Ruth Bader Ginsburg “knew the power of example—that if you live your own life according to your principles, others will follow,” writes her former clerk, Ryan Y. Park, Solicitor General of North Carolina.
My Friend and Boss, Ruth Bader Ginsburg
My time working for the justice shaped me as both a lawyer and a father.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was an intimidating boss. Though small in stature and quiet in demeanor, she was a legendary lawyer and jurist who was fiercely devoted to her work. And she never lost sight of the principles—and the people—that made that work worth doing.
The justice knew the power of example—that if you live your own life according to your principles, others will follow. Her example has given permission to millions of women and men—including myself—to break free from artificial barriers that hold them back from fully pursuing all their identities, as mothers and fathers, breadwinners and caretakers. She wanted me to join her in carrying that mission forward.
Justice Ginsburg’s legacy belongs to all of us. It buoys me to see people inspired to carry forward her vision of a more equal and just society. She would have expected no less. And if she were still here, she’d reassure us with a smile and a hug, and tell us to get to work.
Constructive journalism is a response to increasing tabloidization, sensationalism and negativity bias of the news media today.
Evan Osnos, staff writer at the New Yorker:
“A big deal in the revival of local news: Nonprofit Mountain State Spotlight
“Mountain Spotlight launched in #WV with local/national support, and some of the best journalists in Appalachia. This is interesting for anyone wondering how to repair our democracy.”
Dr. David Bohm:
“Dialogue is really aimed at going into the whole thought process and changing the way the thought process occurs collectively. We haven’t really paid much attention to thought as a process. We have engaged in thoughts, but we have only paid attention to the content, not to the process.
It is proposed that a form of free dialogue may well be one of the most effective ways of investigating the crisis which faces society, and indeed the whole of human nature and consciousness today. Moreover, it may turn out that such a form of free exchange of ideas and information is of fundamental relevance for transforming culture and freeing it of destructive misinformation, so that creativity can be liberated.”
An arc, like an arch, is bent. The strength comes from that bend.
But the arc doesn’t have to be supported at both ends, and the arc is more flexible. The arc can take us to parts unknown, yet it has a trajectory.
An arch, on the other hand, is a solid structure. It’s a bridge that others have already walked over.
Our life is filled with both. We’re trained on arches, encouraged to seek them out.
But an arc, which comes from “arrow,” is the rare ability to take flight and to go further than you or others expected.
HOW TO HAVE A CONVERSATION WITH YOUR POLITICAL OPPONENTS SANNE BLAUW
This story is from Strangers in Their Own Land by Arlie Hochschild.
‘For this book, the professor emerita of sociology immersed herself in the American political right wing. Over the course of five years, she regularly stayed in ultraconservative “Bayou Country” in Louisiana. She herself comes from lefter than left Berkeley, California. She couldn’t have left her bubble any further behind.
‘When left-wing sociologist Arlie Hochschild went to live in a right-wing stronghold in the American South, she was entering “enemy” territory.
But, by listening to the people there – instead of arguing against them – she distilled a clear picture: right-wing Trump supporters felt like victims of a society that had left them behind.
In an era where debate has descended into a televised shouting match, it’s easy to feel like you’re at war with people who disagree with you.
But Hochschild learned that by laying down our arms and trying to understand, even empathise with, our political opponents, we can learn how to have constructive political conversations.’
‘Having a heart-to-heart conversation with an ideological opponent can feel uncomfortable – unsafe even. But sociologist Arlie Hochschild proves that it pays off. She immersed herself in a conservative stronghold in the Southern United States for five years and wrote a book about it.’
Not everyone agrees with this approach, Hochschild said during a 2016 interview with Ezra Klein. It can feel as though you’re surrendering, laying down your weapons and walking over to the enemy. But, she says: “if you want to compare it to anything, it’s a diplomatic mission. It’s saying: look, we can work this out, let’s see what the basis of that could be”.
Whether it’s about corona, climate or benefits, let’s carry out these diplomatic missions more often. That doesn’t mean you have to agree with each other, but at least you’re making a genuine attempt to understand the other person.’
That calls for a fundamentally different kind of journalism. And who better to show us what this looks like than Jay Rosen, one of the sharpest critics of modern news.
In the run-up to the US elections in November, Jay answers an essential question: How should the media report on a democracy in crisis?
“There are things that journalists can – and should – be legitimately for: a citizens agenda; fighting authoritarianism and the subversion of democracy; an evidence-based political debate; and pro-participation.”
Agree with Jay Rosen’s take on the ‘Peter Baker’ form of journalism: “I don’t trust this attitude. I think it is dismissive of some of the hardest problems in journalism. […] These are fantasies of detachment.” (para. 14 *) -dayle
JOURNALISTS: YOU NEED AN AGENDA, FOR ALL OF US JAY ROSEN
‘I am not sure how long I’m going to be doing this.
By “this” I mean critiquing the US press as it reports on national politics, and trying to get journalists to adopt better practices when they are public actors who present to us as observers. It is a frustrating assignment, and I am wary of burnout.
But since I am self-assigned – self-appointed, really – I have freedom of movement, intellectually speaking. Were it not for the fact that we are all enmeshed in the biggest national emergency since the Great Depression, I would probably have exited by now from the “press coverage of politics” beat, in the belief that I have contributed what I can, worn out my welcome, and exhausted the patience of anyone who has been following along.
But I cannot quit before the 2020 elections are run. Until then I am going to press my case as hard as I can. Today, my case to journalists covering the US election, whether they’re US American or not, is this: you cannot keep from getting swept up in Donald Trump’s agenda without a firm grasp on your own.
I am quite aware that journalists are taught not to let their political preferences, party membership, or personal ideology shape their reporting, and I have no quarrel with that restriction. But it does not end the discussion.
Here is journalist and show host Jake Tapper on CNNin May of 2016, after Trump claimed – without evidence – that the father of former presidential candidate Ted Cruz had met with Lee Harvey Oswald, the man who shot president John F Kennedy in 1963. (Italics mine.)
“There is no corroborated evidence that Ted Cruz’s father ever met Lee Harvey Oswald, or, for that matter, any other presidential assassin. We in the media don’t talk about it because there’s no evidence of it. In fact, there is contrary evidence. Well before the picture was taken, Rafael Cruz’s sister was brutally beaten by Castro forces and Rafael Cruz had denounced the regime. So, any suggestion that Cruz’s father played a role in the Kennedy assassination is ridiculous and, frankly, shameful. Now, that’s not an anti-Trump position or a pro-Cruz position. It’s a pro-truth position.”
There are fundamental values journalists have to stand up for
Jake Tapper knows that journalists are not supposed to push an agenda like “Ted Cruz for president!” But he also knows there are fundamental values that he and his colleagues in the news business have to stand up for. Among these are a decent respect for truth-telling in public settings. When politicians competing for votes float poisonous charges without even a modicum of evidence, self-respecting journalists have to push back in some way.
In doing that, Tapper wasn’t crossing the border from journalism into some other line of work. He was practising his craft the way he understands it – and legitimately so. The distinction he makes is important. Yes, he took a position on air, but it’s not anti-Trump or pro-Cruz. It’s pro-truth.
Now I want to go beyond what Jake Tapper said in 2016, and introduce a distinction of my own, between the political and the politicised. About press coverage of politics, nothing would improve our conversation more than a careful separation of these two terms. Not easy, but worth trying. Here is what I mean.
When TV journalists with news shows push back against major party candidates who are floating poisonous charges without evidence, that is a political act. We should be clear-eyed in acknowledging such. Same goes for the newspaper fact checkers who wrote,“Trump is once again making a ridiculous claim.” With these moves journalists are trying to alert viewers and voters to be wary of Trump’s false charges. They would not put it this way, but I will: their implicit “agenda” is to prevent lying from being raised to a universal principle in politics.
When politicians competing for votes float poisonous charges without even a modicum of evidence, self-respecting journalists have to push back in some way
That is a valid goal. When I call it a political act, I mean several things: it is undertaken for the good of the nation. It is a use of power in one sense, a check on power in another. It is constitutionally protected. And it is contestable. People can and do disagree about the propriety of journalists declaring what is true and what is false, what is in or out of bounds during an election, and they argue about the calls made.All these make it (properly) political.
But – and here comes my distinction – if journalists lose their place and operate as cheerleaders for individual candidates (“Ted Cruz for president!”) or they let their ideology distort their reporting so as not to injure a cause they manifestly believe in, then their work has been unduly politicised. This is not good. It erodes trust, validates bad faith attacks on the press, and ultimately renders journalism useless as a check on power because it is trying to be the power.
Where does the properly political part of journalism end?
*So we should be leery of an overly politicised press. We should also watch out for politicised attacks on the press. And we should be wary of journalists who don’t think their work is political at all. Here is Peter Baker,White House correspondent of The New York Times:
“As reporters, our job is to observe, not participate, and so to that end, I don’t belong to any political party, I don’t belong to any non-journalism organisation, I don’t support any candidate, I don’t give money to interest groups and I don’t vote.
I try hard not to take strong positions on public issues even in private, much to the frustration of friends and family. For me, it’s easier to stay out of the fray if I never make up my mind, even in the privacy of the kitchen or the voting booth, that one candidate is better than another, that one side is right and the other wrong.”
When the president is using you as a hate object in order to discredit the entire mainstream press, what good is ‘our job is to observe, not participate’?
I don’t trust this attitude. I think it is dismissive of some of the hardest problems in journalism. Correct in warning against an overly politicised press, it has nothing to say about the inescapably political nature of Baker’s day-to-day work. Not voting on principle, never making up your mind on tough issues, deliberately frustrating friends and family when they ask around your kitchen island: what do you think? These are fantasies of detachment.
When the president is using you as a hate object in order to discredit the entire mainstream press in the eyes of his supporters so that your reporting and the reporting of all the people you compete with arrives pre-rejected, what good is “our job is to observe, not participate”? You are part of that system whether you like it or not. You either think your way out of it, or get incorporated into it.
The hard work is deciding where the properly political part of journalism ends, and its undue, unfair, unwise and risky politicisation begins. But we don’t have a discussion like that. Instead, we have media bias wielded like a baseball bat, and journalists who think they can serve the electorate better if they remove themselves from it.
How should journalists approach the 2020 election?
Now we are met on an ugly and brutal battlefield: the 2020 campaign for president. How should journalists approach it? You can’t keep from getting swept up in Trump’s agenda without a firm grasp on your own. But what should that agenda be? To this tricky question I now turn, armed with my distinction between the properly political and the overly politicised.
I am going to list a few things I think journalists can legitimately be “for” as they report on the coming election. If they choose not to choose, and head into the 2020 campaign without stars to steer by, they are likely to become lost in Trump’s predictable flood of newsy distractions and lurid controversies.Read on Vox ‘The fake “Obamagate” scandal shows how Trump hacks the media’They know what’s coming. What they don’t know is how to avoid playing along.
This list then becomes your “agenda” for covering the campaign. Get the candidates to address what the voters said they most want to hear about. Focus your journalism around key items on the citizens agenda. When one of Trump’s media storms blows in you can hold fast to your own priorities by asking if his latest controversy advances discussion of the citizens agenda. If not, you have good reason for downplaying it.
Because it pressures the candidates to address these issues rather than those, the citizens agenda is a political project. But it can be done without unduly politicising election coverage if the act of listening to voters is a genuine one. The agenda comes from them, not from the newsroom’s political preferences.
I have been recommending this approach for many years.Read ‘The Citizens Agenda in Campaign Coverage’ I wrote about it in my 1999 book,What Are Journalists For? The basic model has been around since the early 1990s. If journalists in the national press wanted to move toward this alternative they would have done so by now. My read is that it feels too earnest to them, too much like civics class, or “eat your vegetables” journalism, not enough like having drinks with political insiders. I still think it’s the best way to keep from getting swept up in Trump’s agenda. But they do not. So we need other ideas.
2. Fighting authoritarianism and the subversion of democracy
The extra watchfulness I speak of is a small-d democratic act. It has to be applied across the board: left, right, centre, fringe. With that condition,
it is entirely within journalists’ rights to make fighting authoritarianism the mission and heart of their campaign coverage. Call it threats-to-democracy journalism. If we were ever going to need an agenda like that, this is the year.
3. A more evidence-based political debate
Journalists could also decide to stand more forcefully and consistently for an evidence-based politics. If they did, this too would be a political act. But again, it does not have to be politicised. Asking “is this evidence-based?” could be a way of deciding whether a campaign controversy is worth discussing – or dismissing. Holding all candidates to the same standards of evidence is the very essence of across-the-board fairness. Rating the campaigns on how evidence-based they are willing to be might prove especially useful in a political environment dominated by our struggle with Covid-19.
Imagine asking the best public health and immunology experts you can find, “When it comes to the pandemic, what do you want the candidates to be talking about as they compete for votes?” Filtered through community knowledge and common sense, this might be a good way of organising state and local coverage of candidates who will have to speak about recovering from the virus to get elected. “We are going to be relentlessly evidence-based, because that is what our community most needs to get out of this mess … ” is a solid agenda to adopt in an election year likely to be dominated by a public health crisis.
Democracy is not a spectator sport, though some forms of punditry seem to frame it that way. The more people who participate in the system the stronger the system is. Journalists can design their coverage so that it helps people go out and vote. With good information and timely notice, they can make it easier for eligible voters to get registered and exercise their rights. They can expose those who would discourage citizens from voting. They can fight disinformation that tries to depress turnout. They can hold accountable the public officials who run elections. They can warn about problems that could haunt us on election day.
But it’s not just voting. All forms of participation could be part of this agenda: how to volunteer, how to contribute, where to see the candidates.
No way around it: encouraging participation is a political act. But as long as it includes all parties and all voters, election coverage that is shamelessly pro-participation does not unfairly politicise the press. Bad actors will of course make that charge, but bad actors always complain about good journalism.
Don’t like these ideas? Come up with your own!
Some I didn’t get to: fighting cynicism. Making politics fun again. Bringing emotions other than rage to campaign coverage. Transcending traditional party divisions. It would take courage and imagination, but all of these could work as organising principles, possibly in combination with others I have mentioned. (You don’t have to have one and only one agenda!)
My point is that journalists need to know what they’re trying to accomplish with their election coverage.
Covering the campaign the way campaigns in the US are covered – which, as far as I can tell, is the current “agenda” at CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, PBS, NPR – does not provide a sense of mission strong enough to prevent a repeat of the debacle in 2016. Nor does vowing not to make the same mistakes.Read ‘Sleepwalking into 2020’ on the Columbia Journalism ReviewSomething stronger is required.
They know what’s coming, I said about the campaign press. What they don’t know is how to avoid capture. Donald Trump is going to campaign the same way he “governs”. By flooding the zone with shit, and making so much news that no single revelation matters much. By accusing opponents of the very things he is manifestly guilty of.
By giving his supporters license to reject the news: “What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.” By persuading the uncommitted that it’s useless to pay attention because you will never get the story straight. By leveraging his weirdness as a human being, like the fact that he lacks the gene for feeling shame. By lowering all of us. By manufacturing confusion. By calling himself the victim of journalists who point these things out. By warring against the press.
These methods – but they’re not methodical, just compulsive – exploit errors in the journalist’s code. Among them are:
In theory, sources that flood the zone with shit should be dropped. In practice, we need them.
More information is better than less.
Meeting traffic goals means you’re winning at this.
These are propositions set too deep. There is zero chance of removing them in time for 2020. Each one opens the press to manipulation by Trump and his campaign. Which is part of why I say: you can’t keep from getting sucked into his agenda without a firm grasp on your own. Only a strong sense of mission will prevent a repeat of 2016. But I am not optimistic. It is so much easier to go with the flow.’
This article was originally published on Jay Rosen’s blog, PressThink.
“The climate emergency is very bad. Over the past few days, disasters have cascaded around the world. But no matter how dire the pandemic-climate-racial uprising emergency gets, there is never, ever a reason to give up.” -Eric Holthaus
On climate doom
Over the past few days, disasters have cascaded around the world. More of California burned in a one-week span than in almost any other full year in recorded history. Hurricanes have battered the Caribbean and the US Gulf Coast. The strongest typhoon in North Korea’s history made landfall. Scientists unveiled doomsday updates from Greenland, Antarctica, and the North Pole.
This threadRead the Twitter thread from Jacquelyn Gill from my friend and former podcast co-host Jacquelyn Gill explains how this instinct is partly a result of privilege in climate spaces. It’s often easier to imagine the apocalypse than the systemic changes necessary in every aspect of society to steer us away from oblivion.
The climate emergency is very bad. It magnifies inequalities. It’s a manifestation of hundreds of years of injustice and erasure.
But if you find yourself thinking “we’re screwed”, here’s a gentle reminder to ask yourself who “we” is. This has been happening for a long time.
This week’s good news on climate
We need to move past the “we’re screwed” narrative on climate change and ecosystem collapse. Fast. A dead world is not our destiny.
Yes, the odds are against us as long as we stay on our current path. But we can and must radically change that path. We can do this, and we will.
We’ve reached the point in the pandemic-climate-racial uprising emergency that there are multiple versions of reality floating around and it’s very difficult to keep track of reality.
I’ve subscribed to the concept of atmospheric harm reduction. Harm reduction is a strategy that’s used to de-escalate violence and self-harm, and involves things like sanitised needle distribution or legalising and regulating marijuana.
The same applies to the climate emergency. Every tonne of carbon avoided through developing tough new habits, every climate denier voted out of office and replaced with an imperfect-but-better candidate, every difficult conversation that helps you articulate your ardent love for the world and everything that’s worth saving – all of those help make the world a measurably better place.
There are days when it will feel like you can’t go on, that all your work is pointless. But in those days remember that a better world is always possible. We can take breaks. We can endure setbacks. But we can never, ever give up. You were born just in time to transform the world.
From Father Richard Rohr, Barbara Holmes, and Bill McKibbon:
Goodness is a first principle of the universe. God declares it on the first page of the story of creation. —Barbara Holmes
Creation is the first Bible, as I (and others) like to say , and it existed for 13.7 billion years before the second Bible was written. Natural things like animals, plants, rocks, and clouds give glory to God just by being themselves, just what God created them to be. It is only we humans who have been given the free will to choose not to be what God created us to be. Surprisingly, the environmentalist and author Bill McKibben finds hope in this unique freedom. He writes:
The most curious of all . . . lives are the human ones, because we can destroy, but also because we can decide not to destroy. The turtle does what she does, and magnificently. She can’t not do it, though, any more than the beaver can decide to take a break from building dams or the bee from making honey. But if the bird’s special gift is flight, ours is the possibility of restraint.
We’re the only creature who can decide not to do something we’re capable of doing. That’s our superpower, even if we exercise it too rarely.
So, yes, we can wreck the Earth as we’ve known it, killing vast numbers of ourselves and wiping out entire swaths of other life—in fact . . . we’re doing that right now. But we can also not do that. . . .
We have the tools (nonviolence chief among them) to allow us to stand up to the powerful and the reckless, and we have the fundamental idea of human solidarity that we could take as our guide. . . .
While the lives of our elders, our vulnerable, and essential workers are at stake during the COVID-19 pandemic, tens of millions of us across the globe have been restraining ourselves at home, choosing not to do many things for many weeks in order to protect those we love (and those others love as well). Surely the earth is breathing a sigh of relief for our reduction in pollution and fossil fuel use. This “Great Pause,” as some are calling it, gives me hope that we will soon find it within ourselves to protect our shared home, not only for our own sake, but for our neighbors across the globe, and future generations.
How is a huge part of the world organised under a system that has different meanings country-to-country, and could even mean something different to you, and the person standing behind you in the line to vote?
How do we know democracy is broken if we don’t know what it is?
by Patrick Chalmers.
“To my mind, there seems no better starting point for understanding politics than to grapple with the word “democracy”. What does it mean and how should it work?
The word is easy enough to define. It comes from the Greek for people (demos) and power (kratos), translating as people power, or government by the people. Most of us know democracy as something like that. But things quickly get more complicated when we ask what exactly that means in everyday life.
‘…there’s ubuntu, Watch South African Anglican cleric and human rights activist Desmond Mpilo Tutu describe ubuntu in this video clip.the Nguni language word for a humanist philosophy and way of living from southern Africa. It’s most often translated as “I am, because you are”, a profoundly political concept which evokes the connectedness that exists, or should exist, between all people and the planet – a manifesto for inclusive government.’
The distorting – if not corrupting – influence of money helps to explain why elected representatives rarely reflect the societies they are meant to represent but rather their richer members. Consider the representation of women in government. Though their share of seats in legislatures worldwide is growing, they still represent fewer than a quarter of deputies. The same goes for minorities – whatever they may be, wherever they may be. So while, for example, western countries are becoming more ethnically, racially and religiously diverse, their legislators generally haven’t kept pace with these changes. If the current US presidential race is anything to go by, the face of democracy is still pale, male and stale. In parts of the world where people of colour are the majority, male and stale usually covers it.”
As the arrow endures the bowstring’s tension so that, released, it travels farther. For there is nowhere to remain.
Concentrate on seeing all the beauty your soul can absorb but turn away from what is ugly and vile and degrading. The higher your sights, the better your spirits. Everything we do requires us to reveal our inner longings. Identify them clearly and make productive use of them.
There is nothing more tragic in the modern world than the misuse of power and action to which men are driven by their own Faustian misunderstandings and misapprehensions. We have more power at our disposal today that we have ever had, and yet we are the more alienated and estranged from the inner ground of meaning and love than we have ever been. -Contemplation in a World of Action, 1965
A Democratic Pledge
I would like to
become more selective in what I watch and read
become more critically aware of the messages I receive
find new sources information about the things I care about most
participate in local media
create interactions in my community
Living Democracy is emerging within the human services, focusing not solely on individual self-reliance but also on the capacities of people to work together for mutual healing and problem solving. Society’s obligation to help support citizens with specific needs does not have to mean top-down governmental control; self-help and society’s help are mutually enhancing and mutually beneficial.
Towards a Moral Revolution
Moral reckonings are being driven to the surface of our life together: What are politics for? What is an economy for? Jacqueline Novogratz says the simplistic ways we take up such questions — if we take them up at all — is inadequate. Novogratz is an innovator in creative, human-centered capitalism. She has described her recent book, Manifesto for a Moral Revolution, as a love letter to the next generation.
‘I think, in this moment of such peril & possibility, we really could build a world like the world has never seen before. If there was ever a decade to do it, it’s this decade. I want future generations to say, “Look how hard they tried,” not “Look at how blind they were.”’
When the market crashed in 2008, it became clear that neoliberalism was not the way forward. But at the time, neither the protesters of Occupy Wall Street nor politicians had realistic alternatives.
Now, over a decade later during the biggest crisis since the Second World War, it’s different.
Economists, philosophers and politicians have been fighting the cynical dogma that most people are selfish for years. They’ve been working on real alternatives.
Now we know: humankind is actually not selfish, but has evolved due to its unparalleled willingness to cooperate. If, going forward, we took that fact seriously, everything could change. Governments could be based on trust. Tax systems could be rooted in solidarity. Social security could be reformed.
We don’t know where this crisis will lead us, writes Rutger Bregman, but this time the groundwork has been laid for a radically different world.
The neoliberal era is ending. What comes next?
On 4 April 2020, the British-based Financial Times published an editorial likely to be quoted by historians for years to come.
The Financial Times is the world’s leading business daily and, let’s be honest, not exactly a progressive publication. It’s read by the richest and most powerful players in global politics and finance. Every month, it puts out a magazine supplement unabashedly titled “How to Spend It” about yachts and mansions and watches and cars.
But on this memorable Saturday morning in April, that paper published this:
“Radical reforms – reversing the prevailing policy direction of the last four decades – will need to be put on the table. Governments will have to accept a more active role in the economy. They must see public services as investments rather than liabilities, and look for ways to make labour markets less insecure. Redistribution will again be on the agenda; the privileges of the elderly and wealthy in question. Policies until recently considered eccentric, such as basic income and wealth taxes, will have to be in the mix.”
What’s going on here? How could the tribune of capitalism suddenly be advocating for more redistribution, bigger government, and even a basic income?
For decades, this institution stood firmly behind the capitalist model of small government, low taxes, limited social security – or at most with the sharpest edges rounded off. “Throughout the years I’ve worked there,” responded a journalist who has written for the paper since 1986, “the Financial Times has advocated free market capitalism with a human face. This from the editorial board sends us in a bold new direction.”
Crises played a central role in economist Milton Friedman’s thinking. In the preface to his book Capitalism and Freedom (1982), he wrote the famous words:
“Only a crisis – actual or perceived – produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around.”
DISSOLVE THE PATRIARCHY. ENOUGH.
US president-elect Ronald Reagan in Los Angeles in November 1980. Reagan consulting with his economic advisers about his new economic policy. From left to right: Walter Wriston, Milton Friedman, Daryl Trent, George Shultz, Ronald Reagan, Paul McCracken. Photo: Bettmann / Getty
In recent weeks, lists have been published all over the world of what we’ve started calling “essential workers”. And surprise: jobs like “hedge fund manager” and “multinational tax consultant” appear nowhere on those lists. All of a sudden, it has become crystal clear who’s doing the truly important work in care and in education, in public transit and in grocery stores.
In 2018, two Dutch economists did a study leading them to conclude that a quarter of the working population suspect their job is pointless. Even more interesting is that there are four times more “socially pointless jobs” in the business world than in the public sphere. The largest number of these people with self-professed “bullshit jobs” are employed in sectors like finance and marketing.
In recent years, the Overton Window has undeniably shifted. What once was marginal is now mainstream. A French economist’s obscure graph became the slogan of Occupy Wall Street (“We are the 99%”); Occupy Wall Street paved the way for a revolutionary presidential candidate, and Bernie Sanders pulled other politicians like Biden in his direction.
These days, more young US Americans have a favourable view of socialism than of capitalism – something that would have been unthinkable 30 years ago. (In the early 1980s, young voters were the neoliberal Reagan’s biggest support base.)
One thing is certain. There comes a point when pushing on the edges of the Overton Window is no longer enough. There comes a point when it’s time to march through the institutions and bring the ideas that were once so radical to the centres of power.
‘Everything happens as if a “STOP! had been given on a planetary level. Of course, it was not this summary and unconscious entity of the infinitely small, the coronavirus, which gave this order. This order seems to emanate from the cosmic movement itself disturbed by the mad dream of the human being to dominate and manipulate Nature.
Everything stopped suddenly for half the countries of the world. This immobility did not fail to reveal to us all the flaws of globalization centered on profit and money. But which of the world’s politicians and leaders will be the ones to see? We are plunged into the blindness of the darkness of our habits of thought and the ideologies of progress, totally out of step with reality. How do you open your eyes to what’s going on? In my opinion, the only solution is the spiritual evolution of the whole of humanity. It alone could take into account all the levels of Reality and the Hidden Third.
It also happens as if a “STOP! had been given on an individual basis. We are suddenly in front of ourselves, before the mystery of our being, thus giving the exceptional opportunity of a spiritual evolution for each of us. This spiritual evolution of each human being conditions that of humanity.
We thus discover that the spiritual underdevelopment of the human being and humanity is the real cause of the crisis that we are going through and that we are going to go through.
But what spirituality is it? It is a radically new, transreligious and transcultural spirituality. Transdisciplinarity offers the tools for the establishment of such a spirituality, based on the community of destiny of all beings on earth. Two thousand years ago, the greatest visionary of all time, Jesus, asked “Love your enemies” (Matthew 5:44).
Without love nothing is possible to act on our destiny.
The world at the time refused such a message and preferred to kill Jesus. Two thousand years later, we are in exactly the same situation, on the brink of self-destruction of the species, a danger increased since by technological development and the immense means of destruction. The anthropocene without spiritual dimension will lead us to the brink of the abyss.
We must make, with great humility, a new pact of partnership with Nature and with all beings on earth – humans, animals, birds, trees, plants. We must stop defiling Nature with our excessive pride and our desire for omnipotence. All war should be declared a crime against humanity and all means of destruction should be destroyed.
All this can be understood as a utopia which goes against the principle of reality.
One possible answer is that of Michel Houellebecq: “I don’t believe in statements like” nothing will ever be the same again “. We will not wake up, after confinement, to a new world; it will be the same, only a little worse ”. If we contemplate the behavior of political leaders and public opinion in this period of crisis, it is to be feared that Michel Houellebecq is right. Politicians are returning to their usual language of mutual hostility and this will cause considerable social tension.
The media bombardment plunges us into an anxiety-provoking climate where, paradoxically, even death takes an abstract dimension: a dead person is just a number in a statistic. Nothing of the suffering of the one who dies, alone, suffocated by the coronavirus, reaches our place. This is glaring evidence of our spiritual underdevelopment.
The hidden hypothesis of Michel Houellebecq’s reasoning is the impossibility that human beings can evolve.
But another solution exists. Man must be born again if he wants to live.
Our task is immense. Let’s try not to be hypnotized by the multitude of doomsayers and apocalyptic thinkers of all kinds who predict the fall of the West and the demise of our world.
The word “Apocalypse” does not mean “end” or “destruction”, but “Revelation”. We are fortunate to have before our eyes, here and now, an extraordinary Revelation which can allow us to access Life and Meaning. I suggest reading, in these difficult times, the extraordinary book of Paule Amblard Saint John – The Apocalypse, illustrated by the tapestry of Angers . Paule Amblard offers us a coherent interpretation of The Apocalypse of John by the necessity of the spiritual evolution of man. The appalling plagues which cross the text of The Apocalypse are, in truth, the torments of the human soul separated from what founds it. The Apocalypse of John is a message of longing and hope.’
 Paule Amblard, Saint Jean – L’Apocalypse, illustrée par la tapisserie d’Angers, Diane de Selliers Éditeur, Paris, 2017.
* Text translated from French by Gerardo del Cerro Santamaria.
Marketers used to have little choice. The only marketing was local. The local neighborhood, the local community.
Mass marketing changed that. Now, the goal was to flip the culture, all at once. Hit records, hit TV shows, products on the end cap at Target and national TV ads to support it all.
With few exceptions, that’s being replaced by a return to clusters.
The cluster might be geographic (they eat different potato chips in Tucscon than they do in Milwaukee) but they’re much more likely to be psychographic instead. What a group of people believe, who they connect with, what they hope for…
The minimal viable audience concept requires that you find your cluster and overwhelm them with delight. Choose the right cluster, show up with the right permission and sufficient magic and generosity and the idea will spread.
We’re all connected, but the future is local.
Footprints might be a fine compass, but they’re not much of a map. That’s on us.
More from Seth:
Mathematicians don’t need to check in with the head of math to find out what the talking points about fractions are this week.
That’s because fractions are fractions. Anyone can choose to do the math, and everyone will find the same truth.
Most of the progress in our culture of the last 200 years has come from using truth as a force for forward motion. Centralized proclamations are not nearly as resilient or effective as the work of countless individuals, aligned in their intention, engaging with the world.
We amplified this organizing principle when we began reporting on progress. If you’re able to encounter not just local truth but the reality as experienced by many others, collated honestly, then progress moves forward exponentially faster.
Show your work.
One of the dangers of our wide-open media culture of the last ten years has been that the signals aren’t getting through the noise.
Loud voices are drowning out useful ones. It’s difficult to determine, sometimes, who is accurately collating and correlating experience and reality and who is simply making stuff up as a way to distract us, to cause confusion and to gain influence.
I’m betting that in the long run, reality wins out. That the practical resilience that comes from experimentation produces more effective forward motion.
In the words attributed to Galileo, “Eppur si muove.”
It pays to curate the incoming, to ignore the noise and to engage with voices that are willing to show their work.
The question arises: is modern man…confused and exhausted by a multitude of words, opinions, doctrines, and slogans…psychologically capable of the clarity and confidence necessary for valid prayer? Is he not so frustrated and deafened by conflicting propagandas that he has lost his capacity for deep and simple trust?
-Life and Holiness
Where men live huddled together without true communication, there seems to be greater sharing and a more genuine communion. But this is not communion, only immersion in the general meaninglessness of countless slogans and cliches related over and over again so that in the end one listens without hearing and responds without thinking. The content din of empty words and machine noises, the endless booming of loudspeakers end by making true communication and true communion almost impossible.
Each individual in the mass in insulated by thick layers of insensibility. He doesn’t hear, he doesn’t think. He does not act, he is pushed. He does not talk, he produces conventional sounds when stimulated by the appropriate noises. he does not think, he secretes cliches.
-New Seeds of Contemplation
Culture and Clichés correspondent Lynn Berger
We’re constantly told to try something new. ‘Innovate, don’t stagnate.’ But doing things two, three or 30 times creates space for reflection – and innovation. And it can even bring unexpected joy.
‘Politicians know that there are votes to be won with an appeal to what is old and familiar. And they know that this message is most effective when it is repeated endlessly: repetition is the foundation beneath propaganda.
So here’s the paradox: in order to appreciate repetition for what it is, we actually need a new sort of attention.
It’s probably impossible to achieve the level of attentiveness we bring to first times the tenth or hundredth time we do something. But it’s entirely feasible to look more attentively at repetition, not to see it as a stumbling block but as a goal in itself. Not as a copy but as a variation. I suspect that the routines and rituals that make up daily life, the “grind” we’ve learned to fear, would feel less like a slap in the face to the zeitgeist, and more like something worthwhile all on its own.
Repetition is the norm: we’re constantly repeating things, whether we want to or not. But there’s a difference between inattentively doing things again and doing things again by choice. Conscious, attentive, deliberate. With the full awareness that this matters just as much, and with the willingness to see, hear and feel different things when you feel, hear and see them again.’
A certain level of fatigue sets in. The media landscape has fragmented so much that consumers can filter their information diet to those outlets that reflect their worldview.
The answer is nothing less than a political terminus after years of economic policies which have degraded democracy.
The decline traces the erosion of the public sphere, and the instrumentalisation of identity by powerful actors unwilling to share their power.
In this new landscape, political choices are loyalties – akin to picking a football team and sticking with it through triumph, relegation and internal scandal. Whether a football team or a president, the avatar gives voice to its supporters’ sense of tribalism.
These impulses may be relatively harmless when confined to sports, but when they are extended to politics, they effectively underwrite authoritarianism.
The term “post-democracy”, coined by political scientist Colin Crouch, describes a state where electoral politics is restricted to a limited number of issues, while the crucial needs of the citizenry are addressed by the private sector. These companies lobby politicians, who may be in hock to them. Corporate agenda enacted by elected representatives might look like ideology – the right to own firearms, for example, or not to pay tax for someone else’s healthcare – but they are in fact determined by commercial interest.
We need an entirely new politics: one that shifts us from an economic to a humanitarian bottom line, from a war economy to a peace economy, from a dirty economy to a clean economy, and from who we’ve been to who we’re ready to be. #repairamerica
Change starts with us as individuals. If one individual becomes more compassionate it will influence others and so we will change the world.
The worst could be yet to come. ‘According to a leaked internal Trump administration report that predicts 3,000 coronavirus deaths a day by June 1.
Why it matters: That’s nearly double the status quo. The report published by the N.Y. Times shows the possibility of 200,000 new cases a day by the end of May. In April, new daily cases hovered around 30,000. [The model was created by Johns Hopkins professor Justin Lessler.] @axios
[Kropotkin criticizes the State for destroying mutual aid institutions.]
‘Social Darwinists began to argue that evolutionary theory should inform politics, too. The whole effort of nature is to get rid of such, to clear the world of them, and make room for better.’
Reading this piece by a brilliant writer while knowing who is part of this current administration and knowing who are most COVID vulnerable this social Darwinism frame seems to aligned with the decisions being made during this pandemic. -dayle
“Social Darwinists” began to argue that evolutionary theory should inform politics, too. Like the billionaire Andrew Carnegie, who swore his wealth was a product of natural law: “We accept and welcome (…) great inequality,” he pronounced.
The philosopher Herbert Spencer sold hundreds of thousands of books in which he characterised life as an eternal battle. Regarding people living in poverty, he wrote: “The whole effort of nature is to get rid of such, to clear the world of them, and make room for better.”
Economic and biological theories began to converge. Where biologists said existence revolved around survival and reproduction, economists believed that we exist to consume and produce.
Humankind has risen to great heights by fighting each other and crushing its weak…what’s we need is a complete overhaul of assumptions about human nature…implications for how we design our democracies, schools and workplaces…the biggest questions we can ask. What is it to be human? How should we organise ourselves? And, can we trust one another?
A MAN WITH A DANGEROUS IDEA: TRUST EACH OTHER
But what if it’s not survival of the fittest, but survival of the kindest, most cooperative?
In 19th-century Russia there lived a man who believed that mutual aid, cooperation, and friendship were how humankind truly thrives.
Today, Progress correspondent Rutger Bregman tells the extraordinary story of Pyotr Alexeyevich Kropotkin and the important lesson we can take from him.
Journalist and radio host Kai Ryssdal: “History matters.” @kairyssdal
Ah, here’s a bleak new study from the NY Fed: In the wake of the 1918-1920 influenza, German cities that got hit harder saw: A) Lower spending on education in the post-crisis period B) More support for the Nazi party
We’re Being Too Optimistic About What Post-Pandemic America Will Look Like
The coronavirus has revealed so many of our institutions to be vulnerable or broken. But that doesn’t mean they will change.
In March, when Politico surveyed “more than 30 smart, macro thinkers” on what will likely change when the pandemic is over, the predictions were heartening, for the most part. They included: a decrease in toxic partisanship, a renewed trust in experts and science, greater government involvement in pharmaceutical production and transformations to elections that could include widespread voting by mail and electronic voting. VICE’s tech desk did a similar exercise, pointing out that the coronavirus has exposed a lot of weaknesses and problems in the U.S. that could be alleviated by progressive policies ranging from universal health care to abolishing ICE. The online magazine Yale Environment 360 wrote that Bill Gates and other optimists have speculated that “the sudden transformation of our lives by COVID-19 will teach us about the virtues of mutual aid, and that it will shock policymakers into being more precautionary in the face of future risks,” most notably the existential danger of climate change.
There’s no denying that this kind of positive thinking about the future is attractive, and has undoubtedly served as a coping mechanism. And some coronavirus predictions seem much more likely than others (for instance, that those who can do their jobs from home may not return to offices for months). But there are already signs that in many ways, the world will snap back to normal at the first available opportunity. The notion that COVID-19 will shock us into being more responsible about climate change or will lead us to reform our institutions underrates the sheer force of inertia that made us so vulnerable to the virus in the first place.
Sure, coronavirus should be a wake-up call, on so many fronts. But leaders, particularly in the U.S., are likely to just hit the snooze button.
If the coronavirus pandemic follows the path of the 1918 flu and the 2008 economic crisis, the world’s political energies will largely be devoted to restoring what we had, rather than using the opportunity to change things for the better. Whenever this strange, long moment in history ends, we might be surprised by how much things resemble our old world order. And that will be a disaster.
My name is Patrick and I’m politically illiterate. You are too.
Talking politics often feels like a personal health hazard. Unless we can learn to understand our own roles in a dysfunctional system, there’s no chance of fixing it. Come learn with me.
“Let’s start with the term “politics”. I like the definitions of British political theorist Bernard Crick, who asserts that “politics is not merely a struggle for power among groups whose aim is to control the state”.Instead, Crick identifies three parts in politics: deciding who gets what, when and how; the exercise of power; and ensuring the welfare of whole communities.
On to “political illiteracy”. By this, in my case, I mean the flawed state of my political knowledge and the political behaviours which are its consequence. My definition of illiteracy, in other words, is not just about how I think politically; it’s about what I do and how I act in everyday life.
I was shocked. I wondered: how could world-leading “democracies” dodge the climate question at no political cost?
Too often, talking politics – whether it’s elections, or ending poverty, climate crisis, or a hundred other things besides – feels like a personal health hazard. Do you know that feeling?
In this series for The Correspondent, I will question the causes of our shared political illiteracy and explore potential remedies. Is better literacy in fact learnable? How might it transform the way we talk and do politics? That doing part will mean trying to plug the gaps in both our knowledge and our emotional skills.
On my office wall is a calligraphy that reads: “Peace in oneself, peace in the world”.
Until we can better understand how politics works, including our own parts in its dysfunction, there’s no chance fixing it. No one escapes here – not from its causes, nor its effects – though many suffer more than others.”
Patrick Chalmers is a journalist and film maker focused on making political structures truly democratic. He worked at Reuters for 11 years then wrote Fraudcast News (2012). He directs All Hands On, a short-documentary series on ordinary people doing radical democracy.
‘I love this — taken by Brooke Williams at Dartmouth’ -Terry Tempest Williams
Remember: You are alive, and a better world is possible.
by Eric Holthaus/The Correspondent
‘Warm weather is back, and at least here in Minnesota, we are remembering we are still alive.
Last weekend, my preschoolers and I couldn’t help but spend all day enjoying the weather. Although the morning was still chilly, with frost on the newly green grass, the temperature quickly warmed up to more than 20C (68F) in the afternoon, the best days of spring here so far.
The whole time we were outside, I was keenly aware of the profound luxury that fresh air and freedom in nature are these days, but the thing that struck me most was the sky.
Looking straight up, the sky here was a remarkable shade of dark blue, almost Pantone ultraviolet.
In my best meteorological opinion, this breathtaking colour was due to a combination of a high pressure system overhead on a sunny spring day mixed with the effects of this pandemic: fewer clouds due to a 90% reduction of airplanes in the sky and a sharp drop in air pollution from the shuttering of factories and freeways. As I researched a little further, my suspicion was confirmed: bluer skies aren’t just happening here in Minnesota, they’re happening all around the world.
Airplane contrails create temporary high-level cirrus clouds, which on balance sharply warm the planet by allowing sunlight through to the Earth’s surface, but blocking heat from escaping back out into space. It’s a much greater warming effectthan the greenhouse gases airplanes emit from burning jet fuel. And right now, these clouds are almost entirely absent.
But probably the biggest factor is the sharp drop-off in air pollution, which creates a palpably thick omnipresent haze in almost every major city worldwide. Air pollution is one of the leading causes of death in nearly every country, and in low-income countries, it’s the world’s leading killer. These blue skies are literally life-saving.
Still, we shouldn’t be cheering this pandemic,even if it’s giving us cleaner skies. Wishing for one form of death to save us from another form of death is a false choice, and we don’t have to make it. Instead, we should take this moment to remember that our lives are a gift, and that a better world is possible.’
Don’t forget: disasters and crises bring out the best in people
“Dear neighbours. If you’re over 65 and your immune system is weak, I’d like to help you. Since I’m not in the risk group, I can help you in the coming weeks by doing chores or running errands. If you need help, leave a message by the door with your phone number. Together, we can make it through anything. You’re not alone!”
“We’ve learned how to accept help from others,” writes a woman living in Wuhan.“Because of this quarantine, we have bonded with and supported each other in ways that I’ve never experienced in nine years of living here.” Millions of Chinese people are encouraging each other to stand strong, using the Cantonese expression “jiayou” (“don’t give up”). YouTube videos show people in Wuhan singing from the windows of their homes, joined by numerous neighbours nearby, their voices rising in chorus and echoing amongst the soaring towers of Chinese cities.In Siena and Naples, both on complete lockdown, people are singing together from the balconies of their homes.
Children in Italy are writing “andrà tutto bene” (“everything will be all right”) on streets and walls, while countless neighbours are helping each other.On Thursday, an Italian journalist told the Guardian about what he had witnessed with his own eyes: “After a moment of panic in the population, there is now a new solidarity. In my community the drugstores bring groceries to people’s homes, and there is a group of volunteers that visit houses of people over 65.”A tour guide from Venice notes: “It’s human to be scared, but I don’t see panicking, nor acts of selfishness.”
The words “andrà tutto bene” – everything will be all right – were first used by a few mothers from the province of Puglia, who posted the slogan on Facebook. From there, it spread across the country, going viral almost as fast as the pandemic. The coronavirus isn’t the only contagion – kindness, hope and charity are spreading too.
As a species of animal that evolved to make connections and work together, it feels strange to suppress our desire for contact. People enjoy touching each other, and find joy in seeing each other in person – but now we have to keep our physical distance.
Still, I believe we can grow closer in the end, finding each other in this crisis. As Giuseppe Conte, the Italian prime minister, said this week: “Let’s distance ourselves from each other today so that we can embrace each other more warmly […] tomorrow.”
The pandemic has exposed how interconnected and interdependent we are as humans. Everyday practices, like handwashing and covering our sneezes, have become the most basic duty we owe to friends and strangers alike. And we’re finding thoughtful ways to care for another amidst the tumult.
Editor, The On Being Project
“Hope, for me, just means … coming to terms with the fact that we don’t know what will happen and that there’s maybe room for us to intervene.”
“Great literature will come from this. Great art will come from this. Great awareness will come from this. Great love will come from this. More than anything else, great people will come from this – if we allow it to expand our hearts and minds.”
‘In the days since the Seattle area became the epicenter of the outbreak, the outpouring of support has been moving and inspiring. On an individual level, people have offered free babysitting, cooking and food delivery for harried parents and medically vulnerable older adults.
After racist coronavirus fears drove down business in Seattle’s Chinatown International District, Bill Tashima, a board member for the local Japanese American Citizens League, created a Facebook group on Sunday to share ways to support small restaurants. Within days, the group had nearly 5,000 members, sharing ideas for restaurant takeout to boost business in the struggling district and creating a virtual “tip jar” that one member was using to collect donations for restaurant workers.
The artistic community, which already experiences economic insecurity in good times due to unpredictable contract-based work, saw all public events canceled like dominoes in the past week. Seattle-area author Ijeoma Oluo quickly set up a GoFundMe on Monday to raise and distribute funds for artists. Within days, the fund raised $80,000 and distributed $10,000 and was in the process of distributing another $30,000 to artists directly impacted by loss of income due to the coronavirus. Another group of people started a live-performance streaming site on Facebook called “The Quarantine Sessions,” where artists can perform and the audience can tip the band before their performance starts.
To support those who are most vulnerable in an emergency, a grassroots effort formed in Seattle called “Covid19MutualAid,” centered on people with disabilities, people of color, undocumented people, older adults and others. In addition to recruiting volunteers for direct support such as food and grocery deliveries, the group is also advocating for systemic changes that would make communities less vulnerable in the first place.
When Seattle Public Schools announced Wednesday they would be closing abruptly the next day, people across the city jumped into action, knowing that for the 32% of Seattle school district families that are low income, school lunches are a critical part of how children stay fed. Volunteers and staff distributed school lunches for pickup at Highland Park Elementary in West Seattle on Thursday and in Rainier Beach, Washington Building Leaders of Change or WA-BLOC and food justice organization FEEST planned a free hot lunch called “Feed the Beach” for families on Friday with additional lunches twice a week after that.
These are just a few of the many grassroots efforts that are just getting started in our region. Larger entities like the Seattle Foundation are also taking action, with rapid response resources like the COVID-19 Response Fund quadrupling to $9 million in a few days.
The coming months will challenge us in ways we have never before imagined. But if we continue, as writer Sonya Renee Taylor said, to “put radical love into practice,” we might emerge stronger than we began.’
Editor’s note: The spread of novel coronavirus has left the state of Washington in a state of uncertainty. But amid the growing pandemic, members of the community have shown remarkable acts of kindness and efforts to take care of each other. From crowdsourced relief funds for local artists, to readers sending our own newsroom pizza after a long day, many people are rising to the occasion to uplift one another.
Mattia Ferraresi is a writer for the Italian newspaper Il Foglio.
A message from Italy
‘So here’s my warning for the United States: It didn’t have to come to this.
We of course couldn’t stop the emergence of a previously unknown and deadly virus. But we could have mitigated the situation we are now in, in which people who could have been saved are dying. I, and too many others, could have taken a simple yet morally loaded action: We could have stayed home.
What has happened in Italy shows that less-than-urgent appeals to the public by the government to slightly change habits regarding social interactions aren’t enough when the terrible outcomes they are designed to prevent are not yet apparent; when they become evident, it’s generally too late to act. I and many other Italians just didn’t see the need to change our routines for a threat we could not see.
Italy has now been in lockdown since March 9; it took weeks after the virus first appeared here to realize that severe measures were absolutely necessary.
The way to avoid or mitigate all this in the United States and elsewhere is to do something similar to what Italy, Denmark, and Finland are doing now, but without wasting the few, messy weeks in which we thought a few local lockdowns, canceling public gatherings, and warmly encouraging working from home would be enough stop the spread of the virus. We now know that wasn’t nearly enough.
Life in lockdown is hard, but it is also an exercise in humility. Our collective well-being makes our little individual wishes look a bit whimsical and small-minded. My wife and I work from home, or at least we try to. We help the kids with their homework, following the instructions their teachers send every morning via voice messages and video, in a moving attempt to keep alive their relationships with their students.
Strangely, it’s also a moment in which our usual individualistic, self-centered outlook is waning a bit. In the end, each of us is giving up our individual freedom in order to protect everybody, especially the sick and the elderly. When everybody’s health is at stake, true freedom is to follow instructions.’
Eric Klinenberg, NYU Social Sciences Professor
‘It’s an open question whether Americans have enough social solidarity to stave off the worst possibilities of the coronavirus pandemic. There’s ample reason to be skeptical. We’re politically divided, socially fragmented, skeptical of one another’s basic facts and news sources. The federal government has failed to prepare for the crisis. The president and his staff have repeatedly dissembled about the mounting dangers to our health and security. Distrust and confusion are rampant. In this context, people take extreme measures to protect themselves and their families. Concern for the common good diminishes. We put ourselves, not America, first.
But crises can be switching points for states and societies, and the coronavirus pandemic could well be the moment when the United States rediscovers its better, collective self. Ordinary Americans, regardless of age or party, already have abundant will to promote public health and protect the most vulnerable. Although only a fraction of us are old, sick or fragile, nearly all of us love and care for someone who is.
Today Americans everywhere are worried about the fate of friends and family members. Without stronger solidarity and better leadership, though, millions of our neighbors may not get the support they need.
We’re not likely to get better leadership from the Trump administration, but there’s a lot we can do to build social solidarity. Develop lists of local volunteers who can contact vulnerable neighbors. Provide them companionship. Help them order food and medications. Recruit teenagers and college students to teach digital communications skills to older people with distant relatives and to deliver groceries to those too weak or anxious to shop. Call the nearest homeless shelter or food pantry and ask if it needs anything.
Why not begin right now?’
‘If you’re like me and worried about your favorite local businesses right now, buy their gift certificates. It will help with their immediate liquidity needs and you can use it later once we’re past this.’
CANTICLE 6 by May Sarton
Alone one is never lonely: the spirit
In a quiet garden, in a cool house, abiding single there;
The spirit adventures in sleep, the sweet thirst-slaking
When only the moon’s reflection touches the wild hair.
There is no place more intimate than the spirit alone:
It finds a lovely certainty in the evening and the morning.
It is only where two have come together bone against bone
That those alonenesses take place, when, without warning
The sky opens over their heads to an infinite hole in space;
It is only turning at night to a lover that one learns
He is set apart like a star forever and that sleeping face
(For whom the heart has cried, for whom the frail hand burns)
Is swung out in the night alone, so luminous and still,
The waking spirit attends, the loving spirit gazes
Without communion, without touch, and comes to know at last
Out of a silence only and never when the body blazes
That love is present, that always burns alone, however steadfast.
Last night I watched a documentary on war, and the part I carry with me today was the spectacle of a line of maybe 20 blinded soldiers being led, single-file, away from a yellow cloud of gas.
That must be what accounts for this morning’s brightness— sunlight slathered over everything from the royal palms to the store awnings, from the blue Corolla at the curb to a purple flower climbing a fence, one gift of sight after another.
I couldn’t see their bandaged faces, but each man had one hand resting on the shoulder of the man in front of him so that every man was guiding and being guided at the same time, and in the same tempo, given the unison of their small, cautious steps.
“In these days of anxiety, I wanted to find a way to continue to share some of the music that gives me comfort. The first of my Songs of Comfort:
“That idea that power cannot be accompanied by notions of compassion and kindness and empathy. That’s something that I refuse to accept.”
Prime Minister Jacinta Ardern
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks to media at Waitangi on February 06, 2020. Photo: Fiona Goodall / Getty
by Bregje Hofstede
‘Picture a leader of a country and, chances are, you’ll picture a man.
This isn’t surprising. The majority of world leaders are men, so our ideas about the characteristics of leadership are so deeply ingrained, it’d take someone pretty outstanding to change them.
Someone like New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinta Ardern.
Far-right, ‘strongman’ rulers are on the rise around the world. But not in New Zealand, where Jacinda Ardern, the 39-year-old progressive prime minister, is challenging perceptions of what a leader should look like and showing us that society is ready for change.
This prime minister is showing the world that leadership isn’t a male trait. It’s a human one
Imagine a powerful person. The prime minister of a rich country, say, taking the stage for a press conference. Think of the voice, the dress sense, the way a prime minister speaks and sounds. Who do you see in front of you? Let me guess.
A man in a suit.
This is our reflex, our stock idea of a prime minister. It’s an image that plays tricks on many female politicians. Take Senator Elizabeth Warren, a prominent candidate in the Democratic primaries to select a challenger to Donald Trump, the US president, in elections in November this year. After a promising start in autumn 2019, Warren’s campaign has been plagued by loud speculation about her “electability”. She’s a woman, after all.
According to Warren, her rival Senator Bernie Sanders told her during a private conversation in 2018 that a woman can’t win in 2020.It’s a claim that Sanders has denied, but the grounds for such opinions are easy to find. In the 2016 presidential race, Hillary Clinton fought Trump in a tough, often sexist campaign. For all her political experience, the word went around that a woman was not “presidential” and hence not “electable”. The same assumptions have hurt Warren’s campaign.
Governments in Hungary, United States and Brazil are led by macho misogynists. In New Zealand, the opposite happened.
Is it credible in 2020 that women are still not electable to the highest level of power? If you follow the news, you’ll understand the roots of this question. Trump won in 2016 despite – or perhaps, thanks to? – numerous accusations of sexual misconduct and an audio recording of his infamous “Grab ’em by the pussy” comment during a tour of a television studio in 2005.
In New Zealand, the exact opposite happened.
Since 2017, the New Zealand government has been led by a woman who is still (until July) under 40 years old. Ardern’s victory can be compared to other recent political insurgents Barack Obama, Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron.
It is a measure of international interestthat “Jacindamania” has entered the political lexicon. At the same time, however, the same political climate has rained hatred upon Ardern. Her personal style has upset millennia-old ideas about men, women and power: ideas made visible by the sexist reactions which follow her.
The phenomenon of New Zealand’s second female prime minister shows how the prevalence of these ingrained cultural ideas and, thanks to Ardern and others, how such thinking can shift.
Her message is that people depend on one another – not on money, numbers or achievements.
Mary Beard, a British classicist, cites this incident in her 2017 book Women & Power, a history of misogyny from Athens and Rome to today. She begins with an account of Homer’s Odyssey, in which Queen Penelope, wife of Ulysses, is silenced in public by her newly grown-up son because “speech is a man’s business”. To Roman orators, high (female) voices expressed “cowardice”. For too many famous novelists,female voices resembled the mooing of cows or the braying of donkeys, sounds which polluted language.
Sharp, too high, unpleasant – the voices of female politicians or leaders would have ‘no authority’
Beard’s book describes a serial smear campaign against the female voice. She shows how prevailing ideas about eloquence and rhetoric are rooted in a classical tradition which dismissed female voices as an aberration. To this day, women are much more often said to be squeaking, whining, squawking, screaming or cackling. Or that their voices are “just uncomfortable” to hear. Like Warren’s, described by a journalist as “unbearably shrill”.
Authority is not innate. It’s something we grant or deny to each other. It’s cultural.It’s not true to say that a woman’s voice can’t have weight, argues Beard, only that we haven’t learned yet to give that weight to women’s voices.’
‘Stephen Colbert travels to his home state of South Carolina ahead of that state’s Democratic primary to dig into some meaty campaign issues with presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Special thanks to our friends at HUSK Restaurant in Charleston for the warm hospitality.’
We think that we believe what we see. Actually, the opposite is true: we begin with belief, and then we see. What do you believe?
-Judith Lasater, PhD.
Think about trust…whom you put your trust in. Trust is earned.
‘Corporations and billionaires get tax cuts while convincing individuals that our consumer choices make the world a better place.
Today, managing editor Eliza Anyangwe makes one thing clear: we must let go of our misguided devotion to personal agency and take action alongside other people if we want to bring these systems down.
History shows that the only way to change the system is to stand with the people around us and fight it head on.
Individual action isn’t bad or meaningless – it’s completely natural – but it’s no substitute for tax reform, migration policy reform, criminal justice reform, intellectual property law reform, international trade law reform and so on.
It’s clear that when we have the means, we’re happy to act – recycle, buy ethical, go green – but we need to think beyond our individual actions and choices and learn to talk, plan, and get to work alongside others if anything is going to change.
On occasion, falling down the rabbit hole that is Instagram yields positive results. It was there, on the social media platform, where I learned that American writer Anand Giridharadas would be speaking in Amsterdam. And, as though the gods of procrastination were this once glad to reward me for my fealty, the event would be free.
And so off I went to listen to the best-selling author of Winners Take AllRead a summary of the book here talk about the fallacy of “win-win”. Our economic model, Giridharadas explained, was indeed creating winners – who were winning by greater margins than they’d ever done at any other period in human history.Read stats about global inequality from the international NGO, OxfamBut, there were also losers, left to gather up the crumbs from under the table; and a new entrepreneurial class who believed in their ability to “do well and do good”.
(American writer Anand) Giridharadas offered an answer: perhaps the success of our current system was in part thanks to the ability of that system to focus our attentions on personal agency rather than systemic transformation.
I believed in the power of my own agency: if the social enterprise lark didn’t work, I would choose an employer with a moral compass. And I would be a better consumer; picking products and services that were good for people and planet. Politicians didn’t listen, I reasoned, but corporations did, and they were in charge anyway, so I would vote with my “spending power” – boycotting those brands who had poor records on the things I cared about, and rewarding with my meagre income those companies who took their social responsibility seriously.
We scarcely consider the fact that for all of its virtues, ethical or conscious consumerism is no substitute for tax reform, migration policy reform, criminal justice reform, intellectual property law reform, international trade law reform and so on. What we have contented ourselves with doing instead is essentially playing the same game (consumerism) by the same rules (I buy, therefore I am). We’ve simply changed the ball (ethical products and services).
My guess is that we fear that if we weren’t doing this – buying better, recycling more, eating less meat – we would be doing nothing at all. We have lost sight of the value, or even the possibility, of collective action and it’s easy to see why.
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
But (this) will force me to reimagine what good I can do alongside other people, rather than in spite of them. I will see and hear the challenges of those who are most intimately affected by the issues, and maybe one day, when one of us has a grand idea that can “bring the whole system down”, we’ll know other foot soldiers who can stand alongside us.’
Rev. Masando Hiraoka, Mile Hi Church in Lakewood, Colorado:
“I’ve got to make a confession: I often find it hard to relate with the religious figures of the past. Feeling this, I can also breathe into the vows of the Buddhist who takes refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha as my grandfather took refuge in the Colorado, the only state that welcomed Japanese Americans during World War Ii.
This is why I love Colorado, why I take such pride in where I’m form. It was sanctuary, like the sanctuary that Medina became for Muhammad, peace be upon him, and the first Muslims who were expelled from their home, their holy land of Mecca, because they were considered a threat.
The restoration of dignity and the seeking of safety is part of our legacy.
I believe we know how do do this togetherness. We’ve been taking refuge in each other forever. So we continue this great tradition of staring over again and again and let the ancient ones of the past come back alive in the present through us.
The story of peace is encoded in our DNA. Refuge is written on our bones.”
Center for Action & Contemplation:
“Religion is undergoing a massive shift in perspective . . . as wrenching as the Copernican revolution, which required humanity to bid farewell to an Earth-centered understanding of our place in the cosmos. The religious revolution on the horizon today might well be called the “Evidential Reformation.” We humbly shift away from a human-centric, ethnocentric, and shortsighted view of what is important. At the same time, we expand our very identities to encompass the immense journey of life made known by the full range of sciences. In so doing, we all become elders of a sort, instinctively willing to do whatever it takes to pass on a world of health and opportunities no lesser than the one into which we were born.” –The Rev. Michael Dowd, Eco-theologian
Fr. Richard Rohr:
An evidential worldview has become crucial. We now know that evolutionary and ecological processes are at the root of life and human culture. To disregard, to dishonor, these processes through our own determined ignorance and cultural/religious self-focus is an evil that will bring untold suffering to countless generations of our own kind and all our relations. We must denounce such a legacy. Ours is thus a call to . . . sacred activism. [Twenty-five] years ago, Carl Sagan both chided and encouraged us in this way:
How is it that hardly any major religion has looked at science and concluded, “This is better than we thought! The universe is much bigger than our prophets said, grander, more subtle, more elegant. God must be even greater than we dreamed.” . . . A religion, old or new, that stressed the magnificence of the universe as revealed by modern science might be able to draw forth reserves of reverence and awe hardly tapped by the conventional faiths. Sooner or later, such a religion will emerge. 
 Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space (Random House Publishing: 1994), 50.
More from Fr. Rohr:
“However, if we truly want to be a part of the “Evidential Reformation,” we must each do our part to understand and share the ways science and our faith affirm one another.”
The universe is a single reality—one long sweeping spectacular process of interconnected events. The universe is not a place where evolution happens; it is evolution happening. It is not a stage on which dramas unfold; it is the unfolding drama itself. . . . This [great cosmological] story shows us in the deepest possible sense that we are all sisters and brothers—fashioned from the same stellar dust, energized by the same star, nourished by the same planet, endowed with the same genetic code, and threatened by the same evils. This story . . . humbles us before the magnitude and complexity of creation. . . . It bewilders us with the improbability of our existence, astonishes us with the interdependence of all things, and makes us feel grateful for the lives we have. And not the least of all, it inspires us to express our gratitude to the past by accepting a solemn and collective responsibility for the future. —Loyal Rue 
 Loyal Rue, Everybody’s Story: Wising Up to the Epic of Evolution (SUNY Press: 2000), 42-43.
“Few things are more important than how we think about our inner and outer nature and our mortality. Thus far, the Evidential Reformation has been centered in science. Now is the time for our faith traditions to honor evidential revelation—facts as God’s native tongue—and carry on the vital tasks of interpretation, integration, and action.
Ours is the prodigal species. Having squandered our inheritance, we are waking up to our painful predicament. Thankfully God—Reality personified—awaits us with open arms and a welcoming heart. As Thomas Berry would remind us, the entire Earth community is rooting us on!” Rev. Michael Dowd
Fr. Rohr: “I believe we have squandered our inheritance, which is the earth itself, the majesties and mysteries it holds. We’ve taken it for granted, using it too freely for our own selfish purposes while ignoring the deeply divine messages communicated in everything from the smallest sub-atomic particle to the largest black holes. Surely it is time for us to bring science and religion together.”
Just as Augustine reinterpreted Christianity in light of Plato in the 4th century, and Aquinas integrated Aristotle in the 13th, today there are dozens of theologians across the spectrum re-envisioning the Christian faith. Whose ideas are they integrating now? Darwin, Einstein, Hubble, Wilson and all those who have corrected, and continually contribute to, an evidence-based understanding of biological, cosmic, and cultural evolution. . . .
Few things are more important than how we think about our inner and outer nature and our mortality. Thus far, the Evidential Reformation has been centered in science. Now is the time for our faith traditions to honor evidential revelation—facts as God’s native tongue—and carry on the vital tasks of interpretation, integration, and action. –Rev. Michael Dowd
Democracy is supposed to be a system of ruling ‘by the people, for the people’, but representative democracy (democracy as it is practised in most of the west) actively and repeatedly keeps ‘the people’ out of the decision-making process.
Journalist Patrick Chalmers, an expert on political structures, looks to Athens – the birthplace of this modern, failing system – to find a better solution in citizens’ assemblies.
An Athenian remedy: the rise, fall and possible rebirth of democracy
Aside from clashes between police and protestors, Athenians that summer held people’s assemblies, mass gatherings of strangers talking together in public spaces. These assemblies were what first brought Sagris to Syntagma Square with her mother Tatiana Skanatovits, an actress and assembly organiser. Daily meetings in front of parliament saw people tell their stories of crisis, debate alternatives, and decide on assembly actions.
The economic crisis triggered a well-documented political crisis, the irony of which is not lost on those from the country that gave the world democracy
“If we are talking about democracy, I believe that right now I’m not living in a democratic regime, so I don’t see why I should participate in a process like this,” he said the day before the ballot. “It hurts me deep in the soul to say that, but after 30 years I will not vote.”
For Aristotle, whether states were oligarchic or democratic was deeply ingrained in their ways of working – the politics of structure itself. He believed that cities that chose their office holders, jurors and judges by lottery were democratic and that those using elections were oligarchic – that’s Greek for government of, by, and for the few.
Citizens’ assemblies are happening everywhere from Australia to Canada, Bolivia to France.
The need to build trust and broad interest are also key. After decades of political apathy and the erosion of trust in elected representatives, citizens need faith in their own capacity to shape policy. And that of their peers. Knowing what examples of self-governance have worked, and how, certainly helps.
The past is still present: why colonialism deserves better coverage
By Elliot Ross
Countries such as Britain and the USA also retain control over colonial territories. And let’s not forget the settler colonial countries such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States, where the colonisation of indigenous lands has been entrenched and institutionalised in the long-term.
Colonial domination not only shapes our ideas about race, but also strongly influences how people think about class, culture, gender, and sexuality
The roots of autocracyand corrupt government run deep. Purely cultural, ahistoricalexplanations not only risk reproducing racist tropes, they mask the role of powerful international corporate interests in sustaining systems of resource extraction, profiteering, exploitation and rent-seeking that sustain the underlying economic transactions that has always made colonialism financially profitable for colonisers.
Everyday Colonialism is also about probing my own status as a beneficiary of these long histories
Starting on 30 September, you’ll be able to follow them on our English-language platform, where they’ll join forces with our 50,000 members to investigate some of the major themes of our time.
While The Correspondent is a relatively small start-up, we’ve done our absolute best to put together a diverse team — both in terms of the topics our correspondents will be covering and the locations they’ll be reporting from.
After launching, we’ll introduce you to some of our freelance correspondents, who will be helping us to cover an even greater variety of topics and perspectives. We’ll also be translating internationally relevant pieces by a number of our Dutch correspondents into English in order to share their work — and their unique insights — with the rest of the world.’
At 28, OluTimehin Adegbeye (1991) may be the youngest member of our team of correspondents, but her CV speaks for itself.
Timehin’s work on political power structures, gender, and social inequality has been published in multiple languages around the world. She has written for a variety of publications including This Is Africa, Africa is a Country, and BellaNaija, and her 2017 TED Talk on the future of urban development has garnered well over two million views (and counting) — it’s no wonder her Wikipedia bio describes her as “a prominent figure among Nigerian and African feminists of her generation”.
As our correspondent covering the topic of Othering, she’ll investigate the myriad ways in which people are forced into the role of “the other” — in the media, in politics, and in everyday life. Her mission: to understand what divides us, in order to discover what unites us.
If you’ve spent any time at all on Twitter, there’s a good chance you’ve encountered science journalist Eric Holthaus (1981) at some point. With nearly half a million followers, he’s one of the most influential voices in the debate surrounding one of the great challenges of our time: climate change.
A trained meteorologist, Eric combines an impressive grasp of climate science with an insatiable desire to find solutions to this problem. His work has previously appeared in The Washington Post, Rolling Stone, Slate and Grist, to name just a few.
As our Climate correspondent, Eric not only aims to shed light on the causes and consequences of climate change, but he also wants to enlist your help in answering the question: what needs to change between now and 2030 in order to avert a global climate crisis?
During our very first Skype meeting, Italian journalist Irene Caselli(1981) shared with us a startling insight: when it comes to who you are, who you’ll become, and the world you’ll grow up in, virtually nothing will have as great an impact as the first 1,000 days of your life.
After spending over a decade in Ecuador, Venezuela and Argentina reporting for major news outlets like the BBC, Deutsche Welle and The Washington Post, Irene will be joining our dream team here at The Correspondent.
On her beat, The First 1,000 Days, she’ll examine how our earliest years — a period that everyone experiences but no one remembers — have the power to shape not only the people we become, but also the societies we live in. From the influence of parental leave on economic inequality to the latest in brain development research to the long-term consequences of stress, Irene will explore issues that affect everyone, not just those of us with children.
During a week-long introductory session at our headquarters in Amsterdam, we asked all five of our correspondents to bring along an object with sentimental value. When it was his turn, Indian journalist Tanmoy Goswami (1983) opened his bag and drew out a small medical booklet about his dealing with depression.
This experience has proven to be an invaluable source of inspiration for his work as a journalist. Tanmoy, a self-described “mental-health nerd”, specializes in reporting on the science and economics of mental healthcare around the world.
His career path has taken him from Fortune India and Times Internetto his new home here at The Correspondent. In his role as our Sanitycorrespondent, he’ll continue his transnational quest to explore the many facets of modern mental health.
As you might guess from the title of her new book, We Need New Stories, Nesrine Malik (1977) is a journalist on a mission: to seek out new ideas for a better world.
Born in Sudan, based in London, and frequently spotted in Cairo, Nesrine has been shaped by a variety of cultures, and she’s eager to find out what we can learn from them. Nesrine made a name for herself as a writer and columnist for The Guardian (you can read her column here) and was awarded the 2019 Orwell Prize for her work on identity politics.
As our Better Politics correspondent, she’ll embody one of The Correspondent’s core principles: we don’t just cover the problem, but also what can be done about it. So get ready to join Nesrine on her mission — we can’t wait to see what kinds of ideas our members come up with!
The Correspondent will launch as your platform for unbreaking news on September 30, 2019.
In order to launch on September 30, we’ll build a team of correspondents that help us understand the world around us. As we start to do that, we want to get a better sense of what you — our 47,000 members — deem the most important developments or topics for them to cover.