Saturday, July 17, 2021

Self-Diagnosis with Checklist Criteria: the Big Five and ASD

When I was a kid, my folks said I was a little slow to warm up to people and sometimes needed a nudge to interact. Then, in grade 11, we all had to do this really long test, filling in stacks of Scantron-type cards with our answers, which were fed into a giant computer that generated reports for each of us, which required a specialist to come in to interpret. The upshot of it all? I'm introverted, an INTP, and I should consider a career as a minister. Then twenty years later, I went to grad school and took a course in Carl Jung, including his typology. We were given a test to do, on paper, which was sent away to be carefully analyzed by a specialist. I got a 30 page typed report in return that said I'm still an INTP, and that can't predict my career goals (assuming it can is a fallacy of affirming the consequent*), but it can help me understand and accept why I need so much alone time, why I struggle to notice the mess I leave in my wake in a way that my partner (ex-partner) finds inexcusable, why I'm good at getting stuff done, and why I'm so scattered. This was a special privilege, getting this 30-paged report, offered only to us because we were taking the course. But another twenty years went by (damn, I'm old!), and now anybody can do these tests online and find out all about themselves. And it's FREE!!!  

Friday, July 16, 2021

Next Steps: Violence? Policy? Adaptation? Acceptance?

Ezra Klein wrote a compelling piece about Andreas Malm's book How to Blow Up a Pipeline. We're not doing enough to stop the trainwreck we're driving, but is violence the answer?

"Decades of climate activism have gotten millions of people into the streets but they haven’t turned the tide on emissions, or even investments. . . . 'Here is what this movement of millions should do, for a start,' Malm writes. 'Announce and enforce the prohibition. Damage and destroy new CO2-emitting devices. Put them out of commission, pick them apart, demolish them, burn them, blow them up. Let the capitalists who keep on investing in the fire know that their properties will be trashed.' . . . Malm offers two answers for the resolute nonviolence of the climate movement. The first is “strategic pacificism,” the belief that nonviolent protest is more effective than violent resistance. . . . He has no answers for those who fear the probable political consequences: an immediate backlash that sweeps enemies of climate action into power, eliminating even the fragile hopes for policy progress. . . . Elsewhere in the book, Malm is firmly opposed to tactics that could signal contempt or hostility for the working class. But the consequence of a wave of bombings to obliterate energy infrastructure would be to raise the price on energy immediately, all across the world, and the burdens would fall heaviest on the poor. . . . . Higher energy prices are political poison, which is, according to leaked audio, why Exxon Mobil supports a carbon tax: The company knows that any politician who dares propose such a tax will do more to harm the climate movement than to help it. . . .

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Wolff on Generating Allies

Whenever I read or listen to Noam Chomsky or Chris Hedges talk about citizens changing the world like they did in the 30s, I get equally riled to action and then paralyzed by ignorance of how ever to begin. A recent discussion by Richard Wolff offers a bigger hint about how the New Deal was manifest, and why it's so much harder to get going now. Here's a very abridged and paraphrased summary:

In the 30s, FDR faced similar issues as Biden is facing now, but he was able to make fundamental structural changes to the economy that were bold for the time: social security at a time when the government had no money and millions were eligible, unemployment compensation, the first minimum wage laws, a government jobs program in the public sector, and he taxed corporations and the rich to pay for it. The government's job is not to make money but to help the people. The changes made the system much less unequal, and it took Republicans 80 years to get it back to the level of inequity not seen since. By contrast, Biden isn't making the spending programs that he needs, and he's afraid to tax anyone.   

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

MacKinnon's Call to Stop Shopping

J.B. MacKinnon co-wrote the 100-Mile Diet years ago, which was a good read. It didn't have much effect on my eating because it was a bit too extreme for even me, but it DID affect my awareness of where I get produce from. For his most recent book, he compiled stories from various people to get different perspectives of one question: What would happen if we reduced consuming by 25% immediately? It's very readable, but it circles around a bit, and he doesn't really provide a clear or persuasive argument for reducing our shopping, as I was expecting. He's mainly just pondering the notion. 

He starts with a series of famous quotations, and I like this one by Ivan Illich: "In a consumer society there are inevitably two kinds of slaves: the prisoners of addiction and the prisoners of envy" (from Tools for Conviviality, p. 57). Of course I got stuck there a while and had to read some Illich, so here's the context: 

"The parallel increase in the cost of the defense of new levels of privilege through military, police, and insurance measures reflects the fact that in a consumer society there are inevitably two kinds of slaves: the prisoners of addiction and the prisoners of envy. Political debate must now be focused on the various ways in which unlimited production threatens human life. This political debate will be misled by those who insist on prescribing palliatives which only disguise the deep reasons why the systems of health, transport, education, housing, and even politics and law are not working. The environmental crisis, for example, is rendered superficial if it is not pointed out that antipollution devices can only be effective if the total output of production decreases. Otherwise they tend to shift garbage out of sight, push it into the future, or dump it onto the poor. The total removal of the pollution created locally by a large-scale industry requires equipment, material, and energy that can create several times the damage elsewhere. Making antipollution devices compulsory only increases the unit cost of the product. This may conserve some fresh air for all, because fewer people can afford to drive cars or sleep in air-conditioned homes or fly to a fishing ground on the weekend, but it replaces damage to the physical environment with further social disintegration. To shift from coal to atomic power replaces smog now with higher radiation levels tomorrow. To relocate refineries overseas, where pollution controls are less stringent, preserves Americans-not Venezuelans-from unpleasant odors at the cost of higher levels of world-wide poisoning." 

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Timothy Snyder on the War on History

In "The War on History was a War on Democracy," Snyder compares Russian memory laws, which we're quick to recognize as propaganda, to American under Trump:  

By March 1932, hundreds of thousands of people were already starving to death in Soviet Ukraine, the breadbasket of the country. Rapid industrialization was financed by destroying traditional agrarian life. The five-year plan had brought “dekulakization,” the deportation of peasants deemed more prosperous than others, and “collectivization,” the appropriation of agrarian land by the state. A result was mass famine. . . . Mentions of the famine included an awkwardly long list of regions, downplaying the specificity of the Ukrainian tragedy. The famine was presented as a result of administrative mistakes by a neutral state apparatus. Everyone was a victim, and so no one was. In a 2008 letter to his Ukrainian counterpart, the Russian president Dmitri Medvedev flattened the event into an act of repression “against the entire Soviet people.” The next year Medvedev established the Presidential Commission of the Russian Federation to Counter Attempts to Falsify History to the Detriment of Russia’s Interests, a panel of politicians, military officials and state-approved historians ostensibly tasked with defending the official history of the Soviet Union’s role in World War II. It did little in practice, but it did establish an important principle: that history was what served Russia’s national interests, and that all else was revisionism. . . . These Russian policies belong to a growing international body of what are called “memory laws”: government actions designed to guide public interpretation of the past. Such measures work by asserting a mandatory view of historical events, by forbidding the discussion of historical facts or interpretations or by providing vague guidelines that lead to self-censorship.