Crikey long reads

Cass Knowlton, editor

Buried Alive: stories from inside solitary confinement” by Nathaniel Penn in GQ

“It is brutal. It is torture by definition. It destroys the mind, body, and soul, making rehabilitation next to impossible. It is also outrageously expensive, and it doesn’t work. Yet at the end of the Obama era, and the dawn of Trump’s, isolation is as widely used as ever in the American penal system. And this is what it feels like.”

Sally Whyte, deputy editor

Hidden figures. Women manage money better” by Peter Martin in The Sydney Morning Herald

“My mother was a ‘computer’, back in the days when the term applied to people. Plucked from high school because of her prowess at maths, she was put to work at the Weapons Research Establishment at Salisbury in South Australia, performing the calculations that enabled the rockets fired from Woomera to go where they should. She had dozens of colleagues, all of them women: rows and rows of women, doing calculations for men before the invention of calculators.”

Dan Wood, subeditor

Circulate now, mobilize later” by Maximillian Alvarez in The Baffler

“[F]or too long, we’ve collectively and individually allowed leftism to become a loose cluster of critical positions orbiting around a general sense of intellectual and consumeristic self-satisfaction as opposed to pressure-cooking it down to a core of concerted political actions and commitments. The market for leftist ideas and criticism is something akin to a concentrated mist: refreshing in the moment, but ungraspable, and perhaps hazardous over the longer term.”

Josh Taylor, journalist

The underground railroad for refugees” by Jake Halpern in The New Yorker

“Vive has become the penultimate stop on a modern variant of the Underground Railroad. Vive was founded, in 1984, by nuns, though most of the staff is now secular. More than a hundred thousand refugees, from about a hundred countries, have passed through. Nearly all of them continued on to Canada. Niagara Falls, twenty miles away, was once a major hub on the original Underground Railroad. During the nineteenth century, many fugitive slaves came through the area on the way to sneaking into Canada and winning their freedom.”

Bernard Keane, politics editor

Is consciousness an illusion?” by Thomas Nagel in The New York Review of Books

“For fifty years the philosopher Daniel Dennett has been engaged in a grand project of disenchantment of the human world, using science to free us from what he deems illusions — illusions that are difficult to dislodge because they are so natural. In From Bacteria to Bach and Back, his eighteenth book (thirteenth as sole author), Dennett presents a valuable and typically lucid synthesis of his worldview. Though it is supported by reams of scientific data, he acknowledges that much of what he says is conjectural rather than proven, either empirically or philosophically.”

Charlie Lewis, journalist

Polarized punks” by Matthew Trammell in The New Yorker

“If a song wants to be smart, it’s also got to be a little dumb. Whittle down the big idea, ratchet it up a notch, and repeat to a beat—fight the power, and imagine all the people living life in peace, because God is a d.j. Such sleight of hand can make even the most implausible causes stick. Eddie Kendricks had downtown New York’s nascent disco queens dancing to a Not All Men anthem in the middle of second-wave feminism … Music moves us, physically and mentally, by outwitting our impulse to stay in the same place.”

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey