Q&A Session with Arundhati Roy at SOAS

Disappearing World Forum Q&A Session with Arundhati Roy, held at the Brunei Gallery, SOAS, 2013

One could write a never-ending book about all that is contained in and around this event so it will be difficult to write anything short here. I could say something romantic about ugliness and beauty, about the drama of our existence, of exploiter and the exploited, of greed and resistance to that greed. Or about the possibility that we humans are flawed in our very DNA and evolution and may never be capable of collective peace and goodwill to all. I could say history is never in the past. I could say ideology is profound, especially when it has almost unlimited power driving it into plastic labile minds. I could say capitalism is a fundamental threat to the survival of almost all living things – especially humans. I could say corporate neoliberal rule is designed to exacerbate the logic of capitalism which is ceaseless accumulation and the commodification of all things. Or I could focus on the institution and histories and ideologies and power relations that brought those specific questioners there at that particular time. Or I could focus on Arundhati and all she is representing and all the superlatives that would flow from there. All of the strength, intelligence, elegance, beauty, all of the eloquence, patience, and fortitude. Or I could point out her seeming prescience about our current state of affairs, which was actually a clear-eyed left analysis that has been on the right (correct) side of history for generations, along with common sense ideas like fairness, justice, right and wrong…and feelings, like passion and empathy. Well, the never-ending book won’t start now, so here ends this bit of thought and feeling, digitized, and published for those few who will come across it.

Story style links [#1]

Click on any sentence below to be taken to the story:

If the median household’s income is heading upward, the economy is in good shape. If it’s heading downward, as it’s been for this entire recovery, we’re all in deep trouble. Advocacy groups who sought a moratorium on shutoffs testified last week that the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department’s policies of mass shutoffs — 19,000 in recent months — are leaving low-income households with seniors and children without water service. INTERVIEWER: Do you think of yourself as a feminist? SONTAG: That’s one of the few labels I’m content with. But even so…is it a noun? I doubt it. In the current recovery, at least through 2012, the bottom 90 percent actually lost ground, with all of the income gains being grabbed by the wealthiest 10 percent of American households.

“…I don’t write because there’s an audience. I write because there is literature.” – Susan Sontag


Do you think much about the audience for your books?


Don’t dare. Don’t want to. But, anyway, I don’t write because there’s an audience. I write because there is literature.

– Paris Review, The Art of Fiction No. 143

Capitalism and Slavery: An interview with Greg Grandin

“Along the way we learn how capitalism, slavery, and competing notions of freedom have been historically related; how doctors used slaves in early experiments with vaccination; how the slave trade was the chrysalis out of which came modern tort law and financial instruments; that Islam spread among slaves and became the basis for a number of slave revolts; that ships were floating tyrannies and seal hunters barbarians of a special sort; and much more.” “What follows is an interview, edited and condensed, that Jacobin contributor Alex Gourevitch conducted with Grandin, a professor of history at New York University.”
– Read interview at Jacobin Magazine

Gore Vidal, writer’s perspective: Smithsonian Institution (1999)

This is classic Gore all the way. A video in which Vidal names the 1%, calls for the legalization of drugs, excoriates the prison pipeline, and wonders, why, after terrorizing so many, we haven’t been bombed yet.

P.S. If you’re not patient, “fast forward” past the introductions.

Sam Sacks’ review of “Stay Illusion! The Hamlet Doctrine” & my comments on the review

stay illusion
Click picture above to read Sam Sacks’ fine review of “Stay Illusion! The Hamlet Doctrine”

This is what I have to say about it:

Well done man.

I like the approach of the authors as well as your approach to the review.  The psychology of human action (or non-action) is an inexhaustible subject because we will never know precisely why we do things (or do not).  This may be at the root of the brilliance of the play. It gives us a question to which there is no answer.  Human beings are rational and irrational, and never the twain shall meet. While this is true, we are cursed at the same time with the need to know.  We want certainty about why someone acts they way they do – and we are cursed again with a need to control how others act.  Maybe that is at the root of some people’s need to create robots – and to make them appear more and more human.

I’ve always thought the question of whether Hamlet was crazy or not was as strange as the idea of temporary insanity.  If one has little or no insight into choices one makes that hurt others and one kills and plots to kill, what is one? Sane?  Is one sane if one has a good reason for committing condemnable acts?  Is Obama sane for killing children with drones and bragging that he is, “good at killing people”?  Insanity (or at least irrationality) and human actions often seem one and the same to me.

I enjoyed the Slings and Arrows clip – and that last brilliant clip as well. Erudite actors! Fun and edifying.  And how fitting that Wells says, “…the first point about Hamlet is that he is a genius.” Well, of course that is what he would say!  As your piece observed, Wells reading of the play revealed as much about Wells as it did Hamlet.