Ethnographic fragments #22: Madeleine Albright, aging white America, Michael Ondaatje, the failing country club, and more young London jazz

plucking a chicken feather by feather


Another bloody immigrant.

Madeleine Albright was a small girl when her family fled Czechoslovakia after the Nazis occupied the country in 1939.  After 10 days in hiding, her parents escaped Prague for Britain.

Albright’s new book Fascism: A Warning “is a cry of anguish about the global resurgence of authoritarianism and a lament over the decay of the liberal internationalist politics to which Albright has devoted her career …

I [Andrew Rawnsley] suggest to her that the book struggles to offer a satisfactory definition of fascism. ‘Defining fascism is difficult,’ she responds. ‘First of all, I don’t think fascism is an ideology. I think it is a method, it’s a system.’

It is in his methods that Trump can be compared with, if not precisely likened to, the dictators of the 1930s. Fascists are typically masters of political theatre. They feed on and inflame grievances by setting ‘the people’ against their ‘enemies’. Fascists tell their supporters that there are simple fixes for complex problems. They present as national saviours and conflate themselves with the state. They seek to subvert, discredit and eliminate liberal institutions. She reminds us that they have often ascended to power through the ballot box and then undermined democracy from within. She is especially fond of a Mussolini quote about ‘plucking a chicken feather by feather’ so that people will not notice the loss of their freedoms until it is too late.”

A chilling interview by Andrew Rawnsley with the former US Secretary of State in the Guardian.


uncomfortable demographics


The leader of the Free World keeping ‘Murica safe for old white men (Skynews image)

“As controversy continued to rage … about the Trump Administration’s policy of separating migrant families at the southern border, the Census Bureau published new data that show why the United States will need more immigrants, not fewer, in the coming decades.

Demographers and economists have been warning that the aging baby-boomer population presents a serious challenge to the nation’s finances, as the ratio of seniors to working-age adults—the age-dependency ratio—rises … If the dependency ratio rises, the financial burden on the working-age population also increases …

In 1980, there were nineteen Americans age sixty-five or older for every hundred Americans between the ages of eighteen and sixty-four. The dependency ratio was nineteen per cent … In 2011, the first members of the baby-boom generation (people born between 1946 and 1964) turned sixty-five. By 2017, the age-dependency ratio had risen to twenty-five per cent—an increase of four percentage points in just seven years. In the coming decades, it is expected to rise even more sharply. By 2030, the ratio would climb to 35 retiree-age Americans for every 100 of working age . . . and 42 by 2060 …”

The demographics of white supremacy, as covered in the New Yorker.  Or, why old white America is on the skids and but still holds future generations hostage.

Après nous, le déluge.


best of the booker


Sri Lankan-born Canadian author Michael Ondaatjee wins the “Best of the Man Booker Prize” for his 1992 novel The English Patient. Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the prestigious prize for the best novels written in English and published in Britain and Ireland, the award was voted by the public from a short-list of five previous Booker prize winners.

Or, why the west needs immigrants.


the failing country club

mara lago

Image by trumpenstein

“Millennials who are burdened with loan debt often can’t buy homes,” writes Kelsey Lawrence in CityLab, “much less drop thousands of dollars on club initiation fees and dues. (Annual country-club dues run several thousand dollars on average, plus an initiation fee that’s usually no less than $5,000.)

And if cost isn’t a deterrent, many young people are put off by the image of the country club—stuffy and formal, with old-fashioned dress codes and rules about cell-phone use. Not to mention the rich history of racial and religious discrimination that accompanies many such organizations.

The traditional country club and the activity that is its mainstay—golf—are both having a hard time attracting a younger demographic. In the 1990s, there were more than 5,000 full-service golf and country clubs in the 1990s. In 2010, there were about 4,100, and now that number has dipped below 4,000 … In the ‘90s, around 9 million adults aged 18 to 34 played golf, according to the National Golf Foundation. Today, that number is closer to 6.2 million.”

Trouble in Trumpland.   You’re dying, dudes.


more young London jazz



I’ve posted previously on the young London jazz scene (here and here).  Red Bull UK has now compiled a useful list of 21 records, selected by Tenderlonius, Emma-Jean Thackray, Adam Moses and others involved in the scene.  

“We’re living during an amazing era for UK jazz. Here’s a list of the records which have captured the energy of the new movement and pushed the genre forward. It’s undeniable that British jazz is having a breakthrough moment – but if you’ve had your ear to the ground, you’ll know the scene has been buzzing for years. Musicians are studying the greats while experimenting with new styles, incorporating elements of dub, hip-hop, Afrobeat, UKG and grime, bringing together diverse heritages and creating new cultural contexts …”

Or, why the west needs immigrants.


The English surrealist and documentary filmmaker Humphrey Jennings explained the intellectual project of his book Pandaemonium as to “present, not describe or analyse” the “imaginative history of the Industrial Revolution … by means of what I call Images.  These are quotations from writings of the period in question … which either in the writing or in the nature of the matter itself or both have revolutionary and symbolic and illuminatory quality.  I mean that they contain in little a whole world—they are the knots in a great net of tangled time and space—the moments at which the situation of humanity is clear—even if only for the flash time of the photographer or the lighting.”  

These “snippets” are intended to function in the same way.  Click on the headings to go to the original articles, which are mostly from the mainstream aka fake news media.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s