Saturday, February 10, 2018

Swimming Lessons

"As for our bodies, there comes a time when no one wants to come near them." ~ Mr. Perlman speaking one of the saddest line from the lovely film Call Me by Your Name.

I took my youngest daughter to the gym with me one Saturday. She wanted to use the treadmill, but there were actual other human beings in the room, so she just used the bike. She's not confident with the treadmill yet and doesn't want to look stupid. I told her, "Don't be silly; nobody in the room will even notice how you look on it!" But, apparently, I just don't understand.

Well, she's young, right? She'll get over that feeling of being observed and judged.

Right?!

The very next day, I headed to my first swimming lesson in about forty years. I mean my lesson, not one for my kids.

On Free Meds and Mental Health Care

Perfect timing.

My son just finished telling me about his trip to our family doctor in which he tried but failed to get a form filled out that will enable our benefits to cover his ridiculously expensive drugs, when I came across this post on my Twitter feed from the perspicacious Jenny Lawson:


I don't usually rant on social media. I save it for this blog where there's more room to clarify the issues in carefully worded posts. But I was just jazzed enough to fire off this whiney retweet:

Sunday, January 28, 2018

On Conflict

We're raised to understand conflict from the perspective of good guys and bad guys. But it's rarely so clear. The battle for land and resources can be utterly nonsensical, particularly where there is plenty to go around. I watched the documentary Jane last night, in which Goodall described the horrors of the Chimp Wars of the mid-70s when a peaceful group of chimpanzees divided into two factions, seemingly randomly, and then one completely slaughtered the other over a period of about four years. They didn't stop until every single one was dead, even though some of the chimps were killing former childhood friends. Primates kill other primates. And we're primates. But we have something no other primates have: complex language. At what point will we use it instead of violence?

Turkey launched an assault on Rojava last Saturday, sparked by a US announcement that the US wants to create a border force 30,000 strong to patrol the area, which will include the Kurdish military. So far, at least 23 civilians are dead, and 5,000 displaced. It's a tragedy that must be stopped, absolutely. In the words of Sean Crowe, it's wrong on so many levels and must be condemned:



In one sense it seems simply a territorial war not entirely dissimilar to conflicts between animals everywhere who don't want that group in this place. But it's also very complicated. (Or complicated to me.) I'm just trying to figure it all out here.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Monbiot's Out of the Wreckage

The book cover says the book "provides the hope and clarity required to change the world." Well, he certainly tries. He's got a plan of action that's possible, but I didn't get the requisite hope necessary to be spurred to action. It's a bit of an overview of many ideas from different places, many of which are already in action somewhere in the world, and it left me with a solid  book list to peruse, but it also left me with a sinking feeling that this will never work. We're never going to get our shit together enough to do any of this. But I've been wrong before.

The first part is a mix of Charles Taylor's notion of social imaginaries, Naomi Klein's Shock Doctrine, Robert Reich's Inequality for All, and Noam Chomsky's talks on solidarity. Then he gets into specifics about our ideas around our communities, environment, economics, and democracy.

On School Holidays

If we can't move or shorten the "winter break" because, let's face it. we're running on a Christian calendar with lengthy holidays around Christmas and Easter and no time off for any other religion (well, we recognize Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, but would we if they were at a different time?), if we can recognize we're not quite secular yet, then could we start the school year in August and end it in May with a June-July summer? June is getting hotter (h/t climate change), and August is often rainy anyway, right? I know it's tricky to change things like this, but it's silly to continue on with a system that isn't optimal for the people being served. In many states, they've already shifted to an August start.

In the high schools, after two weeks of eating and sleeping excessively, we come back for just two weeks of learning, quickly followed by review and final exams. For grade 12s hoping to get in to college or university, this is the most important semester of their lives, and they often come back sluggish and in need of a refresher that we don't have time to offer. If we start in August, then the break will fall at the half-way mark between the two semesters. Kids can have a real break without assignments hanging over their heads--that most don't actually get done over Christmas despite their best intentions. This year I had many students completely forget about a major assignment that was due after the break - and I had changed the due date from before to after on their insistence that they'd do a much better job with more time. And then January is a nice, fresh start for everyone. It will take some adjusting as summer camps shift their schedules, but it's clearly do-able.

Then March break and Thanksgiving are both centred nicely in the middle of the semesters. But, while we're at it, can we attach the March break to Easter (or just ditch that Easter Monday invention) and shorten it, then add a few of those days to Thanksgiving to have more even semesters? October is a beautiful time for a holiday, and the number of holidays breaking up our second semester makes it difficult to have any continuity.

I know it's not all about me, but these are largely school holiday that are placed in the worst arrangement in respect of school success. Frankly, I'm all for year-round schooling, but that's likely going too far for some.

ETA - This is timely: WRDSB is considering year-round schooling. But the trustees make the mistake of suggesting that our current model is for outdated agrarian purposes. Historian Kenneth Gold says otherwise:
“What school on the agrarian calendar actually looked like was a short winter term and a short summer term....And if you think about farming needs, that’s actually what makes sense....Kids in rural, agricultural areas were most needed in the spring, when most crops had to be planted, and in the fall, when crops were harvested and sold. Historically, many attended school in the summer when there was comparatively less need for them on the farm....the current school year was really a conscious creation...A long break would give teachers needed time to train and give kids a break. And while summer was the logical time to take off, the cycles of farming had nothing to do with it."

Monday, January 8, 2018

The Long Wait - A Bandaid for the Emergency Room Crisis

This is just an off-the-cuff comment, but enduring a long wait in a crowded, infection-ridden emergency room just once should be enough to spur people into action - or at least into innovation. At the time of my first extended wait, I asked a nurse if I could just take a number or somehow find out where I am in line and/or have a means to hold my place so I could leave to get food and come back again later.

She said, "No, you just have to wait with everyone else."

Fair enough, but what if we could wait at home??

When we first sign-in at the hospital now, it's all on a computer. It seems feasible, to me, to develop a means of signing-in from home. I mean, we can check the general wait-times online already:


But because that time can vary depending on what type of illness or injury shows up after we get there, it doesn't tell us much. And the longer we wait to make our way to the hospital, the longer we could end up waiting there because there are no guarantees that the wait time will diminish.

The computer log-in provides the first line of triage, and that wouldn't change. But patients could provide more information to the triage nurses online instead of having a waiting period followed by a brief interview and then another waiting period. Most people can take their own temperature at least, provide a sense of their pain or distress on a scale of 1-10, and fill in a questionnaire about symptom onset, duration, and severity, enough to get a sense of if their condition is emergent, urgent, less urgent or non-urgent. I realize triage is a complicated process, so a trained nurse could ask further questions as needed or even ask for photos to be sent if necessary, and the system could be made to flag any typical symptoms that might indicate a fatal condition. The system could estimate wait time based on each patient's own specific need for treatment, and sick people could stay home until just 15 minutes  before their name is likely to be called. Anyone anxious about the system not working effectively, can wait the five hours on a hard chair potentially surrounded by people with contagious conditions and a TV blaring nearby. People would need to sign in with a valid health card number to prevent any shenanigans. Abusers of the system would have to face consequences similar to those faced by 911 prank callers.



Of course there's nothing that can match a professional seeing a patient in person to judge if they're just uncomfortable or scared and in need of reassurance rather than actually needing emergency care, and they'll have to err on the side of assessing people as more urgent, but, until we're able to actually fix the system, maybe something like this might at least make it more bearable. Any time I've called Telehealth, they've just sent me to emerge anyway. Maybe putting it in the hospitals as a first-line  assessment service could make the waiting easier. I wouldn't be as annoyed about waiting for hours if I could do it in my living room.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Oxygen Depletion in the Oceans

This can't be good:

"The oxygen content of the open ocean and coastal waters has been declining for at least the past half-century, largely because of human activities that have increased global temperatures and nutrients discharged to coastal waters. These changes have accelerated consumption of oxygen by microbial respiration, reduced solubility of oxygen in water, and reduced the rate of oxygen resupply from the atmosphere to the ocean interior, with a wide range of biological and ecological consequences."

From Science Magazine 

Thursday, January 4, 2018

War is a Terrible Back-Up Plan

Noam Chomsky is certain that the only two things we should be worried about right now are climate change and nuclear war. Adam Ellick and Jonah Kessel's article in the NYTimes from last month, "From North Korea with Dread," is terrifying. Some think it's not something to fear because of course the U.S. will win against them, but, living less than 500 km from Washington DC as the crow flies, we would definitely be affected by just one lone strike on American soil. The claim that North Korea wouldn't be dumb enough to strike at all against a country so much more powerful is somewhat eradicated by the video at the link.

The citizens interviewed, albeit largely prompted by the interpreter and some unnamed guy in the background, seem to view themselves as ants in a colony, willing to sacrifice themselves for the sake of the group. One young woman explains that "we all die eventually." Some of the people interviewed looked terrified and refused to speak, and it's hard to say if they were more afraid of the American reporters or of being caught speaking freely or of the prospect of impending doom. So who's to say what they really think. They repeated many times that the entire country has signed up for military duty, willing to fight on the front lines, but it's not clear to me how much that matters now that we have nuclear warhead and drones. And citizen support of war isn't necessary under a dictatorship except in an attempt to appear benevolent. But they want to be sure we know they're all in.

The video is frustrating in its lack of clarity, which might have been improved with a reporter familiar with the language at least enough to ask questions without prompts required. But maybe that's against the rules anyway.

Jeffrey Lewis, in Foreign Policy, backs up some of these concerns,
"We're like hack screenwriters who have written ourselves into a corner. We don't know how to write the happy ending, so we're looking for a deus ex machina to appear and solve it for us. At the moment, that's China. But that's not a very plausible ending, not even for a fairy tale. And so the war talk goes on."

North Korea did many terrible things to the U.S. before it had nuclear weapons, so it's not inconceivable it won't act now if we can't get Trump to settle down. Yikes.

ETA this interview with a South Korean general discussing what war would be like with North Korea:
“I try to explain to the Americans — if we have to go into North Korea, it is not going to be like going into Iraq or Afghanistan. It’s not going to be like toppling [ex-Iraqi President Saddam] Hussein. This would be more like trying to get rid of Allah....I have had the opportunity to speak to North Korean soldiers who have defected to South Korea — and you cannot imagine how indoctrinated they are. These are people who have defected, and yet there is still an innate belief in their system which is close to ridiculous....North Korean pilots would likely use their planes in kamikaze-style attacks, since the aircraft are too old to reliably fly well over long periods of time. That matters since the North Korean air force has around 1,000 planes. Plus, North Koreans receive 100 hours of training on how shoot a weapon a year starting at the age of 14, underscoring how militarized the society is.”
So, there's that.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

On Fostering Illusions and the Qualitative Leap

What do you do when well-meaning people dear to you advise you to ignore your doctors? (And what if the doctors are wrong?)

I generally rally against non-scientifically verifiable medical claims. I'm pretty open minded and willing to try anything, but I also scrutinize any available research before I write off some new thing as the next solution to everything, like coconut oil or vitamin D. A year ago I wrote about people trying to peddle naturopathic cures to me after I was first diagnosed, but more recently I've been challenged by some scientifically-minded friends and family over some of the changes I've actually adopted in my life after all that cancer stuff.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

On Shame, Honour, and Vulnerability

I was forwarded this 47 minute podcast with Brené Brown on 1A, and some of the ideas she has are remarkably similar to Timothy Snyder's views in On Tyranny (e.g. connect with others in real life, speak truth to bullshit), so I bought her newest book, Braving the Wilderness. I was sorrily disappointed. She has done a bit of useful research, but it's written in such a self-helpy way that makes it all seem so dubious: anecdotes from childhood, some forced acronyms, lots of repetition of ideas, a slightly bigger font than most books, the sort of thing that feels questionable but likeable. She's very popular. She's a TED Talker, which can also boost popularity but detract from credibility in equal measure (see herehere, and here). Luckily, I found her original research (but just that one journal article), which is a much better starting point.

I'm interested in her findings but also concerned with some ideas left out of her analysis. Granted I haven't read all her books, but I think I get the gist of her ideas.


Wednesday, December 27, 2017

On Tyranny by Timothy Snyder

I finally got to this pocket-sized book, which is full of the kind of lessons that were passed down from my folks and that I've been saying for decades and of some others that I'm hearing over and over in the past year. The behaviours are nothing new, and it is good to be reminded, but it's the background that's missing from my summary: Snyder's (no relation) clear link between pre-holocaust behaviour and now, what helped and what hindered. From a thorough understanding of history, Snyder gleaned twenty tips to help us avoid global catastrophe or at least preserve some semblance of freedom for ourselves in the coming years:
"The European history of the twentieth century shows us that societies can break, democracies can fall, ethics can collapse, and ordinary men can find themselves standing over death pits with guns in their hands. It would serve us well today to understand why" (11).
I merged them all down to five to better remember them all:


Sunday, November 26, 2017

Some Implications of Boycotting Art

And another thing...  Here are two more issues I have with implication surrounding how we're treating the sexual harassment and assault cases further to my concerns previously discussed and further provoked by an article "Now What Do We Do with Their Work?".


ART AS A VITAL COMMODITY

If Alexander Fleming were found out to be horrific man, we wouldn't stop using penicillin. And if Bill Gates and Steve Jobs were nightmares, we'd still buy computers. That goes without saying. It's only in the arts that people valiantly claim to refuse to ever partake in any creation. When it comes to film and television production, that boycott or sudden shut down can punish far more people than just the accused. It harms the entire cast and crew. But more to the point, boycotting art suggests it's a convenience we can take or leave. People will make more and different art. It's a dime a dozen.

Except it's not.

Art provokes and enlightens and sparks further ideas. I have Picassos on my wall, Heidegger in my bookshelf, and Hitchcock online. These were not good men, but these were men capable of creating things that affect me, images and ideas that nobody else could possibly create quite the same way. Artists are one in a million, and destroying their work or denying their ability to create, just denies society access to one more chance to be woken up from our zoned out existence. Art is individual. We're each affected by particular and specific ideas, which are often rare, revealing themselves far too infrequently to toss aside in hopes that they will be taken up later by someone with better behaviour. 


BOYCOTTS AS PUNISHMENT

I wish people would express this same intense moral indignation when it comes to child workers, slavery, sweatshops, and environmental destruction. Imagine if this many people every day refused to ever again buy clothes, chocolate, coffee, or any product that wasn't produced with clear assurance of fair labour practices along the manufacturing and distribution line. Children are stolen from their parents and beaten as they work in cacao plantations, but that hasn't put a dent in the chocolate industry. A massive boycott could actually turn these types of business practices around. But we just don't care as much about those children.

The prospect of sudden job loss means the talented and celebrated cannot so easily get away with abusive behaviours, absolutely. When Weinstein got fired from his own company, that sent a clear message: People don't want to be subjected to sexual abuse and harassment on the job. Who would be so brazen or stupid to try something now, knowing companies will go so far as to pull you from your contract and actually re-film all your scenes with a less lecherous actor! 

But watching older films give the artists no financial benefit. I recently showed the film Inequality for All in my class and noticed it was produced by Weinstein. Whether I show it or not has zero impact on Weinstein's profits. It does, however, maintain his legacy.

It's curious that we didn't have the same reaction when Jian Ghomeshi was fired from the CBC. We didn't care about his job; we wanted him prosecuted in a court of law. Nobody mentioned destroying all their Moxy Fruvous CDs or cassette tapes; we wanted the creep in jail. I think it's partly because he was never big enough to become legendary. The band and the little Canadian show won't outlive him in history. We don't want future generations to ever like these guys again. We don't want them on their deathbeds happy that they will be fondly remembered. But I think we're putting our energy in the wrong direction.

The giant celebrity status of some of these perverts has distracted us from what happens next. The assault and indecent exposure accusation have to go to trial. And we have to make sure the court system will actually prosecute or else we have to be prepared to raise hell. But for other less physical cases, there has to be a mediation process like any other infraction in a workplace. The consequences have to be enough to remind the masses that this type of behaviour will not be tolerated. If mediation is ineffective, then termination is the next step - of the position, not the person.

The goal is to stop this kind of behaviour. The goal is not to deprive specific perpetrators of a livelihood or legacy in perpetuity, to obliterate them from existence. They need a means to be able to atone for wrongdoings. Once someone does their time, once they fulfill their sentence obligations, they have a right to come back into society and get a job. Let them create independently or, if accepted into a production, let them come along sheepishly and with great humility and a constant all-encompassing awareness of their every comment and gesture. Or else.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

So NOW What? On Power, Sexual Abuse and the Culture of Celebrity

A little over year ago, when I first heard about Louis CK's abuse of power, I was going to write a post suggesting he might actually be the guy able to fess up, apologize sincerely, and lead the way for other men to admit to their abusive behaviours. I'm a big fan, and he sometimes has just the right tone that he might be able to manage something of that calibre. But I didn't finish anything because how I feel is just all too complicated. At the time I only got this far,
He's right out there about difficult issues, dark issues, presented in a light way. He seems to care enough about ethics to go deep into some harsh topics. He already has bits about pleasing women and sexual boundaries in his act. Just imagine if he came clean and actually talked about it, honestly, and with humour, as only he can. Imagine how quickly he could change everything if he apologized. Live. Imagine if he were brave enough to do the right thing and turned himself in and, after the typical slap on the wrist, or maybe even a brief stint in jail, he actually added that experience to his next special as a cautionary tale about his abuse of power. 
Imagine if he openly acknowledged the childishness of suggesting, because they just laughed when he asked if he could pull his dick out, that it was in any way a consensual act. Imagine if he explored his own power and revealed that he did it because he could, because he's in a place where he's become untouchable, so he is living without restraints on any behaviour. So he can do exactly what he like; and this is what he likes. And how dangerous that place is to be because lots of people like to do some weird stuff that couldn't happen without a power imbalance.
And then I watched in disbelief, for over a year, as he seemed completely unencumbered by the weight of his transgressions. He could have carved a path through it all, one that others could follow, but he maintained his course of denial. It didn't go away; instead it just festered around him. Now, even though Weinstein is so much worse by all accounts, his actions and his company's reactions and the many women who have come forward have been game-changers. The camel's back has finally broken.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

On Aronofsky and Climate Change

An article that mixes philosophy, film, and climate change - three of my favourite topics of discussion! Nolan Gear writes about Aronofky's film mother!

"What could it mean for this story to be one of abundant refuge rather than home invasion? How must we reinvent hospitality now that rates of homelessness, landlessness, will only continue to rise exponentially in the wake of climate devastation? [...] Tsing insists that “staying alive — for every species — requires livable collaborations. Collaboration means working across difference, which leads to contamination.” This contamination is both transformation and loss: according to Tsing, we must risk our integrity and self-possession if we wish to live.[...]This mutual undoing is where hospitality begins: not despite or instead of but through disorientation and loss. What’s certain is that we need films that cook up collaborative contaminations — not xenophobic paranoia."
What do we need to see in our culture, in our films and music and art and media, that will actually help us eke out a few more decades of life? Mother! is a warning cry that comes way too late in the game and would have been completely ignored if it had come any earlier. What does it look like to develop a narrative, a social imaginary, that allows for collaborative contaminations?

Saturday, October 21, 2017

On Anxiety

I just finished John Green's Turtles All the Way Down, which I read because he claimed it was his way of trying to put words around what it's like to live with profound anxiety, and then I saw this article asking "Why are more American teens than ever suffering from severe anxiety?". I was raised with most my sibs affected by some kind of mental illness or disorder, and now my children are in the same boat. Somehow, I've made it this far relatively unscathed by the ravages of anxiety, so I'm ever eager to really get my head around what it feels like from the inside.

Green's book is just what I was hoping for. There's nothing to read below the surface here, which might deny it any book awards, but it does an excellent job of giving us a clear and straightforward  first-hand glimpse of the inner thoughts that drive anxious behaviours. Like David Sedaris's Naked, a collection of hilarious personal essays about OCD, it can help the reader really get why anyone would do or think those things and then begin to empathize with that curious drive that all but obliterates their free will.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

On Betsy DeVos in Ontario

Betsy DeVos is coming to talk to the Minister of Education, apparently to learn about our schools. Let's hope the meeting just goes in that direction.

When she was first appointed by Trump, OSSTF warned,
DeVos has been a strong advocate for the creation of more charter schools in her home state of Michigan, as well as expansion of school choice and the voucher system in education. She has also been a strong advocate for right-to-work legislation and has contributed millions of dollars to the Republican Party in Michigan. The expansion of charter schools in Michigan has led to about half of all students in the city of Detroit attending one of these schools. While most charter schools in the United States are “not-for-profit,” Michigan’s charter school law allows for-profit charters to be established. What has resulted in Detroit is intense competition for students between public and charter schools. Thanks to DeVos’s efforts to promote choice and charter schools, a multitude of new schools were established in Detroit, even though overall enrollment was in decline. As a result, schools have engaged in “bidding wars” to draw kids, and the money that they bring with them, into their buildings These campaigns have included the offer of incentives to students, such as iPads, gift cards and bicycles.
Yesterday, Harvey Bischof, President of OSSTF said,
Ms. DeVos is a vocal proponent of programs that divert government funding away from public education and into private hands, to pay for tuition at private and religious schools. [...It's] alarming, and frankly an affront to our members, that Ontario would allow someone who openly promotes a corporate assault on public education to visit schools in our province. The Ministry of Education should reconsider this visit and send a strong, clear message to Ms. DeVos and other proponents of privatization that public education in Ontario is not for sale.
I fear that we're already headed for privatization, and she's just here to show us all the way down the rabbit's hole. All the celebration over e-learning and the virtual high school is the first step in ditching real live teachers for automation and outsourcing. There's a huge downside to tech that we ignore at our peril when we get too excited about the next new thing.

We need educated professionals in classrooms, face-to-face with a limited number of kids, to most effectively impart an education. Only an in-person educator can connect with students and guide them through critical thinking problems with a real time back and forth of ideas. Only when we're there can we gauge the faces of students for confusion or enlightenment. Yup, there's some boredom mixed in there too sometimes, and it's important to see it and be able to switch gears enough to keep them on track.

And education must be fully public and accessible by everyone everywhere. We've seen the mess Charter schools can make. Ontario all too quickly follows on in the path of each new American plan just as the U.S. starts to realize their plan isn't working. Remember whole language?? I really hope we're strong enough and smart enough to listen politely to DeVos and then do our own research before making another inane decision. This one could devastate our education system, not just for one generation of kids, but for many who follow.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Action is the One Miracle-Working Faculty of Man

This piece by Wen Stephenson is a beautifully written comparison between Hannah Arendt's Nazi analysis and the pivotal issues of our time. I'm also afraid, not so much about what will happen to our species in a century from now, but about what will happen to us in the next few decades. Abridged with some of the best bits here:

What I fear most is what we’re capable of doing to each other, and of not doing for each other, when, as Hannah Arendt would say, the chips are down — when it’s dark outside, and we let the darkness in. Because, let there be no doubt, it’s getting very dark....What was once unthinkable destruction is now all but guaranteed, first and foremost among the world’s poorest people, the majority of the human population....With the victory of the carbon-industrial machine, it is now clear, we confront corporate and political forces not only racist in ideology but totalitarian in mindset and ambition, if not as yet in methods. Unless, as to methods, it can be argued that to ensure the suffering and death of countless innocent millions, by means of lies and the obstruction of urgent life-saving measures, marks some kind of epochal advance in the art of administrative mass murder....

The opening lines of Hannah Arendt’s short, bracing preface to the first edition of The Origins of Totalitarianism, published in 1951, capture a moment and the mood of a generation that had lived through two cataclysmic World Wars, experienced economic collapse, revolutions, and “homelessness on an unprecedented scale,” and now faced the prospect of an all-destroying third world war. The mood is one of exhaustion, uncertainty, a dull and ever-present fear. “This moment of anticipation,” she writes, is like the calm that settles after all hopes have died. […] Never has our future been more unpredictable, never have we depended so much on political forces that cannot be trusted to follow the rules of common sense and self-interest — forces that look like sheer insanity, if judged by the standards of other centuries....

Central to Arendt’s analysis is her acute observation that totalitarian movements, and later fully realized regimes, require the construction of a “fictitious world,” as seen in their “conspicuous disdain of the whole texture of reality.”...With nothing to fall back on, no recognizable standards by which to comprehend and judge, anything can happen, anything might be justified, in the future. All bets are off. What comprehensible motive could there be for poisoning the well from which one’s own children must drink, much less the atmosphere itself? What kind of mindset makes one’s own children and grandchildren, and everyone else’s, indeed all future generations, superfluous?

The world finds nothing sacred in the mere existence of a Syrian refugee washed up on a beach; in the prayerful faces and freezing bodies at Standing Rock; in the undocumented persons, “illegals,” mothers and fathers and children, jailed and deported....The question: What kind of resistance is possible against a world without mercy? And even as I form those words, the familiar voice in my head: Who am I to judge? Who the hell do I think I am? Am I not complicit — aren’t we all — even sitting in jail?

“There exists in our society a widespread fear of judging that has nothing whatever to do with the biblical ‘Judge not, that ye be not judged,’” Arendt writes in the manuscript of a 1964 address. Rather, she notes there, “behind the unwillingness to judge lurks the suspicion that no one is a free agent, and hence the doubt that anyone is responsible or could be expected to answer for what he has done.” As soon as anyone raises moral issues, she observes sharply, the one who raises them is met “with a kind of mock-modesty that in saying, Who am I to judge? actually means We’re all alike, equally bad, and those who try, or pretend that they try, to remain halfway decent are either saints or hypocrites, and in either case should leave us alone.”...

In the closing pages of Eichmann in Jerusalem (1963), where she addresses him posthumously, she writes, “[You said] that almost anybody could have taken your place, so that potentially almost all Germans are equally guilty. What you meant to say was that where all, or almost all, are guilty, nobody is.” Or as she puts it in that 1968 lecture, in the case of postwar Germans who indulged in what she called the “phony sentimentality” of collective guilt, “the cry ‘We are all guilty’ is actually a declaration of solidarity with the wrongdoers.”... If Arendt is right — and if her words have any applicability beyond the specific historical context in which she wrote — then my own jail-cell guilt trip was another form of phony sentimentality, in which I sought cover and refuge, some sort of perverse comfort, in a collective guilt spread so thin that it evaporates into air and disappears; an escape, in which I sought to be unburdened of the responsibility to judge, and of the responsibility such judgment would place on me....And yet the question remains why this matters to us now — whether the satisfactions of judging, smug or otherwise, sitting in a jail cell or in an armchair, are all we have left at this late hour.

Or as she puts it in a 1971 lecture: “The sad truth of the matter is that most evil is done by people who never made up their mind to be either bad or good.” The kind of thinking, of making up one’s mind, that Arendt is talking about here, the internal dialogue with oneself that allows for questioning and judging, is a capacity shared by all, she goes on to suggest, not only an elite (who fail to exercise it as often as anyone, perhaps more). Nevertheless, such thinking “remains a marginal affair for society at large except in emergencies.” At moments of crisis, she writes, “those who think are drawn out of hiding because their refusal to join is conspicuous and thereby becomes a kind of action.”...Indeed action, Arendt writes, is “the one miracle-working faculty of man.”

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Out of the Wreckage Teaser

Monbiot's new book looks to be most similar to his Manifesto, which came out just over a decade ago. I love when he gets all revolutionary and inspirational. Here's an excerpt of his excerpt:
"Is it reasonable to hope for a better world? Study the cruelty and indifference of governments, the disarray of opposition parties, the apparently inexorable slide towards climate breakdown, the renewed threat of nuclear war, and the answer appears to be no....[But] political failure is, in essence, a failure of imagination....Those who tell the stories run the world....Although the stories told by social democracy and neoliberalism are starkly opposed to each other, they have the same narrative structure. We could call it the Restoration Story....the reason why, despite its multiple and manifest failures, we appear to be stuck with neoliberalism is that we have failed to produce a new narrative with which to replace it....[Humans] possess an unparalleled sensitivity to the needs of others....We have been induced by politicians, economists and journalists to accept a vicious ideology of extreme competition and individualism that pits us against each other, encourages us to fear and mistrust each other and weakens the social bonds that make our lives worth living....Where we find ourselves crushed between market and state, we will develop a new economics that treats both people and planet with respect. We will build it around a great, neglected economic sphere: the commons....We know that if we can mobilise such silent majorities, there is nothing this small minority can do to stop us. But because we have failed to understand what is possible, and above all failed to replace our tired political stories with a compelling narrative of transformation and restoration, we have failed to realise this potential. As we rekindle our imagination, we discover our power to act. And that is the point at which we become unstoppable."

Thursday, August 31, 2017

On Antifa Methods

It's not just Tina Fey who's getting lambasted for promoting this position,
"I really want to say, to encourage all good sane Americans, to treat these rallies this weekend like the opening of a thoughtful movie with two female leads: Don't show up. Let these morons scream into the empty air."
Now it's Chomsky and Hedges as well. We can pretty quickly write-off a comedian's suggestion, but it should give one pause when bigger thinkers repeat the idea. It should, I think. It's not for some, though, who insist Chomsky and Hedges are no longer on the left or are no longer liberal or are finally showing their true liberalism, and they toss them aside in favour of more agreeable opinions on the matter. I'm so confused about what 'left' and 'liberal' mean these days that I'm just going to leave that bit alone to look at their arguments.

Matt Sedillo argues,
"The threat is real, so must the resistance be. If we are to transform society more work than this need be done. If we are to prevent self deputizing death squads from roaming the street they must fear public gathering. There is no way around this and there is no reason to think of this work as mutually exclusive. Liberalism by definition is counterrevolutionary. In times of crisis it calls for the pacification of struggle and the return to normalcy. It posits that both right wing calls for ethnic cleansing and the resistance to that as equally menacing to the liberal order of society....Chris Hedges gave “many sides, many sides” presentation of much of the 20th century in order to attack the idea of revolution from below....False equivalencies spread confusion. Confusion strengthens the fascists. Liberalism is a death cult. Chris Hedges is a public menace."

On Memes and Theft

The Guardian has an article about memes, this one in particular, and I love their choice of cover photo:



Because it's not remotely important relative to everything else going on, yet it's still in the mix - one more thing to consider.

Belam writes,
"Guillem has a warning for people liberally spreading the picture across the net to put their copy of Photoshop down: “It’s not allowed to use any image without purchasing the proper licence in any possible way, so each one of the people that use the images without the licence are doing it illegally. What really worries us and we are not going to allow it, taking the appropriate legal measures, is the use of the images in a pejorative, offensive or any way that can harm the models or me."