“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Thursday, March 28, 2019

This Is Why I Really Respect AOC

Unlike Sanders, who comes off elitist in his purity, she's ready to help people without much money have nice things, now. This was exactly why I loved and still love Obamacare. Try for national health and fail nobly? Millions of people die. Make a bit of a compromise? Succeed and set it up for people to start demanding more healthcare as their right.

What about progressive hopes for a more fundamental health care overhaul? Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez got it exactly right: While still calling for hearings on “Medicare for all,” she declared herself “happy to support any provision that strengthens the A.C.A. and plugs some of the gaps that we’re seeing.” (So far, Bernie Sanders has refused to support the plan. Let’s hope he walks that back.)  (Paul Krugman)

When I first arrived in America, from a country whose health care is way way more socialist than single payer, I was desperate for someone to say out loud how fucked it was that there was this "pre-existing conditions" thing. Like not even wealthy people who needed health insurance understood. Now they do. Good. Why? Obama. Yes. So now they're ready for Medicare for All or whatever. Respect to the Obamacare and for avoiding looking perfect and good and holy at the expense of real people's lives.

My friend's brother, a doctor, tried to charge me $250 for some sample antibiotics when I got sick. Coming from the UK, I was able to say fuck off really fast.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Which Body? Witchbody!

I really do think you would like to read this book called Witchbody that Sabrina Scott wrote, and drew, and drew-wrote, and wrote-drew...I wrote the foreword, then this amazing comic book publisher has made it be everywhere. The amazon page lets you read some of it:

We keep looking in the wrong place for happiness and fulfillment. We think it must be next week. Tomorrow. Maybe 5 minutes from now I'll be truly happy. Or maybe we have regret. Happiness was then, last month, when we were small. Can't have it now. Happiness couldn't be now, could it, because that would mean it's somewhere inside.
What do you call someone who shows you that you don't have to look elsewhere for magic?
You call them a witch. And you can be that. You can be a Witchbody. Which is also a which body? Things are full of gaps and breaks, they are full of illusion, suffused with moonlight. Things are kinked and queer, everything.
You can't ever tell exactly which witch body you are. What a relief! You get to explore the strangeness of that beautiful unique twist that is just exactly you, without an official you copyright stamp in sight.
You will want this book by your side, like a window on the moon. You've invited the witch to heal you. The truth is they never really left.

If you don't know about Sabrina and her righteous brilliance, you can start with this: 

[as soon as I get off this plane I will embed a nice video]

Nice Review of Time Time Time

[excerpted from Peter Margasak's review of the Borealis festival]

One of the most anticipated performances of the fest was TIME TIME TIME by composer/performer Jennifer Walshe and philosopher Timothy Morton. The richly humorous work weaved together pop culture references – one particularly hilarious section riffed on grief management in the hyperactive style of an infomercial, while another video projection overlaid the text “National Physical Laboratory, Supplier of Time for the UK,” over an image of computers – with constantly shifting notions of time. Morton’s ecological writing constantly returned to the pressing issue of global warming, playing with the idea that humans won’t trifle with the urgency of addressing the situation because of the earth’s timescale. Archival video footage toggled between films of people performing antiquated mechanical tasks over a staccato rhythm shaped by Walshe’s remarkable ensemble, cartoonish animations of dinosaurs, and a mandala-like images of the earth’s crust evolving over millennia.

The comic delivery of Walshe, adorned in a garish, green sequined gown, was expertly complemented by the straight-man deadpan of M.C. Schmidt of Matmos, wearing his trademark suit-and-tie, who at one point played a pair of paper cups as if they were maracas with utter earnestness. One of Walshe’s masterstrokes was allowing the disparate ensemble members to do what they do best, while masterfully blending those elements into a cogent whole: the microscopic lowercase sounds of Lee Patterson, summoning a tactile, earthbound vocabulary, the locked-in improvisations of Streifenjunko (trumpeter Eivind Lønning and saxophonist Espen Reinertsen, who moved from easily from breathy abstraction to fanfare-like clarity), the crisp string articulations of double bassist Inga Margrete Aas and violinist Vilde Sandve Alnæs, and the alternating glistening and lyric, and brittle and jagged harp passages of Irish polymath Áine O’Dwyer, who also sang a series of harrowingly beautiful melodies, especially near the end of the performance.

Morton sat in silence, yogi-style, on a pillowed dais for the entirety of the performance, contributing a mix of new age absurdity. The first half of the 90-minute performance was infectiously fast-paced, mirroring the information overload of the text, while the second half slowed-down—including an extended section of glacial movement, with only occasional plucks from O’Dwyer’s harp. The piece was unwieldy, but its vastness made sense considering the massive scope of what Walshe and Morton are grappling with.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Time Time Time clips and interview

I don't know how to embed it yet...but the good people of Berlin put this together.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Queer Ecology 200

Two hundred citations for "Queer Ecology" today! Very very happy about that. The essay was in jeopardy at first, because the editor of the journal got freaked out, having invited me to put some more detail on an argument I'd made in Ecology without Nature. Her husband was a geneticist and she unfortunately ran the arguments past him--just because you do science doesn't mean you have a right to talk about reality (haha); and I was employing Joan Roughgarden's work (amazing person, have you met her? was awesome when I finally did).

You can download it here.

The editor was a specialist neither in ecological humanities nor in queer theory, and suffered from an anxiety disorder. Towards the end of a half hour phone call about the essay, she was talking about pulling it, and getting very anxious. So I said "Please, please just give me a week and I'll fix it for you." I was pretty upset because I was really, really into the topic and had poured everything into writing the essay, as it was for a big venue.

I won't tell you what I did (tricks of the trade) but it was incredibly minimal. When you're working for an editor, try to do the minimum effort required, for the sake of your poor ego. It was nothing to do with the content, but to do with how I conveyed it. One week later she wrote back, "I don't know what you did but it's amazing...so much better..." It was exactly the same argument. Again, I just changed how I put it across.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Why Oh Why Oh Why

Irritating Professor Morton, who always strives, whether deliberately or not, to say the wrong thing in public, has been wondering why he doesn't like very much the "Shock Horror: Response to Environmental Disaster Whatever-that-is Is Racist and Treats Economic Classes Differently" type of headline/tweet/opinion.

I have realized why: the statement perfectly reproduces the ideology that there's this thing called Nature, outside of social space, while on a superficial level claiming not to or even seeming to do the opposite.

I mean, we don't go around saying "Shock Horror: War Whatever-it-is Treats People Differently Depending on Race, Class and Gender" do we? It shouldn't be shocking that since wars happen in social space, and since social space is patriarchal, racist and involving of intense class hierarchies, wars tend to discriminate. Because the way supermarkets are built tends to discriminate. Because standardized testing tends to discriminate.

The shock horror phenomenology of environmental racism reporting is really really not good, because it's a symptom of and reproducer of the idea that there's this thing that happens to social space, it's called the environment or Nature, and this thing is outside of social space. It should be beyond obvious that since hurricanes happen to social space, and since social space is racist and patriarchal etc, what hurricanes do and how humans respond to them will be racist and patriarchal etc. Being shocked is an incredibly uncool symptom of the racism and patriarchy that in fact created the difference between human and nonhuman in the first place (and defined social space as human), way back in 10 000 BC or whatever.

You think, somehow, that magically people and institutions will drop the racism and behave differently when there's a hurricane? We are all about to get regular data on how that isn't ever true as long as racism persists. Why express surprise when it happens? There must be a speed bump in the discourse right there. We should get to the point where the obvious tautology makes us hesitate, instead of going "OMG! Nasty Thing Happens to Person Living in Nasty Social Conditions!"

Still don't get it? So my mum couldn't afford a car when I was little. I had to take the train to school. When the school grounds flooded because the Thames Barrier wasn't yet complete, I was fucked. It shoudn't have been surprising, and it wasn't. Do you see what happens when you say "Wow! Economically Fucked Person Is also Ecologically Fucked. Who Knew?!"

And there's this extra layer of magical thinking that I detect. Like the response to whatever is supposed to transcend or even get rid of social problems. It expresses while distorting and suppressing a truth: responses to stuff that happens should not be racist. The weird ideological magic bit is the idea that somehow the response to a hurricane will be "different" and will make everything nice. That's why this green new deal thing is interesting. Someone is realizing that making everything nice socially is exactly responding well to an environmental crisis. And I would add, since social space includes hedgehogs and cats and stomach bacteria, and hurricanes for that matter, social space was never entirely human, and the reproduction of the meme that it is entirely human, implicit in the shocking headline, is absolutely caught up in racism.

That's why there's an upside-down truth in the right wing fear that ecological language is intrinsically left wing, and that this is a way to smuggle in the "agenda" through the back door aka the one that connects the house to "Nature." Correct. And distorted. At the same time. We are trying to ram socialism down your throat, quite desperately in fact, and the only problem is the idea that there's a "stealth" or "back door" thing going on here. Unfortunately some of the left rhetoric retweets this language of stealth and all that. Getting into solar power would indeed be a way to achieve greater social justice. Just be up front guys.

See what I mean? Stop it with the headlines. We should KNOW in our bones that social space is racist and that (as my logic implies) defeating racism is exactly the same thing as responding well to an environmental crisis. And, furthermore and more to the point, vice versa.

The extra awfulness is how very very often this shock-horror phenomenology is repeated. It's the go-to way to do this kind of thing. Which means that the way we talk about hurricanes in the press is also racist. Go figure.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019