recentpopularlog in

robertogreco : purity   23

T. S. Eliot Memorial Reading: Fred Moten - YouTube
“The first annual T. S. Eliot Memorial Reading honored the work of Fred Moten, who was introduced by Prof. Teju Cole.

Recorded on April 25, 2019, at the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, Harvard University.

Sponsored by the Woodberry Poetry Room and the T. S. Eliot Foundation.“
tseliot  fredmoten  tejucole  2019  towatch  freedom  vigor  love  witness  withness  breakingform  ephasia  art  writing  fluency  transformation  we  uninterrogatedwes  ceciltaylor  language  escape  édouardglissant  tonimorrison  howweread  howwewrite  difference  separability  meaning  meaningmaking  words  poetry  expression  togetherness  liberation  howweteach  lacan  criticaltheory  reading  purity  jamesbaldwin  race  beauty  criticism  self  selflessness  fugitives  fugitivity  work  labor  laziness  us  capitalism  politics  identity  society  belonging  immigration  africandiaspora  diaspora  violence  langstonhughes  looking  listening  queer  queerness  bettedavis  eyes  ugliness  bodies  canon 
4 days ago by robertogreco
How I Know You Wrote Your Kid’s College Essay - The New York Times
[not quoting the article here, but adding this response from Phoebe Maltz Bovy:
https://twitter.com/tweetertation/status/1049271068064534529

"Where to begin? Maybe where commenters do: why is someone who *edited college admissions essays for pay* lecturing parents on the inauthenticity + unfairness of parents helping kids with theirs?

But also: no “henceforth” (or any other word) isn’t a definitive tell that a 17-year-old got help writing something. But that’s kind of the least of it. The real problem is the admissions essay itself in its current purpose

It’s not a writing sample. It’s not a cover letter. It’s... well, the linked article explains quite well what it is, but unfortunately celebrates it while doing so

"So the good news is: The college essay is the purest part of the application." With purity meaning what, in this context?

Purity as in, *who the applicant truly is as a person*, something colleges go through this whole ritual of pretending 1) that they can figure out via a short (and maybe ghostwritten) essay) and 2) that it's remotely their place ethically to determine

"In fact, a good test of a college essay is: Can the writer convince the reader that she would make a great roommate?" Meaning, "Are you any fun?" Again, the two questions: 1) *can* colleges even assess "fun" from these things, and 2) should as-a-person-ness even enter into this?

What would be the great tragedy if - if the US finds regional-colleges-for-all too bleak or foreign - the assessment really were based on tangibles? (Could be grades, scores, extracurriculars, demographics, could even take into account special circumstances) and not As-A-Person?

Colleges both logistically can't *and shouldn't pretend to* know who applicants are as people, and it's so bonkers that assessment is at all based on how charming (to adults) someone comes across in an essay (that someone else maybe wrote)

The application should be understood by all parties as just that: an application for admission to a school or, if common-app, multiple schools. That's all it is, no more, no less. It's not a Human Worthiness test.

I've written on this before and named the problem as "holistic" assessment. But in a way, that's not even it. Keep "holistic," fine! But be clear that it's holistic assessment *of college applicants* and not *of applicants as human beings*"]

[my addition to that:
https://twitter.com/rogre/status/1051555285020495873

"👏 to this response thread. There is no “purity” in the admissions process, not even in the essays as the oped claims. This “authenticity” business is just the latest gaming of the hyper-corrupted process in the favor of those that have more."]
colleges  universities  admissions  2018  phoebemaltzbovy  parenting  elitism  highered  highereducation  education  collegecounseling  purity  authenticity  inequality 
october 2018 by robertogreco
I'm Nowhere In-between: Why we need 'seriously uncool' criticism in education - Long View on Education
"You know those t-charts that divide approaches to education into the old and the new? Of course you do. And I bet that were we both to take five minutes to reproduce one from memory, we would come up with roughly the same list. All we’d need to do then is choose a side. Or perhaps stake out a position somewhere in the middle, a blend of the two. Nothing too extreme.

Let me show you one from nearly 100 years ago. In 1925, May R. Pringle experimented with ‘the project method’, which we would now call ‘Project Based Learning’.1

[image]

I spend a lot of time thinking and writing about how we need to be critical of the list of ‘the new and modern’ because it’s always backed by a corporate push. But that’s not why progressive educators find the list seductive. The very terms themselves act as a siren call to anyone who wants a more humane education for children: creative, student-centered, open, flexible, collaboration, choice. We are told that these are the qualities that schools kill and that CEOs would kill for.

But here is the problem. What if CEOs started to call for qualities that ran against our progressive values? In a report by The Economist (and sponsored by Google), Emiliana Vega, “chief of the Education Division, Inter- American Development Bank”, describes the kind of skills that he wishes schools would instill:
“In Latin America, socio- emotional skills are a big part of the gap between what employers need and what young people have. For example, tourism companies need people who will smile and be polite to guests, and often graduates just don’t possess those public- facing techniques.”

Think about that for a minute.

But opposing this new ‘skills agenda’ doesn’t mean that I’m a traditionalist or trying to cut a middle ground. My teaching is most certainly not some kind of ‘back to basics’ or mindless self-medicating prescribed by the ‘what works’ gurus.

The ‘what works’ agenda holds it’s own kind of seduction for self-fashioned rationalists in the vein of Richard Dawkins or Daniel Dennett, who somehow manage to hold onto the Modern faith in science as if most of the 20th century never happened. Geert Lovink sums up that limited critical terrain by looking at the work of Nick Carr, who often criticizes technology because of the effect it has on our cognition:
“Carr and others cleverly exploit the Anglo-American obsession with anything related to the mind, brain and consciousness – mainstream science reporting cannot get enough of it. A thorough economic (let alone Marxist) analysis of Google and the free and open complex is seriously uncool. It seems that the cultural critics will have to sing along with the Daniel Dennetts of this world (loosely gathered on edge.org) in order to communicate their concerns.”

Most of the ‘seriously uncool’ criticism of the project of Modernity has exploded the dichotomies that the destructive myth of ‘rational’ and ‘objective’ scientific ‘progress’ rested on. While we might lament that teachers do not read enough research, we can’t mistake that research for a neutral, apolitical body of knowledge.

Allow me to use a famous study to illustrate my point. Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer’s ‘The Pen Is Mightier than the Keyboard’ (2014) seems to show that writing notes with pen and paper boosts retention and understanding of information compared to typing notes on a computer. In their study, the participants watched TED talks and took notes, completed distractor tasks, and about 30 minutes later answered questions. In one condition, the test was delayed by a week and some participants were allowed to study their notes for 10 minutes before taking the test. The TED talks were intentionally disconnected from any larger project they were learning about.

So rationally and scientifically speaking, we should have students take notes with pen and paper, right?

Yet, the study itself is not neutral with respect to pedagogy since it contains many in-built assumptions about how we should teach: we can say that the pen is mightier than the keyboard under the controlled conditions when students watch a short lecture once, about a topic they are not in the course of studying, when they are not permitted to take the notes home and perform more work with them, and when the assessment of knowledge uses short answer questions divorced from a meaningful purpose or complex project.

Is that how we want to teach? Would a democratic conversation about schools endorse that pedagogy?

In the lab, scientists try to reduce the complexity and heterogeneity in networks – to purify them – so as to create controlled conditions. Subjects and treatments are standardized so they become comparable. Drawing on systems theory, Gert Biesta argues that schools – like all institutions and our social life more broadly – engage in a kind of complexity reduction. We group children into grades and classes, start and end the day at the same time, in order to reduce “the number of available options for action for the elements of a system” which can “make a quick and smooth operation possible”.

Reducing options for action is neither good nor bad in itself, but it is always an issue of politics and power. So, cognitive science is no more a neutral guide than CEOs. As Biesta writes, “The issue, after all is, who has the power to reduce options for action for whom.”

Reliance on only ‘what works’ is a kind of complexity reduction that would eliminate the need for professional judgement. Biesta worries about the “democratic deficit” that results from “the uptake of the idea of evidence-based practice in education”. It’s a conversation stopper, much like relying on CEOs to provide us with the ‘skills of the future’ also raises the issue of a ‘democratic deficit’ and questions about who has power.

I’m not writing this because I feel like what I have to say is completely new, but because I feel like I need to affirm a commitment to the project of critical pedagogy, which does not rest somewhere in the middle of a t-chart. Critical pedagogy embraces hybridity over purification. Our classrooms should emphasize the very heterogeneity in networks in all their variation and glory that experiments – and corporations – seek to eliminate.2

If I’m nowhere in-between, I’m certainly not the first nor alone.

In Teaching to Transgress (1994), bell hooks tells us that “talking about pedagogy, thinking about it critically, is not the intellectual work that most folks think is hip and cool.” Yes, we still need more of that ‘seriously uncool’ critical work if education is to work in the service of freedom. hooks writes, “Ideally, education should be a place where the need for diverse teaching methods and styles would be valued, encouraged, seen as essential to learning.”

There’s lots of reason to think that the social media discussion of education is not a kind of paradise. But as hooks reminds us,
“…learning is a place where paradise can be created. The classroom, with all its limitations, remains a location of possibility. In that field of possibility we have the opportunity to labor for freedom, to demand of ourselves and our comrades, an openness of mind and heart that allows us to face reality even as we collectively imagine ways to move beyond boundaries, to transgress. This is education as the practice of freedom.”3
"
benjamindoxtdator  2017  dichotomies  dichotomy  spectrums  projectbasedlearning  bellhooks  criticalpedagogy  education  lcproject  openstudioproject  sfsh  hybridity  purity  teaching  leaning  unschooling  deschooling  progressive  schools  freedom  homogeneity  heterogeneity  mayrpringle  history  modernity  emilianavega  richarddawkins  danieldennett  faith  geertlovink  criticism  criticalthinking  technology  pammueller  danieloppenheimer  tedtalks  democracy  democratic  gertbiesta  systemstheory  diversity  complexity  simplicity  agesegregation  efficiency  politics  power  authority  networks  possibility  nicholascarr 
july 2017 by robertogreco
- Wonderful passage on NYC #centralpark designer,...
"Wonderful passage on NYC #centralpark designer, Frederick Law Olmsted’s views on nature in #rebeccasolnit’s book, #savagedreams. Olmsted viewed nature as part of society, whereas #henrydavidthoreau saw nature as a refuge from society. This very split epitomizes how the West conceives of what is “natural.” Solnit argues that people like Thoreau and Muir fetishized a form of nature that was pure and that it was waiting there to be discovered by the white man, which allowed them to believe their own narrative that they were the “first”. Olmsted conceives access to nature as a universal right and that it is not a first come first serve situation. I’ve been thinking about what is considered natural after watching #themartian when Matt Damon proudly says that he is the first to “colonize” Mars. What enabled the writers to use that word without any sense of the historical savagery associated with it? NASA is at once a symbol of scientific advancement and also a symbol of a Thoreau-esque view of nature - apart from us, to be discovered, and conquered. Whereas previous colonizers had to deal with human residents in Africa, North America, South America, Caribbeans, space colonizers don’t have to deal any life, making this the most ideal colonial experience.

#triciainreading thanks @hautepop for your pic that spurred me to pull out solnit’s book again!"

[on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/p/_4Q_zQt8OT/ ]
triciawand  rebeccasolnit  thoreau  fredericklawolmstead  johnmuir  landscape  naure  society  purity  socialengineering  space  openspace  publicspace  cities  urban  urbanism  centralpark  nyc  manhattan  culture  experience  earthmoving  refuge  solitude 
december 2015 by robertogreco
Hot Allostatic Load – The New Inquiry
"HI

I am too sick to write this article. The act of writing about my injuries is like performing an interpretative dance after breaking nearly every bone in my body. When I sit down to edit this doc, my head starts aching like a capsule full of some corrosive fluid has dissolved and is leaking its contents. The mental haze builds until it becomes difficult to see the text, to form a thesis, to connect parts. They drop onto the page in fragments. This is the difficulty of writing about brain damage.

The last time I was in the New Inquiry, several years ago, I was being interviewed. I was visibly sick. I was in an abusive “community” that had destroyed my health with regular, sustained emotional abuse and neglect. Sleep-deprived, unable to take care of myself, my body was tearing itself apart. I was suicidal from the abuse, and I had an infected jaw that needed treatment.

Years later, I’m talking to my therapist. I told her, when you have PTSD, everything you make is about PTSD. After a few minutes I slid down and curled up on the couch like the shed husk of a cicada. I go to therapy specifically because of the harassment and ostracism from within my field.

This is about disposability from a trans feminine perspective, through the lens of an artistic career. It’s about being human trash.

This is in defense of the hyper-marginalized among the marginalized, the Omelas kids, the marked for death, those who came looking for safety and found something worse than anything they’d experienced before.

For years, queer/trans/feminist scenes have been processing an influx of trans fems, often impoverished, disabled, and/or from traumatic backgrounds. These scenes have been abusing them, using them as free labor, and sexually exploiting them. The leaders of these scenes exert undue influence over tastemaking, jobs, finance, access to conferences, access to spaces. If someone resists, they are disappeared, in the mundane, boring, horrible way that many trans people are susceptible to, through a trapdoor that can be activated at any time. Housing, community, reputation—gone. No one mourns them, no one asks questions. Everyone agrees that they must have been crazy and problematic and that is why they were gone.

I was one of these people.

They controlled my housing and access to nearly every resource. I was sexually harassed, had my bathroom use monitored, my crumbling health ignored or used as a tool of control, was constantly yelled at, and was pressured to hurt other trans people and punished severely when I refused.

The cycle of trans kids being used up and then smeared is a systemic, institutionalized practice. It happens in the shelters, in the radical organizations, in the artistic scenes—everywhere they might have a chance of gaining a foothold. It’s like an abusive foster household that constantly kicks kids out then uses their tears and anger at being raped and abused to justify why they had to be kicked out—look at these problem kids. Look at these problematic kids.

Trans fems are especially vulnerable to abuse for the following reasons:

— A lot of us encounter concepts for the first time and have no idea what is “normal” or not.

— We have nowhere else to go. Abuse thrives on scarcity.

— No one cares what happens to us.

This foster cycle relies on amnesia. A lot of people who enter spaces for the first time don’t know those spaces’ history. They may not know that leaders regularly exploit and make sexual advances on new members, or that those members who resisted are no longer around. Spaces self-select for people who will play the game, until the empathic people have been drained out and the only ones who remain are those who have perfectly identified with the agendas and survival of the Space—the pyramid scheme of believers who bring capital and victims to those on top."



"
TRASH ART

When it was really bad, I wrote: “Build the shittiest thing possible. Build out of trash because all i have is trash. Trash materials, trash bodies, trash brain syndrome. Build in the gaps between storms of chronic pain. Build inside the storms. Move a single inch and call it a victory. Mold my sexuality toward immobility. Lie here leaking water from my eyes like a statue covered in melting frost. Zero affect. Build like moss grows. Build like crystals harden. Give up. Make your art the merest displacement of molecules at your slightest quiver. Don’t build in spite of the body and fail on their terms, build with the body. Immaculate is boring and impossible. Health based aesthetic.”

Twine, trashzines made of wadded up torn paper because we don’t have the energy to do binding, street recordings done from our bed where we lie immobilized.

Laziness is not laziness, it is many things: avoiding encountering one’s own body, avoiding triggers, avoiding thinking about the future because it’s proven to be unbearable. Slashing the Gordian Knot isn’t a sign of strength; it’s a sign of exhaustion."



"SOCIAL DYNAMICS

COMMUNITY IS DISPOSABILITY
There are no activist communities, only the desire for communities, or the convenient fiction of communities. A community is a material web that binds people together, for better and for worse, in interdependence. If its members move away every couple years because the next place seems cooler, it is not a community. If it is easier to kick someone out than to go through a difficult series of conversations with them, it is not a community. Among the societies that had real communities, exile was the most extreme sanction possible, tantamount to killing them. On many levels, losing the community and all the relationships it involved was the same as dying. Let’s not kid ourselves: we don’t have communities.

—The Broken Teapot, Anonymous"

People crave community so badly that it constitutes a kind of linguistic virus. Everything in this world apparently has a community attached to it, no matter how fragmented or varied the reality is. This feels like both wishful thinking in an extremely lonely world (trans fems often have a community-shaped wound a mile wide) and also the necessary lens to convert everything to profit. Queerness is a marketplace. Alt is a marketplace. Buy my feminist butt plugs.

The dream of an imaginary community that allows total identification with one’s role within it to an extent that rules out interiority or doubt, the fixity and clearness of an external image or cliche as opposed to ephemera of lived experience, a life as it looks from the outside.

—Stephen Murphy

These idealized communities require disposability to maintain the illusion—violence and ostracism against the black/brown/trans/trash bodies that serve as safety valves for the inevitable anxiety and disillusionment of those who wish “total identification”.

Feminism/queerness takes a vague disposability and makes it a specific one. The vague ambient hate that I felt my whole life became intensely focused—the difference between being soaked in noxious, irritating gasoline and having someone throw a match at you. Normal hate means someone and their friends being shitty toward you; radical hate places a moral dimension onto hate, requiring your exclusion from every possible space—a true social death."



"There is immense pressure on trans people to engage in this form of complaint if they want access to spaces—but we, with our higher rates of homelessness, joblessness, lifelessness, lovelessness, are the most fragile. We are the glass fems of an already delicate genderscape.

Purification is meaningless because anyone can perform these rituals—an effigy burnt in digital. And their inflexibility provides a place where abuse can thrive—a set of rules which abusers can hold over their victims.

Deleuze wrote, “The problem is no longer getting people to express themselves, but providing little gaps of solitude and silence in which they might eventually find something to say. Repressive forces don’t stop people from expressing themselves, but rather, force them to express themselves. What a relief to have nothing to say, the right to say nothing, because only then is there a chance of framing the rare, or ever rarer, the thing that might be worth saying.”

>>

ENDING

People talk about feminism and queerness the way you’d apologize for an abusive relationship.

This isn’t for the people who are benefiting from these spaces and have no reason to change. This is for the people who were exiled, the people essays aren’t supposed to be written for. This is to say, you didn’t deserve that. That even tens or hundreds or thousands of people can be wrong, and they often are, no matter how much our socially constructed brains take that as a message to lie down and die. That nothing is too bad, too ridiculous, too bizarre to be real when it comes to making marginalized people disappear.

Ideology is a sick fetish.

RESISTING DISPOSABILITY

— Let marginalized people be flawed. Let them fuck up like the Real Humans who get to fuck up all the time.

— Fight criminal-justice thinking. Disposability runs on the innocence/guilt binary, another category that applies dynamically to certain bodies and not others. The mob trials used to run trans people out of communities are inherently abusive, favor predators, and must be rejected as a process unequivocally. There is no kind of justice that resembles hundreds of people ganging up on one person, or tangible lifelong damage being inflicted on someone for failing the rituals of purification that have no connection to real life.

— Pay attention when people disappear. Like drowning, it’s frequently silent. They might be blackmailed, threatened, and/or in shock.

— Even if the victim doesn’t want to fight (which is deeply understandable—often moving on is the only response), private support is huge. This is the time to make sure the wound doesn’t become infected, that the PTSD they acquire is as minimized as … [more]
porpentine  community  via:sevensixfive  feminism  abuse  disposability  identity  interdependence  ptsd  trauma  recovery  punishment  safety  socialmedia  call-outculture  society  culture  violence  mobbing  rape  emotionalabuse  witchhunts  silviafederici  damage  health  communication  stigma  judithherman  terror  despair  twine  laziness  trashart  trashzines  alliyates  social  socialdynamics  stephenmurphy  queerness  jackiewang  complaint  complaints  power  powerlessness  pain  purity  fragility  gillesdeleuze  deleuze  solitude  silence  ideology  canon  reintegration  integration  rejection  inclusivity  yvetteflunder  leadership  inclusion  marginalization  innocence  guilt  binaries  falsebinaries  predators 
december 2015 by robertogreco
The future of the Icelandic language may lie in its past | Public Radio International
"But is it true? Has the language really not changed? Yes and no.

“If the people of Iceland create their own myth that this is the same language that we had in the old times, it’s going to be perhaps borne out,” University of Iceland linguist Kristján Árnason.

If everyone buys into the idea that the language isn’t evolving, then it won’t evolve. Or at least, you can put the brakes on it.

You can form committees to retrieve words from the past and recycle them in modern usage. So the language does evolve — but with a guiding hand.

That’s been tried elsewhere, usually with a heavier hand. Government-appointed scholars insisting on keeping their language old school — no modernizations, no bastardizations. But, of course, the people often ignore them, they speak how they want to speak.

In Iceland, the scholars are more like practitioners, knitware store owners and the like — they are the people. And nearly everyone buys into it.

“The idea of a language which is a treasure, something that we have to preserve has been very strong in Iceland,” says Árnason. “And with this comes purism, trying to keep the language pure.”

Ok, so the word ‘pure’ can be creepy. Flip the conversation from language to, say, ethnicity — and it can become the rhetoric of racism.

But most Icelanders believe that purity of language should be valued. The tongue they speak, they believe, has advantages over the likes of English, which has adopted foreign words, and maybe lost something along the way.

This policy of linguistic purity amounts to a refusal to lose words — or rather, the loss is temporary, thanks to the knitters, and all those other committees that are unearthing all those long-forgotten expressions.

“I thought it would be so difficult, that it would take us weeks to find one good word,” says knitware store owner Henttinen. “But when we started talking about it, good words emerged. So it was surprising to me how easy it was.”

Not so easy really — but that’s how Icelanders use their language to maintain of an intimate connection with the past."
iceland  language  icelandic  2015  linguistics  purity  history 
june 2015 by robertogreco
If leftwingers like me are condemned as rightwing, then what’s left? | Tim Lott | Comment is free | The Guardian
"I am a “lefty”. I have voted Labour all my life. I believe in the abolition of public schools and the inviolability of the NHS, and that the renewal of Trident is a vanity project. I believe the state must work to ensure equality of opportunity for all: women, the LBGT “community”, those with disabilities, those of minority cultures and ethnicities, and the working class. The Guardian has been my newspaper forever. I was glad to see the back of the Sun’s Page 3, and I believe there should be more all-women shortlists for parliamentary seats. I believe immigration is more of a positive force than a negative one.

However, you might be less certain about my status when I finish laying out my stall. Because I find myself holding a “transgressive” body of beliefs and doubts alongside my blue-chip leftwing ones that are liable to get me branded a misogynist, an Islamophobe and a Little Englander – at least by people on my Twitter feed, and others of my peer group.

These “beliefs” are more like questions, largely about identity politics, those deep and dangerous rift valleys of the left. I believe the jury is still out about whether gender identity is entirely constructed. I question whether the gender pay gap in Britain is as large as is sometimes suggested, and wonder whether it may have as much to do with the way it is calculated and with the choices women make after having children as it does with patriarchy or prejudice (although the government could do more to close the gap by funding childcare better). There is huge work to do to liberate women from the very real yoke of patriarchy. But I would venture – checking my privilege – that this is not a crisis in Britain in way it is in the developing world.

I am not convinced jihadists have “nothing to do” with Islam – although this strikes me as a largely theological and semantic point. I am wary of even moderate Islam for the same reason I am wary of even moderate Christianity: because I am an atheist and a humanist and a social liberal, and consider most religions to be counter-rational and socially conservative. To acknowledge that grooming gangs and FGM and tendencies towards homophobia and gender oppression have arisen out of some of the matrices of Muslim practices and belief systems adds to my unease.

I believe more in free speech than I do in “safe spaces” in universities. I do not think people with unpleasant opinions should be prosecuted, or even denied a platform, unless they directly threaten to incite violence or lawbreaking. I do not think “political correctness” is a myth – although I would prefer the term groupthink – but that it is a system of thought that has a real impact on public policy and institutional behaviour.

I think of myself as English rather than British, and have some residual affection for my country – though for reasons of its humour, cultural imagination and common grassroots culture rather than its imperial past.

My stance on these issues makes some people in my “tribe” very angry. It is the anger of the pure believer towards the apostate. However, I can find echoes of my populist worldview in one strand of the left – that represented by the Spiked web magazine, which grew out of the ashes of Living Marxism and the Revolutionary Communist party, once known as the libertarian or anti-Stalinist left. Describing their philosophy as radical humanism, they poke and prod at the sacred cows of the left but from a socialist rather than a rightwing populist position. The fact that I enjoy Spiked – although I by no means agree with all of it – feels like dirty little secret. But that’s what the mainstream left specialises in: generating shame.

This shame comes from the phenomenon of what I call assumption creep – the assumption that if you believe one thing you probably believe another thing, which you are hiding. If you believe women behave differently in the real world from men, whether for cultural or biological reasons, you also (secretly) believe women are more suited for domestic life than careers.

That if you believe religion, including Islam, is the source of much conflict in the world you also (secretly) believe all Muslims are potential terrorists and you (secretly) dislike immigrants to boot. That if you have a particular attachment to your country, defined as England rather than Britain, you keep a St George’s flag and a knuckle-duster in the back of your drawer. These supposed secret assumptions are the primary source of censure from leftwing critics of the “paradoxical voice” – which is the term I use to describe the thinking of “non-pure” leftwing thinkers.

Assumption creep may be accurate in some cases. We all know about the “I’m not a racist, but … ” arguments. But more often than not, it simply isn’t true. To insist otherwise is lazy. It’s just a way of making sure people who have opinions contrary to your own stay safely in their boxes – the boxes marked “bad people”. To actually address the issues is thus avoided, because who needs to debate with a bad person? It’s enough just to condemn them.

One very key element of the liberal left has long been under threat: its liberalism – that is, its willingness to debate with anything outside a narrow range of opinions within its own walls. And the more scary and incomprehensible the world becomes, the more debate is replaced by edict and prejudice: literally pre-judging. Identity politics is one of the most significant developments of the last 50 years, but it has led to nerves being exposed in a way they rarely were by economic issues. Because identity is less about politics and more about that most sensitive of human constructions, the protection of the self – both group and individual.

And the more it becomes about the protection of self, the less it becomes about the back and forth of rational argument. All the beliefs, opinions and doubts I hold are just that: they are ideas, not ironclad convictions. I am not certain about any of them, and am quite willing to change my mind, as I have done many times in the past. But I will not alter them if I am faced with invective rather than debate; in fact, they will become more entrenched.

Nick Cohen, Christopher Hitchens, David Aaronovich, Julie Burchill, Julie Bindel and others have often been at the rough end of this debate, for daring to voice opinions of their own that do not fit the overarching narrative. David Mamet’s admittedly provocative essay, Why I Am No Longer a “Brain-Dead Liberal”, published in the Village Voice, must have cost him a fair few dinner party invitations. This marginalisation is invidious, not only because it violates the principles of free debate – we cannot suppress awkward questions lest it “give succour to the enemy” – but because it is bound to alienate the wider public.

Those who identify with the “paradoxical voice” self-censor because they know they are going to get rocks thrown at them – not by their enemies but by their friends. That’s not only a bad feeling; it’s a tendency that’s bad for democracy, for politics, and the wider movement we call the left. And the left – in its compassion, freedom and concern for social justice – is the only hope for the future of this country."
via:anne  debate  discourse  politics  identitypolitics  2015  timlott  politicalcorrectness  liberalism  uk  shame  shaming  privilege  left  assumption  assumptioncreep  leftwing  purity 
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
Kill Your Martyrs – The New Inquiry
"However well intentioned, the urge to treat Matthew Shepard as a blameless angel demonstrates so many of the pathologies in contemporary social liberalism. First is the left’s attraction to heroes and martyrs — a drive to personalize and individualize every issue, in a way that seems to directly cut against the theoretical commitment to identifying structural causes for social problems. After all, it is the right wing that prefers to reduce complex social issues to problems of personal character and claim economic outcomes are entirely the result of individual work ethic and talent. Advancing individuals as the symbols of a political causes invites attempts to discredit the causes by discrediting the inevitably flawed martyrs pressed into service to emblemize them. Yes, the personal is political. But the person is not the politics.

Neither are the activist groups entirely synonymous with their causes. Despite recent declarations of victory thanks to the advance of same-sex marriage, queer people in America continue to suffer from vast and entrenched discrimination in a variety of arenas. The gay rights movement remains essential and in need of protection against reactionary power. But no activist group is the movement. Like all institutions, they inevitably become more devoted to their self-perpetuation and to the needs of those working within them than to the cause with which they are identified. The Matthew Shepard Foundation, started by his parents, is an example. It has repeatedly worked to delegitimize not just Jimenez’s work but the very legitimacy of questioning the facts surrounding Shepard’s death.

But what, exactly, do Jimenez’s critics fear? What if every bad rumor about Matthew Shepard were true? For years, I have argued against the “race realist” arguments about race and IQ, the notion that our broad racial categories are significantly different in intelligence. But I have also argued against the notion that we just shouldn’t investigate the question — that some types of investigation should be taboo. This argument, voiced by writers like John Horgan and others, seems an enormous tactical and rhetorical mistake. What are they scared might be found? Regardless of any studies, I have no fear that we will somehow “discover” the inherent inferiority of any particular racial group. I have no fear that social science will result in our rejecting the equal dignity, value, and rights of people of color.

bloodpsortTNI Vol. 24: Bloodsport is out now. Subscribe for $2 and get it todayIf empirical tests suggest that our social construct of race align with differences in our social construct of intelligence, it invites consideration of how those constructs have been assumed or theorized, how those tests have been designed, and how structural aspects of our economy and our society have created conditions that make such perceived differences possible. No test results could undermine our pre-empirical commitment to the social and political equality of all races. Likewise, no journalistic revelations will change the fact that Matthew Shepard was strapped to a post, has his brain bludgeoned, and was left to die in the snow by killers who worked consciously and with premeditation. The right to live is not deserved. The right to not be killed does not stem from the perceived social legitimacy of one’s sexual or gender identity. McKinney and Henderson took Matthew Shepard out with the intention of killing him, and they did. That fact alone is reason for grief, disgust, and horror.

What, ultimately, is true about what happened in Laramie? I don’t know, and neither does Stephen Jimenez, and neither do his vitriolic critics. But I feel confident in the following: Someone who was innocent of anything immoral, as opposed to illegal, was intentionally and brutally murdered. His murderers were possessed, at the time, of some degree of homophobia, whether those feelings included the self-hatred of McKinney or not. The victim was forced to live in an unrepentantly homophobic country, one which refuses to meaningfully address the physical vulnerability of its unjustly targeted gay population and which was thus tacitly implicated in his murder. He died for no reason, and his killers deserve to spend the rest of their lives in jail. All that is true.

But the notion that this killing was a simple story of strangers meeting a defenseless gay man, being panicked by his homosexuality, and executing him in a fit of hatred, is no longer a responsible or informed position.

If Jimenez’s Matthew Shepard — involved in the drug trade, intimately acquainted with his killers, despairing — is the real Matthew Shepard, we face the same moral questions that we do when we consider Shepard the secular saint. Even if his death was not a black-and-white morality play which spoke perfectly to the assumptions of those who mourn him, and he not a media-ready victim but a complex and flawed human being, would he then lie outside of the boundaries of our compassion and our responsibility? And if he did, where is left for a movement seeking human justice to go?"
politics  personalization  individualization  matthewshepard  freddiedeboer  2014  news  truth  complexity  purity  humans  left  socialliberalism  heroes  martyrs  martyrdom  reification  hagiography  stephenjimenez  rigobertamenchú  simplification  simplicity  messaging  whitewashing  josephbrennan  credulity  bias  jennifertoth  themolepeople  journalism  storytelling  fiction  nonfiction  thebookofmatt  canon  radicalism 
january 2015 by robertogreco
Damian Bariexca on Twitter: "Two must-read blog posts for my #LTPS friends by @chrislehmann (http://t.co/GVPN7L2QQe) and @garystager (http://t.co/M4QJe4UVdH). Thoughts?"
Damian Bariexca: "Two must-read blog posts for my #LTPS friends by @chrislehmann (http://practicaltheory.org/blog/2014/11/20/curriculum-design-putting-the-horse-before-the-cart/ …) and @garystager (http://stager.tv/blog/?p=3408 ). Thoughts?"

[Pointing here for the subsequent back-and-forth between Chris Lehmann and Gary Stager (selectively chosen here), including a couple of comments from Ira Socol.

I share Gary's philosophy of education much more than that of Chris Lehmann's and I admire Gary's knowledge and body of work, but Gary's condescending tone often does his attempts to convince others a disservice. He frequently dismisses others with snide remarks and belittling comments. Gary also falls into self-aggrandizement. For example, complaining the other day that *he* hadn't ever been invited to the White House* (see end for references). So, while I don't share Chris's interest and preference for structure (more the type and source of structure than the presence of structure), I agree with his responses here, especially regarding the day-to-day realities of progressive schools and the need for measures to make working in them sustainable. That's why the majority of the tweets quoted here come from him. Notes added.]

Chris Lehmann: "Gary's a great revolutionary but a lousy policy-maker. Sooner or later, the May Day speeches need to lead somewhere."
[I would love to see Gary get off the workshop and conference circuit and start a school to show others how his approach and philosophy can be the core program of a school and stay intact over time.] https://twitter.com/chrislehmann/status/535788736374910976

"Gary, I think you fundamentally underestimate the need for useful structures to help teachers teach this way." [I'd add that there is also a fundamental underestimation of the day-to-day toll that countercurrents have on those in progressive schools.]
https://twitter.com/chrislehmann/status/535867057074872320

"It isn't just about workshops. It's about sustaining the effort over years and finding ways to keep getting better." [Standalone workshops, events, or summer classes are one reality that is often embraced. A core progressive/constructivist/constructionist program is something different altogether and it comes with an unrelenting set of apprehensions, anxieties, doubts, ambivalence, undermining, and accusations from adults who aren't fully committed.] https://twitter.com/chrislehmann/status/535867165208231936

"And you, too often, downplay any effort to create structure because of your own dislike of structure. But that is+"
https://twitter.com/chrislehmann/status/535867291507130368

"too much about you, and not enough about the people you would support - teachers and students. The many failures of+" [Here Chris calls Gary out for making things about him. I have seen this too. For example, rather than critiquing what went on during #FutureReady and suggesting others (day-to-day educators) who should have been there, he griped about not being included, placing himself at the center of the conversation.]
https://twitter.com/chrislehmann/status/535867469966352384

"progressive schools that had beautiful visions and insufficient roadmaps toward implementation and therefore suffered"
https://twitter.com/chrislehmann/status/535867633892347904

"mission drift and founder fatigue, and in time, regressed to the mean is the thing we work daily to avoid. Thus, the+" [Regression to the mean. I've seen that happen in a school. I know of many other schools where that has happened. And sometimes I wonder if it's even worth the while to work in a progressive school rather than focus my energy on supporting those that opt out of school altogether.]
https://twitter.com/chrislehmann/status/535867774846119936

"need for thoughtful systems and structures that help good people do the work together through reflective practice."
https://twitter.com/chrislehmann/status/535867907071541248

"I impune nothing, Gary. I think you are brilliant. I also think you let the perfect being the enemy of the good." [Agreed. There is no need to pit one school against the other. Again, why not create a new school (or lea an existing school) as an example rather than cut down those that are doing their best, aligned with their philosophy? I often say that I have no problem with traditional schools as long as they own what they are doing and don't belittle what others are doing through direct comparison or bashing.]
https://twitter.com/chrislehmann/status/535881338604498945

"not discredit. Merely speak to different experiences. Everything I do is toward SLA as a sustainable structure."
https://twitter.com/chrislehmann/status/535881898250473473

"I do not reduce your work. I'm tired of you reducing ours. We at SLA believe in more structure than you. We know." [Here Chris is owning what he believes and what he tries to deliver at SLA. So much respect.]
https://twitter.com/chrislehmann/status/535884701266092032

Ira Socol: "the everyday is very different. It just is" [This. The everyday cannot be compared to workshops, camps, conferences, theory, etc. It's also dangerous to hide (by not sharing or by implying that everything is unanimously embraced by the adults in the community) the very vocal contrary voices that begin to appear when implementing a constuctionist program as the core school day.]
https://twitter.com/irasocol/status/535885352788303872

Gary Stager: "I don't think balance is the goal. This is a matter of stance, of choices." [I agree with Gary here, but that is our philosophy and it's not for everyone. Similar thoughts by Alfie Kohn: http://www.alfiekohn.org/teaching/progressive.htm ]
https://twitter.com/garystager/status/536214550329044993

Ira Socol: "and where/how one chooses to work" [Yes. One can choose to disagree with the way SLA does things, but one doesn't have to work there.]
https://twitter.com/irasocol/status/536215980184465408

Chris Lehmann: "so when you say "Bridging Differences," you mean "convince Chris he is wrong."" [I think Chris is right here. Impasse is impasse. Time to move on.]
https://twitter.com/chrislehmann/status/536217394193383425

----------

*"Anyone led more professional development on teaching for the future than me? Funny how I never get invited to the tea party."
https://twitter.com/garystager/status/535485803552456706

"Perhaps a Republican President will invite me to the White House."
https://twitter.com/garystager/status/535487172225146880
garystager  chrislehmann  education  progressive  teaching  structure  2014  irasocol  cv  tcsnmy  disagreement  policy  practice  constructivism  burnout  regression  mediocrity  balance  missiondrift  fatigue  implementation  purity  condescension  alfiekohn  respect  difference  differences 
november 2014 by robertogreco
cityofsound: Essay: 'Designing Finnishness', for 'Out Of The Blue: The Essence and Ambition of Finnish Design' (Gestalten)
"Knowing what to do when there is nothing to do
"The press conference is over, and in comes Jari Litmanen, from behind the door. And I looked at his face and I looked at his eyes, and I recognised something in those eyes. And I thought, this is a man with a great willpower. Because he was not shy, not timid, but he was modest. He is not a man who will raise his voice, or bang with his fist on the table and say, ‘We do it this way.’ No, he was more of a diplomat, not wanting to be a leader, but being a leader." [Former AFC Ajax team manager David Endt, on legendary Finnish footballer Jari Litmanen]

Finland has proven that it can take care of itself locally and globally. At home, its sheer existence is a tribute to fortitude, guile and determination, never mind the extent to which it has lately thrived. Globally, through Nokia, Kone, Rovio and others, through its diplomatic and political leadership, and through its design scene in general, it has punched well above its weight. Having been a reluctant leader, like Litmanen, will Finland once again step up to help define a new age, a post-industrial or re-industrial age? Unlike 1917, there are few obvious external drivers to force Finns to define Finnishness. So where will the desire for change come from?

Finland, and Finnishness, is not immune to the problems facing other European countries; the Eurocrisis, domestic xenophobia, industrial strife. Challenging these is difficult for an engineering culture not yet used to working with uncertainty, and in collaboration.

That requires this sense of openness to ambiguity, to non-planning, which is quite unlike the traditional mode of Finnishness. And yet there are also valuable cues in Finnishness, such as in the design—or undesign, as Leonard Koren would have it—of Finnish sauna culture.
"Making nature really means letting nature happen, since nature, the ultimate master of interactive complexity, is organized along principles too inscrutable for us to make from scratch. … Extraordinary baths … are created by natural geologic processes or by composers of sensory stimulation working in an intuitive, poetic, open-minded—undesign—manner." (Koren, ibid.)

Equally, the päiväkoti day-care system demonstrates a learning environment built with an agile structure that can follow where children wish to lead. The role of expertise—and every teacher in Finnish education is a highly-qualified expert—is not to control or enforce a national curriculum, but to react, shape, nurture and inspire. As such it could be a blueprint not only for education generally, but also for developing a culture comfortable with divergent learning, with exploration and experiment, with a broader social and emotional range, and with ambiguity.

Chess grandmaster Savielly Tartakower once said “Tactics is knowing what to do when there is something to do, strategy is knowing what to do when there is nothing to do.” Indeed, Finland's early development was driven by tactics—survival, consolidation and then growth in the face of a clear set of "things to do"; defeat the conditions, resist the neighbours, rebuild after war.

With that, came success, comfort and then perhaps the inevitable lack of drive. The country is relatively well off and stable, and perhaps a little complacent given the recent accolades.

Design in recent years has seen a shift towards the ephemeral and social—interaction design, service design, user experience design, strategic design and so on. Conversely, there has been a return to the physical, albeit altered and transformed by that new modernity, with that possibility of newly hybrid “things”: digital/physical hybrids possessing a familiar materiality yet allied with responsiveness, awareness, and character by virtue of having the internet embedded within. With its strong technical research sector, and expertise in both materials and software, Finland is well-placed. Connect the power of its nascent nanotech research sector—interestingly, derived from its expertise with wood—to a richer Finnish design culture capable of sketching social objects, social services and social spaces and its potential becomes tangible, just as with the 1930s modernism that fused the science and engineering of the day with design in order to produce Artek.

Finnish design could be stretched to encompass these new directions, the aforementioned reversals towards openness, ambiguity, sociality, flexibility and softness. Given that unique DNA of Finnishness — both designed and undesigned, both old and young—Finland is at an interesting juncture.

The next phase, then, is knowing what to do, despite the appearance of not having anything to do.

Buckminster Fuller, a guest at Sitra's first design-led event at Helsinki’s Suomenlinna island fortress in 1968, once said “the best way to predict the future is to design it.” Finland has done this once before; it may be that now is exactly the right time to do it again."
finland  2014  design  danhill  cityofsound  sitra  buckminsterfuller  education  strategy  culture  exploration  experimentation  ambiguity  emergentcurriculumeurope  undesign  leonardkoren  nature  complexity  simplicity  davidendt  jarilitmanen  unproduct  efficiency  inefficiency  clarity  purity  small  slow  sisu  solitude  silence  barnraising  helsinki 
may 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
▶ Ideas at the House: Tavi Gevinson - Tavi's Big Big World (At 17) - YouTube
"She's been called the voice of her generation. The future of journalism. A style icon. A muse. Oh, and she's still in high school.

Tavi Gevinson has gone from bedroom blogger to founder and editor-in-chief of website and print series, Rookie, in just a few years. Rookie attracted over one million views within a week of launching, and has featured contributors such as Lena Dunham, Thom Yorke, Joss Whedon, Malcolm Gladwell, and Sarah Silverman.

Watch this inspiring talk as Tavi discusses adversity, the creative process, her outlook on life, what inspires her, and the value of being a 'fangirl.'"
tavigevinson  2013  teens  adolescence  rookie  writing  creativity  life  living  depression  frannyandzooey  books  reading  howwework  patternrecognition  procrastination  howwelive  teenagers  gender  feminism  authenticity  writer'sblock  making  fangirls  fanboys  wonder  relationships  art  originality  internet  web  fangirling  identity  happiness  fanart  theideaofthethingisbetterthanthethingitself  culture  fanfiction  davidattenborough  passion  success  fame  love  fans  disaffection  museumofjurassictechnology  collections  words  shimmer  confusion  davidwilson  davidhildebrandwilson  fanaticism  connection  noticing  angst  adolescents  feelings  emotions  chriskraus  jdsalinger  literature  meaning  meaningmaking  sensemaking  jean-paulsartre  sincerity  earnestness  howtolove  thevirginsuicides  purity  loving  innocence  naïvité  journaling  journals  notetaking  sketching  notebooks  sketchbooks  virginiawoolf  openness  beauty  observation  observing  interestedness  daydreaming  self  uniqueness  belatedness  inspiration  imagination  obsessions  fandom  lawrenceweschler  so 
december 2013 by robertogreco
Orion - May/June 2013 - Page 18-19
"Mysteries of Thoreau Unsolved: On the dirtiness of laundry and the strength of sisters" by Rebecca Solnit

"None of us is pure, and purity is a dreary pursuit best left to Puritans."
rebeccasolnit  sisters  siblings  thoreau  activism  importance  2013  purpose  labor  work  writing  laundry  martinlutherkingjr  walden  abolitionists  history  picasso  michaelbranch  michaelsims  chores  purity  liberation  freedom  prison  mlk 
june 2013 by robertogreco
Toward Independence – Indiecade 2012 | Molleindustria
"There is a practical way to conceptualize the immensity & absurdity of this continuum. I borrow it from the Utopian & Anarchist thought.

Utopia is by definition unattainable but it provides a direction.

Utopia is a tiny flickering mirage at the horizon.

By the time you reach it Utopia already moved forward…yet an utopian idea is fundamental because it provides a direction.

It encourages you to a constant tactical engagement with the status quo. It pushes you to continuously break away from the forces & entities that make us miserable & are screwing up the world.

This is how I like to think about independence in gaming and in culture.

Not a status but a tension and a direction to pursue.

And the corollary is that we should not be here at these indie festivals to celebrate our little club, to exchange tricks on how to milk the indie brand for profit.

No: we should be here to conspire about how we can be *more* autonomous. About how we can move another steptoward independence."
freedom  independent  indie  corporations  post-fordism  alienation  creativework  automation  capital  autonomy  fordism  history  paolopedercini  cv  improvement  purpose  values  utopian  utopianism  utopianthinking  indiegames  anarchism  control  power  economics  videogames  molleindustria  2012  direction  vision  utopia  capitalism  labor  creativelabor  creativity  making  gamedesign  games  purity  vectors 
december 2012 by robertogreco
Purity
"The enemy of rigour and purity is the ad hoc approach, an approach that fits solutions to a particular purpose. Ad hoc explanations and solutions are sound and often highly effective in their own contexts, but make no claims to generality. As such, they attract only the sneers of scientific purists. Pure science, like the kitschiest art, aspires to be generic and timeless and universal. Pure science rejects all worldly purpose.

Scientific purists are right to be suspicious of purpose. Applied research is politicised research, openly co-opted to some political agenda, which, given present-day sources of funding, is more often than not a reactionary one. The aim of such research is to to produce work that will advance corporate or national interests in controlled, predictable ways: to produce patented techniques that give a competitive edge, or to produce concrete (and desirable) policy recommendations to be mulled over by think-tanks."
practical  practice  theory  celibacy  purpose  learning  scientificpurity  ghhardy  cpsnow  mathematics  m  math  romanticism  randallmunroe  academia  elitism  skepticism  stephenbond  xkcd  science  purity 
september 2012 by robertogreco
The Rumpus Interview With Francis Ford Coppola - The Rumpus.net
"I wanted a clean slate so I decided to embark on a series of “student films” for myself to begin anew. I thought, “How do you be like a student?” Easy, you have no money. If you have no money to pay for everything, that’s when things get interesting. The films I make now have to be inexpensive enough that I can finance them myself. This was how I made a new beginning for myself. There’s a scene in a Kurosawa movie where they get this guy, & they practically kill him, & he’s in a box. He just has this knife, & these leaves are blowing, & he throws the knife & tries to get the knife to go through a leaf, & that’s how he builds himself up. I had to do that: be broken in a box & have a second life. To do that I needed to be a student. I thought I should try to make movies w/ nothing. No money, just whatever I have. So I made Youth without Youth, then Tetro, which was very personal, then this wacky film TWIXT. I really wanted to make this last film to have fun, but even that got personal."
purity  minimalviableproduct  thebasics  glvo  creativity  2012  money  constraints  filmmaking  francisfordcoppola 
august 2012 by robertogreco
Fortune: 10.30.2000 Dot-Coms: What Have We Learned? Profile: David Winer
[T]o see everything turn to money is like kind of not that far from seeing everything turn to shit.
business  culture  davewiner  money  corruptinginfluences  via:litherland  profits  purity  integrity 
august 2012 by robertogreco
Varsity Bookmarking Transparency in the evolution of technology
"As a society, we’ve had 10,000 years to choose to be open and honest with each other, and we have generally chosen not to. But now we’re at a point where new technology plays a critical role in our lives, and technology has no use for our half-truths and doublespeak. They are disruptions in the flow of information. As we are all becoming parts of the machine, our relationships with each other are being ground down to purer, more efficient forms so that they can be put to better use.

We are becoming more honest because it increases the speed at which information can travel. We are becoming less private because to withhold valuable knowledge from the rest of the network is to act selfishly. We are becoming more transparent because that is what the evolution of technology asks of us."
listening  integrity  lies  conversation  purity  society  relationships  openbooks  sharing  cv  bookmarks  bookmarking  thenextweb  technology  flow  information  2012  benpieratt  web  online  honesty  transparency 
may 2012 by robertogreco
What is social information? « Snarkmarket
"Wallace has already signaled that this is going to be a paragraph about repetition to exhaustion or even injury before he even does it. You could say he needs to keep clarifying & repeating these things because his sentences are so convoluted that otherwise you couldn’t follow them, but 1) his syntax is pretty clear 2) it’s not like he’s a freak about specifying everything… But it’s also just Wallace — who understands all of this, by the way, better than we do: communication, information, redundancy, efficiency, purity, the dangers of too much information, and especially the fear of being alone and the need to find connection with other human beings — creating a structure that allows him to ping his reader, saying “I am here”… and waiting for his reader to respond in kind, “I’m alive right now; I’m a person; look at me.” 
timcarmody  snarkmarket  davidfosterwallace  infinitejest  language  solitude  loneliness  human  need  information  redundancy  efficiency  purity  clarity  communication  infooverload  connectedness  connection  freemandyson  malcolmgladwell  devinfriedman  ycombinator  dailybooth  expression  jamesgleick  congo  kele  languages  words  pinging  drums  2011  northafrica  revolution  revolutions  media  raymondcarver  history  cannon  signaling 
february 2011 by robertogreco
The School Day of the Future is DESIGNED | MindShift
"Unpredictable, inconsistent, & designed to be wildly relevant for learners, their engagement, & their development."

"Designing the day around discovery of information, connections to real world challenges, discussions digging into our experiences with the world."

[But then The School of One is brought up… goes to show that we need to move beyond slogans and mission statements to concrete examples of what we mean.]

[Oh, & Delicious is suggesting 'hybrid' as a tag for this bookmark. (I've used it to point back to these thoughts, which are now almost blog-length.) I've lost tolerance for that word ('blended' might eventually have the same effect) considering how I've heard it used for the past few months. More and more, I'm convinced that a hybrid of the traditional and the progressive (I know, another term that needs clarification) breaks both and likely creates something that is less effective or valuable than either of the two in their unaltered state.]

[My remarks seems appropriate considering Jim Groom's divorce from Edupunk http://bavatuesdays.com/dear-edupunk/ ]
schools  education  hybrid  mindshift  tcsnmy  progressive  onebreakstheother  purity  unpredictability  inconsistency  learning  studentdirected  student-centered  discovery  criticalthinking  realworld  schoolofone  missionstatements  clarity  unschooling  deschooling  lcproject  experientiallearning  ellioteisner 
february 2011 by robertogreco
Two observations on Lanier on Wikileaks « Snarkmarket
"We’ve canonized these guys, to the point where 1) we think they did everything themselves, 2) they never used different strategies, 3) they never made mistakes, & 4) disagreeing w/ them then or now violates a deep moral law.

More importantly, in comparison, every other kind of activism is destined to fall short. Lanier’s essay, like Malcolm Gladwell’s earlier essay on digital activism, violates the Gandhi principle… The point is, both Ad Hitlerem and the Gandhi Principle opt for terminal purity over differential diagnosis. If you’re not bringing it MLK-style, you’re not really doing anything.

The irony is, Lanier’s essay is actually pretty strong at avoiding the terminal purity problem in other places — i.e., if you agree with someone’s politics, you should agree with (or ignore) their tactics, or vice versa. At its best, it brings the nuance, rather than washing it out."
timcarmody  snarkmarket  wikileaks  jaronlanier  julianassange  2010  falsedichotomies  purity  allornothing  canonization  malcolmx  activism  gandhi  nelsonmandela  jesus  imperfection  grey  tactics  politics  mlk  martinlutherkingjr 
december 2010 by robertogreco

Copy this bookmark:





to read