Why Are Student Protesters So Fearful?

Some 20 years ago Todd Gitlin wrote The Twilight of Common Dreams: Why America Is Wracked by Culture Wars. He was roundly booed by everyone with an investment in identity politics.

I remember that period as it was when I first got on-line.  I wasn’t much vested in the politics of identity and was constantly catching a bunch of crap for being politically incorrect.

Over the last 20 years I have come to view identity politics as one of the most universally oppressive piles of bullshit to ever come down the pike.

You see once there was something called the common good, things most people could agree were good for the majority of people in this country and for the country in general.  There were enough things we could agree on.

Not everything turned into a fight complete with name calling.

Maybe we used to feel we actually had some control over our lives, some real say in how things were run.  Maybe living in the real world was less overwhelming than being flooded 24/7 with pleadings for support accompanied by an inability to do anything about much of anything.

From The New York Times:  http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/22/opinion/sunday/why-are-student-protesters-so-fearful.html?_r=0

Todd Gitlin
Nov. 21, 2015

The message coming out of recent student protests on college campuses, from Princeton and Yale to the University of Missouri, couldn’t be clearer: Students are rightly pained by the racist and sexual abuse still shockingly common into the 21st century, and for good reason they are indignant that institutions they trust — or wish to trust — fail to stop the culprits, or even to acknowledge publicly the harm they do.


But rumbling under the surface of some recent protests is something besides indignation: an assumption of grave vulnerability. The victims too often present themselves as weak, in need of protection. Administrators are held, like helicopter parents, wholly responsible. To a veteran of movements of the ’60s like myself, this is strikingly strange.

Surely there are reasons to feel vulnerable to abuses of power. There is a rape culture. Black people are killed by the police in grotesque proportions. Hatred of immigrants has reached a high pitch of hysteria and looms large in the thinking of one of our major political parties.

It is also true that many administrators are caught flat-footed; just consider how long it took the University of Missouri to acknowledge longstanding concerns by minority students about campus racism.

And yet, when that recognition came and the president and chancellor resigned, instead of celebrating an extraordinary victory — with football players as their crucial allies — demonstrators blocked photographers from taking pictures of their assembly. They apparently believed that public assemblies ought to be “safe spaces,” meaning, safe from photography, which might have been thought to be useful for bringing the news to a larger public. Their starting assumption was that the press had it in for them.

At Yale, meanwhile, administrators cautioned students about how to dress properly for Halloween, and when another administrator publicly questioned whether this was an issue the administration needed to take a position on, protesters demanded her resignation.

Continue reading at:  http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/22/opinion/sunday/why-are-student-protesters-so-fearful.html?_r=0

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Consume more, conserve more: sorry, but we just can’t do both

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/nov/24/consume-conserve-economic-growth-sustainability

Tuesday 24 November 2015

We can have it all: that is the promise of our age. We can own every gadget we are capable of imagining – and quite a few that we are not. We can live like monarchs without compromising the Earth’s capacity to sustain us. The promise that makes all this possible is that as economies develop, they become more efficient in their use of resources. In other words, they decouple.

There are two kinds of decoupling: relative and absolute. Relative decoupling means using less stuff with every unit of economic growth; absolute decoupling means a total reduction in the use of resources, even though the economy continues to grow. Almost all economists believe that decoupling – relative or absolute – is an inexorable feature of economic growth.

On this notion rests the concept of sustainable development. It sits at the heart of the climate talks in Paris next month and of every other summit on environmental issues. But it appears to be unfounded.

A paper published earlier this year in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences proposes that even the relative decoupling we claim to have achieved is an artefact of false accounting. It points out that governments and economists have measured our impacts in a way that seems irrational.

Here’s how the false accounting works. It takes the raw materials we extract in our own countries, adds them to our imports of stuff from other countries, then subtracts our exports, to end up with something called “domestic material consumption”. But by measuring only the products shifted from one nation to another, rather than the raw materials needed to create those products, it greatly underestimates the total use of resources by the rich nations.

For instance, if ores are mined and processed at home, these raw materials, as well as the machinery and infrastructure used to make finished metal, are included in the domestic material consumption accounts. But if we buy a metal product from abroad, only the weight of the metal is counted. So as mining and manufacturing shift from countries such as the UK and the US to countries like China and India, the rich nations appear to be using fewer resources. A more rational measure, called the material footprint, includes all the raw materials an economy uses, wherever they happen to be extracted. When these are taken into account, the apparent improvements in efficiency disappear.

Continue reading at:  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/nov/24/consume-conserve-economic-growth-sustainability

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