Final Thoughts for the Week and My Must-Read Roundup (12/1/2023)

"Kissinger has many successors and their world-destroying work is proceeding apace."

Final Thoughts for the Week and My Must-Read Roundup (12/1/2023)

Final Thoughts for the Week

This week, many of us celebrated the death of Henry Kissinger. We celebrated with jokes, memes, and accounts of why the man was so widely hated. As usual, there were some blathering centrists, right-wingers, and respectability police who denounced our grave dancing, but we were unmoved. The celebration was a moment that seemed to fulfill Twitter’s raison d'etre during its waning days. But now that our moment of elation has passed, we have been left to grapple with the ongoing devastation waged by Kissinger’s many successors, whose world-destroying work is proceeding apace.

The legacy of Henry Kissinger is all around us. From the mines that continue to explode in Cambodia each year to government officials whose foreign policy approaches mirror Kissinger’s deadly machinations. There is a reason Kissinger has garnered bipartisan praise from figures like President George W. Bush and Hillary Clinton. Conservative and neoliberal officials alike esteem Kissinger in the same way that I cherish my first philosophy professor, a man who helped shape my practice of critical thought, as well as my approach to questions of right and wrong.

What’s more, the Kissinger-esque policies of the present remain largely invisible to the U.S. population. When visiting universities, I sometimes ask students who among them has heard of AFRICOM. In a room of 50 young people, one or two hands will be raised.

Violence that is more visible to us here in the U.S. is also in full swing. President Biden has recently made moves to grant Israel greater access to the U.S. weapons stockpile. Kissinger’s legacy is also visible in the ongoing genocide Israel is waging against Palestinians in Gaza, from the cooperation he brokered between Egypt and Israel to the ruthless prioritization of U.S. interests Biden has exhibited — which has been met with the kind of widespread dissent this country experienced during the war in Vietnam.  

Those mass protests against Israel’s genocidal attacks on Gaza must continue. I have been heartened by the intensity of this movement moment, and I hope we can hold onto that intensity, even after a ceasefire is won. It will be needed. The oppression of Gaza will not end when this round of Israel’s violence abates, and nor will the larger struggle we face, against settler-colonialism, authoritarianism, ethno-nationalism, and capitalism itself.

Settler colonialism and capitalism are inherently genocidal. They rely upon the normalization or erasure of genocide to function. This has always been the case, but the annihilation-based systems that govern our lives have reached an inflection point. Capitalism’s relationship to liberal democracy is crumbling. As more people rise up to defend their lives or claim their freedom, the frameworks that people like Kissinger worked within will clamp down harder than ever.

We are living through an era of climate crisis during which more and more land will become uninhabitable. Increased global catastrophes are inevitable, as I recently discussed with Dean Spade, and catastrophes spur migration. Mass migration is ongoing and such trends will only increase with time. Increased immigration leads to increased conservatism in the U.S., and the same trend is visible in Europe, where anti-migrant politics are rampant.  The compounding violence of capitalism has set the stage for a massive rightward lurch, which will further empower fascist and authoritarian actors.

As 2023 winds toward its conclusion, I am looking ahead and trying to envision what meaningful work looks like under the conditions I’ve described. Fortunately, I have guideposts in this effort, given that there are people all over the world endeavoring to save themselves and each other in spite of disaster, repression, grief, and loss. May we all take the time to learn from them. More than anything, I believe we must build a counterculture of care that rejects the politics of disposability and mass death, as Mariame and I discuss in our book. If you need some inspiration on that front, I also recommend the 1 Million Experiments podcast.

Scattered experiments are not a blueprint for change, but if we are honest with ourselves, we must acknowledge that there are no blueprints for liberation. There is no perfect formula. There is no guru with all of the answers. We are outside the bounds of human experience, even as most people attempt to reenact the normalcy of a dying age. If that sounds terrifying, take heart. We are hardly the first human beings to persevere in the face of unprecedented challenges. We don’t know what will happen, and as Mariame reminds us, that means that we cannot assume the worst.

Fortunately, we do not need to have all the answers to look upon injustice and say, “Not this.” We do not have to know how things will turn out or believe that the odds are on our side to practice hope each day. We can identify the outcomes we want and the values that we want to see expressed and move toward them in whatever ways we can. This wisdom, gleaned from Joanna Macy, guides me through each day.

As Mariame reminds us, hope is a discipline.

What I do know, with certainty, is that we must make connections between the figures we loathe, the systems we oppose, and the material conditions that empower them. We must also educate one another about those connections. I am not saying you must fight every battle simultaneously, as that is not possible. You are one person with a finite capacity. Finding our lane and our role as events unfold is all any of us can do. But we must recognize that victory or defeat on any singular front is part of a larger, enduring struggle. We must comprehend that struggle and recognize our positionality. We must also remember that however a singular conflict turns out, we must regroup and continue to act against the larger structures that are destroying our world.

As 2023 slips away, the question before us is this: Will we stumble forward, anesthetizing ourselves with escapism and denial, as we participate in the death march of late capitalism, or will we be resistors, committed to saving as many lives as possible for as long as possible? Will we endeavor to preserve the ecosystems that make our existence possible, or will we watch passively as capitalists lay waste to our hopes while spouting fantasies of life on Mars?

I see hope in the waves of refusal, solidarity, and defiance the Palestine solidarity movement has generated. These efforts are a reminder that we do have the capacity to defend one another’s lives and to reject mass death as a norm or an inevitability. If we can continue to move against injustice with that kind of energy, we do not know what might happen, and there is hope in that uncertainty.

As ever, I believe in us, whatever the odds. I believe in our potential because I have seen and experienced it. I believe that another world is possible because I can imagine it, and I believe that you can imagine it, too. I refuse to surrender to the legacies of death-makers and I hope that you will continue to do the same. We are still free to decide who we will be and become in these times, and I hope we will meet the future with courage, generosity, and solidarity. Not everyone will have the strength to do so, and that means we need people like you to help light the way.

This Week’s Must-Read Articles

From Palestine to Elon Musk, the forced outing of trans students, and the treatment of migrants in the U.S., here are some important stories that you may have missed this week.

No Human Animals: On Black Solidarity with Palestine and the Defense of Life by Robyn Maynard. “Every single liberatory struggle in defense of human and earthly life needs to be attuned to what is happening today: to the relentless and preventable slaughter of Palestinians in Gaza and the occupied West Bank, and to the mass detention of thousands of Gazan workers interned inside of Israel.”

Elon Musk built his own reality. Now it's consuming him by Paris Marx. “Musk is melting down; there’s no question about it. But as the foundation below him crumbles and reality continues to breach his fantasy, he’s not the only one at risk. As he falls, Musk has the wealth and power to cause a lot of damage on the way, and as he warned advertisers, he will try to take others down with him. We need to be ready for that, and governments need to wake up to the danger he poses before it’s too late.”

This Palestinian’s Story Undercuts Claim That IDF Doesn’t Target Civilians by Mike Ludwig. “Asked what Gaza needs from the world right now, Zidiah simply said ‘humanity.’”

‘You cannot have 10,000 dead Palestinians and not say anything’ by Tina Vásquez. “‘I can’t really remember a time when I wasn’t aware of colonialism. My family’s life was shaped by it. Our last name was even changed because of French soldiers in our village. That’s how much of an influence imperialism and colonialism has had in our lives.’” (The featured quote comes from a Palestinian mother of two.)

The Christian Right Wants to Force Teachers to Out Trans Kids by Melissa Gira Grant. “Far from being meant to protect students, as trans students and other opponents of the forced outing policy argued, such a policy can be used as a weapon for the school district and for parents to get children to ‘conform’ (under duress) to their gender as assigned at birth.”

As [Chicago] Battles Housing Shortage, CHA Lets Hundreds Of Empty Homes Decay by Emeline Posner, Jennifer Bamberg, Rachel Hinton and Mick Dumke. “An investigation by Block Club Chicago and the Illinois Answers Project has found the CHA is sitting on nearly 500 empty homes that are part of its scattered-site program — even as Chicago struggles to address housing crises on multiple fronts, from historically high rents that many families can’t afford to a surge in homelessness to a stream of migrants who need shelter.”

Migrants struggle against the elements in San Diego’s open-air desert camps by Melissa Gomez. “Once on American soil, the migrants subsist in makeshift open-air camps, where the number of tents are not nearly enough for the number of migrants. For warmth, they huddle around campfires fueled by brush and felled trees. When it’s time to sleep, many are left to rely on plastic tarps and thin blankets to shelter them from the wind and nighttime lows that can fall below 40 degrees.”

Lessons of growing up black and Jewish by Chanda Prescod-Weinstein. “Many Jews of colour interpret the language of Zionism through our experience with racism and colonialism, and we recognise the familiar supremacist logic that underpins it.”


I am once again recommending that folks check out one of my favorite podcasts, Tech Won’t Save Us. This week, Paris Marx talks with Joanne McNeil about McNeil’s new novel, Wrong Way, which deals with the human labor behind self-driving cars. McNeil also discusses the challenges of being a good tech critic. I really appreciated McNeil’s insights and I can’t wait to dig into her novel.

Speaking Engagements

On Tuesday, December 12th, 2023, at 7:00 p.m. Central Time, I will be at Pilsen Community Books in Chicago talking with David K. Seitz about his book A Different Trek: Radical Geographies of Deep Space Nine. The conversation will be livestreamed, but it will not be recorded.

Friends, I am so excited about this conversation. As we all know, I am a highly political nerd, and as many of you are aware, I adore DS9. I have loved it since I was in middle school and junior high, grappling with the contradictions between what I had been conditioned to feel about the United States and my deepening knowledge of the colonial violence my people had experienced.

Star Trek: The Next Generation was an important part of my childhood, but DS9 was crucial to my youthful journey into independent thought. That may sound silly to some, but, as I am always saying, we understand and experience the world in stories. And the story of a decolonized planet trying to forge a new path after years of violent occupation raised many important questions for me.

While I didn’t come through the show with a fully formed analysis, as I was no prodigy in that regard, DS9 definitely had an impact on my political trajectory. If you want to hear me talk with David but can’t catch the conversation in-person or via livestream, take heart, as David and I will be chatting about DS9 and the political power of popular sci-fi in the new year on Movement Memos.

You can find information about the event and watch out for info about the livestream here.

My Winter Break

As I have previously mentioned, I will be taking several weeks off, starting at the end of next week. I need some time to tend to my health and my family. But given that I can rarely keep my thoughts to myself, you may hear from me a bit during my break. We’ll see.

Next week, I intend to publish one more interview before my break begins — a conversation with author and political analyst Sarah Kendzior. I always appreciate my conversations with Sarah and hope you will get as much out of the interview as I did.

Words to Reflect On

This week, sociologist, writer, editor, and data artist Tamara K. Nopper reminded us that Toni Morrison said that fascism “changes citizens into taxpayers—so individuals become angry at even the notion of the public good,” and “changes parenting into panicking—so that we vote against the interests of our own children; against their health care…their safety from weapons.”

I have been thinking about those words ever since and I invite you to join me in that contemplation.

In solidarity,


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