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Apr 28, 2023Liked by Mary Gaitskill

Whenever I see that you’ve made a new post, I get that giddy, anticipatory feeling of having a treat to look forward to .... !

Have you ever heard of the Red Scare Podcast? I don’t listen to it but the subreddit loosely “dedicated” to it (r/redscarepod) is a place where you’ll find a lot of pretty contrarian young people posting who’re all very against the corrective apparatus that you describe. Some posts are good & make good points, but many are... malicious, reactionary, and mean (often disguised as irony or sarcasm). A lot of shitposting too, of course..

I dunno, I find it an occasionally interesting little nook of the internet. People think of the youth today as being so overly concerned with identity politics and political correctness etc., but there’s also a good chunk of young ppl reacting against it (and quite violently, too, esp in online spaces). That subreddit offers a tiny glimpse into that mindset. There’s probably a good portion of incels on there, but also women too (in some cases, self-described femcels -- ironically or not, it’s hard to tell).

I’m just a few years away from 30, but I’m already finding that “the youth” today confuses me. I think many of them are confused, too. A lot going on, so much to make sense of.... I love reading your attempts to do just that. Ty for your wonderful mind <3

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Thank you, I keep meaning to check out RS. I know a lot of young people are reacting against the over-correction that's been going on, they'd almost have to. I like to think some of them are not malicious and reactionary.

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Hi Mary,

I am one of the young people you've described in your post, currently a sophomore at a liberal arts college. Thank you so much for writing these two posts. I developed depression and anxiety around age 12 and have come to feel that it is a way of life that I will never fully shake off. It is comforting and disconcerting to hear that my experience is so common among my generation.

I also frequent redscarepod, which the commenter above has noted for its ironic and reactionary tendencies. To be honest, reading your post makes me feel a contrarian urge to stop outwardly performing my mental illness (if it can be labelled as such) just so that I can be different. Existing miserably for so long has created warped perceptions of identity for me, and I cannot let go of them for fear that I will have to rejoin the bland, blissful masses. Anyway, as you noted in your post, the urge to rebel and act out is something universal in every age. I hope I am cool as you someday.

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The Red Scare gals are fab.

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Apr 28, 2023Liked by Mary Gaitskill

I love that you freely raise the issue of rape being about both sex and power. I have always been puzzled by the notion that it's purely a "crime of power," but cautious in who I express that to. Victim and perpetrator may have 2 entirely different experiences. A victim may experience degradation and helplessness in the face of power. For the perpetrator, I'm not so sure -- he is, after all, successfully satisfying a drive for sexual sensation and satisfaction, in the context of exerting power over another, and perhaps intentionally degrading her.

To complicate it further, In my experience, being touched or violated ( as I once was on a subway) at the nerve-rich center of one's female and erotic life force can arouse physical sensations that in another context would be pleasurable, which can make the violation even more disturbing as it wires together pleasure and violation.

I love your work and am reading my way through everything I've missed stimulated by the New Yorker rewrite of "Secretary."

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May 3, 2023Liked by Mary Gaitskill

And Debbie talks about that in the new second chapter of 'Secretary', right?

I always figured desiring sex played some role in it. I mean, we know men will use force to obtain money and goods--that's why robbery is a well-known crime in most cultures. You don't think the same sort of guy is going to use force to obtain *sex*, which is even more fundamentally desired? (They may even get the same thrill of domination to a lesser degree!)

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Apr 28, 2023Liked by Mary Gaitskill

I loved the HIlton Al's article and it makes me want to read O'Connor. But I was taken aback by this:

"there is no Faulknerian Snopes in O’Connor’s fiction. What she describes is far more evil: the nice lady on the bus who calls you “nigger” by offering your child a penny; or the old woman who loves to regale her grandchildren with stories about the “pickaninnies” of her antebellum youth."

How is it that we have been convinced language that names is a major evil? Set along side economic fraud and theft or manipulation and denial or physical violence, the direct emotional violence of naming language is possible to identify and reject and using it labels the person who uses it. Perhaps our era is obsessed with this because economically secure people, including the young, won't vote (allegedly) for anyone who will actually permit economic justice or stop making war?

Als goes on, O’Connor "had difficulty assimilating the push toward integration ...she was sometimes clumsy at conveying real life among blacks beyond her own circles—their class distinctions, their communication with one another apart from whites." This is what bothers me. As writers are we supposed to stick to our lasts, whites write about whites and blacks about blacks etc? How do we write about real lives in which integration is partial, it's almost impossible to avoid falling over consoling myths about indigenous and white people and those are the stories that makes up lives? Maybe this is a perennial problem. There's examples of Victorian writers trying and failing to write about class and failing, maybe there's even earlier ones. Thanks for the reference MG.

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Apr 28, 2023·edited Apr 28, 2023Liked by Mary Gaitskill

i still haven't been able to stop thinking about your other story, the despair end of it. i'm glad you wrote this, because the good news is true, too.

i just turned 40. so i am not exactly the generation you are writing about, but i'm definitely not *not* them, either. in some ways i feel my era is the beginning of this despair-generation. and i think you depicted or captured something in the other piece that i have personally felt over the last 20 years, and you did it in a way i've never seen anyone say it before. you said it with a clarity that i've never seen anywhere else.

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"in some ways i feel my era is the beginning of this despair-generation."

I feel the same, and I find it hard to articulate how as well, but I can feel the throughline from maybe 10 years ago, a change especially in trust or sense of commonground. I wish we could say what it is better, though maybe its more effective to just tell a story which is ultimately what I did in the first post. But if you have any more thoughts and feel like emailing me, please do, marygaitskill@substack.com

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This is where . . . (throat clearing) . . . I find some of the pessimistic thinkers have something to offer we aren't listening to. Slavoj Zizek has this great concept in his body of work called, THE COURAGE OF HOPELESSNESS. Embracing that there are so (I meant, no, ha) solutions to something so massively fucked up, I don't know what we call it. I love this new piece of academia called something like, Monstrology. It sounds incredibly silly. But we are SILLY CREATURES. We can be terribly silly during moments of supreme irony. Heidegger, for instance, talked a lot about 'concealment'. Without sublimating these terrors into something we can think about, we can't conquer it.

In Mark Z's latest book which he classifies as being a children's book for adults, that even the grumpiest adult can enjoy. THE LITTLE BLUE KITE. There is something that separates Kai (the title character) & his kite, called The Immense Monster Too Immense For Any One Name & Hungrier Than All The Empty Space That Haunts The Distance Between The Stars.

We are actually haunted by our progress on occasion. We don't even notice we are in the middle of the moment. For instance.

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This is the one time I'm tempted to read Mark Z. That is one of the best titles I've ever heard.

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Oh yeah and a really weird tidbit. Bret Ellis said during an interview that one of the most disturbing things that he heard from female readers was that AMERICAN PSYCHO "taught" them how to masturbate. What to make of that?

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May 3, 2023Liked by Mary Gaitskill

You've heard of hybristophilia? People (mostly women) being aroused by criminal offenders? Ladies writing letters to Ted Bundy? The Manson Family? Heck, even Jeffrey Dahmer had women writing to him, and he was gay. On a less realistic level, look at all the romance novels about vampires and werewolves.

Sometimes they think they can change him, other times it's a way to have a fantasy relationship that doesn't require any actual commitment. And there's the evolutionary explanation--if he doesn't kill *you*, everyone will be afraid of him.

In real life, of course, that's a very big 'if'.

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Insert Edvard Munch emoji here!

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How moody an emoji!

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May 8, 2023Liked by Mary Gaitskill

Whether rape is about power or sex or both can only be gleaned from interviews of rapists. The majority said it was about power so that's why that narrative stuck.

"what might’ve happened if instead I’d opened up the idea for general discussion in the class under the subject heading, what should be allowed, why and why not? Even that could, I guess, have upset some people, but it could also have been extremely interesting. If they voted on whether or not such a story was acceptable to workshop I’m guessing it would’ve been a no with dissent—but at least they would’ve had the chance to think it out rather than having me decide for them. As I said at the end of my original post, I am not at all confident that I know the way to give students “something better.” But I think more open conversation in general would be part of it."

When people have no culture of mind, that is discipline of mind, then anything goes as a topic for literature, art, comedy, pop culture, etc. Some years ago I would have said "the west" has no culture of mind but the east still does, with its traditions of meditation, philosophy, etc, but now the entire world is "the west" - electronically connected as we all are, so mental discipline is gone in "the east" as well.

Extreme portrayals of violence are an immature attempt at being "edgy" which is supposed to be... cool, or, er, somthing.

You are lucky to have been alive during the '60s in "the west". I wasn't and have always romanticized the era. Don't know why anyone would have had a problem with young people back then. The impression I get is that they were working for positive change.

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May 10, 2023·edited May 10, 2023Liked by Mary Gaitskill

I mean, rapists aren't exactly disinterested parties here, and a fair portion are likely sociopathic. They may have well thought saying it was about power rather than sex would sound better in that more sex-fearing era.

I'd be careful with the west vs east stereotypes--there are plenty of disciplined people in the West (are the Marines lazy? MIT students?), and Japan has shut-in incels who stay in and watch anime all day and live off their parents (there's even a name for it-hikikomori). For every Western chauvinist there's someone who thinks every Asian is a dignified karate master, when there are often huge problems with gambling and smoking and other drug use (though with the notorious 'flush' alcoholism is less common). The culture's different, but people are people.

Artists are always trying to push the edges of what's acceptable, I think. In the 90s that was portrayals of violence and the like. Nowadays it's portraying sexualities.

Plenty of people were against the civil rights movement, feminist movement, etc. Civil rights marchers in particular were often physically attacked, and a few were killed.

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May 11, 2023Liked by Mary Gaitskill

I didn't say there were no disciplined people in "the west". I was specifically referring to the anything goes attitude when it comes to fantasy and expression. Her earlier piece, The Despair of the Young, exemplifies that. "Artists are always trying to push the edges of what's acceptable, I think. In the 90s that was portrayals of violence and the like. Nowadays it's portraying sexualities." That's what I'm talking about. And it's not just artists. "Plenty of people were against the civil rights movement, feminist movement, etc. Civil rights marchers in particular were often physically attacked, and a few were killed." I know. Many of those civil rights activists and feminists were young people that older people complained about. That's what I don't get.

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May 11, 2023Liked by Mary Gaitskill

That's a good point, and I shouldn't have implied you were saying that.

It definitely is not just artists, obviously. I guess I'm not sure what you're saying is better in the East (East Asia or South Asia, more specifically, I imagine, since the Muslim world remains much more conservative than ours).

You don't get people opposing civil rights activists and feminists? This was the 60s, remember. People believed in segregation--they thought the races couldn't live together, or that white people genuinely were superior, or had the right to rule because they built the country. Beliefs now seen mostly on the far right were uncritically accepted by something like half of the country. The antifeminist arguments were somewhat different than modern incel arguments--you had more of the 'benevolent sexist' (this is the sociological term and is not used to imply actual benevolence) argument that women had a special, complementary role involving the home, but also that they couldn't perform the tasks in question. There were also concerns involving falling birth rates and nobody being there to raise children. I'd love to hear from anyone older than me who was actually there, assuming you remember it (contra Timothy Leary).

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May 14, 2023Liked by Mary Gaitskill

" I guess I'm not sure what you're saying is better in the East (East Asia or South Asia, more specifically, I imagine, since the Muslim world remains much more conservative than ours)."

I'm not arguing for Islam. Most South Asians are not Muslim. I'm speaking more about the meditation practices of indigenous South Asian traditions like Buddhism, Jainism, Hinduism, Sikhism.

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May 14, 2023Liked by Mary Gaitskill

I mean, those things can be useful, but I don't think they're social panaceas, and they often play roles similar to Christianity or Islam in those cultures. (Buddhism in particular spread to East Asia.) South Asia has its own social problems with religious violence and domestic violence. East Asia has less violence but their birth rate is cratering even faster than ours. I'm not sure Ms. Gaitskill would have been more free to workshop stories with these themes in India, though I am not an expert on the subcontinent!

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Not social panaceas but they provide tools to deal with the b.s. life throws us.

"they often play roles similar to Christianity or Islam in those cultures".

Islam is a behavior based religion concerned with legalities based in sharia. It does not deal with the mind and consciousness very much. Christianity is more evolved along the mind and consciousness path but still nowhere near as developed as the Indigenous mind and meditation based traditions of South Asia.

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My personal opinion: people who rape are turned on by power, sadistic use of it. So the rapists weren't lying. But if you're turned on by brutal exercise of power and you're expressing it with your sex equipment and you're having an orgasm--I don't see how that's not sexual. Though I've also heard that often rapists are half-impotent so...people are mysterious.

I don't agree that all extreme portrayals of violence are immature attempts at being edgy. Sometimes yes! But the Iliad, Cormac McCarthy, Shakespeare, Bolano, the Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead--sometimes the creators are describing reality, things that happen. Most students aren't equipped to do that subject matter justice but even some of them are not just being edgy, they are trying to describe something--violence--that is very much in the periphery of their vision in a real or imaginary form.

But YES I was lucky to be alive in the 60s-70s era. It was an incredible time. Some of it just seemed shallow to older people, also threatening, militant--even the sudden explosion of sexuality was threatening. But for somebody my age, it was life-saving, not just the sexuality the whole thing.

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This was great. Loved the other side of the mirror take; or at least the complimentary vector.

Something I forgot to note in my comment to your prior post, is that I recall in high school English always writing short stories that focused on some dark element in life. I think the very first thing I composed was a fatal car wreck story.

This might be a preparatory sort of ritual—common for young people as it helps them edge their toe into the more complex and sometimes dark side of life—outside the protection of their nuclear family.

Although I’ll also add nothing changed much for me as a writer over the years—I mean, my new novel is on Jeffrey Dahmer!

Thanks Mary. You always get the hamster wheel in my brain spinning.

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Apr 29, 2023Liked by Mary Gaitskill

I appreciated both this and your previous post. I have a teenaged son who is about to apply to college in the US (we live in France). I both worry about him and have a fundamental sense that he will be OK. He does spend more time in front of screens and on social media than I would like, but since he also has a lot of friends out in the real world (and a sense of social responsibility that I didn’t have at all, at his age) I do not worry (too much) about his losing touch with this world. It also strikes me that he has a really different relation to social media than I do, and that it is more sort of pragmatic and light. The few times that I have tried Facebook and Twitter, it has given me a kind of false, weightless feeling (even or especially when my exchanges on these platforms have been affirming and positive) that has bled over into my real life. It has made me feel a little like a ghost. I don’t get the feeling that my son sees or uses social media this way - as a substitute for reality. It is more just like an extra appendage he has or something. This is not to say that I am happy about how dependent he is on his phone, and don’t worry about what it has done to his attention span and wish that he would read more books, etc. But I also recognize that there are things about him (and maybe his generation generally) that I just don’t understand - what seem to be almost molecular differences. And I have so much faith in his resilience and buoyancy and just human capacity to surprise me, which I think is something no amount of artificial intelligence is ever going to be able to duplicate - that human unpredictability- and it’s one reason why I get tired of all of the hand wringing about AI. (I was recently surprised by my son reading The Master and Margarita- during a vacation when we did not have access to WiFi, much handwringing all around about that! - which he now says is his favorite book.)

I also do remember a lot of judgment about my own generation when I was in my twenties - how apathetic, lost, cynical etc we all supposedly were - and feeling both really affected by this judgment and really bewildered by it. It didn’t exactly correspond to what I was feeling and experiencing (for one thing I didn’t even watch much television growing up, let alone MTV) but also I was susceptible and young enough that I thought older people always knew best and I took their often glib and superficial judgments for reality. (On the one hand, we were supposed to be checked out and apathetic, on the other hand we were supposed to be caught up in this dire political correctness.) So I think these kinds of generational generalizations can be pretty destructive, as you say, and young people have enough to deal with right now, as you also say. We shouldn’t conflate our anxiety about the world they are inheriting with a lack of faith in them.

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"I don’t get the feeling that my son sees or uses social media this way - as a substitute for reality. It is more just like an extra appendage he has or something."

Yes, I know what you mean, I've gotten this sense sometimes too about college-age kids; new tech can be good or bad depending entirely how you relate to it, and even if I don't like a lot about it, I think having an extra appendage sounds pretty good! I also know what you mean about "molecular differences" between your generation and your son's, I have felt that and am fascinated that even you, who are much younger than me and also a parent feel that. I think each generation must change slightly from the previous but every now and then there is a really big leap, like there was between my parent's generation and mine, and now I think its happening again, only bigger actually. I think kids now are really being pushed to develop with incredible speed, and almost evolve into something different with a scary lack of connection with the older ways of being. Very jarring in itself, with climate shit and the usual social problems on top of that and then there's paranoid old people shooting at them for nothing.

So yes, we should understand that we don't understand and appreciate their courage whenever possible. And their literary taste, which your son plainly has! I love that book too!

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If you want like a click by click simulation of what life is like for that age gap today, I think I'd really recommends Tao Lin's TAIPEI. His most recent is much more approachable and less doom-ridden. I mean it's there, but Narrator is much more in his life and embracing of it and hope itself.

But there is this weird like . . . heavy metal sense of desert like doom in the valley. I guess it's everywhere. I don't really go many places. But my tiny life is being reflected in my tiny room in quiet ways. There's something even about how the camera looks on certain shows. It's got this liquid kind of smear it leaves behind. It looks like that unfamiliar kind of bubbly translucence. It looks like consciousness moving across a surface. Now you can see it moving. It's weird.

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I just ordered it. The book. I was compelled by "Its got this liquid kind of smear it leaves behind. It looks like that unfamiliar kind of bubbly translucence. It looks like consciousness moving across a surface. Now you can see it moving."

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^^^^^^Even this comment is case in point sort of how it's impossible to not sound like a down-and-outer. I think it's super specific even though I'm talking in general terms. They kind of coincide with each other semi-accidentally. ^^^^^

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May 3, 2023Liked by Mary Gaitskill

FWIW: 'misogyny', while originally meaning 'hatred of women' ('miso'-, the usual root for 'bad', + '-gyny', of or relating to women), has been extended to mean 'believes in traditional roles' or 'supporting the patriarchy', so it's not surprising your student used it that way. I agree you may not want to be pedestalized, but I doubt your classic 'white knight' who rushes to the defense of any imperiled woman and opens all the doors *hates* women per se, as opposed to, say, an angry incel (as opposed to non-angry incel) of the type you were describing a while ago. I've seen the term 'benevolent sexism' for someone who holds all the classic pedestalizing views, as opposed to 'hostile sexism' (women take advantage of men, etc.) for the standard angry incel-type. This dichotomy might be useful if you have to discuss this sort of thing again in progressive contexts.

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'misogyny', while originally meaning 'hatred of women' ('miso'-, the usual root for 'bad', + '-gyny', of or relating to women), has been extended to mean 'believes in traditional roles' or 'supporting the patriarchy',

Yes, I looked up the definition when writing the post and saw that, was mightily irritated. I noted that not every definition was that broad but many were. I think this is new, and for me inaccurate. I don't know if I believe in "benevolent sexism" but I have seen all my life that men (and women) who have quite rigid ideas about gender and character can be loving and respectful towards each other in reality.

I do realize its a complicated and thorny subject. I imagined someone asking me if I would make the same statement about racism and I wouldn't; I consider racism and sexism very different. But then I remembered, there have existed very racist people, I mean slave holders, who would rhapsodize about how much they loved black people. At least once in my life have met an openly racist person who expressed great admiration for aspects of traditional black culture (music, folklore). So this gives me pause. Still thinking about it, for whatever that is worth.

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Yeah that's why I'm kind of skeptical of this obsession with "representation" and "cultural identity" cause it can sometimes have the opposite effect of just becoming another symptom of something capitalistic and actually oppositional to the point that the collective human(?)(ity?) is trying to make. If there is a point underneath all of the hiddenness and sublimity. To like, simply earn a badge of groupiness? I don't know what to call it? Some kind of classism. A weird new kind of classism that is very random and bizarre. I think The Bizarre is very potent in this area of thought about cultural identity and performativity.

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It reminds me of how in Scientology you through OT levels? I feel like we are going through that collectively. That our inherent persistent kind of need to prove a lack of racism, is that little thing that contains the monster it is trying to defy (pretend to defy?).

I think as long as there capitalism, there might be a racial symptom. Even in the white cult of black slavery, there are hierarchies of power within the race itself that is like a double racism. W.E.B. DuBois wrote about the doubleness of the black man. About living underneath layers of the fiction of what black man is supposed to be/not supposed to be. There's the rub.

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Well...if they couldn't be loving and respectful to each other, that kind of implies almost nobody had a healthy relationship before 1965 or so, which seems intuitively wrong (though you could probably find people who would argue that was the case).

I'd argue (and this is maybe me being to the right of most of your commenters) the old roles actually worked for *some* people. Certainly not everyone, and that's why there were all those movements. Maybe 50%? Hard to say exactly how many. I definitely knew women who told me they would have liked to be housewives (work often sucks, particularly outside the upper middle class), I don't know how anyone who actually wanted to be a slave.

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I'm confused. When you say "Well...if they couldn't be loving and respectful to each other, that kind of implies almost nobody had a healthy relationship before 1965 or so" are you speaking of men and women? If so we aren't in disagreement; I was saying that love and respect between men and women can exist even in what many people, including myself, might consider a sexist or patriarchal structure.

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May 10, 2023Liked by Mary Gaitskill

Yes, I was agreeing with you and trying to do a reductio ad absurdum of the opposite position. Sorry!

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Appreciate and the reductio ad ab was perfect

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Thanks as always Mary

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Apr 28, 2023Liked by Mary Gaitskill

Nice follow up. Thanks!

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Apr 28, 2023Liked by Mary Gaitskill

Life expectancy in the US is *declining*, which puts it in the same class as Somalia and Afghanistan. Most of the decrease is from overdose and gun violence in the Trump belt among people under 40. People are F-ed enough to destroy themselves, and enough of them are F-ed to offset ever-increasing prosperity. Around the deaths of despair will be a large circle of people who are miserable, but not miserable enough to die and be counted in statistics. I would prefer a conversation that acknowledges the problem and leads to action, rather than one saying the situation is fine and no action is needed.

Looking back at the 60s with hindsight doesn't do it justice, because we know all the outcomes: we know the Soviet Union collapses and people will go around saying that communism doesn't work, that the civil rights act will pass but the Black Nationalist movement will fail to establish a separate state for African Americans, that the Vietnam war will be pointless, and that the rebellious youth will join the middle class as long as they can wear Che Guevara Tshirts. But people then didn't know what was going to happen. It wasn't guaranteed to come out all right. And maybe it wouldn't have come out all right if people had sat on their hands.

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I'm definitely not saying everything is fine and no action is needed. The world situation and our country's situation in particular are in no way "fine." But regarding the large and acute social problems you are pointing to, Lit classes and fiction writing classes are not equipped to act on them or even lead to action on them in a direct way. That is a source of frustration and even a kind of passivity on the part of many instructors now, that they feel they are being asked to address huge social problems while at the same time being restricted in how they can speak or handle situations touching on these problems in class. The conversations I pointed to in this piece as hopeful are hopeful to me because they reveal openness and curiosity re: a full spectrum of opinion (as opposed to being programmatically told what is right) which is a first step to having conversations that might lead to action. The possible course of action I described in the last part of this essay, having a discussion with the class about whether or not they were open to workshopping a violent story would've been a better option than having it decided for them even if the result would likely have been the same, that it would not have been agreed to. I didn't do that in part because of the experience I was having with the student who was erratic in his interest. But also because I felt I would've been fighting the entire ethos of the school, both the admin and the student body, which at that time, during my last semester, I did not feel a inclined to do. But in smaller instances, which I laid out in the essay, I did feel I was able to have an effect in terms of their communications skills. I understand if that small effect doesn't look like that much to you, given the nature of the problems you're referring to. But small things add up and we have to do what we can where we are.

Re: the sixties, not sure what you mean. I brought that up very specifically to recall that then, which was also a time of great generational difference, that older people were seeing the young and the attempts at social change more negatively than was realistic. The same may be happening now. I think you are saying that the 60s were disappointing politically? Not sure I agree, some social change engendered then has continued to develop dramatically even if some of it was superficial and faddish. But that's not what I was focused on.

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May 2, 2023Liked by Mary Gaitskill

I think you are spot on in this comment, especially about giant social issues making people frustrated and passive. I responded to " the despair of the young " with a verse about losing courage when faced with acute structural problems, and recommended growing a healthy structure by 2% each year. It sounds like your comment is headed in same general direction, when you talk about small things adding up. I apologize if my comment sounded accusatory.

About the 60s: each situation seems very uncertain when you're going through it, and then afterwards historians with 20/20 hindsight claim that actually that outcome was inevitable, which makes historical decisions seem crazy. Example: I once read a thinkpiece claiming that it was ridiculous for the US to build so many nukes, because the Soviet Union was bound to collapse because their economy was weak because communism doesn't work. At the time however, people around the world, including in the US, were willing to fight and die to change their nations to communism. Presumably they thought communism worked. JFK seemed awfully worried about the missile gap and seemed to think the USSR had a fighting a chance. I think JFK was right and the historian was wrong: at the time, JFK didn't know that the Soviet Union would eventually collapse, so starting a missile program was reasonable.

This sort of mistake is extremely common, and I think you fell into same trap regarding the mental health of boomers in the 60s. Retrospectively, we know that the boomers turn out alright, so the parental worry seems excessive. At the time, the GI generation didn't know that most of their kids would be alright, and some of the interventions they tried because they were worried might actually have helped. Probably the best lesson to learn to from the 60s is to take care of yourself and show people close to you how to do the same. A lot of the craziness started because people were willing to destroy themselves for social causes.

Perhaps we could wrap it up as " the seeking of the young ". They are trying to make sense of their experiences and fantasies, even if some of those experiences and fantasies are kind of dark.

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Thank you for clarifying, and I do agree with the last paragraph. And yeah, hindsight is always easy!

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"Most of the decrease is from overdose and gun violence in the Trump belt among people under 40."

If you look at detailed, color-coded map of the results of the 2020 election, it will appear as mostly a sea of red, with islands of blue for the major population centers. Biden won by 4% of the vote, which is significant. But when people say "Trump belt," they are visualizing something like below the Mason-Dixon Line. Trump and most Republicans recently usually win "the south," in that they get the majority of votes in those states. But Trump voters are not in a geographical "belt." They are in every single county and a I think they win EVERY SINGLE RURAL COUNTY.

If there is a civil war division, the "proportionate solution" would be geographically for the country to be a sea of red punctuated with islands of blue, and mostly blue thin lines along each coast.

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May 8, 2023Liked by Mary Gaitskill

"So 2/3 of eligible voters voted in 2020."

It was an unusual year. There isn't going to be a civil war. Nobody wants that to happen and Americans are too lulled by Netflix-n-chill culture to get off their behinds and fight with and kill their neighbors, thank goodness! Your average Dem and average Repub are perfectly capable of getting along with one another - and they do.

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"Americans are too lulled by Netflix-n-chill culture to get off their behinds and fight with and kill their neighbors, thank goodness!"

I generally agree. Though even a small number who might be willing to get off behinds etc. could raise a lot of hell.

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"If there is a civil war division..." Civil war over WHAT? If you suggest between Democrats and Republicans, most Americans don't even vote.

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Per Google: "Approximately 240 million people were eligible to vote in the 2020 presidential election and roughly 66.1% of them submitted ballots, totaling about 158 million."

So 2/3 of eligible voters voted in 2020.

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Like I said above (in reply to you but in the wrong place), it was an unusual year. There will be no civil war.

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Apr 28, 2023Liked by Mary Gaitskill

Part of your appeal Mary, is your ability to reach back. But without the ability in that present to perceive, there would of course be no reaching back. Well, there would be no value in the reach-back. I can't speak for men in general, but with myself, with the hormone levels of that age, I was lucky to be able to think technically, but really, I'm not sure I have sensitivity in a humanistic way even today. So a general thank you.

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"with myself, with the hormone levels of that age, I was lucky to be able to think technically"

That was actually true of me in college too. Its a miracle I learned anything.

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Well, despite the hormones, you managed (as your recollections show) to absorb well beyond the curriculum. Sadly, or fortunately, I did not. There may be a difference in the ability to "unconsciously selectively repress" to allow one to charge ahead into the future blissfully. You seem to move ahead despite various baggage which would cause many to lock themselves away.

My sense though is that there is an under-explored thread which connects the modern college student angst to elevated levels of tension "in the hood". Violence, real violence, not trigger-word aggression style violence, is on an an accelerated upward trend. Reaching well back, to when the curve was flat, an informal post by a Philadelphian caught my eye last week. He posted, "I grew up in the 80s and it never crossed my mind, or my friends', to shoot somebody?! I had both well-off and not-so-well-off kids I dealt with but nobody ever picked up a gun (and they were around then too) to 'solve' anything...just fist-fights, at worst. If anyone even used a knife or club, let alone a gun, they were viewed as losers and wusses."

Some of us have these useful data points which tell us something is happening. But most of us, and all of us as an aggregate, are like an animal who has stepped into a tar pit. They know something is very wrong, but do not have the capacity to come to terms with their situation. Though we humans have a far broader scope and depth of time-aware intellect, I feel we are like that animal and have slowly waded into a tar pit fated by our nature.

If possible Mary, turn up your "spidey sense" and find those threads which surely must be there connecting the heightened anxieties to their causes. My gut tells me there is commonality between the classroom and the streets, though I cannot see it. Some primitive anxiety inducing reaction to?

Perhaps we are trapped to sink in our pit, no escape. But if there is a chance to survive, we will need calmed. And this is exactly what your post provided, a little bit of calm in the thrashing about. Perhaps calm will decelerate our descent, or with luck, better.

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I really enjoyed both posts and found the first very painful to read. I feel it is rare to see the depth of how anti-social technology has made many of us articulated in a not cliched way. I agree also that it is seemingly easier to control certain social contracts than to scale these other overwhelming crises and would guess that being inside on our phones for 2 years made this worse. I like this video on the subject -

https://www.tiktok.com/@julesterpak/video/7144912483151777070

For all the emphasis on empathizing with people of a different social class, race, gender, sexual orientation, etc., from one's own, there is not a lot of emphasis on empathy between generations, which is weird because despite the unique issues of each age group's time, age is the only thing we all (if we live long enough) will have experienced from "all sides"...Maybe since age isn't a vector of oppression (or rather, ageism can go both ways), it doesn't seem urgent to have more understanding or consideration. It's not like fighting ageism is its own social movement, even though this lack of consideration is linked to many issues, the climate crisis being the most pressing, which is why trite sentiments like "young people will save the world" (in response to Greta Thunberg etc) feel so inane and way too easy. But maybe schools have more of this going on than I realize. Zadie Smith's essay on Tar was about this too.

My dad is a high school English teacher who taught Secretary this year and was mad at himself for forgetting to issue a trigger warning for the first class, which he did for the second and third ones. He said the second and third classes were way more able to talk about the story because, he presumed, they'd been prepared, whereas the first class kind of couldn't get past the shock of that scene and they had to spend more time talking about the event itself than the writing. I admit I expected the inverse: that the classes who'd gotten trigger warnings had been told to feel anxiety and therefore would fixate on the event, and the class who just read the story without any disclaimer would move right along and maybe find the scene more ambiguous. I was wrong! I'd like to think they would get more out of it by knowing less--I like to know as little as possible going into any story or movie, etc., as though this enables me to have a more "pure" experience. But if one is sensitive to certain sensations then they (I) might just become hyper vigilant when they're evoked and then the whole reading is clouded, particularly if there isn't enough of a baseline of trust with, in this case, a 72 year old man who only teaches one quarter a year.

I didn't go to college but as an actor in rehearsals or on sets with varying levels of newfound sensitivity, the thing that gets me is when someone discusses a topic they haven't experienced as though it must also be abstract for everyone else in the room. It just feels alienating especially when your job requires being vulnerable. But there often isn't time to establish the kind of trust that would make this a simple misunderstanding or a productive conflict.

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our world would be better for young and old to share more in multiple dimensions- thanks for your insights and hopefulness and love light on

youth

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