What I’ve Been Reading: Weekend Links #1

Let’s start this off with – how are you? It’s a strange, scary time for everyone at the moment, and it’s taken me at least two weeks to process everything and feel able to actually write something at all. I started a daily diary last night, for historical posterity, but my writing inspiration well was most definitely bone dry before that.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

I had grand ideas of writing Medium articles about how to cope during isolation, quarantine, or stay-at-home measures, but thought better of it because those kind of articles are everywhere at the moment. People are looking for reassurance and some certainty, for words of grace and space to breathe. It felt dishonest of me to write something about how to manage it all when I am not exactly managing it myself.

But I have read some things that have helped. Articles that have given words to the feelings I’ve been experiencing, and pages of genuinely helpful resources for the state of mind I’ve been in. And essays that have given me hope that things will get better. Scenarios of what the world might look like after the worst has passed.

I’ll be honest and say that I believe politics has a lot to do with what we’re all experiencing right now. That, and capitalism. The way some governments have or haven’t responded exposes their priorities. In the UK, the systematic underfunding of the NHS by the Conservatives over the past 10 years has led to the crisis we’re seeing in hospitals – lack of PPE, fewer nurses and doctors, a scarcity of ventilators (or at least fast access to and manufacturing of them), the closing down of some hospitals. Now, more than ever, the personal is political.

I don’t know for certain if this worldwide crisis will change the way people vote, because what we’re seeing is that our infrastructure favours profit over people. It can be no other way when the party in power values business and money more than it values the people who keep society running.

I shared a list of links on Facebook last weekend but the bots decided it was spam so took it down. They’ve been doing that a lot with legitimate pandemic links. So this week I’ll start by sharing last week’s links, then sharing a few more that I’ve read this week. Next weekend I’ll just share things I’ve read over the next week.

Last Week’s List

  1. That Discomfort You’re Feeling is Grief – Harvard Business Review. Excerpt: ‘Our primitive mind knows something bad is happening, but you can’t see it. This breaks our sense of safety. We’re feeling that loss of safety. I don’t think we’ve collectively lost our sense of general safety like this. Individually or as smaller groups, people have felt this. But all together, this is new. We are grieving on a micro and a macro level.’
  2. All The Ways The Internet Is Pushing Hustle Culture During The Quarantine – Bitch Media. Excerpt: ‘We need sick time to truly recover from the physical, emotional, and mental toll that COVID-19 is wreaking on all of us, not to finally write that book proposal or kick off that side gig. But apparently, doing nothing is not encouraged—even during an international pandemic.’
  3. Books As A Refuge In Times Of Fear – blog by Dede Montgomery. Excerpt: ‘During World War I, our grandfather began a lending (rental) library during the summer months in Ocean Park, Washington. He had access to books from his grandfather J.K. Gill’s Portland bookstore, and imagined that people needed escape.’
  4. A Letter to the UK from Italy – Guardian article by author Francesca Melandri. Excerpt: ‘You will play music from your windows and lawns. When you saw us singing opera from our balconies, you thought “ah, those Italians”. But we know you will sing uplifting songs to each other too. And when you blast I Will Survive from your windows, we’ll watch you and nod just like the people of Wuhan, who sung from their windows in February, nodded while watching us.’
  5. 11 Life Skills You Already Have – Sweatpants and Coffee. Excerpt: “You’ve been through a lot of difficult experiences,” he said. “Emotionally challenging. What you might not realize is that you have built a lot of skills to deal with emotional challenges. And guess what?”
    “What?” I asked.
    “Those skills transfer. I want you to think about how the skills you have already developed can help you in your current situation.”
  6. Group Chats Making You Anxious? Us Too. Here’s How to Manage Them – Huff Post UK. Excerpt: ‘For some, these small but regular interactions with friends are curbing those feelings of anxiety, isolation and boredom we’re experiencing while in lockdown. But for others, the constant flow of messages is having the exact opposite effect, preventing any respite from the C-word. Throw in some questionable memes and fake news about a Covid-19 ‘cure’, and the anxiety can bubble into frustration at those who we know, deep down, are just trying to help.’
  7. The World After Coronavirus – Yuval Noah Harari. Excerpt: ‘Humanity needs to make a choice. Will we travel down the route of disunity, or will we adopt the path of global solidarity? If we choose disunity, this will not only prolong the crisis, but will probably result in even worse catastrophes in the future. If we choose global solidarity, it will be a victory not only against the coronavirus, but against all future epidemics and crises that might assail humankind in the 21st century.’
  8. Blurt’s Coronavirus Helpful Hub (for mental health, anxiety, etc). Excerpt: ‘This page is designed to answer questions, provide helpful resources and information, and share ideas for coping with the ever-changing landscape we find ourselves in. We will be continually updating this resource as more information is realised and as the situation changes.’
  9. Deaf UK Coronavirus Information (information for deaf people in UK re. Coronavirus). Includes BSL translations of Government information.
  10. Today I Can – Ra Avis of Rarasaur (read everything she writes!). Excerpt: ‘Yesterday, I was holding too much. I was too full of headlines and statistics to drink tea, but today, I can.’

This Week’s Links

  1. Fat Liberation is the Future – Samantha Puc for Autostraddle. Excerpt: ‘“Body positivity is not ours anymore. I don’t even try to claim it anymore,” says Wear Your Voice Associate Editor and Solutions Not Punishment Collaborative Lead Organizer Da’Shaun Harrison. “Body positivity is benevolent anti-fatness. It wants us to ‘love ourselves,’ but has no interest in demanding that the world love us back. It wants us to ‘be confident,’ but doesn’t require that you undo the harm and violence which lead us to be insecure. Body positivity, as we know it, places the onus on fat people to readjust to the world’s problems with our bodies rather than asking the world to shift how it shows up and cares for us.”’
  2. Cats Do Bond Securely to Their Humans – Science Alert. Excerpt: ‘This may not come as a huge surprise to those who live with cat companions, but it suggests two important things. Firstly, it looks like we’ve underestimated the depth of the bond cats can form with their people. Additionally, it shows that dogs don’t have a monopoly on secure social bonding with Homo sapiens.’
  3. All Hail Britney Spears, The Only Good Celebrity – Alim Kheraj for ID-Vice. Excerpt: ‘Of course, some celebrities have done good, donating money to organisations and fans who need it. Still, this altruism can be hard to swallow when those same people are lamenting being stuck inside their Calabasas mansions practicing social distancing. ICYMI guys, some people are out here sharing a single bathroom with eight people.’
  4. One Photographer’s Decade Long Study of New Orleans – Another Mag. Excerpt: ‘“A connection that was made through this trauma with each other. It’s forced them to be really creative. Living through that really inspires people. I feel like they are luminaries,” says photographer Akasha Rabut, author of the new book, Death Magick Abundance (Anthology), a mesmerising portrait of the post-Katrina generation in New Orleans made over the past decade. “People here live everyday like it’s their last day and that’s beautiful to me. Everybody here is very friendly and there’s a real sense of community. We have a lack of infrastructure here and the people are the ones taking care of each other.”’
  5. Three Weeks of Lockdown in Italy Has Given Us Vital Perspective – And Small Comforts – Tobias Jones, The Guardian. Excerpt: ‘There’s something profound about what is happening in our small palazzo. Giorgio delivers us a newspaper every day. Silvia gives our son an old tablet (studiously wiped clean with alcohol) so he can do his online classes. Massimo delivers sheet music for our daughter. We, in turn, distribute food and offer free, online English lessons. We’re all looking out for each other. The exchanges are announced by text message, like drug drops (“rice outside door”) and with money hidden here and there. We never get close, and yet we’ve never been closer.’
  6. People Aren’t Bad for the Planet, Capitalism Is – Izzie Ramirez for Bitch Media. Excerpt: ‘As climate activist Jamie Margolin put it in a tweet, saying,“‘the weak will die but it’s okay because it helps the climate’ is not climate justice. That is ecofascism.” Ecofascism is defined as governments exerting power to protect the environment at the cost of individual life.’
  7. Why You Should Ignore All That Coronavirus Inspired Productivity Pressure – Aisha S. Ahmad. Excerpt: ‘Global catastrophes change the world, and this pandemic is very much akin to a major war. Even if we contain the Covid-19 crisis within a few months, the legacy of this pandemic will live with us for years, perhaps decades to come. It will change the way we move, build, learn, and connect.’
  8. Ted Chiang Explains the Disaster Novel We All Suddenly Live In – Electric Literature. Excerpt: ‘Real science fiction stories follow a different pattern: the world starts out as a familiar place, a new discovery or invention disrupts everything, and the world is forever changed. These stories show the status quo being overturned, so they are implicitly progressive. (This observation is not original to me; it’s something that scholars of science fiction have long noted.) This was in the context of a discussion about the role of dystopias in science fiction.’
  9. The Coronavirus is a Disaster for Feminism – Helen Lewis, The Atlantic. Excerpt: ‘For those with caring responsibilities, an infectious-disease outbreak is unlikely to give them time to write King Lear or develop a theory of optics. A pandemic magnifies all existing inequalities (even as politicians insist this is not the time to talk about anything other than the immediate crisis).’
  10. Coronavirus is Political. Don’t Let Them Tell You Otherwise – Alex Andreou. ‘It seems to me that anyone calling for such a crisis not to be ‘politicised’ is just nervous about examining the answers they have given to these questions. The danger is that this will go the way of the gun debate in the US. Every time there is a mass shooting, there is a seamless transition from ‘now is not the time to talk about it’ to ‘people just want to move on from talking about it’.’
  11. When Humans Are Sheltered In Place, Wild Animals Will Play – The New York Times. Excerpt: ‘Under the cover of night, in their feathered, silken, cream-colored coats, they trotted into Llandudno, a seaside town in Wales.
    On Thursday evening, a herd of Great Orme Kashmiri goats galloped through the desolate streets of the small town looking for food. Some goats got their fill from hedges, others climbed building walls.’

I know it’s a lot, but I’ve tried to share links with a variety of topics. Of course you don’t need to read them all, especially if you’re feeling overwhelmed. Hopefully these posts will serve as a bookmark for interesting ideas. Next week the list won’t be as long! I’d also love it if you want to share things you’ve read or written over the past few weeks that you’ve found inspiring, thoughtful, or helpful.

I’ll also be writing more over the coming weeks. Some posts might be short, some longer, but I hope to find some chinks of light during this time. I’ve been overwhelmed and feeling waves of grief over different things, but I’ve also found things to laugh about, hope, and ways to adapt.

‘Nothing is worth more than laughter. It is strength to laugh and to abandon oneself, to be light.’ – Frida Kahlo.

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