Saturday Links for the Week — August 2, 2008 (Late Again)

Values Quadrants Adams

Women Deserve Better: Just go watch this stirring performance art from social activist and poet Sonya Renee. Thanks to Emily and Daisy for the catch, from feministe.

Six Important Trends in Learning & Education: Nancy White and Josien Kapma have co-authored a paper on how education is shifting from local courseware to global conversation, which identifies six major trends:

Training & classes Informal, personal learning
Expert-led learning Self-directed, peer coaching, community-based
Formalized associations & groups Informal, self-selected and ad hoc networks
Local talent behind the firewall, scheduled Global talent, anywhere, anytime, anyone
Motivated by the boss Self-motivated
Talking — the Big Mouth Listening & Conversation — the Big Ear

Is America (and the World) Becoming Mean-Spirited and Nihilistic?: Jim Kunstler thinks so, seeing the latest Batman movie as reveling in this spiritual anomie. I’ve written before about Michael Adams’ assessment of (especially young) Americans’ rejection of both liberal and conservative worldviews in favour of an anti-authority, survivalist, fatalistic one (the lower right quadrant of the chart at top of this post, with the values of Americans on the upswing shown in bold. These characteristics are, according to Edward Hall’s research, typical of animals under enormous stress, preparing to reduce their numbers through hoarding, extreme violence and to-the-death competition for scarce resources, until there is once again enough to go around comfortably. Thanks to Michael Wiik for the link.

…And Is Suicide Rising As a Result?: Barbara Ehrenreich reports on suicide as the ‘solution’ to debt, unemployment and despair. In the past decade 150,000 Indian farmers have committed suicide because of unpayable debts. As the NYT story below shows, this same desperation is now reaching affluent nations. Is suicide any answer to debt? Ehrenreich’s biting answer:

Death is an effective remedy for debt, along with anything else that may be bothering you too. And try to think of it too from a lofty, corner-office, perspective: If you canít pay your debts or afford to play your role as a consumer, and if, in addition ó like an ever-rising number of Americans ó youíre no longer needed at the workplace, then thereís no further point to your existence…

The alternative is to value yourself more than any amount of money and turn the guns, metaphorically speaking, in the other direction. It wasnít God, or some abstract economic climate change, that caused the credit crisis. Actual humans ó often masked as financial institutions ó did that, (and you can find a convenient list of names in Nomi Prinsís article in the current issue of Mother Jones.) Most of them, except for a tiny few facing trials, are still high rollers, fattening themselves on the blood and tears of ordinary debtors.

Understanding the YouTube Phenomenon: Rob Paterson points us to anthropologist’s Michael Wesch’s presentation on YouTube and Participative Culture. Long, but thought-provoking, background to his remarkable work. Those of us who write to express ourselves need to understand that this is how those who don’t, are learning to express themselves and connect with the world. He also echoes Lawrence Lessig’s warning that much of the YouTube content includes copyrighted material, and is hence really illegal, and that the effect of a whole generation getting accustomed to breaking the law with much of their online activity is corrosive. In short, YouTube is much more than cover versions of music and skateboarding dogs. Last year I wrote about several of Wesch’s videos:

Great short video on the Information R/evolution: Just go watch it. Fascinating. Sent to me by three readers, which is exactly the video’s point. Watch more of cultural anthropologist Michael Wesch’s brilliant stuff. Like this one on education. And this one on how the point of Web 2.0 is that we are teaching the machine what’s important and why, and that we are the machine.

37 More Days: PS Pirro writes what she would do today if she had only 37 days to live. Look now before it’s gone. And if you can’t accept not knowing what could happen, or not happen, during those 37 days, try changing your verbs.

Forgive Yourself: Beth T brings us some great advice from Maya Angelou:

ìI don’t know if I continue, even today, always liking myself. But what I learned to do many years ago was to forgive myself. It is very important for every human being to forgive herself or himself because if you live, you will make mistakes – it is inevitable. But once you do and you see the mistake, then you forgive yourself and say, ‘Well, if I’d known better I’d have done better,’ that’s all. So you say to people who you think you may have injured, ‘I’m sorry,’ and then you say to yourself, ‘I’m sorry.’ If we all hold on to the mistake, we can’t see our own glory in the mirror because we have the mistake between our faces and the mirror; we can’t see what we’re capable of being. You can ask forgiveness of others, but in the end the real forgiveness is in one’s own self. I think that young men and women are so caught by the way they see themselves. Now mind you. When a larger society sees them as unattractive, as threats, as too black or too white or too poor or too fat or too thin or too sexual or too asexual, that’s rough. But you can overcome that. The real difficulty is to overcome how you think about yourself. If we don’t have that we never grow, we never learn, and sure as hell we should never teach.î

B Corporations: Environmentally Sustainable & Socially Responsible: You can now qualify your company as a B Corporation, which the founders hope will soon become a certification every customer and shareholder will look for before investing money in a company or its products. You must pass a questionnaire test, and reform your corporate charter to include environmental sustainability and social responsibility, to qualify for a B Corporation seal. Thanks to Gil Friend for the link.

Nicholas Kristof Becomes an Animal Rights Advocate: The esteemed NYT op-ed columnist and economist, champion of victims of human suffering all over the world, has “drawn the line at animals being raised in cruel conditions”. “The tide of history is moving toward the protection of animal rights, and the brutal conditions in which they are sometimes now raised will eventually be banned. Someday, vegetarianism may even be the norm.” A bit tepid, but it’s a start. Suffering farmed animals need a champion with the clout of someone like Kristof.

Stuck Between Euan Semple and Stowe Boyd: Both friends, and a pretty good place to be on a list of the Top 40 Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0 bloggers prepared by Bill Ives.

Live in the Toronto Area and Interested in Intentional Community?: If so, e-mail me and I’ll send you details of a new group I’ve joined that is exploring setting up a new IC, no limits on where it might be.

Just for Fun: Beth Patterson has pictures of what a family in Alaska who’s just built a playground for their children saw, to their astonishment, when they woke up the next morning.

Thought for the Week: Isn’t it funny how, our whole lives, we seek permission to discover who we are and to be ourselves, first from our parents, then from peers and lovers and spouses, and even from our children, and then, again perhaps, from our parents when they are coming to depend on us, and we are still, in their embrace and their shadow, asking them if it’s OK to leave them for awhile just to be ourselves. Thanks to Cassandra, for inspiring this strange thought. From the online journal that she is co-managing editor of, qarrtsiluni, here’s a photo entitled Brooding (by Edith Oberley) and a short story (by Kelly Madigan Erlandson) both on the subject of Water:

Brooding by Edith Oberley

Deep Subject

The boy has learned to fish without catching, an evolution from catch and release. The technique involves reeling the lure back to himself furiously after the cast, faster than the fish can swim. He explains that this way he can see them jump and chase, but doesnít have to face the daunting task of releasing them from the barbed hook.

While he casts and reels, I tell my brother-in-law about my extra well. I am still new to this property. I know where my new well is, out behind the house, with its clean white stem protruding from the ground. But there is another well, west of the garage, covered with planks. A month ago a friend and I pried a board up and with the aid of a flashlight peered into the circular brick structure reaching down into the dark. The flashlight beam reflected back up to us from the waterís surface.

My brother-in-law was raised here, born into a family that has owned the land nearby for over a century. He tells me this was the old well, probably hand dug during the early part of the twentieth century and abandoned when it ran dry or went bad. It poses a problem. Under normal circumstances, fertilizer, herbicides and pesticides would be filtered by twenty to fifty to seventy feet of soil before joining forces with the groundwater, but an open chute offers a straight shot. Old wells should be capped.

Peering down from the top, we canít see how deep this tunnel reaches. The waterís surface, maybe fifteen feet below us, reflects the surrounding brick walls. At his suggestion we get a chain from an old porch swing, and tie it to a brick. I hold the light while he lowers the brick, hand over hand, down the well shaft and into the water. He reaches the end of the chain and the brick has not reached the bottom. We add on a rope, and then a second rope, before it does.

His son comes up from the pond as we put the board back in place. We know what it would mean to fall into a well in this remote valley, where one cannot be seen from the road, a road on which few vehicles travel anyway. Even if you could swim, there would be no place to swim to, with the surface of the water several body lengths below the rim. We warn the boy away from the danger.

My husband says his father told him men in the bottom of wells could see stars in the daytime. My brother-in-law has heard this, too, that the walls of the well block out sunlight sufficiently to make stars visible. Itís a story with a long reach, recorded by Aristotle.

Later, I tell him and his son a poem called ìIn the Well,î about a boy being lowered down to the water to retrieve a dead dog. Itís dark now, and the whip-poor-wills are calling. The boy and his dad head back over the hill for home. My nephewís desire is to fish but do no harm, and I am not sure I can bring myself to seal this circle of stone. Maybe after it has been drained, when I can climb down into it, Iíll see something from the bottom that wasnít visible in the brightness ofdaylight.

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2 Responses to Saturday Links for the Week — August 2, 2008 (Late Again)

  1. Gerard Joyce says:

    If you call them the “weekly” links you can surprise us with the day and not worry about being late ; )

  2. EJ says:

    Very interesting as usual.What does the bold in the first chart refer to?

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