(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘society

“Speed and acceleration are merely the dream of making time reversible”*…

In the early 20th century, there was Futurism…

The Italian Futurists, from the first half of the twentieth century… wanted to drive modernisation in turn-of-the-century Italy at a much faster pace. They saw the potential in machines, and technology, to transform the country, to demand progress. It was not however merely an incrementalist approach they were after: words like annihilation, destruction and apocalypse appear in the writings of the futurists, including the author of The Futurist Manifesto, Filippo Tomasso Marinetti. ‘We want to glorify war – the only cure for the world…’ Marinetti proclaimed – this was not for the faint hearted! That same Marinetti was the founder of the Partito Politico Futuristo in 1918, which became part of Mussolini’s Fascist party in 1919. Things did not go well after that.

Beautiful Ideas Which Kill: Accelerationism, Futurism and Bewilderment

And now, in the early 21st century, there is Accelerationism…

These [politically-motivated mass] killings were often linked to the alt-right, described as an outgrowth of the movement’s rise in the Trump era. But many of these suspected killers, from Atomwaffen thugs to the New Zealand mosque shooter to the Poway synagogue attacker, are more tightly connected to a newer and more radical white supremacist ideology, one that dismisses the alt-right as cowards unwilling to take matters into their own hands.

It’s called “accelerationism,” and it rests on the idea that Western governments are irreparably corrupt. As a result, the best thing white supremacists can do is accelerate their demise by sowing chaos and creating political tension. Accelerationist ideas have been cited in mass shooters’ manifestos — explicitly, in the case of the New Zealand killer — and are frequently referenced in white supremacist web forums and chat rooms.

Accelerationists reject any effort to seize political power through the ballot box, dismissing the alt-right’s attempts to engage in mass politics as pointless. If one votes, one should vote for the most extreme candidate, left or right, to intensify points of political and social conflict within Western societies. Their preferred tactic for heightening these contradictions, however, is not voting, but violence — attacking racial minorities and Jews as a way of bringing us closer to a race war, and using firearms to spark divisive fights over gun control. The ultimate goal is to collapse the government itself; they hope for a white-dominated future after that…

Accelerationism: the obscure idea inspiring white supremacist killers around the world” (and source of the image above)

See also: “A Year After January 6, Is Accelerationism the New Terrorist Threat?

For a look at the “intellectual” roots of accelerationism, see “Accelerationism: how a fringe philosophy predicted the future we live in.”

For a powerful articulation of the dangers of Futurism (and even more, Acclerationism), see “The Perils of Smashing the Past.”

And for a reminder of the not-so-obvious ways that movements like these live on, see “The Intentionally Scandalous 1932 Cookbook That Stands the Test of Time,” on The Futurist Cookbook, by Futurist Manifesto author Filippo Tommaso Marinetti… which foreshadowed the “food as fuel” culinary movements that we see today.

* Jean Baudrillard

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As we slow down, we might send a “Alles Gute zum Geburtstag” to the polymathic Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, the philosopher, mathematician, and political adviser, who was important both as a metaphysician and as a logician, but who is probably best remembered for his independent invention of the calculus; he was born on this date in 1646.  Leibniz discovered and developed differential and integral calculus on his own, which he published in 1684; but he became involved in a bitter priority dispute with Isaac Newton, whose ideas on the calculus were developed earlier (1665), but published later (1687).

As it happens, Leibnitz was a wry and incisive political and cultural observer.  Consider, e.g…

If geometry conflicted with our passions and our present concerns as much as morality does, we would dispute it and transgress it almost as much–in spite of all Euclid’s and Archimedes’ demonstrations, which would be treated as fantasies and deemed to be full of fallacies. [Leibniz, New Essays, p. 95]

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“I used to measure the skies, now I measure the shadows of Earth”*…

From ancient Egyptian cubits to fitness tracker apps, humankind has long been seeking ever more ways to measure the world – and ourselves…

The discipline of measurement developed for millennia… Around 6,000 years ago, the first standardised units were deployed in river valley civilisations such as ancient Egypt, where the cubit was defined by the length of the human arm, from elbow to the tip of the middle finger, and used to measure out the dimensions of the pyramids. In the Middle Ages, the task of regulating measurement to facilitate trade was both privilege and burden for rulers: a means of exercising power over their subjects, but a trigger for unrest if neglected. As the centuries passed, units multiplied, and in 18th-century France there were said to be some 250,000 variant units in use, leading to the revolutionary demand: “One king, one law, one weight and one measure.”

It was this abundance of measures that led to the creation of the metric system by French savants. A unit like the metre – defined originally as one ten-millionth of the distance from the equator to the north pole – was intended not only to simplify metrology, but also to embody political ideals. Its value and authority were derived not from royal bodies, but scientific calculation, and were thus, supposedly, equal and accessible to all. Then as today, units of measurement are designed to create uniformity across time, space and culture; to enable control at a distance and ensure trust between strangers. What has changed since the time of the pyramids is that now they often span the whole globe.

Despite their abundance, international standards like those mandated by NIST and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) are mostly invisible in our lives. Where measurement does intrude is via bureaucracies of various stripes, particularly in education and the workplace. It’s in school that we are first exposed to the harsh lessons of quantification – where we are sorted by grade and rank and number, and told that these are the measures by which our future success will be gauged…

A fascinating survey of the history of measurement, and a consideration of its consequences: “Made to measure: why we can’t stop quantifying our lives,” from James Vincent (@jjvincent) in @guardian, an excerpt from his new book Beyond Measure: The Hidden History of Measurement.

And for a look at what it takes to perfect one of the most fundamental of those measures, see Jeremy Bernstein‘s “The Kilogram.”

* “I used to measure the skies, now I measure the shadows of Earth. Although my mind was sky-bound, the shadow of my body lies here.” – Epitaph Johannes Kepler composed for himself a few months before he died

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As we get out the gauge, we might send thoughtfully-wagered birthday greetings Blaise Pascal; he was born on this date in 1623.  A French mathematician, physicist, theologian, and inventor (e.g.,the first digital calculator, the barometer, the hydraulic press, and the syringe), his commitment to empiricism (“experiments are the true teachers which one must follow in physics”) pitted him against his contemporary René “cogito, ergo sum” Descartes– and was foundational in the acceleration of the scientific/rationalist commitment to measurement…

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Happy Juneteenth!

“A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest”*…

Adventures of a Dog, and a Good Dog Too, 1857

The “children’s book” effectively dates from the mid-18th century (before which children’s reading was generally confined to literature intended for their education and moral edification rather than for their amusement). Since then, there’s been an extraordinary– and illuminating– flowering…

We can learn much about how a historical period viewed the abilities of its children by studying its children’s literature. Occupying a space somewhere between the purely didactic and the nonsensical, most children’s books published in the past few hundred years have attempted to find a line between the two poles, seeking a balance between entertainment and instruction. However, that line seems to move closer to one pole or another depending on the prevailing cultural sentiments of the time. And the very fact that children’s books were hardly published at all before the early 18th century tells us a lot about when and how modern ideas of childhood as a separate category of existence began.

“By the end of the 18th century,” writes Newcastle University professor M.O. Grenby, “children’s literature was a flourishing, separate and secure part of the publishing industry in Britain.” The trend accelerated rapidly and has never ceased—children’s and young adult books now drive sales in publishing (with 80% of YA books bought by grown-ups for themselves)…

More– and a chance to do your own exploration– at “Enter an Archive of 6,000 Historical Children’s Books, All Digitized and Free to Read Online,” from @openculture. Go directly to the 6,000+ titles in the Baldwin Library of Historical Children’s Literature here.

And as a bonus, visit the 1,800+ titles in UCLA Children’s Book Collection at the Internet Archive.

* C. S. Lewis

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As we turn the page, we might turn back to “adult” literature and recall that today– and every June 16– is Bloomsday, a commemoration and celebration of the life of Irish writer James Joyce, during which the events of his novel Ulysses (a modern classic set on this date in 1904) are relived: Leopold Bloom goes about Dublin, James Joyce’s immortalization of his first outing with Nora Barnacle, the woman who would eventually become his wife.

The first Bloomsday was observed on the 50th anniversary of the events in the novel, in 1954, when John Ryan (artist, critic, publican and founder of Envoy magazine) and the novelist Brian O’Nolan organized what was to be a daylong pilgrimage along the Ulysses route. They were joined by Patrick Kavanagh, Anthony Cronin, Tom Joyce (a dentist who, as Joyce’s cousin, represented the family interest), and AJ Leventhal (a lecturer in French at Trinity College, Dublin).

 The crew for the first Bloomsday excursion

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

June 16, 2022 at 1:00 am

“The welfare and the future of our societies depend on our capacity to remain mobilized so as to improve the health of every mother and child”*…

Preparing for a world post Roe v Wade…

The red states poised to ban or severely limit abortion already tend to have limited access to health care, poor health outcomes and fewer safety net programs in place for mothers and children.

If the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, as it’s expected to, the ensuing increase in births will likely leave families in tough circumstances and strain systems that are already hanging by a thread.

“What we’re facing as a country is hundreds of thousands of births, probably disproportionately located in the states that have been most limited in what they do for pregnant women, infants and children. So this is the great paradox that we are dealing with,” said Sara Rosenbaum, a health law and policy professor at George Washington University. “We have not ever designed these programs for a world without Roe,” she added. “You need a child welfare system, the likes of which we’ve never seen.”…

A growing shortage of obstetricians, higher maternal mortality rates and worse health care outcomes generally, increased pressure on U.S. foster and adoption systems— it all bodes ill…

We know from focus on health outcomes that kids born into poverty, kids born into unstable social circumstances, tend to have higher incidence of early onset chronic diseases,” Shannon said. “We also know that when those children are raised in unstable circumstances and have to be cared for in foster care, the outcomes there are really sobering.

Richard Shannon, chief quality officer for Duke Health

Red states aren’t prepared for a post-Roe baby boom,” from Caitlin Owens (@caitlinnowens) in @axios.

* Jean Ping

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As we contemplate care, we might sending healing birthday greetings to Thomas Huckle Weller; he was born on this date in 1915. A virologist, he developed a technique for cultivating poliomyelitis viruses in a test tube, using a combination of human embryonic skin and muscle tissue– which enabled the study of the virus “in the test tube,” a procedure that led to the development of polio vaccines. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1954.

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“Fondling their weapons, feeling suddenly so young and good they are reminded that guns are more than decoration, intimidation, or comfort. They are meant.”*…

Micah Harris (31) – Oxnard, California Since he was a boy, Micah Harris has had just one wish—to surround himself with the same guns he’s seen in Hollywood movies. He would dream about them at night, first and foremost among them, “Bruce Willis’s Beretta from Die Hard. It’s a legend.” However, surrounding oneself with firearms is no simple thing in California, and not well looked upon either. When he decided to buy his first rifle, a Remington 700, the bureaucratic hoops he had to jump through were so many and so complex that he decided to set up a YouTube channel, posting updates on his progress and sharing what he learned along the way. The channel garnered moderate success. Today, Micah knows all the rules and advises others on how to buy the firearms they want. He manages a gun shop that he founded with a friend, and he’s also a member of the NRA. Losing some friends in a mass shooting only strengthened his convictions about the importance of knowing how to defend oneself. “Shootings are a tragic way to use a tool that was never conceived for that purpose. If I could speak to the victims, I’d tell them I offer them all of my help and understanding, and that I’d be happy to teach them how to use guns, so that they could defend themselves in the future.” Choosing a favorite gun is kind of like choosing a favorite child. If I really had to, I’d say an Mk 12 Mod 1
Torrell Jasper, a.k.a. Black Rambo (35) – Schiever, Louisiana (in the background, Allen Craff, Tyrone Gathen, James J. Herbert) Every day, nearly six hundred thousand people wait for Torrell Jasper to make his appearance on Instagram and show off one of his guns. To find him, just type in “Black Rambo,” a nickname he’s extremely proud of, and make sure you don’t end up on his son’s account by mistake (at 13, he’s already trying to make a name for himself on social media). Torrell, now 35, learned to shoot from his father as a child. A former Marine, he spent a few years in war zones, “where pulling the trigger and hitting the target was a question of life or death.” Now, back in civilian life and working as an A/C systems installer, Torrell, a.k.a. Black Rambo, mostly just has fun with his guns. People have fun watching him, too. About a hundred different manufacturers of firearms and related paraphernalia have, over the years, asked him to use and promote their products, and he loves being the center of attention at least as much as he loves owning a flamethrower. “There are no weapons I would ban ordinary citizens from owning, but if I had to name one, well, a bazooka isn’t really something you need,” he admits. That said, he has no fear that an item in his arsenal might be dangerous for his young children or for any of his many followers. “It’s not guns that hurt people, it’s the people holding the guns.” I couldn’t say which weapon is my favorite. I can’t choose just one. I love them all. That’s why I buy so many. The first gun I ever bought was an AK-47.

Two of the arresting portraits in Gabriele Galimberti‘s striking series “The Ameriguns,” @GabrieleGalimba.

* Toni Morrison, Paradise

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As we pine for ploughshares, we might recall that it was on this date in 2021 that U.S. District Judge Roger T. Benitez of the Southern District of California ruled that sections of the 1989 California state ban on assault weapons– military-style rifles like the AR-15, so prominently featured in the photos above– was unconstitutional. In his opinion, Benitez opined, “like the Swiss Army knife, the popular AR-15 rifle is a perfect combination of home defense weapon and homeland defense equipment.” Later that month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit blocked his ruling.

For a different set of Pictures: “America’s gun culture – in seven charts.”

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

June 4, 2022 at 1:00 am

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