Monday, January 27, 2020

But Thinking is So Much Work!

Misinformation and misunderstanding and misreporting are going to be the death of us. From news sources reporting who was in the plane with Kobe Bryant before details were released to the families to an old article about Ebola resurfacing as if it's about Coronovirus, it's now up to Joe Public to read and scrutinize and think. That's a lot to ask in our busy lives of continuous news feeds! And it's clearly not happening. The Ebola article, introduced by a semi-popular Twitterer as if a couple in Canada, who immigrated from China, created the new virus in order to kill us all, elicited a ton of shocking (or, these days, to be expected) racism and anti-immigration sentiment so vile that it makes me more worried about a the creation of containment camps for anyone with Chinese ancestry popping up everywhere than about actually getting sick.

So this final example might seem trivial next to those two. But it's all part and parcel of the same mess.

Journalist Vicky Spratt wrote an article that was very unfortunately titled, "Dangerous Rise of Men Who Won't Date "Woke" Women."  Her concerns in the article are not remotely about her own dating life, a fact unacknowledged by, literally, hundreds of commenters.

What the article does say is that Laurence Fox, specifically, (an actor - I had to google him) is saying some very racist and sexist things. The dangerous part is that he has a huge platform now. Her point:
"There's nothing funny about the things Fox is saying. . . . It's dangerous. He is just one very privileged man and, as a result of said privilege, has been given a platform. And he has used that platform to legitimise a bigger backlash against diversity and progress which is unfolding every single day."
She does mention dating apps and how many men want women to "drop their obsession with 'social justice.'" She explains,
"Men are being "radicalised by anti-feminism. As the saying goes: 'When you're used to privilege, equality feels like oppression.' . . . a hostility towards feminism is feeding directly into far-right movements online. . . . [Fox] is legitimising hatred and division." 
He's part of what Angela Nagle might call the Alt Light. I'm on the side that believes this is a legitimate concern as this line of thinking can lead towards either acceptance of, provocation for, or actual involvement in murder sprees of the likes of El Paso, Poway, and Christchurch, as Spratt argues. She quotes Susan Faludi: 'When the enemy has no face, society will invent one." Nagle suggests that it's a tiny group of people online, but they both agree it has the potential to spread when they get an audience. Spratt explains,
"Make no mistake, the far right is already capitalising on Fox's words, gassing him up and turning him into an icon. He has added to their backlash and given it oxygen. Every time he is invited onto a TV or radio show to talk about it, that oxygen will cause the backlash to burn hotter and faster, irrespective of whether we're watching or not. It's important no to trivialise this anti-woke, anti-women backlash."
I've mentioned this before, but this conversation always reminds me of Chris Hedges's story about an elderly Jewish man humiliated in the market place in the mid 1930s. The fact that some in the crowd laughed and that nobody stopped the humiliation was enough for the viewer, Marek Edelman, the last survivor of the group that led the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, to predict that something far worse would happen next.

Graham Dockery doesn't see it this way. He responded in RT, arguing that Spratt is taking a huge leap to suggest these types of racist and sexist comments cause murders: "That's quite the jump. And quite the accusation to make, considering Fox's statements aren't controversial." His proof that racist and sexist comments are uncontroversial is statistics about how few men and women support feminism.

That these aren't uncommon ideas, doesn't prove - in the least - that they aren't portending later destruction to the groups being slammed. In fact, quite the opposite. If these comments are commonplace, now, then how do we see clear of the damage except to rally against this ideology.



Sunday, January 19, 2020

On Martin Luther King Jr.

Chomsky praises him, saying he was vilified, but he was crucial to making change. Two years ago, the New York Times published an excellent transcript of his final sermon, annotated by Nikita Stewart to clarify the events that provoked some of his words. It's his "I've been to the mountaintop" speech made four years after the Civil Rights Act passed, and one day before his death. Here's an abridged version (or listen to it in full here). The bold is all mine; his words have been repeated by Chomsky and Hedges and Timothy Snyder. Hopefully we'll listen one day.
It is no longer a choice between violence and nonviolence in this world; it’s nonviolence or nonexistence. That is where we are today. And also in the human rights revolution, if something isn’t done, and done in a hurry, to bring the colored peoples of the world out of their long years of poverty, their long years of hurt and neglect, the whole world is doomed. . . . 
We’ve got to stay together and maintain unity. You know, whenever Pharaoh wanted to prolong the period of slavery in Egypt, he had a favorite formula for doing it. What was that? He kept the slaves fighting among themselves. But whenever the slaves get together, something happens in Pharaoh’s court, and he cannot hold the slaves in slavery. When the slaves get together, that’s the beginning of getting out of slavery. Now let us maintain unity. . . . And we’ve got to say to the nation: We know how it’s coming out. For when people get caught up with that which is right and they are willing to sacrifice for it, there is no stopping point short of victory. We aren’t going to let any mace stop us. We are masters in our nonviolent movement in disarming police forces; they don’t know what to do. I’ve seen them so often. I remember in Birmingham . . . Bull Connor would tell them to send the dogs forth, and they did come; but we just went before the dogs singing, “Ain’t gonna let nobody turn me around.” . . . And every now and then we’d get in jail, and we’d see the jailers looking through the windows being moved by our prayers, and being moved by our words and our songs. And there was a power there. . . . 
All we say to America is, “Be true to what you said on paper.” If I lived in China or even Russia, or any totalitarian country, maybe I could understand some of these illegal injunctions. Maybe I could understand the denial of certain basic First Amendment privileges, because they hadn’t committed themselves to that over there. But somewhere I read of the freedom of assembly. Somewhere I read of the freedom of speech. Somewhere I read of the freedom of press. Somewhere I read that the greatness of America is the right to protest for right. . . . 
Now the other thing we’ll have to do is this: Always anchor our external direct action with the power of economic withdrawal. . . . And so, as a result of this, we are asking you tonight, to go out and tell your neighbors not to buy Coca-Cola in Memphis. Go by and tell them not to buy Sealtest milk. . . . We are choosing these companies because they haven’t been fair in their hiring policies; and we are choosing them because they can begin the process of saying they are going to support the needs and the rights of these men who are on strike. . . . I call upon you to take your money out of the banks downtown and deposit your money in Tri-State Bank. . . . 
[Jesus] talked about a certain man, who fell among thieves. You remember that a Levite and a priest passed by on the other side. They didn’t stop to help him. . . . The first question that the priest asked—the first question that the Levite asked was, “If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?” But then the Good Samaritan came by. And he reversed the question: “If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?” That’s the question before you tonight. Not, “If I stop to help the sanitation workers, what will happen to my job. Not, “If I stop to help the sanitation workers what will happen to all of the hours that I usually spend in my office every day and every week as a pastor?” The question is not, “If I stop to help this man in need, what will happen to me?” The question is, “If I do not stop to help the sanitation workers, what will happen to them?” That’s the question. . . . 
Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land! And so I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord."
He stood in line with picketing unions just on the cusp of Milton Friedman's tide coming in to bring the anti-union free market to South America, by force. He was fighting economic disparity just as the marginal tax rate was being lowered to allow the rich to get richer. He was at the starting point of neo-liberalism, fighting the very beginnings, prophetically explaining the results we were about to see, and then he was assassinated.

His approval rating had tanked with the people as he got more radical about poverty and the war in Vietnam. He wasn't content with just civil rights in a few states; he wanted to change American policies. Here's his 1967 speech with the famous line,
"A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death." 
The Vietnam protests kept going, but inequality was sold to the middle class as a matter of weakness, stupidity, and laziness of those beneath them. Just as he predicted, the Pharaoh kept the slaves fighting amongst themselves, ignoring the wealth being accumulated for the top off their backs of those at the bottom.

And, as James Cobb reports, protesters got tired of the glacial pace of change through non-violent means. He describes what happened after his death:
"King's slaying meant the death of “all reasonable hope,” Stokely Carmichael warned, because he was “the only man of our race ... of the older generation who the militants and the revolutionaries and the masses of black people would still listen to” even if they no longer agreed with what he had to say. There would be no more “intellectual discussions.” Black Americans would now retaliate for the murder of one of their leaders by seeking their justice not in the courtrooms but in the streets. 
And so they did, in classically Pyrrhic fashion. Younger, more militant black spokesmen who had spurned King's commitment to nonviolence and peaceful negotiation proceeded to stoke outrage over the slaughter of someone so un-menacing and well-intentioned. A week-long orgy of violence raged across more than 100 cities, leaving at least 37 people dead and many more injured and millions of dollars in property destroyed. This was a bitterly ironic sendoff for someone who had sacrificed his life to the cause of achieving social justice by peaceful means."

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Chomsky's Optimism: On Climate Change, Nuclear War, and Activism

Truthdig's Scheer Intelligence series, hosted by Robert Scheer, recently posted a 3 hour podcast in two parts. I've summarized the gist of what Chomsky says below, in about a 15 minute read, with a few of my own thoughts and links added to the mix. You can listen to the whole thing here: Part 1 - "American has built a global dystopia" and Part 2 - "Chomsky makes the case for the lesser of two evils."

This is largely quoted but without asides and repetition of words or ideas to make it more fluid, and with headings for easier scrolling through bite-sized chunks!


ON OUR SURVEILLANCE STATE:

Scheer starts by asking Chomsky if we're in the middle of Huxley's Brave New World or Orwell's 1984. Chomsky offers a third option: We, by Russian author Yevgeny Zamyatin. It's an amalgamation of Huxley and Orwell. We have tight surveillance, but we're also controlled through punishment and shame. Cars with screens in them know your shopping habits and will let you know if there's a Chinese restaurant nearby to manipulate your choices. There's also a move to control people at work through a point system. [It's Black Mirror's "Nosedive" episode.] The internet of things isn't just a convenience for you, but for the government and multi-national surveillance of you. There's no wall between Google, Amazon, and the government.

Monday, January 13, 2020

How to Be a Good Citizen

This is a Twitter thread, but I want to save it, so I'm putting it here. It's by Elle Maruska. (Here's her Patreon and Ko-Fi, whatever that is.)

"Here are some things you can do that, while maybe won't change the world will help you become more effective as a progressive and less likely to engage in harmful behavior in the name of social justice

1. Read Read read read read read read. Read books, read newspapers, read Twitter threads. Read carefully, critically, with purpose. Read scholars of color. Read words written by poor writers, disabled writers, queer writers. Look for reading lists regarding your area of interest

2. Find Experts. Follow Them. Listen To Them. For whatever cause you're most passionate about there are plenty of people who have been working to promote that cause and they're the voices you must seek out. These people will be best able to tell you where to send your support what resources are needed, what work has to be done, how you can best help. And the most important thing is to LISTEN. Don't demand an education. Don't argue. Don't insert yourself into a conversation between experts. Listen, and learn.

3. If You Want To Give, Give What Is Asked For Don't give what YOU think people need, give what people KNOW they need. Support is only support if its useful, if it helps. Know what the need is and if you can help fulfill that need then do it

4. Be Ok With Being Uncomfortable. You are going to be wrong. You're going to be wrong about a lot of things. And that's ok. No one comes into the world fully formed and knowledgeable about everything and you're gonna mess up. You're gonna make people mad. It's ok You're also going to learn things that make you question yourself, your place in the world, your beliefs. You'll be confronted with a reality that hurts, that makes you defensive, even angry. You'll want to defend yourself, to declare that you aren't one of the bad ones . Don't. Understand it's ok to feel these things but work them out on your own. Don't force your discomfort on people who are doing work and have been for a long time. Sit with your discomfort. Examine it. Accept that you will be uncomfortable, and that doesn't make you a bad person.

5. Choose A Cause. Don't Put Down Other Causes. We all have things we're passionate about. Maybe it's prison reform, or climate change, or healthcare, or immigration. We can't do everything, we can't support every cause. It's ok to specialize and it's probably necessary BUT Do not come into discussions regarding OTHER causes and try and claim your cause is more important, more deserving of support. Don't derail conversations. Don't put down other people, other experts. Respect the work people do across all causes. It's all connected.

6. Pay People For Their Labor. I mean this should go without saying but I'm gonna say it. The articles/twitter threads you read don't just appear. They're work someone's done, labor someone's performed and then posted to allow free access. If you can, pay people for that work Subscribe to Patreons. Support people's Ko-Fis. Donate to GoFundMes. Leave tips in digital tip jars. Even if it's only a little bit it makes a difference and shows you respect and understand the work being done, the effort and cost of creating free content.

7. The Local Is As Important As The Global.  Big issues like climate change seem way too immense for one person to address and they are. But you can make a difference on the local level in so many different ways. Pay attention to local politics, local issues, local elections What is your local school board doing? What is your town/city doing about affordable housing? Homelessness? Community healthcare? So many decisions are made at the local level. Figure out what you can do to help make the right decisions

8. If You Can Take Part In Public Action Do It. Mass public action is one of the most effective ways of protesting. In fact mass public disruptions are pretty much the only really effective methods of getting the attention of those in power & making them afraid. Of course we can't all march and that's fine. But we can help in other ways. We can donate to organizations that provide legal aid to protesters. We can share information. We can send supplies. There are lots of ways to show support with those who are marching and importantly we can normalize mass public disruption as a legitimate method of protest Remember Occupy Wall Street? So many people--even those on the left--treated it as a joke. We need to change that attitude and SUPPORT those willing & able to disrupt the machinery of power

9. Elevate Marginalized Voices. Remember that for every Greta Thunberg there's an Autumn Peltier or Mari Copeny. When you support activists make sure you're not just supporting white activists, western activists, conventionally attractive/acceptable activists. Assess who you're most often retweeting or sharing and make an effort to promote marginalized activists who may not get the same level of public acceptance as white/cis/abled activists

10. Above All Remember: Systems Are The Enemy. It's easy to focus all our ire on Trump and to pretend one person can be responsible for all the wrong we're fighting but the problems we have go back far longer than 2016. From climate change to violence in the Middle East systemic forces like capitalism & white supremacy are the enemies we must dismantle. Which means we always have to look beyond the current president, the current super-villain and ask how we can change the system, not the person Don't get caught up in attacking one man attack the system that allowed that man to assume power, and will continue to allow cruel brutal racists to claim control

And here are some basic bits of advice 
     -even your favs can mess up & should be held accountable
     -but we're all human & messing up is unavoidable
     -don't believe a single person can save us 
     -take care of yourself 
     -don't be afraid to be a jerk. don't be afraid to be kind

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Age of Oblivion, Part 2

Chomsky has said, over and over, that the two things we should be worried about are climate change and nuclear war. We're doing well at exacerbating both! Our obliviousness to these catalyses of catastrophe will propel us into total oblivion. Defense stock is up, though.

Hedges on Iran:
"The strike may temporarily bolster the political fortunes of the two beleaguered architects of the assassination, Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but it is an act of imperial suicide by the United States. There can be no positive outcome. It opens up the possibility of an Armageddon-type scenario relished by the lunatic fringes of the Christian right. . . . The generals and politicians who launched and prosecuted these wars are not about to take the blame for the quagmires they created. They need a scapegoat. It is Iran. The hundreds of thousands of dead and maimed, including at least 200,000 civilians, and the millions driven from their homes into displacement and refugee camps cannot, they insist, be the result of our failed and misguided policies. The proliferation of radical jihadist groups and militias, many of which we initially trained and armed, along with the continued worldwide terrorist attacks, have to be someone else’s fault. . . . The chaos and instability we unleashed in the Middle East, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan, left Iran as the dominant country in the region. Washington empowered its nemesis. It has no idea how to reverse its mistake other than to attack Iran. . . . Trump and Netanyahu, as well as Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, are mired in scandal. They believe a new war would divert attention from their foreign and domestic crises. . . . 
We, as citizens, must hold our government accountable for these crimes. If we do not, we will be complicit in the codification of a new world order, one that would have terrifying consequences. It would be a world without treaties, statutes and laws. It would be a world where any nation, from a rogue nuclear state to a great imperial power, would be able to invoke its domestic laws to annul its obligations to others. Such a new order would undo five decades of international cooperation—largely put in place by the United States—and thrust us into a Hobbesian nightmare. Diplomacy, broad cooperation, treaties and law, all the mechanisms designed to civilize the global community, would be replaced by savagery."

And a bit from an Bill Perry video, a few years old, for perspective:

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Age of Oblivion: Another End of Decade Rant

Of course  calendars are a construct and don't mean anything, but the end of the year and, even more so, the end of the decade are useful times to take stock.

In pop culture, we have the Ecco Homo moment as a cultural foreboding - the chutzpah to insist on a fix that pretends to be completely oblivious to the destruction of former beauty. We've done that with our whole planet. But more than that is the fame it brought to the amateur restoration worker, driving up tourism dramatically. We are positioned to celebrate destruction of beauty more than creation. This could be bookended with the acknowledgment and then immediate justification of "billionaires in wine caves" having more power than the rest of the populous; that a politician will be attacked for refusing to be bribed is a sign of our times.

The New York Times got a random smattering of people to answer: What Will the World Look Like in 2030?, twelve years after we were told we have twelve years to fix everything. It's a terrifying read. I've smushed some pertinent bits together here:

Sunday, December 1, 2019

The Game Changers: A Bit about Persuasion and Reason and Eating Your Vegetables

I've come to believe that determining the very best diet is as individual as figuring out the best course of action to treat anxiety or depression. We are each our own guinea pig. Individually, we each have to try a few things, gradually, while monitoring our energy levels, abilities, and general feelings of good health and wellbeing, to see what actually works for us. That takes time to get right. I was raised on meat and potatoes, but then I read Diet for a Small Planet when I was a teenager, and it convinced me to eat low on the food chain. Ever since, I lean towards fruits, vegetables, and grains with the occasional brick of cheese melted on top, and an even less frequent gorge on chicken wings. After having cancer and reading many studies on the correlation between animal consumption and cancers, I hesitate to eat animal products quite so much. To clarify, I still eat them because ... yum!, but I sit with some cognitive dissonance each time. I clear my conscience with my favourite salad: a bowl of raw vegetables smothered in cilantro and basil, no dressing. I don't get repeat invites to potlucks.

I just watched The Game Changers (their sources are here), and I'm going to try to sort out the fact from fiction in the film as well as in some of the many 'debunkings' I've found, which are sometimes equally suspect.

It's fascinating to me how often passion overrules reason in these discussions. What is it about food that makes people swing to the extremes? I've written before about even the brilliant Chris Hedges getting sucked into some weak evidence, and I've met many reasonable people who don't see any problems with some of dubious claims on only this issue. There's often an outrage just below the surface of these docs that suggest that, if you don't believe it, then either you're a horrible person or a complete idiot. I'm not convinced by the outrage. I'm not a nutritionist, and I'm definitely not a foody, but I do have a background in research methods and in logic and critical thinking. And some claims made in this field, on both sides of the aisle, are really problematic. Full disclosure, I have been vegetarian a couple times, for a few years each time, but I've never even tried to be vegan despite opening my classroom doors for a plant based club each week. Maybe this is the time to give it a shot.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Pre-COP25 Panel of Speakers: the Intersection of Climate and Race

A headache kept me home from work today, so I got some fresh air and checked out the climate strike. It was great timing for the strike, on Black Friday, with COP 25 starting in Chile - scratch that - Madrid three days from now.


It's a really hard sell to get a protest going on a cold day. There were about 200 people there, which was great, but it could be better, couldn't it. We can't have field trips to the protests, but could I book a field trip to see a movie and then accidentally get side tracked on the way?? Oh look, that protest is today too. Let's check it out for a minute! I have to say, it's really cool when you're at a march and suddenly a huge group of people join at once. It's like the cavalry coming in to save the day!



The protest started with an indigenous smudging ceremony, drumming and singing from Idle No More. Some dancing in unison, holding hands with the strangers next to us, can be so useful for developing community. It's necessary to be part of something bigger than ourselves if we're going to tackle something this huge. The speakers outside the mall had the power cut by Primus Property Management, even though, as far as I know, they had booked the area just like any other group. But a megaphone was passed to them, and they continued. Then we marched down the middle of the street instead of sticking to the sidewalks. That felt more like a real march. There was a panel of speakers waiting for us at a nearby church. The event ended with an Extinction Rebellion disruption at the mall. Kudos to the organizers for such an incredibly smooth event!! But about that panel...


Saturday, November 23, 2019

The Greatest Propaganda Machine in History

Sacha Baron Cohen (aka Ali G. and Borat, among others) won an award from the Anti-Defamation League. Here's his 25 minute acceptance speech. It's in writing, abridged a bit, below the video if you'd rather skim than watch. (Emphasis is mine.)



"Today, around the world, demagogues appeal to our worst instincts. Conspiracy theories, once confined to the fringe, are going mainstream. It's as if the age of reason, the era of evidential argument is ending and now knowledge is increasing delegitimized, and scientific consensus is dismissed. Democracy, which depends on shared truths, is in retreat, and autocracy, which depends on shared lies, is on the march. Hate crimes are surging . . .  What do these dangerous trends have in common? . . . All this hate and violence is being facilitated by a handful of internet companies that amount to the greatest propaganda machine in history. . . .

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Gen Z for Zero, Net Zero

Mia Rabson reports,
"A baby born in Canada today will never know a time in which his or her health isn’t at risk from a warming planet . . . Without accelerated intervention, this new era will come to define the health of people at every stage of their lives. . . . in a country like Canada, air pollution, heat-related illnesses and exposure to toxic smoke from forest fires are bigger threats to a child’s long-term health. A warmer world means more widespread transmission of diseases, as well as the political strife that comes with mass migration as some parts of the world become uninhabitable. . . . pushing the world to do more to slow global warming is critical. . . . if we intervene now to keep warming down and find ways to adapt, the savings to the health system and economic productivity down the road will in many places more than pay for the costs of those interventions."
The Lancet article she sources doesn't pull any punches,
"A child born today will experience a world that is more than four degrees warmer than the pre-industrial average, . . . Downward trends in global yield potential for all major crops tracked since 1960 threaten food production and food security, with infants often the worst affected by the potentially permanent effects of undernutrition. . . . Trends in climate suitability for disease transmission are particularly concerning, with 9 of the 10 most suitable years for the transmission of dengue fever on record occurring since 2000. . . . . air pollution—principally driven by fossil fuels, and exacerbated by climate change—damages the heart, lungs, and every other vital organ. . . . Globally, 77% of countries experienced an increase in daily population exposure to wildfires from 2001 to 2015. . . . . A business as usual trajectory will result in a fundamentally altered world. . . . 
The Paris Agreement has set a target of “holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1·5°C.” In a world that matches this ambition, a child born today would see the phase-out of all coal in the UK and Canada by their sixth and 11th birthday; they would see France ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars by their 21st birthday; and they would be 31 years old by the time the world reaches net-zero in 2050."
If we can make this happen, we all know that it will be good beyond merely allowing us to continue to survive on this planet:
"The changes seen in this alternate pathway could result in cleaner air, safer cities, and more nutritious food, coupled with renewed investment in health systems and vital infrastructure. . . . In several cases, the economic savings from a healthier and more productive workforce, with fewer health-care expenses, will cover the initial investment costs of these interventions."
We're implemented some changes, but greenhouse gasses continue to rise. This is the same story we've been hearing for years, and the main reason I question anyone's choice to bring more children into this mess, but at least it's being reported by mainstream media. Maybe that's something.

On Developing a Consistent Self

In a New York Times article, "What do teens learn online today?", Elizabeth Weil suggests that kids are on the right track when they stream every inch of their anguish and joys in countless video tutorials aimed at, perhaps a necessary clarification, other teens. Weil says,
"It’s nice if our fellow humans are predictable, and you have some idea of what you’ll be dealing with when a person shows up. There are whole branches of psychology dedicated to trying to help us keep ourselves together. . . . And yet, at the same time, we know it’s a ruse. We are, all of us, deeply, inalienably contradictory and chaotic. Arguably it is the dominant postapocalyptic vision of our digital times, the internet’s McLuhan moment, brought to us by teenagers who, as such, spend their days feeling like 10 different people at once and believe they can, and should, express them all. We all contain multitudes. The kids seem to know that’s all right."
I commented on the article with this memory,
Back in first year uni, in the 80s, my prof told us, "It doesn't matter what your philosophy of life is, so long as it's consistent and self-cohesive," and immediately, in my head, I countered with Whitman's 'multitudes' line. That's youth talking. It's the untamed stream of consciousness all things at all times why do we have to learn punctuation anyway line of reasoning. And it has it's place, for sure. The error is in thinking it makes us more authentic to show all sides of ourselves in real time. Unorganized thought merely flattens the ideas presented until nothing is more important than anything else, but then nothing is really communicated beyond all the feels, and "I am here!! Look at me!" We contain multitudes, but at some point we also develop a more integrated self, not just to be conveniently predictable for others, but to better understand how to live and how to connect and how to be. Prioritizing our ideas into an organized whole in a thoughtful attempt at elucidating who we are and what matters is not to be shrugged off because it's what the "olds" do. It's the later stage work of finding that authentic self.
(After haggling in my head over a few words, I hit 'submit' and then noticed that one glaringly inaccurate *it's*. Punctuation indeed! Whatevs.)

Weil seems to be newly introduced to this adolescent culture of everything at once, which might mean she has forgotten what it was like to be a teenager. It might seem different online, but that's just a matter of packaging. That flattening of ideas and values so everything is as important as everything else is a useful way to avoid decision and responsibility - those nasty things that come with age. (Well, one can only hope they come.) She calls it a "feature of the online world" while alluding to a 19th century poet. Curious.

I believe it's vital to remember who should be leading whom. What kids do often looks new and cool from a distance, and they can be jarringly sophisticated in the talent of expressing distain for anything that predates them, but there are consequences to the refusal to do the work of thinking and deciding. Developing a consistent self and philosophy of life within the complexity of being isn't a ruse set to tame us, but a method of focusing. If we forget that in a quest to avoid an "Ok boomer" dig, then we are negligent, and we deserve the culture we've helped to create.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Paul Gorski on Education and Inequity

For the first time in 28 years of teaching, I approve of the new guru being brought to the masses from on high. Immediately, from just the first few seconds of the  video we were compelled to watch for some force-fed professional development, I knew this guy was different. The sound was poor quality, and it was clearly homemade using a laptop camera and mic; there was nothing slick or polished about it in the least. That is high praise coming from me.

Paul Gorski is Associate Professor at New Century College. Beyond being an author of several books and magazine articles, he is the primary author of many articles published in journals (albeit low ranking or unranked - at least they're his own studies). And he, like me, rails against many of the ideas teachers have been told to embrace over the years, like the whole the Grit Movement. I think growth mindset fits the same "deficit" criticisms as is outlined further here, and in this tweet:


Elsewhere he adds in Emotional Intelligence and Cultural Competence. They all run into the same problem: Telling people they just need a different mindset or more grit to do better in school denies, in the most condescending way, the reality that people who are marginalized are often models of resilience and grit. They've overcome more obstacles before breakfast than the rest of us have to manage all day. He explains further in this paper,

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Kyle Powys Whyte on Wilderness

I saw Dr. Kyle Powys Whyte present at the University of Waterloo on Thursday night on climate change, traditional knowledge, and environmental justice. It was similar to what he said in this video, but longer and with a Q&A at the end. It was eye-opening in the worst way - in a necessary way. Now that I know, either I have to change or else accept my ongoing complicity. (Or find a new form of rationalization to knock it all out of the park, so to speak.)

I'll preface with an admission of my absolute love of wilderness areas just north of me. I have deeply loved every moment spent in Algonquin Park, Killarney, Temagami, and the islands of Georgian Bay. The landscapes are breathtaking and the early morning animal sightings are well worth the swarms of mosquitos and black flies. I can breathe there and think and feel in a way that is lost to me in my city focused on growing high rises.

Whyte had us consider this very philosophical question (paraphrased): To what extent can people have an experience of intrinsic value - a love of something as a good in itself, something that has no other purpose but to be enjoyed for itself - on land that has been genocidally constructed? Is it possible to have a sense of spiritual enjoyment as a byproduct of a place that has been gained through bloodshed and, well, basic terrorism? And, I would add, if it is possible, then what does that say about us?? Perhaps the more-to-the-point question, the essential question, is,

Is it possible for a good person to profoundly enjoy ill-gotten gains? 

My first thought is, from a slightly defensive stance, can a person be good but also forgetful? Or are we, the settlers, just living in that double-consciousness, that Freudian splitting, of rage for what our ancestors did to the original inhabitants of this land mixed with a convenient obliviousness as we hand over park fees and check the weather before getting on the water. Or are we living a full-on lie of mere clicktivism, rationalized with all the many reasons we couldn't possibly physically join the line at any of the fights for land rights going on in our country right now - fights that could potentially save the land and our climate from further environmental destruction? But that's not the answer either. We'd just be in the way there, too.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Cycling Rant

If cycling is part of your life, it looks like the NDP comes way ahead in terms of addressing cycling concerns. Extinction Rebellion is clear about the need for car-free streets as part of action to decrease the threats of climate change. And even my city claims to be moving away from our car-centric planning (paywalled in the local rag, but available in full on Reddit). But we still have problems.

About a month ago, a cyclist in my city was hit by a car, and then charged with cycling across a crosswalk, and I have so many questions! The big two:

(1) What's the difference between being in the crosswalk and being 6" to the left of the crosswalk?, and (2) What do we do with the many areas of town where a crosswalk is in the middle of a bike path with a slanted curb at each end, provoking unwitting riders to bike straight across them? That should be considered entrapment!! Should we instead veer into the road and then back up the path on the other side of the intersection? I've pondered that question before as I got off my bike to try to cross a busy street, with a walk signal, and left-turning cars repeatedly cutting me off, with a flippin' COP waiting at the red watching me gingerly step off the curb and jump back on over and over again. It might be good to remind the police that failure to yield right-of-way to a pedestrian is illegal. It has a set fine of three demerit points and $180.


Monday, October 14, 2019

Liberals the Best Bet for Climate Change

A climate scientists, Katharine Hayhoe, and economist, Andrew Leach, seem to suggest that the Liberals are our best bet for tackling climate change if you averages the grades they gave for ambition and feasibility. I know! I was surprised too. Here are their final grades:

Conservatives: grade D for ambition, F for feasibility (don't even)
NDP: grade A for ambition, D for feasibility (no details on how they'll cut carbon so quickly)
Greens: grade A+ for ambition, C- for feasibility (not a realistic path to achieve goals)
Liberals: grade B for ambition, A for feasibility (their path won't quite hit their goals though)

They write,
"It’s hard to convince people that you’re serious about cutting carbon when you’re funding new ways to transport it (even if those new ways will pay for our green innovation). But the tax and the pipeline discussions often mask the significant progress that’s been made in other areas. The Liberals are aiming to phase out coal power by 2030, more than 30 years earlier than would have otherwise been the case. They’ve also implemented a clean fuel standard that pushes our fuel producers and importers to reduce emissions all the way from the oil field to our gas tanks. During the campaign, the Liberals have committed to a deeper target—net-zero emissions nationally by 2050—and pledged a $2-billion tree planting program. No matter how you slice it, the Liberals have implemented this country’s first serious, national climate change plan, and they’re looking to build on it. . . . The Liberals have the experience to know how big a challenge it is. They’ve acted in line with their promises in the last election and brought in significant new policies. . . . For us, practical policy beats ambition without a viable plan."

Apparently that pipeline that Trudeau bought wasn't actually part of the Liberal's plan, but was a leftover deal from Harper, and any party that was elected would have been stuck with it. It appears I haven't been paying attention at all.

When questioned about the assessment, Hayhoe tweeted that she's the person who wrote this piece three years ago: "What surprises lurk within the climate system?" It's about how crucial it is that we act quickly. She knows the risks and the urgency.

This election will be anyone's guess.

Also check out this doc about the disenfranchising of youth, indigenous, and impoverished people in Canada in the last election.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

On Online Predators

From Keller & Dance's article, 'The Internet Is Overrun With Images of Child Sexual Abuse. What Went Wrong?"

Some of the less brutal bits:
"An investigation by The New York Times found an insatiable criminal underworld that had exploited the flawed and insufficient efforts to contain it. As with hate speech and terrorist propaganda, many tech companies failed to adequately police sexual abuse imagery on their platforms, or failed to cooperate sufficiently with the authorities when they found it. . . . National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, described a system at “a breaking point,” with reports of abusive images “exceeding the capabilities of independent clearinghouses and law enforcement to take action.” It suggested that future advancements in machine learning might be the only way to catch up with the criminals. . . . 
Adults, now years removed from their abuse, still living in fear of being recognized from photos and videos on the internet. And parents of the abused, struggling to cope with the guilt of not having prevented it and their powerlessness over stopping its online spread. . . . The groups use encrypted technologies and the dark web, the vast underbelly of the internet, to teach pedophiles how to carry out the crimes and how to record and share images of the abuse worldwide. . . . Testimony in his criminal case revealed that it would have taken the authorities “trillions of years” to crack the 41-character password he had used to encrypt the site. He eventually turned it over to investigators, and was sentenced to life in prison in 2016. . . . “capturing the abuse on video was part of the excitement,” according to court records. . . . 
The surge in criminal activity on the dark web accounted for only a fraction of the 18.4 million reports of abuse last year. That number originates almost entirely with tech companies based in the United States. . . . . Facebook and Google, stepped up surveillance of their platforms . . . “The companies knew the house was full of roaches, and they were scared to turn the lights on,” he said. “And then when they did turn the lights on, it was worse than they thought.” . . . In interviews, law enforcement officials pointed to Tumblr, a blogging and social networking site with 470 million users, as one of the most problematic companies. . . . The internet is well known as a haven for hate speech, terrorism-related content and criminal activity, all of which have raised alarms and spurred public debate and action. But the problem of child sexual abuse imagery faces a particular hurdle: It gets scant attention because few people want to confront the enormity and horror of the content, or they wrongly dismiss it as primarily teenagers sending inappropriate selfies."

Numbers doubled in a year. So where are all the pedophiles coming from?? I'm in the middle of a book discussing the concerns of John Adams and the founding fathers with women taking over the household - "despotism of the petticoat" - and it makes me think of this quote, "When you're accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression." To what extent, I wonder, is this a reaction by men - and it's almost entirely men - losing absolute power in the home and unfettered access to women who were, until very recently, afraid of speaking out?? This seems to be where people turn who just want to dominate something. We have to find means of better helping men get through this change in social norms so they don't seek power in the most horrific avenues. And we need these agencies to get much more funding!

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Like a Good Horror Film?

Most terrifying thing I've seen:



We're headed for 10 degrees in the next 20-30 years, and we will hit human extinction at 4 degrees?? Do I even bother to go to work today??

We've missed the window that could allow a gentle reversal. The only solution, he says, is to give the planet back to the planet. We need to re-wild nature and live a completely localized life - no international trade, no mass production. We have to stop doing stuff. Immediately. Maybe reconnect with your ancient beliefs that helped people cope with a lack of control over the massive tragedies befalling them, in their incomprehension. We won't be able to get our heads around what's about to happen. The wealthy still think they're above it all and not part of nature; they're not worried because they've been blinded by opulence.

"What comes after growth is maturity."

Maybe if this all sinks in, we'll all stay home to hug our children and other loved ones, maybe play in a park or go for a walk, and that will actually help us eke out a few more years.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Friday, August 30, 2019

Why We Won't Sufficate

...even if the entire rainforest burns down:

Hank Green explains it here in just four minutes:

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Mann's Madhouse Effect

Michael Mann recently tweeted this:


It's dumb luck that I chanced to do just that!  (Thoughts on Wallace-Wells here.)

This book a comprehensive exploration of the issues mixed with clear examples and Tom Toles's cartoons. It could easily be used as a climate change primer in a high school or middle school, and it comes with an index and lots of useful endnotes too!

Mann clarifies the problem of which, by now, we're all painful aware:
"This is the madhouse of the climate debate. We have followed Alice through the looking glass. White roses here are painted red, and words suddenly mean something different from what they used to mean. The very language of science itself, of 'skepticism' and 'evidence,' is used in a way opposite of how science really employs it.  Not everyone wants the facts to be known. We have run squarely into what Upton Sinclair famously warned us about: 'It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it'" (xi).