Monday, March 20, 2023

#79 / Impossible Politics

That's Hannah Arendt, pictured above. It's nice to see a picture of her without a cigarette in her hand. Anyone who knows anything about Hannah Arendt will know what I mean
If you don't know Hannah Arendt, now is a good time to become acquainted. I particularly recommend The Human Condition, Between Past And Future, and On Revolution, but anything she has written is worth reading. 
If you'd like a fun biography, to introduce you to Arendt, try The Three Escapes of Hannah Arendt, by Ken Krimstein. If you take my suggestions, and become as enamored as I am with what Arendt has to tell us, I want to recommend the "Hannah Arendt Virtual Reading Group," which meets, generally, on a weekly basis.
In this blog posting, I am commenting on "Impossible Politics," an article by Roger Berkowitz, who is the Founder and Academic Director of the Hannah Arendt Center for Politics and the Humanities at Bard College, and who leads that virtual reading group. Getting the Hannah Arendt Center on your radar screen is also recommended!
In his "Impossible Politics" article, Berkowitz is reacting to various commentaries by the Russian-American journalist Masha Gessen. Here is a brief excerpt from the headnote to Berkowitz' article, which is based on a talk that Berkowitz gave at the Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences on March 31, 2018:

The Women’s March ... imposes an ideological purity on its members and leaders, so that anyone who trades in antisemitism in their private life must be excluded. Donald Trump’s supporters and many liberal groups enforce ideological conformity, so that those who might be environmentalists or those who reject identity politics are excluded and denounced. All we have left, Gessen argues, is a politics of denunciation. In such a situation, no politics is possible. In this talk, I turn to Arendt to ask what it would mean to imagine a politics amidst the impossibility of politics?
Presumably, readers of this blog posting will recognize what Berkowitz is talking about. References to a politics founded on "denunciation" of those with contending views, should "ring a bell." That is our politics today, isn't it? And maybe we can't blame it all on Donald Trump, either, while nonetheless recognizing our former president's highly-effective efforts in driving out all other kinds of political discourse. "Denunciation," and accompanying political polarization, is definitely the "name of the game" in politics today. 
And... as Gessen suggests, with Berkowitz not dissenting, "in such a situation, no [genuine] politics is possible."
Berkowitz spends most of his time in the article outlining that our "impossible politics" today is based on a fear of "plurality." In other words, we are afraid that differences within the body politic will tear our body politic apart, and so we take action (from all sides) to reject and denounce any effort to advocate for something fundamentally different from what we think acceptable. This won't work, Arendt says, because a genuine politics is always based on the idea that "plurality" is not only "inevitable," but that plurality is a "good thing," not a "bad thing." Arendt's first major book of political theory was titled, The Origins of Totalitarianism, and it is totalitarianism that we must avoid to preserve an opportunity for a genuine politics of democratic self-government. 
Above, I provided a quote from the headnote. Here are the final paragraphs of Berkowitz' article: 

The idea that political opponents are a danger to the well-being of society as a whole is rooted in a profound fear — a fear that could destroy itself through political choices in a nuclear and technological age. Having lived through totalitarianism, having witnessed the dropping of nuclear bombs, and now living in this technological age where we can replace humans with artificial intelligence, we are deeply aware that politics may well destroy political economics or even the human world. From out of this fear of politics, there is, I think, a horrible hope. Arendt expresses it: “Underlying our prejudices against politics today are hope and fear: the fear that humanity could destroy itself through politics and through the means of force now at its disposal.” The hope is to overcome politics and replace it with an “administrative machine that resolves political conflicts bureaucratically and replaces armies with police forces” (Arendt, 2005: 97). Terrified by the danger of politics in an age of horrifying technical power, it is all too likely that democracies will seek to replace politics with a technocratic and bureaucratic administration. But such a hope, Arendt argues, is more likely to lead to “a despotism of massive proportions in which the abyss separating the rulers from the world would be so gigantic that any sort of rebellion would no longer be possible, not to mention any form of control of the rulers by the ruled.” We will, in other words, trade our political and democratic freedoms for the security of expert rule.

This, I think, is the danger we face today, and the rise of populist movements on the left and the right around the world is, in many ways, a last gasp of people who feel an unwanted power over their lives, feel the rise of an unresponsive technocratic-bureaucratic machine, and who are seeking to find some means of controlling it. That does not mean they have the right ideas. But it means we have to take them seriously. Which is why we need to be much more open to hearing dangerous and radical ideas in the public sphere.

I just came across this 2018 article quite recently, and I think that Berkowitz (and Arendt) are exactly on target. Without ever using the words I employ, Berkowitz (and Arendt) are arguing for the kind of politics that I have been saying is what we need - a politics of democratic self-government in which we, ourselves, are directly and personally engaged. 

Letting the bureaucrats, and the experts, and the consultants do it for us is not the way to react to an ever more "impossible politics." Impossible as it may seem, it will be our own direct and personal engagement in political discussion, dispute, and decision-making that will make our politics a politics of "possibility" once again.

Image Credit:

Sunday, March 19, 2023

#78 / Forget About It


You'll need a subscription, it appears, to read the entirety of Gavin Francis' article in The New York Review, "The Dream Of Forgetfulness." I don't have a subscription, so the paywall got me, but not before revealing the first few paragraphs of what Francis has to say. Among other things, in the very first paragraph of his article, Francis tells us this:
When Jorge Luis Borges was asked if he’d forgiven the Peronists of Argentina, he replied, “Forgetting is the only form of forgiveness; it’s the only vengeance and the only punishment too.” For Borges, forgiveness and vengeance were siblings because both make use of oblivion—as does the creation of art. “You should go in for a blending of the two elements, memory and oblivion,” he wrote of artistic creation, “and we call that imagination.” Kierkegaard agreed: “One who has perfected himself in the twin arts of remembering and forgetting is in a position to play at battledore and shuttlecock with the whole of existence.”
Being able both to remember and to forget things that have happened may well put a person into the best possible place to call upon "imagination" as part of the creative process. Loving and respecting both Borges and Kierkegaard, I am predisposed to believe what they report. However, I would like to put in an especial good word for "forgetting," as a primary talent.

I have to confess to being a person who "forgets," not as a matter of will, really, but as someone who is just being honest about my ability to remember. I find that I have forgotten a lot of the details of my life, consequential though I know they have been. Still, I do have a basic grip on the major contours of my past existence, extending up to the present, and I have found that instead of being frustrated by my memory loss, which seems to be a characteristic of my mind, I can embrace it. 

As I have reflected on the way I experience the past (which, of course, I always do in the present, in the "here and now"), I am seeing my "forgetfulness" as mostly a friend, and not a foe. 
"Trucker Time" is the title of one of my past blog posts, and the point it makes is that "time," as defined by the trucker quoted in that blog post, is "remembering what you did or looking forward to what you will do." 
As I point out in that "Trucker Time" blog posting, it is my contention (citing to George Fox, the first Quaker) that we have "no time but this present." In other words, "time," defined by what we remember from the past, or by what we speculate about for the future (what that trucker says "time" really is), is a distraction from where we are right now. We are here, in the "here and now," and that is where we can "act." It is in the "here and now" that we can "do something" and change the future (and change the world). 
I do think it's true that if we can't "forget," we can't "forgive," and it's my considered opinion that we do need both to forget and to forgive most of what has gone before. If we can't, we won't be able to do something new, right now. 

The "Lord's Prayer," of course, tells us to "forgive those who have trespassed against us." Forgetting how horrible those offenses against us truly were has almost certainly got to be part of the process. If we can't forget (and then forgive), we will be "desperate for outrage," and future possibilities will be stymied by our remembrance of and fixation upon the past. 

As I keep saying, George Fox got it right: We have "no time but this present," and that means that we need to "prize our time." It is this present moment we need to "prize," for this present moment is the "blessing" we receive, by being alive. 
Our refusal, or our failure, to forgive and forget steals the blessing which is the greatest gift bestowed upon us - the ability to say, and do, something truly new, and to make a new world appear!

Saturday, March 18, 2023

#77 / Let's Play Warriors' Ball

Many of those who follow the Golden State Warriors basketball team consider themselves to be "Authentic Fans." A couple of years ago, the Warriors provided those who came to their games with "Authentic Fan" window signs, in the blue and gold colors found on the Warriors' jerseys, so as to allow all their "Authentic Fans," living in the Bay Area and beyond, to demonstrate the depth of their dedication to the team by posting the signs in their windows for the entire world to view.
You don't, probably, have to be an "Authentic" fan to know who is pictured above, but unless you are a fan of some kind, it's quite possible that you won't immediately recognize Andre Iguodala. Iguodala is one of the Warriors' championship players, with his defensive abilities being particularly prized by the team. 
Unfortunately for the Warriors, and for all their "Authentic Fans," Iguodala is going to undergo surgery on his left wrist, after suffering a fracture that occurred during a game on Monday, March 13th. As recently reported in the San Francisco Chronicle, that injury will apparently keep Iguodala out of action for six to eight weeks - which just adds to Iguodala's other health-related problems. Iguodala has actually only played in eight games in the current season because of what the Chronicle calls "injury management." 

Something struck me in that article from the Chronicle - something I didn't really know much about or appreciate. It has to do with statistics. 
Generally, I would expect that most people think (as I have instinctively thought) that statistics are kept on an "individual" basis. For instance, what is Steph Curry's successful free throw percentage? When Clay Thompson shoots from "downtown," from a place where a basket will get the team three points, instead of just two, what percentage of his three-point attempts does Thompson make? How many rebounds does Kevon Looney get each game, on the average? Etc. I have always assumed that statistics are "individual."
If you click this link, you will see a detailed chart of Looney's statistics, and you can click on the chart to see the statistics for other players, too. As I have just said, the statistics found in these charts measure how each individual player does, individually. That, I have always assumed, is how it's done.

That isn't the end of the story, though, as this excerpt from the article in the Chronicle makes clear:

Iguodala, who made his season debut Jan. 7, has played just 113 minutes this season. He has averaged 2.1 points, 2.1 rebounds and 2.4 assists while shooting 46.7% from the field.

Advanced stats reveal Iguodala’s importance to the Warriors beyond per-game averages. Golden State has an offensive rating of 116.7 when Iguodala is on the court, 113.7 when he’s off it. The team’s defensive rating dips from 104.7 to 113.5 with Iguodala off the court.

“Andre has made a big impact since he returned a few weeks ago,” Kerr said. “His on/off numbers are really good. Our defense just gets dramatically better the second he steps on the floor. And then offensively, even though he’s not really a scorer at this point, he just facilitates and understands where everybody needs to be (emphasis added).”
What struck me, when I read this, is that the Warriors pay attention not only to how individuals are doing, with respect to their individual statistics, but also to how much an individual player helps (or doesn't help) the team to do better

In many of my past blog postings (I'm linking one of them, here), I have have noted that we are not only "individuals," but that we are also part of the greater community. We need to understand our lives in just that way. We need to think that way, and to act that way. We are "in this together." 

The Golden State Warriors basketball team obviously "gets" this. Those "Authentic Fans" I mentioned are fond of differentiating the kind of basketball played by the Warriors from basketball played by other teams. They call it "Warriors' Ball." Sports commentators routinely talk in those terms, and highlight the "generosity" of the individual Warriors players. From the Chronicle, I have found out, as I have reported here, that the Warriors are actually trying to "measure" how well each individual member of the team helps to maximize the effectiveness of the team as a whole, as opposed, simply, to doing well individually

I am a lot more concerned about politics than basketball, and I think there is a lesson here. 

Those "on/off" numbers collected by the Warriors' coach reveal the power of taking seriously the idea that we should be evaluating our individual performance not only by our individual success, but by how much we are contributing to the collective success of our community and society. 
In other words, we should start playing "politics" like "Warriors' Ball."
Image Credit:

Friday, March 17, 2023

#76 / How About A Tik Tok Internship?


Since I teach classes at the University of California, Santa Cruz, I hear a fair bit about college internships. The UCSC Legal Studies students who populate my classes are generally interested in finding an internship with a nonprofit or government agency that works on immigration reform, criminal justice reform, racial justice or gender justice reform, political reform, or that has some kind of environmental mission. I applaud their efforts, and I try to help them when I can. This is, however, apparently not the only kind of internship that college students are now pursuing. 
An article in the February 18, 2023, edition of The New York Times is headlined, "Wanted: Interns Who Can Make TikTok Hits." The story features Mary Clare Lacke, pictured above. Lacke is a 20-year-old student at the University of Missouri, who interned at Claire’s last summer. Claire's is a store that sells earrings, body jewelry, and other fashion items. As The Times tells us, one of Lacke's tasks, as an intern, was to "help the teen accessories company with its nascent TikTok account." As the article also reports, "it didn’t take long for [Lacke] to produce a hit."
In an 11-second video, Ms. Lacke riffed off a pranking trend inspired by Kris Jenner to promote a style of the retailer’s earrings. "My team was just like, ‘We’re not 100 percent sure what this is, but go for it,’” Ms. Lacke said. And then it became the most successful video that the account has seen. The video generated 1.5 million views and 20,000 new followers for the company’s TikTok account. Now, Ms. Lacke is one of four new TikTok "college creators" working as interns for the brand during the school year, churning out fresh videos every week that they often star in themselves. Claire’s is keen to hire even more student creators.

It is hard not to applaud an episode of student success. Nonetheless, I couldn't help but think of one of those Bob Dylan songs to which I often repair for life insights: 

Advertising signs they con
You into thinking you’re the one
That can do what’s never been done
That can win what’s never been won
Meantime life outside goes on
All around you

Internships in online advertising might produce a "hit," sometimes, but I think I'd recommend that students pursue real social, political, and economic changes, as they search out internship possibilities. Pursuing "eyeballs" on the Internet is not going to "change the world" (at least I don't think so), and that's the task we all need to tackle. Current college students are going to have the heaviest lift. 
Dealing with environmental, political, social, and economic challenges is that "life outside," beyond the advertising universe in which we wade so deeply. It will be our success (or failure) in those areas that will either make or break our efforts to maintain the human world. 
Image Credit:

Thursday, March 16, 2023

#75 / In The Age Of AI, Major In Being Human


The headline on my blog posting, today, is the headline on an opinion column by David Brooks of The New York Times. The above picture is from his column, too.
Brooks is commenting in his column on Artificial Intelligence, the same topic I addressed in my blog posting on February 23rd. Brooks uses, as an example of what Artificial Intelligence can do, a work of art created by the Midjourney computer program - the very same piece of art that I commented on back in October of last year

Brooks seems to be concerned about the same issues I am concerned about, as I see how new technologies are increasingly trying to remove human beings from both ordinary and creative work. His column is directed to college students, too, just as my February blog posting was. Brooks seems to share my perspective. He advises college students who must prepare themselves for life in an "AI world,"  to plan to "major in being human." Here is what he means: 

If, say, you’re a college student preparing for life in an A.I. world, you need to ask yourself: Which classes will give me the skills that machines will not replicate, making me more distinctly human? You probably want to avoid any class that teaches you to think in an impersonal, linear, generalized kind of way — the kind of thinking A.I. will crush you at. On the other hand, you probably want to gravitate toward any class, in the sciences or the humanities, that will help you develop the following distinctly human skills:
A distinct personal voice. A.I. often churns out the kind of impersonal bureaucratic prose that is found in corporate communications or academic journals. You’ll want to develop a voice as distinct as those of George Orwell, Joan Didion, Tom Wolfe and James Baldwin, so take classes in which you are reading distinctive and flamboyant voices so you can craft your own.
Presentation skills. “The prior generation of information technology favored the introverts, whereas the new A.I. bots are more likely to favor the extroverts,” the George Mason University economist Tyler Cowen writes. “You will need to be showing off all the time that you are more than ‘one of them.’” The ability to create and give a good speech, connect with an audience, and organize fun and productive gatherings seem like a suite of skills that A.I. will not replicate. 
A childlike talent for creativity. “When you interact for a while with a system like GPT-3, you notice that it tends to veer from the banal to the completely nonsensical,” Alison Gopnik, famed for her studies on the minds of children, observes. “Somehow children find the creative sweet spot between the obvious and the crazy.” Children, she argues, don’t just imitate or passively absorb data; they explore, and they create innovative theories and imaginative stories to explain the world. You want to take classes — whether they are about coding or painting — that unleash your creativity, that give you a chance to exercise and hone your imaginative powers. 
Unusual worldviews. A.I. can be just a text-prediction machine. A.I. is good at predicting what word should come next, so you want to be really good at being unpredictable, departing from the conventional. Stock your mind with worldviews from faraway times, unusual people and unfamiliar places: Epicureanism, Stoicism, Thomism, Taoism, etc. People with contrarian mentalities and idiosyncratic worldviews will be valuable in an age when conventional thinking is turbo powered.
Empathy. Machine thinking is great for understanding the behavioral patterns across populations. It is not great for understanding the unique individual right in front of you. If you want to be able to do this, good humanities classes are really useful. By studying literature, drama, biography and history, you learn about what goes on in the minds of other people. If you can understand another person’s perspective, you have a more valuable skill than the skill possessed by some machine vacuuming up vast masses of data about no one in particular. 
Situational Awareness. A person with this skill has a feel for the unique contours of the situation she is in the middle of. She has an intuitive awareness of when to follow the rules and when to break the rules, a feel for the flow of events, a special sensitivity, not necessarily conscious, for how fast to move and what decisions to take that will prevent her from crashing on the rocks. This sensitivity flows from experience, historical knowledge, humility in the face of uncertainty, and having led a reflective and interesting life. It is a kind of knowledge held in the body as well as the brain.

I believe that AI is posing serious, and in fact "existential" questions, and we all need to be aware of the processes we have put in motion, processes that seem aimed at removing human beings from all those situations in which we, individually and collectively, are "in charge."
Given where we are, all of Brooks' recommendations seem good to me. However, I think that Brooks' recommendations are not, themselves, sufficient to prevent the subordination of human individuality and creativity as Artificial Intelligence obtains an ever greater purchase over our lives. I think, in other words, that we are in "deeper" than Brooks seems to suggest. 
As anyone who regularly reads these blog postings won't be surprised to hear, it is my view that we are going to have to confront the dangerous realities ahead - forces that seek to subordinate human beings to our own creations - with a robust, "political" response. And "political" efforts means efforts we carry out together. It's active work. 

Contemplation, as we relax in a hammock, under a beautiful tree, is not what I have in mind!
Image Credits:
(1) -
(2) -

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

#74 / Here Come The Climate Crusaders

When The Wall Street Journal talks about "Climate Crusaders," the paper is not applauding their existence or their ambitions. Quite the contrary. Take The Journal's February 13, 2023, "Life Science" column by Allysia Finley as an example of how The Journal uses the term. The headline on the column proclaims that "The Climate Crusaders Are Coming for Electric Cars, Too." The Journal doesn't make that seem like a "good thing," does it?

Here is how Finley begins her column: 

Replacing all gasoline-powered cars with electric vehicles won’t be enough to prevent the world from overheating. So people will have to give up their cars. That’s the alarming conclusion of a new report from the University of California, Davis and “a network of academics and policy experts” called the Climate and Community Project (emphasis added).
According to its website, the "Climate and Community Project" is "a progressive climate policy think tank developing cutting-edge research at the climate and inequality nexus." I feel certain that Finley is not misrepresenting what that recent report says. She calls it "crazy," but what if the researchers at the Climate and Community Project are right, and our failure to achieve what is often called "net zero" greenhouse gas emissions will lead to millions of deaths and the failure of the planet's ability to sustain the environment which has made human (and other) life possible? And what if "giving up our cars" is, really, the only way we can prevent the runaway global warming that is threatening the natural environment on which our human civilization depends?
That is a question not pursued by Finley or The Journal. But what if this new report is right? The Journal claims that "progressives' ultimate goal is to reduce consumption - and living standards." That is an unfair, though not unexpected, assertion, because it might just be true that unless we reduce our living standards our living standards will not only be "reduced," but will plunge to "zero," as the Earth systems that sustain those living standards fail.
I call this blog, "We Live In A Political World" because we do. Most immediately, we live in a world that we human beings construct ourselves - we can call it "human civilization." 

I used to call this blog "Two Worlds," because while we live, most immediately, in a "Political World," we ultimately live in a world that we did not create ourselves. That can be called the "Natural World," or even "the World God Made." Our civilization, and our "living standards," depend, ultimately, on the continuing ability of that "Natural World" to sustain and support our civilization - our "living standards." 
When the Natural World fails us (and that is what climate scientists are telling us will happen, and relatively soon) not having personal cars will be the least of our concerns. 
Perhaps worth mentioning is another article that appeared on my front lawn on the morning of February 13th. In The New York Times, a front page article carried this headline: "Amnesty Eased Building Codes Around Turkey." The Times told us that a political decision in Turkey, to provide an "amnesty" to builders who were shown to have violated construction standards, was largely applauded by the public. But after the recent earthquake, people are now "mad." 

Using the approach advocated by The Wall Street Journal, we will end up with a disaster that won't be relegated to a single region of a single nation, but that will affect everyone on Earth. Maybe "giving up our cars" might not be such a bad idea, considering the alternatives! Let us, at least, stay open to the idea that we might, really, have to change how we are conducting ourselves. 

If we want human civilization to survive, that is!

Image Credit:

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

#73 / Something For Nothing


That is Mihir Desai, above. Desai is an Indian-American economist who is currently the Mizuho Financial Group Professor of Finance at Harvard Business School and a Professor at Harvard Law School into the bargain. In drawing your attention to Desai's recent column in The New York Times, I am "piling on" to a point I have made before - with the earliest diatribe I was able to locate dating from June of 2019. 
Desai's column, which appeared in the January 18, 2023, edition of The Times, was titled, "The Crypto Collapse and the End of Magical Thinking." I have, as just indicated, frequently inveighed against the idea that "crypto currency" has any enduring value, and I do think that believing in "crypto" as a meritorious investment opportunity is properly described as "magical thinking." Here is how Desai introduces the topic:

At a guest lecture at a military academy when the price of a single Bitcoin neared $60,000, I was asked, as finance professors often are, what I thought about cryptocurrencies. Rather than respond with my usual skepticism, I polled the students. More than half of attendees had traded cryptocurrencies, often financed by loans.
I was stunned. How could this population of young people come to spend time and energy in this way? And these students were hardly alone. The appetite for crypto has been most pronounced among Gen Z and millennials. Those groups became investors in the past 15 years at previously unseen rates and with exceedingly optimistic expectations.
I have come to view cryptocurrencies not simply as exotic assets but as a manifestation of a magical thinking that had come to infect part of the generation who grew up in the aftermath of the Great Recession — and American capitalism, more broadly.
For these purposes, magical thinking is the assumption that favored conditions will continue on forever without regard for history. It is the minimizing of constraints and trade-offs in favor of techno-utopianism and the exclusive emphasis on positive outcomes and novelty. It is the conflation of virtue with commerce.

My only caution, with what Desai says, is that to suggest that the "magical thinking" associated with "crypto" is tied, generationally, to those Gen-Z types, is probably just a bit unfair to Generation Z. Desai's warning about "magical thinking" is applicable to every generation!

As Bob Dylan puts it (and he's way pre-Gen-Z):

Through hostile cities and unfriendly towns
Thirty pieces of silver, no money down
Maybe someday, you will understand
That something for nothing is everybody’s plan

     Bob Dylan, "Maybe Someday"


Image Credit:

Monday, March 13, 2023

#72 / What Route To Change?


If we (if you or I) were to decide that there is an urgent need to change the world...
IF we were to decide this, a question would then arise. What is the best way to do that? How do we do something that goes beyond mere "observation" and that leads to the kind of "action" that can produce fundamental changes in the real world realities we currently inhabit? 
Do we need to find some route to "metanoia," a level of individual change that is transformative for large numbers of people? That kind of change is classified by Wikipedia as "theological," meaning that "metanoia" requires a profound spiritual change among individuals. 
That's a tough one, right?
Maybe more achievable, but not much more, it seems to me, might be aiming for significant and substantive "political change." We do "live in a political world," and a movement of individuals who organize to make truly fundamental changes to the economic, social, cultural, and political realities that now prevail can definitely lead to real changes in the realities that are now flashing "danger" signs with increasing intensity and frequency.
If you agree with me that we do, in fact, need large-scale, fundamental, transformative change (and I hope you do), and if you are "serious" about wanting to make that kind of change happen (given the urgency of the dangers we know we are facing, locally, nationally, and globally), then the question I am posing is obviously pertinent. I also think the answer to that question is pretty obvious. What do we need: metanoia or a political revolution? The answer is:


It strikes me that one of my "Five Guys" could be considered someone who managed to deploy that "both/and" approach to the need for fundamental change - and he made it work. 

Gandhi called for both spiritual change and he called for and helped organize a widespread political movement that achieved India's liberation from the clutches of colonial Britain. The United States did that, too, you may remember - achieved its freedom from British rule - though without quite as much "metanoia," and relying more on the "revolution" thing. 

In short, I am suggesting that those who are "serious" about meeting the challenges of our time could do a lot worse than to read up on Gandhi. If ours is a time that requires both individual, spiritual change and a political revolution, Gandhi has some good advice.

Here is a link that recommends six books. I've only read two of them, Gandhi's autobiography, My Experiments With Truth, and The Life of Mahatma Gandhi, by Louis Fischer.

How about reading up on Gandhi? Recommended!
(1) - 
(2) -

Sunday, March 12, 2023

#71 / Meme Of The Day


According to Wikipedia, a "meme" is a "unit for carrying cultural ideas, symbols, or practices, that can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals, or other imitable phenomena with a mimicked theme." 
A "meme," in other words, is something like a "gene" for "ideas." To continue to quote Wikipedia, memes are "cultural analogues to genes in that they self-replicate, mutate, and respond to selective pressures. In popular language, a meme may refer to an Internet meme, typically an image, that is remixed, copied, and circulated in a shared cultural experience online." 
The image above, I think, is a perfect example of an "Internet meme." It was transmitted to me on Facebook, by way of a posting by a Facebook Friend. Now, I am, passing it along to you! Consider this picture and quote, featuring Alice Walker, as a beneficent virus. Don't you think it would be good if everyone could "catch" it? If they could "catch on" to what Alice Walker is saying?
The Truth (I am talking about "Capital T"-type Truth here) is usually a little more "complex" than your typical meme. Or so we tend to think. However, as I have been thinking about what I "know," what I have "learned" in my many years of life, I am more and more coming to appreciate the importance of very simple statements.
Such simple statements - we can call them "memes," or can call them "truths" - seem successfully to distill  my life experience into short summaries, worthy of transmission to others. The words of Alice Walker, reproduced above, are a perfect example of what I am talking about. As far as I am concerned, that Alice Walker "meme," featured today, is definitely an example of a "Capital T"- type Truth.

As I do those Memento Mori exercises I have mentioned before, I know what I'd like to achieve before departing the scene. Not that I haven't already had some success in this, but my definition of accomplishment is actually to "do" something worthwhile, something that changes the world for the better, as opposed to demonstrating that I "know" something worthwhile that "might" change the world. In other words, I continue to urge that we need to be "actors," not just "observers," as we live our lives. 

So, as I consider Alice Walker's "Meme Of The Day," I am asking myself what I might do that would go beyond just passing along what I think of as an obvious, and very powerful, "Capital T"-type Truth. 

Passing on the "meme" is a good "Step One." But once we convince people that they actually "have" the power they haven't believed in, we all then need to move on up to "Step Two."

In other words, once we all realize that we've got the power, our next step is to USE it!

Saturday, March 11, 2023

#70 / I Spoke Up. I Got Fired.


Rose Abramoff, pictured, is an earth scientist. In an opinion piece published in the January 13, 2023, edition of The New York Times, Abramoff tells how she and a colleague took action at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union, held in December of last year, unfurling a banner that read, "Out of the lab and into the streets." 
This relatively minor effort at climate activism resulted in Abramoff's expulsion from the conference she was attending, and the launch of a professional misconduct inquiry. She was also terminated from her employment at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, located outside Knoxville. The Times' paywall permitting, you can read the entire story by clicking that link in the first paragraph.

Another story, published in The Times on the same day, was headlined as follows: "The Last 8 Years Were the Hottest on Record." While I am distressed to learn what happened to Abramoff, I do think, given everything we know, that our earth scientists should be following Abramoff's example:




Image Credits:
(1) -
(2) -

Friday, March 10, 2023

#69 / Gentrification By Fire


"Gentrification By Fire" is the headline that appears on an article in the February 10, 2023, edition of The Washington Post. Climate change, The Post says, is raising housing prices, since when existing homes burn down, replacement housing inevitably costs more, and that means that people with average and below average incomes are, increasingly, not able to buy a home. 

Even worse, of course, people with average and below average incomes are, increasingly, not even able to rent a home!

Taking effective steps to stop the release of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere (which really means ending the use of hydrocarbon fuels) will, of course, help deal with this new impetus to gentrification. However, I don't think that there is much chance that we can get out in front of gentrification, including "gentrification by fire," by making aggressive efforts to reduce the activities that are leading to global warming. In fact, "gentrification," if we want to call it that (I'd call it "economic displacement," myself), will continue to progress as long as we maintain that a person's ability to have basic shelter is a completely independent responsibility of each individual, with each person having to provide basic shelter for herself or himself. 

To the contrary, as the "climate crisis" makes pretty clear, I think, we need to take "collective" and "cooperative" steps to make the basic necessities of life available to everyone. The solution to the "climate crisis," and to "gentrification by fire," is the same solution that we must deploy to solve all of our most pressing problems. We need effective ways to implement this basic principle - something I would like to hope we are all coming to recognize: 
We are in this together!
If that's true (and I think it's pretty clear that it is), then that means that we have to address and solve our problems by working together, not by persisting in the idea that every individual person is, truly, a singular and isolated person, who faces the challenges of life alone, and who has to solve all those problems individually.

Thursday, March 9, 2023

#68 / Oh, The Horror!!

Pictured: A Horrible (Probably Socialist) Nun
I just couldn't resist making this comment. 
On March 7, 2023, the San Francisco Chronicle ran a front-page story by Bob Egelko, headlined as follows: "Socialism bill offers insights on candidates." The Chronicle's paywall will probably prevent non-subscribers from reading the article; however, I am reprinting the first paragraph, below, which is what prompted me to get to my computer to make this blog post. Here it is: 

Any legislation expressly seeking reductions in Social Security and Medicare would be unlikely to win a single vote from Democrats in Congress. But trimming those programs seems to have been an underlying message of a resolution passed overwhelmingly by the House — including a majority of Democrats — condemning “the horrors of socialism.”
House Concurrent Resolution 9, "denouncing the horrors of socialism," can be read in its entirety by anyone who clicks that link, but I can save you the wear and tear on your fingers by reproducing its text, below.
Oh, the horror of our system of Social Security! The horror of our food stamp program! Even more horrible: Medicare! We should all be afraid, right?  VERY afraid! So say the Republican Party sponsors of the resolution, and those Democrats who have, apparently, signed on. 

Are we "together in this," or not? Should we be helping out those who need help? What about that Social Security system that will provide some income to workers when they can no longer work? What about that Medicare program that provides health care to those who would not, otherwise, be able to get it?
Just consider how "horrible" these "socialist" programs truly are! I have no brief for genuine horrors, of which history provides all too many examples. But if the Social Security program, and our other programs that provide assistance to those who need it, are "socialism" - if that is what we are supposed to be afraid of - then I say, "bring it on!"

H. CON. RES. 9
Denouncing the horrors of socialism.
JANUARY 25, 2023
Ms. SALAZAR (for herself, Mr. SCALISE, Ms. FOXX, Mr. MASSIE, Ms. MALLIOTAKIS, Mr. WEBSTER of Florida, Mr. BERGMAN, Mr. GOSAR, Mrs. GONZALEZ-COLON, Mr. GAETZ, Mr. NORMAN, Mr. JACKSON of Texas, Mr. BISHOP of North Carolina, Mr. RESCHENTHALER, Mr. HUNT, Mr. NEWHOUSE, Mr. DUNCAN, Mr. WALTZ, Mr. GIMENEZ, Mrs. MILLER of Illinois, Mr. CLYDE, Mr. ISSA, Mr. JOHNSON of Louisiana, Mr. GRAVES of Louisiana, Mr. STEWART, Ms. TENNEY, Mrs. CAMMACK, Mr. HILL, Mr. MCCLINTOCK, Mr. JOYCE of Ohio, Mr. BALDERSON, Mr. CARL, Mr. LAMALFA, Mr. OWENS, Ms. STEFANIK, Mr. NEHLS, Mr. FEENSTRA, Mr. LATURNER, Mr. JORDAN, Mr. ELLZEY, Mr. RUTHERFORD, Mr. TIMMONS, Mr. POSEY, Mr. TONY GONZALES of Texas, Mr. KUSTOFF, Mrs. MILLER-MEEKS, Mr. HUDSON, Mr. ADERHOLT, Mr. WITTMAN, Mr. BUCHANAN, Mr. MOOLENAAR, Mrs. BICE, Mr. SESSIONS, Mr. FRY, Mr. GOODEN of Texas, Mr. MORAN , Mr. WOMACK, Mr. AMODEI, Mr. BILIRAKIS, Mr. GALLAGHER, Mr. WILLIAMS of Texas, Mr. CALVERT, Mr. WEBER of Texas, Mr. OGLES, Mrs. FISCHBACH, Mr. BURGESS, Mrs. MCCLAIN, Mr. DIAZ-BALART, Mr. LUTTRELL, Mr. BUCK, Mr. MOORE of Alabama, Mr. BAIRD, Mr. SELF, Mr. BOST, and Mr. GUEST ) submitted the following concurrent resolution; which was referred to the Committee on Financial Services.
Denouncing the horrors of socialism.
Whereas socialist ideology necessitates a concentration of power that has time and time again collapsed into Communist regimes, totalitarian rule, and brutal dictatorships;
Whereas socialism has repeatedly led to famine and mass murders, and the killing of over 100,000,000 people worldwide;
Whereas many of the greatest crimes in history were committed by socialist ideologues, including Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, Fidel Castro, Pol Pot, Kim Jong Il, Kim Jong Un, Daniel Ortega, Hugo Chavez, and Nicolas Maduro;
Whereas tens of millions died in the Bolshevik Revolution, at least 10,000,000 people were sent to the gulags in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), and millions more starved in the Terror-Famine (Holodomor) in Ukraine;
Whereas between 15,000,000 and 55,000,000 people starved to death in the wake of famine and devastation caused by the Great Leap Forward in China;
Whereas the socialist experiment in Cambodia led to the killing fields in which over a million people were gruesomely murdered;
Whereas up to 3,500,000 people have starved in North Korea, dividing a land of freedom from a land of destitution;
Whereas the Castro regime in Cuba expropriated the land of Cuban farmers and the businesses of Cuban entrepreneurs, stealing their possessions and their livelihoods, and exiling millions with nothing but the clothes on their backs;

Whereas the implementation of socialism in Venezuela has turned a once-prosperous nation into a failed State with the world’s highest rate of inflation;
Whereas the author of the Declaration of Independence, President Thomas Jefferson, wrote, ‘‘To take from one, because it is thought that his own industry and that of his fathers has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association, the guarantee to every one of a free exercise of his industry, and the fruits acquired by it.’’;
Whereas the ‘‘Father of the Constitution’’, President James Madison, wrote that it ‘‘is not a just government, nor is property secure under it, where the property which a man has in his personal safety and personal liberty, is violated by arbitrary seizures of one class of citizens for the service of the rest’’; and
Whereas the United States of America was founded on the belief in the sanctity of the individual, to which the collectivistic system of socialism in all of its forms is fundamentally and necessarily opposed: 
Now, therefore, be it Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), That Congress denounces socialism in all its forms, and opposes the implementation of socialist policies in the United States of America.

Image Credit: