I have this weird daydream sometimes. When I come across some nice building reserved for a very specific audience — say, art auctions or church services — I imagine what it would be like repurposing its facilities as an open community centre serving the surrounding neighbourhood. Especially if that building is rarely used, I catch myself thinking, “What a waste.” If it became a house of the people, locals could meet there for book clubs, dinner parties, discussions on local politics, whatever they can think of — all free of charge. Wouldn’t that be great? Wouldn’t residents get a new appreciation for the area they live in if the best real estate it has to offer were available to all?
As a heads-up, before you accuse me of “preaching to the choir” or going on a rant, just know that this post is mostly an attempt to sort out a personal crisis. So please read it with that in mind. (If, on the other hand, you want to call me an upper middle-class hippie to whom class struggle and social justice are merely matters of intellectual exercise, you can go ahead and do that. I don’t mind.)
Over the course of my short yet lively blogging career, I’ve somehow become an expert at writing about nostalgia. I never seem to tire of it. The main reason nostalgia has proven such a complicated feeling to unpack for me is my inherent skepticism towards it. I know how much my little monkey brain loves to fabricate false memories, and I’ve had to learn to be wary of sentimentality as a mere survival strategy. But despite my expertise in analyzing these feelings, I’m still in need of guidance when it comes to the kind of nostalgia that makes no pretence about its illusory nature: the kind where you long for a time you never witnessed.
If you’ve been hanging out with me lately, you’re almost sure to have heard me utter phrases such as these:
I’ve been thinking a lot about animal rights recently.
So I watched this Noam Chomsky documentary the other day.
I think we should all give to charity more often.
I feel very uneducated about world affairs.
On Meritocracy and Mouse Poop
[I]t is only by reconciling contradictions that power can be retained indefinitely. In no other way could the ancient cycle be broken. If human equality is to be for ever averted — if the High, as we have called them, are to keep their places permanently — then the prevailing mental condition must be controlled insanity.
— George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four
Let me ask you a personal question. What’s the grade you’re most proud of in your life? For myself I couldn’t pick a favourite. But a very strong contender would be an Ethics test I took in my penultimate year of secondary school, graded by the single grumpiest and hardest-to-please teacher I’ve ever had, Mr H.
Há novos muros de Berlim, novas cortinas de ferro, novas barreiras, ódios velhos renovados. Os famintos e perseguidos batem à porta dos prósperos — prósperos estes muitas vezes às custas dos que exploraram tanto tempo — e as portas se fecham. O diferente é visto com desconfiança ou desprezo. (…) A diversidade é a glória do homem, mas a rejeitamos pelo desejo de uma uniformidade castradora e falsamente segura. Foram quinze meses em Berlim. Storkwinkel 12, Halensee, pertinho da Rathenauplatz. Foi muito bom: temeremos menos, compreenderemos mais e, se Deus for servido, amaremos mais.
— João Ubaldo Ribeiro, Um Brasileiro em Berlim