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robertogreco : sympathy   18

Together: The Rituals Pleasures and Politics of Cooperation with Richard Sennett - YouTube
"New York University sociologist and historian Richard Sennett addresses the phenomenon of why people tend to avoid engaging with others who are different, leading to a modern politics of the tribe rather than the city. In this thought-provoking talk, Sennett offers ideas on what might be done to encourage people to live with others who are racially, ethnically, religiously or economically unlike themselves. [3/2012] [Public Affairs] [Show ID: 23304]"
tichardsennett  togetherness  community  2012  empathy  sympathy  design  ethnography  sociology  diversity  difference  curiosity  segregation  self-segregation  openness  openminded  jeromebruner  cognition  xenophobia  xenophilia  tribes  politics 
january 2019 by robertogreco
Getting Others Right - The New York Times
"A woman holds a little dog in the crook of her arm. Her sleeveless open-necked top is richly patterned. She wears lipstick, earrings, a bangle. The dog, a puppy perhaps, is both alert and relaxed, looking directly at the camera, just as the woman does. The photograph has such an informal mood, such disarming warmth, that we might suppose it had been made recently, were it not in antique-looking black and white. It’s wonderful when an old picture lets us in like this, obliterating the distance between its then and our now.

The woman in this photograph was named Trecil Poolaw Unap, and the photographer was her brother, Horace Poolaw. They were Kiowa, born and raised in Oklahoma. Horace Poolaw made the photograph in 1928, near the beginning of a career in which he went on to become an avid photographer of Native American life. His photographs, some of which he sold at fairs, often came with a stamp: “A Poolaw Photo, Pictures by an Indian, Horace M. Poolaw, Anadarko, Okla.” It was clear that he wanted to assert that these were pictures with a particular point of view.

Compare the portrait by Poolaw with a few made in the same decade by the most famous photographer of Native Americans, Edward S. Curtis. Curtis’s portraits look different because they were intended for publication in “The North American Indian,” a hugely expensive and intricate photographic undertaking that occupied him for decades. The project was championed by Theodore Roosevelt and financially supported by J.P. Morgan. There’s a portrait of a Hupa woman wearing fur and beads, another of an elderly Cheyenne man in a feathered headdress, yet another of a female Hupa shaman. The lined faces and stoic expressions of these sitters, as well as their “traditional” regalia, announce them as types. They are in keeping with the hope Curtis expressed in the General Introduction to his project: “Rather than being designed for mere embellishment, the photographs are each an illustration of an Indian character or of some vital phase in his existence.”

There’s no denying the meticulous beauty of Curtis’s pictures (and there are thousands of them: The project, published between 1907 and 1930, ran to 20 volumes). But his approach, as laid out in his introduction, was precisely the opposite of Horace Poolaw’s, and it shows: When we look at Trecil Poolaw Unap with her dog, with her ironic smile, we don’t think of her as an “illustration of an Indian character,” nor do we surmise that she is caught in some “vital phase” of her existence. A certain ease and immediacy sets her apart from the beautiful but frozen characters that populate Curtis’s work.

The case of Edward S. Curtis is complex. He was no dilettante: He made serious ethnographic studies of indigenous communities, from the Piegan of the Great Plains to the Kwakiutl of Vancouver Island. And in the 1920s in New Mexico, he became involved in political initiatives that sought to defend Native Americans against government control. But the general tenor of his work idealized Native Americans in the name of preserving vanishing ways of life. He was not above removing, through later photographic manipulation, an offending clock from a carefully arranged scene. Curtis, a knowledgeable and determined man, knew exactly how he liked his Indians.

Horace Poolaw, in contrast, made pictures that were great in their testimonial simplicity and democracy of vision; a relaxed group of Kiowa and Cherokee deacons in slacks and jackets, his son Jerry on leave from Navy duty in his sailor’s uniform and a feathered headdress. Curtis, meanwhile, was inclined to invent scenarios, expunging inconvenient details in order to emphasize a concept of primitivism. One photographer thus gave us lively pictures of life as it was being lived, and the other, at much greater cost and with much more ambition, ended up delivering stilted images of dubious value. Is the lesson here that the truth of a given community can only be delivered by an insider?

A century on, the conundrum remains. There are now many Native American photographers doing outstanding work, bringing to their seeing all the advantages of insider knowledge. Brian Adams is an Inuit photographer of Inuit culture, with a body of work characterized by inquisitiveness and joy. Some of the most rousing photographs of the Standing Rock protests were taken by Josué Rivas, who is Mexica, and Camille Seaman, of the Shinnecock tribe.

But for outsiders to any culture, the situation remains tricky. Take the British photographer Jimmy Nelson, whose “Before They Pass Away” was published as a lush large-format coffee table book in 2013 and has since become ubiquitous in bookstores around the world. “Before They Pass Away” is made explicitly in homage to Edward S. Curtis, whom Nelson often cites as a hero. It proceeds from the same idea as Curtis’s: that certain peoples, on the verge of disappearing, must be captured in illustrative, archetypal photographs. “Before They Pass Away” is accordingly full of postcard-pretty images of the Mursi in Ethiopia, the Huaorani in Ecuador, the Dani in Indonesia. The sitters look out mutely from Nelson’s ark, and scant concession is made to the fact of their contemporaneity. They occasionally tote guns, but do they use boat engines or watch television? If they have any mobile phones, they’re hidden away. What we get, instead, is feathers, fur, cowrie shells, leaves and lots of body paint.

Like Curtis — but without Curtis’s ethnographic rigor — Nelson places his subjects in a permanent anthropological past, erasing their present material and political realities. He is sentimental about those he photographs and often proclaims their beauty, but having invested himself so deeply in the idea of their “disappearance,” he is unable to believe that they are not going anywhere, that they are simply adapting to the modern world. No wonder he is flummoxed by the various tribal leaders who have protested the inaccuracy of his pictures.

What a relief it is then to consider a markedly different project, by the American photographer Daniella Zalcman. In 2016, she published “Signs of Your Identity,” a book featuring First Nations Canadians. But by her own admission, she had a false start. For a month in 2014, Zalcman (who, I should mention, was an acquaintance of mine in college, though I only recently re-encountered her through her work) photographed indigenous Canadians who were struggling with substance abuse and H.I.V. The images she came away with, she thought, risked further stigmatizing the community. When she returned the following year, she began to explore a different story, one that was urgent but that also allowed her to focus on individual experience.

That project was about indigenous people who had been forced to attend Canada’s Indian Residential Schools during the 19th century (the last of which closed only in 1996). Young children were taken from their families and placed in these institutions to enforce their assimilation into mainstream Canadian culture. Indigenous languages were suppressed, and physical and sexual assaults were common. Zalcman interviewed several dozen people, of varying ages, who had spent time in these schools and were haunted by their memories.

Zalcman’s challenge was how to make these memories visible. Her solution, as old-fashioned as it was elegant, was to make double exposures, joining two instants into one by overlaying images of places with portraits of people. She presented these double exposures with written fragments of her interviews with the sitters. Looking at the doubled images, you imagine that the mind of the person pictured is literally occupied by space on which it is overlaid: the decrepit school buildings, the grass where a demolished school once stood. But you also sense that this could be you, that these images are not a report on tribal peculiarities but on the workings of human memory. Uncertain about her right to shape the story, Zalcman lets the subjects speak for themselves. This hesitancy is productive: She manages to accomplish quietly forceful reportage from material that could easily have been sensationalized.

Sympathy is often not enough. It can be condescending. But taking on the identity of others, appropriating what is theirs, is invasive and frequently violent. I have heard appropriation defended on the grounds that we have a responsibility to tell one another’s stories and must be free to do so. This is a seductive but flawed argument. The responsibility toward other people’s stories is real and inescapable, but that doesn’t mean that appropriation is the way to satisfy that responsibility. In fact, the opposite is true: Telling the stories in which we are complicit outsiders has to be done with imagination and skepticism. It might require us not to give up our freedom, but to prioritize justice over freedom. It is not about taking something that belongs to someone else and making it serve you but rather about recognizing that history is brutal and unfinished and finding some way, within that recognition, to serve the dispossessed.

Photography is particularly treacherous when it comes to righting wrongs, because it is so good at recording appearances. Capturing how things look fools us into thinking that we’ve captured their truth. But appearance is bare fact. Combined with intuition, scrupulous context and moral intelligence, it has a chance to become truth. Unalloyed, it is worse than nothing."
tejucole  photography  2017  ethnography  othering  time  memory  appropriation  edwardcurtis  horacepoolaw  nativeamericans  jimmynelson  sympathy  daniellazalcman  storytelling  condescension  context  dispossession  identity  complexity  memories 
june 2017 by robertogreco
Trump: Tribune Of Poor White People | The American Conservative
"My grandma (Mamaw) recognized this instinctively. She said that most people were probably prejudiced, but they had to be secretive about it. “We”–meaning hillbillies–“are the only group of people you don’t have to be ashamed to look down upon.” During my final year at Yale Law, I took a small class with a professor I really admired (and still do). was the only veteran in the class, and when this came up somehow in conversation, a young woman looked at me and said, “I can’t believe you were in the Marines. You just seem so nice. I thought that people in the military had to act a certain way.” It was incredibly insulting, and it was my first real introduction to the idea that this institution that was so important among my neighbors was looked down upon in such a personal way. To this lady, to be in the military meant that you had to be some sort of barbarian.



"At the same time, the hostility between the working class and the elites is so great that there will always be some wariness toward those who go to the other side. And can you blame them? A lot of these people know nothing but judgment and condescension from those with financial and political power, and the thought of their children acquiring that same hostility is noxious. It may just be the sort of value we have to live with.

The odd thing is, the deeper I get into elite culture, the more I see value in this reverse snobbery. It’s the great privilege of my life that I’m deep enough into the American elite that I can indulge a little anti-elitism. Like I said, it keeps you grounded, if nothing else! But it would have been incredibly destructive to indulge too much of it when I was 18.



the point that the meta-narrative of the 2016 election is learned helplessness as a political value. We’re no longer a country that believes in human agency, and as a formerly poor person, I find it incredibly insulting. To hear Trump or Clinton talk about the poor, one would draw the conclusion that they have no power to affect their own lives. Things have been done to them, from bad trade deals to Chinese labor competition, and they need help. And without that help, they’re doomed to lives of misery they didn’t choose.

Obviously, the idea that there aren’t structural barriers facing both the white and black poor is ridiculous. Mamaw recognized that our lives were harder than rich white people, but she always tempered her recognition of the barriers with a hard-noses willfulness: “never be like those a–holes who think the deck is stacked against them.” In hindsight, she was this incredibly perceptive woman. She recognized the message my environment had for me, and she actively fought against it.

There’s good research on this stuff. Believing you have no control is incredibly destructive, and that may be especially true when you face unique barriers. The first time I encountered this idea was in my exposure to addiction subculture, which is quite supportive and admirable in its own way, but is full of literature that speaks about addiction as a disease. If you spend a day in these circles, you’ll hear someone say something to the effect of, “You wouldn’t judge a cancer patient for a tumor, so why judge an addict for drug use.” This view is a perfect microcosm of the problem among poor Americans. On the one hand, the research is clear that there are biological elements to addiction–in that way, it does mimic a disease. On the other hand, the research is also clear that people who believe their addiction is a biologically mandated disease show less ability to resist it. It’s this awful catch-22, where recognizing the true nature of the problem actually hinders the ability to overcome.

Interestingly, both in my conversations with poor blacks and whites, there’s a recognition of the role of better choices in addressing these problems. The refusal to talk about individual agency is in some ways a consequence of a very detached elite, one too afraid to judge and consequently too handicapped to really understand. At the same time, poor people don’t like to be judged, and a little bit of recognition that life has been unfair to them goes a long way. Since Hillbilly Elegy came out, I’ve gotten so many messages along the lines of: “Thank you for being sympathetic but also honest.”

I think that’s the only way to have this conversation and to make the necessary changes: sympathy and honesty. It’s not easy, especially in our politically polarized world, to recognize both the structural and the cultural barriers that so many poor kids face. But I think that if you don’t recognize both, you risk being heartless or condescending, and often both.



[to liberals:] stop pretending that every problem is a structural problem, something imposed on the poor from the outside. I see a significant failure on the Left to understand how these problems develop. They see rising divorce rates as the natural consequence of economic stress. Undoubtedly, that’s partially true. Some of these family problems run far deeper. They see school problems as the consequence of too little money (despite the fact that the per pupil spend in many districts is quite high), and ignore that, as a teacher from my hometown once told me, “They want us to be shepherds to these kids, but they ignore that many of them are raised by wolves.” Again, they’re not all wrong: certainly some schools are unfairly funded. But there’s this weird refusal to deal with the poor as moral agents in their own right. In some cases, the best that public policy can do is help people make better choices, or expose them to better influences through better family policy (like my Mamaw).

There was a huge study that came out a couple of years ago, led by the Harvard economist Raj Chetty. He found that two of the biggest predictors of low upward mobility were 1) living in neighborhoods with concentrated poverty and 2) growing up in a neighborhood with a lot of single mothers. I recall that some of the news articles about the study didn’t even mention the single mother conclusion. That’s a massive oversight! Liberals have to get more comfortable with dealing with the poor as they actually are. I admire their refusal to look down on the least among us, but at some level, that can become an excuse to never really look at the problem at all.



Well, I think it’s important to point out that Christianity, in the quirky way I’ve experienced it, was really important to me, too. For my dad, the way he tells it is that he was a hard partier, he drank a lot, and didn’t have a lot of direction. His Christian faith gave him focus, forced him to think hard about his personal choices, and gave him a community of people who demanded, even if only implicitly, that he act a certain way. I think we all understate the importance of moral pressure, but it helped my dad, and it has certainly helped me! There’s obviously a more explicitly religious argument here, too. If you believe as I do, you believe that the Holy Spirit works in people in a mysterious way. I recognize that a lot of secular folks may look down on that, but I’d make one important point: that not drinking, treating people well, working hard, and so forth, requires a lot of willpower when you didn’t grow up in privilege. That feeling–whether it’s real or entirely fake–that there’s something divine helping you and directing your mind and body, is extraordinarily powerful.

General Chuck Krulak, a former commandant of the Marine Corps, once said that the most important thing the Corps does for the country is “win wars and make Marines.” I didn’t understand that statement the first time I heard it, but for a kid like me, the Marine Corps was basically a four-year education in character and self-management. The challenges start small–running two miles, then three, and more. But they build on each other. If you have good mentors (and I certainly did), you are constantly given tasks, yelled at for failing, advised on how not to fail next time, and then given another try. You learn, through sheer repetition, that you can do difficult things. And that was quite revelatory for me. It gave me a lot of self-confidence. If I had learned helplessness from my environment back home, four years in the Marine Corps taught me something quite different.



After so many years of Republican politicians refusing to even talk about factory closures, Trump’s message is an oasis in the desert. But of course he spent way too much time appealing to people’s fears, and he offered zero substance for how to improve their lives. It was Trump at his best and worst.

My biggest fear with Trump is that, because of the failures of the Republican and Democratic elites, the bar for the white working class is too low. They’re willing to listen to Trump about rapist immigrants and banning all Muslims because other parts of his message are clearly legitimate. A lot of people think Trump is just the first to appeal to the racism and xenophobia that were already there, but I think he’s making the problem worse.

The other big problem I have with Trump is that he has dragged down our entire political conversation. It’s not just that he inflames the tribalism of the Right; it’s that he encourages the worst impulses of the Left. In the past few weeks, I’ve heard from so many of my elite friends some version of, “Trump is the racist leader all of these racist white people deserve.” These comments almost always come from white progressives who know literally zero culturally working class Americans. And I’m always left thinking: if this is the quality of thought of a Harvard Law graduate, then our society is truly doomed. In a world of Trump, we’ve abandoned the pretense of persuasion. The November election strikes me as little more than a referendum on whose tribe is bigger."
donaldtrump  us  elections  2016  politics  poverty  roddreher  jdvance  agency  personalagency  race  economics  policy  optimism  bias  hostility  elitism  tribalism  progressives  liberals  resilience  military  christianity  structure  discipline  willpower  mentors  self-management  character  education  society  class  judgement  condescension  helplessness  despair  learnedhelplessness  sympathy  honesty  rajchetty  snobbery  complexity 
july 2016 by robertogreco
How do you Identify Racism? The Angry Eye with Jane Elliott - YouTube
"*THREE* KEY POINTS FOR EFFECTIVE RACIAL DIALOGUE:

#1: Racism and racial discrimination continues to put people
of color at a significant disadvantage.

It's THE...important starting point for any HONEST dialogue.

We have to understand the way things actual are, rather than the way we'd like them to be.

Historically and still today...the evidence is overwhelming...A huge nationwide study of 10s of 1000s of companies estimates conservatively that 1/3rd of the time, when people of color are out on a job search, they are the victims of discrimination. That effects about a million to 1.2 million people of color a year. That's not a minor consideration.

So, if we're gonna to have a talking about housing, or employment, or education, or wealth, or the criminal justice system, we have to start with the reality that the disparities are real, and that in part, they are significantly caused by racial discrimination — that's the starting point.

...The biggest problem that we have to get over is "white denial," though, and I say that as someone who has studied that for a long time. Even in the early 60s, BEFORE the Civil Rights Act was passed, Gallup Polls found that 2 out of 3 white Americans thought that black Americans had FULLY equal opportunity.

Now, obviously, that's absurd, but that's what otherwise descent, sane, intelligent people thought even then. So...the hurdle for a lot of white Americans, and even some folks of color, is THERE. But the evidence is the evidence. I encourage people that are skeptical to look at the data...the footnotes, look at the data and decide for themselves.

#2: Being color-blind, or "color mute" is not an option.

Julian Bond, civil rights legend, really says it best, "To be blind to color is to be blind to the consequences of color," (i.e., racism).

Let me give you an example:

If I'm a teacher right now in the state of Arizona, and I've got a lot of Latino kids, I can't be "colorblind" or blind to the role that their identity plays in their life, because there are right now in the eyes of some, not all...under suspicion as if they shouldn't even be there, as they don't belong. If I'm a teacher, and I'm gonna meet the needs of those kids, I've got to know where they are. I can't have this idealized version of life that says, "race doesn't matter to them," because IT DOES.

As a parent (I have two kids), if you don't TALK to children ABOUT RACISM, both PAST AND PRESENT, they grow up — they can look around and see the disparities — they can see that who has what is often about color, who lives where is often about color — if you don't provide the context for that, you know what happens, those kids grow up, according to the research, to believe that those disparities are A) natural, which is a dangerous thought, or B) that the folks on the bottom are there because...they don't try hard enough, their bad people, they aren't as smart as the rest of us.

So, really, "color blindness" or being "color mute" can actually feed racist perceptions.

#3: We all have a stake in combatting racism and racial
inequality. That is, people of colors' progress HELPS
white people.

"This is critical, especially for getting over that problem of [white] denial...a lot of times we...worry that...if people of color make progress it's gonna hurt white folks.

The fact is...racial inequity is DANGEROUS for all of us. In about 30/35/40 years...about half the [U.S.]population will be people of color, the other half will be white people. There is NO WAY that we can maintain a healthy, productive economy and society if one half of society has double the unemployment rate, three times the poverty rate of the other half, 1/10th the wealth, 8 years less life expectancy, double the infant mortality of the other half...we [MUST] worry about the racial disparity of the other half, and the racism that is, in part, responsible for them...because otherwise the whole society is not going to functional because of the racial inequity of the other half.""

[via: http://kottke.org/16/07/how-discrimination-feels

"I posted a short video earlier today featuring Jane Elliott. She's a noted anti-racism activist famous for her blue eyes/brown eyes exercise, featured in the video above.
White people's number one freedom in the United States of America is the freedom to be totally ignorant about those who are other than white. And our number two freedom is the freedom to deny that we're ignorant.

In the exercise, Elliott divides the class into two groups based on their eye color: those with blue eyes and those with brown eyes. The brown eyed group is instructed to treat the blue eyed group as inferior because of their eye color -- they are to be called "bluey" or "boy" or "honey" but not by their names.

At the beginning of the session (which starts at about 1:30 (but don't skip the intro!)), Elliott calls herself "the resident bitch for the day" and does she mean it...she does not let up because, as she says in the video, society doesn't let up on people of color either. (via @dunstan)"]

[See also:
"Here's educator Jane Elliott asking a room full of White people a very, very simple question."
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4yrg7vV4a5o
via http://kottke.org/16/07/freedom-for-some-is-not-freedom ]
janeelliot  racism  race  psychology  inequality  sympathy  empathy  experiments 
july 2016 by robertogreco
2, 6: Neighborhoods, the Anti-Algorithm
"So what does this have to do with my neighborhood?

G.K. Chesterton, in a collection of essays titled Heretics, wrote:
"The man who lives in a small community lives in a much larger world. He knows much more of the fierce variety and uncompromising divergences of men…In a large community, we can choose our companions. In a small community, our companions are chosen for us. Thus in all extensive and highly civilized society groups come into existence founded upon sympathy, and shut out the real world more sharply than the gates of a monastery."

That was 1905. Long before the internet would give us the largest community of all. Yet, the oft-cited "filter bubble" of the internet is Chesterton's community of choice. The easy community. The one that just happens because we want what we want. And in a less troubled world, that wouldn't be much to fuss about. But in our world, the "filter bubble" is dangerous. It makes fear, hatred, and oppression all the more abundant, both online and off. Before the internet, we called "filter bubbles" segregation. We call them "filter bubbles" now because its easier to see them as a manifestation of technology than the effect of our choices. Because if we saw them for what they truly are, we'd have to call them segregation again. We thought we left that behind. But, no, we haven't. Segregation, of every kind, is the entropy against which we all struggle, the product of bodies living in time, wired down to our cells to survive at all costs, responding to their loudest signal, fear. Chesterton understood that the principal challenge we humans are given to work out in this life is each other, and that nowhere better than next door is that challenge met.

But in Facebook's world, next-door has no greater offer of intimacy than across town, or state, or country. In the large community, as Chesterton said, we can choose our companions. That's the appeal of the network. Community on my terms. Forget that we know it's not good for us. Or that it's dangerous. Forget that it's a shinier, faster form of segregation. Forget that it's invisible and layered, making it easier to explain away. None of this is Facebook's fault. If it wasn't them, then it would be AOL, or Friendster, or MySpace, or any of the many networks that came before it. We can't blame them — any of them — for segregation, however technological its 21st century incarnation may be. But we can blame them for selling it. The economic benefit of segregation is nothing new; it makes selling things easier. But segregation is Facebook's secret sauce. It's an economic imperative. Like just about every "platform" of the internet today, it is ruthlessly driven to box each one of us in. To confine us to an echo-chamber. Not for our own benefit, but for theirs. Because it makes it easier for them to control us. And no, not to usher in some dramatic, Illuminati-style new world order. It's hardly that interesting! It's to sell tiny display ads and make heaps of money. That's it. Controlling us is simply an act of inventory management.

Of course, it's easy to look past all of this. To point at the good that thrives on the network — and of that, there is plenty. The lonely who are no longer lonely because of it. The oppressed who grow more powerful when bound together. But to celebrate the network's role in that only heightens my awareness that it is something we could have — should have — without it. It's too easy, also, to celebrate the engines of our ingenuity. See this? Look what we have made! But that we are as enamored with the algorithm as we so clearly are is an indicator that our hearts are way out of sync with our minds. We have engineered such sophisticated tools for connecting, ordering, and studying ourselves; it's an astounding achievement. It's one we might even celebrate if it were truly an open project for the common good. But it isn't. Not even close. So why do we pretend that it is? The network is not ours. It's the other way around. We are the network's. To sell. That is, unless we get off the network. Or at least spend a whole lot less time there.

My neighbors have convinced me that community is not only of the network. Saying such a thing sounds trite. But it's another thing entirely to live it. Here's an example: Last year, the doctor and his wife down the street decided to organize weekly neighborhood dinners. Each Sunday evening, someone hosts dinner for the neighborhood. When I first heard the idea, I was aghast. Weekly! As in, every week? No, I thought, monthly, maybe. But we went to a few, then we hosted one of our own — which wasn't nearly as much work as we thought it would be — and we've regularly gone to most of the others since. It's not obligatory. It's not like if you go to one, you must go to them all. Or even that if you go to one, you must host one. Few people have gone to every dinner, but many of us have gone to most of them. And many of us have hosted one.

Spending this time together — committing to it — is how the work gets done, not the Facebook group. It's through being together, in each other's homes, in real life. Don't get me wrong, it's no utopia. People get on each other's nerves. Not everyone will become best friends. We're talking about people here. But that's the point. The network can't sell that. It can sell our attention, but the less of our lives we live on the network, the less our attention feels like us. That's the control we still have. Eventually, hopefully, leveraging that control could change the economics of the network. Consider the neighborhood the anti-algorithm."
2015  chrisbutler  facebook  socialnetworks  gkchesterson  difference  filterbubbles  algorithms  neighborhoods  discovery  community  communities  understanding  empathy  small  attention  feeds  segregation  diversity  technology  separation  togetherness  companionship  sympathy 
february 2015 by robertogreco
Sympathy for a Desert Dog - NYTimes.com
"“/Kunta,” he said addressing me by my Bushman name, “the problem with you whites is that you think dogs behave like humans or even that your dogs think that they are humans. They are not humans. They are dogs. Their ways are different.”

It took me a while to understand Kaice’s point and the apparent indifference of the Ju/’hoansi to the suffering of dogs. It seemed at odds with the idea that Ju/’hoansi and other hunter-gatherers had deeply empathetic relationships with the animals they lived among. But in time I learned that this is precisely what justifies the indifference.

Ju/’hoansi insisted that animals were people. Not humans but people. They asserted that each species of animal had its own physical forms, customs, habits and ways of experiencing and interacting with the world. Ju/’hoansi claimed to know this because they observed, engaged with and empathized with the animals with whom they shared their world.

Most pet owners claim that the sympathy they offer their pets is based on an empathetic relationship with them built on traits our species and their species have in common — in the case of dogs their sociability, their loyalty, their gratitude.

But this is a different understanding of empathy than that which hunter-gatherers like the Ju/’hoansi had for their animal neighbors.

For them animal empathy was not a question of focusing on an animal’s human-like characteristics, but of assuming the whole perspective of the animal. Their animal empathy defied verbalization. To empathize with an animal you couldn’t think like a human and project your mind-set into it; you had to “be” the animal.

This view of empathy was the product of millennia of living among the wild animals of the Kalahari as “neighbors” and hunting them. Where other peoples defined themselves by reference to other tribes or nations, Ju/’hoansi defined themselves in terms of the their differences from the lions, elephants, aardvarks, elands and many other desert creatures they lived among. Their animal neighbors were a constant source of fascination. Any interesting or unusual animal behaviors, habits and interactions would generate considerable discussion. Their knowledge of the animals was such that they were able to establish an animal’s apparent motives and actions from a few scuffs in the sand, sometimes a day or two old, and accurately predict its movements or behavior on this basis. But their success as hunters, after all, depended on their ability to accurately anticipate the behavior of their prey. And this, they insisted, required empathy.

Typically Ju/’hoansi hunted with small poison arrows that lacked fletching. It took great skill and knowledge to get close enough to an animal to shoot it and even greater skill to able to track the animal down as the poison did its work, which could take between six and 48 hours depending on the size of the animal. After shooting a large animal like an oryx or a giraffe, a hunter would memorize the individual animal’s spoor and return the following morning to track it down.

When a hunter found and followed his prey’s spoor he would not merely read it but surrender himself into it, living each footfall that scuffed the sand. In doing so he plunged into his prey’s consciousness, dissolving the boundary between the hunter and the hunted. Finally, by consuming their prey, the hunter and the prey’s relationship would move from an empathetic union to a physical one as they literally became of one body.

But this kind of empathy did not persuade Ju/’hoansi and other hunter-gatherers to feel sympathy for animals or assume a duty of care for them. Rather it made people focus more on the non-human behaviors of animals rather than what they had in common. Among people who considered themselves to be just one of many different kinds of animal-people in a wild environment, hunting, death and pain were parts of everyday life. Human compassion did not extend to other species.

My relationship with Dog, as the Ju/’hoansi reminded me, was an artifact of the Neolithic Revolution. The domestication of the wolf was but a small part of a transition that fundamentally reconfigured how humans related to their environments. Where they once saw themselves as one of many creatures sharing environments, they now placed themselves at its center and sought mastery over it. Accordingly animals were divided into a series of new categories based on how they fit into the human world. Some were designated pets or “livestock” – and a duty of care was extended to them. Others were designated pests or vermin. Animals ceased to be considered different kinds of “people,” and those like dogs were selected and bred, for human-like traits, among other things, that we could easily empathize with without displacing our sense of ourselves as humans.

My and Dog’s lives intersected momentarily. And I am glad they did. We were both Neolithic orphans stranded in a Paleolithic world. The Ju/’hoansi’s sense of interspecies relations and their extraordinary empathy was right for the wild animals that shared their world, and there is much we can learn from it. But when it comes to dogs, and other creatures that have evolved to crave our affection, I am glad to be a child of the Neolithic."
dogs  pets  animals  culture  anthropology  ethnography  empathy  sympathy  anthropomorphism  2014  africa  jamessuzman  via:anne  relationships  animalhumanrelationships 
september 2014 by robertogreco
minimum force, corporeal anticipation |
“For it is Sennett’s contention that “nearly anyone can become a good craftsman” and that “learning to work well enables people to govern themselves and so become good citizens.” This line of thought depends, among other things, upon the Enlightenment assumption that craft abilities are innate and widely distributed, and that, when rightly stimulated and trained, they allow craftsmen to become knowledgeable public persons.

And what is it that such persons know? They know how to negotiate between autonomy and authority (as one must in any workshop); how to work not against resistant forces but with them (as did the engineers who first drilled tunnels beneath the Thames); how to complete their tasks using “minimum force” (as do all chefs who must chop vegetables); how to meet people and things with sympathetic imagination (as does the glassblower whose “corporeal anticipation” lets her stay one step ahead of the molten glass); and above all they know how to play, for it is in play that we find “the origin of the dialogue the craftsman conducts with materials like clay and glass.”

The assumption that craft abilities are widely diffused leads Sennett into a meditation on our love of those intelligence tests by which we supposedly single out the very smart and the very stupid so that some will go to college and others go to bagging groceries. Sennett points out that such sorting ignores the “densely populated middle ground” where most of the population is actually found. Rather than celebrating a “common ground of talents,” we tend to inflate “small differences in degree into large differences in kind” and so legitimate existing systems of privilege. Thinking of the median as the mediocre creates an excuse for neglect. This is one reason, Sennett argues, that “it proves so hard to find charitable contributions to vocational schools” while currently the wealth of the Ivy League schools is compounding at an astounding rate.”

[from http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/06/books/review/Hyde-t.html?pagewanted=all ]
crafy  autonomy  craftsmanship  richardsennett  authority  resistance  force  forces  minimumforce  imagination  sympathy  play  materials  making  middleground  talent  talents  privilege  mediocrity  median  vocationalschools  wealth  knowing  knowledge  understanding  enlightenment  sarahendren  citizenship  openstudioproject  glvo  lcproject  cv  corporealanticipation  learning  work  tcsnmy  progressiveeducation  elitism  2008  lewishyde 
march 2013 by robertogreco
Los Angeles Review of Books - A Drop Of Concentrated Empathy: On Brokenness And Beauty In The Stories Of George Saunders
"Some writing approximates the way people talk. What Saunders does is capture the way people think, representing thought in its purest form: the artfully imprecise, clumsily inventive, and cryptically private shorthand of a mind talking to itself. First in CivilWarLand in Bad Decline (1992), and then again in Pastoralia (2000), Saunders revealed something essential about how we talk to ourselves, talk ourselves into things, or out of them, how proficiently we deceive ourselves, and how, despite the self-deception, the truth always bubbles up through the chatter and babble in our heads, eventually finding its way to the surface. Saunders has given us the slash (“thinking positive/saying positive”), the slightly insincere exclamation point of motivational speech, the colloquial “ha ha” of social awkwardness, and the self-directed rhetorical question, as if spoken by some inner bureaucrat. Individually these are clever and revealing tics of the contemporary interior monologue. Collectively, they form a kind of internal grammar of logic and self-persuasion — the connective tissue of thought."

"Saunders is probably most famous for his theme park worlds and absurdist corporate vignettes, but there is another distinct strain of the Saunders story: characters, each moving, either by compulsion or by some newfound resolve, toward some critical life moment, suddenly and unexpectedly converging on a single point in space and time. "
georgesaunders  empathy  sympathy  writing  literature  2013  space  time  howwetalk  howwethink  psychology  slef-persuasion 
march 2013 by robertogreco
potlatch: how not to save a tiger
"But there is something more troubling about this, than just standard marketing mendaciousness. Adam Smith was concerned by the fact that human beings seem to feel less sympathy for others, the further they are away (see this interesting piece in the LRB on how this problem manifests itself in climate change). This is not a problem that can be easily solved or got round. But the strategy of these charities is not to work on increasing the level of sympathy, but of trivialising the nature of the problem. In the advert above, it is assumed by Amnesty that human beings…have very little capacity to imagine the situation of others, to sympathise over distance or to adopt an unconditional moral position. Rather than nurture imagination, sympathy or moral sentiment, the advertisement effectively suppresses those things by containing them within the solipsistic realms of the ego-phone. The individual's solitary comfort zone is reinforced by this, rather than rattled in any way."
ethics  charities  ads  2012  worldwildlifefund  half-truths  sympathy  truth  advertising  willdavies  amnestyinternational  ngo  nonprofits  charity  nonprofit 
june 2012 by robertogreco
David Brooks: The social animal | Video on TED.com [Love this quote (and others) in the comments: "there are plenty of policies that can support the ideas Brooks put out. But they are contrary to his political position."]
"Tapping into the findings of his latest book, NYTimes columnist David Brooks unpacks new insights into human nature from the cognitive sciences -- insights with massive implications for economics and politics as well as our own self-knowledge. In a talk full of humor, he shows how you can't hope to understand humans as separate individuals making choices based on their conscious awareness."
psychology  socialskills  philosophy  davidbrooks  cognitivesciences  relationships  consciousness  consciousawareness  economics  socialtrust  trust  humans  humannature  rationality  schools  cv  learning  education  dehumanization  lcproject  unschooling  deschooling  dividedselves  emotion  emotions  reason  incentives  motivation  measurement  testing  parenting  children  tcsnmy  empathy  collaboration  metis  equipoise  sympathy  blending  limerence  flow  transcendence  love  douglashofstadter  mindsight  politics  socialemotionallearning  self-knowledge  self  openminded  socialemotional 
april 2011 by robertogreco
The New Humanism - NYTimes.com
"Over past few decades, we have tended to define human capital in the narrow way, emphasizing I.Q., degrees, professional skills…all important, obviously, but this research illuminates a range of deeper talents, which span reason & emotion & make a hash of both categories:

Attunement: the ability to enter other minds & learn what they have to offer.

Equipoise: the ability to serenely monitor the movements of one’s own mind & correct for biases & shortcomings.

Metis: the ability to see patterns in the world & derive a gist from complex situations.

Sympathy: the ability to fall into a rhythm with those around you & thrive in groups.

Limerence: This isn’t a talent as much as a motivation. The conscious mind hungers for money & success, but the unconscious mind hungers for those moments of transcendence when the skull line falls away & we are lost in love for another, the challenge of a task or the love of God. Some people seem to experience this drive more powerfully than others."
psychology  culture  collaboration  brain  sociology  davidbrooks  empathy  sympathy  equipoise  metis  limerence  freud  motivation  meaning  values  testing  measurement  education  learning  people  teachers  teaching  schools  parenting  unschooling  deschooling  money  intrinsicmotivation  emotions  rationality  policy  individualism  reason  enlightenment  human  humans  standardizedtesting  grades  grading  relationships  shrequest1 
march 2011 by robertogreco
TOM CLARK: Raymond Williams: Individuals and Societies
"To the member, society is his own community; the members of other communities may be beyond his recognition or sympathy. To the servant, society is an establishment, in which he finds his place. To the rebel, a particular society is a tyranny; the alternative for which he fights is a new and better society. To the exile, society is beyond him, but may change. To the vagrant, society is a name for other people, who are in his way or can be used." [via: http://bettyann.tumblr.com/post/2388426722 ]
society  community  servitude  rebellion  membership  belonging  establishment  sympathy  identity  tyranny  change  resistance  raymondwilliams  revolution  gamechanging  individuality  longrevolution  evolution 
december 2010 by robertogreco
n+1: Sad as Hell
"Shteyngart says the first thing that happened when he bought an iPhone “was that New York fell away . . . It disappeared. Poof.” That’s the first thing I noticed too: the city disappeared, along with any will to experience. New York, so densely populated and supposedly sleepless, must be the most efficient place to hone observational powers. But those powers are now dulled in me. I find myself preferring the blogs of remote strangers to my own observations of present ones. Gone are the tacit alliances with fellow subway riders, the brief evolution of sympathy with pedestrians. That predictable progress of unspoken affinity is now interrupted by an impulse to either refresh a page or to take a website-worthy photo. I have the nervous hand-tics of a junkie. For someone whose interest in other people’s private lives was once endless, I sure do ignore them a lot now."
books  fiction  future  culture  garyshteyngart  writing  iphone  attention  nyc  sympathy  alliances  affinity  surroundings  engagement  strangers  observation  cv  urban  urbanism  connection  place  atemporality  distance 
december 2010 by robertogreco
Frank Chimero — Holiday
"I always come back...either because I love this thing, or because it’s the only thing I know how to do, only thing I’ve ever done. I haven’t decided yet. Maybe this is like any kind of young-love relationship: euphoric highs & cratering lows. Maybe normalization comes w/ experience & age, or finding right kind of cocktail. Maybe it is getting correct mix that’s just right for you: a bit of client work, dash of self-indulgent creative activity, hint of collaboration, healthy bit of self-loathing, & maybe tiny bit of off-time. Or maybe all this turmoil just comes from being a fussy, navel-gazing, difficult creative person...

All I know is that I’m weary once more, & I’ll need some time to convince myself that I love this gig again...So far, my tumultuous, revolving-door relationship w/ design has taught me this: only way I know how to fall in love again is to shut everything off & spend some time alone w/ design, trying to re-experience what made me love it in the first place."

[My response here: http://robertogreco.tumblr.com/post/780341678/a-note-for-frank-chimero ]
process  sympathy  design  clients  hope  work  learning  sabbaticals  yearoff  cv  teaching  frankchimero  comments 
july 2010 by robertogreco
Alain de Botton: A kinder, gentler philosophy of success | Video on TED.com
"Alain de Botton examines our ideas of success and failure -- and questions the assumptions underlying these two judgments. Is success always earned? Is failure? He makes an eloquent, witty case to move beyond snobbery to find true pleasure in our work."
alaindebotton  success  failure  self-esteem  society  inequality  equality  wealth  meritocracy  careers  happiness  anxiety  philosophy  life  work  culture  motivation  sociology  responsibility  suicide  well-being  judgement  ridicule  tragedy  art  coincidences  sympathy  human  religion  nature  balance  wisdom  psychology  ideas  rewards  instrinsicmotivation  extrinsicmotivation  envy  individualism  luck  self-worship  humans  work-lifebalance  realism 
july 2009 by robertogreco
Irving Wladawsky-Berger: Adam Smith 2.0
"We badly need similar innovations around what I would call Adam Smith 2.0, that is, new ways of scaling human sympathy to the more global dimensions in which we now live and work."
economics  markets  society  socialism  capitalism  sympathy  human  future  adamsmith  via:preoccupations 
april 2008 by robertogreco

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