For readers who only have time to peruse a few articles from the links below, the five I think are most important to read are *** highlighted. Just a caution that this month’s top five make for rather grim reading.
photo I took on the Bowen Island causeway last week
Six-thirty AM: a poem by Doug Anderson
And the black lines the trees made at sundown yesterday
in one direction now point the other, saying
see what you missed in your life that was there all the time.
I thought of people I knew in my young swagger,
whose names I can’t remember, who cared for me
and I didn’t care back (how the mind remembers these things
suddenly, in later years, when one can no longer run as fast
away from self-knowledge to some sensual excess).
And then there are colors between the colors
and different shades of them and that Japanese elm
is wild next to the red-leafed maple—who was it
that wrote her name in the book of poems she gave me
on whatever occasion? These things sting like the tape
the nurse yanks off the healed cut taking hair with it.
The fields are greening themselves without our help
and the willow is blossoming in its gold/green way.
This all happens whether we care or not and is not sad
if we don’t. Something like snow hanging on in May
is sorrowful, and a man with a few years left
saying to the crocus, I lived, I fell in love here.
image by Tadeusz Nalepa, via Umair Haque’s Eudaimonia
*** The Net Zero trap: Politicians, corporations and ‘think tanks’ keep putting off our reckoning with the unsustainability of our economy by assuming that some magical future technology with a ‘negative carbon footprint’ (like the pipe-dream of carbon sequestration, or geoengineering) will balance our current ruinous emissions levels and allow us to go on despoiling the planet and the atmosphere. Don’t fall for it, say three professors of systems and ecology. Only an immediate, drastic, global, sustained reduction in economic activity across the board could prevent 3ºC of temperature rise by 2100, and even 2ºC is guaranteed to lead to runaway climate change. And after three decades of political blather that has seen emissions continue to increase, that ain’t going to happen.
A goal is not a plan: Umair explains that Biden’s climate goals have no chance of being achieved because there is absolutely no plan to achieve them, just a continuing dependence on neoliberal capitalist market forces, voluntary actions, and new technologies, and a threadbare hope that will somehow be enough.
photo “Home Schooling” by Ignacio Lanús
Forest gardens, the aboriginal permaculture: Before we had ‘catastrophic’ agriculture (heavy intervention monoculture planting, weeding, fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, and irrigation) indigenous cultures on six continents used forest gardens, which require only a careful study of local ecology and strategic planting of locally-compatible food crops for a few years to produce forest-canopied gardens that sustain themselves indefinitely with no human maintenance. Thanks to Tree Bressen for the link.
*** The case for legalizing all drugs: Criminalization of drugs is a recent phenomenon, less than two centuries old. People use drugs to heal themselves physically and psychologically. Regulation of, and usage warnings on, drugs make perfect sense, but making them illegal makes no sense at all. The ‘war on drugs’, which never ends and wastes money that could be spent improving living conditions so there is less need for them, has never made any sense, except to shameless moralists, greedy Big Pharma companies and bloated police forces looking to justify their existence, argues addiction researcher Carl Hart.
Curbing coercive and controlling behaviour: Psychological abuse is hard to regulate, but it is often the precursor or accompanier of physical violence and even murder of ‘friends’ and family, particularly by men who abuse women. On the one hand, we want all the tools we can have to fight psychological abuse, both for the damage it causes and what it often escalates to. But on the other hand, do we want police, who have a lousy record dealing with domestic violence, and who lack the skills and training to intervene effectively, to be the ones using these tools?
Reforming the ‘American’ diet: Mark Bittman’s new history of food argues “the rise of uniformity and convenience in food has mostly benefited large companies, fuelled societal inequities and ravaged human health and the environment”.
Following the clues behind disinformation: McGill University’s Office for Science and Society has been using clever, concise, science-based videos to correct and gently ridicule mis- and disinformation about matters of health and science since long before the pandemic. Now they’ve upped their game, taking on anti-vaxxers, conspiracy theorists, fraudsters and quacks like Joe Mercola.
What would you like to work on next, staff?: Corporate Rebels has an interesting idea for progressive organizations: allot some % of all employees’ time to ‘bottom-up’ innovative projects dreamt up by the employees themselves, and let the employees pitch their ideas, and then let their colleagues allot their discretionary hours to whichever projects made most sense to them. Thanks to Tree Bressen for the link, and the one that follows.
Using data to hammer home gender discrimination: GenderAvenger provides clever tools that allow you to track to what degree your Zoom and in-person meetings are male-dominated, tracks how many articles in major magazines are written by men vs women, and fights against ‘manels’ (ubiquitous all-male ‘expert’ panels).
Hank Green talks to vaccine hesitants: In four minutes, Hank compassionately dispels all the reasons for putting off getting vaccinated NOW.
POLITICS AND ECONOMICS AS USUAL
from Michael Leunig, of course
*** Why it’s so hard for the US to end its wars: An incredibly depressing story by Middle-East expert Robin Wright on the region’s many failed states and the tinder keg the power vacuum has created.
An NTSB-like agency for police killings and mass shootings?: When people die in plane crashes in the US, the NTSB investigates to find out what happened, and laws are enacted to prevent systemic recurrence. Since police killings and mass shootings are much more common, and indicate systemic problems, why is there no similarly-empowered agency to deal with them? These are, after all, public health crises, not political crises.
*** Blame the victims’ memories: A woman psychologist who has defended many of the world’s worst and most famous abusers of women is revealed to be herself a confused sufferer of horrific childhood abuse, who dealt with it by blaming herself for an ‘unreliable’ memory, in this extraordinary exposé by The New Yorker’s Rachel Aviv.
*** The repressive politics of Emotional Intelligence: A brilliant and courageous article by Oxford’s Merve Imre pillories the tyranny of Daniel Goleman’s 25-year-old concept of Emotional Intelligence and how it has been warped since then to brainwash workers and the oppressed into believing their lack of EI is to blame for their suffering and their failures. “Those who are at the mercy of impulse—who lack self-control—suffer a moral deficiency,” Goleman proclaims, assuring us, like a gospel preacher, that our free will and capacity for self-improvement are limitless. The conclusion of the critique:
Envision “Emotional Intelligence” and the books descended from it as morality plays for a secular era, performed before audiences of mainly white professionals. In a theatre that admits no light or sound from the outside world, the audience watches as poor, begrimed laborers and criminals are pushed onstage to shoot their kids and stab their teachers. Pricked by the masked vices of Rage, Depression, and Anxiety, shamed by the veiled virtues of Empathy, Mindfulness, and Reason, the players have no chance at salvation. The lessons of emotional intelligence are not theirs to learn.
When the curtain falls, the audience members turn to one another to talk softly about how to teach their children to avoid such a fate, how to live happily in a world where one is bound to be inconvenienced by the violent impulses of others. Even from the front row, they cannot see that the masks and veils hide a reality in which they are no freer than the players they condemn. To pull back the mask would be to uncover an impotence they all share. And it might allow the audience and the cast to rise together, becoming angry to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way, toward the right people, who have, for the past twenty-five years, sold them some of the most alluring and quietly repressive ideas in recent history.
Israel doubles down on apartheid: Pictures of Israeli soldiers celebrating the murder of Palestinian protesters, and punching Palestinian babies, is putting a crack in the armour of blind support for Israel’s apartheid occupation of Palestinian lands. Cameras are capturing what the cowed western media and politicians are afraid to report or criticize for fear of being branded “anti-Semitic”. But after Human Rights Watch accused Israel of “crimes against humanity”, some media covered the story, but others, notably Canada’s CBC, buried the story entirely, and the Trudeau government refused any comment on it. In fact all of the major Canadian media covered up the story, and none of Canada’s political parties, including the Greens (who, under their former ‘leader’, purged all the BDS supporters from their executive and overturned the decision of the majority of members to include a condemnation of Israeli apartheid and support for BDS, from its policy framework) dared say a word about the report or the reported “crimes against humanity”.
The days of Gandhi are long gone: Arundhati Roy describes the horrors that the despotic and anti-Moslem populist Indian PM Modi has inflicted on his citizens, stirring up hate, passing discriminatory laws, preying on ignorance, lying, ignoring the misery that CoVid-19 has created, especially among the poor, and ridiculing the victims. Sound familiar?
The genocide in Tigray: Combined Ethiopian and Eritrean forces are working to starve out the citizens of Tigray, and to block all humanitarian aid from reaching them. The head of the WHO, who is from Tigray, is trying to cope with two horrific crises at once.
The vulnerability of activists to conspiracy theories: When you’ve been conditioned to distrust government, there can be some terrible side-effects. My friend Ken Ward writes:
I have a morbid, clinical fascination watching the COVID vaccine conspiracy disease spread through the ranks of climate activists. It’s horrifying, of course, but it’s a real-time window into the process of group isolation we saw, from a much greater distance, on the right. The most perplexing step toward full-on anti-vaccination conspiracy thinking is accepting that scientists & medical professionals are all in on the conspiracy; nearly a 180 turn from our stance as climate activists, where, if anything, we are critical of scientists for not fully embracing the implications of their own research. To accept the COVID conspiracy, I would have to believe that my own life partner (a family doctor and CMO of a group of clinics so dedicated to vaccinations that all routine medical work has been postponed while they run mass vaccination clinics, focusing on high risk migrant farmworkers) is in on it. Wow, this is powerful, twisted stuff. If it spreads any further, it may be the death knell for an already riven, marginalized, dirt poor, and seriously compromised climate action community.
When anti-maskers melt down: A report on one confrontation of two rich male businessmen with a pizza shop attendant shows a dangerous cocktail of “paranoia and entitlement”. And racism: “Are you fucking Middle Eastern or where are you from?… I’m worth $50 million, you’re worth zero.”
Drug manufacturers fight furiously to block generic vaccines: The lobbyists for the Big Pharma oligopoly have both US political parties shilling for them. Thanks to Tree Bressen for the link.
Democrats push for tax cut for the rich: Bought members of Congress are pressuring Biden to allow the ultra-rich to once again deduct all state and local taxes from their income that is subject to federal tax.
Canada’s death-with-indignity: While Trudeau’s pathetically inadequate and still-unconstitutional right-to-die law, watered down under pressure from Conservative and Liberal evangelicals, was finally passed, the Conservatives are now refusing to proceed with the special committee to address the issues in the law that were unresolved and shelved for two years, unless their extremist no-right-to-die representative is named co-chair of the committee. An American Christian has written a moving article for more compassionate right-to-die laws that’s received lots of attention, but it’s not moving the fanatics.
Canada’s “vaccine tourism”: The CEO of the Canada Pension Plan thought nothing of flying to Dubai to get vaccinated early for CoVid-19. Until he got back and found out he’d been fired for it. “Bioethicist Kerry Bowman said he was shocked to learn that a prominent figure would travel abroad to get a COVID-19 vaccine, especially after the furor that erupted in late December and early January over jet-setting politicians defying public health advice against international vacation travel.” Under Canadian law it is unconstitutional to prohibit any Canadian citizen from leaving or re-entering the country, and rich vaccine “queue jumpers”, already used to jumping the queue to go to the US for faster surgeries and tests, are exploiting the loophole, encouraged by Canada’s money-hungry airlines.
BC’s poisoned street drug crisis gets worse: The BC government, five years and 7,000 deaths after declaring the crisis a public health emergency, announced a completely inadequate drug possession decriminalization plan, with no timeline and a process for a long series of ‘consultations’ with doctors and ‘expert focus panels’ before even applying for the decriminalization provision, which must be approved by the federal government. The province rejected our esteemed senior public health officer’s plea for immediate unilateral decriminalization, two years ago, outright. The city of Vancouver’s application is even worse. No matter how you look at it, it’s a complete, unconscionable disgrace. It’s yet another public health crisis being mismanaged as a political issue.
illustration by the brilliant Nan Lee in The New Yorker
Nothing new to add about the pandemic since last week’s update.
FUN AND INSPIRATION
from Gatos Debochados (“over-indulgent cats”) Facebook group
The history and future of vegan cheese: We’ve come a long way from flavoured tofu. Thanks to Raffi for the link.
Artist celebrates Canada’s unknown women artists: BC’s Marlene Lowden describes her project to pay homage to dozens of mostly unrecognized Canadian women artists, and then goes on to teach you an art technique she used called blind contour drawing. A tour de force. Thanks to Jami &co at The Hearth for saving this great talk.
The most elegant key change in pop music?: Musicologist Adam Neely explains how Céline Dion’s key change at the end of Eric Carmen’s Rachmaninoff-derived song All By Myself, completely changes the spirit of the song (presumably from defeat to triumph). I personally think this particular key change is an abomination that spoils the song, but Adam’s analysis, especially of the underlying Rachmaninoff chord sequences, is fascinating.
Five-fold symmetry: The slick, fascinating and peculiarly popular Canadian vlog Veritasium describes, and visually demonstrates, one of the great puzzles of geometry, and explains how it was resolved. Thanks to Earl Mardle for the link.
How aging works: Another Veritasium offering suggests that aging/ageing is simply what results when our cells ‘forget’ what they’re supposed to do, and start doing something else. It’s a fascinating idea, though the inevitable diversion into reversing aging and living forever put me off.
The strangest video ever made: Though perhaps it strikes me that way because I’m old. The always-astonishing Hank Green makes a guest appearance on a vlog run by two very smart, well-read, engaged women who appear to try to act dumb for no evident reason. I learned an enormous amount about new things techie that are everyday reality to many under 30, and laughed myself silly in the process. Brilliant and ghastly.
Beaverton headlines of the month:
- Canada ranked #1 in list of countries that care most about international rankings.
- Netflix adds Canada filter to American shows by removing scenes where characters wear shoes inside the house.
- Masked woman can’t stop smiling now that men can’t tell her to smile.
- Subway station playing classical music to deter young loiterers, now plagued by loitering elderlies
RADICAL NON-DUALITY AND NO-FREE-WILL STUFF
one of several Scott Adams cartoons on free will, from back in the days when the gentleman was funny, and sane
The case against free will: The chorus of scientists and philosophers saying we have no free will grows steadily louder. A thoughtful and balanced summation of recent thinking on the topic. Thanks to John Whiting for the link.
My Radical Non-Duality playlist: Every video on the subject that has resonated with me since I started watching them over six years ago.
THOUGHTS OF THE MONTH
cartoon by James Norbury from Big Panda and Little Dragon
From Mary Oliver, from the poem A Thousand Mornings (via John Green):
the beautiful white heron
was floating along above the water
and then into the sky of this
this one world
we all belong to
sooner or later
is a part of everything else
From my friend John Whiting, in thinking about the famous Upton Sinclair quip about how difficult it is to get someone to understand something when their salary depends upon their not understanding it:
For salary, substitute marriage, social status, religious belief, circle of close friends, peace of mind, self-respect . . .
From Lisel Mueller (thanks to Larry Sheehy for the link):
Speaking of marvels, I am alive
together with you, when I might have been
alive with anyone under the sun,
when I might have been Abelard’s woman
or the whore of a Renaissance pope
or a peasant wife with not enough food
and not enough love, with my children
dead of the plague. I might have slept
in an alcove next to the man
with the golden nose, who poked it
into the business of stars,
or sewn a starry flag
for a general with wooden teeth.
I might have been the exemplary Pocahontas
or a woman without a name
weeping in Master’s bed
for my husband, exchanged for a mule,
my daughter, lost in a drunken bet.
I might have been stretched on a totem pole
to appease a vindictive god
or left, a useless girl-child,
to die on a cliff. I like to think
I might have been Mary Shelley
in love with a wrongheaded angel,
or Mary’s friend. I might have been you.
This poem is endless, the odds against us are endless,
our chances of being alive together
still we have made it, alive in a time
when rationalists in square hats
and hatless Jehovah’s Witnesses
agree it is almost over,
alive with our lively children
who–but for endless ifs–
might have missed out on being alive
together with marvels and follies
and longings and lies and wishes
and error and humor and mercy
and journeys and voices and faces
and colors and summers and mornings
and knowledge and tears and chance.