Mark Hurrell.

15 April, 2020

Weeknote 26 – 29

Part of the reason we haven't properly been able to grasp climate change in this country is because we don't really know what it looks like, how it feels on our skin. But what the coronavirus has done in no time at all is give us a sneak preview of the end; of the language and aesthetic of disaster, of the formats we'll use to call out the dead, of the technology, the uniforms, the tone used by HR directors as they cull the workforce and the made-up laws the police will use to keep us still.

We've had disasters and tragedies before, but nothing on the sort of scale that would convince anyone they're merely one small part of the same big planet. A merciless, amorphous pandemic like this is not something that can be mourned in any conventional way; it can't be twisted into an example of our national strengths or passed off as being something that only happens to Scousers, Scots, Chinese cockle pickers, poor bastards in the wrong place at the wrong time.

This virus is an enormous broken mirror being held up before a country that thinks it's in much better health than it is. The hope is that we learn something from it.

Clive Martin for Vice


To deliver this volume of equipped beds within such a short timeframe required all teams to make immediate decisions to allow construction to progress in parallel with design.

BPD’s James Hepburn talking to Architects Journal about converting the Excel Centre into an NHS hospital (via Special Projects)


Here in Great Britain, the government has compiled a list of the systemically relevant professions — those who work in them can continue to send their children to school, where they are looked after. The list captivates with the amazing absence of management consultants and hedge fund managers! Those who earn the most don't show up there. The basic rule is: the more useful a job, the worse it is paid. An exception are, of course, doctors. But even there you could argue: As far as health is concerned, the cleaning staff in hospitals contributes just as much as the doctors, and much of the progress in the past 150 years has come from better hygiene.

The market is not so much based on supply and demand as we are always told — who makes how much is a question of political power. The current crisis makes it even clearer that my wages do not depend on how much my profession is actually used.

David Graeber in the Teller Report


Boris Johnson has thanked the 'unbeatable' NHS which he says saved his life as he battled Covid-19 at St Thomas's Hospital. In a video message posted to Twitter, he named some of the nurses who cared for him, staying by his bedside for up to two days as he faced the worst of the virus.

But while the PM and his government are thanking the NHS now, people can't help but to remember a time when their gratitude wasn't quite as forthcoming.

Who voted against lifting the cap on public sector wages in 2017?

Boris Johnson (Prime Minister)
Rishi Sunak (Chancellor of the Exchequer)
Dominic Raab (Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)
Priti Patel (Secretary of State for the Home Department)
Michael Gove (Minister for the Cabinet Office)
Robert Buckland (Secretary of State for Justice)
Ben Wallace (Secretary of State for Defence)
Matt Hancock (Secretary of State for Health and Social Care)
Alok Sharma (Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)
Elizabeth Truss (Secretary of State for International Trade)
Thérèse Coffey (Secretary of State for Work and Pensions)
Gavin Williamson (Secretary of State for Education)
George Eustice (Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)
Robert Jenrick (Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government)
Grant Shapps (Secretary of State for Transport)
Brandon Lewis (Secretary of State for Northern Ireland)
Alister Jack (Secretary of State for Scotland)
Simon Hart (Secretary of State for Wales)
Oliver Dowden (Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)
Anne-Marie Trevelyan (Secretary of State for International Development)

All the MPs who voted against giving nurses a pay rise in 2017


When I begin to imagine the ultimate irony — that our current president’s legacy could be some version of universal basic income, paid sick leave, declining carbon emissions, student loan forgiveness, or a higher minimum wage, instead of a stronger economy — I hear him introduce another set of CEOs leading the fight to make America entirely corporate, and then a report on the environmental protection laws, quietly being turned back.

There are no solutions I, a copywriter with an MFA in fiction, can offer, and that’s the way it should be. All I can say is, this world is bullshit. The system is rigged. Money isn’t real. Self-care isn’t healthcare. The maxim “stay home,” while helpful to some, is grating to those who once had valid reasons for spending as much time away from home as possible.

It’s absolutely the end of an era, but somehow it doesn’t feel like we’ll witness anything altogether new.

Natasha Stagg for Ssense


Bill Withers clearly resented the idea that the soul music he created was governed by a force that didn’t truly understand it. His departure from the industry had something to do with the many white gatekeepers policing black art. “You gonna tell me the history of the blues? I am the goddamn blues. Look at me,” he said in the As I Am doc. “Shit, I’m from West Virginia, I’m the first man in my family not to work in the coal mines, my mother scrubbed floors on her knees for a living, and you’re going to tell me about the goddamn blues because you read some book written by John Hammond? Kiss my ass.

Remembering Bill Withers, Sheldon Pearce for Pitchfork


I've been curious for years," he says, "about exactly what it is about a global climate change message that seems immediately to attract the ire of conservatives. My suspicion is that by its very nature, it suggests that the most effective response to it would be if we had something akin to the implied world government in the very first Star Trek series… the United Nations, but with teeth."

The creator of Star Trek, Gene Rodenberry, suggested that the world government "came into existence in response to some grave, very near-potential species-wide planetary disaster", Gibson explains. "And that's how we finally cleaned up our act and started running the planet in a fair and sensible way. So of course, that's anathema to someone on the Ayn Rand end of the scale."

Gibson says technological change is often a "convenient" excuse for not changing at all. The idea that rapid technological change will suddenly solve humanity's problems is, he says, "a more popular mythology among the very wealthy than among anyone else.

William Gibson in the New Statesman