This is the world we live in.

Recently, one of my friends posted on Facebook that you know the economy sucks when people tell you you’re lucky to have a job. She went on to say how messed-up it is that, instead of employment being the default and unemployment meaning you’re down on your luck, people are considered lucky to have jobs at all.

The same day, Sarah Kendzior tweeted about a man who could only afford to eat one meal a day while working an unpaid internship–which was in human rights.

And then I read that my alma mater just gave eight million dollars to its former president.

This is the world we live in.

There are so many solutions–and so much money and power standing in the way of those solutions.

And it’s damn hard to work toward solutions, toward a better world, while still living in this one.

I am reminded of David Cain’s piece, Your lifestyle has already been designed. Cain writes about returning to a traditional 9-to-5 job after spending time traveling, and realizing that he became both casually careless with his money and too tired to exercise or do creative things.

He notes that:

Keeping free time scarce means people pay a lot more for convenience, gratification, and any other relief they can buy. It keeps them watching television, and its commercials. It keeps them unambitious outside of work.

We’ve been led into a culture that has been engineered to leave us tired, hungry for indulgence, willing to pay a lot for convenience and entertainment, and most importantly, vaguely dissatisfied with our lives so that we continue wanting things we don’t have. We buy so much because it always seems like something is still missing.

I know this dynamic too well.

I should note that working a 40-hour workweek makes both Cain and myself luckier than the many, many people who work far more hours, including those who string together multiple low-paid part-time jobs just to get by.  

But even still, I often come home exhausted, especially during the busy times when I’m on my feet lifting things all day. It’s harder to have energy for activism–including activism aimed at building a just and healthy economic system–especially when that activism involves putting on shoes and leaving the house.

It’s also harder to live up to my community-centric values when the last thing I want to do after work is go out to a local event or meeting. And it’s harder to support small local businesses–when I’m tired and don’t want to go out, it’s so much easier to buy everything from Amazon instead. 

It’s a vicious cycle that’s really, really hard to break.

On the policy level, I can think of plenty of things that could break the cycle.

On the personal level, it’s just a struggle. 

Things that give me hope

1.) New York’s Youth Poet Laureate, Ramya Ramana, reading her poem titled “New York City” at Mayor Bill de Blasio’s inauguration (transcript available here):

When I watch this young woman read, I can almost believe that change is possible. That the tides are turning. That we, the people, can and will rise.

Not just because of the beauty and fierceness and demand for justice that shines so clearly through her performance–although that alone is enough to blow me away.

But because this beauty and fierceness and demand for justice takes place at the swearing-in of a new mayor in the city that is America’s heart. The city that has been sanitized and stratified by 12 years of Bloomberg’s neoliberal policies. The city that has become an extreme–and extremely visible–symbol of an economic system that crushes lives and spirits.

The city that refuses to give up fighting.

In that fight, I see a world of new beginnings.

2.) Rebecca Solnit’s essay, “The arc of justice and the long run: hope, history, and unpredictability.”

Solnit argues that “[s]ometimes cause and effect are centuries apart; sometimes Martin Luther King’s arc of the moral universe that bends toward justice is so long few see its curve; sometimes hope lies not in looking forward but backward to study the line of that arc.” She gives examples of social and political seeds that germinated for years, decades, even centuries before bearing fruit: the role of hip-hop in the Arab Spring uprisings; the influence of Thoreau’s writing, which sold few books when he was alive, on both Gandhi and King; the effect that a seeing a talented black trumpet player had on a young man who grew up to help end segregation by aiding the plaintiffs in Brown v. Board of Education.

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Is creativity dead in Boston? Not the one I know.

bridge covered in rainbow slinkies

An installation by artist Lisa Greenfield during the Fort Point Open Studios, 2009

Social critic Sarah Kendzior’s latest piece, Expensive cities are killing creativity, didn’t sit right with me. Normally, I find myself all but jumping up and down in agreement with her work–but this time, I found much of her analysis jarringly at odds with my own experience.

Kendzior describes expensive coastal cities like New York and San Francisco as “gated citadels,” playgrounds for the rich, places where corporate pressure and the high cost of living reward conformity and stifle creativity. (Although she doesn’t mention Boston specifically, she does include it in a follow-up tweet.)

But my Boston doesn’t feel corporatized, sanitized, like a gated citadel. My Boston isn’t a place where creativity is undervalued, or valued only when it enriches wealthy children. My Boston certainly isn’t a place where “you live when you are born having arrived.”

My Boston is vibrant and creative as hell. Especially here in Somerville, where I’ve lived for five and a half years–and which has the second-highest concentration of artists in the country.

First off, I can’t talk about creativity in Boston without mentioning the folk dancing and music scene, which has been the base of my social circle for as long as I’ve lived here. There’s an incredible number of regular social dance events, culminating in the yearly NEFFA festival, a veritable folkie paradise of singing, jamming, dancing, and outdoor cuddle piles. We have gender-free contras, guerilla contras, a dance and music camp in nearby Plymouth, lots of overlap with the swing and blues dancing scene, great concerts at Club Passim and other venues–and most importantly, a strong sense of community. Individual people may come and go, but the community stays–and I doubt it’s going away anytime soon.

Outdoor contra dance in Copley Square, 2007.

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Friday links, 7/26/13

Fa(t)shion
Erin tries out BeauCoo, a body-positive outfit-sharing app, and finds it promising but problematic in many ways.
-I love the kids’ clothing in this Etsy shop! They even have a TARDIS skirt and a tuxedo dress.
-A new Tumblr dedicated to alt-fatshion: Plus Size Goth.
This dog is so stylish!
-I so wish this sharkini came in plus sizes.
-Somebody, please, buy this size XXL skull lace dress with red trim so I can enjoy it vicariously.
-Canadian readers, check out Lucy Clothing!
-Kriss, a Swedish brand that goes up to size 2XL, now has an online shop that ships worldwide! It’s expensive, but they have some really cute stuff.
-Karyn takes down fashion “rules.”
-Another recent find: the Bargain Catalog Outlet, which has super-cheap clothes from various plus size catalogs.
Adventures in summer style with Harvey Guillen.

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Friday Links, 2/1/2013

More pictures from Watkins Glen

Happy February! I’m thinking about doing Fatshion February, even though it’s mainly a Tumblr thing and I don’t have Tumblr. We’ll see.

In other news, check out my guest post at Anytime Yoga! I’m also going to be writing at Glorify once the site launches.

Fat Activism
– Another excellent Fatsronauts 101 from Melissa at Shakesville.
-I feel cold just reading this, but it’s a great story: How joining the Coney Island Polar Bear Club taught me to love my body.
IDEA’s massive yoga no-no.
-Today in fat hatred: a shame-tastic article about “mixed-weight” relationships.
-A great thin privilege checklist.
-I love this fat art.
At the intersection of survivor and fat.
Letting go of the thin fantasy.
“What’s your excuse?” Another meme that I hate.
Stop congratulating me.
Myths of weight loss.

Fatshion
On crossing the line between straight and plus sizes.
-Marianne is looking forward to 40 thanks to these fashion bloggers. Make sure to read the comments for more recommendations!
-This fabric featuring fabulous fatties is adorable.
-This wedding fair photoshoot is pure eye candy.
More eye candy, with flowers and petticoats galore.

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Friday Links, 11/23/12

FA
-The Fat Nutritionist has a lovely post of advice on dealing with the holidays.
It’s not because I’m fat.
This New Moon article about food and eating is amazing. I hope it reaches many, many girls.
The end of fat people: goodbye, Hostess.
-Lesley writes movingly about her preteen eating disordered years.
-A lovely piece–complete with adorable baby pictures!– by a mother who found that she could no longer hate her chin once she saw the same feature on her daughter.

Fa(t)shion
A new study shows that, despite the growing number of fatshion bloggers, mainstream companies have not responded by making more plus-size clothes. Although that’s disappointing, I agree with Nicolette Mason’s quote in the article. She says that the independent plus-size marketplace is thriving, and gives many examples of indie plus-size lines. Also, how cool is it that there’s a study called “Frustrated Fatshionistas: An Institutional Theory Perspective on Consumer Quests for Greater Choice in Mainstream Markets?”
-Threadless’ TARDamask shirt is back in stock! They only have a few sizes available (and unfortunately no Men’s 2XL, which should fit me according to the size chart), but if you wear one of those sizes, check it out.
These costumes are amazing.
-Who knew that Land’s End made some nice plus size clothing, including this lovely sequined skirt?
The real cost of your clothing.
Smart internet shopping for style lovers.
-This plus size Australian clothing swap sounds like so much fun!

Other
Tuesday was Transgender Day of Remembrance, which should be a day of action for cisgender people.
-Robert Reich, the former Secretary of Labor under Clinton, is working on a film about inequality in the US. He’s amazing–I took a class with him in college, and he’s probably the best lecturer I’ve ever heard. He can make any concept understandable and fascinating, and he’s got a great sense of humor. The inequality in our society right now is a huge, huge issue, and I’m glad he’s trying to bring it to light. I highly recommend donating to his Kickstarter, or at least passing on the word.
-A must-read from Dahlia Lithwick: I didn’t come back to Jerusalem to be in a war.
Cliff mocks the latest issue of Cosmo, which is as ridiculous as usual.
-A beautiful story by an adopted transwoman whose Korean birth mother gave her the courage to transition.
-A great comic from The Oatmeal about creating things for a living.

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