Resilience is The New Black

From Naked Capitalism:

by May 9, 2015

Yves here. One does not have to look hard to discern the troubling message of this post: that people are no longer motivated by appeals to broader, more abstract values, that what motivates them are more narrow, survival-oriented approaches.

While it’s always a bit dangerous to challenge someone on what he considers to be his his home turf, I wonder whether Dr. Nelson Lebo III’s abandonment of the notion of sustainability has less to do with that idea not being as motivating as he had hoped, versus the march from triumph to triumph of disposable products and planned obsolescence. It’s far more work than it used to be to buck that trend, and most people are ever more time stressed. But people also fall prey to conformity. Do you really need a new phone every two years? Or to churn your other devices as often as you do? People are horrified to see how antique my cell phone is, and I find their disapproval comical.

But Lebo’s reading is based on a sense that individuals are pulling in their focus to me, mine, and my family. It’s reminiscent of a conversation I had with a friend who is the ex-wife of a billionaire, now living modestly and teaching calculus as an adjunct at a local college. She said:

I can’t get concerned any more about tragedies. We have billions of people living on this planet who are going to die because it can’t support them. I used to care about people dying in Guatemala but now I think that saving lives now means more deaths later. I know it sounds selfish but I’ve decided to care about science and my family and not much else.

I wonder how widely her sort of thinking is shared.

By Raúl Ilargi Meijer, editor-in-chief of The Automatic Earth. Originally published at Automatic Earth

This is another essay from our friend Dr. Nelson Lebo III in New Zealand. Nelson is a certified expert in everything to do with resilience, especially how to build a home and a community designed to withstand disasters, be they natural or man-made, an earthquake or Baltimore. Aware that he may rub quite a few people the wrong way, he explains here why he has shifted from seeing what he does in the context of sustainability, to that of resilience. There’s something profoundly dark in that shift, but it’s not all bad.

Nelson Lebo III: Sustainability is so 2007. Those were the heady days before the Global Financial Crisis, before $2-plus/litre petrol here in New Zealand, before the failed Copenhagen Climate Summit, before the Christchurch earthquakes, before the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP)…the list continues.

Since 2008, informed conversations on the economy, the environment, and energy have shifted from ‘sustainability’ to ‘resilience’. There are undoubtedly many reasons for this shift, but I’ll focus on just two: undeniable trends and a loss of faith. Let me explain.

Since 2008, most of the pre-existing trends in income inequality, extreme weather events and energy price volatility have ramped up. Sustainability is about halting and reversing these trends, but there is essentially no evidence of that type of progress, and in fact the data shows the opposite.

Plenty of quantitative data exists for the last seven years to document these accelerated trends, the most obvious is the continually widening gap between rich and poor everyone else. The second wave of commentary on the Baltimore riots (after the superficiality of the mainstream media) has been about the lack of economic activity and opportunity in many of the largely African-American neighbourhoods.

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Inside Amy Schumer – The Universe – Uncensored

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How university trigger warnings will backfire: Does Fox News need any more ammunition against the humanities?

From Salon:

Greek and Roman myths are violent and ugly, sure. But apologizing for art — especially the classics — is a bad idea

Friday, May 15, 2015

A band of enraged women tear a young king limb from limb. An eagle eats the liver – over and over again — of a god, chained to a mountain, who was foolish enough to help out human beings. A distraught king lays his own mother and rips out his own eyes. Rapes happen nearly as often as the sun rises. The wife of an emperor poisons her rivals. Another emperor has sex with one of his sisters and pimps out the others. And on and on.

 If you read ancient myths, plays, or histories this is the kind of thing that comes up again and again. (Some of the operas or television adaptations – see “I, Claudius” — made of this stuff is even gnarlier or more graphic.) If you’ve had an old-fashioned kind of liberal arts education – the kind where you either chose or were forced to take “western civ” class heavy on Euripides, Ovid and other Greek and Roman classics – these are mostly images you already know. In a lot of American high schools, you probably read the Oedipus plays and maybe the Yeats poem “Leda and the Swan.” You probably studied mythology – though probably a version as sanitized as the softened-up Grimms tales you were offered – in elementary school.

But these days, it seems, this stuff needs special handling. Four students at Columbia University – the school that pioneered the core curriculum based around the classics – wrote in the college paper:

Ovid’s ‘Metamorphoses’ is a fixture of Lit Hum, but like so many texts in the Western canon, it contains triggering and offensive material that marginalizes student identities in the classroom. These texts, wrought with histories and narratives of exclusion and oppression, can be difficult to read and discuss as a survivor, a person of color, or a student from a low-income background.

People on the political left and the hipster-and-hip-hop side of the spectrum – Thurston Moore, Chuck D – flipped their lids when Tipper Gore’s PMRC tried to put warning labels on albums with sex and violence. Musicians, music fans and liberals in general defended the rights of rockers like Marilyn Manson and rappers like 2 Live Crew to rhyme about whatever they wanted. It was all about freedom of speech back then.

Teenagers and college students these days live in a world drenched in sex and violence; if they have cable connection or a cell phone they’re exposed to a vastly harsher and more profane world than the X’ers and Boomers or Silents who either eagerly read or slept their way through their Western civ requirements. Why start protecting students from Ovid in a TMZ world?

So it’s not just the wrong way to go – it’s awful PR for those of us who think literature and the liberal arts matter. You are giving the reactionaries at Fox News – who hardly seem invested in Sophocles or Suetonius – a cannon’s worth of ammo against the “political correct” campus left. And you are treating some of the greatest, most resonant, and, yes, most painful work in the history of humanity as something we need to apologize for.

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The end of religion as we know it: Why churches can no longer hide the truth

From Salon:

“Caught in the Pulpit” author Daniel Dennett on closeted atheist clergy and our new age of radical transparency

Saturday, May 16, 2015

If Daniel Dennett is anything, he is a champion of the facts. The prominent philosopher of science is an advocate for hard-nosed empiricism, and as a leading New Atheist he calls for naturalistic explanations of religion. Dennett is also the co-author (along with Linda LaScola) of the recently expanded and updated Caught in the Pulpit: Leaving Faith Behind, which documents the stories of preachers and rabbis who themselves came to see…the facts.

 Caught in the Pulpit is a close cousin to The Clergy Project, an outreach effort to “current and former religious professionals who no longer hold supernatural beliefs”—many of whom must closet their newfound skepticism to preserve their careers and communities.

For Dennett, closeted atheist clergy are not simply tragic figures, they are harbingers of great things to come. Peppered amongst Caught in the Pulpit’s character vignettes are mini-essays in which Dennett predicts a sea change in religious doctrine and practice. Our digital information age, he argues, is ushering in a “new world of universal transparency” where religious institutions can no longer hide the truth. To survive in an age of transparency, religions will need to come to terms with the facts.

Dennett spoke recently with The Cubit about institutional transparency, the parallels between religious and atheistic fundamentalism, and the future of religion.

You describe non-believing clergy as “canaries in a coal mine.” Why does this group hold such significance for understanding the future of religion?

I think that we are now entering a really disruptive age in the history of human civilization, thanks to the new transparency brought about by social media and the internet. It used to be a lot easier to keep secrets than it is now.

In the March issue of Scientific American, Deb Roy and I compare this to the Cambrian Explosion. The Cambrian Explosion happened 540 million years ago, when there was a sudden, very dramatic explosion of different life forms in response to some new change in the world. Oxford zoologist Andrew Parker argues that the increased transparency of the ocean made eyesight possible, and this changed everything: now predators could see prey, and prey could see predators, and this set off an arms race of interactions. Well, we think something similar is happening in human culture. Institutions—not just religions but also universities, armies, corporations—are now faced with how to change their fundamental structure and methods to deal with the fact that everybody’s living in a glass house now.

Protecting your inner workings is becoming very difficult; it’s very hard to keep secrets. Religions have thrived in part because they were able to keep secrets. They were able to keep secrets about other religions from their parishioners, who were largely ignorant of what other people in the world believed, and also keep secrets about their own inner workings and their own histories, so that it was easy to have a sort of controlled message that went out to people. Those days are over. You can go on the Internet and access to all kinds of information. This is going to change everything.

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Must We Alienate Our Women Allies?

Not my headline. I don’t identify as trans. or as a transwoman with or without hyphen. I think the Transgender Borg ideology is total bullshit.  I didn’t have sex reassignment surgery to be a transwoman.  When I came out I came out as a woman and the end goal was to be a female bodied woman.

I think gender is a social construct as describe by Simone de Beauvoir in the late 1940s not as defined and described by Judy Butler of the impenetrable lannguage and made up words of the post-modern era.

I grew up a working class woman heavily influenced by the hippie and later 1970s era dykes.  I’m a female identified, woman identified woman.  I don’t do some things now due to physical limitations and not because of sex/gender roles.

Gender, gender, gender is as much a way to oppress women as anything concocted by Phyllis Schlafly.  The transgender movement’s attacks on feminism are as oppressive and anti-woman as anything the MRAs ever cooked up.

When I became a feminist there was a concern that women who had been born transsexual would co-opt the women’s movement and make it all about them.  we were different in tose days we gave priority to being women not transgender, which wasn’t in common usage.

I am tired of all the Trans-Games of things like “cis”.

I stand with women, I put women first.  I put the interests of women ahead of those of transgender identified people.

From Huffington Post:


There has been a long history of tension between lesbian trans women and lesbian cis women, manifested in the battles over admission to and inclusion at the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, as well as admissions to women’s colleges. In some ways it’s to be expected, as an understanding of gender identity has taken a long time to even begin to permeate through society as a whole, let alone gay society. It is also no surprise that cisgender lesbian women, who see themselves through the prism of sexual orientation, don’t easily “get” trans women, who are rooted in the experience of a gender identity that is different from the one assumed at birth. Those lesbians usually don’t feel any challenge to their fundamental sense of self as women — that is, until one of their own decides to transition to male or to partner up with a trans woman. It’s at that moment that the deeper issues of identity as female force their way into consciousness. I will admit to envying my cis lesbian friends who are so comfortable just being women who love women and seldom feel the challenge anymore from an ignorant hatred that refuses to see them as women simply because they are gay.

Those battles, which unfortunately persist, are bad enough, but now there is a movement among certain young trans persons and allies to confront the class of straight cis women as well. I first noticed this trend last year when a group challenged local Texas NARAL and Planned Parenthood groups for using “women” in their marketing, claiming that that language excluded trans men. I’ve learned that the public debate began a year earlier, when Laura Rankin posted an op-ed on stating a need to reframe the battle for abortion rights. This year some women at Mt. Holyoke College decided to cease performing The Vagina Monologues because they felt that the play was no longer inclusive, and because they inferred, wrongly, that the playwright, Eve Ensler, is transphobic. Now the battle has made it into the mainstream leftist media in an article by Katha Pollitt, and the trans activists are misreading her words and creating a problem where there isn’t one.

Ms. Pollitt makes her point succinctly and compassionately, with no evidence of prejudice:

I’m going to argue here that removing “women” from the language of abortion is a mistake. We can, and should, support trans men and other gender-non-conforming people. But we can do that without rendering invisible half of humanity and 99.999 percent of those who get pregnant. I know I’ll offend, hurt and disappoint some people, including abortion-fund activists I love dearly. That is why I’ve started this column many times over many months and put it aside. I tell myself I might be wrong — it’s happened before. “Most of the pressure [to shift language] comes from young people,” said one abortion-fund head I interviewed, whose fund, like many, has “Women” in its name. “The role of people in our generation is to give money and get out of the way.” (Like many of the people I interviewed for this column, she asked to remain anonymous.) Maybe in ten years, it will seem perfectly natural to me to talk about abortion in a gender-neutral way. Right now, though, it feels as if abortion language is becoming a bit like French, where one man in a group of no matter how many women means “elles” becomes “ils.”

Pollitt points out that the critical issue today is access, and there seems to be little disagreement about that fact. She then goes on to point out the political impact of the demanded change:

The real damage of abolishing “women” in abortion contexts, though, is to our political analysis. What happens to Dr. Tiller’s motto, “Trust Women”? There was a whole feminist philosophy expressed in those two words: women are competent moral actors and they, not men, clergy or the state, are the experts on their own lives, and should be the ones to decide how to shape them. It is because abortion gives power specifically to women that it was criminalized. How did Selina Meyer put it on Veep? If men got pregnant, you could get an abortion at an ATM.

That’s the politics from a cis woman’s point of view. From a trans woman’s point of view, I see one more misguided attempt at providing inclusion that has the inevitable consequence of alienating millions of women who are or could be our allies, as we dilute their campaign while focusing solely on ourselves. No pregnant trans man has been denied access, according to reports; the problem lies with trans men feeling excluded by the language. Well, it’s not always about you or me. There are much bigger issues involved here, and demanding that the language that speaks to and empowers tens of millions of women should be neutralized so as not to offend a handful of trans men is unfair.

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The Big Picture: Expand Social Security with Robert Reich

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Friday Night Fun and Culture: B.B. King (September 16, 1925 – May 14, 2015)

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