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Beach Generation


Cheap air travel and freedom of movement within the EU are bound up with the violent policing of its borders

The popular European low cost airline easyJet recently launched an ad campaign titled Generation easyJet. The ads use the rhetoric of flexibility, impulse, and fun to describe their brand of no-frills travel. “Happy, spinning, clapping, laughing, dancing, in the blackness of magic,” sings a cheery male voice while a montage of feet tap along. “Get it, have it, bag it, throw yourself on the aeroplane and fly like magic,” he continues, as various couples are reunited in a characterful yet unplaceable café.

To save money on airport fees, easyJet operate a tightly scheduled back-to-back service from the outskirts of cities, flying early in the morning or late at night. Checked baggage and airport check in offered by old-school airlines as standard are taken away and sold back to you by easyJet as added extras. There is a charge for the privilege of paying by credit card, and a fine if you forget to print your boarding pass or have a cabin bag that is slightly too big. Staff at easyJet must adopt the “orange spirit,” and have their own Generation easyJet epithets such as “the always-ready-to-help generation.”

The profits of the aviation industry are protected by the 1944 Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation, an international agreement that there would be no tax on fuel for commercial aviation. Compared to the high fuel taxes levied against other modes of transport, this is effectively a subsidy. The tax ban facilitates the cheap fares that mean European travellers are able to do “more of the things they love,” and allows easyJet to operate a low-yield business model with a basic profit of only £8 per seat as more people can afford to fly more often. EasyJet’s conscience is clear; the economy of cheap holidays supports not only the tourist industries in the places they fly to, but also the airports and airlines themselves, which employ thousands of staff from retail assistants to pilots to cleaners, and make huge profits for the shareholders. “This is Generation easyJet,” the voiceover proudly proclaims in the finale of the ad, suggesting that low-cost travel in general, and easyJet in particular, define an era. This is echoed in the blurb on the ad agency’s website, which gushes, “easyJet’s low prices and expanding network of destinations heralded the democratization of air travel.” Indeed, the epithet “Generation easyJet” does capture an experience that will be familiar to many Europeans, and, in what it excludes, hints at the fissures in the foundations of European ideology.

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Under the Rainbow


Modern queer politics forged itself against Blackness. Where will it go next?

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s June ruling on marriage equality, the world seemed awash in an iridescent glow. The social media icons of private citizens and symbols of state power and capital alike were all adorned in the LGBT flag. For a brief moment, it looked as though the ostensible project of post-AIDS queer activism—full recognition of the humanity of queer people, equal access to opportunity and equal protection under the law—had been fully realized.

Even self-proclaimed radical queers, who have often voiced disdain with marriage equality’s position as the central cause of LGBT activism—viewing marriage’s heteronormativity as contrary to the goals of queer liberation—softened their critiques in light of the victory. But for Black queers, reality soon settled in. Celebrating amid the gratuitous violence against Black bodies and the deadening silence of non-Black LGBT activists provoked a question that has dogged the push for marriage equality from the beginning, a question of a darker hue: What good is equality when many of us still are not free, fighting for the right to live?

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Activity trackers train users to love lives that are all work

The anthropologist Marcel Mauss once said that the difference between magic and religion is that people actually believe in magic. But wearing a FitBit, it is easy to imagine what it feels like to believe in God. Clipped on my bra strap or tucked into a pocket, my FitBit watches over me. It converts even the most pointless errand into a pilgrimage. The final destination is more steps.

FitBit recommends walking at least 10,000 steps a day. I aim for 15,000, because what kind of person does only the minimum? Me neither, especially when others are watching. And the other that is my FitBit always is.

In the Middle Ages, theologians debated about what bodies would be like in the Resurrection. If you had lost a limb, would it grow back? Would people copulate? Would they poop? Imagine a heaven, St. Thomas Aquinas exclaimed, that full of shit!

He was being sarcastic, because he thought our immortal souls would not poop. But the question was dead serious. It meant: How should a person be? Which human activities are essential and which superfluous? What are the eternally significant data about ourselves?

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The Mirror Stage


A classic graphic novel expresses a contradiction at the heart of sexuality

Watching Fun Home, the Tony Award-winning musical adaptation of Alison Bechdel’s autobiographical novel, felt like sitting on the edge of a mirror. The in-the-round staging of this story I loved so much made me feel like I was watching my reflection, if slightly distorted, stand and sing before me. While the show is hailed as a rare coming-of-age musical about a lesbian protagonist, the novel also centrally portrays Alison’s struggle with her gender nonconformity in the wake of her own gender-nonconforming father Bruce’s suicide.

Yet as the musical progressed, I watched as Fun Home distanced itself from the transgender themes of its source material. In the graphic novel, whole scenes show Bruce living through Alison’s body as he forces her to wear dresses and barrettes, while Alison rebels by wearing pants because she feels like a boy. These are passing moments in the musical, subsumed by the more widely-legible drama of Alison coming out as a lesbian and Bruce admitting that he’s had affairs with men throughout his marriage. This narrative streamlining is a form of marginalization that is familiar to me as a trans woman. But it’s particularly painful here because in recent memory, Fun Home is the American literary work that comes closest to the idea that sexual orientation is more accurately and productively seen as a form of gender nonconformity.

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City of the Moon


In Jericho, Palestinians find a resort from their occupations

At the edge of the Judean Hills, after the mountains of Palestine have calmed themselves and their wrinkles have gradually smoothed out, the city of Jericho sits in a dry plain beside the Dead Sea, the lowest point on Earth. The city looks nothing like the rest of the country. Jericho is the one place in the West Bank where the land is flat and plentiful. Unlike the rest of the region—generally pictured as a gentle landscape of rolling green hills adorned by olive orchards and gray Israeli settlements—Jericho is constantly hot. Its landscape is dusted with a brownish-yellow mix of sand and dirt, interrupted mainly by groves of palm trees that stretch for miles, until they are finally halted by Israeli settlements. For many Palestinians, Jericho is almost a foreign country, a place where the abundance of land decreases active confrontation with the Israeli military occupation. In Jericho, it’s easy to pretend you’re somewhere else.

It is no coincidence then Jericho is also the West Bank’s biggest domestic resort destination. Once you pass the Israeli checkpoint at the entrance to the town on the main road, the first thing on your right is a massive, abandoned casino. Israelis once flocked there in the 1990s, diverted to Jericho by the ban on gambling in their own country and spurred on by the longstanding Israeli association of Arab cities with hedonism, “Oriental” pleasures, and corruption that dates to the beginning of Zionism and the establishment of Tel Aviv beside Jaffa. If you gaze too long at the casino you’ll miss what’s on the left side of the road, where 5,000 Palestinians who fled from their homes in what became Israel in 1948 live in the Aqabat Jaber refugee camp. 25,000 people who used to live in the camp fled to Jordan when Israel occupied Jericho in 1967 and were never allowed to return. Today, the camp still feels a bit more spacious than other camps in the West Bank—a refugee camp befitting a tourist city in the desert, perhaps.

Ahead of you on the road is the city center, a few blocks of shops and a small plaza crowded with middle schoolers flirting, teenagers drinking Arabic coffee on their lunch breaks, and old men in dusty suits going for afternoon walks. Five minutes’ bike ride from the square there is are stately homes built by wealthy Jerusalem families during the British Mandate period; fifty meters further down the road you will see a split-level that wouldn’t be out of place on the Brady Bunch. Between the palm trees, on dirt roads winding lazily away from the square, are hundreds of abandoned resort homes, records of the decades upon decades of Palestinian vacations that have taken place here.

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