In the News 07.06.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


In the News 07.06.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
In the News 07.06.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
In the News 07.06.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Life On The Slippery Earth

When Halloween rolled around last year, my wife and I were prepared to be greeted by scores of eager trick-or-treaters. Guided by the thought that too much candy was better than too little, we bought entirely too much, and simply poured the excess on to a platter in our living room. The problem is: I have a sweet-tooth. ‘I can’t stop eating these!’ I said to my wife, peevishly, a few days later. Nearly every time I passed the coffee table, I succumbed to my cravings for a sugar rush, and then I’d feel frustrated and irritated.

When I returned from work that evening, I noticed the platter was empty. ‘Oh, I just took it to work and gave it away to the students,’ my wife said, when I asked. Just like that, my cycle of transgression and guilt was broken.

This little episode illustrates two aspects of Aztec virtue ethics that distinguish it from ‘Western’ forms, such as Plato’s or Aristotle’s. The first is that I did not overcome my vice so much as manage it. The second is that I didn’t manage it on my own, but rather did so (almost entirely) with the help of another person.

Read the rest of this article at: aeon

Empathy Machines


A few months ago, as I was on my way to see “A Mile in My Shoes,” an exhibition staged by the Empathy Museum as a pop-up outside London’s Migration Museum, a woman walked down the aisle of the train I was on, asking for money or food. I gave her the bag of almonds I had in my tote bag, but I don’t think it was empathy that made me do it. The sun was shining through the window that day, and I was in a good mood as I drank my coffee and ate my breakfast. The shame of being happy and satisfied in front of someone who was turning their unhappiness into a public performance made me hand over my snack. Plus, I remembered that I was going to the Empathy Museum.

The truth is that every time I pass a person sleeping or begging on the streets, I am terrified by the thought of what would happen if I did truly empathize with them: If I, even for a moment, felt the precariousness of their life as my own, wouldn’t I have to offer them more than bag of almonds? Wouldn’t it demand that I offer everything I have?

This isn’t because I am particularly generous but because the discourse around empathy portrays it as a moral super-emotion. “Great claims are also made for empathy’s ability to make us good, moral, connected, and civilized,” David Howe writes in Empathy: What It Is and Why It Matters. He cites economist Jeremy Rifkin, who calls empathy “the soul of democracy.” Former President Barack Obama also championed empathy’s importance, declaring, “If we hope to meet the moral test of our times, if we hope to eradicate child poverty or AIDS or joblessness or homelessness … then I think that we’re going to have to talk more about the empathy deficit — the ability to put ourselves in somebody else’s shoes, to see the world through somebody else’s eyes.”

Read the rest of this article at: Real Life

Tuscany Tote in Midnight

Shop the Tuscany Tote in Midnight
at Belgrave Crescent &

Cruises Are So Uncool They Are Cool

It’s the final day of this seven-night cruise and I am sitting in my moderately messy balcony stateroom aboard the Celebrity Summit finishing the last bites of a room service cheeseburger, bags as yet unpacked for tomorrow morning’s disembarkation, the vast undulating North Atlantic just over my starboard shoulder.

I am trying to summon up my arguments in support of the mass-market luxury cruise, and against the snarky subgenre of travel writing about mass-market luxury cruises, a snarkiness best exemplified by David Foster Wallace’s classic 1997 essay “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again,” piece that is hilarious and insightful and brilliant. And also wrong.

It’s wrongbecause he tills every square inch of the surreal journalistic soil available to him during his own seven-day Caribbean cruise aboard the now decommissioned Celebrity Zenith(which he redubs the Nadir), but after 98 exhaustive pages of skeet shooting, conga dancing, fruit eating and existential despair falling, he fails to unearth what I believe is the flowering root of the widespread appeal of cruises: their unapologetic, gleaming banality.

Read the rest of this article at: The New York Times


How Horrific Things Come To Seem Normal

The first mention of Adolf Hitler in the New York Times was on November 21, 1922, buried on page 21. From the headline, one could almost have thought the article was about a cabaret singer or literary celebrity: “NEW POPULAR IDOL RISES IN BAVARIA.” It was not until the fifth sub-headline that the Times mentioned that Bavaria’s new pop idol, in addition to raising a “gray-shirted army armed with blackjacks and revolvers,” was “anti-Red and anti-Semitic.” In the body of the article, the Times correspondent frankly portrayed Hitler’s militarism, acknowledging the tendency of his group to “beat up protesting Socialists and Communists.” But, it said, there are multiple perspectives on Hitler: “[He] is taken seriously by all classes of Bavarians… he is feared by some, enthusiastically hailed as a prophet and political economic savior by others, and watched with interest by the bulk.” Most of the article was spent documenting Hitler’s gifts as a political organizer, noting that “in addition to his oratorical and organizing abilities, has another positive asset: he is a man of the ‘common people,’” who had won the Iron Cross, which for “a common soldier is distinctive evidence of bravery and daring,” and “he is credibly credited with being actuated by lofty, unselfish patriotism.”

The Times did not dwell too much on Hitler’s agenda, because “Hitler’s program is of less interest than his person and movement,” commenting that he promotes “half a dozen negative ideas clothed in generalities.” Toward the very end, the NYT did make clear that primary among these negative generalities was a murderous loathing of Jews. But, the correspondent said, this was probably just bluster:

The keynote of his speaking and writing is violent anti-Semitism… so violent are Hitler’s fulminations against Jews that a number of prominent Jewish citizens are said to have sought safe asylum in the Bavarian highlands… But several reliable, well-informed sources confirmed the idea that Hitler’s anti-Semitism was not so genuine or violent as it sounded, and that he was merely using anti-Semitism as a bait to catch followers and keep them aroused, enthusiastic, and in line… A sophisticated political observer credited Hitler with peculiar cleverness for laying emphasis and over-emphasis on anti-Semitism, saying: “You can’t expect the masses to understand or appreciate your finer real aims. You must feed the masses with cruder morsels and ideas like anti-Semitism. It would be politically all wrong to tell them the truth about where you are leading them.”

Read the rest of this article at: Current Affairs

‘We Believed We Could Remake Ourselves Any Way We Liked’: How The 1990s Shaped #MeToo


I have been at that door so many times. The one you walk through into his apartment, or let him through into yours, and something shifts. It’s as quick as the click when the optometrist slides a new lens into the eye-test machine: a clear, almost weightless little sliver of a thing, but with the power to make the world resolve into clarity – or blur out, leaving you nauseous and unbalanced.

Once, it was the door to the celebrated journalist’s apartment that I stumbled through, aged 21. I’d taken a train to New York to meet him for career advice and, unexpectedly, he had suggested we meet at a bar, then bought me several martinis. But then again, I drank them. Whose fault was the sex that ensued? And then there was the door to an AirBnB I rented in Uruguay in 2014, with a pushy local journalist I had just met trailing behind me. As I fumbled with my keys, I remember thinking: how did I get here?

Me too. Isn’t that frightening? That almost every woman today can say these words? Finally, we are having a conversation about the sexual harassment – and the sexual encounters – that have left us feeling damaged. And yet there’s a kind of uncertainty still hovering around the unfolding conversation – something still tucked into the shadows. Some people have said women are being inconsistent, re-remembering encounters they hadn’t had a problem with at the time. Others wonder why women – particularly young women – are feeling so fragile, acting as if they have been terribly wounded by something as apparently minor as a leer.

Complaints about boorish behaviour or lame one-night stands, this critique goes, have the potential not only to delegitimise real accusations of rape, but #MeToo’s whole message. When a writer recently accused the novelist Junot Díaz of “forcibly kissing” her (which he denied) and other women came forward to say Díaz had acted aggressively towards them in public, a friend of mine in her 40s – a feminist who writes with empathy about women who kill their abusive partners – worried that Diaz was being pilloried for “assholery”, not legally actionable crimes. Just after saying that, though, this friend began to recount her own first kiss. The boy had shoved her hard up against a fence. She started to laugh, as if to pass it off as a wacky youthful memory, like a zit popping during a job interview. But it was clear something in her still wanted to cry.

The problem is, it’s this ill-defined area between “assholery” and attempted rape that troubles many women. This is hard to talk about, and increasingly so, as we perceive the damage that just remembering can apparently wreak. When I asked if it was “the right time” to write about my experience with the New York journalist, another male writer said to me, “Hell, no!”, telling me that “careers are being ruined”. But I don’t want to ruin anybody’s career.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

P.S. previous articles & more by P.F.M.

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