Our editor Sam Volpe points you in the direction of a few articles guaranteed to make you ponder. Read remarkable articles on sexual relations, the minimum level of care we can expect from our governments, or evolutionary biology.
This time last year I wrote that 2016 had not been so bad. The more I think about it, I was right, as 2017 has been in many ways a dispiriting one. This said, we have a lot to learn from.
Whether in regard to sexual relations, the minimum level of care we can expect from our governments, or evolutionary biology, truths have been unveiled – some hard, some interesting – and the writing which follows forms a useful primer on the watersheds we have crossed in 2017.
Ultimately, it’s easy to imagine that the past few months may be remembered for the dam breaking on a culture of sexual harassment that has permeated every sphere of society.
This damning and visceral piece of writing in the Paris Review truly captures the scale of the horror. Claire Dederer manages to simply capture how sexual harassment works on a systematic socio-cultural scale. There is not much I can add. Dederer’s deconstruction of partriarchal monstrosity is a difficult read – needless to say it is worth braving.
Another writer’s take on sexual harassment piqued my interest too. Stephanie Boland’s short piece is a different genre entirely, but I found the careful and artful essay poignant and telling. Boland writesabout art and feminism eloquently: It is a slight and and quiet piece, but it is worth perusing.
Earlier in the year, in the UK at least, we had a moment of profound national horror – a moment where the structural inequality and troubling social divisions in England were writ large and bold. In the last few weeks the authorities (who in this case more than any other are indeed to be thought of as nameless authorities) named what they call the ‘final’ victims of the Grenfell Tower fire.
The activist and writer Matt Bloomfield, along with many others, took issue with this – it is thought that others may have died in the fire (as many Grenfell tenants had irregular living arrangements). Matt wrote this: It is a righteous and angry piece of prose, and it is essential reading to understand both the callous context of Grenfell, and why the ‘social contract’ is fraying more generally.
I make no apology for the furious tone of the pieces above – there is much to be said for anger aimed at the right people, especially in cases so harrowing as many of the recent sexual harassment allegations and the Grenfell Tower fire. However, if you are searching for some lighter reading, take a look at this Aeon.co article about the ctenophore species of marine animal.
(Yes, when I said lighter, I was speaking relatively.)
This Douglas Fox article dramatises one of the most obscure but fascinating strands of biology that exists. In writing about the scientist Leonid Moroz and his search to make sense of the bizarre experimental findings he discovered on a quiet walk on Puget Sound in the north-western United States.
Ostensibly, it’s an article about research methods, an odd class of animals and a struggle for validation. Actually though, it’s about knowledge, the common assumptions we make, and the way in which learning about the world can still somehow surprise us and teach us incredible things. It’s the sort of piece which leaves you with a burning desire to change careers and become a biological researcher.
Finally, this multi-author piece about children’s literature and political undertones is warm, interesting, and timely. It tells us much about prejudice and power, and it is a wildly different companion to the Grenfell Tower essay above. In this piece writers such as the wonderful Nikesh Shukla and UK Green Party politician Caroline Lucas muse upon how The Wind in the Willows and Watership Down are truly mirrors for our society. Take a look.