I’ve been feeling pretty confused with who I am lately — perplexed by my own internal contradictions and external lifestyle, causing me to question my moral compass.
As many of you know, I’m very engaged with politics. I’m always thinking about big world problems at a fast-speed, engaging with conversations on how we can change policy and move the country to a more progressive place. Lots of my political mandates, if I had any governmental power, would be to radically decrease consumption in the United States and limit the rampant power of capitalism. Both have served to exploit workers and undermine the power of people, devastate our planet, and stratify the population into a gross scheme of wealth inequality which has lead to insurmountable amounts of polarization, nationalistic impulses, etc.
I know that I perpetuate a lot of the notions that I want to dismantle.
Whole-heartedly, I believe that individual action won’t get us out of this mess. We can’t buy our way to a green future unless we divest and shut down the fossil fuel industry — consuming “better” or “sustainable” (choose your favorite greenwashing buzzword) products only includes those with money in a solution forward. It’s a pay to play system.
We are inherrently letting the oppressors chooses the terms of which we operate, create the rules for how we can negotiate for a more just future.
And yet… here I am ranting about composting your food scraps, going plant-based or vegan, registering to vote. While all in good faith, “activism” through social media can amount to virtue signaling.
Underneath all of what I’ll call my “internal contradictions” is a great anxiety of fear and doubt that I struggle with on a pretty day-to-day basis.
Will our political actors do anything in the 11 years we have left to take action on climate?
It’s because I care so passionately about the devastating crisis we are in that I feel as though I can do both. I can go to school in order to be a lawyer to sue big oil companies — doing what some may see as the “real” work — while also using social platforms as a tool of advocacy, to change the minds of people around me to engage with the broader environmental crisis that we are all uniquely situated within.
This goes back to the whole reason I started this newsletter.
I started, in all honestly, having any feeling of a purpose after coming to terms with the internal shock I felt after I spent a year interning in the fashion industry. It was my dream: to come to New York and work in the glamorous, creative field to feel that I had finally *made it* — as a very dislocated female teenager in the Midwest would feel.
In reality, I didn’t like it. Fashion was a huge identity marker for me all throughout high school, yet I didn’t feel it was the work I was passionate about or suited to do for the rest of my life.
What was I to do as someone still interested in fashion, yet committed to a deeper passion for political change in the world around me — something which I couldn’t keep my mind off all since I took AP US Government and Politics in ninth grade. I then felt like I was *good* at something.
But I felt good at understanding politics not through external validation… but because the broader vision of making the rules work for a larger sum of the population seems as an ongoing struggle that is ever-changing that I wanted to enlist myself in to fix. The operating governing structures and laws change around us everyday… and they change due to ordinary people.
I was fascinated when I realized that things like the school building fire codes, speed limits, etc…. all of these things which seemed as “taken-for-granted” in my life as a ninth grader, had deeper historical contexts and were written by people — people just like me. This meant that I had the same voice and power to go in to change the rules to make them work for a more democratic, progressive vision of the country.
And so I heard that calling, as cliche as it sounded. There was something in my gut that pushed me to get involved with politics again after a year in fashion – I finally started to listen to myself again, when I first read about rights, laws, the Constitution, Miranda v Arizona, Gideon v Wainwright, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
I had the intellectual capacity to follow these interests and be a mover in the society that I lived in… but I first had to tell myself that I was worthy enough to make political noise, something which I struggle with to this day.
A lot of this is coded by my gender and a sense of imposter syndrome.
To have duality as woman is a threat – you can’t be coded into a singular type or defined by structures which perpetually seek to diminish your fire, simplify your existence.
When I came to transition this blog into something else — which literally came from the skeleton of my sophomore year corny fashion blog — I was perplexed by the the question of “What’s the point in making sense? Why did I feel a though I need to wrap myself up in a bow, to ascribe some sort of meaning to the world around me… while feeling uncomfortably situated a world that didn’t even see me for *me*? The world around me wanted to delineate a clear boundary upon my identity to mark me in some type of way… but what if my identity doesn’t ascribe to some linear moral compass or narration?”
Well… turns out I’m back to that question.
I see my own patterns of “ethical” consumption, my social media platform, etc., and feel internally contradicted by what I’m passionate about, what excites me within my broader political goals.
We live in a highly individualistic culture where our identities are dictated by our consumer choices, spending habits, vacations or lack-thereof, and other social markers which equate our worth to our purchasing power. And yes — I’m operating within an educational institution which brands students as agents of their own “individualized” major, particular of the student’s design for their own “path.”
I want to live in a time where I don’t feel so morally perplexed or disgusted by who I am, but I can operate freely… writing about political action on climate change while still supporting female-founded, ethically-manufactured companies and not feel as though I’ve lost all of my validity as a progressive by purchasing a new pair of shoes or buying something online.
I don’t know where else to go with this than to say that: yes, I do partner with certain brands… while also seeking to enact a broader political life rooted in a progressive tradition where capitalism doesn’t dictate everything that we’re made up of.
Our laws are not neutral, but instead written by mere everyday actors who are seeking to refine how we collectively operate to reach closet towards a larger common good. I want to be a part of that history, involved in the arduous fight, and create a durable future for the planet and the next generations.
Here’s to feeling confused about it all: like just a small speck on this burning planet, also inherently being reinforced a narrative to have it all together.
Enter newsletter #19: within the contradictions.
Bernie’s back! Some of you asked me why I favor Elizabeth Warren to Bernie (whom I was adamant about supporting in 2016) in this election. I responded to this inquiry on my Instagram — so I’ll share my thoughts below.
Bernie is branded within a tradition of democratic socialism, whereas Elizabeth situates herself in a way of structural governmental change. They are both further left than the mainstream, “business as usual status quo.” I like how she wants to strategically target and go after wealth concentration, how he wants to radically restructure the moral vision of what America guarantees us all. He is shaping mass appeal – she is reorienting our underlying governing structures.I like both candidates, and support Bernie’s recent surge after the debate, his AOC endorsement, + huge showing in his Queens. I would love them both on the ticket!
Nonetheless, Bernie got soaring endorsements from AOC + Ilhan Omar, breaking the stereotype that his support is all from white Bernie bros — one talking point which angered me all throughout the 2016 election cycle. At his Queens Rally, Bernie had what some called his “Eugene Debs” moment, by creating a moral imperative behind his political movement.
“My question now to you is are you willing to fight for that person who you don’t even know as much as you’re willing to fight for yourself?”
The Electibility Debate: A smart conversation about the Fourth Democratic Debate, how pundits control the news cycle, and how narrative get built about President candidates.
“The oil industry is based on a deceit. The companies know the planet is headed toward a climate catastrophe, but they keep drilling away, trying to squeeze the last nickel from their deadly product.” (NYTimes)
One of my favorite reporters I follow to learn about big climate change news is Amy Westervelt – she runs a podcast called Drilled, which I have mentioned before. She’s researched the Exxon’s PR Strategy quite closely.
Read more below about what is to come for climate liability cases and the future of the Exxon v New York case.
In order to create the most durable solution that addresses climate change, it must touch on economic rights, globalization, agriculture, public health, etc. — and it must restore justice in the marginalized communities who have been at the front line of experiencing the crisis, but without a role in creating solutions.
We must address how the United States is an empire, a colonial force which has exploited native communities for their natural resources.
The Guardian is launching a new series dedicated to environmental justice called Our Unequal Earth: how ecological hazards and climate disasters have the harshest impacts on people of color, native tribes and those on low incomes. They interview 5 leaders at the forefront of different environmental crises on organizing tactics, argumentation, and hope for the future of the Earth.
And we know that climate change intersects with some of the most pressing economic crises that rural America feels: agriculture. Our farmers are not being addressed and served by our government.
And we know that US recycling is systematically broken, dysfunctional… but fossil fuel companies are only making it worse through their financial support for cheap plastics.
Heated Newsletter: An amazing newsletter on all things climate change – you all should subscribe to it. This edition focused on the role of Mitch McConnell as America’s Most Insidious Climate Villain.
“In addition to taking two of the three branches of government out of the climate fight, McConnell has also given fossil fuel interests disproportionate power over U.S. elections.”
What can you do? Fund his challenger Amy McGrath for 2020. 5 huge corporations – Microsoft, Facebook, CVS, Johnson & Johnson, and Pfizer have all funded McConnell’s campaign at some point, as noted in this Heated newsletter.
Book recommendation: On Fire – Naomi Klein: Wow, I have never felt like a book fell into my hands at a more perfect time than this one. She speaks to young activists in the fight on climate on how to remain optimistic while not worrying that the weight of the world sits on your shoulders. Klein is certainly a figurehead of environmentalist movements, and now one of my idols as I’ve become more familiar with her.
Anand Giridharadas – The Plurocrat’s Status Quo In which Preet Bharara and Anand Giridharads get at the underlying plutocratic elite dictating the outcomes in America. Anand gives a toolkit for those interested in creating political outcomes.
Pick the thing that angers you about your society – we all have our own. And think of a solution that has the four following qualities.
Neoliberalism and its discontents: An illuminating conversation for those who may hear the term neoliberalism thrown around in political contexts, but may not understand what people are exactly referring to.
Wendy Brown is interviewed in this episode, which excited me, because I read the book “Undoing the Demos” last year and felt that it gave me a lot of answers about politics I couldn’t exactly speak to in a sufficient way. This podcast episode helped me sort through a lot of grey areas with how to talk about capitalism’s totalizing effects on identity, yet its intentionally silent manifestations to seamlessly interject market logic into our culture while leaving us without words to address some of the biggest problems we see worldwide today.
Gerrymandering: What happened in North Carolina? A very important topic that is not being screamed about in this moment, but will have severe impacts as we get closer to the 2020 election.
And that’s all! I hope you enjoyed the longer introduction – as I get many questions about my academic career and passions, so it made sense for me to answer them all in one way.