culture

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Full offence.

To misinterpret the fight towards equality as one of “taking offense” signals a profound misunderstanding of the fight and its goals. […] To be offended is to be on the offense: taking action, voicing dissatisfaction, instead of letting the status quo roll over you.

People who register offense gain power not because they’re whiny bitches, but because others recognize the legitimacy of their complaints: It IS fucked up to wear another person’s culture as a frat party costume, just like it IS fucked up to refuse to learn to use they/them pronouns because it entails personal struggle. Every time I flub up a pronoun, I ask myself: what’s harder, really trying to be better at this, or living your life as a non-binary or trans person in a world that inflicts psychological and physical violence on gender non-conforming people at nearly every point in their lives? But that difficulty is illegible, or inconsequential, to [New York Times journalist Bret] Stephens: nothing compared to his own inconvenience at being asked to reconsider the way things are.

Anne Helen on struggle.

Context is in response to one of those hand-wringy “political correctness gone mad!!!” style articles.

2019-07-10T09:30:51+10:0012th November, 2019|Tags: culture|

Getting away with it.

But Trumpism took the racial resentment that was always the only successful recruiting strategy of the College Republicans and fused it with the only lesson he ever internalized in his elite education: complete irresponsibility is gloriously liberating. What unites Trump’s older base and his small core of young white devotees is the delight they take in watching him get away with it.

Trumpism’s pitch to young white men is thus a stirringly amoral sort of syllogism: we can’t give you anything material, because we stole it all and are hoarding it, but we can create a world in which you can regularly act on your worst impulses and get away with it. Some city kids are coming to town; here’s a way to racially mock them that won’t get us in trouble.

[…]

Legitimizing complete irresponsibility is also exactly why the mainstream, respectable GOP eventually embraced Trumpism. It’s a force that protects the monstrously unfair world they’ve built. They want to ensure that righteous mobs don’t dismantle the institutions that crank out Jared Kushners and Brett Kavanaughs, so they go along with the big lie, aimed at their lessers, that the people who want to destroy those elite institutions are also determined to punish “your son.” A movement that is designed to preserve the privilege of teens like Brett Kavanaugh to behave poorly and still run the country is telling less-privileged white teens that it’s actually fighting for their much more meager privilege to be racist and piggish and not face consequences.

Alex Pareene on the talking truth to teens.

Long, but pretty much the whole of this article is quotable, so… go read the whole thing.

2019-07-08T12:28:14+10:006th November, 2019|Tags: culture, politics|

Market of the free.

For many people today, it’s hard to imagine government doing much of anything right, let alone breaking up a company like Facebook. This isn’t by coincidence.

Starting in the 1970s, a small but dedicated group of economists, lawyers and policymakers sowed the seeds of our cynicism. Over the next 40 years, they financed a network of think tanks, journals, social clubs, academic centers and media outlets to teach an emerging generation that private interests should take precedence over public ones. Their gospel was simple: “Free” markets are dynamic and productive, while government is bureaucratic and ineffective. By the mid-1980s, they had largely managed to relegate energetic antitrust enforcement to the history books.

This shift, combined with business-friendly tax and regulatory policy, ushered in a period of mergers and acquisitions that created megacorporations. In the past 20 years, more than 75 percent of American industries, from airlines to pharmaceuticals, have experienced increased concentration, and the average size of public companies has tripled. The results are a decline in entrepreneurship, stalled productivity growth, and higher prices and fewer choices for consumers.

Chris Hughes on megacorporations.

2019-07-08T11:56:38+10:004th November, 2019|Tags: culture, economics, politics|

Just say no (to hugs)!

As someone who loathes hugs from anyone but the most intimate of friends/family members, I can totally get behind this call to just fucking cut them the fuck out.

Incidentally, while this is obviously super culturally subjective,1 according to my parents “promiscuous hugging” was definitely not a thing here a generation ago. So wherever it came from, it totally needs to go back.

  1. Also, yes! I am ethnically from a High Hugging Culture! []
2019-07-31T09:40:07+10:0030th October, 2019|Tags: culture|

Reality (re)Bytes.

The neoliberal economic conditions that gave rise to the influencer—and all those side hustles and personal brands—simultaneously have made it harder to attain a normal middle class existence. Even if your goals are of the modest, slacker variety—an hourly wage job, a roof over your head, junk food to eat, and TV to watch—that’s all a hell of a lot harder to come by these days.

[…]

But perhaps that realization will lead some to divest from the belief that hard work and self-optimization will lead us to some capitalist promised land. The neoliberal ideal has reached its peak and, well, it’s not as though we’ve solved income inequality with all our hard work. Quite the opposite. As [Will] Storr writes of our culture’s failed promise: “It wants us to buy the fiction that the self is open, free, nothing but pure, bright possibility … This seduces us into accepting the cultural lie that says we can do anything we set our minds to … This false idea is of immense value to our neoliberal economy.”

Rosie Spinks on the return of the slacker.

2019-07-01T09:19:42+10:0027th October, 2019|Tags: culture, economics|

Words mean things.

In the early-1990s, a political operative named Frank Luntz became famous for his pithy talking points. He was really good at creating phrases that could shape the public imaginary. Every week, he’d host a meeting with Republican staffers on the Hill to offer them a new phrase that they should aim to get into news media, attempting to create a “drumbeat” of terms. This was very effective. You know many of Frank Luntz’ terms. Partial-birth abortion. Climate change. Death tax.

When congressional members started using those terms, they got the news media to do the work of amplifying the underlying message. It created coherence. And when you have a term or a phrase that creates coherence, you see how it shapes a cultural logic. Regardless of what you feel about Luntz’ particular terms, there is no question of his efficacy.

danah boyd on names.

This is actually from a much longer essay on internet-based data and news manipulation, which is definitely worth reading in its entirety if you haven’t already. But mostly I’m just pulling this one quote out as a reminder that the same person who invented the terms “partial-birth abortion”1 and “death tax”2 also coined “climate change”…

  1. More properly known as an intact dilation and extraction, a procedure almost exclusively used during miscarriages, extreme fetal anomalies, and similar scenarios, including those requiring the viewing of remains for grieving and/or forensic purposes. []
  2. Also known as the estate tax, and basically intended to try and mitigate the negative social effects of inherited extreme wealth. Rich people—especially those scheduled to get richer when their relatives die off—fucking hate it. []
2019-06-24T11:52:24+10:0023rd October, 2019|Tags: culture|

Inpathy.

The new rule for empathy seems to be: reserve it, not for your “enemies,” but for the people you believe are hurt, or you have decided need it the most. Empathy, but just for your own team. And empathizing with the other team? That’s practically a taboo.

And it turns out that this brand of selective empathy is a powerful force.

In the past 20 years, psychologists and neurologists have started to look at how empathy actually works, in our brains and our hearts, when we’re not thinking about it. And one thing they’ve found is that “one of the strongest triggers for human empathy is observing some kind of conflict between two other parties,” says Fritz Breithaupt, a professor at Indiana University who studies empathy. “Once they take the side, they’re drawn into that perspective. And that can lead to very strong empathy and too strong polarization with something you only see this one side and not the other side any longer.”

Hanna Rosin on dark empathy.

This is from an article that’s basically a press release about Breithaupt’s book, The Dark Sides of Empathy, which does sound kind of interesting. Basically, Breithaupt’s argument is that the pop culture understanding of empathy as a “morally positive” force is wrong, or at least not the whole picture. Because, yes, empathy can lead to compassion (something it’s often conflated with) towards those who are different than oneself… but it’s even more likely (according to Research) to violence and aggression against a group an individual perceives as harming a those they themselves empathize with. Or, to put it another way, punching Nazis is just as “rational” an outcome from empathy as hugging them is.

Breithaupt’s point here is not to malign empathy, or say we need more or less of it. Instead, he argues that it should be seen more as a tool—with the potential to be used both well and poorly—rather than an inherent moral good. Which… hm.

2019-06-24T11:02:57+10:0021st October, 2019|Tags: culture|

Corporate yoga.

McMindfulness practices psychologize and medicalize social problems. Rather than a way to attain awakening toward universal love, it becomes a means of self-regulation and personal control over emotions. McMindfulness is blind to the present moral, political and cultural context of neoliberalism. As a result, it does not grasp that an individualistic therapized and commodified society is itself a major generator of social suffering and distress. Instead, the best it can then do, ironically, is to offer to sell us back an individualistic, commodified “cure” – mindfulness – to reduce that distress.

David Forbes on commodified mindfulness.

In other words: no amount of yoga or salt baths or mud masks or meditating are going to fix the fact that your job is killing you, you know it and hate it, but nonetheless feel miserable and trapped because you live in a society that works very effectively to give you no other options…

2019-07-31T09:40:03+10:0019th October, 2019|Tags: culture|

Garbage bans.

As someone who lives somewhere where, effectively, being able to afford plastic bags becomes a wealth marker, I admit to a bias in favor of articles like this. That being said, the article does recommend fees for bags, which is essentially what we have here, hence pointing out that it’s basically a You Must Be This Wealthy To Use Plastic Bags thing.

I mean though… it’s almost… like… individual consumer actions… don’t… actually make much difference? When it comes to addressing the problems of global capitalism? Wha-aa-aa-aa-at?

2019-06-04T15:11:57+10:0016th October, 2019|Tags: culture, environment|