Corrective narratives of the migrant caravan and the American frontier; Sally Rooney's 'Marxist novel'; and 'Sabrina' by Nick Drnaso

San Pedro Sula may not be well known, but from 2011 to 2014 it was the most violent city in the world. The only thing to do there is escape. The crime syndicates, which have complete control over the region and the power of life and death over its people, have in recent years plunged Honduras into an unofficial state of war…. President Trump talks about the migrant caravan as if it were an attempted invasion. In reality, Honduras and Central America have paid an enormous price precisely because of US policies.

09 Mar 2019 · Matthew Alampay Davis

'The Uninhabitable Earth' by David Wallace-Wells and the moral imperative of alarmism

I want you to understand how overwhelming, how insurmountable it must have felt [in the Jim Crow South]. I want you to understand that there was no end in sight. It felt futile for them too. Then, as now, there were calls to slow down. To settle for incremental remedies for an untenable situation. They, too, trembled for every baby born into that world. You don’t fight something like that because you think you will win. You fight it because you have to. Because surrendering dooms so much more than yourself, but everything that comes after you. Acquiescence, in this case, is what James Baldwin called ’the sickness unto death.’ What, now, do you have to lose? What else can you be but brave?

05 Mar 2019 · Matthew Alampay Davis

The 'Economists’ Statement on Carbon Dividends', an oil-funded Trojan horse?

Economists espousing a minor carbon dividend plan isn’t surprising. But Janet Yellen, Marty Feldstein, and the oil-backed Climate Leadership Council seem to have purposely misappropriated and misrepresented the thousands of signatories’ support to fabricate a non-existent consensus against complementary climate policy, namely green public works and subsidy programs.

19 Feb 2019 · Matthew Alampay Davis

The abolition of billionaires; music's #MeToo in the music industry; framing the US gymnastics scandal; and 'Die, My Love' by Ariana Harwicz

It has by the fall of 2018 become commonplace to describe the 499 known victims of Larry Nassar as ‘breaking their silence,’ though in fact they were never, as a group, particularly silent. Over the course of at least 20 years of consistent abuse, women and girls reported to every proximate authority. They told their parents. They told gymnastics coaches, running coaches, softball coaches. They told Michigan State University police and Meridian Township police. They told physicians and psychologists. They told university administrators. They told, repeatedly, USA Gymnastics. They told one another. Athletes were interviewed, reports were written up, charges recommended. The story of Larry Nassar is not a story of silence. The story of Larry Nassar is that of an edifice of trust so resilient, so impermeable to common sense, that it endured for decades against the allegations of so many women.

16 Feb 2019 · Matthew Alampay Davis

Climate change, here and now; identity politics, everywhere and always

Prosecutors argued this week that members of the borderland faith-based organization No More Deaths broke the law by leaving jugs of water and cans of beans for migrants trekking through a remote wilderness refuge in the Sonoran Desert… The most serious charges have been leveled against Scott Warren, a 36-year-old academic, whom the government charged with three felony counts of harboring and conspiracy, for providing food, water, and a place to sleep to two undocumented men over three days last January. Warren faces 20 years in prison if convicted and sentenced to consecutive terms.

09 Feb 2019 · Matthew Alampay Davis

Robert Caro's research process and non-line-of-sight imaging

‘I didn’t know someone from Princeton could do digging like this,’ he said. ‘From now on, you do investigative work.’

27 Jan 2019 · Matthew Alampay Davis

Facebook and my vote in the 2016 Philippine election; on 'academic freedom'; and Vice (2018)

When I read my straight colleagues telling everyone else to give Finnis the ‘respect’ of engaging with his opinions, to ‘make arguments’ in response, I wonder how many times they have had to ‘make the argument’ for their happiness, for their home and their partner, for the life they’ve built with the people they love. At times, I’m not even sure what I am meant to be making the argument for… I can engage, certainly, I can make arguments in response, but there is also a sense, at a deeper level, in which there is nothing I can say.

26 Jan 2019 · Matthew Alampay Davis

'The painful sum of things'; social media and the Rohingya crisis; and 'Purity' by Jonathan Franzen

Now that he has died, the preparation feels insufficient: the uneasiness remains. I suspect you feel it as well: how to speak about a writer whose work has been meaningful—–in my case, profoundly so; I could not imagine my life without it—–as well as a source of frustration or real pain. I have admired Naipaul as much as I have found him difficult to admire, a murky admixture that I find difficult to explain or clarify, and which I find with no other writer, to anything like the same degree.

06 Nov 2018 · Matthew Alampay Davis

Monuments to chattel slavery; 'transsexuality as separatism'; and the risk of losing one's knowledge

‘Mill believed that even when you know something, defending your argument against sceptics will heighten the justification for your belief,’ Srinivasan explains. ‘I think the opposite can happen, particularly in cases where there’s deep practical disagreement coupled with power differentials.’ She gives the case of a black person who has knowledge that the cops in his town are racist in virtue of his interactions with them but, when pushed by a sceptic, is unable to counter every argument with which he is presented. Srinivasan thinks such a person is ‘at risk of losing his knowledge’, not because his evidence is defeated or he loses his justification, but because he might feel psychologically that he needs to give up his view.

13 Oct 2018 · Matthew Alampay Davis