He didn’t prepare a syllabus. He didn’t order books for his courses. He was casual with student papers. According to the awful assessment measures of our awful times, he was probably a lousy teacher, and yet he was the most exciting classroom presence I’ve ever experienced. He brought an extraordinary range of passions—for jazz and Shakespeare, for American film comedies, for “ordinary language” philosophy, for the unexpected philosophical richness of Thoreau and Emerson—to everything he had to say. And we hung on every word.
After a visit in the 1960s, the French writer and culture minister André Malraux was reported to observe, shrewdly, that “Buenos Aires is the capital to an empire that never happened.” Accordingly, Argentina is divided between warring factions that hark back to the nineteenth century, and we’re always expecting a providential man or woman to save us. We pour a distillation of this tense brew into our national sports, the games bequeathed us by our golden age. We look to our players for the chance to recover what we’ve lost, the triumph denied.
Hunger made our envy as dull and feeble as all our other feelings. We had no strength left for feelings, to search for easier work, to walk, to ask, to beg. We envied only those we knew, with whom we had come into this world, if they had managed to get work in the office, the hospital, or the stables, where there were no long hours of heavy physical work, which was glorified on the arches over all the gates as a matter for valor and heroism. In a word, we envied only Shestakov.
The last time this country had cheered for la Blanquirroja, as the national side is known, in a World Cup was in 1982. One third of Peruvians had not even been born then, but they all remember that the last time had been a catastrophe. “The Peruvian defeat hurts again because, once more, the syndromes that disconcert and plague us appear: it seems that the Peruvian players have no soul, no testicles or blood,” wrote the sociologist and writer Abelardo Sánchez León at the time. “We can’t continue accepting that this way of playing football corresponds to the idiosyncrasy of our people.”
Ian Johnson: When did you start commenting on daily life? Guo Yuhua: In about 2010. In this society, everything that seems impossible or completely weird actually does happen, so how can you not comment on it? It’s intolerable. You feel you can’t help people who are suffering in another way, so at least you can try to publicize it and get a public reaction. In fact, you aren’t really helping them, but you feel you have to speak.
Good old England, good old Yob-land. Even if the Russians are better-prepared, fitter, and, not for the first time in their history, fighting on home soil, I still have faith in our hooligans to show their mettle and do us proud. We want England to be non-racist, non-homophobic, non-misogynistic and all that, but, God knows, however much we hate yobs, we don’t ever want England to be yob-free. No one will ever put it better than D.H. Lawrence of Nottingham Forest FC who considered himself “English in the teeth of all the world, even in the teeth of England.”
The photographer and journalist Val Wilmer grasped that there is a struggle that precedes all others: the matrix in which other struggles are inscribed, which is simply the human struggle to go through life, to endure, and to make one’s mark, whatever that may be. One needn’t embrace a spurious universalism blind to race and gender, or to other forms of discrimination, to see that this struggle is our common one, even if we experience it in very different ways inflected by our backgrounds and experiences.
For a while, I was still kind of hoping Mexico wouldn’t do well in the 2018 World Cup. What if reaching that coveted fifth match, in the round of eight, enflamed nationalist sentiment and helped the ruling PRI do better in this summer’s coming election? But under Enrique Peña Nieto’s PRI presidency, the country’s situation has become so dire, and the PRI and the political establishment have become so unpopular, that for once it’s clear that the World Cup isn’t going to distract from more urgent realities, no matter how well El Tri, the national team, performs. An election promising a historic political realignment seems to be in the offing.
For the first time in years, people are confident about the squad. Commentators love Brazil’s coach, Tite, as well as the team’s biggest star, Neymar. Besides, we can always count on Jesus—the forward Gabriel Jesus. There is a growing sense of the possibility of redemption by avenging that 7-1 home defeat against Germany in the semifinals of the last World Cup. But whether Brazil succeeds or fails in Russia, the outcome will be equally permeated with an old bittersweet flavor: the feeling that we are second-class citizens of the world trying to look the other way, in the hope that the euphoria of the next four weeks might extend to months or years, maybe a whole lifetime.
In The Ecology of Freedom, published in 1982 and translated into Turkish twelve years later, Murray Bookchin traced the emergence of hierarchy from prehistoric times to the present, examining the interaction between what he called the “legacy of domination” and the “legacy of freedom” in human history. The PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan read The Ecology of Freedom in his Turkish prison cell, and agreed with its analysis. My father’s emphasis on hierarchy became a signature aspect of Öcalan’s efforts to redefine the Kurdish problem.