Retalls (24.2.2019)

#KoreaToo. E. Tammy Kim. The New York Review of Books

It is curious that a book not primarily focused on sexual violence has become a cultural touchstone for Korea’s version of the Me Too movement. (...) Porn is illegal in Korea, and thus exchanged through underground networks—this was nothing new—but consumers were now downloading countless images of women and girls that had been obtained secretly, without their consent. Revenge porn and footage from spy cameras in women’s bathrooms and changing rooms were being streamed on smartphones and bought and sold on various websites, on a scale few had previously understood. (...)

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Retalls (10-2-19)

New Americanism. Jill Llepore. Foreign Affairs

Nineteenth-century nationalism was liberal, a product of the Enlightenment. It rested on an analogy between the individual and the collective. As the American theorist of nationalism Hans Kohn once wrote, “The concept of national self-determination—transferring the ideal of liberty from the individual to the organic collectivity—was raised as the banner of liberalism.” (...) Liberal nationalism, as an idea, is fundamentally historical. Nineteenth-century Americans understood the nation-state within the context of an emerging set of ideas about human rights: namely, that the power of the state guaranteed everyone eligible for citizenship the same set of irrevocable political rights (...) In the antebellum United States, Northerners, and especially northern abolitionists, drew a contrast between (northern) nationalism and (southern) sectionalism. “We must cultivate a national, instead of a sectional patriotism” urged one Michigan congressman in 1850. But Southerners were nationalists, too (…)

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Retalls (3.2.2019)

Reeducating’ Xinjiang’s Muslims. James Millward. The New York Review of Books.

People outside Xinjiang first began to learn about the camps in 2017. Uighurs abroad grew alarmed as friends and relatives at home dropped out of touch, first deleting phone and social media contacts and then disappearing entirely. Uighur students who returned or were forced back to China after studying in foreign countries likewise vanished upon arriving. When they can get any information at all, Uighurs outside China have learned that police took their relatives and friends to the reeducation camps: “gone to study” is the careful euphemism used on the closely surveilled Chinese messaging app WeChat. (...) Our best sense of what is happening inside the camps comes from former prisoners, one writing anonymously in Foreign Policy, and others interviewed in Kazakhstan by Shih and Emily Rauhala for The Washington Post: detainees must sing anthems of the Chinese Communist Party (…)

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Retalls (27.1.2019)

Happiness on Demand. Lone Frank. The New York Book of Review.

Twelve years ago, a fifty-nine-year-old Dutchman checked into an Amsterdam hospital to have two small electrodes implanted in his brain. The patient, “Mr. B,” had a forty-year history of severe obsessive-compulsive disorder. Neither drugs nor therapy had helped, and he was prepared to try an experimental treatment called deep brain stimulation (DBS). Powered by neurostimulators placed under the skin, the implanted electrodes would deliver regular five-volt electrical pulses to a region of Mr. B’s brain called the nucleus accumbens (...) Until the electrodes were implanted Mr. B had no particular interest in music, least of all country music. If he listened to music, it was usually the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, or Dutch rock bands. Six months after the DBS began, however, Mr. B had a transformative moment: he heard Johnny Cash’s song “Ring of Fire” on the radio. From then on, Mr. B listened to Johnny Cash and nothing else. In the journal Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, his doctors wrote, “When listening to his favorite songs he walks back and forth through the room and feels like he finds himself in a movie in which he plays the hero’s part.” (...)

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Retalls (20.1.19)

The Art of Decision Making. Joshua Rothman. The New Yorker.

In “War and Peace,” Tolstoy writes that, while an armchair general may imagine himself “analyzing some campaign on a map” and then issuing orders, a real general never finds himself at “the beginning of some event”; instead, he is perpetually situated in the middle of a series of events, each a link in an endless chain of causation. “Can it be that I allowed Napoleon to get as far as Moscow?” Tolstoy’s General Kutuzov wonders. “When was it decided? Was it yesterday, when I sent Platov the order to retreat, or was it the evening before, when I dozed off and told Bennigsen to give the orders? Or still earlier?” Unlike the capture of Moscow by Napoleon, the birth of my son was a joyous occasion. Still, like Kutuzov, I’m at a loss to explain it: it’s a momentous choice, but I can’t pinpoint the making of it in space or time. For Tolstoy, the tendency of big decisions to make themselves was one of the great mysteries of existence. It suggested that the stories we tell about our lives are inadequate to their real complexity. Johnson means to offer a way out of the Tolstoyan conundrum. He wants to make us writers, rather than readers, of our own stories. Doing so requires engaging with one of life’s fundamental questions: Are we in charge of the ways we change? (…)

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Retalls (13.1.19)

Are our life chances determined by our DNA? Anja Ahuja. Financial Times

Even the home, the very definition of “environment”, is subject to genetic influence, he says. If kids in book-filled homes exhibit high IQs, it is because high-IQ parents tend to create book-filled homes. The parents are passing on their intelligence to their children via their genes, not their libraries: “The shocking and profound revelation . . . is that parents have little systematic effect on their children’s outcomes, beyond the blueprint that their genes provide.” His conclusion is that “parents matter, but they don’t make a difference”. (...) Plomin describes DNA as a “fortune-teller” while simultaneously emphasising that “genetics describes what is — it does not predict what could be”. This caveat is odd, given his later enthusiasm for using genetic testing predictively in almost every aspect of life: in health, education, choosing a job and even attracting a spouse. (...) This vision sounds worryingly like pre-medicalisation. Plomin proclaims himself a cheerleader for such implications but is disappointingly light on the ethical issues. A predisposition might never manifest as a symptom — and besides, “possible schizophrenic” is not the kind of descriptor I would want to carry around from birth. (...) Plomin admits that cowardice stopped him writing such a book before now; it probably also stopped him from addressing alleged racial differences in intelligence. This is a grave omission, as he is one of the few academics capable of authoritatively quashing the notion. James Watson, the 90-year-old DNA pioneer, recently restated his belief that blacks are cognitively inferior to whites. (...)

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Retalls (11.11.18)

American Devilry. Adam Hochschild. The New York Review of Book.

”At least four thousand black people were lynched in the United States between 1877 and 1950. Not all of them were in the South. In 1922, a black man seen kissing a white woman barely escaped being killed by a mob in midtown Manhattan. (...) Where, then, does this deep American racial fury, so skillfully manipulated by Donald Trump’s jut-browed scowl, come from? Churchwell reminds us of how white Americans, no matter how poor, have long been compensated with what W. E. B. Du Bois called the “public and psychological wage” of being white. “White laborers,” he wrote, “were convinced that the degradation of Negro labor was more fundamental than the uplift of white labor.” Fountain quotes another distinguished black writer, James Baldwin, making essentially the same point: “The contempt with which American leaders treat American blacks is very obvious; what is not so obvious is that they treat the bulk of the American people with the very same contempt. But it will be sub-zero weather in a very distant August when the American people find the guts to recognize this fact.”

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Retalls (4.11.18)

The Autocracy AppJacob Weisberg. The New York Review of Books

 “What would the world look like if Facebook succeeded in becoming the Operating System of Our Lives? That status has arguably been achieved only by Tencent in China. Tencent runs WeChat, which combines aspects of Facebook, Messenger, Google, Twitter, and Instagram. People use its payment system to make purchases from vending machines, shop online, bank, and schedule appointments. Tencent also connects to the Chinese government’s Social Credit System, which gives users a score, based on data mining and surveillance of their online and offline activity. You gain points for obeying the law and lose them for such behavior as traffic violations or “spreading rumors online.” (…)

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Retalls (27.10.18)

I won’t vote. W.E.B. Du Bois. The Nation (1956)

If a voter organizes or advocates a real third-party movement, he may be accused of seeking to overthrow this government by “force and violence.” Anything he advocates by way of significant reform will be called “Communist” and will of necessity be Communist in the sense that it must advocate such things as government ownership of the means of production; government in business; the limitation of private profit; social medicine, government housing and federal aid to education; the total abolition of race bias; and the welfare state. These things are on every Communist program; these things are the aim of socialism. Any American who advocates them today, no matter how sincerely, stands in danger of losing his job, surrendering his social status and perhaps landing in jail. The witnesses against him may be liars or insane or criminals.”

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Retalls (21.10.18)

Why World is Giving Up on Freedom.  Umair Haque. Medium

“What happens when societies are unable to save? Well — and this may strike you as foolish, but it is nonetheless true — they demand less social spending, so as to have more money in their pockets today. And so across rich nations, savage austerity arose. In Britain, its great institutions, like the NHS and BBC began to shrink. The EU’s levels of social investments fell. And in America, people simply stopped having affordable healthcare and education at all — they were forced to make barbaric choices, like feeding their kids versus basic medicine like insulin.”

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Retalls (14.10.18)

The Second Sight of W.E.B. Du Bois. Chris Hedges. Truth dig.

Regeneration and purification through violence is the credo of the American empire. D.H. Lawrence, like Du Bois, saw it, and said, “The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic, and a killer.” The pillars of American capitalism are genocide and slavery. America was not blessed by God. It was blessed, if that is the right word, by producing the most efficient killing machines and trained killers on the planet. It unleashed industrial violence on its enemies abroad and empowered armed white vigilante groups and gun thugs—the slave patrols, the Ku Klux Klan, the White Leagues (the armed wing of the Democratic Party), the Baldwin Felts and Pinkertons—to perpetrate a domestic reign of terror against blacks, Native Americans, Mexicans, Chinese, abolitionists, Catholics, radicals, workers and labor organizers. The ideological descendants of these killers have mutated into white hate groups and militarized law enforcement that terrorize immigrants and undocumented workers, Muslims and people of color trapped in our internal colonies. This bloody visage is the true face of America.”

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