For a time it looked as though racism had disappeared. This soul-soothing, unreal impression was simply the consequence of the evolution of forms of exploitation. Psychologists spoke of a prejudice having become unconscious. The truth is that the rigor of the system made the daily affirmation of a superiority superfluous. The need to appeal to various degrees of approval and support, to the native’s cooperation, modified relations in a less crude, more subtle, more “cultivated” direction. It was not rare, in fact, to see a “democratic and humane” ideology at this stage. The commercial undertaking of enslavement, of cultural destruction, progressively gave way to a verbal mystification.
The interesting thing about this evolution is that racism was taken as a topic of meditation, sometimes even as a publicity technique.
Thus the blues—”the black slave lament”—was offered up for the admiration of the oppressors.
people walk from one destination to another
with looks of determination on their faces they stare at me
and they say ‘where the fuck are you going’
I say ‘I am going to a place’
they say ‘fuck you’
and I have an intense feeling of being a
and that feeling manifests itself in the form of
I begin to realize that my face will never be
inside of your face
and that we can silently communicate using a
series of microscopic gestures
and we will understand that the phrase ‘alone
together’ is not an
and I will resolve to never be happy enough to
and I promise that from now on I will only
have emotions that can be perceived as neutral
I wonder how it is possible that there are
billions of people in the world
yet I am the only person on the planet
New York Times: How do you rank yourself among writers (living) and of the immediate past?
Vladimir Nabokov: I often think there should exist a special typographical sign for a smile — some sort of concave mark, a supine round bracket, which I would now like to trace in reply to your question.
Both exploitative labor and the inability to find exploitative labor make you feel ashamed. But you should not be. We have to get over the feeling of shame at having failed to find a “meaningful career,” this staggering gap between what we are supposed to want and what is possible for most of us. We have to use every opportunity to make transparent the nature of work and the real consequences of the embargoing of wealth by those at the “tippy-top,” to reveal work as being as strange as it really is: to say over and over, things are upside down.
Artist: Julie Ruin
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