tv Book Discussion on Between the World and Me CSPAN November 28, 2015 9:00pm-10:01pm EST
the people who travel tend to be more liberal in terms of freedom and tolerance. so encountering other people that are different from you in which you don't have to kill or enslave, you can do something that benefits them that also benefits you which ishas been one of the great benefits of capitalism that almost no one sees. it really is one of the best things ever invented. >> you said you worked on this book for several years. >> a long time. i did not know that much about the history of war, what causes a carnivore. the last time any of the great powers went to work, 1945 was the last time the proxy wars like korea and vietnam, thosevietnam, those wars are decreasing although it is true there are still genocide but nothing like
the holocaust with the tragedies of mao and stalin. those are anomalies compared to today. isys is bad but tiny compared to what someone a century ago might have done. we are getting a handle even on the bad guys. two steps forward one step back. they're always be enough bad things to fill the evening news. if you are a pessimist you will have no trouble finding pessimism. things are getting better. >> the pain in your lapel. a science magazine the basically investigates all kinds of controversial claims, global warming, terrorism.
our newest issue, and existential threat. we are the mythbusters, as it were. >> what do you teach? >> of course called skepticism 101, how to101, how to think like a scientist and not be a geek is what it's called. basically and taking 18 -year-olds and teaching them how to use their brain turning their brains promotion to critical thinking machines. >> what does it mean to think scientifically? using reason. ask critical questions about any claim. thomas hobbes, somehow the great enlightenment philosophers, voltaire, the people that opened the doors up, adam smith, david hume,
the start of the rational skeptical scientific movement. >> a lot of people here and freedom fest. >> i would throw them in they're, absolutely. john locke. >> moral arc is the name of the book.book. science and reason lead humanity for truth, justice, and freedom. here is the cover. michael shermer is the author. [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations]
>> already. my name is ted hammon. i want to welcome you to the college. this next year will be our 100th anniversary. good luck to you. [applause] and this is truly one of the most anticipated events that we have had in that century. [applause] i just want to say very quickly one of the great things about brooklyn is that one day you can be a delivery man and before you know it you can become a world-famous author. that is we have here tonight. it's my pleasure to bring up the co-owner of greenlight bookstore to introduce tonight's event. jessica. [applause]
>> good evening, everyone. we are so pleased to be hosting in brooklyn to present his new book. going to be speaking tonight with james bennett of the atlantic. they are so grateful for this partnership which allows us to bring these events in the brooklyn voice theory. a lot more seating capacity. we had a great fall season already this year and are looking forward to more this fall. kristin hersh to talk about her memoir pellagra chestnut and the creators of the podcast welcome to knightdale. you can find all this information on our website. before i turn the stage over have a few housekeeping
things. silence your cell phone and know that there is no photography during the event. if you purchased a ticket you should have already receive your copy of worlds and means. additional copies are available for sale throughout the evening. there is no book signing tonight but all copies have been pre- signed. please note that index cards were passed around before he started. if you have a question please write it on the card. will be collecting knows. if you didn't get one and would like one just raise your hand and some will bring you the card. please note this event is being recorded by c-span and brick tv. now let me introduce tonight speakers. so here's what i'm left with. our interviewer this evening
is the present and editor-in-chief of the atlantic speaking with the national correspondent for the atlantic, offer a between the world and me with jesse recently received a macarthur fellowship, nominated for national book award and just one surprise. please join me in welcoming to the stage james bennett.
>> hello, everybody. thank you. i think you wanted to make a statement. >> this is my manifesto. i wanted to talk a little bit about why i wrote between the world and me. today before i signed the 900 books i stopped at a book court and signed nearly 100 books. that was awesome. but a young lady who i remembered from 20 years ago , five -year-old girl who lived in the bookstore called vertical books in dc, i worked there for one summer, 1995, literally 20
years ago. i was a horrible bookseller. awful, awful bookseller. you can only love books so much and be a greata great bookseller because if you love books and are deeply interested in books be interested in doing a thing that looks doto each and not to pay attention to things like shoplifters. i wasn't very good. but i had a 30% discount at the store and probably spent about 30 percent of my check on books, just buying, buying books. i went upstairs and i was looking at the books that they had and saw this book which is so important to me. it's called the country between us. it's a book that i read, i
twilight have been 18 years old. surrounded by this great community. such a beautiful, beautiful writer. such a way that i didn't understand everything she was saying, but the pain, the angst command the violence now reminded me of something that i so deeply, deeply identified with. and she wrote in such a way that i would read poetry. ii would not understand what she was saying but i would think about it and i would go to bed thinking about it. i would wake up thinking about it. just some mood. this is this is not going to make sense in a 2nd. i promise you. so an advocate for poetry,
by the way. [applause] my poetry for the 1st year. writing. to spend as a young person time and central america and eastern europe, the world was being turned upside down. i would assign this to my essay class so that they could understand sentences. it's about her encounter with an unnamed military official in an unnamed central american country. what you have heard is true. i was in his house.
bear on its black court over the house. on the television was a cop show. broken bottles were embedded we had dinner, rack of lamb, good one, the gold bell was on the table for calling the made. a type of bread. i was asked how i enjoyed the country. there was a brief commercial and spanish. his wife took everything away. there was some talk of how difficult it had become to govern. they said hello on the terrace.
shut up and pushed himself the table. a friend said to me with his eyes say nothing. the colonel returned with the sac used to bring groceries home. like dried peach halves, there's no other way to say this. hehe took one of them in his hand, shook it interfaces and put it into a glass. it came alive. i'm tired of going around command he said. tell your people that go fark themselves. he simply used to the floor with his arms and held last of his wife in the air. something for your poetry. the ears on the ground and cut the scrap of his voice, some of, saw the ears on the floor pressed to the ground. i read this. i always thought about the brutality of the poem.
andand it always stuck with me when the imagery in the detail, there's no other way to say this. there is no time -- no kind way, no hopeful way, no way to make people feel good about themselves at the end of the story. and when poetry in general and what i got out of my studying poetry is not it is the job of the writer to say things and truthful and direct ways and in ways that leave us in public places ways that make us have sometimes. the questions i get about the book and one of the things people raise about the book all the time is that it is not hopeful enough and does not inspire black people, does not notpeople, does not leave black people with a way out for a way forward.
and maybe it doesn't. i think i would have an argument about that, but let's just leave it at that. want to talk about the defensive art. and writing to create an act to create a piece of art. reflect reality, to betray one's experience in the most beautiful way you possibly can. and said the desire to write something that makes people feel good at the end of the day with a desire to write something that is a bedtime story, give you something that allows you to check your children and tonight, even the desire to write something that inspires people to be better people, strict motivation and so far away from wire of this book.
i wrote this book, beautiful work of art or something that represented something particular for my son and ultimately they represented something about my relationship to my country. [applause] >> i feel like he covered everything. [laughter] >> so going to ask a few questions. as some of your questions was the cards come up. talk about yourself a little bit more. i thought we ought to start
with the one that you just evoked, the theme of violence. and if you would not mind reading them bit of your own work to start us off. the passage. >> sure. >> this is the beginning of my political consciousness. about 12 or 13 years old. and i am becoming aware of the some of the troubles i experienced in my neighborhood are somehow tied to greater conflicts and problems in the country 11. and i've been told that all my life. but i'm beginning to feel it and see it for myself and not just see it as something my parents tell me. now the questions began. the material for research was allresearchers all around me in the form of books assembled by her
grandfather. i'm addressing my son here. working at howard university as a research library and more of the largest collections of effort, and the world. their grandfather loves books and there all over the house, books about black people by black people for black people spilling off shelves and out of the living room boxed up in the basement. a local. the books about the panthers and stashed his own party newspapers. i was attracted to their guns because the guns seemed honest. they guns seemedthey guns seemed to address the country which invented the streets the secured them with us by the police and the primary language. violence. i compared the panthers that is given to me by the schools ridiculous and contrary to everything i knew. my classmates and i were hurting into assemblies.
the teacher urged us to the example of freedom marches, freedom riders, and freedom summits and assumed a month could not pass without a series of films dedicated to the glories of being beaten on camera. the black people in these poems seem to love the worst things in life, the dogs ever of the children apart, the teargas the qualitative lungs of the fire horses that tore off their clothes. they seem to love the men who rape them, the women who curse them when the children who spat on them, terrace about. why the show i missed us? why were only our heroes nonviolent? i speak not of the morality of nonviolence but the since the blacks are in a special need of this morality. back then howback then how i can do is measure the freedom lovers by what i knew which is to say ii
measured them against children pulling out in 711 parking lots, givesagainst parents using extension cords and yang megawatts of now. against the country i knew which had acquired the land through murder and tamed under slavery in the country 's army fanned out against the world to extend the dominion of the world, the real one, secure and robust savage means. now last-minute women. how can they send us out into the streets of baltimore knowing all they knew. >> maybe you should give a little context for this. you write a lot about the sources of the violence in the book. driven by fear. >> right. well, you know, i think in
our political dialogue there is a separation between what people call police violence which we are very concerned about right now and people call black on black violence and that these two things are somehow separate from each other. frankly, when i wrote my previous book had no fear of talking about the violence that was around me, what people consider to be black on black violence is a part of it, portion. and when people look at african-americans in the neighborhood, there is a way in which they look at our mannerisms of the way we walk, talk, pose for the practices were violence itself and what they see his rage. by the time i was older about time i could look at
young boys i could see something else and what i saw was fear. and the violence is a product of that fear. i mean, really important to alter the narrative of rage. that sort of rendition of black people being angry the saddle avoid fear. but i was concerned when you do that you could soften. you know, they are just so often portrayed as invulnerable, not scared, not really -- we were afraid.afraid. we are afraid. i just thought that was
important to say. >> a pretty powerful thing you say that as a child we are shepherded into these movies that the hero struck you as ridiculous. ii don't know if you include king in my list are not. >> i doi do at the time. >> how do you think about them now? >> supremely heroic. incredibly heroic. access to a kind of morality and a lot of that is because i don't have a reading in the church. even the logic of it, for instance a lot of it is rooted in the belief of the afterlife which i don't share. i think a lot of it is rooted in the notion of the supreme god of justice which i don't particularly share. but i think in spite of that we can launch the campaign.
were moved. you can't watch the last game. reallyreally sick and so tired and literally falling away from the microphone, not be terribly, terribly moved. these are people who in the literally day in and day out putting there lives on the line. and at the same time i think celebratory, i feel incredible anger at that because in my mind it never should have had to happen. when i see president obama
-- and this is not like president obama, but when i see the president going to soma and commemorating bloody sunday, it bothers me. feel like the pres. have beenpresent have been doing his job at that time bloody sunday what i've never been necessary or should have happened in the 1st place. martin luther king was killed. the voting rights act, the civil rights act, those things don't make it okay that he was killed for me. i don't feel like they are redeemed by those things. and so it is not even so much the sacrifice of the efficacy of nonviolence which i get with attack of nonviolence which i get now, but it is the celebration of it by people who don't necessarily embrace those ideals themselves. and i find that bothersome.
>> relationship between violence and political progress in american history? i mean,, the things that she wrote, heroism and violence were generally made in american history. >> that's it. i think is no other way to say this.this. he can.to political progress in terms of black people without looking at violence. there are people who say that in the past and the kind of braggadocio sort of way. i don't mean that. i think it's a great tragedy. but, i mean, it is not ice cream socials that they came.
600,000 people died. great violence. and the world was one by enlisting former soldiers. and the other way. that is how emancipation came. is one way of looking at it that focuses in on the protest, but the protests are important. you can't really separate the history of the civil rights movement from world war ii her from americans seeing racism taken to the most lethal lands. separated from the cold war. you can't separate that from bobby kennedy come out here talking about democracy. democracy. this embarrasses us. it has to be dealt with. and they knew that. and so i don't get joy out
of this, but it'sthis, but it's hard for me to see moments of political progress for african-americans in this country and to separate them from violence. again, i don't mean that in a heroic a braggadocio away from anything like that of all. but it's part of politics, i think. >> in that context how do you understand the violence we saw in baltimore and ferguson over the course of the last year? >> i don't know yet. i don't know yet. i think it's possible that the violence is part of why they being prosecuted. i think that is possible. very much there's a common myth.
happen in the 1960s resulting in nothing. lyndon johnson talked about the riots. you know, there is political action that results that sort of thing. climate change is a good thing. the people under political oppression. [laughter] you know, but it's a thing that people do. they feel their backs against the wall and respond to that. again, it's a statement of fact and not a statement of value. with our out there i would
not encourage anyone to take to the streets to do any sort of violence. i don't think it's correct. i don't think it can never be justified,justified, the potential for the loss of life can never be correct. no matter what a system does, you have a responsibility to deal with that. at the same time, when i hear people that have power, some amount of state, the kind of violence that is regularly characterized baltimore, was a child and before standing up in front of the podium,, again, it bothers me. it greatly, greatly bothers me. so we are still in it. i will have more developed notions once we were out of it. >> your method as a writer. hey you talk a little bit about how you came to write
this book. you said to an interview over the summer phone of the wonderful things of this book if you have not read it yet is it is partly the story of your becoming conscience, as you put it command stages. but despite all of your reading and everything kemal your thinking and reporting he said that as of 20072008 you would not have written this book and that you were radicalized in years after that. what is it that happened the blood it about? >> well, i was very fortunate to be hired by james bennett. >> that's not what i was trying to get at. >> this is actually true. >> i was not fishing for that answer. >> for a magazine,
interested in ideas and the notions and putting the footprint which allow me to expand how i thought. my primary job was to fill a blog space with thoughts and emotions. i checked out as an excuse to go back and study and read some things and to write about what i was reading. people would comepeople would come and read the stuff those writing and make a comment on it. read this, check out that. i had always been interested in history, but particularly intense for me for the amount of reading i did. african-americans in public somehow affiliated with politics, uplifting. historians, that is not how
they are judged. and here. but i always say, people say you should go spend some time in the history department. going. i'm going to finish. fourteen century in europe. the hundred years war in the church. you think was happening on the streets of baltimore, were talking about people taking petty offense to
joust, battle axes. naturally gang fights. going to be out here and do this. i call it a champion. but is going to be the same thing. this is not uplifting material. this deeply enlightening material. and now itself, beautiful thing. accepted command i have accepted that that will be a the time that i have here, to understand when it came
please say this, lots of reasons, a lot of it is hopeless, do you see areas where we have managed to escape overcome? >> i think african-american president means we are prepared to have a society, through some mix of hard work, talent, and a lot of luck. that is our progress. we don't have enslavement anymore. this goes back to the question. when you think about how we got there, you know. it is like the shadow that is violence. and what does that mean
[applause] >> he did this at the top. do you have any advice for students and young people who want to do what you do? >> yes, read, read, write, and repeat. that's the job. but i think probably too much about getting published. it's a lot easier now. a lot of are getting better. avoid any trappings of glamour. can't adjusted. the horribleness. facing a blank page.
as thesystem beautiful things it will come after kemal long time after. being a writer coming up. i think probably not the best. my commitment. finding yourself having to sacrifice that, this is real. it's not moral advice. writing is a thing that has to get done. and if you are out till two in the morning and not getting up so two in the afternoon he lost time for practicing aircraft. avoid drugs.
probably. again, it's not a moral argument. the sanctity of your mind is very important. go do something else, and that's fine. but if you're going to be a writer your mind and your clarity and your vision is so important. having a child, the discipline and put me in the place, i cannot go out and do some of the things that people of my age would have. doing some of the things that a lot of my friends in the 20s would do. others nothing else to do. you got to write. i think committing yourself to it and committing yourself to the clarity of it is hugely important.
>> there are a number of questions on similar themes. and a number of them, this particular question which is , i found a quote by users that race is the child of racism, not the father. it's from the book. can you please elaborate more on that? i tried to give it my on meeting but couldn't. >> sure. remarkable how simple this actually is. this book called race craft. and again,again, this is one of the books that help clarify things for me. so the problem is that you have several different
disparate groups who do not get along. one of those has more power than the other. the group to get along, everything would be okay. this is the theory of race. this is how we talk about it. racial relations. we can improve relations between them everything would be okay. racial discrimination. that specific race of people everything would be okay. people that come out of africa. the race of people that come out.
the race of people that come out of asia and native americans are race of people they are race of people that come out in the past 50 years or so. and if all the races can get along think it's a mouthful fill the promise of america which is the problem. that's the notion that race is the parent and racism results because these groups can get along with each other. but that's not have history actually works. there is no coherent definition of race will be a white, black, latino, asian american, that you can maintain across time and geography. this is demonstrable.
if i were in louisiana in 1750 am i not be considered that. if i were brazil i'm a checksum all of the block. reviewed the varying degrees they certainly weren't going to be accepted his wife. we know there was a political process. everything was okay. different races of people, some people have darker skin and hailing from sub-saharan africa.
cummings the country and they are indentured servants having kids together. people thinking it's an abomination of all of that came later because certain laws were passed so that you could maximize the amount that you could possibly have. there is no reason why. there is nothing biological. nothing. having as many enslaved people as possible. so it was an actual process, done thing. this is not the word of god, not even science. it's a decision that was made, to laws that were passed to decide who is
black. plessy versus ferguson. but there's some distant. literally whether this to his black or not. because he couldn't. there is no coherent definition of it. that means you have some responsibility to make the world, to make it different. it really is on us. it's not some curse that someone else gave us. we did this. the child of racism. >> a very interesting question. how if at all with this book have been different if you had a daughter? [laughter]
>> that's impossible to say. >> the 15 years. i don't have a daughter. i can't know. >> living in paris considering writing about race relations there now that we are far from the role as a haven? and oppressive minority. the quote unquote democracy, things tend to be not that great. so just a word on this. i like france, parents, bigots. i love paris like i love new
york. i do love new york. you know i love. that's why. and it's no different. paris is just a place. was not a place in that sense. when i speak that french people recognize me as american. the 1st thing they see is that i'm american which takes precedence in mind over skin color. my skin colors and african-american. speak french perfectly fluent. so it's a different feeling. on one hand on the other
hand the need, i think in the wrong game. i think the thing to do is observe but the society is actually doing. using as a standard ofa standard of itself. i don't observe american think about racism in america in comparison to other places. that's not really my goal. i was expected to do the same thing with france. although it's impossible to avoid making some comparisons. but those comparisons will be as mean as like this. i hope we get a little deeper than that. >> there is not a single question in here about comic books.
but it's not here. overseas for a 2nd. how can we continue? >> i don't know. i'm not sure. i spent my time studying really specific things. the african-american experience in this country is broad, multiple layered and is very hard to have any sort of general expertise. you have knowledge in specific areas. you start talking about the dies for. i got immediately go.
solidarity the south africans, the program now where african-americans can going to citizens. a different relationship. a broad sort of way. that's not to insult the question at all. but i think it's one that requires study. requires study for me. more than i no right now to intelligently answer. >> this question, i'm not sure if you know the history of the neighborhood, but many poor people of color were displaced to make this area beautiful and safe enough for us. how can we respond to gentrification?
>> reparations repeatedly over and over again. the changes all the time. the makeup and ethnic makeup. black people don't have the same level of self-determination. and the reason why they don't is because it's a close example i can offer, we have a huge, huge gap in this country. twenty times the wealth. what expectation that folks in the where they want have a choicea choice about where they want to live. that figure wealth. and all sorts of programs
and political housing, making it easier for folks to buy homes, but until you get to the root problem with a huge wealth gap which is the result of policy, not the results of magic, not the result of a particular kind of social science and engineering, but it is the result of the decision that we make. middle class in this country command we made this case before we make decisions about who is going to benefit the social engineering that we would practice. this is the principle way to build up our modern middle-class. individual by people were not going to be a part of that whole blocks. how would harlem look if we had not done that? how important? howard betz tyler?
over the city look like if african-americans have the same access to the social safety net? made all those great reforms in the 40s and only 30s, will be the difference? what would it look like if we had not made a decision to only offer unionized labor a certain people all over the world look like? african-americans right now, but at one point they look like some depressingly low number. but when the world of look like without the discrimination? but that adds up. and so when you start by saying what the hell is going on how come black folks can hold on anything here, 20, 30, 40, 50 years ago, you're too late. the 4th quarter with two minutes left and you're trying to win the game and
your on the 2-yard line. why am i on my my own 2-yard line with only two minutes left? the whole third-quarter second-quarter 1st quarter , games that happened before that any start with the analysis right there. you've missed it. you have missed it. we talk about gentrification , you got to dig deep and go further back. did not start here. the expectation that certain folks decide they want to live here and black folks have that same sort, even the past history made no sense. gentrification is not so much preventable as it is predictable. user what happened. some folks will have more than others.