To Hug, or Not to Hug?

“It became easier to say what I meant when other people gave voice to my feelings.

National Book Award finalist and Guggenheim Fellow Roxane Gay doesn’t like to be hugged. “So many people tried to hug me and seemed upset when I said no. I don’t like hugging strangers. I don’t even hug my friends,” she wrote in a tweet that echoed a sentiment elaborated in a chapter about “bodies and boundaries” in her book Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body.

Sex-advice columnist and activist Dan Savage doesn’t like to be hugged. “I don’t like to hug people,” Savage wrote in a blog post. “But I do a job — I give sex advice to strangers at a safe remove — that makes a lot of people want to hug me. People I don’t know. (For the record: hugging strangers makes me physically uncomfortable. I don’t just find it unpleasant, I find it unnerving.)”

Me, too.”

—Emily Weinstein. “To Hug, or Not to Hug.” Londreads.com. April 2018.

Echo Chamber Test

“[D]oes a community’s belief system actively undermine the trustworthiness of any outsiders who don’t subscribe to its central dogmas? Then it’s probably an echo chamber…

…An echo chamber doesn’t destroy their members’ interest in the truth; it merely manipulates whom they trust and changes whom they accept as trustworthy sources and institutions.

And, in many ways, echo-chamber members are following reasonable and rational procedures of enquiry. They’re engaging in critical reasoning. They’re questioning, they’re evaluating sources for themselves, they’re assessing different pathways to information. They are critically examining those who claim expertise and trustworthiness, using what they already know about the world. It’s simply that their basis for evaluation – their background beliefs about whom to trust – are radically different. They are not irrational, but systematically misinformed about where to place their trust.”

—C Thi Nguyen, “Why it’s as hard to escape an echo chamber as it is to flee a cult.” Aeon. April 9, 2018.

The central idea isn’t that we all need “epistemological reboots”, although it’s often not a bad idea. The central idea is of intellectual humility, such as the possibility that you could be wrong. Philosophical skepticism, like that of Descartes, is taking it to the logical extreme, that not only can you be wrong, you might be wrong about everything. For example, everything we believe is real could be a Matrix-style simulation. We cannot exclude that possibility, even if it isn’t terribly useful in our day to day existence.

Processed World

“Are You Doing the Processing, or Being Processed?”

—Slogan of Processed World

Processed World was part zine, part street theater, part forum for college educated temp workers serving as grist for the machines of capitalism. The first issue was published in April 1981, at the dawn of the “information age” and explored its underside. The early 1980s were its hay day, but there were occasional “special issues”, like this on-point question from the 2001 issue, which is just as relevant now as it was then:

“What happens when pressure to work longer and harder constrains non-work life? When lunch breaks are shorter, less convivial, or simply an excuse to slip in more work? When fast food isn’t deemed fast enough, so we “drivethru,” take out, and dine alone, en route, as tens of millions of Americans now do everyday?

What becomes of imagination when we entertain, read, vacation, play, sleep (and, in consequence, dream)less? What happens to personal life when, as time-managment authors now advise, we schedule weekend “appointments” to garden, to have brunch or “romance,” or to meet with family to review the “domestic agenda”

What happens to work itself when, to get more done, we go at several tasks simultaneously?

Default Settings

There are thousands of people who live their entire lives on the default settings, never realizing they can customize everything. Don’t settle for the default settings in life. Find your loves, your talents, your passions, and embrace them. Don’t hide behind other people’s decisions. Don’t let others tell you what you want. Design YOUR journey every step of the way! The life you create from doing something that moves you is far better than the life you get from sitting around wishing you were doing it…

Who we choose to be around matters immensely. – Spend time with nice people who are smart, driven and likeminded. Relationships should help you, not hurt you. Surround yourself with people who reflect the person you want to be. Choose friends who you are proud to know, people you admire, who love and respect you—people who make your day a little brighter simply by being in it. Ultimately, the people in your life make all the difference in the person you are capable of being. Life is just too short to spend time with people who suck the happiness out of you. When you free yourself from these people, you free yourself to be YOU. And being YOU is the only way to truly live.

—Marc Chernoff, “19 Great Truths My Grandmother Told Me on Her 90th Birthday.marcandangel.com. March 25, 2018.

We live in a time where it is both extremely difficult and extremely easy to select different defaults. Maybe it is always that way, but choosing what you do and the people around you is always worth thinking about, as they are often instrumental to our happiness.

Irony and the New White Supremacy

“If a group’s only MO is destruction, it stands to reason that eventually it will destroy itself. What The New York Times calls the “alt-right” isn’t a monolith, but a swarm of tribes with different agendas, some of which radically oppose one another. Ultimately, it’s not difficult to imagine them all simply tearing each other apart as the entire movement implodes. Until that point, I wonder if we shouldn’t broaden our perspective. We should not only work on undermining the white supremacist agenda, but also the cultural environment that helped it thrive and grow in the first place. Irony was an integral part of that cultural environment. I wonder then if sincerity is the last radical act left. Perhaps it is time to say what we mean.”

—Sarah LaBrie. “Irony and the New White Supremacy.” LARB. March 31, 2018.