Read an extract from Julia by Sandra Newman

Suzanna Hamilton as Julia in the 1984 adaptation

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Fiction, along with a dozen other departments, had its Hate in Records. Records had the space; half the office had been cleared out in the Small Adjustment of ’79. It also made a nice break for Fiction, because they worked in the lightless depths, while Records was on Floor Ten, with banks of windows on all four walls. The catch was that they weren’t to use lifts – healthy exercise, comrades! To add insult to injury, there were three “ghost” floors, which had once contained bustling offices but now stood empty, so Floor Ten was really Floor Thirteen. This meant not only three extra flights, but that you had to pass those floors-of-the-dead.

Every landing on the stairs was dominated by a telescreen. Syme and Ampleforth, who struggled with the climb, kept pausing to comment in apparent fascination on whatever the telescreen was saying, while panting and mopping the sweat from their brows. Julia had a habit of smiling at each telescreen as she passed, imagining some bored man in surveillance being cheered by her appearance. Stairs held no terrors for her. At twenty-six, she’d never been stronger, and certainly never so well fed. Today she was especially lively after the long, dull hours of idleness, and trotted up, chattering with everyone she met, pressing hands and laughing at jokes. Syme’s name for her was “Love-Me”, which sometimes gave her pause, but could have been far worse. Only at the end did she slow abruptly, when she saw she might overtake O’Brien. As a result, she was right on his heels when the group came pouring into Records.

The first thing she saw was Smith – Old Misery. He was moving chairs into rows, and, absorbed in this chore, looked surprisingly likeable. A lean man of roughly forty, very fair and grey-eyed, he resembled the man from the poster “Honour Our Intellectual Labourers”, though of course without the telescope. He appeared to be dreaming of something cold but fine. Perhaps he was thinking of music. He moved with obvious pleasure, despite his slight limp; you could see he liked to have physical purpose.

But then he noticed Julia, and his mouth thinned with revulsion. It was startling how it changed him: hawk to reptile. Julia thought: “Nothing wrong with you a good shag wouldn’t fix!” This almost made her laugh, for of course it was true. His real trouble wasn’t that his parents had been unpersons, or that he couldn’t keep up with Party doctrine, or even his nasty cough. Old Misery had a bad case of Sex Gone Sour. And naturally the woman was to blame. Who else?

Without giving it much thought, when Smith sat down, Julia went to sit directly behind him. She justified it to herself because it was the seat right by the windows. But when he stiffened, uncomfortable with her presence, she was meanly pleased. Beside her was a low bookshelf with only one book: an old Newspeak dictionary from 1981, now lightly rimed with dust. She imagined running her finger through the dust and writing on his nape with the dirt – perhaps a J for Julia – though of course she never would.

The only trouble was, from here, she could smell him. By all rights, he ought to smell like mildew, but he smelled like good male sweat. Then she noticed his hair, which was thick and fine and might be quite nice to touch. So unfair that the Party warped the good-looking ones. Let them take the Ampleforths and Symes, and leave the Smiths to her.

Then, wouldn’t you know, Margaret came to sit next to Smith, and O’Brien followed after and sat on Margaret’s other side. Margaret and Smith ignored each other. All the Records people were like that. It was a treacherous job, reading oldthink all day, and Records workers kept each other at arm’s length. But what troubled Julia now was the question of why O’Brien was tagging after Margaret. Surely he couldn’t enjoy plain Margaret simpering and sighing at him?

Julia looked away – always the safest option when anyone was doing something peculiar – and gazed out of the bank of windows. At that moment, a scrap of newspaper sailed past, hectically spinning in the air, before it abruptly spread itself and dived to the rooftops far below. From this height, you couldn’t tell prole neighbourhoods from Party neighbourhoods; that was always queer. It also took a moment to pick out the gaps where bombs had fallen; on the street, they were all around you, and London sometimes seemed more crater than city. There was a private-use fuel ban for daylight hours, and you could make out the rare wisps of smoke where the A1 dining centres were. Electricity cuts were in force as well, and the grubby, unlit windows of office buildings had the gloomy radiance of the sea.

A little chunk of the view was obstructed by the massive telescreen on the nearby Transport building, whose moving pictures created the illusion that the daylight kept flickering and subtly changing. The images repeated on a simple loop. First one saw a group of pink-cheeked children innocently playing in a playground. On the horizon, a shadowy group of perverts and Eurasians and capitalists grew, reaching towards the children with brutish hands. Then a cut-out of Big Brother rose and blotted the villains out, and a slogan appeared in the sky: THANK YOU, BIG BROTHER, FOR OUR SAFE CHILDHOOD! After this, the same children reappeared, now in the uniform of the children’s organization, the Spies: grey shorts, blue shirt and red kerchief. The jolly Spies marched past with an Ingsoc flag, and the slogan in the sky became: join the spies! Then all faded, and the first image returned.

Weaving busily above this scene were helicopters. First you noticed the large ones, whose passage was audible even behind thick windows. These were manned by a pilot and two gunners, and you sometimes saw a gunner sitting casually in the open door of a copter with his black rifle resting against his knee. Once you thought of copters, you started noticing the flocks of microcopters below; then the big ones looked like the little ones’ parents. The micros weren’t manned but operated by remote control. They were only for surveillance, and in Outer Party districts, you’d often glance up from a task to find a micro hovering by your window like a nosy bird.

But by far the most striking thing in the view was the Ministry of Love. It rose from the jumble of ruins and low houses like a white fin breaching turbid brown water. On its gleaming surface, you could make out the tiny figures of workmen, attached to a slender tracery of cables, scrubbing its eerily snow-white flank. Apart from the tiny detail of those workmen, the building was so white it gave the impression of being an absence: a portal to nothingness cut through the shabby city and the cloudy sky. Love had no windows at all, giving its austere beauty a suffocating effect. Julia had heard a story that the mice there had no eyes; with no light, they had no need. That was bollocks, of course. Even when there was a power cut, the four big Ministries always had electric light. Still, those mythic blind mice troubled her. They stood for the real terrors behind those walls, terrors one couldn’t see and must imagine in ignorance.

Julia by Sandra Newman (Granta) is the latest pick for the New Scientist Book Club. Sign up and read along with us here

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What ancient Earth tells us about surviving the climate crisis

The following is a transcript from New Scientist’s CultureLab podcast. Subscribe and listen for free here.

Christie Taylor: Hello and welcome to Culture Lab, I’m Christie Taylor. This is a show all about how science plays out in our cultural creations. Sometimes we talk about the science behind popular TV and movies, other times we talk to artist and authors about the research that influenced their works. Today’s interview is with University of Pennsylvania, climate scientist and activist Michael Mann, who’s newest book called Our Fragile Moment came out last week. It’s a sweeping history of the earth’s climate and how climate change has shaped humans’ societies, both for batter and for worse. Environment reporter James Dinneen spoke with Mann about the climates extremes we’ve seen this year, what the deep history of earth’s climate tells us about our future and why climate doom is now a bigger threat than denial for taking action.

James Dinneen: Michael Mann, thank you so much for joining the new scientist podcast. Before getting into the book and all the paleo climate business, I want to ask you about our climate at present. As you know, 2023 has been a big year for extreme weather. July was the hottest month on record, June, July and August were the hottest three month period on record. There have been extreme heatwaves on three continents. Huge temperature anomalies in parts of the ocean, millions of people breathing smoke from massive wildfires in Canada. Antarctic sea ice has reached new record lows. How are you making sense of all the extremes we’ve seen in 2023 in relation to climate change?

Michael Mann: Yes, thanks, it’s good to be with you and you know, it does, sort of, put an exclamation mark. This past summer and everything we’ve seen, it feels like climate change has shown us it’s hand in the form of these disparate extreme weather events, devastating extreme weather events that communicate the fact that the climate crisis isn’t twenty years away, it’s not ten years away, it’s here and it’s a matter at this point of how bad we’re willing to let it get. I often frame the challenge in terms of duelling principles. In this case for example, there is urgency. We understand the urgency because we see the devastating consequences of climate and action already, but there’s agency too. It’s not too late to prevent the worst impacts and this book in its own way really gets at that by looking at the record of past natural climate changes. It allows us to look at the various lessons that earth history has to offer us about the climate crisis today and some of those lessons are indeed about urgency, about the bad things that happen when the planet heats up and when it heats up rapidly. But one of the things it also conveys is that, you know, I call it this fragile moment because all of human civilisation essentially was born during this roughly 4,000 year period, 6,000 year period, if you want to extend it a little further back, a fairly stable, global climate and that’s what allowed us to build this massive infrastructure to support what is now more than eight billion people on the plant, but that infrastructure is dependent on the conditions in which it was built remaining so.

And what we’re seeing is a rapid departure because of fossil fuel burning and the warming on the planet. We’re leaving that envelope of variability and it’s the rate of warming and the impacts that it’s having that presents such a challenge. So, the question is, what do we see from past climate events and what it collectively tells us is, yes, if we fail to act, if we continue on the course that we’re on, then we will see something that stats to resemble the dystopian futures that Hollywood and science fiction have given us. But if we do act and we act rapidly and concertedly then we can still remain in this fragile moment.

James Dinneen: One theme and a point that you make throughout the book is the importance of embracing uncertainty, at least in the way that we communicate about climate change and what’s behind particular anomalies. I know there’s been a huge amount of debate around all of the different factors lining up this year to contribute to heat extremes. Whether it’s changing in shipping emissions. Whether it’s volcanic eruptions and climate change and climate change from rising concentrations of greenhouse gasses all adding up together. So, how do you talk about uncertainties that are inherent in any complex science, like the science of climate change without feeling denialism or alarmism? How do we embrace uncertainty in how we communicate about climate change?

Michael Mann: Yes. We’ve seen an effort to hijack the discussion of uncertainty by climate deniers and contrarians and delayers and what I call inactivists, the forces of climate inaction and again, it’s always been a fallacy this idea that uncertainty is a reason not to act. When in fact, it’s a reason for even more concerted action because of the very real possibility that the impacts will be even worse than our models predicted. Now, when it comes to the warming of the planet, it’s right in store. The warming is what we expected it would be at this point if we continued on this fossil fuel driven path that we’re on, but what we’ve been surprised by are some of the impacts of that warming and the ice sheets are losing ice faster than we expected and sea levels rising sooner than we expected and the great ocean conveyor is slowing down earlier than we expected in part of as a result of that melting ice and the freshening of high latitude waters. And those extreme weather events that we’re seeing and some of our own research involves understanding the mechanisms, the complex behaviour of the jet stream and how it is creating these very persistent stuck weather patterns where the same regions. As we’re seeing right now, areas in Southern Europe, in the Mediterranean that have just been dumped on. Where those weather systems just remain in place for day after day and you get that extreme flooding. Or a heat dome remains in place for weeks on end, and so, you get the extreme drying and the extreme heat and they combine to give massive wildfires.

This goes beyond what we predicted at this point. So, uncertainty to reiterate that message is not our friend. If anything, it’s our enemy and it’s a reason for even more concerted action and the episodes that we look at in the deep past of earth’s climate history, reinforced that message because there are examples of mechanisms that instil a certain amount of resilience in the climate system and that’s a good thing. There are homeostatic mechanisms that keep earth within liveable bounds, but if you push the system too hard, if you hit it too hard, you can leave those bounds and that resilience gives way to fragility and that fragility can give way to a runaway climate scenarios. In fact, we talk a lot about runaway warming and that that would be very difficult to see here on earth because we’re not like Venus, we’re further from the sun. We probably can’t create a runaway Venus like greenhouse effect, but we don’t need to extinguish all life on earth. We just need to warm the planet by another ten degrees or so and we will start to see the vast majority of our planet become unliveable.

That’s on the hot side, but on the cold side we actually do see runaway scenarios. It was a snowball earth episode about two and a half billion years ago. The sun was less bright then, the earth had a tendency to run colder. Although the greenhouse effect warmed it up, so that life could exist, but we did see this one incident where there was a massive increase in oxygen due to photosynthetic bacteria that emerged at that time that filled up the atmosphere for the first time with oxygen. The oxygen scavenged all the early methane, which is a potent greenhouse gas and the earth cooled down rapidly and more ice formed, and the formation of ice cools the planet more because it reflects more sunlight to space, and you get a runaway effect. You get a vicious cycle and earth literally ran away into a-, it become a snowball. It was entirely encased in ice and life only survived through certain, like hydrothermal vents and maybe shallow pools of water at the tropical ocean surface on top of the ice. So, it’s a reminder. You hit the system too hard and in this case, it was life itself hitting the system too hard and what are we doing today? We are life. Human beings and if we hit the system too hard, it will exhibit, you know, maybe not a runaway warming event but a dramatic enough warming of the planet to make it very difficult for human civilisation to continue.

James Dinneen: As you just mentioned there, the story of climate change on earth is far, far longer and more accident than the past few millennia or even the past century. This is just the most recent and unprecedented chapter of a much longer history of earth climate. Stepping back from that, I mean, you just mentioned snowball earth there. You alluded to the faint, young sun. What to you is one of the most fascinating or misunderstood periods in our planet’s epic climate history?

Michael Mann: That’s a great question. We could go in so many different directions with that question and I do think earth history is fascinating. We’ve got more than four billion years of lessons. We might as well look at them, you know, and too often we focus on a shallow period of time. Maybe the past few millennia. The hockey stick reconstruction that we published 25 years ago showed that the warming is unprecedented in 1,000 years, but we’ve got much more than 1,000 years to look at. We’ve got billions of years and there’s so many lessons in those billions of years and we could spend a lot of time trying to unpack them all. But in terms of what events are the most misunderstood. I would point for example, to the so called PETM or the Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum. We call it the PETM. It’s about ten million years after the asteroid impact that killed the none avian dinosaurs and I say none avian because birds are technically dinosaurs. They’re still with us, so next time you see a bird in the sky, you’re seeing a dinosaur, that’s what’s left of them. Actually, any larger than a dog died off in this massive what was the equivalent of a nuclear winter. It was an impact event, but it was similar to what would happen if we had a global thermos nuclear war and there’s all the chapters, chapter four on those parallels, which I think are very interesting.

But the most misunderstood, probably the PETM. It was a period of rapid warming and by rapid, we mean over tens of thousands of years. There’s nothing in the geological record that compares to the rapidity of the warming we’re creating today. I mean, we’re warming the planet by degrees over tens of years, not tens of million or even tens of thousands of years. So, we call the PETM is, sort of, our best analogue for a rapid global warming event in the geological record, but it was slow by comparison with what we’re doing today. Rapid from a geological standpoint, planet warmed maybe four degrees, five degrees Celsius, nine degrees Fahrenheit, warmed quite a bit over ten thousand, twenty thousand years. It was due to a massive input of carbon from volcanic eruptions that tapped into a reservoir of a very carbon rich reservoir in the solid earth, not in the vicinity of Iceland. It’s a volcanic region today because it’s a spreading centre and a hot spot combined, and it was a source of great volcanism. And so, there was all this CO2 that was spewed into the atmosphere over a fairly short period of time. It’s our best natural experiment for what we’re doing today, but it was run a thousand times slower, or at least a hundred times slower then today.

One of the things that’s misunderstood here, you’ll often hear climate doomers or doomists. They don’t deny climate change, which is problematic. They deny we can do anything about it. They insist that we’re seeing runaway warming from methane that is escaping from the arctic into the atmosphere. It’s another one of those vicious cycles and we’ve started it, and we can’t stop it. So, we’re all going to be extinguished, all life on earth will be extinguished in a matter of a decade or so, no matter what we do. There are prominent voices in the community who have literally made that claim. It doesn’t stand up to scrutiny, what’s happening today, but one of the things they’ll often do is they’ll point to past events like the PETM, and they’ll say, ‘Look, that’s what happened back then, it’s happening to us now.’ That’s not what happened. There wasn’t a massive release of methane into the atmosphere. The latest studies suggest that methane feedback added maybe 10% to the carbon output. What was the carbon? It was CO2. The same CO2 that we’re producing today at an even faster click from fossil fuels burning. So, the real lessons of the PETM are that CO2 was the cause of the problem and we are the cause of the problem, as long as we continue to burn fossil fuels, but there’s no evidence for a runaway, you know, methane driven warming that would, sort of, you know, it feeds this notion that there’s nothing we can do about it, that we have no agency. It comes back to agency and it’s one of the continued messages. There’s urgency and there’s agency and these past events actually reaffirm the agency. They contradict the claim that these past extinction events imply runaway warming today that we can do nothing about. They imply just the opposite.

James Dinneen: It’s interesting. As you say, the PETM is misunderstood both from a doomist, sort of, standpoint but you sometimes also hear a misunderstanding from the opposite side, from the denialist standpoint saying, you know, ‘We shouldn’t be especially concerned about climate change today because earth has been warmer in the past than now. Or the concentration of CO2 has been higher than it is now.’ So, to that I say, it’s the rate, stupid.

Michael Mann: It’s the rate at which we’re adding carbon to the atmosphere and the rate of the warming that’s resulting from that because these past events, even the PETM, it was relatively slow. 100 times slower than today and actually, it turns out it was favourable for us in the sense that this rapid warming, that started from an already baseline, very warm greenhouse climate and it warmed even more, maybe the planet got maybe got as hot as 90 degrees Fahrenheit on average. Steamy, hot planet and it actually favoured small mammals. Especially small arboreal mammals that lived in the rainforest and the very first primate emerged in that hot house PETM climate and if not for that innovation, the development of primates, you know, she was our great, great, great, great ancestor and without that climate innovation, we probably wouldn’t be here today. So, in the sense we’ve benefited from that, but that was such a slow change that life could adapt. And the way it adapted is over tens of thousands of years mammals got smaller and smaller and ultimately, you got these very small family of mammals, the primates that emerged. Today, we are warming far faster than the adaptive capacity or the evolutionary capacity of organisms to change in response to it.

James Dinneen: I’m glad, I was waiting for you to bring up the point about how this human evolutionary lineage may have benefited from the PETM. That’s a core theme of the book is that climate change isn’t all just one thing, especially when viewed across the whole sweep of earths history. Can you explain that aspect of climate change? Maybe beyond the PETM and our earliest rodent ancestors.

Michael Mann: Absolutely. I mean, okay, we were the beneficiaries of the great dying of this great extinction event that happened 250 million years ago at the end of the Permian, the end Permian extinction. We called it the great dying because 90% of all species died out and it was another rapid warming event. Dude, guess what? Carbon dioxide, CO2 from massive volcanic output at that time and there were a number of aspects of that event which are not good analogues for what’s happening today. So, comparing to the end Permian is problematic. Much of the ocean biota probably died because of the equivalent of a global stink bomb, hydrogen sulphide filling up the oceans, and that is in part due to massive de-oxygenation of the oceans. And so there are some things that aren’t analogous to anything that’s happening today, but it turns out the evolutionary pressures of the PTM actually gave rise to that subclass of megafauna that would become the dinosaurs. And so the dinosaurs were beneficiaries of the end Permian extinction, but they were killed by the event that happened 65 million years, a massive cooling event from an asteroid strike.

The KPG Boundary we call it or it used to be called the KT Boundary and a whole chapter, chapter four about that and the parallels with nuclear winter and the group The Police and the song Walking In Your Footsteps which was a cautionary tale about all of this. And most people probably didn’t realise that. The Police, they were ahead of their time. They were, actually Sting was, amazingly. Sting, Gordon Sumner wrote that song in a Caribbean island in winter of 1982 which was long before the great Carl Sagan popularised the threat of nuclear winter. And yet, in an odd way it presages, the song almost seems aware of the threat of nuclear winter. But at that point we really were only thinking about the nuclear radiation and the destruction that would be caused and not so much the longer-term environmental impact. And in 1980 we discovered that an asteroid had killed the dinosaurs and so you had those things come together, our understanding of that event that extinguished the dinosaurs and our growing understanding of the potential similarity of what would happen, a nuclear winter if there were an all-out nuclear war. And, you know, the title of that Police album was Synchronicity.

James Dinneen: Well what you’re saying there just talking about he extinction of the dinosaurs, nuclear winter really highlights how looking at paleoclimate holds enormous insight for how we might end our changing the climate today.

Michael Mann: Yes, and there are winners and losers right, the dinosaurs were winners in that first extinction event and they were the losers in the next one. So you live by, you know, the major extinction event, you die by the major extinction event. And that theme of winner and losers, you know earth will go on, life will go on. If we continue on this trajectory we could be the losers. Climate change and you were alluding to this, I provide a lot of examples a long way, the ice ages helped lead to the development of bigger brains so that we had greater behavioural plasticity and could evolve to these rapidly changing climates. And so that’s part of what made us human, what gave us our big brains was the stress and the challenges of climate variability. So all along the way we had various assists from climate change, it created the conditions that ultimately led to, you know, our species. But what’s ironic is that the climate changes that we are creating today could again if we don’t act lead ultimately to the end of our species as we know it.

James Dinneen: On that point what happens if we don’t act? We talked about how paleoclimates can offer insights, lessons into, for instance, what might happen to the climate if we double the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere. But you also use this word, blueprint, that paleoclimate may hold a kind of blueprint for how to maintain the fragile climate from which we’ve benefited for the past several millennia. What is that blueprint and what does it tell us beyond the broad idea that we need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, does it offer something more concrete and specific?

Michael Mann: It does, thanks for that question. There’s a concept called climate sensitivity, it’s a measure of the warming effect of greenhouse gases, defined specifically as how much warming do you get if you double the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere and you allow the climate to equilibrate to that new level of CO2. It’s a fundamental metric that we use, you know, and it’s intrinsic in any future projection of warming, implicit in that is some climate-sensitive and models differ. Different climate models make different assumptions about some of the processes that impact that climate sensitivity, parametrisations. And different modellers make different assumptions that are consistent with what we know that led to, you know, different conclusions, there’s the uncertainty. And so we can’t say, ‘There’s going to be this much warming if we continue to increase carbon dioxide concentrations.’ We give a range, ‘It’s going to be somewhere between this amount of warming, between four and five degrees Celsius or seven to nine degrees Fahrenheit.’

If we continue on the historical fossil fuel burning trajectory that we’ve been on, fortunately, we’re making some progress, we’re probably headed towards less warming now with the policies in place. But the policies in place aren’t enough to stop catastrophic warming of, you know, one and a half Celsius, three degrees Fahrenheit where we’ll see far worse impact. So what the paleoclimate record can do is we’ve got a short historical record, there’s a lot going on, there are natural factors like volcanos and changes in solar outputs. There are multiple human factors, there are increasing carbon dioxide concentrations, but there’s the cooling effect of aerosols, sulphur aerosol that you alluded to earlier in fact. And all of these are competing with each other over this short period of time, so it’s hard to tease apart from the short time period the sensitivity of the climate. We can try to compare models and observations and figure that out but there’s this uncertainty, so one of the things we do is we look for other experiments that nature has one where we have an idea of what the changes in CO2 were and we have an idea of what the changes in temperature were. And they can inform our estimate of this key quantity, climate sensitivity that in the end tells us how much warming are we going to get if we continue with, you know, different scenarios of fossil fuel burning.

And what the paleoclimate does collectively is tell us that the models probably have it about right, there’s no room, you know, the observations, the PTM, the end Permian extinction and all of that four billion plus record, year record. Collectively it doesn’t support the idea of runaway warming, that we’re going to get a runaway warming effect from the CO2 we’ve already emitted as doomers claim. The paleoclimate record doesn’t support that, it actually supports conventional estimates from climate models that tell us that if we continue to burn carbon the planet will continue to get warmer and warmer and it’ll do so at a rate that does threaten us.

You know, I use this phrase originally it was coined by my good friend and mentor who’s no longer with us, Steve Schneider, who I talk about in the book, his legacy, his contribution to the science. Steven Schneider had all sorts of aphorisms that he introduced into our lexicon and one of them was, the truth is hard enough. And that’s it, the paleoclimate record that’s the truth, and the truth is bad enough. It’s easy to envision an essentially civilisational collapse. And there are lessons there as well and I talk about those in the book, of past collapses of human civilisation early on and what they tell us again about the fragility of the moment, of this moment that were in. So that’s the bottom line, truth is bad enough, if we don’t reduce carbon emissions substantially over the next decade then yes, we will leave behind that fragile moment and we will imperil human civilisation.

Christie Taylor: Thanks again for listening to this episode of Culture Lab from New Scientist Podcast. That was reporter James Dinneen in conversation with climate scientist Michael Mann. I’m Christie Taylor. If you liked this interview make sure you subscribe to our feed for more like it, plus our weekly news podcast and the incredible Dead Planet Society all dropping right here every Friday and Tuesday. Find more stories from new scientists on our website at newscientist.com. Bye for now.

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Turkish century: History looms large on election day

ISTANBUL — From the Aegean coast to the mountainous frontier with Iran, millions of Turks are voting at the country’s 191,884 ballot boxes on Sunday — with both President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his main rival Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu warning the country is at a historical turning point.

In the last sprints of the nail-bitingly close election race, the dueling candidates have both placed heavy emphasis on the historical resonance of the vote falling exactly 100 years after the foundation of the secular Turkish republic by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in 1923.

In the Istanbul district of Ümraniye on the final day of campaigning, Erdoğan told voters the country was on “the threshold of a Turkish century” that will be the “century of our children, our youth, our women.”

Erdoğan’s talk of a Turkish century is partly a pledge to make the country stronger and more technologically independent, particularly in the defense sector. Over the past months, the president has been quick to associate himself with the domestically-manufactured Togg electric car, the “Kaan” fighter jet and Anadolu, the country’s first aircraft carrier.

But Erdoğan’s Turkish century is about more than home-grown planes and ships. Few people doubt the president sees 2023 as a key threshold to accelerate his push away from Atatürk’s secular legacy and toward a more religiously conservative nation. Indeed, his campaign has been characterized by a heavy emphasis on family values and bitter rhetoric against the LGBTQ+ community. Unsurprisingly, he wrapped up his campaign on Saturday night in Hagia Sophia — once Constantinople’s greatest church — which he contentiously reconverted from a museum back into a mosque, as it had been in Ottoman times.    

The state that Atatürk forged from the ashes of the Ottoman empire in 1923 was secular and modernizing, often along Western models, with the introduction of Latin letters and even the banning of the fez in favor of Western-style hats. In this regard, the Islamist populist Erdoğan is a world away from the ballroom-dancing, rakı-quaffing field marshal Atatürk.

The 2023 election is widely being cast as a decisive referendum on which vision for Turkey will win through, and Erdoğan has been keen to portray the opposition as sell-outs to the West and global financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund. “Are you ready to bury at the ballot box those who promised to give over the country’s values ​​to foreigners and loan sharks?” he called out to the crowd in Ümraniye.

This is not a man who is casting himself as the West’s ally. Resisting pressure that Ankara should not cozy up so much to the Kremlin, Erdoğan snapped on Friday that he would “not accept” the opposition’s attacks on Russian President Vladimir Putin — after Kılıçdaroğlu complained of Russian meddling in the election.   

All about Atatürk

By contrast, Erdogan’s main rival Kılıçdaroğlu is trying to assume the full mantle of Atatürk, and is stressing the need to put the country back on the path toward European democratic norms after Erdoğan’s lurch toward authoritarianism. While Erdoğan ended his campaign in the great mosque of Hagia Sophia, Kılıçdaroğlu did so by laying flowers at Atatürk’s mausoleum.

Speaking from a rain-swept stage in Ankara on Friday night, the 74-year-old bureaucrat declared: “We will make all of Turkey Mustafa Kemal’s [Atatürk’s] Turkey!”

In his speech, he slammed Erdoğan for giving Turkey over to drug runners and crony networks of oligarch construction bosses, saying the country had no place for “robbers.” Symbolically, he chided the president for ruling from his 1,150-room presidential complex — dubbed the Saray or palace — and said that he would rule from the more modest Çankaya mansion that Atatürk used for his presidency.

Warming to his theme of Turkey’s “second century,” Kılıçdaroğlu posted a video in the early hours of Saturday morning, urging young people to fully embrace the founding father’s vision. After all, he hails from the CHP party that Atatürk founded.

“We are entering the second century, young ones. And now we have a new generation, we have you. We have to decide altogether: Will we be among those who only commemorate Atatürk — like in the first century — or those who understand him in this century? This generation will be of those who understand,” he said, speaking in his trademark grandfatherly tone from his book-lined study.

At least in the upscale neighborhood of Beşiktaş, on Saturday night, all the talk of Atatürk was no dry history lesson. Over their final beers — before an alcohol sale ban comes in force over election day — young Turks punched the air and chanted along with a stirring anthem: “Long Live Mustafa Kemal Pasha, long may he live.”

In diametric opposition to Erdoğan, who has detained opponents and exerts heavy influence over the judiciary and the media, Kılıçdaroğlu is insisting that he will push Turkey to adopt the kind of reforms needed to move toward EU membership.

When asked by POLITICO whether that could backfire because some hostile EU countries would always block Turkish membership, he said the reforms themselves were the most important element for Turkey’s future.

“It does not matter whether the EU takes us in or not. What matters is bringing all the democratic standards that the EU foresees to our country,” he said in an exclusive interview on the sidelines of a rally in the central city of Sivas. “We are part of Western civilization. So the EU may accept us or not, but we will bring those democratic standards. The EU needs Turkey.”

Off to the polls

Polling stations — which are set up in schools — open at 8 a.m. on election day and close at 5 p.m. At 9 p.m. media can start reporting, and unofficial results are expected to start trickling in around midnight.

The mood is cautious, with rumors swirling that internet use could be restricted or there could be trouble on the streets if there are disputes over the result.

The fears of some kind of trouble have only grown after reports of potential military or governmental involvement in the voting process.

Two days before the election, the CHP accused Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu of preparing election manipulation. The main opposition party said Soylu had called on governors to seek army support on election night. Soylu made no public response.  

Turkey’s Supreme Election Council (YSK) has rejected the interior ministry’s request to collect and store election results on its own database. The YSK also banned the police and gendarmerie from collecting election results. 

Erdoğan himself sought to downplay any fears of a stolen election. In front of a studio audience of young people on Friday, he dismissed as “ridiculous” the suggestion that he might not leave office if he lost. “We came to power in Turkey by democratic means and by the courtesy of people. If they make a different decision whatever the democracy requires we will do it,” said the president, looking unusually gaunt, perhaps still knocked back by what his party said was a bout of gastroenteritis during the campaign.

The opposition is vowing to keep close tabs on all of the polling stations to try to prevent any fraud.

In Esenyurt Cumhuriyet Square, in the European part of Istanbul, a group of high-school students gathered on Saturday morning to greet Ekrem İmamoğlu, the popular mayor of Istanbul, who would be one of Kılıçdaroğlu’s vice presidents if he were to win.

Ilayda, 18, said she would vote for the opposition because of its position on democracy, justice and women’s rights.

When asked what would happen if Erdoğan won, she replied: “We plan to start a deep mourning. Our country as we know it will not be there anymore.”



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100 Year Old Lady At Florida School Board Better Patriot Than All Book Banners Put Together

Earlier this month, the school district in Martin County, Florida, purged at least 84 books from school libraries after complaints from the head of the local Moms for “Liberty” chapter under the state’s school censorship law, HB 1467, passed last year. PEN America notes that most of the books were removed following challenges by a single objector, “who filed forms indicating that she did not actually read any of the books in question.” No problem; in keeping with the law, a DeSanctified “media specialist” in the district reviewed the books, or at least the list, and the books were gone.

Among the familiar suspects like Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye and Beloved,the banned books also included 20 by a single author, Jodi Picoult, who writes novels for the young adult market. Picoult notes in an op-ed that the complaints — again, all from the one Moms for Censorship lady — inaccurately described all her books as “adult romance that should not be on school shelves.” Picoult, who we suspect knows her books better than the mom who didn’t read them, points out that most of the books that were targeted “do not even have a kiss in them.,” but they do deal with social issues that make rightwingers sad, and they “encourage kids to think for themselves.” Can’t have that.

Picoult also notes that one of her books marked for culling was The Storyteller, a novel about the repercussions of the Holocaust.

It chronicles the growth of anti-Semitism and fascism in Nazi Germany. There was a strange irony that a parent wanted this particular book removed, because it felt a bit like history repeating itself.


Julie Marshall, the Mom for Purity who lodged the complaints, told the Washington Post by email, “At this point, we believe we have challenged the most obscene and age inappropriate books,” but didn’t specify what her issues with The Storyteller were. Apparently there’s sex, including depictions of Nazi guards committing sexual assault, so maybe we wouldn’t want kids thinking Nazis were rapists.

The removal of all those books meant that Tuesday night’s Martin County school board meeting was packed, with about 200 people there. Many of the 40 who spoke at the meeting called for the books to be restored, although a few also worried about all the nasty sex in books available to high school readers, giving the very laziest local news stations an excuse to present one quote from each side and call it good coverage.

Marshall was there, in a Wonder Woman T-shirt, to explain that while she filed almost all the complaints, she works with many many concerned parents both locally and nationwide, and sadly she didn’t actually say “There are dozens of us! Dozens!” But she did say

“If you guys want to continue making me out to be the sole parent in all of this and give me the power that I can have all these books removed and make me out to be Wonder Woman, so be it … Persecute me for standing on morality, I really don’t care.”

We really do hope someone lets her know that Wonder Woman is a queer icon, that Lynda Carter thinks bigots suck, and that the character was created in the first place by William Moulton Marston, who lived very happily in a throuple and deliberately included a LOT of bondage references in the comic, what with that Lasso o’ Truth and all. (He was also a lie-detector crank who always looked for a way to cash in on his dubious inventions, so there’s that.) Marston included this illustration, by Harry G. Peter, of what a real Wonder Woman believes, in his article “Why 100,000 Americans Read Comics” in American Scholar (1943-44):

Image: Harvard College Library via NPR

Happily, among the many folks calling for freedom to read, there was a real wonder woman at the school board meeting, 100-year-old Grace Linn, who knows far too well why fascism has to be nipped in the bud whenever it arises. Her husband was killed in action fighting them in WW II, and by god she’s not going to allow any book burners in her America, thank you very much.

Linn brought along a quilt she had made to honor books and ideas that the current round of fascists are trying to snuff out; in January, as America’s censorship crusade was well under way, she had shared a photo of her quilt with MSNBC’s Ali Velshi for his show’s “Banned Book Club” feature.

The quilt includes censored titles like Beloved,Maus, Fahrenheit 451, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Gender Queer, Two Boys Kissing, and more. Linn told Palm Beach TV station WPTV — one of the non-lazy ones! — “When I showed this to adult women, they’ll say, ‘Oh, no they didn’t do that to The Color Purple.‘”

Now, let’s get out of her way and listen:

A few highlights (full transcript of Linn’s remarks at AlterNet):

Good afternoon folks. I am Grace Lynn. I am a hundred years young. I’m here to protest our school district’s book-banning policy. My husband Robert Nichol was killed in action in World War II, at a very young age, he was only 26, defending our democracy, Constitution, and freedoms.

One of the freedoms that the Nazis crushed was the freedom to read the books they banned. They stopped the free press, banned and burned books. The freedom to read, which is protected by the First Amendment, is our essential right and duty of our democracy. Even so, it is continually under attack by both the public and private groups who think they hold the truth.

Linn noted she’d made the quilt last year in reply to the Right’s mania for book banning, and urged her fellow citizens not to knuckle under to today’s fascists, who seek power by trying to make us afraid of other Americans:

Banned books, and burning books, are the same. Both are done for the same reason: fear of knowledge. Fear is not freedom. Fear is not liberty. Fear is control. My husband died as a father of freedom. I am a mother of liberty. Banned books need to be proudly displayed and protected from school boards like this. Thank you very much. Thank you.

And that’s what we all need to be saying at every school and library board meeting in America, the end.

UPDATE: Well silly me, I didn’t include anything about the school board’s reactions to the two hours of public comment. According to the local paper, the board didn’t take any action on the banned books at Tuesday’s meeting, and no board members responded to the comments.

[PEN America / Daily Beast / WaPo / JTA / NPR / AlterNet / TC Palm]

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Why We Grieve Our Favourite TV Shows: Psychologists on ‘Post-Series Depression’

“After I finished reading all the Harry Potter books, I was heartbroken. I waited for the movies to come out, but then those got over too. And I was left feeling: what now?” says Anoushka Rajesh, a 26-year-old journalist.

Anoushka – like many of us who love binge-watching TV shows, going on movie marathons, and reading thriller novels – says she is often left with a “sense of loss, imbalance, a sort of void” when something she enjoyed watching or reading comes to an end.

“Sometimes, it affects me so much that I avoid watching the ending altogether – even if it’s a show I had been following for years, like Naruto,” she says.

This feeling of ‘loss’ and ‘sadness’ is more common than you think; psychologists refer to it as ‘post-series depression’ or PSD.

When HBO show Succession aired its finale in India on Monday, 30 May, social media was flooded with posts about how the show would be missed dearly. With the Apple TV show Ted Lasso also coming to an end on Wednesday, 31 May, conversations about PSD are important now more than ever.

FIT spoke to experts about this state of mental health and ways to tackle it, and here’s what we found out.

What Exactly Is PSD?

Nishtha Budhiraja, a child psychologist, describes post-series depression as a feeling of “profound sense of grief, loss, or emptiness,” which is usually experienced after the end of a TV show, movie, or book.

“PSD can also involve feelings of being confused. It is an emotionally dysregulated sort of experience,” she tells FIT.

Budhiraja explains that most of us tend to identify with characters in TV shows, books, and movies, and may even relate to them at a “very deep level.” Often, we also create fantasies around a show or a character and grow emotionally attached to them.

“These feelings tend to get projected on the character or the storyline. And that is why it gets difficult once it ends. There is this sense of loss – that you will no longer be able to experience this again. It’s grief, but it’s a different kind of grief – because you’re grieving someone fictional. So, it can get a bit confusing as well,” she adds.

PSD isn’t really a new phenomenon, though it’s become more common with the rise of OTT and binge-watching culture, says Budhiraja.

“Even when our parents and grandparents were watching those old Ekta Kapoor shows, they felt really strongly about them when they ended. And they went on for years!” she says.

Now, multiple people go through a shared experience of grief because of the accessibility and relatability of OTT content, she adds.

She, however, explains that PSD isn’t just limited to books or TV. “During the lockdown, when they had banned the game PUBG, the adolescent population had become so anxious, so emotionally unregulated. Why? Because they didn’t have the one thing they really looked forward to. This is PSD as well.”

No Watching or Rewatching?

Twenty-six-year-old Archana Shaji, a PhD scholar, tells FIT she has the habit of keeping a tab on the number of episodes of any show before watching it.

“I always check the number of episodes of a show before watching it, just to prepare myself. And the despair starts around the last three episodes. By the time the series is over, I feel very low, even if the theme of the series is positive and it ended on a good note,” she says.

Archana says she’s felt this way with many shows, but the despair is worse when she’s seen the characters grow on screen, like in Brooklyn Nine-Nine or Derry Girls.

“If it’s a show that I really liked, I would immediately start rewatching it. Going back to those episodes is comforting.”

But like Anoushka, Tushar Kaushik, a 32-year-old writer, has a different approach to dealing with the “emptiness.” He says there have been several shows that he has left midway because he couldn’t bear to come to terms with the end.

“And this feeling doesn’t just apply to shows or books. I have been religiously watching all FIFA World Cup matches for the past month. Now that the final is here, I have no idea how I will deal with it once it’s all over!”

Tushar Kaushik, Writer

For Anoushka, watching a TV show isn’t just about identifying with the characters or enjoying the plot – it’s a way to escape the mundane. “I tend to jump to another show as soon as I finish the one I’m watching. Sometimes, I don’t even finish it – I’ll leave the last episode out because I don’t want it to end. I always need a parallel world I can slip into, so I don’t have to deal with reality. It’s like a safety net.”

Explaining why we tend to do this, Nishtha says, “When we talk about escape or avoidance-based mechanisms, PSD tends to come up. There would be one series that a person would go back to. Two series are extremely common in this regard – Friends and Bojack Horseman. It either helps people process their feelings about something, or they just want to avoid it and be in a fantasy world for a while.”

How Does One Tackle This?

Dr Syeda Ruksheda, a psychiatrist, says there are several ways one can transition out of PSD.

“First thing you can do is talk about it. Share your experiences, your thoughts, and feelings with other fans or on social media. It makes it easier for you to let go. When you’re talking about it, the show and the characters come alive again. Then it’s easier for you to let go,” she tells FIT.

Some people even write fan fiction to deal with PSD productively, she adds. “Fan fiction has grown more and more popular over the years with Harry Potter. It’s a productive way of keeping the character alive while letting go of them as well.”

Connecting with people outside the fictional world may also be helpful to some, says Dr Ruksheda.

“You got a dopamine hit while watching something you liked. And now that’s missing. So, it takes some time for your brain to recalibrate. Stepping away from the fictional world can help speed up the process.”

When Should You Be Worried?

“PSD is almost like a grief period. But it is also dependent on your overall mental health, quality of life, etc. The lower your quality of life, the higher the chances of you being severely affected by PSD. We may call it a mild adjustment disorder, depending on the level of symptoms that you have, the duration, and the intensity,” Dr Ruksheda explains.

Nishtha concurs, and adds that PSD doesn’t really have to be addressed, “unless and until it creates a sense of dissonance or emotional instability in your life.”

“When it comes to any sort of potential depression or mental health related issue, what we usually look at are: First, is it an intense episode that has lasted more than a month? Second, does it come and go over six months, and when it comes, is a person is unable to be functional? In both these cases, seek help.”

Nishtha Budhiraja, Child Psychologist

In short, if you find yourself struggling hard to accept that a series or book has ended, and if this feeling is affecting your day-to-day functioning, you may need professional help, according to experts.

(This story was originally published on 20 December 2022. It has been updated and republished from The Quint‘s archives as hit shows Succession and Ted Lasso end their run.)

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