Archive | Op-Ed

Ebola News Gives Me a Guilty Thrill. Am I Crazy?

Ebola virus. (Photo: NIAID/Flickr)

Ebola virus. (Photo: NIAID/Flickr)

via Pacific Standard:

Folks speak blithely about their guilty pleasures. But if you get a little thrill when you contemplate the worldwide obliteration of society in a horrific Armageddon, have you crossed a line from “person with a guilty pleasure” to “person who is a dangerous psychopath”?

This was a question that wrecked most of one afternoon following a discussion of Ebola with some co-workers. We were brainstorming ideas for stories about the awful pandemic, and the topic of American preparedness came up. Although Ebola seems decently isolated on our shores, public health officials are girding our infrastructure for worst-case scenarios.

I made the following confession: Although obviously the West African Ebola crisis sickens and saddens me, and although I of course don’t want Ebola to run rampant … whenever I hear about the idea of our nation crumbling in an apocalyptic plague, I get an amoral twinge of excitement.

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Writing about demonic possession is a thankless task

reddit-alien_5722This week I have added /r/Shinto and /r/Buddhism to the list of subreddits I follow, including /r/Christianity which I am currently banned from on Reddit for talking about psychosis as a rite of passage in mystical experiences related to sorcery. The moderators of the Christian sub claimed that the books I referenced, which were found in University as a student, are not academic. Seemingly because they don’t line up with their views.

Some of the books I had referenced, besides the one by T. M. Luhrmann cited below, were Gothic Ireland: Horror And The Irish Anglican Imagination In The Long Eighteenth Century by Jarlath Killeen. Killeen talks about gothic horror and the liminal as an Anglican identity, transubstantiation as a form of cannibalism, and erotic necrophilia. The Darkened Room: Women, Power and Spiritualism In Late Victorian England by Alex Owen documents the epidemic of hysteria caused by interests in mediumship and psychosis understood as a rite of passage.… Read the rest

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Rest in peace @sweepyface

EVIL

Who is trolling who?

Dehumanisation is often the starting point of cruelty. Nazis didn’t see Jews as human, that’s how they could throw them into ovens. Slavery in America worked along similar lines, people were treated as cattle because they were labelled “niggers,” a word used to denote someone who was not quite “one of us,” not quite a person. Religions do this kind of thing a lot, in Islam it’s “kuffar”, in Judaism it’s “goyim,” in Christianity it is “heathen.”

In England at the moment the word “troll” is being used by Her Majesty’s Government to do the same. Originally “trolling” referred to a fishing technique where you slowly drag a lure or baited hook from a moving boat. In the old world of forums people would be called out for trying to “troll” for a response to their posts. Now it has become detached from its original meaning and conflated with the trolls of Tolkienesque fantasy.… Read the rest

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Pulling the Ole Trayvon: The Untold Racism of Our Story

THIS JUST IN: “Missouri teen shot by police was two days away from starting college.”
THIS JUST IN: “Staten Island man dies after NYPD cop puts him in chokehold.”
THIS JUST IN: “Sleeping 7-year-old girl shot in head during no-knock police raid on wrong home.”

We see this shit going on all around us, and we’re enraged, upset, disappointed, and confused by it. We know full well that it’s fueled by race.

We think, “Again? Come on!”

We think, “It’s 2014, for chrissake! What about the civil rights movement?!”

We make sarcastic jokes about the supposed end of racism and how we don’t see color; and then we bicker, ruminate, or go rogue as self-important Facebook activists bent on “intelligently debating” among ourselves as to why that last black man was shot—a common response to what is now a regularly occurring event.

We ask, “Who’s the next black kid to get shot in the face?” Indeed, it’s a miserable state of affairs, one that is surely statistically quantifiable by now.… Read the rest

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What do Occupy and the Tea Party have in Common? More than you Might Think.

In an article entitled “The Six Principles of the New Populism (and the Establishment’s Nightmare)” Robert Reich outlines six points of agreement between “Occupy” leftists and the “Tea Party” right:

[Editor's note: We only took the first few sentences of each point, follow the link to read the entire article.]

1. Cut the biggest Wall Street banks down to a size where they’re no longer too big to fail. Left populists have been advocating this since the Street’s bailout now they’re being joined by populists on the right.

2. Resurrect the Glass-Steagall Act, separating investment from commercial banking and thereby preventing companies from gambling with their depositors’ money. Elizabeth Warren has introduced such legislation, and John McCain co-sponsored it. Tea Partiers are strongly supportive, and critical of establishment Republicans for not getting behind it.

3. End corporate welfare – including subsidies to big oil, big agribusiness, big pharma, Wall Street, and the Ex-Im Bank.… Read the rest

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Why Aristotle Deserves A Posthumous Nobel

aristotle

via The Daily Beast:

Shortly before his death in 1882, Charles Darwin received a letter from a physician and classicist named William Ogle. It contained Ogle’s recent translation of Aristotle’s The Parts of Animals and a brief letter in which he confessed to feeling “some self-importance in thus being a kind of formal introducer of the father of naturalists to his great modern successor.”

Aristotle is not typically remembered as the father of naturalists, but Darwin acknowledged a line of intellectual descent. “I had not the most remote notion of what a wonderful man he was,” Darwin wrote of Aristotle in his reply to Ogle. “Linnaeus and Cuvier have been my two gods, though in very different ways, but they were mere school-boys to old Aristotle.”

A fascinating new book by the evolutionary biologist and science writer Armand Marie Leroi claims that Aristotle fully deserves Darwin’s high praise. In The Lagoon: How Aristotle Invented Science, Leroi argues that Aristotle developed many of the empirical and analytical methods that still define scientific inquiry.

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The Just World Fallacy

Logo of the Conservative Party

Logo of the Conservative Party

Kitty S. Jones writes:

The Tories now deem anything that criticises them as “abusive”. Ordinary campaigners are labelled “extremists” and pointing out flaws, errors and consequences of Tory policy is called “scaremongering”. Language and psychology are a powerful tool, because this kind of use “pre-programs” and sets the terms of any discussion or debate. It also informs you what you may think, or at least, what you need to circumnavigate first, in order to state your own account or case. This isn’t simply name-calling or propaganda: it’s a deplorable and tyrannical silencing technique.

The government have [sic] a Behavioural Insights Team (BIT), which is comprised of both behavioural psychologists and economists, which apply positivist (pseudo)psychological techniques to social policy. They produce “Positive psychology” courses which the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) are using to ensure participants find satisfaction with their lot; the DWP are also using psychological referral with claims being reconsidered on a mandatory basis by civil servant “decision makers”, as punishment for non-compliance with the new regimes of welfare conditionality for which people claiming out of work benefits are subject.

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How the World Let the Ebola Epidemic Spiral Out of Control

By NIAID via Flickr. (CC by 2.0)

By NIAID via Flickr. (CC by 2.0)

Well, as the saying goes, hindsight is always 20/20…

via The Nation:

Before Ebola became an epidemic that has killed more than 3,400 people, before it jumped borders and crossed oceans, it was a deadly, if rare, disease that had been contained during each of its twenty-four previous outbreaks. This is crucial to remember as the disease churns through Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, because it underscores a troubling conclusion: today’s wildfire Ebola epidemic was not inevitable.

Despite its frightening virulence, Ebola can be contained through robust public health efforts. It thrives in chaotic and impoverished environments where public health systems are frayed and international assistance weak. Though experts will debate the roots of this current crisis for years, one point on which many agree is that local poverty and global indifference played starring roles. “This isn’t a natural disaster,” international health crusader Paul Farmer toldThe Washington Post.

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Columbus Day and the Sanitization of History

851px-Christopher_Columbus

The strife that has engulfed Christopher Columbus’s legacy in recent years has put the concept of an Indigenous People’s Day at the forefront of discussion.

In theory, as we move forward in our lives, we should make every effort to broaden our perspective and to seek out the truth. As we mature so should our thought process. Such maturation holds true on both an individual and a societal basis. A broad understanding of history enables one to reconcile the past, comprehend the present, and reasonably theorize how future events may unfold. As truths are discovered, norms begin to shift. Such forthright thinking is necessary to fully grasp the complexities of historical events and figures. This is particularly true with respect to the legacy of Christopher Columbus. A polarizing historical figure whose life has been defined, by many, for his astonishing level of courage and intestinal fortitude; nevertheless, such impressive traits should never blur the fact that he oversaw a murderous quest for material riches that resulted in the utter demise of a people.… Read the rest

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Collective Trauma and the Politics of Fear in Israel

800px-Israel_and_Palestine_Peace

The pursuit of “peace” in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should mean much more than the cessation of violence. It should mean more than the locations of borders, ensuring security, the status of Jerusalem, the right of refugees to return, ending the Gaza blockade or Israel withdrawing from the West Bank. A lasting peace can only be established on the basis of justice for both peoples. This first requires understanding the collective consciousness of both Israeli Jews and Palestinians and the historical roots from which those perspectives have grown.

From the Israeli perspective, since declaring independence in May 1948, Israel has fought six wars, two intifadas, the omnipresent threat of terrorism, and the possibility of nuclear war, all in the name of self-defense against enemies intent on eliminating its existence. Today, a little over 6 million Israeli Jews see themselves entrenched in a militarily sophisticated but precarious fortress state surrounded by 320 million (mostly) hostile Muslims ready to attack should the opportunity arise.… Read the rest

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