News 09.09.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 09.09.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 09.09.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 09.09.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

I QUIT TWITTER and Instagram in May, in the same manner I leave parties: abruptly, silently, and much later than would have been healthy. This was several weeks into New York City’s lockdown, and for those of us not employed by institutions deemed essential—hospitals, prisons, meatpacking plants—sociality was now entirely mediated by a handful of tech giants, with no meatspace escape route, and the platforms felt particularly, grimly pathetic. Instagram, cut off from a steady supply of vacations and parties and other covetable experiences, had grown unsettlingly boring, its inhabitants increasingly unkempt and wild-eyed, each one like the sole surviving astronaut from a doomed space-colonization mission, broadcasting deranged missives about yoga and cooking projects into an uncaring void. Twitter, on the other hand, felt more like a doomed space-colonization mission where everyone had survived but we had to decide who to eat. Or like a drunken 3 AM basement fight club, a crowd of edgy brawlers circling each other, cracking their knuckles, waiting for an excuse. Only, it didn’t have any of the danger, or eroticism, or fun you might expect from a fight club.

Read the rest of this article at: Bookforum

News 09.09.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 09.09.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Philanthropy, it is popularly supposed, transfers money from the rich to the poor. This is not the case. In the US, which statistics show to be the most philanthropic of nations, barely a fifth of the money donated by big givers goes to the poor. A lot goes to the arts, sports teams and other cultural pursuits, and half goes to education and healthcare. At first glance that seems to fit the popular profile of “giving to good causes”. But dig down a little.

The biggest donations in education in 2019 went to the elite universities and schools that the rich themselves had attended. In the UK, in the 10-year period to 2017, more than two-thirds of all millionaire donations – £4.79bn – went to higher education, and half of these went to just two universities: Oxford and Cambridge. When the rich and the middle classes give to schools, they give more to those attended by their own children than to those of the poor. British millionaires in that same decade gave £1.04bn to the arts, and just £222m to alleviating poverty.

The common assumption that philanthropy automatically results in a redistribution of money is wrong. A lot of elite philanthropy is about elite causes. Rather than making the world a better place, it largely reinforces the world as it is. Philanthropy very often favours the rich – and no one holds philanthropists to account for it.

The role of private philanthropy in international life has increased dramatically in the past two decades. Nearly three-quarters of the world’s 260,000 philanthropy foundations have been established in that time, and between them they control more than $1.5tn. The biggest givers are in the US, and the UK comes second. The scale of this giving is enormous. The Gates Foundation alone gave £5bn in 2018 – more than the foreign aid budget of the vast majority of countries.

Philanthropy is always an expression of power. Giving often depends on the personal whims of super-rich individuals. Sometimes these coincide with the priorities of society, but at other times they contradict or undermine them. Increasingly, questions have begun to be raised about the impact these mega-donations are having upon the priorities of society.

There are a number of tensions inherent in the relationship between philanthropy and democracy. For all the huge benefits modern philanthropy can bring, the sheer scale of contemporary giving can skew spending in areas such as education and healthcare, to the extent that it can overwhelm the priorities of democratically elected governments and local authorities.

Some of this influence is indirect. The philanthropy of Bill and Melinda Gates has brought huge benefits for humankind. When the foundation made its first big grant for malaria research, it nearly doubled the amount of money spent on the disease worldwide. It did the same with polio. Thanks in part to Gates (and others), some 2.5 billion children have been vaccinated against the disease, and global cases of polio have been cut by 99.9%. Polio has been virtually eradicated. Philanthropy has made good the failures of both the pharmaceutical industry and governments across the world. The Gates Foundation, since it began in 2000, has given away more than $45bn and saved millions of lives.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

The messages wishing me a gruesome death arrive slowly at first and then all at once. I am condemned to be burned, raped, tortured. Some include a video of joyful dancing at a funeral, with fists pounding on a wooden casket. The hardest ones to read take aim at my mother, who has been immobilized by the neurodegenerative disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis since 2014. Most of the messages originate in China, but my mother and I live in New York. As the COVID lockdown has swept the city, I find out that the health aides she depends on are to be banned from her facility and take to Twitter to publicize my despair. But this personal plight as a daughter unexpectedly attracts the attention of Chinese nationalists who have long been displeased with my work as a writer reporting on China. In short order, my predicament is politicized and packaged into a viral sensation. “Has your mom died yet?” China15z0dj wants to know. “Your mom will be dead Haha. 1.4 billion people wish for you to join her in Hell. Haha!”

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

News 09.09.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 09.09.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

‘As far as the education of children is concerned,’ wrote Natalia Ginzburg in 1960, ‘I think they should be taught not the little virtues but the great ones.’ Not thrift, caution, shrewdness or a desire for success, but generosity, courage, frankness and a desire to be and to know; ‘not tact [diplomazia] but love for one’s neighbour and self-denial.’ This essay, ‘The Little Virtues’, gives the title to Ginzburg’s 1962 collection, which starts with the melancholic ‘Winter in the Abruzzi’, about the early war years spent in the countryside away from Rome, before her husband was tortured to death by fascists.

Ginzburg’s wisdom is cogent and moving; but there is something in the trajectory of her essay that intrigues me: which is that her relegation of tact among the little virtues is then followed by an unselfconscious demonstration of that virtue in its most authentic form. Indeed, tact is often considered a luxury of social interaction, something supererogatory; commendable, but not required, as the philosopher David Heyd points out in 1995. It is a form of paying close attention to the particulars of a situation and the feelings of another person, neatly illustrated by Queen Victoria drinking rose water from her finger bowl, to put at ease her guest, the Afrikaner king Paul Kruger, who had committed the egregious mistake first; or by a person swiftly apologising: ‘Pardon, Monsieur,’ after inadvertently opening a bathroom door onto the privacy of a lady. The high sensitivity displayed in tactfulness bespeaks a more discerning attention to nuance than is required by the more urgent demands of moral virtues, recognised across cultures for their concern with fundamental human interests and rights.

In the early 1960s, Ginzburg observed, a desire to reassert oneself against the authoritarianism of the war generation was checked by a fear of ridicule, so one hid ‘behind caution and shrewdness’. Despite this emphasis on cool conduct, Ginzburg lays out her child-rearing philosophy in no timid terms – perhaps recognising that it is through education that one begins to lay out the foundations of a different world. She speaks of education as ‘a certain climate in which feelings, instincts and thoughts can flourish’, and she cautions against too close a friendliness with one’s children, ‘so that they can develop separately from us’. In other words, restraining one’s presence and feelings originates in a desire to give space to another being to flourish. It’s an exercise in discretion and gentleness; or, in one word, tact.

Read the rest of this article at: aeon

News 09.09.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

I started to come apart sometime after midnight. I was cold, shiver-sweating, and shuffling alone on my 35th two-mile lap around a farm 40 miles west of Savannah, Georgia. I’ll back up in a second, and offer some context. But, for now, let’s remember the loneliness, and the absurdity. Let’s remember the darkness and how the stars looked like light shining through a thousand pinpricks in the vast blueblack tapestry of the night sky. And let’s remember how, when I shifted my head-lamped gaze from the few feet right in front of me to the big sky above, hoping to have a moment with the stars and witness something beautiful, the headlamp erased them, and I became a single low beam of light caught in the act of disappearing. Let’s remember how that felt: to expect something so great and be faced with its opposite.

Beginning on October 20, 2018, ultrarunner Courtney Dauwalter took on Johan Steene at Big’s Backyard Ultra, a wildly conceived race where runners must complete a four-mile loop every hour on the hour. Runners can complete the loop as quickly or slowly as they desire, but they must be on the start line when the gun goes off each hour. Dauwalter and Steene battled over three days, running 279 miles each until Dauwalter, after 67 hours, shook Steene’s hand and let him finish his last loop alone. Steene later wrote, of that moment: “As I jogged away alone into the Tennessee night I didn’t feel joy. I felt empty and without purpose.” Steene had won, and yet there was no sense of accomplishment, purpose, or positive emotion. What do you make of that? The hole where something should be but nothing is?

For a long time, I thought I ran, and competed in sport, as a way to use the metaphor of sport to understand life. Life is a marathon, I was often told. I remember watching and re-watching Chariots of Fire, particularly that moment in the rain when Eric Liddell, just minutes after winning a race, states: “I want to compare faith to running in a race. It’s hard. It requires energy of will.” I loved that moment as a child, especially as someone who had, at one point, a deep amount of faith. But I always paused the clip before he stated what later became to me more obvious: “So who am I to say believe, have faith, in the face of life’s realities…I have no formula for winning a race. Everyone runs in their own way.” It’s true, that everyone runs in their own way, which is a fact I’ve come to appreciate as I’ve grown older. Patience, both with my own peculiar movements through life and with those of others, is a skill I actively try to cultivate and maintain. And yet, even Liddell’s quote has to do with winning. And that — the idea of winning, or finishing, or accomplishing — has become its own universal signifier. It’s not about what you do. It’s about what you have done.

For the past three years, my college running friends and I have, despite whatever physical distance separates us, met up each February at a farm in Brooklet, Georgia to run a 24-hour ultramarathon. Known as Farmdaze, the race is a small, weekend-long festival of lots of things, running being only one of them. Other things include, but are not limited to: pig roasts, folk music, beer, beer miles, campfires, hot dogs, friends, occasional nakedness, cute puppies, scary roosters, goats, family-friendliness, non-family-friendliness, karaoke, ecstatic experiences, tears, blood, trippy lights in the middle of the woods, emotional connection, the phrase “what the fuck,” and a lack of sleep.

Each year, Victor and Andrew, the two founders of this “thing,” sneak off in the middle of the night to hang neon lights in the forest and set up speakers that play beautiful, discordant, wonky music. There’s one hill on the course. It’s called Space Mountain. It’s five feet tall.

Read the rest of this article at: Longreads

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