept with me twice earlier in the year and then lost interest, although not before I’d managed to massively overinvest. It stuns me a little to think about it now, but the disappointment was so fierce it lasted for months afterwards, maybe even the guts of a year. In hindsight, the emotional shock seems both far less important—I mean, thank god—and still real enough to be disconcerting when I consider it. You grow up and get at least a little tougher, sure. But if you’ve ever had a lesson in how completely you can be wiped out by the vagaries of somebody else’s attention, it stays with you.

I bring up this old piece of personal debris because it seems to me now that what Strauss and his kin were advertising was something like a vaccine for that feeling of nullity. Getting women into bed is the overt goal. But (if I can hazard a generalization) what eats at the loser male most desperately isn’t the lack of sex exactly, it’s the sense of being powerless to make yourself matter—the lamest of all invisibility cloaks. Horny and sad as I was as a twenty-year-old, I don’t think it would’ve occurred to me to put it that way, and perhaps it doesn’t occur to most of the people who buy these books. Still, something like that is the trap you’re trying to escape. Like a lot of our culture, The Game feeds off the idea that sex and romance are the central—if not the only—sources of adventure open to most people, and from there it preys on the anxiety of what it would mean to be cut off from those possibilities. And at the bottom of that pit are the terrors of being someone to whom nothing ever happens; a nonperson, somehow excluded from living because you can’t persuade the world to look at you. In his essay, Yang zeroes in on the instinct for revenge flickering inside the pickup artist’s system (“the wicked gleam in the eye of a man putting one over on the world”). It’s the bitterness of people who know what it’s like to be ignored.

—p.169 The Souls of Yellow Folk (169) missing author 7 months, 3 weeks ago
203

[...] As a child, Wertheimer fled Austria with his parents and sister, and soon after returning to their patrimony, the parents died in a car accident. We receive this history in brief, breathless flashes near the novel’s end, biographical information the narrator refuses to connect explicitly to Wertheimer’s suicide. The narrator’s fixation creates a world far more claustrophobic than its reality, one that denies the true horror of history, only because it does not fit within the psychological walls of his music education in Salzburg. His belief in artistic competition, in an art that resembles sports in its rankings and its clear-cut determination of winners and losers, is so all-encompassing that it becomes a scheme by which he can explain a life and deny the world.

—p.203 The Loser (193) missing author 7 months, 3 weeks ago

[...] As a child, Wertheimer fled Austria with his parents and sister, and soon after returning to their patrimony, the parents died in a car accident. We receive this history in brief, breathless flashes near the novel’s end, biographical information the narrator refuses to connect explicitly to Wertheimer’s suicide. The narrator’s fixation creates a world far more claustrophobic than its reality, one that denies the true horror of history, only because it does not fit within the psychological walls of his music education in Salzburg. His belief in artistic competition, in an art that resembles sports in its rankings and its clear-cut determination of winners and losers, is so all-encompassing that it becomes a scheme by which he can explain a life and deny the world.

—p.203 The Loser (193) missing author 7 months, 3 weeks ago