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.

Against Ageism

“The day old age strikes, our lives appear comfortable, even privileged, but our hearts are numb with permanently thwarted desire, our throats choked with longing for things we will never have again, and our future, we are sure, is too bleak to contemplate. We stare in terror into the abyss and ask ourselves: Who am I now?”

—Sharon Butala, “Against Ageism.” The Walrus. March 19, 2018.

Facebook’s Surveillance Machine

“Should we all just leave Facebook? That may sound attractive but it is not a viable solution. In many countries, Facebook and its products simply are the internet. Some employers and landlords demand to see Facebook profiles, and there are increasingly vast swaths of public and civic life — from volunteer groups to political campaigns to marches and protests — that are accessible or organized only via Facebook.”

—Zeynep Tufekci, “Facebook’s Surveillance Machine.” The New York Times. March 19, 2018.

It’s a Catch-22. You have to be willing to tell Facebook, as well as the employers and landlords that demand access to your social media accounts should you choose to have them, to fuck off in order to get “vast swaths of public and civic life” off of the Facebook platform. Regulation isn’t going to solve the problem of Facebook and the feudal Internet. Thinking that regulation can solve every problem is one of the central contradictions of U.S. liberal political thought. But then, U.S. conservatives have similar notions of deregulation. You can’t have small government and a global war on Communism, terrorism and drugs.

Sometimes there is no reform that will square the circle, and you have to make a choice. It’s perfectly reasonable to choose not to use Facebook. It takes two to four weeks to shake off the desire to check it, and then, most likely, you’ll spend more time with those closest to you rather than cultivating all the weak ties out beyond your Dunbar number of acquaintances that Facebook facilitates. Not everyone can do it, but many people could (and should).

A Keltner List for Relationships

“Consider each question and answer truthfully with a simple yes or no response:

  1. Does your partner make you a better person, and do you do the same for them?
  2. Are you and your partner both comfortable with sharing feelings, relying on each other, being close, and able to avoid worrying about the other person leaving?
  3. Do you and your partner accept each other for who you are, without trying to change each other?
  4. When disagreements arise, do you and your partner communicate respectfully and without contempt or negativity?
  5. Do you and your partner share decision-making, power and influence in the relationship?
  6. Is your partner your best friend, and are you theirs?
  7. Do you and your partner think more in terms of “we” and “us,” rather than “you” and “I”?
  8. Would you and your partner trust each other with the passwords to social media and bank accounts?
  9. Do you and your partner have good opinions of each other – without having an overinflated positive view?
  10. Do your close friends, as well as your partner’s, think you have a great relationship that will stand the test of time?
  11. Is your relationship free of red flags like cheating, jealousy and controlling behavior?
  12. Do you and your partner share the same values when it comes to politics, religion, the importance of marriage, the desire to have kids (or not) and how to parent?
  13. Are you and your partner willing to sacrifice your own needs, desires and goals for each other (without being a doormat)?
  14. Do you and your partner both have agreeable and emotionally stable personalities?
  15. Are you and your partner sexually compatible?

h/t The Conversation.

Why “The Culture” Wins

“Now consider Banks’s scenario. Consider the process that is generating modern hypercultures, and imagine it continuing for another three or four hundred years. The first consequence is that the culture will become entirely defunctionalized. Banks imagines a scenario in which all of the endemic problems of human society have been given essentially technological solutions (in much the same way that drones have solved the problem of criminal justice). Most importantly, he imagines that the fundamental problem of scarcity has been solved, and so there is no longer any obligation for anyone to work (although, of course, people remain free to do so if they wish). All important decisions are made by a benevolent technocracy of AIs (or the “Minds”).

And so what is left for humanity (or, more accurately, humanoids)? At the individual level, Banks imagines a life very much like the one described by Bernard Suits in The Grasshopper – everything becomes a game, and thus at some level, non-serious. But where Banks went further than Suits was in thinking about the social consequences. What happens when culture becomes freed from all functional constraints? It seems clear that, in the interplanetary competition that develops, the culture that emerges will be the most virulent, or the most contagious. In other words, “the Culture” will simply be that which is best at reproducing itself, by appealing to the sensibilities and tastes of humanoid life-forms…

…Human beings have spent much of their lives lamenting “the curse of Adam,” and yet work provides most people with their primary sense of meaning and achievement in life. So what happens when work disappears, turning everything into a hobby? A hobby is fun. Many people spend a great deal of time trying to escape work, so they can spend more time on their hobbies. But while they may be fun, hobbies are also at some level always frivolous. They cannot give meaning to a life, precisely because they are optional. You could just stop doing it, and nothing would change, it would make no difference, which is to say, it wouldn’t matter.”

—Joseph Heath, “Why the Culture Wins: An Appreciation of Iain M. Banks.” Sci Phi Journal. November 12, 2017.