Just Human

Sherlock: It’s not a pleasant thought, John, but I have this terrible feeling from time to time that we might all just be human.
Watson: Even you?
Sherlock: No.

-Sherlock, The Lying Detective

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Gloriously Pre-Posthuman

The polt had had a very broad chest, in a thin white singlet, and was, or so it had struck Netherton in the moment, entirely human. Gloriously pre-posthuman. In a state of nature. And hustling.

-William Gibson, The Peripheral

Atlantic: Why can’t we all just get along?

An extended extract from the end of article. By ‘salvation’, the author is writing about everyone overcoming their difference and getting along:

So maybe the first step toward salvation is to become more self-aware. … Greene certainly thinks more self-awareness would help. … [H]e encourages the cultivation of “a kind of meta-cognitive skill.” This would depend on “understanding how our minds work” and could help us “decide more wisely” …

Which leads to a question: Um, how exactly do you do metacognition? Well, you could start by pondering all the evidence that your brain is an embarrassingly misleading device. Self-doubt can be the first step to moral improvement. But our biases are so subtle, alluring, and persistent that converting a wave of doubt into enduring wisdom takes work. The most-impressive cases of bias neutralization I’m aware of involve people who have spent ungodly amounts of time—several hours a day for many years—in meditative practices that make them more aware of the workings of their minds. These people seem much less emotion-driven, much less wrapped up in themselves, and much less judgmental than, say, I am. …

Happily for those of us who can’t spare several hours a day, more-modest progress can be made by pursuing this “mindfulness meditation” in smaller doses. … Loosening the grip of your emotions can make you happier, and for many meditators that’s the big draw. The fact that emotionally driven and subtly self-centered moral judgments loosen their hold on you as well seems almost like a side effect. …

Presidentially Screwed

Dear Americans, you are royally–rather, presidentially–screwed. Your country has installed someone as president, given wide-ranging powers and even wider influence to someone who not only believes and acts like he is above the law, but declares it openly with no repercussions and only the briefest, strangled outrage, while his apologists and propagandists work unceasingly to mislead, normalise and gaslight your nation, a nation that should by now be camped permanently in the streets defending, if not mourning, its democracy.

When the election was won, and the attacks only intensified, I became suddenly aware, and horrified, of the likelihood of a second term. Now I am almost resigned to it. Memes aside, people are not getting tired of winning yet. The president’s popularity has not waned, contrary to all logic, because his support was never logical. (Plus the opposition has not changed in any meaningful way.)

Some of you voted for him because you thought it more important to deny rights to your perceived enemies even though it meant endangering your own rights. Some of you felt yourself forced to choose between terrible business-as-usual and something worse but new, and you chose new. Some of you believed the lies you wanted to believe, and many of you believe them still. And some of you just didn’t care, you felt powerless anyway, you’d long ago given up on a rotten state of affairs and chosen instead to watch with voyeuristic and masochistic ennui as the situation continued to, predictably, deteriorate. I wonder, what are you thinking now?

Five hundred days into this presidency, I’ve hit a major problem. The problem is this: I can’t even express what’s wrong anymore. As much as I want it to be true, this unfortunately does not mean there’s nothing wrong; I just find it increasingly difficult to enunciate the problem with anything approaching coherence. There’s all that stuff about the environment, for a start, and the thing with the financial markets; taxes, of course, and what they’re doing to education; there are the asylum seekers finding none, and trade disputes, and the military-industrial complex jonesing for war, and how many judicial appointees have there been now? Not forgetting the corruption and nepotism and weaponised incompetence, and the unapologetic racism, and the trampled rights of women, children, veterans, and seniors. And the insults and lies, oh yes, the lies, the big, beautiful lies!

That’s what the president of your country has achieved with the sheer volume and pace of his attacks. His has been a simultaneous, unrelenting and unflinching assault on everything within his purview. There is simply too much to fight over now that it’s become impossible to ever get to the point. All we do is snipe along the periphery. All we do is run from fire to fire, but there are too many fires and not enough buckets. Until, finally, even the language–the mechanics of communication: vocabulary, means of discourse–has been taken from you, as has the humility to seek understanding.

How many time have we heard, ‘In any normal news cycle, this would be big news…’? How many times have we heard, ‘This controversy would bring down any normal administration…’? Except this is no normal administration. Sometimes shame can be the most effective weapon against those in power, and sometimes it is the only one, but this administration is uniquely and utterly shameless. ‘We must not let this behaviour be normalised’, we said, but it has been normalised, even with me. ‘We must never get tired of resisting’, we said, but even I am tired.

So today, it was the president’s declaration that he has the absolute right to pardon himself. I can’t even remember last week’s drama. I see only the one right now, maybe because it’s a big one, but then they’re all big ones. And tomorrow another crisis will displace even this, and even as I fume and despair over that abuse, I’ll forget to wonder what it was I’m this moment telling myself not to forget to stay angry about. In fact, it’s taken me about 48 hours to sit down to write this, and already the headlines have been purged. Like a pitiable spectre who can form no memories, we stumble from trouble to trouble, outraged by all but powerless to change anything, not least of all ourself.

-BeLessHuman

BBC: Is there a link between mass shootings and mental illness?

According to studies cited in the BBC Future article, in the US, people with mental illness, while composing up to 18% of the population, account for just 3-5% of violence and less than 1% of gun-related homicides. Renee Binder, a professor at the University of California, is quoted as saying, “When one of these horrible mass shootings occurs, people say, ‘Anyone who would do such a thing must be mentally ill. But we need to be careful with our definitions because, while something is clearly wrong with them, it’s often not a serious mental illness.”

So what the article is saying is that definitionally, most people who commit mass shootings do not suffer from mental illness, or as Binder puts it, a serious mental illness. Serious-ly? Then perhaps now would be the time to change the definition of mental illness, or start working outside of that definitional framework entirely, as it is clearly no longer useful.

Unless what you want to tell me is that mentally not-ill humans in our modern world must needs on occasion kill lots of other humans, because that’s just what humans do, in which case I say maybe we need to do something about being human, that is, be less that.

-BeLessHuman

Guardian: Neoliberalism – the ideology at the root of all our problems

So much here to unpack.

We can’t fight something faceless and nameless. We can’t see what we can’t see. When the problem is everything, how do you get outside of ‘everything’? The first fish turns to the second fish and says, What is water? If the ‘solution’ causes the problem, then more of the ‘solution’ will only lead to more of the problem. I say freedom, you hear freedom.

‘Inequality is recast as virtuous … The market ensures that everyone gets what they deserve … The rich persuade themselves that they acquired their wealth through merit … The poor begin to blame themselves for their failures, even when they can do little to change their circumstances.’

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/apr/15/neoliberalism-ideology-problem-george-monbiot?CMP=fb_gu

TED: The Life Cycle of a T-Shirt

Learn a bit more about the garment industry and what you can do to minimise the harm on the workers and the environment.

https://ed.ted.com/lessons/the-life-cycle-of-a-t-shirt-angel-chang

Atlantic: The tricks people use to avoid debate

“A proper argument takes intellectual vigor, nimbleness, and sustained attention. If carried on long enough, it can push both parties to a deeper level of understanding. Oxford debaters hack away at each other for something like two hours. Socrates could sometimes go on for weeks. But who has that kind of time anymore?”

Discuss.

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/07/there-will-be-no-debate/395252/?utm_source=atlfb

Atlantic: Scientists still can’t decide how to define a tree?

What makes a tree a tree? Plato must be rolling in his grave. Nice fun article about treeness with great words like woodiness and tree-ing.

https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/04/how-do-you-define-a-tree/557135/