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[Essay] | Faustian Economics, by Wendell Berry | Harper's Magazine
"The general reaction to the apparent end of the era of cheap fossil fuel, as to other readily foreseeable curtailments, has been to delay any sort of reckoning. The strategies of delay, so far, have been a sort of willed oblivion, or visions of large profits to the manufacturers of such “biofuels” as ethanol from corn or switchgrass, or the familiar unscientific faith that “science will find an answer.” The dominant response, in short, is a dogged belief that what we call the American Way of Life will prove somehow indestructible. We will keep on consuming, spending, wasting, and driving, as before, at any cost to anything and everybody but ourselves.

This belief was always indefensible — the real names of global warming are Waste and Greed — and by now it is manifestly foolish. But foolishness on this scale looks disturbingly like a sort of national insanity. We seem to have come to a collective delusion of grandeur, insisting that all of us are “free” to be as conspicuously greedy and wasteful as the most corrupt of kings and queens. (Perhaps by devoting more and more of our already abused cropland to fuel production we will at last cure ourselves of obesity and become fashionably skeletal, hungry but — thank God! — still driving.)"



"The normalization of the doctrine of limitlessness has produced a sort of moral minimalism: the desire to be efficient at any cost, to be unencumbered by complexity. The minimization of neighborliness, respect, reverence, responsibility, accountability, and self-subordination — this is the culture of which our present leaders and heroes are the spoiled children.

Our national faith so far has been: “There’s always more.” Our true religion is a sort of autistic industrialism. People of intelligence and ability seem now to be genuinely embarrassed by any solution to any problem that does not involve high technology, a great expenditure of energy, or a big machine. Thus an X marked on a paper ballot no longer fulfills our idea of voting. One problem with this state of affairs is that the work now most needing to be done — that of neighborliness and caretaking — cannot be done by remote control with the greatest power on the largest scale. A second problem is that the economic fantasy of limitlessness in a limited world calls fearfully into question the value of our monetary wealth, which does not reliably stand for the real wealth of land, resources, and workmanship but instead wastes and depletes it.

That human limitlessness is a fantasy means, obviously, that its life expectancy is limited. There is now a growing perception, and not just among a few experts, that we are entering a time of inescapable limits. We are not likely to be granted another world to plunder in compensation for our pillage of this one. Nor are we likely to believe much longer in our ability to outsmart, by means of science and technology, our economic stupidity. The hope that we can cure the ills of industrialism by the homeopathy of more technology seems at last to be losing status. We are, in short, coming under pressure to understand ourselves as limited creatures in a limited world.

This constraint, however, is not the condemnation it may seem. On the contrary, it returns us to our real condition and to our human heritage, from which our self-definition as limitless animals has for too long cut us off. Every cultural and religious tradition that I know about, while fully acknowledging our animal nature, defines us specifically as humans — that is, as animals (if the word still applies) capable of living not only within natural limits but also within cultural limits, self-imposed. As earthly creatures, we live, because we must, within natural limits, which we may describe by such names as “earth” or “ecosystem” or “watershed” or “place.” But as humans, we may elect to respond to this necessary placement by the self-restraints implied in neighborliness, stewardship, thrift, temperance, generosity, care, kindness, friendship, loyalty, and love.

In our limitless selfishness, we have tried to define “freedom,” for example, as an escape from all restraint. But, as my friend Bert Hornback has explained in his book The Wisdom in Words, “free” is etymologically related to “friend.” These words come from the same Indo-European root, which carries the sense of “dear” or “beloved.” We set our friends free by our love for them, with the implied restraints of faithfulness or loyalty. And this suggests that our “identity” is located not in the impulse of selfhood but in deliberately maintained connections."



"And so our cultural tradition is in large part the record of our continuing effort to understand ourselves as beings specifically human: to say that, as humans, we must do certain things and we must not do certain things. We must have limits or we will cease to exist as humans; perhaps we will cease to exist, period. At times, for example, some of us humans have thought that human beings, properly so called, did not make war against civilian populations, or hold prisoners without a fair trial, or use torture for any reason.

Some of us would-be humans have thought too that we should not be free at anybody else’s expense. And yet in the phrase “free market,” the word “free” has come to mean unlimited economic power for some, with the necessary consequence of economic powerlessness for others. Several years ago, after I had spoken at a meeting, two earnest and obviously troubled young veterinarians approached me with a question: How could they practice veterinary medicine without serious economic damage to the farmers who were their clients? Underlying their question was the fact that for a long time veterinary help for a sheep or a pig has been likely to cost more than the animal is worth. I had to answer that, in my opinion, so long as their practice relied heavily on selling patented drugs, they had no choice, since the market for medicinal drugs was entirely controlled by the drug companies, whereas most farmers had no control at all over the market for agricultural products. My questioners were asking in effect if a predatory economy can have a beneficent result. The answer too often is No. And that is because there is an absolute discontinuity between the economy of the seller of medicines and the economy of the buyer, as there is in the health industry as a whole. The drug industry is interested in the survival of patients, we have to suppose, because surviving patients will continue to consume drugs.

Now let us consider a contrary example. Recently, at another meeting, I talked for some time with an elderly, and some would say an old-fashioned, farmer from Nebraska. Unable to farm any longer himself, he had rented his land to a younger farmer on the basis of what he called “crop share” instead of a price paid or owed in advance. Thus, as the old farmer said of his renter, “If he has a good year, I have a good year. If he has a bad year, I have a bad one.” This is what I would call community economics. It is a sharing of fate. It assures an economic continuity and a common interest between the two partners to the trade. This is as far as possible from the economy in which the young veterinarians were caught, in which the powerful are limitlessly “free” to trade, to the disadvantage, and ultimately the ruin, of the powerless.

It is this economy of community destruction that, wittingly or unwittingly, most scientists and technicians have served for the past two hundred years. These scientists and technicians have justified themselves by the proposition that they are the vanguard of progress, enlarging human knowledge and power, and thus they have romanticized both themselves and the predatory enterprises that they have served."



"If the idea of appropriate limitation seems unacceptable to us, that may be because, like Marlowe’s Faustus and Milton’s Satan, we confuse limits with confinement. But that, as I think Marlowe and Milton and others were trying to tell us, is a great and potentially a fatal mistake. Satan’s fault, as Milton understood it and perhaps with some sympathy, was precisely that he could not tolerate his proper limitation; he could not subordinate himself to anything whatever. Faustus’s error was his unwillingness to remain “Faustus, and a man.” In our age of the world it is not rare to find writers, critics, and teachers of literature, as well as scientists and technicians, who regard Satan’s and Faustus’s defiance as salutary and heroic.

On the contrary, our human and earthly limits, properly understood, are not confinements but rather inducements to formal elaboration and elegance, to fullness of relationship and meaning. Perhaps our most serious cultural loss in recent centuries is the knowledge that some things, though limited, are inexhaustible. For example, an ecosystem, even that of a working forest or farm, so long as it remains ecologically intact, is inexhaustible. A small place, as I know from my own experience, can provide opportunities of work and learning, and a fund of beauty, solace, and pleasure — in addition to its difficulties — that cannot be exhausted in a lifetime or in generations.

To recover from our disease of limitlessness, we will have to give up the idea that we have a right to be godlike animals, that we are potentially omniscient and omnipotent, ready to discover “the secret of the universe.” We will have to start over, with a different and much older premise: the naturalness and, for creatures of limited intelligence, the necessity, of limits. We must learn again to ask how we can make the most of what we are, what we have, what we have been given. If we always have a theoretically better substitute available from somebody or someplace else, we will never make the most of anything. It is hard to make the most of one life. If we each had two lives, we would not make much of either. Or … [more]
wendellberry  2008  economics  science  technology  art  limits  limitlessness  arts  ecosystems  limitations  local  humanism  humanity  humility  community  communities  knowledge  power  expansion  growth  interdependence  greed  neighborliness  stewardship  thrift  temperance  christianity  generosity  care  kindness  friendship  loyalty  love  self-restraint  restraint  watershed  land  caring  caretaking  morality  accountability  responsibility  respect  reverence  corruption  capitalism  technosolutionism  fossilfuels  waste 
20 days ago by robertogreco
The Oppenheimer Moment - Alan Cooper | Open Transcripts
[direct link to video: https://vimeo.com/254533098 ]

[via: https://twitter.com/TopLeftBrick/status/1123865036370468864 ]

"All of our social sys­tems bias us toward a pre­sen­tist focus: cap­i­tal­ist mar­kets, rapid tech­no­log­i­cal advance, pro­fes­sion­al reward sys­tems, and indus­tri­al man­age­ment meth­ods. You have to ask your­self, how will this be used in ten years? In thir­ty. When will it die? What will hap­pen to its users? To be a good ances­tor, we must look at the entire lifes­pan of our work.

I know I said that there were three considerations, but there’s a strong fourth one, too. Having established the three conduits for bad ancestry—assumptions, externalities, and timescale—we now need some tactical tools for ancestry thinking.

Because it’s a systems problem, individual people are rarely to blame. But people become representatives of the system. That is, the face of bad ancestry will usually be a person. So it takes some finesse to move in a positive direction without polarizing the situation. You can see from the USA’s current political situation how easy it is to slip into polarization.

First we need to understand that systems need constant work. John Gall’s theory of General Systemantics says that, “systems failure is an intrinsic feature of systems.” In other words, all systems go haywire, and will continue to go haywire, and only constant vigilance can keep those systems working in a positive direction. You can’t ignore systems. You have to ask questions about systems. You must probe constantly, deeply, and not accept rote answers.

And when you detect bad assumptions, ignored side‐effects, or distortions of time, you have to ask those same questions of the others around you. You need to lead them through the thought process so they see the problem too. This is how you reveal the secret language of the system.

Ask about the external forces at work on the system. Who is outside of the system? What did they think of it? What leverage do they have? How might they use the system? Who is excluded from it?

Ask about the impact of the system. Who is affected by it? What other systems are affected? What are the indirect long‐term effects? Who gets left behind?

Ask about the consent your system requires. Who agrees with what you are doing? Who disagrees? Who silently condones it? And who’s ignorant of it?

Ask who benefits from the system? Who makes money from it? Who loses money? Who gets promoted? And how does it affect the larger economy?

Ask about how the system can be misused. How can it be used to cheat, to steal, to confuse, to polarize, to alienate, to dominate, to terrify? Who might want to misuse it? What could they gain by it? Who could lose?

If you are asking questions like these regularly, you’re probably making a leaky boat.

Lately I’ve been talking a lot about what I call working backwards. It’s my preferred method of problem‐solving. In the conventional world, gnarly challenges are always presented from within a context, a framework of thinking about the problem. The given framework is almost always too small of a window. Sometimes it’s the wrong window altogether. Viewed this way, your problems can seem inscrutable and unsolvable, a Gordian Knot.

Working backwards can be very effective in this situation. It’s similar to Edward de Bono’s notion of lateral thinking, and Taiichi Ohno’s idea of the 5 Whys. Instead of addressing the problem in its familiar surroundings, you step backwards and you examine the surroundings instead. Deconstructing and understanding the problem definition first is more productive than directly addressing the solution.

Typically you discover that the range of possible solutions first presented are too limiting, too conventional, and suppress innovation. When the situation forces you to choose between Option A or Option B, the choice is almost always Option C. If we don’t work backwards we tend to treat symptoms rather than causes. For example we clamor for a cure for cancer, but we ignore the search for what causes cancer. We institute recycling programs, but we don’t reduce our consumption of disposable plastic. We eat organic grains and meat, but we still grow them using profoundly unsustainable agricultural practices.

The difficulty presented by working backwards is that it typically violates established boundaries. The encompassing framework is often in a different field of thought and authority. Most people, when they detect such a boundary refuse to cross it. They say, “That’s not my responsibility.” But this is exactly what an externality looks like. Boundaries are even more counterproductive in tech.

A few years ago, a famous graphic circulated on the Web that said, “In 2015, Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles. Facebook, the world’s most popular media owner, creates no content. Alibaba, the most valuable retailer, has no inventory. And Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate.”

The problem is that taxi companies are regulated by taxing and controlling vehicles. Media is controlled by regulating content. Retailing is controlled by taxing inventory. And accommodations by taxing rooms. All of the governmental checks and balances are side‐stepped my business model innovation. These new business models are better than the old ones, but the new ideas short‐circuit the controls we need to keep them from behaving like bad citizens, bad ancestors.

All business models have good sides and bad sides. We cannot protect ourselves against the bad parts by legislating symptoms and artifacts. Instead of legislating mechanism mechanisms, we have to legislate desired outcomes. The mechanisms may change frequently, but the outcomes remain very constant, and we need to step backwards to be good ancestors.

And when we step backwards, we see the big picture. But seeing it shows us that there’s a lot of deplorable stuff going on in the world today. And a lot of it is enabled and exacerbated by the high‐tech products that we make. It might not be our fault, but it’s our responsibility to fix it.

One reaction to looking at the big picture is despair. When you realize the whole machine is going in the wrong direction, it’s easy to be overwhelmed with a fatalistic sense of doom. Another reaction to seeing this elephant is denial. It makes you want to just put your head back down and concentrate on the wireframes. But those paths are the Option A and the Option B of the problem, and I am committed to Option C. I want to fix the problem.

If you find yourself at the point in a product’s development where clearly unethical requests are made of you, when the boss asks you to lie, cheat, or steal, you’re too late for anything other than brinksmanship. I applaud you for your courage if you’re willing to put your job on the line for this, but it’s unfair for me to ask you to do it. My goal here is to arm you with practical, useful tools that will effectively turn the tech industry towards becoming a good ancestor. This is not a rebellion. Those tools will be more of a dialectic than a street protest. We can only play the long game here.

Our very powerlessness as individual practitioners makes us think that we can’t change the system. Unless of course we are one of the few empowered people. We imagine that powerful people take powerful actions. We picture the lone Tiananmen protester standing resolutely in front of a column of battle tanks, thus making us good ancestors. Similarly, we picture the CEO Jack Dorsey banning Nazis from Twitter and thus, in a stroke, making everything better."



"Now fortuitously, I had recently been talking with folks at the engineering school at the University of California at Berkeley about teaching something there. Renato Verdugo, my new friend and collaborator with the great hair, agreed to help. And we just completed co‐teaching a semester‐long class called “Thinking Like a Good Ancestor” at the Jacobs Institute for Design Innovation on the Berkeley campus. Renato works for Google, and they generously supported our work.

We’re introducing our students to the fundamentals of how technology could lose its way. Of awareness and intentionality. We’re giving the students our taxonomy of assumptions, externalities, and time. Instead of focusing on how tech behaves badly, we’re focusing on how good tech is allowed to become bad. We’re not trying to patch the holes in the Titanic but prevent them from occurring in future tech. So we’re encouraging our students to exercise their personal agency. We expect these brilliant young students at Berkeley to take ancestry thinking out into the world. We expect them to make it a better place for all of our children.

Like those students, we are the practitioners. We are the makers. We are the ones who design, develop, and deploy software‐powered experiences. At the start of this talk I asked you to imagine yourself as a tech practitioner witnessing your creations turned against our common good. Now I want you to imagine yourself creating products that can’t be turned towards evil. Products that won’t spy on you, won’t addict you, and won’t discriminate against you. More than anyone else, you have the power to create this reality. Because you have your hands on the technology. And I believe that the future is in the hands of the hands‐on.

Ultimately, we the craftspeople who make the artifacts of the future have more effect on the world than the business executives, the politicians, and the investment community. We are like the keystone in the arch. Without us it all falls to the ground. While it may not be our fault that our products let evil leak in, it is certainly within our power to prevent it. The welfare of our children, and their children, is at stake, and taking care of our offspring is the best way to take care of ourselves.

We need to stand up, and stand together. Not in opposition but as a… [more]
alancooper  design  ethics  ancestors  2018  time  systemsthinking  systems  capitalism  neoliberalism  technology  lifespan  externalities  economics  ancestry  legacy  side-effects  morality  awareness  intentionality  renatoverdugo  powerlessness  longgame  longnow  bighere  zoominginandout  taiichiohno  problemsolving  johngall 
23 days ago by robertogreco
Opinion | The Rich Kid Revolutionaries - The New York Times
"Rather than repeat family myths about the individual effort and smarts of their forebears, those from wealthy backgrounds tell “money stories” that highlight the more complicated origins of their families’ assets. If their fortunes came from the direct dispossession of indigenous peoples, enslavement of African-Americans, production of fossil fuels or obvious exploitation of workers, they often express especially acute guilt. As a woman in her early 20s told me of the wealth generated by her family’s global business: “It’s not just that I get money without working. It’s that other people work to make me money and don’t get nearly as much themselves. I find it to be morally repugnant.”

Even those I have talked with whose family wealth was accumulated through less transparently exploitative means, such as tech or finance, or who have high-paying jobs themselves, question what they really deserve. They see that their access to such jobs, through elite schools and social networks, comes from their class (and usually race) advantages.

They also know that many others work just as hard but reap fewer rewards. One 27-year-old white woman, who stands to inherit several million dollars, told me: “My dad has always been a C.E.O., and it was clear to me that he spent a lot of time at work, but it has never been clear to me that he worked a lot harder than a domestic worker, for example. I will never believe that.” She and others challenge the description of wealth garnered through work as “earned.” In an effort to break the link between money and moral value, they refer to rich people as “high net wealth” rather than “high net worth.”

Immigrants who “make it” are often seen to exemplify the American dream of upward mobility. The children of immigrants I spoke with, though, don’t want their families’ “success stories” to legitimate an unfair system. Andrea Pien, 32, is a Resource Generation member and a daughter of Taiwanese immigrants who accumulated significant wealth in the United States. She spoke of refusing to be “the token that then affirms the capitalist meritocracy myth, the idea that ‘Oh, if Andrea’s family made it, we don’t need affirmative action, or we don’t need reparations.’”

In general, these young people don’t believe they are entitled to so much when others have so little. Many describe feeling guilt or shame about their privilege, which often leads them to hide it. One college student, a woman of color, told me that she worried what other campus activists might think of her. “What a fraud, right?” she said. “To be in those spaces and be acting like these are my struggles, when they’re not.” A white woman who lives on her inheritance of more than $15 million spoke of “deflecting” questions about her occupation, so that others would not know she did not do work for pay.

These progressive children of privilege told me they study the history of racial capitalism in the United States and discuss the ways traditional philanthropy tends to keep powerful people at the top. They also spend a fair amount of time talking about their money. Should they give it all away? Should they get a job, even if they don’t need the income? How much is it ethical to spend on themselves or others? How does money shape friendships and relationships? Resource Generation and its members facilitate these conversations, including one local chapter’s “feelings caucus.”

If you’re thinking, “Cry me a river,” you’re not alone. I have faced skepticism from other sociologists when discussing this research. One colleague asserted that rich young people struggling with their privilege do not have a “legitimate problem.” Others ask: How much do they really give, and what do they really give up? Aren’t these simply self-absorbed millennials taking another opportunity to talk endlessly about themselves?

I understand this view. There is certainly a risk — of which many of them are aware — that all this conversation will just devolve into navel-gazing, an expression of privilege rather than a challenge to it. It is hard for individual action to make a dent in an ironclad social structure. And it is impossible, as they know, to shed the class privilege rooted in education and family socialization, even if they give away every penny.

But like Abigail Disney, these young people are challenging fundamental cultural understandings of who deserves what. And they are breaking the social taboo against talking about money — a taboo that allows radical inequality to fade into the background. This work is critical at a moment when the top 1 percent of families in the United States owns 40 percent of the country’s wealth, and Jeff Bezos takes home more money per minute than the median American worker makes in a year.

As Holly Fetter, a Resource Generation member and Harvard Business School student, told me, “It’s essential that those of us who have access to wealth and want to use it to support progressive social movements speak up, to challenge the narrative that the 1 percent are only interested in accumulation, and invite others to join us.”

Wealthy people are more likely to convince other wealthy people that the system is unfair. And they are the only ones who can describe intimately the ways that wealth may be emotionally corrosive, producing fear, shame and isolation.

Class privilege is like white privilege, in that its beneficiaries receive advantages that are, in fact, unearned. So for them to conclude that their own wealth is undeserved, and therefore immoral, constitutes a powerful critique of the idea of meritocracy.

The fact that the system is immoral, of course, does not make individuals immoral. One person I spoke with, a white 30-year-old who inherited money, said: “It’s not that we’re bad people. It’s just, nobody needs that much money.” But judgments of systems are often taken as judgments of individuals, which leads white people to deny racism and rich people to deny class privilege.

So even the less-public work of talking through emotions, needs and relationships, which can seem self-indulgent, is meaningful. As Ms. Pien put it, “Our feelings are related to the bigger structure.”

One huge cultural support of that structure is secrecy around money, which even rich people don’t talk about.

Wealthy parents fear that if they tell their kids how much they will inherit, the kids won’t develop a strong work ethic. Yahya Alazrak, of Resource Generation, has heard people say, “My dad won’t tell me how much money we have because he’s worried that I’ll become lazy.” One man in his early 30s recounted that his parents had always told him they would pay for his education, but not support him afterward until they revealed that he had a trust worth over $10 million. Parents also have a “scarcity mentality,” Resource Generation members said, which leads them to “hoard” assets to protect against calamity.

Secrecy also often goes hand in hand with limited financial literacy. Women, especially, may not learn about money management growing up, thanks to gendered ideas about financial planning and male control of family assets. Some people I met who will inherit significant amounts of money didn’t know the difference between a stock and a bond.

When wealthy parents do talk about money, they tend to put forth conventional ideas about merit: They or their ancestors worked hard for what they have, scrimped and saved to keep and increase it, and gave some of it away. When their children reject these metrics, parents’ sense of being “good people” is challenged.

When one woman told her immigrant parents she wanted to give their millions away, it was like “a slap in the face” for them, she said, because they felt they had “sacrificed a lot for this money.”

Parents — and the financial professionals who manage family wealth — also tend to follow conventional wisdom about money: Never give away principal. Charitable donations should be offset by tax breaks. And the goal of investing is always to make as much money as possible. As one 33-year-old inheritor said, “No financial adviser ever says, ‘I made less money for the client, but I got them to build affordable housing.’”

Talking about how it feels to be rich can help build affordable housing, though. Once the feeling of being a “bad person” is replaced by “good person in a bad structure,” these young people move into redistributive action. Many talked about asserting control over their money, pursuing socially responsible investments (sometimes for much lower returns) and increasing their own or their families’ giving, especially to social-justice organizations. And eventually — like the people I have quoted by name here — they take a public stand.

Finally, they imagine an alternative future, based on a different idea of what people deserve. Ms. Pien, for example, wants to be “invested in collective good, so we can all have the basics that we need and a little more.” In her vision, this “actually makes everyone more secure and fulfilled and joyful, rather than us hiding behind our mountains of money.”"
abigaildisney  wealth  inequality  activism  legacy  2019  rachelsherman  affluence  security  disney  merit  meritocracy  inheritance  privilege  socialjustice  justice  redistribution  morality  ethics  upwardmobility  immigrants  capitalism  socialism  fulfillment  joy  charity  shame  guilt  charitableindustrialcomplex  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  philanthropy  power  hierarchy  secrecy  hoarding  scarcity  abundance  money  relationships  isolation  class 
24 days ago by robertogreco
On Bullsh*t Jobs | David Graeber | RSA Replay - YouTube
"In 2013 David Graeber, professor of anthropology at LSE, wrote an excoriating essay on modern work for Strike! magazine. “On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs” was read over a million times and the essay translated in seventeen different languages within weeks. Graeber visits the RSA to expand on this phenomenon, and will explore how the proliferation of meaningless jobs - more associated with the 20th-century Soviet Union than latter-day capitalism - has impacted modern society. In doing so, he looks at how we value work, and how, rather than being productive, work has become an end in itself; the way such work maintains the current broken system of finance capital; and, finally, how we can get out of it."
davidgraeber  bullshitjobs  employment  jobs  work  2018  economics  neoliberalism  capitalism  latecapitalism  sovietunion  bureaucracy  productivity  finance  policy  politics  unschooling  deschooling  labor  society  purpose  schooliness  debt  poverty  inequality  rules  anticapitalism  morality  wealth  power  control  technology  progress  consumerism  suffering  morals  psychology  specialization  complexity  systemsthinking  digitization  automation  middlemanagement  academia  highered  highereducation  management  administration  adminstrativebloat  minutia  universalbasicincome  ubi  supplysideeconomics  creativity  elitism  thecultofwork  anarchism  anarchy  zero-basedaccounting  leisure  taylorism  ethics  happiness  production  care  maintenance  marxism  caregiving  serviceindustry  gender  value  values  gdp  socialvalue  education  teaching  freedom  play  feminism  mentalhealth  measurement  fulfillment  supervision  autonomy  humans  humnnature  misery  canon  agency  identity  self-image  self-worth  depression  stress  anxiety  solidarity  camaraderie  respect  community 
january 2019 by robertogreco
an xiao mina on Twitter: "The Silicon Valley version of Vipassana meditation is an extension of much of the US iteration of Buddhism — a lot of focus on mindfulness and individual suffering, without paying attention to the larger discourse of Buddhist e
"The Silicon Valley version of Vipassana meditation is an extension of much of the US iteration of Buddhism — a lot of focus on mindfulness and individual suffering, without paying attention to the larger discourse of Buddhist ethics focused on compassion and interconnectedness.

Which is not to say that the non-US iterations of Buddhism have some kind of perfect moral grounding (cf. Myanmar), but rather that US Buddhism takes on a distinctly US character —> individualist, capitalist, goal-oriented. We could say the same of yoga."

[referencing this thread, I think, by Jack Dorsey
https://twitter.com/jack/status/1071575088695140353 ]
buddhism  us  religion  individualism  mindfulness  interconnected  interconnectedness  capitalism  goals  morality  2018  anxiaomina  jackdorsey  vipassana  californianideology  siliconvalley 
december 2018 by robertogreco
“When You Get That Wealthy, You Start to Buy Your Own Bullshit”: The Miseducation of Sheryl Sandberg | Vanity Fair
"Harvard Business School invented the “leadership” industry—and produced a generation of corporate monsters. No wonder Sandberg, one of the school’s most prominent graduates, lacks a functioning moral compass."



"The truth is, Harvard Business School, like much of the M.B.A. universe in which Sandberg was reared, has always cared less about moral leadership than career advancement and financial performance. The roots of the problem can be found in the School’s vaunted “Case Method,” a discussion-based pedagogy that asks students to put themselves in the role of corporate Übermensch. At the start of each class, one unlucky soul is put in the hot seat, presented with a “what would you do” scenario, and then subjected to the ruthless interrogation of their peers. Graded on a curve, the intramural competition can be intense—M.B.A.s are super-competitive, after all.

Let’s be clear about this: in business, as in life, there isn’t always one correct answer. So the teaching of a decision-making philosophy that is deliberate and systematic, but still open-minded, is hardly controversial on its face. But to help students overcome the fear of sounding stupid and being remorselessly critiqued, they are reminded, in case after case—and with emphasis—that there are no right answers. And that has had the unfortunate effect of opening up a chasm of moral equivalence in too many of their graduates.

And yet, there are obviously many situations where some answers are more right than others. Especially when it comes to moral issues like privacy, around which both Sandberg and Facebook have a history of demonstrating poor judgment. While H.B.S. is correct in its assertion that it produces people who can make decisions, the fact of the matter is that they have never emphasized how to make the right ones.

Consider investment banker Bowen McCoy’s “The Parable of the Sadhu,” published in Harvard Business Review in 1977, and again 20 years later. It addressed what seemed, at least to the H.B.S. crowd, to be an ethical dilemma. McCoy was on a trip to the Himalayas when his expedition encountered a sadhu, or holy man, near death from hypothermia and exposure. Their compassion extended only to clothing the man and leaving him in the sun, before continuing on to the summit. One of McCoy’s group saw a “breakdown between the individual ethic and the group ethic,” and was gripped by guilt that the climbers had not made absolutely sure that the sadhu made it down the mountain alive. McCoy’s response: “Here we are . . . at the apex of one of the most powerful experiences of our lives. . . . What right does an almost naked pilgrim who chooses the wrong trail have to disrupt our lives?”

McCoy later felt guilt over the incident, but his parable nevertheless illustrated the extent to which aspiring managers might justify putting personal accomplishment ahead of collateral damage—including the life of a dying man. The fact that H.B.S. enthusiastically incorporated said parable into its curriculum says far more about the fundamental mindset of the school than almost anything else that has come out of it. The “dilemma” was perfectly in line with the thinking at H.B.S. that an inability to clearly delineate the right choice in business isn’t the fault of the chooser but rather a fundamental characteristic of business, itself.

Here’s a slightly more recent example: remember Jeff Skilling? Like Sandberg, he graduated from H.B.S. and went to work at McKinsey. And like Sandberg, he left McKinsey for a C-suite gig—in his case, Enron—that took him to the stratosphere. Again like Sandberg, he basked in adulation over his ability to deliver shareholder returns. Skilling had done so, of course, by turning Enron into one of the greatest frauds the world has ever seen.

One of Skilling’s H.B.S. classmates, John LeBoutillier, who went on to be a U.S. congressman, later recalled a case discussion in which the students were debating what the C.E.O. should do if he discovered that his company was producing a product that could be potentially fatal to consumers. “I’d keep making and selling the product,” he recalled Skilling saying. “My job as a businessman is to be a profit center and to maximize return to the shareholders. It’s the government’s job to step in if a product is dangerous.” Several students nodded in agreement, recalled LeBoutillier. “Neither Jeff nor the others seemed to care about the potential effects of their cavalier attitude. . . . At H.B.S. . . . you were then, and still are, considered soft or a wuss if you dwell on morality or scruples.”

Why do so many M.B.A.s struggle to make the ethical decisions that seem so clear to the rest of us? Is it right to employ a scummy P.R. firm to deflect attention from our failures? Is it O.K. if we bury questions about user privacy and consent under a mountain of legalese? Can we get away with repeatedly choosing profits over principles and then promising that we will do better in the future?

If you think this kind of thing isn’t still going on at Harvard Business School—or wasn’t going on when Sandberg graduated in 1995—I refer you to Michel Anteby, who joined the faculty 10 years later, in 2005. At first enthusiastic, Anteby was soon flummoxed by the complete absence of normative viewpoints in classroom discussion. “I grew up in France where there were very articulated norms,” he told the BBC in 2015. “Higher norms and lower norms. Basically, you have convictions of what was right or wrong, and when I tried to articulate this in the classroom, I encountered . . . silence on the part of students. Because they weren’t used to these value judgments in the classroom.”

Eight years after his arrival, Anteby published Manufacturing Morals: The Values of Silence in Business School Education. The book was not published by Harvard but the University of Chicago Press. Calling the case system an “unscripted journey” for students, it was one of the first times an insider had joined the chorus of outsiders who have long criticized the case method as one that glamorizes the C.E.O.-as-hero, as well as the overuse of martial terminology in business curricula. (The Wall Street Journal reported last week that Mark Zuckerberg currently considers Facebook “at war.”)

“H.B.S. studies everybody under the sun,” Anteby told me in early 2015. “There is no reason we should be off limits.” Alas, they were. Not long after his book was published, Anteby came to believe that H.B.S. would not grant him tenure, and left the school soon after. “He is an unbelievably productive and smart guy,” one of his supporters, the University of Michigan’s Jerry Davis, told me later that year. “And they fired him. Probably because H.B.S. wasn’t the right place to have a conversation about itself. It would be like being at Versailles in 1789, offering up leadership secrets of Louis XIV. The really unfortunate part is that he wasn’t as harsh as he should have been, because he was up for tenure.”

The absence of voices like Anteby’s are evident to this day, and an ongoing indictment of the culture that turned Facebook from a Harvard sophomore’s dorm-room project into what passes for a Harvard Business School success story. Return one last time to the H.B.R. Web site, and you will find a case study that was published just a few months ago entitled “Facebook—Can Ethics Scale in the Digital Age?” Set aside the abuse of the English language in the question—M.B.A.s specialize in that kind of thing. The mere fact that it’s being asked serves as resounding proof that the moral equivalence problem is still with us today. The question is not whether or not a company of Facebook’s size and reach can stay ethical. The question is whether it will even try."
harvard  harvardbusinessschool  ethics  sherylsandberg  facebook  2018  business  careerism  morality  hbs  via:nicoleslaw  leadership  billclinton  mba  mbas  harvardbusinessrevie  hbr  duffmcdonald  competition  competitiveness  winning  decisionmaking  billgeorge  larrysummers  abrahamzaleznik  johnleboutillier  jeffskilling  bowenmccoy  michelanteby  norms  values  capitalism  neoliberalism 
november 2018 by robertogreco
Why “I’m not racist” is only half the story | Robin DiAngelo - YouTube
"All systems of oppression are highly adaptive, and they can adapt to challenges and incorporate them. They can allow for exceptions. And I think the most powerful adaptation of the system of racism to the challenges of the civil rights movement was to reduce a racist to a very simple formula. A racist is an individual—always an individual, not a system—who consciously does not like people based on race—must be conscious—and who intentionally seeks to be mean to them. Individual, conscious, intent. And if that is MY definition of a racist, then your suggestion that anything I’ve said or done is racist or has a racist impact, I’m going to hear that as: you just said I was a bad person. You just put me over there in that category. And most of my bias anyway is unconscious. So I’m not intending, I’m not aware. So now I’m going to need to defend my moral character, and I will, and we’ve all seen it. It seems to be virtually impossible based on that definition for the average white person to look deeply at their socialization, to look at the inevitability of internalizing racist biases, developing racist patterns, and having investments in the system of racism—which is pretty comfortable for us and serves us really well. I think that definition of a racist, that either/or, what I call the good/bad binary is the root of virtually all white defensiveness on this topic because it makes it virtually impossible to talk to the average white person about the inevitable absorption of a racist world-view that we get by being literally swimming in racist water.

White fragility is meant to capture the defensiveness that so many white people display when our world views, our identities or our racial positions are challenged. And it’s a very familiar dynamic. I think there’s a reason that term resonated for so many people. I mean even if you yourself are to explain white fragility it’s fairly recognizable that in general white people are really defensive when the topic is racism and when they are challenged racially or cross racially.

So the fragility part is meant to capture how easy it is to trigger that defensiveness. For many white people the mere suggestion that being white has meaning will set us off. Another thing that will set us off is generalizing about white people. Right now I’m generalizing about white people, and that questions a very precious ideology, which is: most white people are raised to see ourselves as individuals. We don’t like being generalized about. And yet social life is patterned and observable and predictable in describable ways. And while we are, of course, all unique individuals, we are also members of social groups. And that membership is profound. That membership matters.

We can literally predict whether my mother and I were going to survive my birth and how long I’m going to live based on my race. We need to be willing to grapple with the collective experiences we have as a result of being members of a particular group that has profound meaning for our lives. We live in a society that is deeply separate and unequal by race. I think we all know that. How we would explain why that is might vary, but that it’s separate and unequal is very, very clear.

While we who are white tend to be fragile in that it doesn’t take much to upset us around race, the impact of our response is not fragile at all. It’s a kind of weaponized defensiveness, weaponized hurt feelings. And it functions really, really effectively to repel the challenge. As a white person I move through the world racially comfortable virtually 24/7. It is exceptional for me to be outside of my racial comfort zone, and most of my life I’ve been warned not to go outside my racial comfort zone.

And so on the rare occasion when I am uncomfortable racially it’s a kind of throwing off of my racial equilibrium, and I need to get back into that. And so I will do whatever it takes to repel the challenge and get back into it. And in that way I think white fragility functions as a kind of white racial bullying, to be frank. We make it so miserable for people of color to talk to us about our inevitable and often unaware racist patterns that we cannot help develop from being socialized into a culture in which racism is the bedrock and the foundation. We make it so miserable for them to talk to us about it that most of the time they don’t, right? We just have to understand that most people of color that are working or living in primarily white environments take home way more daily slights and hurts and insults than they bother talking to us about."
racism  oppression  robindiangelo  whitesupremacy  civilrights  race  2018  intent  consciousness  unconscious  morality  whiteness  socialization  society  bias  ideology  fragility  defensiveness  comfort  comfortzone 
november 2018 by robertogreco
Marxism 101: How Capitalism is Killing Itself with Dr. Richard Wolff - YouTube
"Despite a concerted effort by the U.S. Empire to snuff out the ideology, a 2016 poll found young Americans have a much more favorable view of socialism than capitalism.

Though he died 133 years ago, the analysis put forward by one of the world’s most influential thinkers, Karl Marx, remains extremely relevant today. The Empire’s recent rigged presidential election has been disrupted by the support of an avowed socialist, Bernie Sanders, by millions of voters.

To find out why Marx’s popularity has stood the test of time, Abby Martin interviews renowned Marxist economist Richard Wolff, Professor Emeritus of Economics at UMass - Amherst, and visiting professor at the New School in New York.

Prof. Wolff gives an introduction suited for both beginners and seasoned Marxists, with comprehensive explanations of key tenets of Marxism including dialectical and historical materialism, surplus value, crises of overproduction, capitalism's internal contradictions, and more."
richardwolff  karlmarx  academia  academics  capitalism  accounting  us  inequality  communism  socialism  marxism  berniesanders  labor  idealism  materialism  radicalism  philosophy  dialecticalmaterialism  humans  systems  change  friedrichengels  slavery  automation  credit  finance  studentdebt  poverty  unions  organization  systemschange  china  russia  ussr  growth  2016  power  democracy  collectives  collectivism  meansofproduction  society  climatechange  environment  sustainability  rosaluxemburg  militaryindustrialcomplex  pollution  ethics  morality  immorality  ows  occupywallstreet  politics  corruption 
november 2018 by robertogreco
There’s Nothing Virtuous About Finding Common Ground | Time
"I recall this experience now, over 40 years later, as we are in a political moment where we find ourselves on opposite sides of what feels like an unbreachable gulf. I find myself annoyed by the hand-wringing about how we need to find common ground. People ask how might we “meet in the middle,” as though this represents a safe, neutral and civilized space. This American fetishization of the moral middle is a misguided and dangerous cultural impulse.

The middle is a point equidistant from two poles. That’s it. There is nothing inherently virtuous about being neither here nor there. Buried in this is a false equivalency of ideas, what you might call the “good people on both sides” phenomenon. When we revisit our shameful past, ask yourself, Where was the middle? Rather than chattel slavery, perhaps we could agree on a nice program of indentured servitude? Instead of subjecting Japanese-American citizens to indefinite detention during WW II, what if we had agreed to give them actual sentences and perhaps provided a receipt for them to reclaim their things when they were released? What is halfway between moral and immoral?

When we revisit our shameful past, ask yourself, Where was the middle?

The search for the middle is rooted in conflict avoidance and denial. For many Americans it is painful to understand that there are citizens of our community who are deeply racist, sexist, homophobic and xenophobic. Certainly, they reason, this current moment is somehow a complicated misunderstanding. Perhaps there is some way to look at this–a view from the middle–that would allow us to communicate and realize that our national identity is the tie that will bind us comfortably, and with a bow. The headlines that lament a “divided” America suggest that the fact that we can’t all get along is more significant than the issues over which we are sparring."



"Now I understand that my experience at a public school was literally an ocean away from the brave children of Soweto. However, my empathy with them was complete. Many people understand politics as merely a matter of rhetoric and ideas. Some people will experience wars only in news snippets, while the poor and working class that make up most of our volunteer army will wage war, and still others far and not so far away will have war waged upon them. For the people directly affected, the culture war is a real war too. They know there is no safety in the in-between. The romance of the middle can exist when one’s empathy is aligned with the people expressing opinions on policy or culture rather than with those who will be affected by these policies or cultural norms. Buried in this argument, whether we realize it or not, is the fact that these policies change people’s lives.

As Americans, we are at a crossroads. We have to decide what is central to our identity: Is the importance of our performance of national unity more significant than our core values? Is it more meaningful that we understand why some of us support the separation of children from their parents, or is it more crucial that we support the reunification of these families? Is it more essential that we comprehend the motives of white nationalists, or is it more urgent that we prevent them from terrorizing communities of color and those who oppose racism? Should we agree to disagree about the murder and dismemberment of a journalist? Should we celebrate our tolerance and civility as we stanch the wounds of the world and the climate with a poultice of national unity?

For the people directly affected, the culture war is a real war too"



"Compromise is not valuable in its own right, and justice seldom dwells in the middle."

[Response about the term "common ground":

"I agree with this piece yet am troubled by the author equating "common ground" with "meet in the middle" and “good people on both sides." Not the same thing! I've taught nonviolence for years and 1 principle is finding common ground with people you consider to be Other."
https://twitter.com/earnestdrollery/status/1059803183424380928

"This is a practice used by mediators, hostage negotiators, and often by family members of opposing politics who still talk to each other."
https://twitter.com/earnestdrollery/status/1059803227049340928

"Real & lasting political/social change often happens person-to-person. It has to do with recognizing that all of us have a core of humanity. Open dialogue to establish both people have same goals, like keeping our families safe, yet see different ways to get there is a beginning"
https://twitter.com/earnestdrollery/status/1059803663336701954

"To feel heard and understood is vital. A first step is to listen well and re-state someone else’s position so accurately and comprehensively that the person agrees you’ve captured their view. It’s a growth step for both people, largely because it’s so unusual."
https://twitter.com/earnestdrollery/status/1059803700603113472

"Open dialogue with the very people she condemned is what inspired Megan Phelps-Roper to renounce her membership in the extremist Westboro Baptist Church. It’s what led neo-Nazi skinhead @cpicciolini to stop spreading hate and work to lead others away from such ideologies."
https://twitter.com/earnestdrollery/status/1059803905364803584

"It’s how Daryl Davis, a black man, befriends Ku Klux Klan members in hopes they will have a change of heart. It is an ongoing act of great strength that leads to direct, open, productive discussion rather than conflict avoidance."
https://twitter.com/earnestdrollery/status/1059804197535838208

"I too condemn what author describes. I just don’t want us to condemn the “common ground” I know as a path to peace that bravely leads right through the hard topics."
https://twitter.com/earnestdrollery/status/1059804242435809280 ]
tayarijones  canon  middleground  democrats  morality  centrists  politics  emptiness  2018  values  cv  identity  conviction  unity  empathy  commonground 
november 2018 by robertogreco
Teju Cole en Instagram: “⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Among the most revealing material, in aggregate, from the past two years, is what left and liberal white Americans find funny…”
"Among the most revealing material, in aggregate, from the past two years, is what left and liberal white Americans find funny (not only them, but primarily them): what they find funny, what they find fascinating, what they think counts as a clever riposte to horror. They amplify the horror with their jokes, or with a performance of disgust at it all, but a disgust that is possible only because it is episodic, impersonal and, finally, generative of more mirth. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

Everyone hopes for a viral tweet. The skill of letting foolishness pass without comment is in short supply. And how much of the commentary is clever, how much of it is mere clever chatter.
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
"I have of late, (but wherefore I know not) lost all my mirth..."
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
We need a poetics of humorlessness. We need to extricate the refusal to laugh from automatic moral condemnation (“Don’t be so humorless!”) and re-recognize it as a valid and apt strategy of refusal. To opt out of the general laughter is not to be anti-social. Sometimes it's just not funny. Or what’s funny about it is darker, costlier, less obvious, more secret.
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
In another section of the prison camp, where the prisoners are treated more harshly, there are fewer jokes. There is less likelihood, in this part of the prison—where from time to time prisoners are taken away and killed— of confusing “coping through humor” with “garnering momentary prestige through a public performance of wit.” ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

In this harsher section of the prison camp, the prisoners nevertheless are forced to hear at all hours, through the prison walls, the incessant laughter from the other side."
tejucole  2018  internet  online  twitter  attention  behavior  liberalism  horror  performance  humor  humorlessness  morality  jokes  laughter  condemnation 
august 2018 by robertogreco
The Convivial Society, No. 5: Action
"In any case, we occupy a perplexing place, it seems to me, given the nature of the world constituted by digital media. By "world" I mean something like the interpretation of reality that we inhabit. It is within these worlds that our action derives motive force and intelligibility. Human beings have always shared the same earth, but we have lived in very different worlds.

The shape of our world in this sense is molded by a number of factors, some of which are felt by others and some which may be unique to us. Invariably, however, our technology and media come into play. They sustain the symbolic and conceptual infrastructure of our worlds. They nourish and constrain the imagination. They generate habits and patterns of thought. They not only supply the contents of thought, they condition what is thinkable. And our actions are meaningful within these worlds and the implicit narrative frames they provide for our lives.

It seems to me that one consequence of digital media is the proliferation of such worlds and the emergence of a public sphere in which these worlds become unavoidably entangled, for better and, very often, for worse. Under these conditions, our worlds fray and shear. Motivation is sapped, purpose depleted. Regrettably, one result of this is reactionary violence. But another result is nihilism. Another still is apathy or paralysis. Ironic detachment is yet another. This is just one way the conditions for meaningful action are undermined.

Action also requires a context in order to be intelligible and meaningful. It requires a time and a place. But we are alienated from both time and place, so we are often at loss as to what we are to do. This dynamic was already identified by Kierkegaard in the mid-nineteenth century as the telegraph contributed to the emergence of "the news" as we have come to know it: daily dispatches of happenings from around the globe.

Kierkegaard, in Hubert Dreyfus's summary, believed "the new massive distribution of desituated information was making every sort of information immediately available to anyone, thereby producing a desituated, detached spectator. Thus, the new power of the press to disseminate information to everyone in a nation led its readers to transcend their local, personal involvement . . . . Kierkegaard saw that the public sphere was destined to become a detached world in which everyone had an opinion about and commented on all public matters without needing any first-hand experience and without having or wanting any responsibility." Perhaps that very last line holds an important clue. Perhaps action demands responsibility and that is precisely what we are unwilling to take.

Hannah Arendt, too, had a great deal to say about action, which for her was a deeply political phenomenon in the sense that it was made possible by the plurality of the human condition. "Action, the only activity that goes on directly between men without the intermediary of things or matter," she wrote, "corresponds to the human condition of plurality … this plurality is specifically the condition — not only the conditio sine qua non, but the conditio per quam — of all political life." Action, as she noted, happened "without the intermediary of things or matter." She imagines, thus, the face-to-face encounter where action is speech and speech is action. It was through action that we disclosed ourselves before others and received in return the integrity of the self.

She distinguished between the private and the public realm, an ancient distinction, of course. The private realm was the realm of the family, the household. The public realm was the realm where individuals appeared before one another and where their words and their deeds counted for something. She also introduced a third category, the social realm. A more recent development, it was the realm of mass society. A realm of a diminished plurality that also entailed anonymity. Individuals are aggregated in the social realm, but they do not appear before one another and thus action, in her sense, was undermined.

Much of her analysis, it seems to me, can be applied to what has become the realm of our appearance: social media. It is where most of us turn to be seen and to make our mark, as it were. But we find that the technological intermediary that constitutes this space of our appearing works against us. The scale is all wrong. Rather than returning to us the gift of integrity, it amplifies our self-consciousness. It disassociates word and deed. It discourages responsibility. It tempts us to mistake performative gestures for action.

Arendt, however, was also the theorist of new beginnings, of natality, and with this I will bring these comments to a close: “But there remains also the truth that every end in history also contains a new beginning; this beginning is the promise, the only ‘message’ which the end can ever produce. Beginning, before it becomes a historical event, is the supreme capacity of man; politically, it is identical with man’s freedom. Initium ut esset homo creatus est– 'that a beginning be made man was created' said Augustine. This beginning is guaranteed by each new birth; it is indeed every man.”"
conviviality  lmsacasas  2018  tools  toolsforconvivilaity  zoominginandout  morality  purpose  reality  understanding  violence  digital  socialmedia  kierkegaard  apathy  hubertdreyfus  hannharendt  action  intgrity  self-consciousness  michaelsacasas 
june 2018 by robertogreco
[Essay] | Punching the Clock, by David Graeber | Harper's Magazine
"In 1901, the German psychologist Karl Groos discovered that infants express extraordinary happiness when they first discover their ability to cause predictable effects in the world. For example, they might scribble with a pencil by randomly moving their arms and hands. When they realize that they can achieve the same result by retracing the same pattern, they respond with expressions of utter joy. Groos called this “the pleasure at being the cause,” and suggested that it was the basis for play.

Before Groos, most Western political philosophers, economists, and social scientists assumed that humans seek power out of either a desire for conquest and domination or a practical need to guarantee physical gratification and reproductive success. Groos’s insight had powerful implications for our understanding of the formation of the self, and of human motivation more generally. Children come to see that they exist as distinct individuals who are separate from the world around them by observing that they can cause something to happen, and happen again. Crucially, the realization brings a delight, the pleasure at being the cause, that is the very foundation of our being.

Experiments have shown that if a child is allowed to experience this delight but then is suddenly denied it, he will become enraged, refuse to engage, or even withdraw from the world entirely. The psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Francis Broucek suspected that such traumatic experiences can cause many mental health issues later in life.

Groos’s research led him to devise a theory of play as make-believe: Adults invent games and diversions for the same reason that an infant delights in his ability to move a pencil. We wish to exercise our powers as an end in themselves. This, Groos suggested, is what freedom is—the ability to make things up for the sake of being able to do so.

The make-believe aspect of the work is precisely what performers of bullshit jobs find the most infuriating. Just about anyone in a supervised wage-labor job finds it maddening to pretend to be busy. Working is meant to serve a purpose—if make-believe play is an expression of human freedom, then make-believe work imposed by others represents a total lack of freedom. It’s unsurprising, then, that the first historical occurrence of the notion that some people ought to be working at all times, or that work should be made up to fill their time even in the absence of things that need
doing, concerns workers who are
not free: prisoners and slaves."



"The idea that workers have a moral obligation to allow their working time to be dictated has become so normalized that members of the public feel indignant if they see, say, transit workers lounging on the job. Thus busywork was invented: to ameliorate the supposed problem of workers not having enough to do to fill an eight-hour day. Take the experience of a woman named Wendy, who sent me a long history of pointless jobs she had worked:

“As a receptionist for a small trade magazine, I was often given tasks to perform while waiting for the phone to ring. Once, one of the ad- sales people dumped thousands of paper clips on my desk and asked me to sort them by color. She then used them interchangeably.

“Another example: my grandmother lived independently in an apartment in New York City into her early nineties, but she did need some help. We hired a very nice woman to live with her, help her do shopping and laundry, and keep an eye out in case she fell or needed help. So, if all went well, there was nothing for this woman to do. This drove my grandmother crazy. ‘She’s just sitting there!’ she would complain. Ultimately, the woman quit.”

This sense of obligation is common across the world. Ramadan, for example, is a young Egyptian engineer working for a public enterprise in Cairo.

The company needed a team of engineers to come in every morning and check whether the air conditioners were working, then hang around in case something broke. Of course, management couldn’t admit that; instead, the firm invented forms, drills, and box-­ticking rituals calculated to keep the team busy for eight hours a day. “I discovered immediately that I hadn’t been hired as an engineer at all but really as some kind of technical bureaucrat,” Ramadan explained. “All we do here is paperwork, filling out checklists and forms.” Fortunately, Ramadan gradually figured out which ones nobody would notice if he ignored and used the time to indulge a growing interest in film and literature. Still, the process left him feeling hollow. “Going every workday to a job that I considered pointless was psychologically exhausting and left me depressed.”

The end result, however exasperating, doesn’t seem all that bad, especially since Ramadan had figured out how to game the system. Why couldn’t he see it, then, as stealing back time that he’d sold to the corporation? Why did the pretense and lack of purpose grind him down?

A bullshit job—where one is treated as if one were usefully employed and forced to play along with the pretense—is inherently demoralizing because it is a game of make-­believe not of one’s own making. Of course the soul cries out. It is an assault on the very foundations of self. A human being unable to have a meaningful impact on the world ceases to exist."
davidgraeber  2018  work  bullshitjobs  capitalism  karlgroos  purpose  well-being  life  living  labor  play  pleasure  delight  employment  depression  slave  wageslavery  wages  freedom  humans  psychology  obligation  morality  care  caring  despair  consumerism 
may 2018 by robertogreco
Stowe Boyd — However problematically the notion of...
"However problematically the notion of “responsibility” has been reappropriated for neoliberal purposes, the concept remains a crucial feature of the critique of accelerating inequality. In the neoliberal morality, each of us is only responsible for ourselves, and not for others, and that responsibility is first and foremost a responsibility to become economically self-sufficient under conditions when self-sufficiency is structurally undermined. Those who cannot afford to pay for health care constitute but one version of a population deemed disposable. And all those who see the increasing gap between rich and poor, who understand themselves to have lost several forms of security and promise, they also understand themselves as abandoned by a government and a political economy that clearly augments wealth for the very few at the expense of the general population. So when people amass on the street, one implication seems clear: they are still here and still there; they persist; they assemble, and so manifest the understanding that their situation is shared, or the beginning of such an understanding. And even when they are not speaking or do not present a set of negotiable demands, the call for justice is being enacted: the bodies assembled “say” “we are not disposable,” whether or not they are using words at the moment; what they say, as it were, is “we are still here, persisting, demanding greater justice, a release from precarity, a possibility of a livable life."
Judith Butler, Notes Toward a Peformative Theory of Assembly (p. 25)

"The Human Spring is coming, I predict 2023. The time when we, the people, actually understand our situation is shared.

Because of the nature of things in the post-everything, postnormal era, we will have to rely on fluidarity – cooperative action around a small set of core issues – rather than the historical solidarity – collective action around a comprehensive platform – but if it is the right 4 or five things, that will be enough."
judithbutler  stoweboyd  neoliberalism  economics  democracy  inequality  justice  socialjustice  precarity  healthcare  health  change  evolution  solidarity  collectivism  care  caring  morality  persistence  assembly 
april 2018 by robertogreco
“The Moral Crisis of the University” | Gardner Writes
"Michael B. Katz is a new discovery for me (h/t Roving Librarian). His scholarship on the history of public education in the U.S.is fascinating, troubling, and revelatory. I’m sure his conclusions are contested–whose aren’t?–but at times the clarity and forcefulness of his insights take my breath away.

“The Moral Crisis of the University,” reprinted in Katz’s last book, Reconstructing American Education (1987), is full of such insights. The essay doesn’t make for happy reading, but every time I read it I come away with a renewed understanding of what will be lost if higher education centered on the life of the mind and nurtured by a strong sense of civic obligation disappears. In many cases, this has already happened. The change Katz describes in 1987 has accelerated in ways that may go beyond his worst nightmare. Along with that acceleration, of course, is a great deal of business as usual, as there always is. We look here when the real erosion is happening there. It’s hard to know where to look, even when there are no distractions–and there are always distractions.

There’s an old joke about going broke, credited to Hemingway: Q: “How did you go bankrupt?” A: “Little by little, then all at once.” During the little by little stage, people who sound various alarms risk being called cranks, or worse. And it’s true: a premature or mischievous cultivation of outrage may damage or destroy what little semblance of community may be left.

And yet, the little by little becomes greater every year. Michael Katz gives me a way to see that. With that clarity also comes hope, the hope that recognizing problems really is the first step toward addressing them, managing them, perhaps even solving them.

Here, then, for Week 7 of Open Learning ’18, my last week as hub director, is some Michael Katz for us to consider together.
[W]hat is it exactly that makes a university distinct from other social institutions? [Robert Paul] Wolff offered a compelling definition based on a conception of the ideal university as a “community of learning.” The ideal university, he argued, should be “a community of persons united by collective understandings, by common and communal goals, by bonds of reciprocal obligation, and by a flow of sentiment which makes the preservation of the community an object of desire, not merely a matter of prudence or a command of duty.” Community implies a form of social obligation governed by principles different from those operative in the marketplace and state. Laws of of supply and demand lose priority; wage-labor is not the template for all human relations; the translation of individuals into commodities is resisted. The difficult task of defining common goals or acceptable activity is neither avoided nor deflected onto bureaucracy….

For all their problems, universities and their faculties remain immensely privileged. They retain a freedom of activity and expression not permitted in any other major social institution. There are two justifications for this privilege. One is that it is an essential condition of teaching and learning. The other is that universities have become the major source of moral and social criticism in modern life. They are the major site of whatever social conscience we have left…. If the legitimacy of universities rested only on their service to the marketplace and state, internal freedom would not be an issue. But their legitimacy rests, in fact, on something else: their integrity. Like all privileges, the freedom enjoyed by universities carries correlative responsibilities. In their case it is intellectual honesty and moral courage. Modern universities are the greatest centers of intellectual power in history. Without integrity, they can become little more than supermarkets with raw power for sale. This is the tendency in the modern history of the higher learning. It is what I call the moral crisis of the university.


I firmly believe that these large questions are essential foundations for any effective change or conservation in higher education. For always some new things must be invented, some things will benefit from change, and some things must be conserved. Some core principles must remain non-negotiable. I agree with Katz: tenured faculty in higher education are the last, best hope for addressing these large questions of common goals and acceptable activities.

It may not yet be too late."
gardnercampbell  via:lukeneff  2018  lifeofthemind  liberalarts  highered  highereducation  colleges  universities  community  learning  civics  robertpaulwolff  michaelkatz  1987  howwelearn  purpose  meaning  bureaucracy  interdependence  collectivism  understanding  responsibility  integrity  morality  ethics  neoliberalism 
april 2018 by robertogreco
stop literalizing the design process | sara hendren
"This is your semi-regular reminder that collaborative, ethical design is not synonymous with customer service, taking orders from “users,” retail-style. It’s synthesizing and recombining ideas from insights gained by deeply considered habits of attention. The implications of this claim are twofold, and people are forever forgetting either one or the other, ad infinitum.

The first implication is that—yeah, you can’t ask people a bunch of questions in survey mode, and then turn the magical crank of the design process to automatically make something good, something the world is asking for. But the second implication is that a designer’s job is not to obediently make the precise widget described by so-called end users, to check a moral box and be sure that they did the right thing. Insights and synthesis are subtler than that. A designer has to both be grounded in multiple forms of deep attention, not in simple yes-no answers, and she has to get liftoff from the mundane first ideas at hand—to take considered risks, to switch scales, to propose ideas that are bigger than the sum of parts.

And perhaps it’s surprising, but it’s actually that second implication that’s harder for people to grasp. Yes—yes of course—the world is full of solutioneering. We have to keep talking about all the ways tech and design go wrong when there’s an assumption that any given clever intervention will make the world better. But it’s also far too easy to wield a blunt moral cudgel to ethics-check people in a simplistic way. It seems to me that in 2018, folks who know something about design tend to find a voice for their skepticism about this clueless over-confidence, but those same people have too little patience for the non-linear and enigmatic way that design gets its work done. “Did-you-ask-the-user-what-she-wants” now is code for: did you get a direct order for your decisions? It’s just never that simple, never that rote, never that guaranteed. A plea for discernment and subtlety, friends."
sarahendren  2018  design  collaboration  ethics  ethicaldesign  customerservice  synthesis  recombination  surveys  attention  solutioneering  solutionism  technosolutionism  morals  morality  skepticism  discernment  subtlety 
april 2018 by robertogreco
Survival of the Kindest: Dacher Keltner Reveals the New Rules of Power
"When Pixar was dreaming up the idea for Inside Out, a film that would explore the roiling emotions inside the head of a young girl, they needed guidance from an expert. So they called Dacher Keltner.

Dacher is a psychologist at UC Berkeley who has dedicated his career to understanding how human emotion shapes the way we interact with the world, how we properly manage difficult or stressful situations, and ultimately, how we treat one another.

In fact, he refers to emotions as the “language of social living.” The more fluent we are in this language, the happier and more meaningful our lives can be.

We tackle a wide variety of topics in this conversation that I think you’ll really enjoy.

You’ll learn:

• The three main drivers that determine your personal happiness and life satisfaction
• Simple things you can do everyday to jumpstart the “feel good” reward center of your brain
• The principle of “jen” and how we can use “high-jen behaviors” to bootstrap our own happiness
• How to have more positive influence in our homes, at work and in our communities.
• How to teach your kids to be more kind and empathetic in an increasingly self-centered world
• What you can do to stay grounded and humble if you are in a position of power or authority
• How to catch our own biases when we’re overly critical of another’s ideas (or overconfident in our own)

And much more. We could have spent an hour discussing any one of these points alone, but there was so much I wanted to cover. I’m certain you’ll find this episode well worth your time."
compassion  kindness  happiness  dacherkeltner  power  charlesdarwin  evolution  psychology  culture  society  history  race  racism  behavior  satisfaction  individualism  humility  authority  humans  humanism  morality  morals  multispecies  morethanhuman  objects  wisdom  knowledge  heidegger  ideas  science  socialdarwinism  class  naturalselection  egalitarianism  abolitionism  care  caring  art  vulnerability  artists  scientists  context  replicability  research  socialsciences  2018  statistics  replication  metaanalysis  socialcontext  social  borntobegood  change  human  emotions  violence  evolutionarypsychology  slvery  rape  stevenpinker  torture  christopherboehm  hunter-gatherers  gender  weapons  democracy  machiavelli  feminism  prisons  mentalillness  drugs  prisonindustrialcomplex  progress  politics  1990s  collaboration  canon  horizontality  hierarchy  small  civilization  cities  urban  urbanism  tribes  religion  dogma  polygamy  slavery  pigeons  archaeology  inequality  nomads  nomadism  anarchism  anarchy  agriculture  literacy  ruleoflaw  humanrights  governance  government  hannah 
march 2018 by robertogreco
Being rich wrecks your soul. We used to know that. - The Washington Post
"The point is not necessarily that wealth is intrinsically and everywhere evil, but that it is dangerous — that it should be eyed with caution and suspicion, and definitely not pursued as an end in itself; that great riches pose great risks to their owners; and that societies are right to stigmatize the storing up of untold wealth. That’s why Aristotle, for instance, argued that wealth should be sought only for the sake of living virtuously — to manage a household, say, or to participate in the life of the polis. Here wealth is useful but not inherently good; indeed, Aristotle specifically warned that the accumulation of wealth for its own sake corrupts virtue instead of enabling it. For Hindus, working hard to earn money is a duty (dharma), but only when done through honest means and used for good ends. The function of money is not to satiate greed but to support oneself and one’s family. The Koran, too, warns against hoarding money and enjoins Muslims to disperse it to the needy.

Some contemporary voices join this ancient chorus, perhaps none more enthusiastically than Pope Francis. He’s proclaimed that unless wealth is used for the good of society, and above all for the good of the poor, it is an instrument “of corruption and death.” And Francis lives what he teaches: Despite access to some of the sweetest real estate imaginable — the palatial papal apartments are the sort of thing that President Trump’s gold-plated extravagance is a parody of — the pope bunks in a small suite in what is effectively the Vatican’s hostel. In his official state visit to Washington, he pulled up to the White House in a Fiat so sensible that a denizen of Northwest D.C. would be almost embarrassed to drive it. When Francis entered the Jesuit order 59 years ago, he took a vow of poverty, and he’s kept it.

According to many philosophies and faiths, then, wealth should serve only as a steppingstone to some further good and is always fraught with moral danger. We all used to recognize this; it was a commonplace. And this intuition, shared by various cultures across history, stands on firm empirical ground.

Over the past few years, a pile of studies from the behavioral sciences has appeared, and they all say, more or less, “Being rich is really bad for you.” Wealth, it turns out, leads to behavioral and psychological maladies. The rich act and think in misdirected ways.

When it comes to a broad range of vices, the rich outperform everybody else. They are much more likely than the rest of humanity to shoplift and cheat , for example, and they are more apt to be adulterers and to drink a great deal . They are even more likely to take candy that is meant for children. So whatever you think about the moral nastiness of the rich, take that, multiply it by the number of Mercedes and Lexuses that cut you off, and you’re still short of the mark. In fact, those Mercedes and Lexuses are more likely to cut you off than Hondas or Fords: Studies have shown that people who drive expensive cars are more prone to run stop signs and cut off other motorists .

The rich are the worst tax evaders, and, as The Washington Post has detailed, they are hiding vast sums from public scrutiny in secret overseas bank accounts.

They also give proportionally less to charity — not surprising, since they exhibit significantly less compassion and empathy toward suffering people. Studies also find that members of the upper class are worse than ordinary folks at “reading” people’ s emotions and are far more likely to be disengaged from the people with whom they are interacting — instead absorbed in doodling, checking their phones or what have you. Some studies go even further, suggesting that rich people, especially stockbrokers and their ilk (such as venture capitalists, whom we once called “robber barons”), are more competitive, impulsive and reckless than medically diagnosed psychopaths. And by the way, those vices do not make them better entrepreneurs; they just have Mommy and Daddy’s bank accounts (in New York or the Cayman Islands) to fall back on when they fail."



"Some will say that we have not entirely forgotten it and that we do complain about wealth today, at least occasionally. Think, they’ll say, about Occupy Wall Street; the blowback after Mitt Romney’s comment about the “47 percent”; how George W. Bush painted John Kerry as out of touch. But think again: By and large, those complaints were not about wealth per se but about corrupt wealth — about wealth “gone wrong” and about unfairness. The idea that there is no way for the vast accumulation of money to “go right” is hardly anywhere to be seen.

Getting here wasn’t straightforward. Wealth has arguably been seen as less threatening to one’s moral health since the Reformation, after which material success was sometimes taken as evidence of divine election. But extreme wealth remained morally suspect, with the rich bearing particular scrutiny and stigmatization during periods like the Gilded Age. This stigma persisted until relatively recently; only in the 1970s did political shifts cause executive salaries skyrocket, and the current effectively unprecedented inequality in income (and wealth) begin to appear, without any significant public complaint or lament.

The story of how a stigma fades is always murky, but contributing factors are not hard to identify. For one, think tanks have become increasingly partisan over the past several decades, particularly on the right: Certain conservative institutions, enjoying the backing of billionaires such as the Koch brothers, have thrown a ton of money at pseudo-academics and “thought leaders” to normalize and legitimate obscene piles of lucre. They produced arguments that suggest that high salaries naturally flowed from extreme talent and merit, thus baptizing wealth as simply some excellent people’s wholly legitimate rewards. These arguments were happily regurgitated by conservative media figures and politicians, eventually seeping into the broader public and replacing the folk wisdom of yore. But it is hard to argue that a company’s top earners are literally hundreds of times more talented than the lowest-paid employees.

As stratospheric salaries became increasingly common, and as the stigma of wildly disproportionate pay faded, the moral hazards of wealth were largely forgotten. But it’s time to put the apologists for plutocracy back on the defensive, where they belong — not least for their own sake. After all, the Buddha, Aristotle, Jesus, the Koran, Jimmy Stewart, Pope Francis and now even science all agree: If you are wealthy and are reading this, give away your money as fast as you can."
charlesmathewes  evansandsmark  2017  wealth  inequality  behavior  psychology  buddha  aristotle  jesus  koran  jimmystewart  popefrancis  ethics  generosity  vices  fscottfitzgerald  ernesthemingway  tonystark  confucius  austerity  tacitus  opulence  christ  virtue  caution  suspicion  polis  poverty  donaldtrump  jesuits  morality  humanism  cheating  taxevasion  charity  empathy  compassion  disengagement  competition  competitiveness  psychopaths  capitalism  luxury  politics  simplicity  well-being  suicide  ows  occupywallstreet  geogewbush  johnkerry  mittromney  gildedage  kochbrothers 
august 2017 by robertogreco
avoiding the high-brow freak show | sara hendren
"Oliver Sacks is probably the only author many people have read about disability at length. Sacks wrote many books with such a keen eye for description and also a literate, humanitarian lens—he was able to link together ideas in natural history, the sciences, and the humanities with sincerity and warmth, and always with people at the center. But which people? The subjects of the book, or the reader who is “reading” herself, her own experiences, as she takes in these stories? In any good book, many characters are involved: author, characters, reader. But there’s some particular tricky territory in disability narratives.

It’s challenging to write about this subject for a mainstream audience, perhaps because there are so many well-rehearsed pitfall tropes in characterizing bodily and developmental differences. Descriptions of physicality, speech, or idiosyncratic movement can slide so easily into spectacle. And revealing the ways that disabled people* cope, make sense, and create joy and humor in their lives can collapse into inspiration, easily won.

I’m thinking about Sacks as I write my own words, interpreting my own many encounters with disabled people in a way that both engages readers for whom the subject is ostensibly new, and that also does justice to the integrity and singularity of those people involved. I’m trying to write about disability and its reach into the wider human experience, that is, without making individual people into metaphors. Now: those ideas might be laudable—interdependent life, a critique of individualism, all bodies and lived experiences as endless variation, necessarily incomplete in their own ways—but they are ideas nonetheless. How to make this tradeoff? How to help the uninitiated reader by saying See, see here, your life is caught up in these stakes too, but without flattening the individual subjects on whom those ideas are based?

I keep circling around this review in the LRB of Sacks’s An Anthropologist on Mars and The Island of the Colorblind—analysis of which includes his book Awakenings and could also be applied to The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat. Jenny Diski admires Sacks’s projects and his craft, but she also has this to say:
“A story needs a conclusion whereas a case-history may not have one. In fact, stories have all kinds of needs that a case-history will not supply, and Sacks is insistent that he is writing the stories of his patients, not their cases. This is not intended to fudge fact and fiction, but to enlarge patients into people.

On the other hand, he is describing people with more or less devastating illnesses— that is his raison d’être—and his explicit purpose is to generalize from these, usually unhappy, accidents of life and nature, to a greater understanding of the human condition. In Awakenings he states: ‘If we seek a “curt epitome” of the human condition—of long-standing sickness, suffering and sadness; of a sudden, complete, almost preternatural “awakening”; and, alas! of entanglements which may follow this “cure”—there is no better one than the story of these patients.’

He is offering life, death and the whole damn thing in the metaphor of his patients. And it is true that these patients and others show us what it is like, as he says, ‘to be human and stay human in the face of adversity’. But metaphors are not in fact descriptions of people in their totality. They are intentional, and consciously or unconsciously edited tropes, not complete, contained narratives.

I don’t know any kind of narrative, fictional or otherwise, that can present people in their totality, so perhaps it doesn’t matter, but Sacks is offering us people because of their sickness and the manner of their handling it. This is hardly an overturning of the medicalizing tendency of doctors. And when we read these stories, as we do, to tell us more about ourselves, we read them as exaggerations of what we are, as metaphors for what we are capable of. Their subjects may not be patients as freaks, but they are patients as emblems. They are, as it were, for our use and our wonderment. Around their illness, the thoughts of Leibniz, Kant, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche and Proust are hoisted like scaffolding, as if to stiffen their reality into meaning.”

Stiffening their reality into meaning! It’s a cutting and exact criticism, especially when it seems that Sacks was utterly sincere in his search for human and humane connection—with these patients as clinical subjects and in his engagement with readers.

Diski hints at the pushback Sacks got from scholars in disability studies, too; scholar Tom Shakespeare took a swipe at him as “the man who mistook his patients for a career,” calling his body of work a “high-brow freak show.” And when I re-read Sacks’s New Yorker essay, excerpted from the Anthropologist book, on autistic self-advocate Temple Grandin, I see a little bit what Shakespeare meant. There is something of the microscope being employed in that encounter, and somehow we walk away fascinated but maybe less than conjoined to Grandin’s experience. It’s rich with connection and with pathos (in a good way!), but there’s distance in it too. So—it’s not perfect.

And yet: people read and loved that book, saw themselves in it. And Grandin went on to write several books in her own voice, to have a wide audience for her work and wisdom. The visibility of autistic self-advocacy has been greatly amplified since Sacks’s writing about it. (And yet—also—Diski says that Sacks has a way of making meaning out of disability that’s essentially a wonder at the human body via its ailments, as in “My God, we are extraordinary, look how interestingly wrong we can go.”) Is there a way to affirm the extraordinary without ending at: there but for the grace of god…? Without ending with gratitude that we don’t share someone’s plight? I want readers to come away uncertain: about where there’s joy and where there’s pain, about how they might make different choices, ordinary and extraordinary choices, if handed a different set of capacities in themselves or in their loved ones.

But can a writer really calibrate that level of nuance? Lately I’m thinking that I can only write what I can write, knowing that it will be incomplete and partial in its rendering.

I want a world full of disabled voices, people telling their stories in their own ways, with their own voices intact. But I also want a world of people to read about the collective stakes inherent in disability—and not just the rights issues that are being ignored, urgent as they are. I want people to see that spending time thinking about disability is an invitation to see the world differently, and to locate one’s own experiences differently. Not to erase the particularity of any one person’s very material experiences, but to help remedy the invisibility of disabled experience outside the inner circle of people who talk to one another, who know that these issues are important. And some audiences will need some interpretation, some cognitive-linguistic bridges to understand the import of disability—its wonder, its overlooked importance, and yes, even its lessons, if we may call them such. Lessons without moralizing, lessons without abstractions.

*Yes, “disabled people,” not “differently abled” or even always “people with disabilities.” There’s no one right answer or moniker, but soon I’ll write a short piece on why “disabled people” is a preferred term among many activists."

[See also this response from Alan Jacobs: http://blog.ayjay.org/writing-by-the-always-wrong/ ]
sarahendren  oliversacks  disability  2017  diversity  morality  moralizing  difference  humanism  individualism  interdependence  variation  jennydiski  conclusions  case-histories  sickness  sadness  suffering  life  death  storytelling  narrative  tomshakespeare  templegrandin  pathos  correction  autism  self-advocacy  meaning  meaningmaking  uncertainty  joy  pain  grace  writing  howewrite  voice  invisibility  visibility  erasure  experience  alanjacobs  disabilities 
july 2017 by robertogreco
Rebecca Solnit: The Loneliness of Donald Trump | Literary Hub
"This year Hannah Arendt is alarmingly relevant, and her books are selling well, particularly On the Origins of Totalitarianism. She’s been the subject an extraordinary essay in the Los Angeles Review of Books and a conversation between scholar Lyndsey Stonebridge and Krista Tippet on the radio show “On Being.” Stonebridge notes that Arendt advocated for the importance of an inner dialogue with oneself, for a critical splitting in which you interrogate yourself—for a real conversation between the fisherman and his wife you could say: “People who can do that can actually then move on to having conversations with other people and then judging with other people. And what she called ‘the banality of evil’ was the inability to hear another voice, the inability to have a dialogue either with oneself or the imagination to have a dialogue with the world, the moral world.”

Some use their power to silence that and live in the void of their own increasingly deteriorating, off-course sense of self and meaning. It’s like going mad on a desert island, only with sycophants and room service. It’s like having a compliant compass that agrees north is whatever you want it to be. The tyrant of a family, the tyrant of a little business or a huge enterprise, the tyrant of a nation. Power corrupts, and absolute power often corrupts the awareness of those who possess it. Or reduces it: narcissists, sociopaths, and egomaniacs are people for whom others don’t exist.

We gain awareness of ourselves and others from setbacks and difficulties; we get used to a world that is not always about us; and those who do not have to cope with that are brittle, weak, unable to endure contradiction, convinced of the necessity of always having one’s own way. The rich kids I met in college were flailing as though they wanted to find walls around them, leapt as though they wanted there to be gravity and to hit ground, even bottom, but parents and privilege kept throwing out safety nets and buffers, kept padding the walls and picking up the pieces, so that all their acts were meaningless, literally inconsequential. They floated like astronauts in outer space.

Equality keeps us honest. Our peers tell us who we are and how we are doing, providing that service in personal life that a free press does in a functioning society. Inequality creates liars and delusion. The powerless need to dissemble—that’s how slaves, servants, and women got the reputation of being liars—and the powerful grow stupid on the lies they require from their subordinates and on the lack of need to know about others who are nobody, who don’t count, who’ve been silenced or trained to please. This is why I always pair privilege with obliviousness; obliviousness is privilege’s form of deprivation. When you don’t hear others, you don’t imagine them, they become unreal, and you are left in the wasteland of a world with only yourself in it, and that surely makes you starving, though you know not for what, if you have ceased to imagine others exist in any true deep way that matters. This is about a need for which we hardly have language or at least not a familiar conversation."
politics  donaldtrump  rebeccasolnit  2017  equality  inequality  delusion  power  corruption  kistatippet  lyndseystonebridge  hannaharendt  occupywallstreet  ows  fscottfitzgerald  tyrants  loneliness  resistance  russia  parables  privilege  vldimirputin  pushkin  greed  overreach  democracy  society  collectivism  evil  morality 
june 2017 by robertogreco
Understanding Trump « George Lakoff
"Unconscious thought works by certain basic mechanisms. Trump uses them instinctively to turn people’s brains toward what he wants: Absolute authority, money, power, celebrity.

The mechanisms are:

1. Repetition. Words are neurally linked to the circuits the determine their meaning. The more a word is heard, the more the circuit is activated and the stronger it gets, and so the easier it is to fire again. Trump repeats. Win. Win, Win. We’re gonna win so much you’ll get tired of winning.

2. Framing: Crooked Hillary. Framing Hillary as purposely and knowingly committing crimes for her own benefit, which is what a crook does. Repeating makes many people unconsciously think of her that way, even though she has been found to have been honest and legal by thorough studies by the right-wing Bengazi committee (which found nothing) and the FBI (which found nothing to charge her with, except missing the mark ‘(C)’ in the body of 3 out of 110,000 emails). Yet the framing is working.

There is a common metaphor that Immorality Is Illegality, and that acting against Strict Father Morality (the only kind off morality recognized) is being immoral. Since virtually everything Hillary Clinton has ever done has violated Strict Father Morality, that makes her immoral. The metaphor thus makes her actions immoral, and hence she is a crook. The chant “Lock her up!” activates this whole line of reasoning.

3. Well-known examples: When a well-publicized disaster happens, the coverage activates the framing of it over and over, strengthening it, and increasing the probability that the framing will occur easily with high probability. Repeating examples of shootings by Muslims, African-Americans, and Latinos raises fears that it could happen to you and your community — despite the miniscule actual probability. Trump uses this to create fear. Fear tends to activate desire for a strong strict father — namely, Trump.

4. Grammar: Radical Islamic terrorists: “Radical” puts Muslims on a linear scale and “terrorists” imposes a frame on the scale, suggesting that terrorism is built into the religion itself. The grammar suggests that there is something about Islam that has terrorism inherent in it. Imagine calling the Charleston gunman a “radical Republican terrorist.”

Trump is aware of this to at least some extent. As he said to Tony Schwartz, the ghost-writer who wrote The Art of the Deal for him, “I call it truthful hyperbole. It’s an innocent form of exaggeration — and it’s a very effective form of promotion.”

5. Conventional metaphorical thought is inherent in our largely unconscious thought. Such normal modes of metaphorical thinking that are not noticed as such.

Consider Brexit, which used the metaphor of “entering” and “leaving” the EU. There is a universal metaphor that states are locations in space: you can enter a state, be deep in some state, and come out that state. If you enter a café and then leave the café , you will be in the same location as before you entered. But that need not be true of states of being. But that was the metaphor used with Brexit; Britons believed that after leaving the EU, things would be as before when the entered the EU. They were wrong. Things changed radically while they were in the EU. That same metaphor is being used by Trump: Make America Great Again. Make America Safe Again. And so on. As if there was some past ideal state that we can go back to just by electing Trump.

6. There is also a metaphor that A Country Is a Person and a metonymy of the President Standing For the Country. Thus, Obama, via both metaphor and metonymy, can stand conceptually for America. Therefore, by saying that Obama is weak and not respected, it is communicated that America, with Obama as president, is weak and disrespected. The inference is that it is because of Obama.

7. The country as person metaphor and the metaphor that war or conflict between countries is a fistfight between people, leads to the inference that just having a strong president will guarantee that America will win conflicts and wars. Trump will just throw knockout punches. In his acceptance speech at the convention, Trump repeatedly said that he would accomplish things that can only be done by the people acting with their government. After one such statement, there was a chant from the floor, “He will do it.”

8. The metaphor that The nation Is a Family was used throughout the GOP convention. We heard that strong military sons are produced by strong military fathers and that “defense of country is a family affair.” From Trump’s love of family and commitment to their success, we are to conclude that, as president he will love America’s citizens and be committed to the success of all.

9. There is a common metaphor that Identifying with your family’s national heritage makes you a member of that nationality. Suppose your grandparents came from Italy and you identify with your Italian ancestors, you may proudly state that you are Italian. The metaphor is natural. Literally, you have been American for two generations. Trump made use of this commonplace metaphor in attacking US District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who is American, born and raised in the United States. Trump said he was a Mexican, and therefore would hate him and tend to rule against him in a case brought against Trump University for fraud.

10. Then there is the metaphor system used in the phrase “to call someone out.” First the word “out.” There is a general metaphor that Knowing Is Seeing as in “I see what you mean.” Things that are hidden inside something cannot be seen and hence not known, while things are not hidden but out in public can be seen and hence known. To “out” someone is to made their private knowledge public. To “call someone out” is to publicly name someone’s hidden misdeeds, thus allowing for public knowledge and appropriate consequences."



"How Can Democrats Do Better?

First, don’t think of an elephant. Remember not to repeat false conservative claims and then rebut them with the facts. Instead, go positive. Give a positive truthful framing to undermine claims to the contrary. Use the facts to support positively-framed truth. Use repetition.

Second, start with values, not policies and facts and numbers. Say what you believe, but haven’t been saying. For example, progressive thought is built on empathy, on citizens caring about other citizens and working through our government to provide public resources for all, both businesses and individuals. Use history. That’s how America started. The public resources used by businesses were not only roads and bridges, but public education, a national bank, a patent office, courts for business cases, interstate commerce support, and of course the criminal justice system. From the beginning, the Private Depended on Public Resources, both private lives and private enterprise.

Over time those resources have included sewers, water and electricity, research universities and research support: computer science (via the NSF), the internet (ARPA), pharmaceuticals and modern medicine (the NIH), satellite communication (NASA and NOA), and GPS systems and cell phones (the Defense Department). Private enterprise and private life utterly depend on public resources. Have you ever said this? Elizabeth Warren has. Almost no other public figures. And stop defending “the government.” Talk about the public, the people, Americans, the American people, public servants, and good government. And take back freedom. Public resources provide for freedom in private enterprise and private life.

The conservatives are committed to privatizing just about everything and to eliminating funding for most public resources. The contribution of public resources to our freedoms cannot be overstated. Start saying it.

And don’t forget the police. Effective respectful policing is a public resource. Chief David O. Brown of the Dallas Police got it right. Training, community policing, knowing the people you protect. And don’t ask too much of the police: citizens have a responsibility to provide funding so that police don’t have to do jobs that should be done by others.

Unions need to go on the offensive. Unions are instruments of freedom — freedom from corporate servitude. Employers call themselves job creators. Working people are profit creators for the employers, and as such they deserve a fair share of the profits and respect and acknowledgement. Say it. Can the public create jobs. Of course. Fixing infrastructure will create jobs by providing more public resources that private lives and businesses depend on. Public resources to create more public resources. Freedom creates opportunity that creates more freedom.

Third, keep out of nasty exchanges and attacks. Keep out of shouting matches. One can speak powerfully without shouting. Obama sets the pace: Civility, values, positivity, good humor, and real empathy are powerful. Calmness and empathy in the face of fury are powerful. Bill Clinton won because he oozed empathy, with his voice, his eye contact, and his body. It wasn’t his superb ability as a policy wonk, but the empathy he projected and inspired.

Values come first, facts and policies follow in the service of values. They matter, but they always support values.

Give up identity politics. No more women’s issues, black issues, Latino issues. Their issues are all real, and need public discussion. But they all fall under freedom issues, human issues. And address poor whites! Appalachian and rust belt whites deserve your attention as much as anyone else. Don’t surrender their fate to Trump, who will just increase their suffering.

And remember JFK’s immortal, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” Empathy, devotion, love, pride in our country’s values, public resources to create freedoms. And adulthood.

Be prepared. You have to understand Trump … [more]
georgelakoff  donaldtrump  2016  conservatives  markets  systems  systemsthinking  hierarchy  morality  puritanism  election  hillaryclinton  cognition  psychology  evangelicals  freemarkets  capitalism  pragmatism  patriarchy  progressivism  directcausation  systemiccausation  thinking  politicalcorrectness  identitypolitics  politics  policy  us  biconceptuals  brain  howwethink  marketing  metaphor  elections  dallas  dallaspolice  policing  lawenforcement  unions  organizing  organization  billclinton  empathy  campaigning  repetition  democrats 
july 2016 by robertogreco
Solving All the Wrong Problems - The New York Times
"We are overloaded daily with new discoveries, patents and inventions all promising a better life, but that better life has not been forthcoming for most. In fact, the bulk of the above list targets a very specific (and tiny!) slice of the population. As one colleague in tech explained it to me recently, for most people working on such projects, the goal is basically to provide for themselves everything that their mothers no longer do.

He was joking — sort of — but his comment made me think hard about who is served by this stuff. I’m concerned that such a focus on comfort and instant gratification will reduce us all to those characters in “Wall-E,” bound to their recliners, Big Gulps in hand, interacting with the world exclusively through their remotes.

Too many well-funded entrepreneurial efforts turn out to promise more than they can deliver (i.e., Theranos’ finger-prick blood test) or read as parody (but, sadly, are not — such as the $99 “vessel” that monitors your water intake and tells you when you should drink more water).

When everything is characterized as “world-changing,” is anything?

Clay Tarver, a writer and producer for the painfully on-point HBO comedy “Silicon Valley,” said in a recent New Yorker article: “I’ve been told that, at some of the big companies, the P.R. departments have ordered their employees to stop saying ‘We’re making the world a better place,’ specifically because we have made fun of that phrase so mercilessly. So I guess, at the very least, we’re making the world a better place by making these people stop saying they’re making the world a better place.”

O.K., that’s a start. But the impulse to conflate toothbrush delivery with Nobel Prize-worthy good works is not just a bit cultish, it’s currently a wildfire burning through the so-called innovation sector. Products and services are designed to “disrupt” market sectors (a.k.a. bringing to market things no one really needs) more than to solve actual problems, especially those problems experienced by what the writer C. Z. Nnaemeka has described as “the unexotic underclass” — single mothers, the white rural poor, veterans, out-of-work Americans over 50 — who, she explains, have the “misfortune of being insufficiently interesting.”

If the most fundamental definition of design is to solve problems, why are so many people devoting so much energy to solving problems that don’t really exist? How can we get more people to look beyond their own lived experience?

In “Design: The Invention of Desire,” a thoughtful and necessary new book by the designer and theorist Jessica Helfand, the author brings to light an amazing kernel: “hack,” a term so beloved in Silicon Valley that it’s painted on the courtyard of the Facebook campus and is visible from planes flying overhead, is also prison slang for “horse’s ass carrying keys.”

To “hack” is to cut, to gash, to break. It proceeds from the belief that nothing is worth saving, that everything needs fixing. But is that really the case? Are we fixing the right things? Are we breaking the wrong ones? Is it necessary to start from scratch every time?

Empathy, humility, compassion, conscience: These are the key ingredients missing in the pursuit of innovation, Ms. Helfand argues, and in her book she explores design, and by extension innovation, as an intrinsically human discipline — albeit one that seems to have lost its way. Ms. Helfand argues that innovation is now predicated less on creating and more on the undoing of the work of others.

“In this humility-poor environment, the idea of disruption appeals as a kind of subversive provocation,” she writes. “Too many designers think they are innovating when they are merely breaking and entering.”

In this way, innovation is very much mirroring the larger public discourse: a distrust of institutions combined with unabashed confidence in one’s own judgment shifts solutions away from fixing, repairing or improving and shoves them toward destruction for its own sake. (Sound like a certain presidential candidate? Or Brexit?)

Perhaps the main reason these frivolous products and services frustrate me is because of their creators’ insistence that changing lives for the better is their reason for being. To wit, the venture capitalist Marc Andreessen, who has invested in companies like Airbnb and Twitter but also in services such as LikeALittle (which started out as a flirting tool among college students) and Soylent (a sort of SlimFast concoction for tech geeks), tweeted last week: “The perpetually missing headline: ‘Capitalism worked okay again today and most people in the world got a little better off.’ ”

Meanwhile, in San Francisco, where such companies are based, sea level rise is ominous, the income gap between rich and poor has been growing faster than in any other city in the nation, a higher percentage of people send their kids to private school than in almost any other city, and a minimum salary of $254,000 is required to afford an average-priced home. Who exactly is better off?

Ms. Helfand calls for a deeper embrace of personal vigilance: “Design may provide the map,” she writes, “but the moral compass that guides our personal choices resides permanently within us all.”

Can we reset that moral compass? Maybe we can start by not being a bunch of hacks."
2016  allisonarieff  siliconvalley  problemsolving  disruption  claytarver  sanfrancisco  capitalism  jessicahelfand  books  invention  narcissism  theranos  comfort  instantgratification  hacking  innovation  publicdiscourse  publicgood  inequality  marcandreessen  morality  moralcompass  soylent  venturecapitalism  brexit  us  priorities 
july 2016 by robertogreco
Nigerians are writing steamy romance novels to escape religious violence | Public Radio International
"The books shift between morality tales and classic pulp romance. Often written by hand in small composition books, the stories find a wider audience after they are transcribed and published online.

People also buy the books in crowded marketplaces, where you can buy thousands of different titles for a dollar or two. They're called littattafan soyayya, which roughly translates to “love literature."

The littattafan soyayya industry is the subject of photographer Glenna Gordon’s new photo book, "Diagram of the Heart."

The stories are mostly written by women, for women. And amid Nigeria's political turmoil, they provide an escape of sorts.

The chaos in Nigeria became much more widely reported after the terrorist organization Boko Haram kidnapped 276 school girls from their dorm in 2014, but the group has been around since 2002. At the same time, the government faces huge amounts of corruption and the country is split because of religious tension.

Gordon says escaping the stress of that instability is one of the reasons women turn to romance novels. But it's certainly not the only reason.

Gordon first heard about the genre after a friend suggested she read a book called “Sin Is a Puppy That Follows you Home,” which describes itself as an Islamic soap opera.

The book has a pretty complicated plot.

First a man brings home a second wife. That second wife turns out to be a prostitute. The first wife ends up separating from him, and is kicked out of the house along with the couple’s children. After time, she opens a restaurant and builds a new life. Meanwhile, the husband loses everything he has in a fire and his second wife leaves him.

At the end of the book, the original couple gets back together. But their power dynamic has shifted.

“Even though it doesn’t really look like a traditional feminist text in the way I might think of one, there has been a significant change in the course of the book,” Gordon says.

Gordon says most people don’t know about Nigeria’s thriving publishing industry and culture of literature because of a language barrier. Books are often written in Hausa, and while the language is extremely popular — it’s one of the most widely spoken languages in Africa — the books are rarely translated into other languages.

They're also controversial.

Some local governments in Northern Nigeria censor the books, and in 2007, the minister of education publicly burned many books that he said were corrupting young people and encouraging moral indecency.

Today, authors are forced to register with the Hisbah, the morality police, as well as government officials. Gordon says at this point many authors self-censor to avoid the hassle. But their books used to be much more risqué.

There are people who don’t register and publish anyway, she says. Also the government is somewhat irregular in how it enforces the rules.

“So some things get through and some things don’t,” she says."
nigeria  literature  feminism  2016  bokoharam  books  hausa  morality  islam  women  publishing  photography  glennagordon 
april 2016 by robertogreco
Are you raising nice kids? A Harvard psychologist gives 5 ways to raise them to be kind - The Washington Post
"Earlier this year, I wrote about teaching empathy, and whether you are a parent who does so. The idea behind it is from Richard Weissbourd, a Harvard psychologist with the graduate school of education, who runs the Making Caring Common project, aimed to help teach kids to be kind.

I know, you’d think they are or that parents are teaching that themselves, right? Not so, according to a new study released by the group. (Chat with Weissbourd here.)

About 80 percent of the youth in the study said their parents were more concerned with their achievement or happiness than whether they cared for others. The interviewees were also three times more likely to agree that “My parents are prouder if I get good grades in my classes than if I’m a caring community member in class and school.”

Weissbourd and his cohorts have come up with recommendations about how to raise children to become caring, respectful and responsible adults. Why is this important? Because if we want our children to be moral people, we have to, well, raise them that way.

“Children are not born simply good or bad and we should never give up on them. They need adults who will help them become caring, respectful, and responsible for their communities at every stage of their childhood,” the researchers write.

The five strategies to raise moral, caring children, according to Making Caring Common:

1. Make caring for others a priority

Why? Parents tend to prioritize their children’s happiness and achievements over their children’s concern for others. But children need to learn to balance their needs with the needs of others, whether it’s passing the ball to a teammate or deciding to stand up for friend who is being bullied.

How? Children need to hear from parents that caring for others is a top priority. A big part of that is holding children to high ethical expectations, such as honoring their commitments, even if it makes them unhappy. For example, before kids quit a sports team, band, or a friendship, we should ask them to consider their obligations to the group or the friend and encourage them to work out problems before quitting.

Try this
• Instead of saying to your kids: “The most important thing is that you’re happy,” say “The most important thing is that you’re kind.”
• Make sure that your older children always address others respectfully, even when they’re tired, distracted, or angry.
• Emphasize caring when you interact with other key adults in your children’s lives. For example, ask teachers whether your children are good community members at school.

2. Provide opportunities for children to practice caring and gratitude

Why? It’s never too late to become a good person, but it won’t happen on its own. Children need to practice caring for others and expressing gratitude for those who care for them and contribute to others’ lives. Studies show that people who are in the habit of expressing gratitude are more likely to be helpful, generous, compassionate, and forgiving—and they’re also more likely to be happy and healthy.

How? Learning to be caring is like learning to play a sport or an instrument. Daily repetition—whether it’s a helping a friend with homework, pitching in around the house, or having a classroom job—make caring second nature and develop and hone youth’s caregiving capacities. Learning gratitude similarly involves regularly practicing it.

Try this
• Don’t reward your child for every act of helpfulness, such as clearing the dinner table. We should expect our kids to help around the house, with siblings, and with neighbors and only reward uncommon acts of kindness.
• Talk to your child about caring and uncaring acts they see on television and about acts of justice and injustice they might witness or hear about in the news.
• Make gratitude a daily ritual at dinnertime, bedtime, in the car, or on the subway. Express thanks for those who contribute to us and others in large and small ways.

3. Expand your child’s circle of concern.

Why? Almost all children care about a small circle of their families and friends. Our challenge is help our children learn to care about someone outside that circle, such as the new kid in class, someone who doesn’t speak their language, the school custodian, or someone who lives in a distant country.

How? Children need to learn to zoom in, by listening closely and attending to those in their immediate circle, and to zoom out, by taking in the big picture and considering the many perspectives of the people they interact with daily, including those who are vulnerable. They also need to consider how their decisions, such as quitting a sports team or a band, can ripple out and harm various members of their communities. Especially in our more global world, children need to develop concern for people who live in very different cultures and communities than their own.

Try this
• Make sure your children are friendly and grateful with all the people in their daily lives, such as a bus driver or a waitress.
• Encourage children to care for those who are vulnerable. Give children some simple ideas for stepping into the “caring and courage zone,” like comforting a classmate who was teased.
• Use a newspaper or TV story to encourage your child to think about hardships faced by children in another country.

4. Be a strong moral role model and mentor.

Why? Children learn ethical values by watching the actions of adults they respect. They also learn values by thinking through ethical dilemmas with adults, e.g. “Should I invite a new neighbor to my birthday party when my best friend doesn’t like her?”

How? Being a moral role model and mentor means that we need to practice honesty, fairness, and caring ourselves. But it doesn’t mean being perfect all the time. For our children to respect and trust us, we need to acknowledge our mistakes and flaws. We also need to respect children’s thinking and listen to their perspectives, demonstrating to them how we want them to engage others.

Try this:
• Model caring for others by doing community service at least once a month. Even better, do this service with your child.
• Give your child an ethical dilemma at dinner or ask your child about dilemmas they’ve faced.

5. Guide children in managing destructive feelings

Why? Often the ability to care for others is overwhelmed by anger, shame, envy, or other negative feelings.

How? We need to teach children that all feelings are okay, but some ways of dealing with them are not helpful. Children need our help learning to cope with these feelings in productive ways.

Try this
Here’s a simple way to teach your kids to calm down: ask your child to stop, take a deep breath through the nose and exhale through the mouth, and count to five. Practice when your child is calm. Then, when you see her getting upset, remind her about the steps and do them with her. After a while she’ll start to do it on her own so that she can express her feelings in a helpful and appropriate way."
kindness  parenting  2015  psychology  society  richardweissbourd  values  caring  priorities  gratitude  morality 
september 2015 by robertogreco
The Terror of the Archive | Hazlitt
"The digitally inflected individual is often not quite an individual, not quite alone. Our past selves seem to be suspended around us like ghostly, shimmering holograms, versions of who we were lingering like memories made manifest in digital, diaphanous bodies. For me, many of those past selves are people I would like to put behind me—that same person who idly signed up for Ashley Madison is someone who hurt others by being careless and self-involved. Now, over a decade on, I’m left wondering to what extent that avatar of my past still stands for or defines me—of the statute of limitations on past wrongs. Though we’ve always been an accumulation of our past acts, now that digital can splay out our many, often contradictory selves in such an obvious fashion, judging who we are has become more fraught and complicated than ever. How, I wonder, do we ethically evaluate ourselves when the conflation of past and present has made things so murky?

*

Sometimes, I aimlessly trawl through old and present email accounts, and it turns out I am often inadvertently mining for awfulness. In one instance—in a Hotmail account I named after my love for The Simpsons—I find myself angrily and thoughtlessly shoving off a woman’s renewed affection because I am, I tell her, “sick of this.” I reassure myself that I am not that person anymore—that I now have the awareness and the humility to not react that way. Most days, looking at how I’ve grown since then, I almost believe this is true.

Yet, to be human is to constantly make mistakes and, as a result, we often hurt others, if not through our acts then certainly our inaction. There is for each of us, if we are honest, a steady stream of things we could have done differently or better: could have stopped to offer a hand; could have asked why that person on the subway was crying; could have been kinder, better, could have taken that leap. But, we say, we are only who we are.

We joke about the horror of having our Google searches publicized, or our Twitter DMs revealed, but in truth, we know the mere existence of such a digital database makes it likely that something will emerge from the murky space in which digital functions as a canvas for our fantasies or guilt.

That is how we justify ourselves. Our sense of who we are is subject to a kind of recency bias, and a confirmation bias, too—a selection of memories from the recent past that conform to the fantasy of the self as we wish it to be. Yet the slow accretion of selective acts that forms our self-image is also largely an illusion—a convenient curation of happenings that flatters our ego, our desire to believe we are slowly getting better. As it turns out, grace and forgiveness aren’t the purview of some supernatural being, but temporality—the simple erasure of thought and feeling that comes from the forward passage of time."



"The line between evasiveness and forgiveness, cowardice and grace, is thin, often difficult to locate, but absolutely vital. It seems, though, that our ethical structures may slowly be slipping out of step with our subjectivities. If we have abandoned the clean but totalitarian simplicity of Kant’s categorical imperative, instead embracing that postmodern cliché of a fluid morality, we still cling to the idea that the self being morally judged is a singular ethical entity, either good or bad. It’s common on social media, for example, for someone to be dismissed permanently for one transgression—some comedian or actor who is good at race but bad at gender (or vice versa) to be moved from the accepted pile to the trash heap. If our concept of morality is fluid, our idea of moral judgment is not similarly so.

That notion of self assumes morality is accretive and cumulative: that we can get better over time, but nevertheless remain a sum of the things we’ve done. Obviously, for the Bill Cosbys or Jian Ghomeshis or Jared Fogles of the world, this is fine. In those cases, it is the repetition of heinous, predatory behaviour over time that makes forgiveness almost impossible—the fact that there is no distance between past and present is precisely the point. For most of us, though, that simple idea of identity assumes that selves are singular, totalized things, coherent entities with neat boundaries and linear histories that arrived here in the present as complete. Even if that ever were true, what digitality helps lay bare is that who we are is actually a multiplicity, a conglomeration of acts, often contradictory, that slips backward and forward and sideways through time incessantly."



"Is the difficulty of digitality for our ethics, then, not the multiplicity of the person judged, but our Janus-faced relation to the icebergs of our psyches—the fact that our various avatars are actually interfaces for our subconscious, exploratory mechanisms for what we cannot admit to others or ourselves?

Freud said that we endlessly repeat past hurts, forever re-enacting the same patterns in a futile attempt to patch the un-healable wound. This, more than anything, is the terror of the personal, digital archive: not that it reveals some awful act from the past, some old self that no longer stands for us, but that it reminds us that who we are is in fact a repetition, a cycle, a circular relation of multiple selves to multiple injuries. It’s the self as a bundle of trauma, forever acting out the same tropes in the hopes that we might one day change.

What I would like to tell you is that I am a better man now than when, years ago, I tried my best to hide from the world and myself. In many ways that is true. Yet, all those years ago, what dragged me out of my depressive spiral was meeting someone—a beautiful, kind, warm person with whom, a decade later, I would repeat similar mistakes. I was callous again: took her for granted, pushed her away when I wanted to, and couldn’t take responsibility for either my or her emotions. Now, when a piece of the past pushes its way through the ether to remind me of who I was or am, I can try to push it down—but in a quiet moment, I might be struck by the terror that some darker, more cowardly part of me is still too close for comfort, still there inside me. The hologram of my past self, its face a distorted, shadowy reflection of me with large, dark eyes, is my mirror, my muse. And any judgment of my character depends not on whether I, in some simple sense, am still that person, but whether I—whether we, multiple and overlapped—can reckon with, can meet and return the gaze of the ghosts of our past."
navneetalang  archives  internet  memory  grace  forgiveness  circulation  change  past  present  mistakes  ashleymadison  twitter  email  privacy  facebook  socialmedia  dropbox  google  secrets  instagram  self  ethics  morality  judgement  identity 
september 2015 by robertogreco
Ashley Madison leak exposes a prurient and uncaring society - Eureka Street
"The blithe disregard for such questions suggests the kiss up, kick down culture prevailing in the media and seemingly internalised throughout society as a whole.

We're increasingly acclimatised to the wealthy and the powerful facing no sanctions whatsoever for their wrongdoing, even as the poor are ground into the dirt for minor transgressions."
jeffsparrow  via:anne  ashelymadison  humiliation  trandsgressions  morality  comeuppance  masochism  punishment  society  cruelty  wealth  power  inequality  surveillance  privacy 
august 2015 by robertogreco
EXCLUSIVE: Bree Newsome Speaks For The First Time After Courageous Act of Civil Disobedience
"You see, I know my history and my heritage. The Confederacy is neither the only legacy of the south nor an admirable one. The southern heritage I embrace is the legacy of a people unbowed by racial oppression. It includes towering figures of the Civil Rights Movement like Ida B. Wells, Martin Luther King, Jr., Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks, Medgar Evers and Ella Baker. It includes the many people who rarely make the history books but without whom there is no movement. It includes pillars of the community like Rev. Clementa Pinckney and Emmanuel AME Church.

The history of the South is also in many ways complex and full of inconvenient truths. But in order to move into the future we must reckon with the past. That’s why I commend people like Sen. Paul Thurmond for having the courage to speak truth in this moment.

Words cannot express how deeply touched I am to see how yesterday’s action inspired so many. The artwork, poems, music and memes are simply beautiful! I am also deeply grateful to those who have generously donated to the defense fund established in my name and to those who have offered to cover my legal expenses.

As you are admiring my courage in that moment, please remember that this is not, never has been and never should be just about one woman. This action required collective courage just as this movement requires collective courage. Not everyone who participated in the strategizing for this non-violent direct action volunteered to have their names in the news so I will respect their privacy. Nonetheless, I’m honored to be counted among the many freedom fighters, both living and dead.

I see no greater moral cause than liberation, equality and justice f­­or all God’s people. What better reason to risk your own freedom than to fight for the freedom of others? That’s the moral courage demonstrated yesterday by James Ian Tyson who helped me across the fence and stood guard as I climbed. History will rightly remember him alongside the many white allies who, over the centuries, have risked their own safety in defense of black life and in the name of racial equality.

While I remain highly critical of the nature of policing itself in the United States, both the police and the jailhouse personnel I encountered on Saturday were nothing short of professional in their interactions with me. I know there was some concern from supporters on the outside that I might be harmed while in police custody, but that was not the case.

It is important to remember that our struggle doesn’t end when the flag comes down. The Confederacy is a southern thing, but white supremacy is not. Our generation has taken up the banner to fight battles many thought were won long ago. We must fight with all vigor now so that our grandchildren aren’t still fighting these battles in another 50 years. Black Lives Matter. This is non-negotiable.

I encourage everyone to understand the history, recognize the problems of the present and take action to show the world that the status quo is not acceptable. The last few days have confirmed to me that people understand the importance of action and are ready to take such action. Whether the topic is trending nationally or it’s an issue affecting our local communities, those of us who are conscious must do what is right in this moment. And we must do it without fear. New eras require new models of leadership. This is a multi-leader movement. I believe that. I stand by that. I am because we are. I am one of many.

This moment is a call to action for us all. All honor and praise to God."
breenewsome  civildisobedience  civilrights  racism  blacklivesmatter  2015  activism  freedom  resistance  morality  liberation  equality  justice  inequality  us  southcarolina 
june 2015 by robertogreco
Bill Moyers Journal . Watch & Listen | PBS
"GRACE LEE BOGGS: Well, I had no idea what I was gonna do after I got my degree in philosophy in 1940. But what I did know was at that time, if you were a Chinese-American, even department stores wouldn't hire you. They'd come right out and say, "We don't hire Orientals." And so the idea of my getting a job teaching in a university and so forth was really ridiculous. And I went to Chicago and I got a job in the philosophy library there for $10 a week, And so I found a little old Jewish woman right near the university who took pity on me and said I could stay in her basement rent-free. The only obstacle was that I had to face down a barricade of rats in order to get into her basement. And at that time, in the black communities, they were beginning to protest and struggle against rat-infested housing. So I joined one of the tenants' organizations and thereby came in touch with the black community for the first time in my life.

BILL MOYERS: One of her first heroes in that community was A. Philip Randolph, the charismatic labor leader who had won a long struggle to organize black railroad porters. In the 1930s. on the eve of World War II, Randolph was furious that blacks were being turned away from good paying jobs in the booming defense plants.

When he took his argument to F.D.R., the president was sympathetic but reluctant to act. Proclaiming that quote 'power is the active principle of only the organized masses,' Randolph called for a huge march on Washington to shame the president. It worked. F.D.R. backed down and signed an order banning discrimination in the defense industry. All over America blacks moved from the countryside into the cities to take up jobs — the first time in 400 years — says Grace Lee Boggs, that black men could bring home a regular paycheck.

GRACE LEE BOGGS: And when I saw what a movement could do, I said, "Boy, that's what I wanna do with my life."

GRACE LEE BOGGS: It was just amazing. I mean, how you have to take advantage of a crisis in the system and in the government and also press to meet the needs of the people who are struggling for dignity. I mean, that's very tricky.

BILL MOYERS: It does take moral force to make political decisions possible.

GRACE LEE BOGGS: Yeah. and I think that too much of our emphasis on struggle has simply been in terms of confrontation and not enough recognition of how much spiritual and moral force is involved in the people who are struggling.

BILL MOYERS: Well, that's true. But power never gives up anything voluntarily. People have to ask for it. They have to demand it. They have-to--

GRACE LEE BOGGS: Well, you know as Douglas said, "Power yields nothing without a struggle." But how one struggles I think is now a very challenging question.

BILL MOYERS: She would learn a lot more about struggle from the man she married in 1952 — Jimmy Boggs, a radical activist, organizer, and writer. They couldn't have been outwardly more different — he was a black man, an auto worker and she was a Chinese-American, college educated philosopher — but they were kindred spirits, and their marriage lasted four decades until his death.

GRACE LEE BOGGS: I think that I owe a great deal of my rootedness to Jimmy because he learned to write and become a writer because in his illiterate community nobody could read and write. He picked cotton, and then went to work in Detroit. He saw himself as having been part of one epoch, the agriculture epoch, and now the industrial epoch, and now the post-industrial epoch. I think that's a very important part of what we need in this country, is that sense that we have lived through so many stages, and that we are entering into a new stage where we could create something completely different. Jimmy had that feeling. "



"BILL MOYERS: And you think that this question of work was at the heart of what happened-- or it was part of what happened in Detroit that summer?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: I don't think it's that they were conscious of it, but I thought-- what I saw happen was that young people who recognized that working in the factory was what had allowed their parents to buy a house, to raise a family, to get married, to send their kids to school, that was eroding. They felt that-- no one cares anymore.

GRACE LEE BOGGS: And what we tried to do is explain that a rebellion is righteous, because it's the protest by a people against injustice, because of unrighteous situation, but it's not enough. You have to go beyond rebellion. And it was amazing, a turning point in my life, because until that time, I had not made a distinction between a rebellion and revolution. And it forced us to begin thinking, what does a revolution mean? How does it relate to evolution?"



"BILL MOYERS: The conundrum for me is this; The war in Vietnam continued another seven years after Martin Luther King's great speech at Riverside here in New York City on April 4th, 1967. His moral argument did not take hold with the powers-that-be.

GRACE LEE BOGGS: I don't expect moral arguments to take hold with the powers-that-be. They are in their positions of power. They are part of the system. They are part of the problem.

BILL MOYERS: Then do moral arguments have any force if they--

GRACE LEE BOGGS: Of course they do.

BILL MOYERS: If they can be so heedlessly ignored?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: I think because we depend too much on the government to do it. I think we're not looking sufficiently at what is happening at the grassroots in the country. We have not emphasized sufficiently the cultural revolution that we have to make among ourselves in order to force the government to do differently. Things do not start with governments--

BILL MOYERS: But wars do.

GRACE LEE BOGGS: There's big changes--

BILL MOYERS: Wars do. Wars do.

GRACE LEE BOGGS: Wars do. But positive changes leaps forward in the evolution of human kind, do not start with governments. I think that's what the Civil Rights Movement taught us.

BILL MOYERS: But Martin Luther King was ignored then on the war. In fact, the last few years of his life, as he was moving beyond the protest in the South, and the end of official segregation, he was largely ignored if not ridiculed for his position on economic equality. Upon doing something about poverty. And, in fact, many civil rights leaders, as you remember, Grace, condemned him for mixing foreign policy with civil rights. They said; That's not what we should be about.

GRACE LEE BOGGS: But see, what I hear in what you're saying is a separation of the anti-war speech of the peace trajectory, from the other things that Martin said. He was talking about a radical revolution of values. And that radical revolution of values has not been pursued in the last forty years. The consumerism, and materialism, has gotten worse. The militarism has continued, while people are going around, you know just using their credit cards. All that's been taking place. And so, would he have continued to challenge those? I think he would. But on the whole, our society has not been challenging those, except in small pockets.

BILL MOYERS: He said that the three triplets of society in America were; Racism, consumerism or materialism and militarism. And you're saying those haven't changed.

GRACE LEE BOGGS: I'm saying that not only have those not changed, but people have isolated the struggles against each of these from the other. They have not seen that they're part of one whole of a radical revolution of values that we all must undergo. "



"BILL MOYERS: Yes, but where is the sign of the movement today?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: I believe that we are at the point now, in the United States, where a movement is beginning to emerge. I think that the calamity, the quagmire of the Iraq war, the outsourcing of jobs, the drop-out of young people from the education system, the monstrous growth of the prison-industrial complex, the planetary emergency, which we are engulfed at the present moment, is demanding that instead of just complaining about these things, instead of just protesting about these things, we begin to look for, and hope for, another way of living. And I think that's where the movement -- I see a movement beginning to emerge, 'cause I see hope beginning to trump despair.

BILL MOYERS: Where do you see the signs of it?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: I see the signs in the various small groups that are emerging all over the place to try and regain our humanity in very practical ways. For example in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Will Allen, who is a former basketball player has purchased two and a half acres of land, with five greenhouses on it, and he is beginning to grow food, healthy food for his community. And communities are growing up around that idea. I mean, that's a huge change in the way that we think of the city. I mean, the things we have to restore are so elemental. Not just food, and not just healthy food, but a different way of relating to time and history and to the earth.

BILL MOYERS: And a garden does that for you?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: Yes. A garden does all sorts of things. It helps young people to relate to the Earth in a different way. It helps them to relate to their elders in a different way. It helps them to think of time in a different way.

BILL MOYERS: How so?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: Well, if we just press a button, and you think that's the key to reality, you're in a hell of a mess of a human being."



"BILL MOYERS: You know, a lot of young people out there would agree with your analysis. With your diagnosis. And then they will say; What can I do that's practical? How do I make the difference that Grace Lee Boggs is taking about. What would you be doing?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: I would say do something local. Do something real, however, small. And don't diss the political things, but understand their limitations.

BILL MOYERS: Don't 'diss' them?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: Disrespect them.

BILL MOYERS: Disrespect them?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: Understand their … [more]
via:jackcheng  2007  graceleeboggs  activism  gardens  gardening  civilrightsmovement  us  prisonindustrialcomplex  education  climatechange  protest  change  revolution  democracy  struggle  rebellion  racism  socialism  occupation  riots  righteousness  injustice  justice  martinlutherkingjr  jimmyboggs  aphiliprandolph  detroit  evolution  changemaking  consumerism  materialism  militarism  vietnamwar  morality  power  grassroots  war  economics  poverty  government  systemsthinking  values  christianity  philosophy  karlmarx  marxism  humanevolution  society  labor  local  politics  discussion  leadership  mlk 
june 2015 by robertogreco
Ursula K. Le Guin on the Future of the Left
"“The Left,” a meaningful term ever since the French Revolution, took on wider significance with the rise of socialism, anarchism, and communism. The Russian revolution installed a government entirely leftist in conception; leftist and rightist movements tore Spain apart; democratic parties in Europe and North America arrayed themselves between the two poles; liberal cartoonists portrayed the opposition as a fat plutocrat with a cigar, while reactionaries in the United States demonized “commie leftists” from the 1930s through the Cold War. The left/right opposition, though often an oversimplification, for two centuries was broadly useful as a description and a reminder of dynamic balance.

In the twenty-first century we go on using the terms, but what is left of the Left? The failure of state communism, the quiet entrenchment of a degree of socialism in democratic governments, and the relentless rightward movement of politics driven by corporate capitalism have made much progressive thinking seem antiquated, or redundant, or illusory. The Left is marginalized in its thought, fragmented in its goals, unconfident of its ability to unite. In America particularly, the drift to the right has been so strong that mere liberalism is now the terrorist bogey that anarchism or socialism used to be, and reactionaries are called “moderates.”

So, in a country that has all but shut its left eye and is trying to use only its right hand, where does an ambidextrous, binocular Old Rad like Murray Bookchin fit?

I think he’ll find his readers. A lot of people are seeking consistent, constructive thinking on which to base action—a frustrating search. Theoretical approaches that seem promising turn out, like the Libertarian Party, to be Ayn Rand in drag; immediate and effective solutions to a problem turn out, like the Occupy movement, to lack structure and stamina for the long run. Young people, people this society blatantly short-changes and betrays, are looking for intelligent, realistic, long-term thinking: not another ranting ideology, but a practical working hypothesis, a methodology of how to regain control of where we’re going. Achieving that control will require a revolution as powerful, as deeply affecting society as a whole, as the force it wants to harness.

Murray Bookchin was an expert in nonviolent revolution. He thought about radical social changes, planned and unplanned, and how best to prepare for them, all his life. A new collection of his essays, “The Next Revolution: Popular Assemblies and the Promise of Direct Democracy,” released last month by Verso Books, carries his thinking on past his own life into the threatening future we face

Impatient, idealistic readers may find him uncomfortably tough-minded. He’s unwilling to leap over reality to dreams of happy endings, unsympathetic to mere transgression pretending to be political action: “A ‘politics’ of disorder or ‘creative chaos,’ or a naïve practice of ‘taking over the streets’ (usually little more than a street festival), regresses participants to the behavior of a juvenile herd.” That applies more to the Summer of Love, certainly, than to the Occupy movement, yet it is a permanently cogent warning.
All we have, we have taken from the earth; and, taking with ever-increasing speed and greed, we now return little but what is sterile or poisoned.

But Bookchin is no grim puritan. I first read him as an anarchist, probably the most eloquent and thoughtful one of his generation, and in moving away from anarchism he hasn’t lost his sense of the joy of freedom. He doesn’t want to see that joy, that freedom, come crashing down, yet again, among the ruins of its own euphoric irresponsibility.

What all political and social thinking has finally been forced to face is, of course, the irreversible degradation of the environment by unrestrained industrial capitalism: the enormous fact of which science has been trying for fifty years to convince us, while technology provided us ever greater distractions from it. Every benefit industrialism and capitalism have brought us, every wonderful advance in knowledge and health and communication and comfort, casts the same fatal shadow. All we have, we have taken from the earth; and, taking with ever-increasing speed and greed, we now return little but what is sterile or poisoned.

Yet we can’t stop the process. A capitalist economy, by definition, lives by growth; as Bookchin observes: “For capitalism to desist from its mindless expansion would be for it to commit social suicide.” We have, essentially, chosen cancer as the model of our social system.

Capitalism’s grow-or-die imperative stands radically at odds with ecology’s imperative of interdependence and limit. The two imperatives can no longer coexist with each other; nor can any society founded on the myth that they can be reconciled hope to survive. Either we will establish an ecological society or society will go under for everyone, irrespective of his or her status.

Murray Bookchin spent a lifetime opposing the rapacious ethos of grow-or-die capitalism. The nine essays in "The Next Revolution” represent the culmination of that labor: the theoretical underpinning for an egalitarian and directly democratic ecological society, with a practical approach for how to build it. He critiques the failures of past movements for social change, resurrects the promise of direct democracy and, in the last essay in the book, sketches his hope of how we might turn the environmental crisis into a moment of true choice—a chance to transcend the paralyzing hierarchies of gender, race, class, nation, a chance to find a radical cure for the radical evil of our social system.

Reading it, I was moved and grateful, as I have so often been in reading Murray Bookchin. He was a true son of the Enlightenment in his respect for clear thought and moral responsibility and in his honest, uncompromising search for a realistic hope."
ursulaleguin  democracy  murraybookchin  via:anne  climatechange  anarchism  optimism  capitalism  progress  economics  ecology  growth  directdemocracy  egalitarianism  morality  ethics  hope  left  socialism  communism  transcontextualism  transcontextualization 
june 2015 by robertogreco
'Care for Our Common Home': Taking Up the Moral Challenge of Pope Francis – Blog – ABC Religion & Ethics (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
"The normalisation of liberal individualism and the unsustainable form of prosperity on which the West has so long relied are, of course, the crowning achievements of what Luigino Bruni calls the "grand 'immunizing' project of modernity." But this project did not simply clear away the tyranny of inherited privilege, thereby returning individuals to themselves and their own acquisitive desires. Instead, this immunity from our obligations to others - what John Rawls more prosaically called the "mutual disinterest" constitutive of the social contract - involved the radical renunciation of the munus: that obliging gift which forms the basis of the social bond that is at the heart of communitas.

In Evangelium Vitae, John Paul II captured the essence of this gift in a simple, wondrous sentence: "God entrusts us to one another." Once this munus is renounced, what follows is a hollowed out form of social life, a debased, erstaz community in which, "Everyone else is considered an enemy from whom one has to defend oneself. Thus society becomes a mass of individuals placed side by side, but without any mutual bonds. Each one wishes to assert himself independently of the other and in fact intends to make his own interests prevail."

(It is worth pointing out in passing that Pope Francis and John Paul II find an unlikely ally in Julian Savulescu, who shares their critique of the failure of liberalism to produce the kind of citizens that are willing make decisions for the good of others, especially when doing so would run counter to self-interest and immediate benefit: "This restraint of self-interest is the very opposite of the unrestrained satisfaction of it made possible by industrialization and its profusion of material goods, which brought liberal democracy into existence. Liberal democracy has so far been a politics of prosperity, and this induces doubt whether it could turn into a politics of parsimony, voluntary restraint, and decreasing welfare." As a result, Savulescu warns, "contemporary liberal democracies are in the danger of being too liberal to last.")

The great achievement of Pope Francis's encyclical is the way it explicitly deepens and extends the scope of that which has been entrusted to us: our shared environment; the wellbeing of those near and far; the wellbeing of future generations. The language of gift and of what is in common pervades the encyclical, and at once condemns the interpersonal and political indifference that has held sway over the "climate change debate" and exposes the inadequacy of purely technocratic solutions to the problem of environmental degradation.

Implicated in the pope's critique of both interpersonal indifference and a kind of technophilic solutionism is the way that social media cultivates a feeling of concern and even ethical responsibility, all the while shielding us from any real commitment to others."



"For Francis, there is simply no substitute for the recovery of a sense of deep moral obligation - of what he calls at the end of the encyclical "generous commitment" - through which we will then joyfully constrain our behaviour and redefine those benefits to which we feel we are entitled. This is particularly clear when Francis addresses the debilitating political problem of how to galvanise public support for an intergenerational problem like climate change. As Stephen Gardiner has examined at considerable length, the problem is not only that the benefits of carbon pollution are enjoyed by the present generation while the deleterious effects (or "costs") are deferred to some future generation; the iterative nature of the problem ensures that "each new generation will face the same incentive structure as soon as it gains the power to decide whether or not to act."

This, it would seem, is the brute reality behind the myth of progress, and a powerful illustration of C.S. Lewis's extraordinarily prescient claim in his 1943 book The Abolition of Man (which is a favourite of Benedict XVI, interestingly enough). Lewis was, of course, fiercely critical of that heroic liberal narrative of the " progressive emancipation from tradition and a progressive control of natural processes resulting in a continual increase of human power.""
popefrancis  2015  laudatosi'  morality  christianity  luiginobruni  modernity  capitalism  interdependence  johnrawls  juliansavulescu  popejohnpaulii  scottstephens  normawirzba  clivehamilton  celiadeane-drummond  charlescamosy  michaelstafford  via:anne  religion  climatechange  ecology  economics  technosolutionism  anthropocene  antropocentrism  individualism  generations  internet  relationships  inequality  power  cslewis  progress  technology  stephengardner  interpersonal  indifference  empathy  responsibility  socialmedia  concern  commitment 
june 2015 by robertogreco
first thoughts on <em>Laudato Si'</em> - Text Patterns - The New Atlantis
"2) A key passage comes early (pp. 16-17): “Technology, which, linked to business interests, is presented as the only way of solving these problems, in fact proves incapable of seeing the mysterious network of relations between things and so sometimes solves one problem only to create others.” (My emphasis.) That there is such a mysterious network of relations is central to Franciscan spirituality, and this concept points to a wholly different understanding of “network” than our technocracy offers.

3) “The climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all.” It is therefore simply immoral to act in such a way as to generate changes in the climate that affect others — especially those who because of poverty cannot adjust or adapt. “Many of the poor live in areas particularly affected by phenomena related to warming, and their means of subsistence are largely dependent on natural reserves and ecosystemic services such as agriculture, fishing and forestry. They have no other financial activities or resources which can enable them to adapt to climate change or to face natural disasters, and their access to social services and protection is very limited” (p. 20).



9) A book frequently quoted in this encyclical is Romano Guardini’s The End of the Modern World. Pope Francis has long been interested in and influenced by Guardini, who was also a major influence on Benedict XVI. If I had my way, I’d spend the next couple of months preparing to teach a class in which this encyclical — a far richer work than I had expected it to be, and one that I hope will have lasting power — would be read alongside Guardini’s book, with both accompanied by repeated viewings of Mad Max: Fury Road. The class would be called “Who Killed the World?”"

[Additional notes by Alan Jacobs on Laudato Si':

“more thoughts on Laudato Si'”
http://text-patterns.thenewatlantis.com/2015/06/more-thoughts-on-laudato-si.html

“on sustainability”
http://text-patterns.thenewatlantis.com/2015/06/on-sustainability.html ]

[Direct link to Laudato Si'
http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20150524_enciclica-laudato-si.html ]
laudatosi'  popefrancis  2015  alanjacobs  environment  interdependence  capitalism  sustainability  climatechange  rossdouthat  ecology  christianity  catholicism  elizabethkolbert  lynnwhite  patriarchbartholemew  technology  technosolutionsim  anthropocentrism  snthropocene  biocentrism  disposability  throwawayculture  consumerism  nature  humanism  jacquesmaritain  romanoguardini  ethics  morality 
june 2015 by robertogreco
A Practice of Ethics — Medium
"A few months ago, I spent a Saturday afternoon chewing on all this with my friend Boris Anthony. Boris was taking a month in Japan to digest and reflect, coming off a few years of strategic design and experience architecture at HERE, Nokia’s mapping and navigation services division, where he worked several “powers of ten” beyond what most of us might identify as design: preparing the patterns and sewing the seams between systems of systems, each teeming with the digital breadcrumb trails of billions of human beings. This responsibility had made Boris acutely aware of the lack of ethical rigor in the practice of design. Never one to leave a good conversation to rest, AQ invited him to host a discussion of ethics in design for a special edition of our talk series Ride The Lightning on April 16th.

When Boris joined Nokia, he found himself enveloped by Finnish design philosophy and was struck by the strong sense of societal responsibility evident in the execution of everyday products. He understood that this approach had its roots deep in humanism and the socio-economic transitions Finland experienced in the wake of industrialization. There was an urgent need and desire to modernize society, to provide affordable, hygienic and delightful instruments of higher living standards. Designers were a central part of this project and strived to meet these ideals, whether they were working on houses, dinner plates or children’s clothing.

Boris is worried that the critical thought necessary for this level of follow-through is too often lost in the pursuit of such things as “seamlessness” and “scalability”, in the name of user experience.

Good ethical practice, inseparable from good design, begins with investigation, with questions. What follows are a few questions we should ask ourselves to clarify the stakes as we design, pulled from the conversation with Boris and our guests. These questions are not easy to answer: in fact, some of them could take a lifetime to unravel. But the more effort we put into understanding the answers, the better prepared we are to fulfill our commitment to ensure our impact on people’s lives is a positive one.

1. Who are the parties?



2. What is being exchanged?



3. Who else might this impact?



4. How is the exchange being communicated?



5. How might this change with scale?



"We often start a project with the best intentions, only for them to be gradually warped by decisions so incremental we barely notice how far we’ve strayed from the starting line. As Mike Monteiro put it, “bad design makes it into the world not through malicious intent, but through no intent at all.”

I believe most designers are motivated by a desire to make people’s lives better. But it’s not enough to remember this motivation only at critical junctures: when switching jobs, reading an effusive review of something we designed, or seeing our client on the morning news. Design is a daily practice, and if we are to transform this motivation into a commitment, we need to consider the motivations and ethical implications of even our smallest decisions."
ethics  design  economics  philosophy  chrispalmieri  borisanthony  mikemonteiro  morality  socialgood  scale  communication  intentions  motivation  intent 
june 2015 by robertogreco
Frans de Waal: The Bonobo and the Atheist | Chicago Humanities Festival
"Frans de Waal, recognized for his expertise on primate behavior and social intelligence, has produced some of his field’s most influential research. Having observed chimpanzees soothe distressed neighbors and bonobos share their food, he is convinced that the seeds of ethical behavior are found in primate societies. The translation to humans—their closest living relatives—is a natural step: are we by nature selfish and aggressive, or cooperative and peace-loving, and how have these traits evolved? Join him for a far-ranging exploration of the origins of morality."
fransdewaal  morality  religion  science  ethics  behavior  2015  via:anne  primates  animals  charlesdarwin  bonobos  conflictresolution  chimpanzees  darwin  reconciliation  cats  domesticcats  mammals  emotions  social  empathy  atheism  multispecies 
may 2015 by robertogreco
The Truth About Animal Stories - The New Yorker
"Writers aiming to tell us about human life have often done so under cover of telling us about animals. Animals are fun—they have feathers and fangs, they live in trees and holes—and they seem to us simpler than we are, so that, by using them, we can make our points cleaner and faster. With Madame Bovary, you pretty much have to say who her parents were. With SpongeBob, you don’t, and this keeps the story moving. Most important, the use of animals to stand in for human beings creates a fertile ambiguity. We know that the author is not proposing a one-for-one equivalence between human and nonhuman life, but some kinship is certainly being suggested. Think of Swift’s Houyhnhnms, trotting down the road, their withers shining in the sun, saying sober, passionless things to Gulliver. How beautiful they are, and how creepy. Animal narratives have allowed writers with lessons on their mind to make art rather than just lessons.

Such tales are no doubt as old as animal paintings on cave walls. The earliest evidence we have of them is the beast fable, a form that is said to have come down to us by way of Aesop, a Greek storyteller who was born a slave in the sixth century B.C. Actually, no solid evidence exists that there ever was an Aesop, any more than there was a Homer. As with the Iliad and the Odyssey, we are talking about manuscripts that date from a period much later than the supposed author’s, and were probably assembled from a number of different fragments. In any case, a beast fable is a very short story (the Penguin Classics edition of Aesop renders “The Tortoise and the Hare,” perhaps the most famous of the fables, in five sentences) in which, typically, a couple of animals with the gift of speech learn a lesson from their dealings with one another. This moral is then stated at the end of the fable, and it is usually of a cautionary variety: don’t eat too much, don’t brag, watch out for this or that. As early as the third century B.C., these stories were being gathered together in various editions, usually for children, to teach them Latin (most were in Latin until the late Middle Ages) and some basic rules about life.

Eventually, in continental Europe, a more complicated kind of animal story, the “beast epic,” grew up alongside the beast fable. Beast epics used some of the Aesopian material, but they were much longer and more novelistic. They dispensed with the great Noah’s ark of generic animals that we see in a collection of beast fables: a duck, a goat, a frog, an ass, etc. Even a good-sized beast epic features no more than perhaps a dozen types of animal, each represented by only one or a few individuals, with names and rudimentary personalities. In the typical epic, the star is a fox—Reynard, Renard, or whatever, depending on the language—with his unwavering wiliness. Dominated by that slippery character, the beast epic no longer makes it altogether clear what lesson we are learning, or whether we should be learning it.

The fox epic was imported into England by William Caxton, the man who set up the first English printing press. In 1481, Caxton brought out “The History of Reynard the Fox,” a translation—by him, into his late Middle English—of what was basically a thirteenth-century Dutch version. By 1700, this had been followed by twenty-two further editions. Given the prevailing literacy rates, such a sales record qualifies the book, in the words of the Harvard medievalist James Simpson, as a “runaway best-seller.” This, Simpson says, is because its cold satire “answered to the intensely competitive, materialist conditions” of the time. Perhaps in the belief that such conditions still hold, Simpson has produced his own translation of Caxton’s “Reynard the Fox,” and Liveright has just published it."



"One doesn’t have to be an animal, however, to join the ranks of the tricksters. Gods can be tricksters—Hermes, in one of his aspects; Loki, from Norse mythology—and so can mortal heroes, such as Odysseus. A fictional trickster can also be a more ordinary man, like Patricia Highsmith’s Mr. Ripley. Lewis Hyde, in his widely cherished book “Trickster Makes This World: Mischief, Myth, and Art” (1998), says that artists can be tricksters. He nominates Marcel Duchamp and John Cage. It seems that just about the only kind of creature that can’t be a trickster, at least of the classic type, is a female, a fact that somebody should write a dissertation on.

Why do we like tricksters? A comforting answer is that we enjoy watching the play of intelligence. Even nicer is the idea that we like to see intelligence triumph over power. Actually, brains and brawn are not mutually exclusive—Goliath may have been a smart man—but in trickster tales they are usually opposed. Three pages into “Reynard,” Tybert the Cat, hearing Courtoys the Dog accuse Reynard of stealing his sausage, says, Not so! That was my sausage—I stole it from the miller. From then on, almost no episode passes without someone practically walking into a wall.

James Simpson, in the introduction to his translation, says that this is a great part of the pleasure of the book: its revelation of the stupidity of our fellow-creatures. He adds that Reynard’s preying on them might nevertheless trouble us if it weren’t for the fact that they are also brutal and greedy. Reynard gives them their “comeuppance,” and thereby “becomes a hero, or antihero of sorts.” I think that, for the most part, this is not true. On the contrary, the most interesting thing about “Reynard” is its moral ugliness, or, at least, lack of hope, like something out of a Russian novel. Reynard indulges in ecstasies of cruelty. When he tells the King the big lie about the treasure and gets permission to go to Rome, he decides that he’s not finished. One last thing, he says: I can’t make the trip without shoes. How about Isengrim’s? And so the wolf’s shoes are “pulled off from the claws to the sinews. . . . He didn’t move a muscle, even though his feet bled.”"



"What was Caxton’s world? One where there had been armed conflict—the Hundred Years’ War, the Wars of the Roses—for a century and a half, where religious persecution was the rule (the first auto-da-fé of the Spanish Inquisition, in Seville, was carried out the year that “Reynard” was published), where the spikes of city gates were topped with rotting heads. Some commentators, such as Hieronymus Bosch, saw this world as a place of madness. To others, like Machiavelli, it was merely a scene of mortal danger, in which—he says it straight out—one must imitate the fox. Machiavelli’s tone is steady and pitiless. But other works of the period are as baffling as “Reynard.” Consider the Unicorn Tapestries (1495-1505), in which, in a forest carpeted with daisies and marigolds, with little rabbits and birds running around, men plunge their swords into the beautiful white animal, and blood runs down its side. As in “Reynard,” you can’t figure out what you’re being told.

Why is “Reynard” being republished now? Simpson says that his version is the first readily accessible English translation to appear in almost a hundred years. I am glad that he rescued it, but I’d also like to know why no one else bothered to. There are a lot of medievalists in our universities, and Caxton’s English, which is only about a hundred years older than Shakespeare’s, isn’t difficult. (“The wulf sayd I may wel forbere your mockes and your scornes and also your felle venymous words strong theef that ye ar.”) Maybe, because of the book’s puzzling nature, people didn’t like it much, and so they left it alone. And now, perhaps, it has ridden in on the coattails of the iconoclastic trend in the modern study of fairy tales, with Disney’s prettified versions being execrated by feminists and queer-studies writers. (By Marxists, too, notably Jack Zipes, a pioneer in this campaign. His new and proudly horrifying version of the Grimms’ tales was published last year by Princeton.)

Amid the newly exposed atrocities in our folk literature, Caxton’s back-and-forthing on the subject of Reynard’s morals does not appear so shocking. One should consider, too, whether we might not be living in a time that’s comparable, or at least relatable, to Caxton’s, in the sense of strong religious feeling being juxtaposed with terrible events. The Ebola virus, Crimea, Ukraine, Syria; the Pakistani Taliban invading a school, setting a teacher on fire in front of her students, and then gunning down the children, a hundred and thirty-two of them. And that’s just last year. Worse things happened in preceding centuries, but we didn’t know about them. A beheading could be shared with only a certain number of spectators. Today, it seems, many people believe that the world is coming to an end. One of the most widely used settings for novels, movies, and television programs is a post-apocalyptic world. Measured against that, “Reynard,” laughing at cruelty, doesn’t seem so strange."
joanacocella  trickster  reynard  williamcaxton  2015  morality  marcelduchmap  johncage  patriciahighsmith  lewishyde  loki  mythology  hermes  uncleremus 
may 2015 by robertogreco
Transcendental Rites - The Baffler
"JS: […] Many younger persons today who haven’t traveled far enough into the professional middle class to be saddled with its go-along/get-along mode of resignation are aroused with half-articulate and semi-organized fervor over the crimes of their government. They’re struggling to connect the up-close realities of police misconduct with the world-historical bullshit peddled by the secret intelligence agencies. What can the next generation learn about the moral imagination from the writers discussed in your book?

EM: I hope you’re right about younger persons, and, if so, they seem to me to be facing structural problems in world society that are almost as intractable as the ones that people faced in the Cold War. It’s not exactly easy to deal with a world where governments and corporations seem to share the idea that if something is technically possible (information gathering via spying or torture, for example), then they ought to go ahead and do it. Governments used to think that way about bombs, and now they think that way about “enhanced interrogation techniques” and data-gathering. Maybe the only thing I would feel comfortable saying about the relation between moral imagination and political reality is something like this: When you think mostly in terms of partisan politics—our side versus their side—then you inevitably start worrying about whether an action or attitude helps your side or the other side, and you lose sight of what your real goal is, which (I hope anyway) has something to do with a social world that might be fit for free and responsible persons to live in. But if you think about politics as a way of putting your moral intelligence into effect, then you make it harder for other people to obfuscate the issue in order to serve their own immoral purposes.

It seems to me that in recent years the people who have done the most to make some worthwhile change possible have been the truth-tellers, those who said things that did themselves no good—they’re going to be on the run from the authorities more or less forever—but that they couldn’t stop themselves from saying because of a moral, rather than a partisan, motive. There’s a pretty clear contrast between such truth-tellers and the Nobel Prize–winning president who campaigned on a platform of moral action and then decided it was safest to forget about it. Parables about this kind of thing run through the book, and some of them complicate the whole issue. Norman Mailer, for example, was always committed, in what seems to me a thoroughly admirable way, to the democratic left, very much like Dwight Macdonald, but Mailer got himself tangled up in the idea that his own personal mythology and vision mattered more than what happened to other people. Macdonald never made that mistake, but Macdonald paid a price for seeing things as clearly as he did: he spent many years in something like passivity and despair, which didn’t do him any good, and certainly didn’t do any good for the kind of society he wanted.

Auden once said something to a friend that I think may get to the heart of both the difficulty and hopefulness of all this. He said (I’m paraphrasing from memory), “Americans get very angry when you tell them there are no answers, but in a crisis, they look forward, unlike Europeans, who look backward.”"

[via: http://ayjay.tumblr.com/post/118020300148/it-seems-to-me-that-in-recent-years-the-people-who ]
johnsummers  edwardmendelson  2015  academia  citizenship  history  humanities  alfredkazin  normanmailer  lioneltrilling  dwightmacdonald  optimism  pessimism  us  europe  future  past  society  truth  morality  patisanships  barackobama  mythology  personalmythology  truthtelling 
may 2015 by robertogreco
Refugees don’t need our tears. They need us to stop making them refugees | Anders Lustgarten | Comment is free | The Guardian
"Migration illustrates one of the signal features of modern life, which is malice by proxy. Like drones and derivatives, migration policy allows the powerful to inflict horrors on the powerless without getting their hands dirty. James Brokenshire, the minister who defended cutting Mare Nostrum on the nauseatingly hypocritical grounds that it encouraged migration, never has to let the deaths his decision helped to cause spoil his expensive lunch with lobbyists. It doesn’t affect him.

But it does affect us. Right now we are a diminished and reduced society, bristling with suspicion and distrust of others even as we perversely struggle with loneliness and alienation. We breathe the toxic smog of hatred towards immigrants pumped out by Nigel Farage and Katie Hopkins, and it makes us lesser people.

Forget the fact that this society wouldn’t work without migrants, that nobody else will pick your vegetables and make your latte and get up at 4am to clean your office. Forget the massive tax contribution made by migrants to the Treasury. This is not about economics. Far too often, even the positive takes on migration are driven by numbers and finance, by “What can they do for us?”. This is about two things: compassion and responsibility.

Lampedusa, my play currently running at the Soho Theatre, focuses on two people at the sharp end of austerity Europe. Stefano is a coastguard whose job is to fish dead migrants out of the sea. Denise is a collector for a payday loan company. They’re not liberals. They don’t like the people they deal with. They can’t afford to. As Stefano says: “You try to keep them at arm’s length. There’s too many of them. And it makes you think, about the randomness of I get to walk these streets, and he doesn’t. The ground becomes ocean under your feet.”

But eventually, the human impact of what they do breaks through. And in their consequent struggles, both Stefano and Denise are aided by a friendship, reluctant and questioning, with someone they formerly thought of as a burden. This is compassion not as a lofty feeling for someone beneath you, but as the raw reciprocal necessity of human beings who have nothing but each other. This is where we are in the utterly corrupted, co-opted politics of the early 21st century. The powerful don’t give a shit. All we have is us.

But equally important is responsibility. In all the rage about migration, one thing is never discussed: what we do to cause it. A report published this week by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists reveals that the World Bank displaced a staggering 3.4 million people in the last five years. By funding privatisations, land grabs and dams, by backing companies and governments accused of rape, murder and torture, and by putting $50bn into projects graded highest risk for “irreversible and unprecedented” social impacts, the World Bank has massively contributed to the flow of impoverished people across the globe. The single biggest thing we could do to stop migration is to abolish the development mafia: the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, European Investment Bank and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

A very close second is to stop bombing the Middle East. The west destroyed the infrastructure of Libya without any clue as to what would replace it. What has is a vacuum state run by warlords that is now the centre of Mediterranean people-smuggling. We’re right behind the Sisi regime in Egypt that is eradicating the Arab spring, cracking down on Muslims and privatising infrastructure at a rate of knots, all of which pushes huge numbers of people on to the boats. Our past work in Somalia, Syria and Iraq means those nationalities are top of the migrant list.

Not all migration is caused by the west, of course. But let’s have a real conversation about the part that is. Let’s have a real conversation about our ageing demographic and the massive skills shortage here, what it means for overstretched public services if we let migrants in (we’d need to raise money to meet increased demand, and the clearest and fairest way is a rise in taxes on the rich), the ethics of taking the cream of the crop from poor countries. Migration is a complex subject. But let’s not be cowards and pretend the migrants will stop coming. Because they won’t. This will never stop."
migration  refugees  2015  malice  immigration  modernity  borders  compassion  responsibility  anderslustgarten  europe  eu  somalia  syria  africa  middleast  demographics  aging  ethics  morality  poverty  economics  iraq 
april 2015 by robertogreco
Spreadsheets of power: How economic modelling is used to circumvent democracy and shut down debate | The Monthly
[via: https://twitter.com/annegalloway/status/587013934143574016 ]

"Most people think it is hard to put a dollar value on a human life, but they’re wrong. It’s easy. Economists do it all the time.

Most people think that all human lives are equally valuable. And most think economic modelling is boring, irrelevant to their busy lives, and unrelated to how our democracy is functioning. They’re wrong about those, too.

About ten years ago, a lawyer rang to ask if I would do some (economic) modelling. “It depends,” I said. “What’s the job?”

“We want you to put a dollar value on the life of a dead mother,” said the lawyer. “We are suing a doctor for medical negligence, and the insurance company wants to value her life at zero because she wasn’t working. She had no future earning potential. Can you estimate the value of the housework she would have performed?”

I still feel sad when I think about it: for the family, for myself, and for a society in which asking such a question is not only acceptable but also necessary. The dilemma for the widower and the lawyer, and for me, was that if someone didn’t put a dollar value on the love and care that a mother gives her children, the father would wind up with even less money to care for the kids he would be bringing up by himself.

Of course, economists have no real way to value love and affection, so I valued ironing, laundry and child care instead. I got my hands on data about how mothers with three kids use their time. I found data on the price of buying individual household services like ironing, and the price of live-in maids and nannies. I forecast the age at which the kids would leave home. My forecast was based on a meaningless average of kids who do go to uni and kids who don’t. My spreadsheets were huge, complex, scrupulously referenced and entirely meaningless. Like all good forecasters I estimated the “value” of her life to the cent, and as happens in all good negotiations, the lawyers ultimately settled for a nice round number. The only good thing about the number was that it was bigger than zero.

The topsy-turvy “morality” of economics is built in to models that politicians, lawyers, economists and lobby groups use to persuade the public, in all parts of public life: models that say, for instance, that we can’t afford a price on carbon; that life-saving medicine for some people is “too expensive”; or that the loss of an entire species is justifiable if woodchip prices remain above $100 per tonne.

Everyone who uses economic models to excuse the inexcusable wants you to believe that the models are boring. The last thing they want you to do is to pay attention.

***

Many economists have calculated that it will be cheaper for the world to endure climate change than to prevent it. The models they use to draw this bizarre conclusion are built on thousands of assumptions about everything from the value of human life to the willingness of consumers to buy smaller cars if petrol becomes more expensive. If any one of those assumptions is wrong, the answer will be wrong. If hundreds of the assumptions are out, the answer becomes meaningless. (Some economists then argue that if hundreds of the assumptions are wrong then the errors might cancel each other out. Seriously.)

Imagine you were asked to model the costs of dangerous climate change. Imagine you were in possession of the likely number of people who will die as a result of storms, floods and droughts. Imagine you knew what countries they would die in, and how many years into the future. Would you value all of their lives equally? Would you assume that a Bangladeshi and an American life were “worth” the same? Would you think that the death of a child in 20 years’ time was worth as much as the death of a child in 50 years’ time?

In our democracy, these ethical questions are usually answered by economists, to two decimal places.

Most economic modellers do not assume that all human lives are equal. Bjorn Lomborg, for example, one of the world’s most famous climate sceptics, uses modelling that assumes the lives of people in developing countries are worth a lot less than the lives of Australians or Americans. While the US Declaration of Independence may declare that all men are created equal, most economic models assume that all men (and women) are worth a figure based on the GDP per capita of their country.

Late last year, Bjorn Lomborg asked to meet me, and I wondered whether talking to him would be good fun or a waste of time. It was neither: it was scary and illuminating. After 15 years as the smiling face of climate inactivists, Lomborg had raised his sights. His new mission was to ensure that governments also deliver inaction on global poverty alleviation, public health and gender inequality.

When we met, Lomborg proceeded to explain how his team of economists at the Copenhagen Consensus Center had decided that a number of the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals weren’t worth pursuing. His tool of choice for defending such a position? Economic modelling.



You probably didn’t know economists had an assumption about humanity’s primary goal, did you? No wonder developing countries think that the developed countries don’t really care about their suffering as much as our inconvenience. We don’t.

Assumptions such as those made by Summers sit at the heart of the economic models that are regularly used to oppose carbon taxes, support free trade agreements and prevent the introduction of environmental regulations or more generous welfare safety nets.

Much of the power of economists is based on the public’s (understandable) lack of desire to read reports written in algebra. That’s why we like to use algebra.



In 2011, Denmark’s general election saw its centre-right government tossed out of power, to be replaced by a minority centre-left coalition led by the country’s first female prime minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt.

Bjorn Lomborg’s Copenhagen Consensus Center was one of the first casualties of the change of government. When it was announced that its more than $1 million in funding would be cut, Lomborg visited the new prime minister, urging her to reconsider the government’s decision. “I’d love to show you how the Copenhagen Consensus is a good idea,” he was reported as telling her.

“I think that probably might be right, Bjorn,” she reportedly responded to the sceptical environmentalist. “But I will just get so much more mileage out of criticising you.”

Costs and benefits can be calculated any number of ways, and the modeller’s assumptions are crucial to the end result. Lomborg had confidently assumed that the Danish taxpayer would continue to fund his work. His cost–benefit analyses had found that more effort should be put into free trade and less money spent on tackling poverty and climate change. But, as with all such efforts, garbage in, garbage out.

There is a role for economists, and economic modelling, in public debate. Its role should not be to limit the menu of democratic choices. Instead it should be to help explain the trade-offs.

Good modellers aren’t afraid of explaining their assumptions. The clients who pay best, however, don’t want the best modellers. They want people who can write a fat report to slam on the fucking table."
economics  power  democracy  control  2015  economists  ideology  modeling  morality  politics  policy  lobbyists  persuasion  climatechange  justification  capitalism  larrysummers  worldbank  welfare  humanism  humanity  ethics  neoliberalism  richarddenniss  bjornlomborg  copenhagenconsensuscenter  riotinton  consensus  petercostello  joehockey  australia  inequality  poverty  representation  environment  pollution 
april 2015 by robertogreco
The double-standard of making the poor prove they’re worthy of government benefits - The Washington Post
"Sometimes these laws are cast as protection for the poor, ensuring that aid is steered in ways that will help them the most. Other times they're framed as protection for the taxpayer, who shouldn't be asked to help people who will squander the money on vices anyway.

But the logic behind the proposals is problematic in at least three, really big ways.

The first is economic: There's virtually no evidence that the poor actually spend their money this way. The idea that they do defies Maslow's hierarchy — the notion that we all need shelter and food before we go in search of foot massages. In fact, the poor are much more savvy about how they spend their money because they have less of it (quick quiz: do you know exactly how much you last spent on a gallon of milk? or a bag of diapers?). By definition, a much higher share of their income — often more than half of it — is eaten up by basic housing costs than is true for the better-off, leaving them less money for luxuries anyway. And contrary to the logic of drug-testing laws, the poor are no more likely to use drugs than the population at large.

The second issue with these laws is a moral one: We rarely make similar demands of other recipients of government aid. We don't drug-test farmers who receive agriculture subsidies (lest they think about plowing while high!). We don't require Pell Grant recipients to prove that they're pursuing a degree that will get them a real job one day (sorry, no poetry!). We don't require wealthy families who cash in on the home mortgage interest deduction to prove that they don't use their homes as brothels (because surely someone out there does this). The strings that we attach to government aid are attached uniquely for the poor.

That leads us to the third problem, which is a political one. Many, many Americans who do receive these other kinds of government benefits — farm subsidies, student loans, mortgage tax breaks — don't recognize that, like the poor, they get something from government, too. That's because government gives money directly to poor people, but it gives benefits to the rest of us in ways that allow us to tell ourselves that we get nothing from government at all.

Political scientist Suzanne Mettler has called this effect the "submerged state." Food stamps and welfare checks are incredibly visible government benefits. The mortgage interest deduction, Medicare benefits and tuition tax breaks are not — they're submerged. They come to us in round-about ways, through smaller tax bills (or larger refunds), through payments we don't have to make to doctors (thanks to Medicare), or in tuition we don't have to pay to universities (because the G.I. Bill does that for us).

Mettler's research has shown that a remarkable number of people who don't think they get anything from government in fact benefit from one of these programs. This explains why we get election-season soundbites from confused voters who want policymakers to "keep your government hands off my Medicare!" This is also what enables politicians to gin up indignation among small-government supporters who don't realize they rely on government themselves.

Mettler raises a lot of concerns about what the submerged state means for how we understand the role of government. But one result of this reality is that we have even less tolerance for programs that help the poor: We begrudge them their housing vouchers, for instance, even though government spends about four times as much subsidizing housing for upper-income homeowners.

That's a long-winded way of saying that these proposed laws — which insist that government beneficiaries prove themselves worthy, that they spend government money how the government wants them to, that they waive their privacy and personal freedom to get it — are also simply a reflection of a basic double-standard."
us  poverty  government  benefits  2015  politics  discrimination  patronization  legibility  illegibility  indignity  emilybadger  privacy  freedom  control  suzannemettler  law  legal  morality  inequality 
april 2015 by robertogreco
You’re Not Any Cooler than Jesus or Muhammad | On Being
"“What are you going to do when you grow up?” A torment we pose to children.

“What are you going to do after graduation?” The torment we impose on the most vulnerable of young adults. This insufferable question is one that is posed to my students, and most young people in this country over, and over, and over again.

20- and 21-year olds are confronted with it constantly. “What are you going to do with that major?” “Yeah, but how is that going to help you in the real world?”

I am amused by it, because it assumes that they (and we) are in fact going to grow up. I see a lot of people who have never grown up around me. It is not that they are child-like. They are just… un-grown-up.

Education used to be different. Before education was about acquiring a set of skills, before it was preparation for a job, it was a meditation on the meaning of life and death.

Before education was about being pre-medicine, pre-law, pre-business, it was about becoming human. Education was about becoming. It was a meditation on death, on mortality, and on life. More than that, it was a meditation on living. Living well. Living beautifully.

Education was a meditation on what it means to be human, on knowledge of the self, and our connection to the human community and the natural cosmos.

Now, we expect 21-year olds to figure out their place in this world when most of us supposed adults have no clue where we fit in. We expect them to bring their educational journey to a zenith. We expect them to be applying for jobs, graduate and professional schools, and internships. Many of them are dealing with figuring out the most important romantic relationships they have had in their lives. And we expect them to sort out all of these important decisions at the same time.

How many of us supposed grownups have sorted these things out? And how many of us have negotiated these decisions gracefully and simultaneously? How many of us know who and what we are? Who among us knows the worth of our own soul?

So what do we have to say to the 21-year-old college students, and to the still-not-grown up? Here are a few words of compassion: Relax, my dear. Breathe deeply. You are loved.

The career is what you do in life. But the key question is who you are as a human being.

It doesn’t matter to me who you work for in your life. I wanna know what gives meaning to your living. It doesn’t matter to me where you live. I wanna know what you are living for. It doesn’t matter to me what school you went to. I wanna know what values you are living by, how you are serving the ones who have loved you, and how you are treating the most vulnerable people in your community.

I want you to be generous with yourselves.

I remind my students that Jesus didn’t become Christ till he was 30. And then I tell them: “You ain’t any cooler than Jesus.”

I show them that Siddhārtha Gautama was 35 when he became awakened as The Buddha. And I tell them: “You ain’t any more enlightened then the Buddha.”

I tell them that Muhammad didn’t become the Prophet till he was 40. And I tell them: “You ain’t any more luminous than Muhammad.”

If it took these luminous souls till 30, 35, 40 to sort out what they were going to do with their lives, what makes you think you’re gonna figure it all out by 21? Or 25? For that matter, if you’re in your 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, and you still feel like you’ve got some ripening to do, be patient and kind with your own self.

Be patient.
Be generous.
Take it slow…

It’s not about getting “there.”
It’s about the path you are on
And the company you have on the path.

You have immense power and beauty
There is a light within you
That shines bright.

The only way for you to abandon that power
Is to think you have none.

The only way you can hide your light under a bushel
Is to occupy yourself with decisions that are the task of a lifetime.

Breathe,
My friends,
Be kind to one another
And to your own selves
Hold each others’ hands
And let’s walk together
Never alone
No, never alone.

There is a light within you."
omidsafi  2015  education  religion  purpose  onbeing  life  meaningoflife  morality  death  living  well-being 
april 2015 by robertogreco
Morality and the Idea of Progress in Silicon Valley | Berkeley Journal of Sociology
"Silicon Valley’s amorality problem arises from the blind faith many place in progress. The narrative of progress provides moral cover to the tech industry and lulls people into thinking they no longer need to exercise moral judgment."



"The progress narrative has a strong hold on Silicon Valley for business and cultural reasons. The idea that technology will bring about a better world for everyone can be traced back to the Enlightenment aspiration to “master all things by calculation” in the words of Max Weber.[3] The successes of science and technology give rise to a faith among some that rationality itself tends to be a force for good.[4] This faith makes business easier because companies can claim to be contributing to progress while skirting the moral views of the various groups affected by their products and services. Most investors would rather not see their firms get mired in the fraught issue of defining what is morally better according to various groups; they prefer objective benefits, measured via return on investment (ROI) or other metrics. Yet, the fact that business goals and cultural sentiments go hand in hand so well ought to give us pause.

The idea of progress is popular because it ends up negating itself, and as a result, makes almost no demands upon us. In Silicon Valley, progress gets us thinking about objectively better, which suggests that we come up with some rational way to define better (e.g., ROI). But the only way to say that something is better in the sense we associate with progress is to first ask whether it is moral. Morality is inherently subjective and a-rational. Suggesting that a technology represents progress in any meaningful, moral sense would require understanding the values of the people affected by the technology. Few businesses and investors would be willing to claim they contributed to progress if held to account by this standard. If people are concerned with assessing whether specific technologies are helpful or harmful in a moral sense, they should abandon the progress narrative. Progress, as we think of it, invites us to cannibalize our initial moral aspirations with rationality, thus leaving us out of touch with moral intuitions. It leads us to rely on efficiency as a proxy for morality and makes moral discourse seem superfluous."



"We would like progress to be defined in moral terms. Yet, because not everyone shares the same morals, businesses and governments try to redefine progress in objective terms. Because we fear charges of subjectivity, we look to rational means and rational measures for pursuing objective goals. Besides, moral goals would, in many cases, make it impossible to serve everyone (to “scale,” in the local parlance). As a result, we take a technocrat’s approach to progress: we try to define it in objective terms and pursue it through rational means.[9] Yet, the only criteria we have for better (i.e., progress) are informed by subjective, moral intuitions. How we might define and measure better, even in an economic sense (e.g., cost-of-living adjusted income or reduced income disparity), is informed by moral intuitions. If we deny the importance of these moral intuitions, we cannot say much, if anything, about whether something is good or bad.[10] In our culture, progress is self-negating because we define and pursue progress solely in objective, rational terms, thus ignoring our inherently subjective moral intuitions and allowing them to atrophy. It is a classic story of the means overtaking the ends."



"There are alternatives to the progress narrative for making work in technology meaningful. Many people find meaning in their work through a narrative about making a contribution. Rather than thinking about contribution in a historic sense (i.e., progress), contribution can be thought in terms of specific groups of people.[13] People in many fields—teachers, cooks, doctors, among others—find meaning in their work through making a contribution to specific people. In tech, some might define the affected group more broadly, for example, programmers who rely on a software development tool, the users of a word processor, or the people who enjoy a particular game. The point is that knowing who will be affected by our work keeps us honest in terms of what we think is a contribution.

There is a second benefit to thinking of contribution in terms of specific people or groups rather than human progress generally. Knowing a group through individuals rather than via market segments prevents professionals from inadvertently imposing one set of values on groups with disparate values. In other words, thinking about contributions in terms of specific groups encourages understanding the people within those groups.[14] Many of the complaints about Silicon Valley’s service and social media tools focus on the fact that they reflect the concerns and interests of privileged young urbanites. Tools developed with the idea of contributing to specific groups would do less to encourage convergence of views about what constitutes the “good life.”[15]

None of this is to say that there are no do-gooders in tech. There are people who have a clear idea of how the technologies they are developing will serve specific groups – whether pursuing social justice in the United States or for providing better medical care in poorer nations. The morality of these causes does not stem from their association with progress – it flows from the desire to bring about real benefits that real people affected would say are good. Although it would be ideal if everyone could pursue such causes, that day is a long way off.

That does not leave everyone else off the hook. Everyone can, at a minimum, ask whether they are doing more harm than good. The trouble in Silicon Valley is that many talented, highly educated young people seem relatively unconcerned with the potential for harm. To be more aware of not harming people, much less helping them, we need to cultivate moral intuitions by discussing the consequences of our work for specific people.[16] The search for solidarity with specific people, not some objectively better moment in human history, keeps us exercising our moral intuitions."
siliconvalley  morality  business  progress  ericagiannella  technology  technosolutionism  mexweber  capitalism  economics  rationality 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Surveillance and Care | Snakes and Ladders
"Another day, another story about the legal trouble you can expect if you’re a free-range parent. This matters, a lot, and what’s at stake needs to be made clear.

1) The parents here are accused by the state of “child neglect,” but what they are doing is the opposite of neglect — it is thoughtful, intentional training of their children for responsible adulthood. They instructed their children with care; the children practiced responsible freedom before being fully entrusted with it. And then the state intervened before the children could discover the satisfaction of exercising their freedom well.

2) What’s happening here is fundamentally simple: the surveillance state enforcing surveillance as the normative form of care. The state cannot teach its citizens, because it has no idea what to teach; it can only place them under observation. Perfect observation — panopticism — then becomes its telos, which is justifies and universalizes by imposing a responsibility to surveil on the very citizens already being surveilled. The state’s commandment to parents: Do as I do.

3) By enforcing surveillance as the normative form of care, the state effectively erases the significance of all other forms of care. Parents might teach their children nothing of value, no moral standards, no self-discipline, no compassion for others — but as long as those children are incessantly observed, then according to the state’s standards the parents of those children are good parents. And they are good because they are training their children to accept a lifetime of passive acceptance of surveillance. The Marxist theorist Louis Althusser used to speak of the ways that culture can be transformed into an “ideological state apparatus” — that’s what our society wants to do to parenthood."
panopticon  surveillance  parenting  freerangeparenting  government  alanjacobs  2015  cps  freedom  control  parenthood  children  ethics  morality  culture  ideology  louisalthusser  observation  care  caring  althusser 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Forget Shorter Showers: Why Personal Change Does Not Equal Political Change
"Would any sane PERSON think dumpster diving would have stopped Hitler, or that composting would have ended slavery or brought about the eight-hour workday, or that chopping wood and carrying water would have gotten people out of Tsarist prisons, or that dancing naked around a fire would have helped put in place the Voting Rights Act of 1957 or the Civil Rights Act of 1964? Then why now, with all the world at stake, do so many people retreat into these entirely personal “solutions”?

Part of the problem is that we’ve been victims of a campaign of systematic misdirection. Consumer culture and the capitalist mindset have taught us to substitute acts of personal consumption (or enlightenment) for organized political resistance. An Inconvenient Truth helped raise consciousness about global warming. But did you notice that all of the solutions presented had to do with personal consumption — changing light bulbs, inflating tires, driving half as much — and had nothing to do with shifting power away from corporations, or stopping the growth economy that is destroying the planet? Even if every person in the United States did everything the movie suggested, U.S. carbon emissions would fall by only 22 percent. Scientific consensus is that emissions must be reduced by at least 75 percent worldwide.

Or let’s talk water. We so often hear that the world is running out of water. People are dying from lack of water. Rivers are dewatered from lack of water. Because of this we need to take shorter showers. See the disconnect?Because I take showers, I’m responsible for drawing down aquifers? Well, no. More than 90 percent of the water used by humans is used by agriculture and industry. The remaining 10 percent is split between municipalities and actual living breathing individual humans. Collectively, municipal golf courses use as much water as municipal human beings. People (both human people and fish people) aren’t dying because the world is running out of water. They’re dying because the water is being stolen.

Or let’s talk energy. Kirkpatrick Sale summarized it well: “For the past 15 years the story has been the same every year: individual consumption — residential, by private car, and so on — is never more than about a quarter of all consumption; the vast majority is commercial, industrial, corporate, by agribusiness and government [he forgot military]. So, even if we all took up cycling and wood stoves it would have a negligible impact on energy use, global warming and atmospheric pollution.”

Or let’s talk waste. In 2005, per-capita municipal waste production (basically everything that’s put out at the curb) in the U.S. was about 1,660 pounds. Let’s say you’re a die-hard simple-living activist, and you reduce this to zero. You recycle everything. You bring cloth bags shopping. You fix your toaster. Your toes poke out of old tennis shoes. You’re not done yet, though. Since municipal waste includes not just residential waste, but also waste from government offices and businesses, you march to those offices, waste reduction pamphlets in hand, and convince them to cut down on their waste enough to eliminate your share of it. Uh, I’ve got some bad news. Municipal waste accounts for only 3 percent of total waste production in the United States.

I want to be clear. I’m not saying we shouldn’t live simply. I live reasonably simply myself, but I don’t pretend that not buying much (or not driving much, or not having kids) is a powerful political act, or that it’s deeply revolutionary. It’s not. Personal change doesn’t equal social change.

So how, then, and especially with all the world at stake, have we come to accept these utterly insufficient responses? I think part of it is that we’re in a double bind. A double bind is where you’re given multiple options, but no matter what option you choose, you lose, and withdrawal is not an option. At this point, it should be pretty easy to recognize that every action involving the industrial economy is destructive (and we shouldn’t pretend that solar photovoltaics, for example, exempt us from this: they still require mining and transportation infrastructures at every point in the production processes; the same can be said for every other so-called green technology). So if we choose option one — if we avidly participate in the industrial economy — we may in the short term think we win because we may accumulate wealth, the marker of “success” in this culture. But we lose, because in doing so we give up our empathy, our animal humanity. And we really lose because industrial civilization is killing the planet, which means everyone loses. If we choose the “alternative” option of living more simply, thus causing less harm, but still not stopping the industrial economy from killing the planet, we may in the short term think we win because we get to feel pure, and we didn’t even have to give up all of our empathy (just enough to justify not stopping the horrors), but once again we really lose because industrial civilization is still killing the planet, which means everyone still loses. The third option, acting decisively to stop the industrial economy, is very scary for a number of reasons, including but not restricted to the fact that we’d lose some of the luxuries to which we’ve grown accustomed, and the fact that those in power might try to kill us if we seriously impede their ability to exploit the world — none of which alters the fact that it’s a better option than a dead planet. Any option is a better option than a dead planet.

Besides being ineffective at causing the sorts of changes necessary to stop this culture from killing the planet, there are at least four other problems with perceiving simple living as a political act (as opposed to living simply because that’s what you want to do). The first is that it’s predicated on the flawed notion that humans inevitably harm their landbase. Simple living as a political act consists solely of harm reduction, ignoring the fact that humans can help the Earth as well as harm it. We can rehabilitate streams, we can get rid of noxious invasives, we can remove dams, we can disrupt a political system tilted toward the rich as well as an extractive economic system, we can destroy the industrial economy that is destroying the real, physical world.

The second problem — and this is another big one — is that it incorrectly assigns blame to the individual (and most especially to individuals who are particularly powerless) instead of to those who actually wield power in this system and to the system itself. Kirkpatrick Sale again: “The whole individualist what-you-can-do-to-save-the-earth guilt trip is a myth. We, as individuals, are not creating the crises, and we can’t solve them.”

The third problem is that it accepts capitalism’s redefinition of us from citizens to consumers. By accepting this redefinition, we reduce our potential forms of resistance to consuming and not consuming. Citizens have a much wider range of available resistance tactics, including voting, not voting, running for office, pamphleting, boycotting, organizing, lobbying, protesting, and, when a government becomes destructive of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, we have the right to alter or abolish it.

The fourth problem is that the endpoint of the logic behind simple living as a political act is suicide. If every act within an industrial economy is destructive, and if we want to stop this destruction, and if we are unwilling (or unable) to question (much less destroy) the intellectual, moral, economic, and physical infrastructures that cause every act within an industrial economy to be destructive, then we can easily come to believe that we will cause the least destruction possible if we are dead.

The good news is that there are other options. We can follow the examples of brave activists who lived through the difficult times I mentioned — Nazi Germany, Tsarist Russia, antebellum United States — who did far more than manifest a form of moral purity; they actively opposed the injustices that surrounded them. We can follow the example of those who remembered that the role of an activist is not to navigate systems of oppressive power with as much integrity as possible, but rather to confront and take down those systems."
via:caseygollan  2015  change  politicalchange  personalchange  environment  sustainability  environmentalism  derrickjensen  capitalism  consumerism  globalwarming  climatechange  reistance  inconvenienttruth  water  energy  consumption  kirckpatricksale  waste  simplicity  politics  doublebinds  success  wealth  culture  industrialism  activism  purity  morality  injustice  oppression  power  integrity  systemsthinking  systems  misdirection  2009  policy  organization  civilization  individualism  collectivism 
february 2015 by robertogreco
Moral Aspects of Basic Income
"The fall of Adam and Eve is a metaphor for the demise of our hunter-gatherer lifestyle. Eden is the recollection of an oppressed peasantry of the more humane world of their happier ancestors. Before we bit the apple, we lived off the fat of the land. Hunter-gatherers lived longer, ate better, and worked less than their agriculturalist descendants. Average adult height, an excellent proxy for childhood nutrition did not return to levels seen in the Palaeolithic until a mere 150 years ago.

Archaeologists tell us the invention of farming may well have been the greatest calamity to befall our species. Kings and slaves, property and war all were by-products of agriculture. Even today, even when forced onto marginal lands, hunter-gather tribes often prefer to retain their old ways rather than till the soil. “Why work hard when god made so many mongongo nuts?” ask the !Kung of southern Africa.

The lifestyle of hunter gathers is much more easygoing than that of serfs and peasants. Subsistence agriculturalists worked from sunup to sundown. Hunter-gatherers “worked” a few hours a day. That was enough to feed and clothe and house their families. The rest of the time they could socialize, play games, tell stories. And “work” back then was hunting antelope with your mates or strolling through the savannah looking for nuts and berries. Farmers overwhelmed hunter-gatherers, not because their lives were more pleasant but because farming makes land so much more productive.

Of course, we cannot go back to those happier days. Farming can feed up to 100 times as many people from the same plot of land and soon farmers outnumbered hunter-gatherers. An expanding population locked humanity into a constant and arduous grind. Until now."



"A number of us here at Pieria have argued that a basic income guarantee (also called a negative income tax) will not only reignite the economy and overcome secular stagnation, it will be the salvation of capitalism. Yes, it provides a safety net for the most unfortunate and yes, it reduces inequality, but most important, by creating steady and dependable demand, it cures capitalism’s only weakness, over-production. By putting money in consumers’ pockets, a basic income guarantees consistent demand and so gives the private sector confidence to hire and invest.

The economics of this proposal strike me as clear and convincing. I want to focus now on its ethical implications. On the one hand, helping the poorest citizens seems the Christian (or Muslim or Jewish or   Buddhist or humane) thing to do. In a wealthy society, it is unnecessarily cruel   that anyone among us should lack shelter, warmth and food. A negative income tax takes care of our most vulnerable without creating another government bureaucracy."



"If a conservative is someone who cherishes the time-honoured ways, is a bit odd that conservatives should exalt free markets. After all, capitalism is the most revolutionary force the world has ever known. Whenever it meets a traditional society, it turns it upside down. The rise of fundamentalism, in the Islamic world, in America, in India, is a global phenomenon and so requires a global explanation. The simplest is that capitalism, by shattering age-old relationships leaves many of us lost and alienated without the ancient verities that gave logic to our lives. “All that is solid melts into air. All freed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify.”

Capitalism has been magnificent in producing wealth and increasing productivity. Unfortunately, It happily serves our baser instincts. GDP goes up whether we spend on guns and Internet porn or education and opera tickets. When money is the measure of the man, when consumption is our only goal our culture becomes shallower, and perhaps so do our relationships. And it is getting worse.

Thrift was the original capitalist virtue. According to Max Weber, upright burghers would limit consumption in order to purchase productive machinery or finance transoceanic voyages. By avoiding sumptuous consumption, our frugal protocapitalist could invest his capital and so increase society’s productive capacity. That was admirable. That was then.

Today, thrift is passé. These days, we serve capitalism by buying stuff, even stuff we don’t need. Thrift no longer has much economic purpose. We have a savings glut, we have a labour glut, what we don’t have is a consumption glut. The world economy doesn’t require prudent savers, it needs us to max out our credit cards just to keep unemployment below 7%. No wonder our children are obsessed with buying the coolest football boots or the dress they saw in Vogue. It is as consumers that we best serve global capitalism. Sadly this addiction to consumption may offer a bump to GDP but it does not create happiness.

What makes us happy, as Adam Smith recognized in The Theory of Moral Sentiments (the book he thought his masterpiece) is the regard of others. What brings me joy is not a new toy but the look on my wife’s face that tells me she loves me. What makes me happy at work is not the corner office but what that symbolizes: the sense that my boss admires and respects my talent and effort. A man buys an expensive watch because he thinks it will impress his mates but sadly, no one even notices. When a middle aged man pulls up in a candy red Ferrari, he rarely makes the impression he had hoped when he put down his credit card.

What we admire in others are not their possessions but rather the same virtues we admired back in the Palaeolithic: kindness, loyalty, bravery, generosity, beauty, strength and a sense of humour. Check out the personals ads: a sense of humour trumps an expensive watch every time. Today most of us work long hours, seeing our children less than we would like while others are utterly idle, unable to find work at all. We act as though we live in a world of scarcity when actually will live in a world our ancestors would have thought abundant beyond their wildest dreams. In terms of material comfort, you and I and even the guy in the hoodie down at the council estate live better than Charlemagne or Cleopatra.

Hunter-gatherers shared. Farmers and factory workers, for the most part, did not. In many tribes, a successful hunter would give away 90% of the meat from his kill. He certainly gained respect (and perhaps female companionship) for his prowess but the families of mediocre hunters also got to eat. Anthropologists suggest this propensity for generosity served everyone’s interests. Since no one family can eat an entire buffalo and even the best hunter sometimes goes a while without a kill, sharing the proceeds of a hunt is not just generous, it is an economically sensible insurance policy. So is a basic income guarantee.

We can afford a basic income guarantee. We can give every citizen enough money to survive. It will stimulate an economy starved of demand. It will make our society more equitable. It will feed the hungry and house the homeless. It respects the individual. It provides a constant level of demand that firms can depend on and so stimulate the animal spirits of businessmen. It will strengthen workers bargaining position because they will be able to tell their employers to “take this job and shove it.” It will also reduce labour costs since firms won’t be required to provide a living wage. It will give us more free time to dance and play and love our children. I would also suggest, it might just end up making us better human beings. "
economics  politics  universalbasicincome  christianity  ethics  morality  2013  maragretthatcher  larrysummers  labor  work  history  capitalism  freemarkets  markets  tomstreithorst  adamsmith  thrift  kindness  loyalty  bravery  generosity  johngrey  neoliberalism  malthus  karlmarx  capital  hunter-gatherers  ubi 
february 2015 by robertogreco
Ursula K. Le Guin, Keynote 5/8/14 on Vimeo
[Starting at 7:00]

“My little talk is called “Deep in Admiration.” This conference is going to be thinking about how to think outside the mindset that sees the techno fix as the answer to all problems. Just this week, I heard a poet say that the essence of modern high technology is to consider the world as disposable: use it and throw it away. Well, we know that we don't need more infantile new technologies that demand throwing away all the old ones every Tuesday. We need adult rational technologies, old and new: pottery making, bricklaying, sewing, carpentry, solar power, sustainable farming. But after our long orgy of being lords of creation and texting as we drive, it's hard to stop looking for the next technofix. We have got to change our minds. To use the world well, we need to relearn our being in it, renew our awareness of belonging to the world. How do we go about it? That awareness seems always to have involved knowing our kinship as animals with animals. Darwin gave that knowledge a scientific basis and now both poets and scientists are extending our awareness of our relationship to creatures without nervous systems and to non-living beings, our fellowship as things with other things. Relationship among all things seems to be complex and reciprocal. It's always at least two way, back-and-forth. It seems as if nothing is single in this universe and nothing goes one way. In this view, humans appear as particularly lively, intense, aware nodes of relation in an infinite network of connections, simple or complicated, direct or hidden, strong or delicate, temporary or very long lasting, a web of connections infinite, but locally fragile, with and among everything, all beings, including what we generally class as things, objects.

Decartes and the behaviorists willfully saw dogs as machines without feeling. Is seeing plants without feeling a similar arrogance? We don't know. But one way to stop seeing trees or rivers or hills only as natural resources is to class them as fellow beings, kinfolk. I guess what I'm trying to do is subjectify the universe because look where objectifying it has got us. To subjectify is not to co-opt and colonize and exploit. Rather, if it's done honestly, it involves a great reach outward of the mind and the imagination. What tools do we have to help us make such a reach? Mary Jacobus, in a book called Romantic Things, wrote, “The regulated speech of poetry may be as close as we can get to such things, to the stilled voice of the inanimate object or the insentient standing of trees.” Poetry is the human language that can try to say what a tree or a rock or a river is, that is to speak humanly for it in both senses of the word for. A poem can do so by relating the quality of an individual relationship to a thing, a rock, a river, a tree, the relationship to or simply by describing the thing as truthfully as possible. Science describes accurately from outside and poetry describes accurately from inside, you could say. Science explicates, poetry implicates. Both celebrate what they describe. We need the language of both science and poetry to save us from ignorant irresponsibility.”

[via: https://twitter.com/steelemaley/status/560283083430445057
"“To use the world well we need to relearn our being in it” -Le Guin http://vimeo.com/97364872 "]

[See also: “ARTS OF LIVING ON A DAMAGED PLANET”
http://anthropocene.au.dk/arts-of-living-on-a-damaged-planet/
https://vimeo.com/artsofliving

“Ursula K. Le Guin: Panel Discussion with Donna Haraway and James Clifford, 5/8/14”
https://vimeo.com/98270808

“Donna Haraway, "Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Chthulucene: Staying with the Trouble", 5/9/14”
https://vimeo.com/97663518

“Inhabiting Multispecies Bodies: Panel Discussion with Donna Haraway, Margaret McFall-Ngai, and Jenny Reardon, 5/9/14”
https://vimeo.com/97663316

“On Damaged Landscapes: Panel Discussion with Kate Brown, Deborah Bird Rose, Eric Porter and William Cronon, 5/9/14”
https://vimeo.com/97852132

“Jens-Christian Svenning, "Future Megafaunas: A Historical Perspective on the Scope for a Wilder Anthropocene," 5/9/14”
https://vimeo.com/98751434 ]
ursulaleguin  plants  animals  art  2014  technosolutionism  via:steelemaley  things  objects  interconnectedness  interdependence  networks  systemsthinking  technology  jens-christiansvenning  donnaharaway  anthropocene  margaretmcfall-ngai  jennyreardon  katebrown  deborabirdrose  ericporter  williamcronon  jamesclifford  multispecies  objectification  subjectification  fellowahip  kinship  poetry  science  religion  morality  compassion  henryvaughn  maryjacobus  nature  humans  humanism  responsibility  environment  universe  interconnected  interconnectivity 
january 2015 by robertogreco
The unhealthy underside of the wellbeing agenda
"Is it a mere coincidence that this trend booms at a time when the inescapable issue of the conference agenda is the staggering inequality in the world? In the 1970s Christopher Lasch claimed that in the wake of the political turmoil of the 1960s (the Vietnam War, the Watergate scandal), many people had lost faith in politics, instead focusing on individual projects, such as “eating health food, taking lessons in ballet or belly-dancing” or “immersing themselves in the wisdom of the East, and jogging”.

When people no longer believe in political transformation, an appealing alternative is individual transformation. When the world cannot be changed for the better, we put all our energies into improving ourselves.

Davos pre-recession

When the sociologist Richard Sennett visited the annual meeting in Davos in 1998, health and wellness were not on the agenda. After spending some time in conference rooms, champagne receptions and ski slopes, Sennett began to realise that the defining feature of the Davos men was their flexible nature. With this attitude, they would not look at tumultuous changes in life circumstances as a threat, but as an opportunity to be relished.

The “Davos man”, as Sennet calls him (no mention of a her), is someone who constantly reshapes their profile and rebrands their persona. They would not define themselves exclusively by what they do because they always work on more than one project. They could be discussing government policies and developing a new technology, while in the next moment, marketing catastrophe bonds, contemplating a pop music career and skiing high above the mountain resort.

This ability to live many lives at once and be uncertain about anything seemed to be underpinned by a capacity to let go of your past. If you were a state bureaucrat in the past, that didn’t matter. That was the past. What mattered was the latest technology or the newest innovation in the financial markets.

This flexible nature also made it easy to forget about the basic existential questions of the majority of people on earth. But the Davos man is not completely unaware of the bitter feelings this nurtures of the great mass of humanity living below the snow-line. According to Sennett, whenever the Davos man begins discussing the people who are “left behind”, they become distinctly uncomfortable and start fidgeting. Clearly they recognised the existence of the 99% who are not so comfortable with building their lives on the shifting quicksand of entrepreneurial capitalism.

Much has changed since Sennett ventured into the mountains in 1998. We have been through numerous financial meltdowns, an extended campaign of war in the middle east, a series of global uprisings against untrammeled globalisation, the overthrow of many dictators and much more.

A changing world

Just as the world has changed, so too has Davos. The elite who descend on the Magic Mountain no longer display an indifferent attitude, but radiate with compassion and purpose. At the meeting, social responsibility is at the top of the agenda. Shying away from the people who are “left behind” has also faded. Instead of nervous fidgeting, participants at the WEF put global inequality top of the agenda.
Yet how much of this talk is sincere and how much is it part of the participants convincing themselves that they are on the right side of history? Like Sennett’s Davos man, the new wellness men are concerned about their moral appearance. If being a flexible high-achiever was the aspiration then, now it is to be compassionate, healthy and spiritual.

Contemporary politics is getting taken over by the wellbeing agenda. This could have many upsides: who could argue against better healthcare, cleaner environments and more exercise? However, the way it is often used tends to turn away from these more structural issues and uses wellbeing as a badge of being a member of the new global elite.

To be a Davos man now does not just mean waxing lyrical about the powers of the free market – you also need to frequently check your steps on your fit-bit, spend some time in a mindfulness class, work out at the same time as you network, deal with global inequality and work out how market solutions like “pandemic bonds” might help to solve Ebola.

The ideal solution for bringing this altogether for our new nomadic elite is of course the latest management fad – the walking meeting. That way they can burn off the champagne, network and also build up steps on their pedometer, which will allow a child in Africa to have a new bicycle."
well-being  appearances  mindfulness  publicimage  davos  richardsennett  sincerity  compassion  morality  ethics  symbolism  politics  absolution  inequality 
january 2015 by robertogreco
BULLSHIT JOBS | 'SEARCH TERMS'
"The answer clearly isn’t economic: it’s moral and political. The ruling class has figured out that a happy and productive population with free time on their hands is a mortal danger (think of what started to happen when this even began to be approximated in the ‘60s). And, on the other hand, the feeling that work is a moral value in itself, and that anyone not willing to submit themselves to some kind of intense work discipline for most of their waking hours deserves nothing, is extraordinarily convenient for them. Once, when contemplating the apparently endless growth of administrative responsibilities in British academic departments, I came up with one possible vision of hell. Hell is a collection of individuals who are spending the bulk of their time working on a task they don’t like and are not especially good at. Say they were hired because they were excellent cabinet-makers, and then discover they are expected to spend a great deal of their time frying fish. Neither does the task really need to be done – at least, there’s only a very limited number of fish that need to be fried. Yet somehow, they all become so obsessed with resentment at the thought that some of their co-workers might be spending more time making cabinets, and not doing their fair share of the fish-frying responsibilities, that before long there’s endless piles of useless badly cooked fish piling up all over the workshop and it’s all that anyone really does. I think this is actually a pretty accurate description of the moral dynamics of our own economy.

Now, I realise any such argument is going to run into immediate objections: “who are you to say what jobs are really ‘necessary’? What’s necessary anyway? You’re an anthropology professor, what’s the ‘need’ for that?” (And indeed a lot of tabloid readers would take the existence of my job as the very definition of wasteful social expenditure.) And on one level, this is obviously true. There can be no objective measure of social value. I would not presume to tell someone who is convinced they are making a meaningful contribution to the world that, really, they are not. But what about those people who are themselves convinced their jobs are meaningless? Not long ago I got back in touch with a school friend who I hadn’t seen since I was 12. I was amazed to discover that in the interim, he had become first a poet, then the front man in an indie rock band. I’d heard some of his songs on the radio having no idea the singer was someone I actually knew. He was obviously brilliant, innovative, and his work had unquestionably brightened and improved the lives of people all over the world. Yet, after a couple of unsuccessful albums, he’d lost his contract, and plagued with debts and a newborn daughter, ended up, as he put it, “taking the default choice of so many directionless folk: law school.” Now he’s a corporate lawyer working in a prominent New York firm. He was the first to admit that his job was utterly meaningless, contributed nothing to the world, and, in his own estimation, should not really exist.

There’s a lot of questions one could ask here, starting with, what does it say about our society that it seems to generate an extremely limited demand for talented poet-musicians, but an apparently infinite demand for specialists in corporate law? (Answer: if 1% of the population controls most of the disposable wealth, what we call “the market” reflects what they think is useful or important, not anybody else.) But even more, it shows that most people in these jobs are ultimately aware of it. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever met a corporate lawyer who didn’t think their job was bullshit. The same goes for almost all the new industries outlined above. There is a whole class of salaried professionals that, should you meet them at parties and admit that you do something that might be considered interesting (an anthropologist, for example), will want to avoid even discussing their line of work entirely. Give them a few drinks, and they will launch into tirades about how pointless and stupid their job really is. This is a profound psychological violence here. How can one even begin to speak of dignity in labour when one secretly feels one’s job should not exist? How can it not create a sense of deep rage and resentment. Yet it is the peculiar genius of our society that its rulers have figured out a way, as in the case of the fish-fryers, to ensure that rage is directed precisely against those who actually do get to do meaningful work. For instance: in our society, there seems a general rule that, the more obviously one’s work benefits other people, the less one is likely to be paid for it. Again, an objective measure is hard to find, but one easy way to get a sense is to ask: what would happen were this entire class of people to simply disappear? Say what you like about nurses, garbage collectors, or mechanics, it’s obvious that were they to vanish in a puff of smoke, the results would be immediate and catastrophic. A world without teachers or dock-workers would soon be in trouble, and even one without science fiction writers or ska musicians would clearly be a lesser place. It’s not entirely clear how humanity would suffer were all private equity CEOs, lobbyists, PR researchers, actuaries, telemarketers, bailiffs or legal consultants to similarly vanish. (Many suspect it might markedly improve.) Yet apart from a handful of well-touted exceptions (doctors), the rule holds surprisingly well."
bullshitjobs  via:ayjay  davidgraeber  economics  2015  idleness  productivity  labor  work  morality  discipline  socialvalue  capitalism  control  power  dignity  wageslavery 
january 2015 by robertogreco
If everyone’s an idiot, guess who’s a jerk? – Eric Schwitzgebel – Aeon
"Are you surrounded by fools? Are you the only reasonable person around? Then maybe you’re the one with the jerkitude"



"The opposite of the jerk is the sweetheart. The sweetheart sees others around him, even strangers, as individually distinctive people with valuable perspectives, whose desires and opinions, interests and goals are worthy of attention and respect. The sweetheart yields his place in line to the hurried shopper, stops to help the person who dropped her papers, calls an acquaintance with an embarrassed apology after having been unintentionally rude. In a debate, the sweetheart sees how he might be wrong and the other person right.

The moral and emotional failure of the jerk is obvious. The intellectual failure is obvious, too: no one is as right about everything as the jerk thinks he is. He would learn by listening. And one of the things he might learn is the true scope of his jerkitude – a fact about which, as I will explain shortly, the all-out jerk is inevitably ignorant. Which brings me to the other great benefit of a theory of jerks: it might help you figure out if you yourself are one."



"How can you know your own moral character? You can try a label on for size: ‘lazy’, ‘jerk’, ‘unreliable’ – is that really me? As the work of Vazire and other personality psychologists suggests, this might not be a very illuminating approach. More effective, I suspect, is to shift from first-person reflection (what am I like?) to second-person description (tell me, what am I like?). Instead of introspection, try listening. Ideally, you will have a few people in your life who know you intimately, have integrity, and are concerned about your character. They can frankly and lovingly hold your flaws up to the light and insist that you look at them. Give them the space to do this, and prepare to be disappointed in yourself.

Done well enough, this second-person approach could work fairly well for traits such as laziness and unreliability, especially if their scope is restricted: laziness-about-X, unreliability-about-Y. But as I suggested above, jerkitude is not so tractable, since if one is far enough gone, one can’t listen in the right way. Your critics are fools, at least on this particular topic (their critique of you). They can’t appreciate your perspective, you think – though really it’s that you can’t appreciate theirs.

To discover one’s degree of jerkitude, the best approach might be neither (first-person) direct reflection upon yourself nor (second-person) conversation with intimate critics, but rather something more third-person: looking in general at other people. Everywhere you turn, are you surrounded by fools, by boring nonentities, by faceless masses and foes and suckers and, indeed, jerks? Are you the only competent, reasonable person to be found? In other words, how familiar was the vision of the world I described at the beginning of this essay?

If your self-rationalising defences are low enough to feel a little pang of shame at the familiarity of that vision of the world, then you probably aren’t pure diamond-grade jerk. But who is? We’re all somewhere in the middle. That’s what makes the jerk’s vision of the world so instantly recognisable. It’s our own vision. But, thankfully, only sometimes."
listening  knowitalls  via:ayjay  2014  jerks  ericschwitzgebel  behavior  morality  ethics  openmindedness  integrity  laziness  unreliability 
january 2015 by robertogreco
Should Schools Teach Personality? - NYTimes.com
"The focus on character, however, has encountered criticism. The education writer and speaker Alfie Kohn, for instance, argues that grit isn’t always helpful. In a Washington Post essay adapted from his new book, “The Myth of the Spoiled Child: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom About Children and Parenting,” he writes that dogged persistence isn’t the best approach to every situation: “Even if you don’t crash and burn by staying the course, you may not fare nearly as well as if you had stopped, reassessed and tried something else.”

And, he said in an interview, an emphasis on children’s personalities could take attention away from problems with their schools. “Social psychologists for decades have identified a tendency to overestimate how important personality characteristics, motivation, individual values and the like tend to be relative to the importance of the structural characteristics of a situation,” he said. “We tend to think people just need to try harder, or have a better attitude,” but “this tends to miss the boat. What really matters is various aspects of the system itself.”

Truly improving education in America will require “asking about the environment in which kids are placed, what kids are being asked to learn, how they’re being taught, what voice they have, if any, in the experience,” he said. “Every time we focus on personality variables, we are distracted again from addressing the systemic questions that matter.”

And in an essay at The New Republic, Jeffrey Aaron Snyder, an educational studies professor at Carleton College, contends that as currently espoused by KIPP, “character-based education is untethered from any conception of morality.” And, he says in an interview, he questions the value of looking at character traits outside a larger moral framework: “What’s the importance of teaching grit if you’re not teaching it in the context of civic education, the public good, social responsibility?” Teaching it without such context “becomes kind of a looking-out-for-number-one-type approach to education.”

As an example of a better way, he points to a school he came across in his research whose students started a community garden during World War I (gardening is also part of the curriculum at some schools today). Planting, growing and distributing food taught many of the same traits that character-education programs hope to instill, he said, “but it’s all richly integrated into a task that has genuine purpose and that makes the students think beyond themselves.”"
education  schools  personality  grit  angeladuckworth  annanorth  arthurporopat  kipp  character  teaching  learning  curriculum  psychology  motivationjeffreyaaronsnyder  morality  civics  socialresponsibility  publicgood  obedience  individualism  conscientiousness  diligence  duty  creativity  curiosity  schooling  schooliness  howweteach  alfiekohn  tomaschamorro-premuzic  2015 
january 2015 by robertogreco
The Breakthrough Institute - Love Your Monsters
"Dr. Frankenstein's crime was not that he invented a creature through some combination of hubris and high technology, but rather that he abandoned the creature to itself. When Dr. Frankenstein meets his creation on a glacier in the Alps, the monster claims that it was not born a monster, but that it became a criminal only after being left alone by his horrified creator, who fled the laboratory once the horrible thing twitched to life. "Remember, I am thy creature," the monster protests, "I ought to be thy Adam; but I am rather the fallen angel, whom thou drivest from joy for no misdeed... I was benevolent and good; misery made me a fiend. Make me happy, and I shall again be virtuous."


Written at the dawn of the great technological revolutions that would define the 19th and 20th centuries, Frankenstein foresees that the gigantic sins that were to be committed would hide a much greater sin. It is not the case that we have failed to care for Creation, but that we have failed to care for our technological creations. We confuse the monster for its creator and blame our sins against Nature upon our creations. But our sin is not that we created technologies but that we failed to love and care for them. It is as if we decided that we were unable to follow through with the education of our children.4

Let Dr. Frankenstein's sin serve as a parable for political ecology. At a time when science, technology, and demography make clear that we can never separate ourselves from the nonhuman world -- that we, our technologies, and nature can no more be disentangled than we can remember the distinction between Dr. Frankenstein and his monster -- this is the moment chosen by millions of well-meaning souls to flagellate themselves for their earlier aspiration to dominion, to repent for their past hubris, to look for ways of diminishing the numbers of their fellow humans, and to swear to make their footprints invisible?"



"4.
The link between technology and theology hinges on the notion of mastery. Descartes exclaimed that we should be "maîtres et possesseurs de la nature."10 

But what does it mean to be a master? In the modernist narrative, mastery was supposed to require such total dominance by the master that he was emancipated entirely from any care and worry. This is the myth about mastery that was used to describe the technical, scientific, and economic dominion of Man over Nature.

But if you think about it according to the compositionist narrative, this myth is quite odd: where have we ever seen a master freed from any dependence on his dependents? The Christian God, at least, is not a master who is freed from dependents, but who, on the contrary, gets folded into, involved with, implicated with, and incarnated into His Creation. God is so attached and dependent upon His Creation that he is continually forced (convinced? willing?) to save it. Once again, the sin is not to wish to have dominion over Nature, but to believe that this dominion means emancipation and not attachment.

If God has not abandoned His Creation and has sent His Son to redeem it, why do you, a human, a creature, believe that you can invent, innovate, and proliferate -- and then flee away in horror from what you have committed? Oh, you the hypocrite who confesses of one sin to hide a much graver, mortal one! Has God fled in horror after what humans made of His Creation? Then have at least the same forbearance that He has.

The dream of emancipation has not turned into a nightmare. It was simply too limited: it excluded nonhumans. It did not care about unexpected consequences; it was unable to follow through with its responsibilities; it entertained a wholly unrealistic notion of what science and technology had to offer; it relied on a rather impious definition of God, and a totally absurd notion of what creation, innovation, and mastery could provide.

Which God and which Creation should we be for, knowing that, contrary to Dr. Frankenstein, we cannot suddenly stop being involved and "go home?" Incarnated we are, incarnated we will be. In spite of a centuries-old misdirected metaphor, we should, without any blasphemy, reverse the Scripture and exclaim: "What good is it for a man to gain his soul yet forfeit the whole world?""

"via this string of tweets from @infrathin:

2 months later, still processing this B. Latour essay http://thebreakthrough.org/index.php/journal/past-issues/issue-2/love-your-monsters …"
https://twitter.com/infrathin/status/544737470605451265

"LT how to be responsible in the way we conceive of what our responsibility is +?"
https://twitter.com/infrathin/status/544737846280863745

"Like responsibility, love is an allegiance to follow through with the monstrous dilemmas created by it. +?"
https://twitter.com/infrathin/status/544738933566083072

"Love and responsibility both require setting aside what we want them to look like. +?"
https://twitter.com/infrathin/status/544739636665651200

"LT so difficult that i don't know how to do it and have never been able to--except briefly in song. How can i expect "us" to do it?"
https://twitter.com/infrathin/status/544740052379901952

"so.... um, love you monsters y'all http://thebreakthrough.org/index.php/journal/past-issues/issue-2/love-your-monsters …"
https://twitter.com/infrathin/status/544740320005853186 ]

[Related: Audrey Watters’s “Ed-Tech's Monsters #ALTC ” https://pinboard.in/u:robertogreco/b:42f77ca711c1 ]
brunlatour  anthropocene  responsibility  love  technology  2012  frankenstein  science  descartes  nature  environment  sustainability  care  nonhumans  emancipation  exploitation  environmentalism  climatechange  modernism  postenvironmentalism  morality  ethics  legal  law  epistemology  reason  decisionmaking  politics  policy  caregiving  intervention  stewardship  posthumanism 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Do Artifacts Have Ethics? | The Frailest Thing
"Years ago, Langdon Winner famously asked, “Do artifacts have politics?” In the article that bears that title, Winner went on to argue that they most certainly do. We might also ask, “Do artifacts have ethics?” I would argue that they do indeed. The question is not whether technology has a moral dimension, the question is whether we recognize it or not. In fact, technology’s moral dimension is inescapable, layered, and multi-faceted.

When we do think about technology’s moral implications, we tend to think about what we do with a given technology. We might call this the “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” approach to the ethics of technology. What matters most about a technology on this view is the use to which a technology is put. This is of course a valid consideration. A hammer may indeed be used to either build a house or bash someones head in. On this view, technology is morally neutral and the only morally relevant question is this: What will I do with this tool?

But is this really the only morally relevant question one could ask? For instance, pursuing the example of the hammer, might I not also ask how having the hammer in hand encourages me to perceive the world around me? Or, what feelings does having a hammer in hand arouse?

Below are a few other questions that we might ask in order to get at the wide-ranging “moral dimension” of our technologies. There are, of course, many others that we could ask, but this is a start.

1. What sort of person will the use of this technology make of me?
2. What habits will the use of this technology instill?
3. How will the use of this technology affect my experience of time?
4. How will the use of this technology affect my experience of place?
5. How will the use of this technology affect how I relate to other people?
6. How will the use of this technology affect how I relate to the world around me?
7. What practices will the use of this technology cultivate?
8. What practices will the use of this technology displace?
9. What will the use of this technology encourage me to notice?
10. What will the use of this technology encourage me to ignore?
11. What was required of other human beings so that I might be able to use this technology?
12. What was required of other creatures so that I might be able to use this technology?
13. What was required of the earth so that I might be able to use this technology?
14. Does the use of this technology bring me joy?
15. Does the use of this technology arouse anxiety?
16. How does this technology empower me? At whose expense?
17. What feelings does the use of this technology generate in me toward others?
18. Can I imagine living without this technology? Why, or why not?
19. How does this technology encourage me to allocate my time?
20. Could the resources used to acquire and use this technology be better deployed?
21. Does this technology automate or outsource labor or responsibilities that are morally essential?
22. What desires does the use of this technology generate?
23. What desires does the use of this technology dissipate?
24. What possibilities for action does this technology present? Is it good that these actions are now possible?
25. What possibilities for action does this technology foreclose? Is it good that these actions are no longer possible?
26. How does the use of this technology shape my vision of a good life?
27. What limits does the use of this technology impose upon me?
28. What limits does my use of this technology impose upon others?
29. What does my use of this technology require of others who would (or must) interact with me?
30. What assumptions about the world does the use of this technology tacitly encourage?
31. What knowledge has the use of this technology disclosed to me about myself?
32. What knowledge has the use of this technology disclosed to me about others? Is it good to have this knowledge?
33. What are the potential harms to myself, others, or the world that might result from my use of this technology?
34. Upon what systems, technical or human, does my use of this technology depend? Are these systems just?
35. Does my use of this technology encourage me to view others as a means to an end?
36. Does using this technology require me to think more or less?
37. What would the world be like if everyone used this technology exactly as I use it?
38. What risks will my use of this technology entail for others? Have they consented?
39. Can the consequences of my use of this technology be undone? Can I live with those consequences?
40. Does my use of this technology make it easier to live as if I had no responsibilities toward my neighbor?
41. Can I be held responsible for the actions which this technology empowers? Would I feel better if I couldn’t?"
artifacts  objects  ethics  technology  2014  morality  via:tealtan  limits  knowledge  responsibility  time  place  experience  habits  behavior  assumptions  michaelsacasas  culture  lmsacasas 
november 2014 by robertogreco
How to Get Away with Uber — Matter — Medium
"The dick-swinging, the gluttony, the not-quite-lies and the full-on bullshit… All of these things, and in particular the spectacular combination of all of these things, are enough to dislike a company, and even to hate it. But it’s incredibly popular, too, because, man, if people vote with their feet — or in this case their fingers — then they keep voting, again and again, for Uber.

And that, in the end, is the real reason so many people hate Uber: Because whatever we do, we can’t stop ourselves from making it bigger and more successful and more terrifying and more necessary. Uber makes everything so easy, which means it shows us who, and what, we really are. It shows us how, whatever objections we might say we hold, we don’t actually care very much at all. We have our beliefs, our morals, our instincts. We have our dislike of douchebags, our mistrust of bad behavior. We have all that. But in the end, it turns out that if something’s 10 percent cheaper and 5 percent faster, we’ll give it all up quicker than we can order a sandwich."
uber  labor  ethics  morality  2014  efficiency  price  compromise  hypocrisy  sharingeconomy 
november 2014 by robertogreco
'Billionaires' Book Review: Money Can't Buy Happiness | New Republic
"There is plenty more like this to be found, if you look for it. A team of researchers at the New York State Psychiatric Institute surveyed 43,000 Americans and found that, by some wide margin, the rich were more likely to shoplift than the poor. Another study, by a coalition of nonprofits called the Independent Sector, revealed that people with incomes below twenty-five grand give away, on average, 4.2 percent of their income, while those earning more than 150 grand a year give away only 2.7 percent. A UCLA neuroscientist named Keely Muscatell has published an interesting paper showing that wealth quiets the nerves in the brain associated with empathy: if you show rich people and poor people pictures of kids with cancer, the poor people’s brains exhibit a great deal more activity than the rich people’s. (An inability to empathize with others has just got to be a disadvantage for any rich person seeking political office, at least outside of New York City.) “As you move up the class ladder,” says Keltner, “you are more likely to violate the rules of the road, to lie, to cheat, to take candy from kids, to shoplift, and to be tightfisted in giving to others. Straightforward economic analyses have trouble making sense of this pattern of results.”

There is an obvious chicken-and-egg question to ask here. But it is beginning to seem that the problem isn’t that the kind of people who wind up on the pleasant side of inequality suffer from some moral disability that gives them a market edge. The problem is caused by the inequality itself: it triggers a chemical reaction in the privileged few. It tilts their brains. It causes them to be less likely to care about anyone but themselves or to experience the moral sentiments needed to be a decent citizen.

Or even a happy one. Not long ago an enterprising professor at the Harvard Business School named Mike Norton persuaded a big investment bank to let him survey the bank’s rich clients. (The poor people in the survey were millionaires.) In a forthcoming paper, Norton and his colleagues track the effects of getting money on the happiness of people who already have a lot of it: a rich person getting even richer experiences zero gain in happiness. That’s not all that surprising; it’s what Norton asked next that led to an interesting insight. He asked these rich people how happy they were at any given moment. Then he asked them how much money they would need to be even happier. “All of them said they needed two to three times more than they had to feel happier,” says Norton. The evidence overwhelmingly suggests that money, above a certain modest sum, does not have the power to buy happiness, and yet even very rich people continue to believe that it does: the happiness will come from the money they don’t yet have. To the general rule that money, above a certain low level, cannot buy happiness there is one exception. “While spending money upon oneself does nothing for one’s happiness,” says Norton, “spending it on others increases happiness.”

If the Harvard Business School is now making a home for research exposing the folly of a life devoted to endless material ambition, something in the world has changed—or is changing. And I think it is: there is a growing awareness that the yawning gap between rich and poor is no longer a matter of simple justice but also the enemy of economic success and human happiness. It’s not just bad for the poor. It’s also bad for the rich. It’s funny, when you think about it, how many rich people don’t know this. But they are not idiots; they can learn. Many even possess the self-awareness to correct for whatever tricks their brain chemicals seek to play on them; some of them already do it. When you control a lot more than your share of the Fruit Loops, there really isn’t much doubt about what you should do with them, for your own good. You just need to be reminded, loudly and often."
behavior  wealth  politics  inequality  influence  policy  psychology  us  2014  michaellewis  creativity  power  cheating  morality  fairness  ethics  happiness 
november 2014 by robertogreco
Three Uncertain Thoughts, Or, Everything I Know I Learned from Ursula Le Guin | Design Culture Lab
"One.

In her 1969 novel The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K Le Guin writes, “The unknown, [...] the unforetold, the unproven, that is what life is based on. Ignorance is the ground of thought. Unproof is the ground of action . . . [T]he only thing that makes life possible is permanent, intolerable uncertainty; not knowing what comes next.”

If the only certainty is death, then to deny uncertainty is to deny life.

My work (creative? social science?) is vital not in the sense of being necessary or essential, but energetic, lively, uncertain. In a short 2006 piece in Theory, Culture & Society, Scott Lash argues that the classical concept of vitalism has re-emerged in the face of global complexity and uncertainty, manifesting itself in cultural theory that acknowledges that “the notion of life has always favoured an idea of becoming over one of being, of movement over stasis, of action over structure, of flow and flux.”

In my research I take seriously the idea that what I am seeing, doing and making is emergent; I cannot know how — when, where, for whom or why — it will all end. I can only live with, and through, it. This means I do not want to convince others that I am right. (Have you ever noticed that Le Guin’s stories unfailingly explore ethics and morality without dealing in absolutes?)

I only — as if this were a small thing! — invite you to accompany me for a while, and see what we can become together. This is just — as if this too were a small thing! — one way of knowing the world.

Two.

In a 2014 interview for Smithsonian Magazine, Le Guin explains that the future is where “anything at all can be said to happen without fear of contradiction from a native. [It] is a safe, sterile laboratory for trying out ideas in, a means of thinking about reality, a method.”

My work makes things, and explicitly makes things up, in some near or far future. I practice different worlds.

Fictions and futures give me (you? us?) space to move, and be moved. This is the space of utopia, but not an idealist utopia set against a pessimist dystopia. Fictions and futures are literally no-places: real but not actual, and always vital. I feel as though I thrive in these spaces, both grounded and reaching toward the sky, open to the elements, potential.

But here’s something I’ve learned: I can’t make up anything and expect it to work. The stories need to resonate. And that means they need to be internally coherent and consistent, plausible. So I locate others and myself empirically, ethnographically. I look to the hopes and promises that bind us together, to the threats that rip us apart, and I look to the expectations that constrain and orient us along particular, but not certain, paths.

And then I imagine it (me, you, us) otherwise.

Three.

In her 2007 essay “The Critics, the Monsters, and the Fantasists,” Le Guin clarifies “although the green country of fantasy seems to be entirely the invention of human imaginations, it verges on and partakes of actual realms in which humanity is not lord and master, is not central, is not even important.”

My imagination has sought out this vital, “green country of fantasy” by focussing on possible futures for multispecies, more-than-human, agents. But I’ve yet to be successful in my quest to avoid anthropocentrism. (My dragons remain stubbornly human!)

Still: I follow Donna Haraway’s argument, in 2007’s When Species Meet, that “animals enrich our ignorance.” When I look at people and technology and design and everyday life with — and through — animals I am never more uncertain about what they all mean. To take animals (and other nonhumans) seriously forces me to let go of many preconceptions, even when I fail to imagine a plausible alternative.

But perhaps that uncertainty is only appropriate, too."
annegalloway  2014  ursulaleguin  unknown  uncertainty  unproven  certainty  death  life  scottlash  vitalism  complexity  culture  theory  morality  ethics  absolutism  knowing  unknowing  future  futures  fiction  worldbuilding  process  method  making  speculativefiction  designfiction  ethnography  imagination  utopia  dystopia  potential  fantasy  invention  design  anthropocentrism  multispecies  donnaharaway  ignorance  technology  preconceptions  posthumanism 
october 2014 by robertogreco
High modernist subjectivity gives an extraordinary... • see things differently
""High modernist subjectivity gives an extraordinary privilege … to judgement and especially to cognition…. The modern predominance of reading….

High [modernism] … furthermore … privileges the cognitive and moral over the aesthetic and the libidinal, the ego over the id, the visual over touch, and discursive over figural communication.

…the individual [is] somehow ‘closed’ instead of open; to be somehow obsessed with self-mastery and self-domination."

Lash, S. & Friedman, J. (Eds.). (1993). Modernity & Identity. Massachusetts: Blackwell, pg. 5"

[See also: http://linguisticcapital.wordpress.com/2011/11/05/modernism-in-the-streets/

"High modernist subjectivity gives an extraordinary privilege, for example, to judgement and especially to cognition. It correspondingly devalues the faculty of perception, so that vision itself is so to speak colonized by cognition. The modern predominance of reading fosters epistemologies of representation, of a visual paradigm in the sphere of art [...]. High modernist subjectivity seems furthermore to privilege the cognitive and moral over the aesthetic and the libidinal, the ego over the id, the visual over touch, and discursive over figural communication. It gives primacy to culture over nature, to the individual over the community, As an ethics of responsibility, high modernist personality and Lebensfürung [life-course] it allows the individual to be somehow ‘closed’ instead of open; to be somehow obsessed with self-mastery and self-domination."

Lash, S. & Friedman, J. (Eds.). (1993). Modernity & Identity. Massachusetts: Blackwell, pg. 5]
modernism  highmodernism  bias  cognition  morality  aesthetics  libidinal  ego  id  visual  senses  touch  discursion  figurative  communication  reading  literacy  gutenbergparenthesis  self-mastery  self-domination  modernity  identity  1993 
october 2014 by robertogreco
Animals And Us : TED Radio Hour : NPR
"Our relationship with animals is complicated: we love and fear them; hunt, consume and protect them. In this hour, TED speakers explore what happens when humans and animals interact."
animals  jonmooallem  iandunbar  billycollins  laurabraitman  psychology  fransdewaal  morality  mentalhealth  relationships  animalhumanrelationships  2014  ted 
september 2014 by robertogreco
Animal Spirits | MetaFilter
"The more we learn about the emotions shared by all mammals, the more we must rethink our own human intelligence
http://aeon.co/magazine/science/stephen-t-asma-evolution-of-emotion/

More Notes on Humans and Animals
http://www.jehsmith.com/1/2012/11/more-notes-on-humans-and-animals.html
I am growing increasingly convinced that people who believe we have an absolute moral duty to see to the well-being of all other human beings, to install water-purifying equipment in villages on the other side of the world, etc., and who, at the same time, happily contribute to the ongoing mass slaughter of animals, are really just picking and choosing their causes. There simply is no compelling reason why I, or anyone, should suppose that all and only human beings are the worthy targets of moral concern. This is not to say that you should care about animals. It is only to say that there is nothing natural or obvious or conclusive about your belief that you should care about all and only human beings. Your belief is a prejudice, characteristic of a time and place, and not the final say about where the reach of moral community ends.


Consider the lobster? Pity the fish
http://www.jonahlehrer.com/blog/2014/6/18/pity-the-fish
I was thinking of Wallace's essay while reading a new paper in Animal Cognition by Culum Brown, a biologist at Macquarie University in Australia. Brown does for the fish what Wallace did for the lobster, calmly reviewing the neurological data and insisting that our undersea cousins deserve far more dignity and compassion that we currently give them. Brown does not mince words:

"All evidence suggests that fish are, in fact, far more intelligent than we give them credit. Recent reviews of fish cognition suggest fish show a rich array of sophisticated behaviours. For example, they have excellent long-term memories, develop complex traditions, show signs of Machiavellian intelligence, cooperate with and recognise one another and are even capable of tool use. Emerging evidence also suggests that, despite appearances, the fish brain is also more similar to our own than we previously thought. There is every reason to believe that they might also be conscious and thus capable of suffering."


When Animals Get Bored Or Anxious They Develop Tics Just Like Humans
http://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2014/07/27/when-animals-get-bored-or-anxious-they-develop-physical-tics-just-like-humans/

Even ant colonies can have 'personalities.'
http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-28658268
see more at The media’s growing interest in how animals think
http://www.cjr.org/the_observatory/cats_dogs_animals_cognition.php

more links at Omnivore
http://www.bookforum.com/blog/13557 "
animals  humans  animalhumanrelationships  2104  emotions  intelligence  via:sevensixfive  morality  posthumanism 
august 2014 by robertogreco
Kenneth Goldsmith - Talks | Frieze Projects NY
[Direct link to .mp3: http://friezeprojectsny.org/uploads/files/talks/Kenneth_Goldsmith.mp3 ]

"‘I Look to Theory Only When I Realize That Somebody Has Dedicated Their Entire Life to a Question I Have Only Fleetingly Considered’

A keynote lecture by the poet Kenneth Goldsmith, whose writing has been described as ‘some of the most exhaustive and beautiful collage work yet produced in poetry’ (Publishers Weekly). Goldsmith is the author of eleven books of poetry and founding editor of the online archive UbuWeb. In 2013, he was named as the inaugural Poet Laureate of MoMA."
kennethgoldsmith  copying  uncreativewriting  mercecunningham  writing  internet  web  online  remixing  culture  art  poetry  originality  appropriation  quantity  quality  curiosity  harrypotter  poetics  digital  reproduction  translation  displacement  disjunction  corydoctorow  change  howwewrite  pointing  data  metadata  choice  authorship  versioning  misfiling  language  difference  meaning  ethics  morality  literature  twitter  artworld  marshallmcluhan  christianbök  plagiarism  charleseames  rules  notknowing  archiving  improvisation  text  bricolage  assemblage  cv  painting  technology  photography  readerships  thinkerships  thoughtobjects  reassembly  ubuweb  freeculture  moma  outreach  communityoutreach  nyc  copyright  ip  intellectualproperty  ideas  information  sfpc  vitoacconci  audience  accessibility  situationist  museums  markets  criticism  artcriticism  economics  money  browsers  citation  sampling  jonathanfranzen  internetasliterature  getrudestein  internetasfavoritebook  namjunepaik  johncage  misbehaving  andywarhol  bobdylan  barbarakruger  jkrowling  china  creati 
august 2014 by robertogreco
Meta is Murder - Mills Baker's Internet Haus of Cards
"One such principle is well phrased by Marilynne Robinson in her essay “When I was a Child,” in her collection When I Was a Child I Read Books:
"It may be mere historical conditioning, but when I see a man or a woman alone, he or she looks mysterious to me, which is only to say that for a moment I see another human being clearly."

The idea that a human seen clearly is a mystery is anathema to a culture of judgment —such as ours— which rests on a simple premise: humans can be understood by means of simple schema that map their beliefs or actions to moral categories. Moreover, because there are usually relatively few of these categories, and few important issues of discernment —our range of political concerns being startlingly narrow, after all— humans can be understood and judged at high speed in large, generalized groups: Democrats, Republicans, women, men, people of color, whites, Muslims, Christians, the rich, the poor, Generation X, millennials, Baby Boomers, and so on.

It should but does not go without saying that none of those terms describes anything with sufficient precision to support the kinds of observations people flatter themselves making. Generalization is rarely sound. No serious analysis, no serious effort to understand, describe, or change anything can contain much generalization, as every aggregation of persons introduces error. One can hardly describe a person in full, let alone a family, a city, a class, a state, a race. Yet we persist in doing so, myself included."



"One of the very best things Nietzsche ever wrote:
"The will to a system is a lack of integrity."

But to systematize is our first reaction to life in a society of scale, and our first experiment as literate or educated or even just “grown-up” persons with powers of apprehension, cogitation, and rhetoric. What would a person be online if he lacked a system in which phenomena could be traced to the constellation of ideas which constituted his firmament? What is life but the daily diagnosis of this or that bit of news as “yet another example of” an overarching system of absolutely correct beliefs? To have a system is proof of one’s seriousness, it seems —our profiles so often little lists of what we “believe,” or what we “are”— and we coalesce around our systems of thought just as our parents did around their political parties, though we of course consider ourselves mere rationalists following the evidence. Not surprisingly, the evidence always leads to the conclusion that many people in the world are horrible, stupid, even evil; and we are smart, wise, and good. It should be amusing, but it is not.

I hate this because I am doing this right now. I detest generalization because when I scan Twitter I generalize about what I see: “people today,” or “our generation,” I think, even though the people of today are as all people always have been, even though they are all just like me. I resent their judgments because I feel reduced by them and feel reality is reduced, so I reduce them with my own judgments: shallow thinkers who lack, I mutter, the integrity not to systematize. And I put fingers to keys to note this system of analysis, lacking all integrity, mocking my very position.

I want to maintain my capacity to view each as a mystery, as a human in full, whose interiority I cannot know. I want not to be full of hatred, so I seek to confess that my hatred is self-hatred: shame at the state of my intellectual reactivity and decay. I worry deeply that our systematizing is inevitable because when we are online we are in public: that these fora mandate performance, and worse, the kind of performance that asserts its naturalness, like the grotesquely beautiful actor who says, "Oh, me? I just roll out of bed in the morning and wear whatever I find lying about" as he smiles a smile so practiced it could calibrate the atomic clock. Every online utterance is an angling for approval; we write in the style of speeches: exhorting an audience, haranguing enemies, lauding the choir. People “remind” no one in particular of the correct ways to think, the correct opinions to hold. When I see us speaking like op-ed columnists, I feel embarrassed: it is like watching a lunatic relative address passers-by using the “royal we,” and, I feel, it is pitifully imitative. Whom are we imitating? Those who live in public: politicians, celebrities, “personalities.”

There is no honesty without privacy, and privacy is not being forbidden so much as rendered irrelevant; privacy is an invented concept, after all, and like all inventions must contend with waves of successive technologies or be made obsolete. The basis of privacy is the idea that judgment should pertain only to public acts —acts involving other persons and society— and not the interior spaces of the self. Society has no right to judge one’s mind; society hasn’t even the right to inquire about one’s mind. The ballot is secret; one cannot be compelled to testify or even talk in our criminal justice system; there can be no penalty for being oneself, however odious we may find given selves or whole (imagined) classes of selves.

This very radical idea has an epistemological basis, not a purely moral one: the self is a mystery. Every self is a mystery. You cannot know what someone really is, what they are capable of, what transformations of belief or character they might undergo, in what their identity consists, what they’ve inherited or appropriated, what they’ll abandon or reconsider; you cannot say when a person is who she is, at what point the “real” person exists or when a person’s journey through selves has stopped. A person is not, we all know, his appearance; but do we all know that she is not her job? Or even her politics?

But totalizing rationalism is emphatic: either something is known or it is irrelevant. Thus: the mystery of the self is a myth; there is no mystery at all. A self is valid or invalid, useful or not, correct or incorrect, and if someone is sufficiently different from you, if their beliefs are sufficiently opposed to yours, their way of life alien enough, they are to be judged and detested. Everyone is a known quantity; simply look at their Twitter bio and despise.

But this is nonsense. In truth, the only intellectually defensible posture is one of humility: all beliefs are misconceptions; all knowledge is contingent, temporary, erroneous; and no self is knowable, not truly, not to another. We can perhaps sense this in ourselves —although I worry that many of us are too happy to brag about our conformity to this or that scheme or judgment, to use labels that honor us as though we’ve earned ourselves rather than chancing into them— but we forget that this is true of every single other, too. This forgetting is the first step of the so-called othering process: forget that we are bound together in irreducibility, forget that we ought to be humble in all things, and especially in our judgments of one another.

Robinson once more:
"Only lonesomeness allows one to experience this sort of radical singularity, one’s greatest dignity and privilege."

Lonesomeness is what we’re all fleeing at the greatest possible speed, what our media now concern themselves chiefly with eliminating alongside leisure. We thus forget our radical singularity, a personal tragedy, an erasure, a hollowing-out, and likewise the singularity of others, which is a tragedy more social and political in nature, and one which seems to me truly and literally horrifying. Because more than any shared “belief system” or political pose, it is the shared experience of radical singularity that unites us: the shared experience of inimitability and mortality. Anything which countermands our duty to recognize and honor the human in the other is a kind of evil, however just its original intention."
millsbaker  canon  self  reality  empathy  humility  howwethink  2014  generalizations  morality  nietzsche  integrity  marilynnerobinson  mystery  grace  privacy  categorization  pigeonholingsingularity  lonesomeness  loneliness  leisure  artleisure  leisurearts  beliefs  belief  inimitability  humanism  judgement  familiarity  understanding 
august 2014 by robertogreco
Letters from a Skeptic by Gregory A. Boyd
"Ecological
What are its effects on the health of the planet and of the person?
Does it preserve or destroy biodiversity?
Does it preserve or reduce ecosystem integrity?
What are its effects on the land?
What are its effects on wildlife?
How much, and what kind of waste does it generate?
Does it incorporate the principles of ecological design?
Does it break the bond of renewal between humans and nature?
Does it preserve or reduce cultural diversity?
What is the totality of its effects, its "ecology"?

Social
Does it serve community?
Does it empower community members?
How does it affect our perception of our needs?
Is it consistent with the creation of a communal, human economy?
What are its effects on relationships?
Does it undermine conviviality?
Does it undermine traditional forms of community?
How does it affect our way of seeing and experiencing the world?
Does it foster a diversity of forms of knowledge?
Does it build on, or contribute to, the renewal of traditional forms of knowledge?
Does it serve to commodity knowledge or relationships?
To what extent does it redefine reality?
Does it erase a sense of time and history?
What is its potential to become addictive?

Practical
What does it make?
Who does it benefit?
What is its purpose?
Where was it produced?
Where is it used?
Where must it go when it's broken or obsolete?
How expensive is it?
Can it be repaired?
By an ordinary person?

Moral
What values does its use foster?
What is gained by its use?
What are its effects beyond its utility to the individual?
What is lost in using it?
What are its effects on the least advantaged in society?

Ethical
How complicated is it?
What does it allow us to ignore?
To what extent does it distance agent from effect?
Can we assume personal, or communal responsibility for its effects?
Can its effects be directly apprehended?
What ancillary technologies does it require?
What behavior might it make possible in the future?
What other technologies might it make possible?
Does it alter our sense of time and relationships in ways conducive to nihilism?

Vocational
What is its impact on craft?
Does it reduce, deaden, or enhance human creativity?
Is it the least imposing technology available for the task?
Does it replace, or does it aid human hands and human beings?
Can it be responsive to organic circumstance?
Does it depress or enhance the quality of goods?
Does it depress or enhance the meaning of work?

Metaphysical
What aspect of the inner self does it reflect?
Does it express love?
Does it express rage?
What aspect of our past does it reflect?
Does it reflect cyclical or linear thinking?

Political
Does it concentrate or equalize power?
Does it require, or institute a knowledge elite?
It is totalitarian?
Does it require a bureaucracy for its perpetuation?
What legal empowerments does it require?
Does it undermine traditional moral authority?
Does it require military defense?
Does it enhance, or serve military purposes?
How does it affect warfare?
Is it massifying?
Is it consistent with the creation of a global economy?
Does it empower transnational corporations?
What kind of capital does it require?

Aesthetic
Is it ugly?
Does it cause ugliness?
What noise does it make?
What pace does it set?
How does it affect the quality of life (as distinct from the standard of living)?"
jaquesellul  technology  design  classideas  projectideas  curriculuminquestions  questions  environment  ecology  social  society  morality  ethics  metaphysics  politics  aesthetics  power  economics 
july 2014 by robertogreco
Playing the Odds | Easily Distracted
[via: http://tinyletter.com/audreywatters/letters/hack-education-weekly-newsletter-no-70 ]

"No academic (I hope) would say that education is required to achieve wisdom. In fact, it is sometimes the opposite: knowing more about the world can be, in the short-term, an impediment to understanding it. I think all of us have known people who are terrifically wise, who understand other people or the universe or the social world beautifully without ever having studied anything in a formal setting. Some of the wise get that way through experiencing the world, others through deliberate self-guided inquiry.

What I would be prepared to claim is something close to something Wellmon says, that perhaps college might “might alert students to an awareness of what is missing, not only in their own colleges but in themselves and the larger society as well”.

But my “might” is a bit different. My might is literally a question of probabilities. A well-designed liberal arts education doesn’t guarantee wisdom (though I think it can guarantee greater concrete knowledge about subject matter and greater skills for expression and inquiry). But it could perhaps be designed so that it consistently improves the odds of a well-considered and well-lived life. Not in the years that the education is on-going, not in the year after graduation, but over the years that follow. Four years of a liberal arts undergraduate experience could be far more likely to produce not just a better quality of life in the economic sense but a better quality of being alive than four years spent doing anything else.

I think I can argue that the disciplinary study of history can potentially contribute to the development of a capacity for empathy, or emotional intelligence, an understanding of why things happen the way that they do and how they might happen differently, and many other crafts and arts that I would associate as much with wisdom as I do with knowledge, with what I think informs a well-lived life. But potential is all I’m going to give out. I can’t guarantee that I’ll make someone more empathetic, not the least because I’m not sure how to quantify such a thing, but also because that’s not something everybody can be or should be counted upon to get from the study of history. It’s just, well, more likely that you might get that than if you didn’t study history.

This sense of “might” even justifies rather nicely the programmatic hostility to instrumentally-driven approaches to education among many humanists. Yes, we’re cultivating humanity, it’s just that we’re not very sure what will grow from any given combination of nutrients and seeds. In our students or ourselves.

This style of feeling through the labyrinth gives me absolutely no title to complacency, however. First, it’s still a problem that increased disciplinary knowledge and skills do not give us proportionately increased probability of incorporating that knowledge into our own lives and institutions. At some point, more rigorous philosophical analyses about when to pull the lever on a trolley or more focused historical research into the genesis of social movements doesn’t consistently improve the odds of making better moral decisions or participating usefully in the formation of social movements.

Second, I don’t think most curricular designs in contemporary academic institutions actually recognize the non-instrumental portion of a liberal-arts education as probabilistic. If we did see it that way, I think we’d organize curricula that had much less regularity, predictability and structure–in effect, much less disciplinarity.

This is really the problem we’re up against: to contest the idea that education is just about return-on-investment, just about getting jobs, we need to offer an education whose structural character and feeling is substantially other than what it is. Right now, many faculty want to have their cake and eat it too, to have rigorous programs of disciplinary study that are essentially instrumental in that they primarily encourage students to do the discipline as if it were a career, justified in a tautological loop where the value of the discipline is discovered by testing students on how they demonstrate that the discipline is, in its own preferred terms, valuable.

If we want people to take seriously that non-instrumental “dark side of the moon” that many faculty claim defines what college has been, is and should remain, we have to take it far more seriously ourselves, both in how we try to live what it is that we study and in how we design institutions that increase the probabilities that our students will not just know specific things and have specific skills but achieve wisdoms that they otherwise could not have found."
education  2014  via:audreywatters  liberalarts  timothyburke  highereducation  wisdom  empathy  openmindedness  ethics  morality  philosophy  history  learning  purpose  humanism  humanities  fiction  literature  society  generalists 
july 2014 by robertogreco
Two ways to work for nothing – GEOFF SHULLENBERGER
"In an interview about The People’s Platform, Astra Taylor notes that of late “more and more of us are encouraged to think of ourselves as artists no matter what our line of work. It’s a way of framing some of the unappealing things about our current economic condition — the lack of stability or of a social safety net—as something desirable and empowering. The ethos of the artist — someone who is willing to work with no guarantee of reward, who will sacrifice and self-exploit around the clock — is demanded of people across the board.” This tendency manifests itself in many realms: Taylor gives the example of Apple Store employees being told they should be grateful just to have the experience of working for Apple, but the rhetoric used to draw freelancers into digital sweatshops matches what she describes even more perfectly. Then we have the phenomenon I have been examining lately on this blog: the replacement of skilled workers with volunteers.

Alongside the imperative to embrace your exploitation as an artist embraces her vocation, though, proliferates the contrasting logic of what David Graeber called ”bullshit jobs” in a memorable article from last year. In a recent interview on the subject, Graeber explains that he is mainly referring to “meaningless office jobs [where workers] are basically paid to act busy all day. A lot of them may really work one or two hours, and the rest of the time they’re downloading stuff from the Internet, or playing around on Facebook or something. But, their job is to sit in an office, and basically valorize the idea that everybody should look busy all the time, that work is valuable in itself.” As Graeber notes, the expansion of this area of employment seems to be an economic paradox: “According to economic theory, at least, the last thing a profit-seeking firm is going to do is shell out money to workers they don’t really need to employ. Still, somehow, it happens.” Graeber’s solution: “The answer clearly isn’t economic: it’s moral and political. The ruling class has figured out that a happy and productive population with free time on their hands is a mortal danger… And, on the other hand, the feeling that work is a moral value in itself, and that anyone not willing to submit themselves to some kind of intense work discipline for most of their waking hours deserves nothing, is extraordinarily convenient for them.”

Compare this to BuzzFeed’s and Coursera’s translation strategies: they really need the translation to be done, but they have invented elaborate schemes to avoid paying translators. The value and necessity of the work of translation to their companies could not be clearer, yet in this area a logic of ruthless efficiency applies, but not when it comes to the kind of jobs Graeber is describing: much of that work does not seem to be fundamentally needed by anyone, yet paradoxically organizations are willing to pay workers for it. As long as it is something that you would do even if it were unpaid, it is increasingly becoming something you have to do for free or for very little. On the other hand, you can be paid to do the kind of jobs that no one would do if managers did not invent them.

For Graeber, bullshit jobs carry with them a moral imperative: “If you’re not busy all the time doing something, anything — doesn’t really matter what it is — you’re a bad person.” But the flipside of that logic seems to be: if you actually like doing x activity, if it is valuable, meaningful, and carries intrinsic rewards for you, it is wrong for you to expect to be paid (well) for it; you should give it freely, even (especially) if by doing so you are allowing others to profit. In other words, we’ll make a living from you doing what you love (for free), but we’ll keep you in check by making sure you have to make a living doing what you hate."
bullshitjobs  geoffshullenberger  astrataylor  labor  work  economics  art  2014  davidgraeber  busyness  inefficiency  waste  politics  morality  productivity  happiness  translation  taskrabbit  buzzfeed  coursera  employment  coercion  discipline  society  capitalism  universalbasicincome  socialsafetynet  class  ubi 
may 2014 by robertogreco
To Have and Have Not | Jedediah Purdy on Capital in the Twenty-First Century
"With that mission, Capital in the Twenty-First Century asks questions that blend empirical complexity and political urgency. How unequal is the division of wealth and income? How did it get that way, and where is it going? How worried should we be, and what can we do? And — check this out — are democracy and capitalism in conflict?

Spoiler alert: Yes. And Piketty’s answer spoils, in a different sense of the word, the longstanding conventional wisdom, supported by economics Nobel winners like Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman, plus lots of less controversial characters, that capitalism is democracy’s best friend. Free markets respect freedom by honoring personal choice, we’ve been told. They treat people as equals by tying economic rewards to social contributions and opening paths to social mobility. They check an overreaching government by dispersing power among owners, workers, and entrepreneurs. They create widely-shared wealth, so no one’s life needs to be hopeless or degraded.

Pretty to think so, but Piketty’s vast stockpile of new data, weaponized with some simple algebra, vaporizes that story. It shows a world getting radically more unequal, the return of hereditary wealth, and — at least in the US — an economy so distorted that much of what happens at the very top can be fairly described as class-based looting. And he gives some fairly strong reasons to suspect that this, not the relatively open and egalitarian economies of the mid-20th century, is what capitalism looks like.

Piketty’s book feels, itself, economical: it’s undramatic and almost always clear, and the French is handsomely translated by the indispensable Arthur Goldhammer. Reading it is like talking to a smart person who knows you’re smart and knows, too, that you’re not an economist. It’s a pleasure, but — and this is one measure of its success — it’s also a spur to frustration. Since Capital is economics on Piketty’s terms, it diagnoses, gives little comfort, and doesn’t pretend to offer a complete cure. So as it builds its case for an inexorable conflict between democracy and capitalism, it leads its reader to an urgent question it doesn’t, in itself, do all that much to answer: how can democracy prevail? After Piketty, this has to be our question."



"Suppose you care about civic equality, social mobility, the dignity of ordinary people, and the long-term prospects of democracies that need all these values. What to do in the face of rising inequality and oligarchy? Piketty recommends a small, progressive global tax on capital to draw down big fortunes and press back against r > g. He admits this idea won’t get much traction at present, but recommends it as a fixed point in political imagination, a measure of what would be worth doing and how far we have to go to get there.

It’s an excellent idea, but it also shows the limits of Piketty’s argument. He has no theory of how the economy works that can replace the optimistic theories that his numbers devastate. Numbers — powerful ones, to be sure — are what he has. He has counted things that were harder to count before now — income, asset value — and adorned the bottom line with some splendid formulas for holding onto their importance. But r > g, as Piketty readily admits, is not a theory of anything; it is a shorthand generalization of some historical facts about money’s tendency to make money. Those facts held in the agrarian and industrial societies of Europe and North America in the nineteenth century and seem to be holding in today’s industrial and post-industrial economies. But these are very different worlds. Is there something constant that unifies different versions of inequality — that unites plantation owners and Apple shareholders, in their shared privilege above bondsman and Best-Buy techs — or is the inequality itself the only constant? Without answers to these questions, we don’t have a theory of capitalism, just a time-lapse picture of it.

This is not only a theoretical problem. It bears on whether past is prologue, whether inequality yesterday forecasts inequality tomorrow. Without a theory of how the economy produces and allocates value, we can’t know whether r > g will hold into the future. This is essential to whether Piketty can answer his critics, who have argued that we shouldn’t worry much. They claim that rates of return on capital should fall rapidly toward that of the overall economy, as much mainstream theory would predict, or that the overall growth rate will spike with new technological innovations. Either would greatly blunt r > g. Piketty doesn’t really have an answer to these challenges, other than the weight of the historical numbers.

The lack of a general theory is a bit of an epistemic irony. Piketty’s work is a triumph of the Enlightenment aim to make the world intelligible, demystifying it by showing us the patterns that emerge from millions of facts. But by calling for economics to become a historical science, concerned with what has happened and is happening rather than with evermore refined mathematical models, he carries out a massive epistemic dethroning. History happens only once. Its “natural experiments” are few and highly incomplete. And casting light on big and inconvenient facts, he also points out an area of darkness; ignorance where we had been lulled into thinking we had knowledge."



"Piketty shows that capitalism’s attractive moral claims — that it can make everyone better off while respecting their freedom — deserve much less respect under our increasingly “pure” markets than in the mixed economies that dominated the North Atlantic countries in the mid-20th century. It took a strong and mobilized left to build those societies. It may be that capitalism can remain tolerable only under constant political and moral pressure from the left, when the alternative of democratic socialism is genuinely on the table. Piketty reminds us that the reasons for the socialist alternative have not disappeared, or even weakened. We are still seeking an economy that is both vibrant and humane, where mutual advantage is real and mutual aid possible. The one we have isn’t it.

Reading Piketty gives one an acute sense of how much we have lost with the long waning of real political economy, especially the radical kind. As mentioned, Piketty does not expect his one real proposal, a modest wealth tax, to go far in this political environment. Ideas need movements, as movements need ideas. We’ve been short on both. In trying to judge what to do about Piketty’s grim forecasts, there is a crevasse between “write op-eds advocating higher tax rates” and “rebuild the left.” It isn’t Piketty’s job to fill that gap, but he does show just how wide it yawns, and how devastating is the absence it represents."
thomaspiketty  economics  inequality  democracy  capitalism  capital  2014  jedidiahpurdy  freedom  wealth  incomeinequality  inheritance  taxes  morality  democraticsocialism  time  history 
april 2014 by robertogreco
Manso: Our Generation's Greatest Challenge
"This is indeed our generation’s biggest challenge, but education and minimum income (which is an idea I love) are small potatoes compared to the moral reform this will require.

Many humans’ labor will soon be worth close to nothing. In many instances, it already is. Meanwhile, in the United States, work ethic is strongly linked to moral worthiness. I mean, we use the term work ethic – if you don’t work, you’re good for nothing.

There’s no doubt that we’ll need to invent new things for people to do, but we’ll also likely need to train ourselves to be perfectly ok with people who do nothing. Particularly if we want to implement any kind of minimum income. That’s a far cry from the moral outrage we see directed at “welfare queens” today."
jedsundwall  labor  work  ethics  morality  2014  change  economics  universalbasicincome  ubi 
april 2014 by robertogreco
Forget Shorter Showers | Derrick Jensen | Orion Magazine
"WOULD ANY SANE PERSON think dumpster diving would have stopped Hitler, or that composting would have ended slavery or brought about the eight-hour workday, or that chopping wood and carrying water would have gotten people out of Tsarist prisons, or that dancing naked around a fire would have helped put in place the Voting Rights Act of 1957 or the Civil Rights Act of 1964? Then why now, with all the world at stake, do so many people retreat into these entirely personal “solutions”?

Part of the problem is that we’ve been victims of a campaign of systematic misdirection. Consumer culture and the capitalist mindset have taught us to substitute acts of personal consumption (or enlightenment) for organized political resistance. An Inconvenient Truth helped raise consciousness about global warming. But did you notice that all of the solutions presented had to do with personal consumption—changing light bulbs, inflating tires, driving half as much—and had nothing to do with shifting power away from corporations, or stopping the growth economy that is destroying the planet? Even if every person in the United States did everything the movie suggested, U.S. carbon emissions would fall by only 22 percent. Scientific consensus is that emissions must be reduced by at least 75 percent worldwide.

Or let’s talk water. We so often hear that the world is running out of water. People are dying from lack of water. Rivers are dewatered from lack of water. Because of this we need to take shorter showers. See the disconnect? Because I take showers, I’m responsible for drawing down aquifers? Well, no. More than 90 percent of the water used by humans is used by agriculture and industry. The remaining 10 percent is split between municipalities and actual living breathing individual humans. Collectively, municipal golf courses use as much water as municipal human beings. People (both human people and fish people) aren’t dying because the world is running out of water. They’re dying because the water is being stolen.

Or let’s talk energy. Kirkpatrick Sale summarized it well: “For the past 15 years the story has been the same every year: individual consumption—residential, by private car, and so on—is never more than about a quarter of all consumption; the vast majority is commercial, industrial, corporate, by agribusiness and government [he forgot military]. So, even if we all took up cycling and wood stoves it would have a negligible impact on energy use, global warming and atmospheric pollution.”

Or let’s talk waste. In 2005, per-capita municipal waste production (basically everything that’s put out at the curb) in the U.S. was about 1,660 pounds. Let’s say you’re a die-hard simple-living activist, and you reduce this to zero. You recycle everything. You bring cloth bags shopping. You fix your toaster. Your toes poke out of old tennis shoes. You’re not done yet, though. Since municipal waste includes not just residential waste, but also waste from government offices and businesses, you march to those offices, waste reduction pamphlets in hand, and convince them to cut down on their waste enough to eliminate your share of it. Uh, I’ve got some bad news. Municipal waste accounts for only 3 percent of total waste production in the United States.

I want to be clear. I’m not saying we shouldn’t live simply. I live reasonably simply myself, but I don’t pretend that not buying much (or not driving much, or not having kids) is a powerful political act, or that it’s deeply revolutionary. It’s not. Personal change doesn’t equal social change.

So how, then, and especially with all the world at stake, have we come to accept these utterly insufficient responses? I think part of it is that we’re in a double bind. A double bind is where you’re given multiple options, but no matter what option you choose, you lose, and withdrawal is not an option. At this point, it should be pretty easy to recognize that every action involving the industrial economy is destructive (and we shouldn’t pretend that solar photovoltaics, for example, exempt us from this: they still require mining and transportation infrastructures at every point in the production processes; the same can be said for every other so-called green technology). So if we choose option one—if we avidly participate in the industrial economy—we may in the short term think we win because we may accumulate wealth, the marker of “success” in this culture. But we lose, because in doing so we give up our empathy, our animal humanity. And we really lose because industrial civilization is killing the planet, which means everyone loses. If we choose the “alternative” option of living more simply, thus causing less harm, but still not stopping the industrial economy from killing the planet, we may in the short term think we win because we get to feel pure, and we didn’t even have to give up all of our empathy (just enough to justify not stopping the horrors), but once again we really lose because industrial civilization is still killing the planet, which means everyone still loses. The third option, acting decisively to stop the industrial economy, is very scary for a number of reasons, including but not restricted to the fact that we’d lose some of the luxuries (like electricity) to which we’ve grown accustomed, and the fact that those in power might try to kill us if we seriously impede their ability to exploit the world—none of which alters the fact that it’s a better option than a dead planet. Any option is a better option than a dead planet.

Besides being ineffective at causing the sorts of changes necessary to stop this culture from killing the planet, there are at least four other problems with perceiving simple living as a political act (as opposed to living simply because that’s what you want to do). The first is that it’s predicated on the flawed notion that humans inevitably harm their landbase. Simple living as a political act consists solely of harm reduction, ignoring the fact that humans can help the Earth as well as harm it. We can rehabilitate streams, we can get rid of noxious invasives, we can remove dams, we can disrupt a political system tilted toward the rich as well as an extractive economic system, we can destroy the industrial economy that is destroying the real, physical world.

The second problem—and this is another big one—is that it incorrectly assigns blame to the individual (and most especially to individuals who are particularly powerless) instead of to those who actually wield power in this system and to the system itself. Kirkpatrick Sale again: “The whole individualist what-you-can-do-to-save-the-earth guilt trip is a myth. We, as individuals, are not creating the crises, and we can’t solve them.”

The third problem is that it accepts capitalism’s redefinition of us from citizens to consumers. By accepting this redefinition, we reduce our potential forms of resistance to consuming and not consuming. Citizens have a much wider range of available resistance tactics, including voting, not voting, running for office, pamphleting, boycotting, organizing, lobbying, protesting, and, when a government becomes destructive of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, we have the right to alter or abolish it.

The fourth problem is that the endpoint of the logic behind simple living as a political act is suicide. If every act within an industrial economy is destructive, and if we want to stop this destruction, and if we are unwilling (or unable) to question (much less destroy) the intellectual, moral, economic, and physical infrastructures that cause every act within an industrial economy to be destructive, then we can easily come to believe that we will cause the least destruction possible if we are dead.

The good news is that there are other options. We can follow the examples of brave activists who lived through the difficult times I mentioned—Nazi Germany, Tsarist Russia, antebellum United States—who did far more than manifest a form of moral purity; they actively opposed the injustices that surrounded them. We can follow the example of those who remembered that the role of an activist is not to navigate systems of oppressive power with as much integrity as possible, but rather to confront and take down those systems. "
activism  consumerism  consumption  environment  politics  derrickjensen  2009  systems  systemsthinking  policy  simplicity  organization  civilization  sustainability  individualism  collectivism  via:caseygollan  2015  change  politicalchange  personalchange  environmentalism  capitalism  globalwarming  climatechange  reistance  inconvenienttruth  water  energy  kirckpatricksale  waste  doublebinds  success  wealth  culture  industrialism  purity  morality  injustice  oppression  power  integrity  misdirection 
march 2014 by robertogreco
Morals Without God? - NYTimes.com
"Over the past few years, we have gotten used to a strident atheism arguing that God is not great (Christopher Hitchens) or a delusion (Richard Dawkins). The new atheists call themselves “brights,” thus hinting that believers are not so bright. They urge trust in science, and want to root ethics in a naturalistic worldview.

While I do consider religious institutions and their representatives — popes, bishops, mega-preachers, ayatollahs, and rabbis — fair game for criticism, what good could come from insulting individuals who find value in religion? And more pertinently, what alternative does science have to offer? Science is not in the business of spelling out the meaning of life and even less in telling us how to live our lives. We, scientists, are good at finding out why things are the way they are, or how things work, and I do believe that biology can help us understand what kind of animals we are and why our morality looks the way it does. But to go from there to offering moral guidance seems a stretch.

Even the staunchest atheist growing up in Western society cannot avoid having absorbed the basic tenets of Christian morality. Our societies are steeped in it: everything we have accomplished over the centuries, even science, developed either hand in hand with or in opposition to religion, but never separately. It is impossible to know what morality would look like without religion. It would require a visit to a human culture that is not now and never was religious. That such cultures do not exist should give us pause."

[See also: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/mind-reviews-bonobo-and-atheist/ ]
animals  atheism  ethics  philosophy  religion  belief  fransdewaal  via:anne  sciene  evolution  morality  primates  relationships  giving  brain  denbosch  hieronymusbosch  life  living  darwin  altruism  empathy  pleasure  charity  inequity  inequityaversion  dogs  2010  charlesdarwin 
february 2014 by robertogreco
Paul Piff: Does money make you mean? | Video on TED.com
"It's amazing what a rigged game of Monopoly can reveal. In this entertaining but sobering talk, social psychologist Paul Piff shares his research into how people behave when they feel wealthy. (Hint: badly.) But while the problem of inequality is a complex and daunting challenge, there's good news too. (Filmed at TEDxMarin.)

Paul Piff studies how social hierarchy, inequality and emotion shape relations between individuals and groups."

[A summary, in GIFs: http://stoweboyd.com/post/74281156067/invisibleeverywhere-tedx-does-money-make-you ]

[Related: "Rich People Just Care Less" http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/10/05/rich-people-just-care-less/ ]
paulpiff  wealth  privilege  2013  danielgoleman  success  ego  behavior  self-interest  entitlement  compassion  empathy  monopoly  money  research  inequality  emotion  hierarchy  hierarchies  advantage  society  status  greed  morality  cheating  sharing  helpfulness  moralizing  self-importance  ethics  legal  law  effort  pedestrians  achievement  accomplishment  capitalism  socialmobility  growth  trust  lifeexpectancy  health  economics  cooperation  community  egalitarianism  poverty  inequity 
january 2014 by robertogreco
The empty chair: Education in an ethic of hospitality | Claudia Ruitenberg - Academia.edu
"The ethical frameworks of autonomy and virtue often include direct instruction and assessment. For example, students can be asked to explain their moral reasoning or to demonstrate particular virtues in their interactions with peers. The emphasis of the ethic of care is on modeling caring, “so we do not tell our students to care; we show them how to care by creating caring relations with them.”33

Likewise, hospitality is not instructed but modeled. The onus is on teachers to offer hospitality, and to show that their interventions are aimed at leaving open a place where the other may arrive. This is a demanding and impossible ethic, one that cannot be perfected or completed, but that demands a response nonetheless. In this way, the ethic of hospitality in education does justice to critiques of subjectivity; as Derrida asks rhetorically, “is not hospitality an interruption of the self?”"

[Direct link to PDF: http://ojs.ed.uiuc.edu/index.php/pes/article/viewFile/3247/1150 ]
claudiaruitenberg  2011  via:steelemaley  hospitality  teaching  modeling  care  caring  behavior  tcsnmy  lcproject  ethics  autonomy  interdependence  morality  virtues  howweteach  jacquesderrida  learning  apprenticeships  mentoring 
january 2014 by robertogreco
Urge of the Letter: Social media surely change identity performance....
"Often, the critique of device dependence in connected life today turns on forms of etiquette that emerge or change in the context of technology. Sherry Turkle is perhaps the best-known and most grounded of such critics—and yet I often find myself wondering whether she gets the moral and psychological import of such social forms precisely backward. “I talk to young people about etiquette when they go out to dinner,” she writes in a recent op-ed, “and they explain to me that when in a group of, say, seven, they make sure that at least three people are ‘heads up’ in the ‘talking’ conversation at any one time.” For Turkle, this is evidence of how “[t]echnology doesn’t just do things for us. It does things to us, changing not just what we do but who we are.” But isn’t this evidence instead of our social malleability and adaptability, our capacity for incorporating devices and signals into new modes of address? And as Jurgenson points out in the quote above, it isn’t as though devices arrived in the midst of a sociable utopia of autonomous persons engaged in exchanges of authenticity—for we humans always have deployed rituals and discursive forms to discipline, mediate, and construct social selves.

On the other hand, I’m reminded of Bruce Sterling’s observations about disconnection, in which device-independence becomes a kind of luxury practice akin to boutique poultry farming and meditation retreats—an indulgence of those wealthy enough to afford assistance in human form, or can avoid those dependencies of work, social, and civic life that increasingly require us to maintain our tech-mediated connectivity. Devices can make us susceptible to surveillance and control in insidious and comprehensive ways. It’s important to remember, however, that such control is not a thing technology does to us out of some inherent hegemonic impulse, but the result of choices we make about its design and use."
2014  matthewbattles  digitaldualism  nathanjurgenson  sherryturkle  brucesterling  nuance  disconnection  socialmedia  identity  performance  etiquette  context  technology  morality  psychology  malleability  behavior  adaptability  society  social  mediation  discipline  connectivity  surveillance  control  design  choice 
january 2014 by robertogreco
The Myth Of Western Civilization - Ta-Nehisi Coates - The Atlantic
"Democracy is a struggle, not a trophy and not a bragging right. This is not a matter of being polite and sensitive. It is understanding that we live on the edge of the volcano, that the volcano is in us. Judt is keenly aware that late 20th century Europe's accomplishments could be wrecked by the simple actions of men.



I don't have any gospel of my own. Postwar, and the early pages of Bloodlands, have revealed a truth to me: I am an atheist. (I have recently realized this.) I don't believe the arc of the universe bends towards justice. I don't even believe in an arc. I believe in chaos. I believe powerful people who think they can make Utopia out of chaos should be watched closely. I don't know that it all ends badly. But I think it probably does.

I'm also not a cynic. I think that those of us who reject divinity, who understand that there is no order, there is no arc, that we are night travelers on a great tundra, that stars can't guide us, will understand that the only work that will matter, will be the work done by us. Or perhaps not. Maybe the very myths I decry are necessary for that work. I don't know. But history is a brawny refutation for that religion brings morality. And I now feel myself more historian than journalist."
tanehisi-coates  2013  religion  chaos  democracy  westerncivilization  history  journalism  historians  morality  tonyjudt  philrobertson  patriarchy  doomsayers  power  sexism  nationalism  certainty  soloutionism  civilization  exceptionalism 
january 2014 by robertogreco
On Smarm
"It is also no accident that David Eggers is full of shit."

"Smarm should be understood as a type of bullshit, then. It is a kind of moral and ethical misdirection."

"The old systems of prestige are rickety and insecure. Everyone has a publishing platform and no one has a career."

"What carries contemporary American political campaigns along is a thick flow of opaque smarm."

"Romney clambered up to a new higher ground, deploring the divisiveness of dwelling on his divisiveness."

"Through smarm, the "centrists" have cut themselves off from the language of actual dispute. In smarm is power."

"A civilization that speaks in smarm is a civilization that has lost its ability to talk about purposes at all."

"Joe Lieberman! If you would know smarm, look to Joe Lieberman."

"The plutocrats are haunted, as all smarmers are haunted, by a lack of respect. On Twitter, the only answer to "Do you know who I am?" is "One more person with 140 characters to use.""

"To actually say a plain and direct word like "corrupt" is more outlandish, in smarm's outlook, than even swearing."

"Anger is upsetting to smarm. But so is humor and confidence."

"Immense fortunes have bloomed in Silicon Valley on the most ephemeral and stupid windborne seeds of concepts. What's wrong with you, that you didn't get a piece of it?"
criticism  culture  smarm  snark  daveeggers  malcolmgladwell  2013  tomscocca  buzzfeed  heidijulavits  isaacfitzgerald  daviddenby  bambi  arifleischer  lannydavis  leesiegel  cynicism  negativity  tone  politics  writing  critique  mittromney  barackobama  michaelbloomberg  ianfrazier  centrists  power  redistribution  rebeccablank  civilization  dialog  conversation  purpose  jedediahpurdy  irony  joelieberman  marshallsella  billclinton  mainstream  georgewbush  maureendowd  rudeness  meanness  plutocrats  wealth  publishing  media  respect  niallferguson  alexpareene  mariabartiromo  gawker  choiresicha  anger  confidence  humor  spikelee  upworthy  adammordecai  juliachild  success  successfulness  niceness  tompeters  bullshit  morality  ethics  misdirection  insecurity  prestige  audience  dialogue 
december 2013 by robertogreco
Get Happy!! | The Nation
"For Margaret Thatcher as for today’s happiness industry, there is no such thing as society."



"Whether such discontent is more intense or pervasive now than it was fifty or 150 years ago is an unanswerable question. “There have been periods happier and others more desperate than ours,” the conservative cultural critic Ernest van den Haag observed in 1956. “But we don’t know which.” Samuel Beckett put the matter more sweepingly and poetically: “The tears of the world are a constant quantity,” he wrote, and “the same is true of the laugh.” But while it is impossible to chart the ebb and flow of emotions historically, to identify some epochs as happier or sadder than others, it is possible to explore the ways that dominant notions of happiness reflect the changing needs and desires of the culturally powerful at various historical moments. One can write the history of ideas about happiness, if not of happiness itself.

And that is another reason the current spate of happiness manuals is so depressing: their ideas of happiness embody the conventional wisdom of our time, which can best be characterized as scientism—a concept not to be confused with science, as Steven Pinker did in a recent New Republic polemic that attempted to bridge the seeming divide between the humanities and the sciences. The vast majority of practicing scientists (except for a few propagandists like Pinker) probably do not embrace scientism, but it is the idiom journalists use to popularize scientific findings for a nonscientific audience. It is not, to be sure, an outlook based on the scientific method—the patient weighing of experimental results, the reframing of questions in response to contrary evidence, the willingness to live with epistemological uncertainty. Quite the contrary: scientism is a revival of the nineteenth-century positivist faith that a reified “science” has discovered (or is about to discover) all the important truths about human life. Precise measurement and rigorous calculation, in this view, are the basis for finally settling enduring metaphysical and moral controversies—explaining consciousness and choice, replacing ambiguity with certainty. The most problematic applications of scientism have usually arisen in the behavioral sciences, where the varieties and perversities of experience have often been reduced to quantitative data that are alleged to reveal an enduring “human nature.”

The scientism on display in the happiness manuals offers a strikingly vacuous worldview, one devoid of history, culture or political economy. Its chief method is self-reported survey research; its twin conceptual pillars are pop evolutionary psychology, based on just-so stories about what human life was like on the African savannah 100,000 years ago, and pop neuroscience, based on sweeping, unsubstantiated claims about brain function gleaned from fragments of contemporary research. The worldview of the happiness manuals, like that in other self-help literature, epitomizes “the triumph of the therapeutic” described some decades ago by the sociologist Philip Rieff: the creation of a world where all overarching structures of meaning have collapsed, and there is “nothing at stake beyond a manipulatable sense of well-being.” With good reason, Rieff attributed the triumph of the therapeutic to the shrinking authority of Christianity in the West. But because he did not see the connections between therapeutic and capitalist worldviews, he could not foresee their convergence in late twentieth-century neoliberalism. For Margaret Thatcher as for the happiness industry, “There is no such thing as society.” There are only individuals, regulating their inner and outer lives in order to sustain and increase personal satisfaction."



"In the Skidelskys’ vision of the good society, noncoercive paternalism would be balanced by localism. The state would bear responsibility for promoting basic goods, would ensure that the fruits of productivity are shared more evenly, and would reduce the pressure to consume—perhaps through a progressive expenditure tax like the one proposed by the economist Robert Frank. This would restrain what he calls the “runaway spending at the top,” which belies the myth that the 1 percent is the “investing class” and has “spawned a luxury fever,” Frank writes, that “has us all in its grip.” To that same end—the dampening of consumption—the Skidelskys propose eliminating advertising as a deductible business expense. They are also refreshingly resistant to free-market globaloney. The good life, they make clear, is not (and cannot be) dependent on globalization: “Developed countries will have to rely more on domestic sources of production to satisfy their needs; developing market economies will need to abandon export-growth models that rely on ever-increasing consumption demand in developed countries.” Scaling back consumption means scaling down international trade. This is not an ascetic agenda—the charge so often leveled against critics of consumer culture, as if consumption is the only imaginable form of leisure. On the contrary: How Much Is Enough? is an effort to imagine possibilities for a satisfying life beyond market discipline.

The Skidelskys want to revive a more capacious sense of leisure, and they conclude their book by underscoring the material basis for it: a “long-term decrease in the demand for labor resulting from continuous improvements in labor productivity.” This has already happened, but the fruits of increased productivity have gone to CEOs and shareholders. Were those gains to be redirected to the workers themselves, the results would be startling: reductions in working hours, early retirements, experiments in work sharing, the thirty-five-hour week and the like. Who knows? People might even be happier.

This vision is timely, a crucial contribution to contemporary political debate. But what gives it arresting force is the commitment behind it. The Skidelskys deploy a tone of moral seriousness that few on the left seem willing to risk today—at least with respect to imagining the good life. Moral seriousness is always a tricky business; no one likes a scold. But after all the Skidelskys’ apt examples and patient arguments, they have established the authority to make this claim: “At the core of our system is a moral decay that is tolerated only because the cleansing of its Augean stables is too traumatic to contemplate.” How Much Is Enough? gets it right. Reading its bracing criticism and humane proposals, I felt a sense, however fleeting, of real happiness."
happiness  culture  stevenpinker  science  scientism  evolutionarypsychology  psychology  self-help  jacksonlears  neuroscience  via:annegalloway  chance  gameoflife  miltonbradley  christianity  individualism  history  capitalism  consumerism  materialism  society  well-being  leisure  labor  localism  socialdemocracy  neoliberalism  shimonedelman  oliverburkeman  robertskidelsky  edwardskidelsky  sonjalyubomirsky  christopherpeterson  jilllepore  cliffordgeetz  money  self-betterment  johnmaynardkeynes  socialism  policy  government  morality  adamsmith  marxism  karlmarx  pleasure  relationships  humans  humanism 
november 2013 by robertogreco
Information Consumerism: The Price of Hypocrisy - Überwachung - FAZ
"In as much as the Snowden affair has forced us to confront these issues, it’s been a good thing for democracy. Let’s face it: most of us would rather not think about the ethical implications of smart toothbrushes or the hypocrisy involved in Western rhetoric towards Iran or the genuflection that more and more European leaders show in front of Silicon Valley and its awful, brain-damaging language, the Siliconese. The least we can do is to acknowledge that the crisis is much deeper and that it stems from intellectual causes as much as from legal ones. Information consumerism, like its older sibling energy consumerism, is a much more dangerous threat to democracy than the NSA."
edwardsnowden  2013  evgenymorozov  ethics  technology  nsa  informationconsumerism  consumerism  hypocrisy  piracy  politics  morality  economics  civics  citizenship  markets  capitalism  law  legal  internetofthings  internet  web  freedom  iot 
july 2013 by robertogreco
Luke's Commonplace Book: The end of Jane Tomkin’s West of Everything
“… the academic experience combine(s) the elements of admiration, bloodlust and moral self-congratulation…. We feel justified in this because we are right, so right, and they, like the villains in the Western, are wrong, so wrong…. These remarks have a moralizing tendency, to say the least, and at this juncture it would seem I ought to say something like, “And so the cowboys and the farmers should be friends,” or “Do unto other critics as you would have other critics do unto you.” I believe in peace and I believe in the Golden Rule, but I don’t believe I’ve earned the right to such pronouncements. At least not yet. It’s difficult to unlearn the habits of a lifetime, and this very essay has been fueled by a good deal of the righteousness it is in the business of questioning. So instead of offering you a moral, I call your attention to the moment: the moment of righteous ecstasy, the moment when you know you have the moral advantage of your adversary, the moment of murderousness. It’s a moment when there’s still time to stop, there’s still time to reflect, there’s still time to say, “I don’t care who’s right or who’s wrong. There has to be some better way to live.”

—The end of Jane Tomkin’s West of Everything 
janetomkin  academia  morality  righteousness  questioning  reflection  right  wrong  debate  life  living  coexistence  conviviality  gray  slef-congratulation  critics  criticism 
june 2013 by robertogreco
Troy Jollimore – Godless but good
"Principles are useful, perhaps, but only as rules of thumb, practical guidelines that hold for the most part, but to which there will always be exceptions. At the foundational level, ethics is built not on a system of rules, but on individual human beings who possess character, judgment, and wisdom."
ethics  principles  judgement  troyjollimore  2013  humans  humanism  antoniodamasio  religion  morality  belief  goodness  behavior  theory  experience  secularism 
march 2013 by robertogreco
Lebbeus Woods 1940—2012: Tributes to a fearless creator of worlds - Architecture - Domus
Neil M. Denari: "To know Lebbeus was to know a real human. A person who did nothing more than live, which most of us do not. Essentially he lived for others, even as he perpetuated the myth of the singular figure. He worked to communicate, not to satisfy. He loved the fight, not out of righteousness, but out of principal. He loved pleasure, not out of hedonism, but as a shared experience. In his form of living, the world was a massive, inexhaustible cybernetic organism, and he described it through his drawings, his ideas, his writing, and in his love for humanity. He lived his work and his work lived him. He made you live deeper. While Lebbeus was always obsessed with the metrics of things, the way systems and phenomena could be measured, the one thing that could never be quantified was his own life. Lebbeus Woods lives on."

Christoph A. Kumpusch: "In one of our last conversations, Lebbeus said, "Christoph, the biggest problem you can have in life is not having a problem." …"

Geoff Manaug: "Lebbeus Woods was utterly unique and entirely irreplaceable, a full-scale terrestrial force for rethinking architecture's relationship not only with the earth and with gravity, but also with all of grounded philosophy, with any belief in stability, in calm. Lebbeus dove headlong into war, seismicity, urban collapse and even deep space, where perspective and horizon mean nothing, not to celebrate groundlessness but to help us all think through and discover new ways to belong, to build, to find a plane of reference worth trusting (if there can be such a thing). That is architecture at its very best and most urgent — and the relentless Lebbeus will be dearly and heroically missed."

Thom Mayne: "Lebbeus. A man of huge integrity and an insatiable inquisitiveness to explore what he saw as the potentialities of an architecture — works of his mind untethered, unwilling to succumb to the contingent, the compromises inherent in our discipline. There was an equally powerful and balancing commitment to the political/cultural critique that was essential to his project as an architect, teacher and writer. He was, above all, interested in values: what is architecture for? His ethical understanding of our work gave him a moral authority which affected generations of architects. His search was for an authenticity of the present — to build the unbuildable, characterised by the ambiguities of time, the ephemerality of the durable, weight (gravity), physicality and an emotional content embracing a critical optimism with a sense of melancholy. …"

Eric Owen Moss: ""I will forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race. And I will try to express myself in some mode of life or art as freely as I can and as wholly as I can, using for my defence the only arms I allow myself to use: silence, exile and cunning." So said Joyce's Stephen Dedalus. I don't know that Joyce's goal is attainable. But it's the most moving advocacy I know for Dedalus's heroic aspiration. That aspiration also resonates in Lebbeus Woods's voice. That is the Woods archetype. Silence. Exile. Cunning."

Michael Sorkin: "Lebbeus Woods was an authentic genius. His intelligence was radical and his work at once intense and effortless, filled with revolutionary joy. Such is the ineffability of genius: it works in the absence of will. … "

Hans Ulrich Obrist: "…Over almost half a century, Woods offered us portals to other always unexpected dimensions. Woods, for whom architecture was an open gate to possibility, envisioned new and alternative forms of utopian thinking. Ernst Bloch defined utopia as "something that's missing". Similar to the late Édouard Glissant, Woods's utopia was quivering, trembling, because it transcended established systems of thought and subjected itself to the unknown. Glissant has inspired generations of architects with a deep philosophical commitment to architecture. Once he told me that it must be said from the start that trembling is not uncertainty, and it is not fear; that every utopia passes through this kind of thought. Utopia is a reality where one can meet with the other without losing oneself. In a text on utopia, Lebbeus asked, "Have we reached the end of utopia as well as the end of history? Let us listen to, and watch, the more ambitious and idealistic of the coming generation. Only they have the answer."

Anthony Vidler: "…someone… whose ethical compass and staunch resistance to the consumerist spectacle was a guidepost to us all."

Kenneth Frampton: "Lebbeus Woods was an enigma who lived his life in defiance of the society into which he had been thrown and by which he was besieged. It was not an easy passage for someone of his rough ethical sense. "What are poets for in a destitute time?" could have been applied more aptly to him than to many others. Hence the unremitting dystopia of his vision, compulsively laid onto paper in one distressed stroke of his talented mind's eye after another. With him it was Blade Runner all the way; the prophetic mise en scène of a world reduced to meaningless rubble, the crashed spaceships and tubular rail bridges of a doomed escape. Hephaestus mocked by the repelling hubris of his own poetic astral technology that even Lebbeus could be seduced by. Yet through all this he remained the passionate advocate of the creative spirit, and it is this that made him into an inspired teacher and a passionate and articulate nurturer of the tyro architect. He was an anarchic romantic to the core, which made him intolerant of unreconstructed erstwhile "New Deal" critics like myself. As he put to me during a review of student work at the Cooper Union, "You are preaching in the wrong church here." This was about it: a rebel without a cause versus a socialist without a country."
lebbeuswoods  neildenari  architecture  2012  2013  domus  toaspireto  thommayne  geoffmanaugh  christophkumpusch  ericowenmoss  jamesjoyce  stephendedalus  utopia  michaelsorkin  hansulrichobrist  anthonyvidler  values  purpose  life  living  morality  ethics  teaching  kennethframpton  canon 
february 2013 by robertogreco
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