All posts filed under: Recommended

A Girl’s Place in the World

Worth mentioning here is the way in which the boy’s plight differs from the girl’s in almost every known society. Whatever the arrangements in regard to descent or ownership of property…the prestige values always attach to the occupations of men. —Margaret Mead, Sex and Temperament in Three Primitive Societies, 1935 It is no exaggeration to say that the greatest obsession in history is that of man with woman’s body. —David D. Gilmore, Misogyny, 2001 In the volume Gender Rituals: Female Initiation in Melanesia, anthropologist Brigitta Hauser-Schäublin recounts meeting a woman who had undergone a male initiation among the Central Iatmul fisher-foragers of Papua New Guinea. One day years back, when the woman was a young, pre-pubescent girl visiting her mother’s village of Tigowi, she had climbed a Malay apple tree to get some fruit. At that moment, two men were blowing flutes in a fenced-off enclosure nearby and saw the girl in the tree. This was a serious matter, as the flutes were meant to be kept secret from the women and children, who were …

After Academia

I keep being invited to talk about free speech on college campuses and every time I’m invited I make the same point: that this isn’t about free speech and this is only tangentially about college campuses. This is about a breakdown in the basic logic of civilisation, and it’s spreading. College campuses may be the first dramatic battle but of course this is going to find its way into the courts; it’s already found its way into the tech sector. It’s going to find its way to the highest level of governance if we aren’t careful, and it actually does jeopardise the ability of civilisation to continue to function. ~Bret Weinstein Mike Nayna’s documentary on the Evergreen State College Affair, from which I transcribed the above quote from Bret Weinstein, is a riveting watch. No matter how closely you followed the debacle at the time, there is really no substitute for this fascinating glimpse behind the scenes. Evergreen academics can be seen meekly and repeatedly submitting to ideological manipulation, and on a number of occasions …

The Iraq War Was Not About Oil

Why did the U.S.-led coalition attack Iraq in 2003? Sixteen years after George W. Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” speech, the answer seems obvious to some: oil of course! When war was waged, this was the widespread view in Jordan (71 percent), Morocco (63 percent), Pakistan (54 percent), Turkey (64 percent), Germany (60 percent) and France (58 percent). After all, the U.S. was the largest oil-consuming nation and Iraq had the second-largest oil reserves in the world. These suspicions are strengthened when we consider how the White House was being run by retired oil executives—Cheney, Condoleezza Rice and Bush himself. However, closer examination suggests these factors were a coincidence rather than a conspiracy. The Iraq War was not fought for oil. Big Oil, Sanctions and Saddam American oil companies didn’t want to topple Saddam Hussein; they wanted to trade with him. They were prevented from doing so, not by the regime but by the U.S.’s full support for the U.N.’s oil embargo that was imposed on Iraq when it invaded Kuwait in 1990. In 1997, Conoco’s CEO …

Selective Blank Slatism and Ideologically Motivated Misunderstandings

Give me a dozen healthy infants, well-formed, and my own specified world to bring them up in and I’ll guarantee to take any one at random and train him to become any type of specialist I might select—doctor, lawyer, artist, merchant-chief and, yes, even beggar-man and thief, regardless of his talents, penchants, tendencies, abilities, vocations, and race of his ancestors. ~John B. Watson Blank slatism is the view, exemplified here with John B. Watson’s characteristic arrogance, that human nature is highly flexible and largely determined by environmental forces. Because almost all the available evidence suggests that blank slatism is incorrect, many scholars are puzzled that versions of this philosophy appear to remain popular in certain university departments and among the intelligentsia more broadly. Some critics of progressivism, such as the economist Thomas Sowell, have contended that political progressives are particularly likely to hold blank slate beliefs as a result of their tendency to attribute many social disparities to environmental and social causes and to de-emphasize genetic ones. Others—usually those favorably inclined to progressivism, like the Guardian‘s …

Our Suicidal Elites

The French nobility, observed Tocqueville in The Ancien Regime and The Revolution, supported many of the writers whose essays and observations ended up threatening “their own rights and even their existence.” Today we see much the same farce repeated, as the world’s richest people line up behind causes that, in the end, could relieve them of their fortunes, if not their heads. In this sense, they could end up serving, in Lenin’s words, as “useful idiots” in their own destruction. Although they themselves have benefited enormously from the rise of free markets, liberal protection of property rights, and the meritocratic ideal, many among our most well-heeled men and women, even in the United States, have developed a tendency to embrace policies and cultural norms that undermine their own status. This is made worse by their own imperious behavior, graphically revealed in the mortifying college admissions scandal in the United States, where the Hollywood and business elites cheated, bribed, and falsified records to get their own kids into elite colleges. At the same time, these same …

Lessons in Forgiveness, from a Bicycle Thief

In the summer of 1993, at the age of 21, I ran through the streets of downtown Victoria, British Columbia, half-naked, wearing only a pair of boxer shorts and wielding a blunt chunk of metal, which I intended to use to bludgeon the thief who had stolen my bicycle. It had been days since I discovered my bicycle missing from my apartment. When I called the shop where I’d bought it, the manager told me that he had only sold two of this model, and as misfortune would have it, the other one had been stolen just the week before. A few days later, my phone rang and it was the manager of the bike shop, who told me that the other owner had spotted my bicycle outside of a downtown pub. The pub happened to be a mere three blocks from my apartment, so I didn’t even bother getting dressed. On the way out the door, I grabbed my roommate’s hefty u-lock, the weapon I intended to use to give my bicycle thief a …

Meaning Matters

Everyone seems to be talking about meaning at the moment. Many appreciate that our lives need some kind of existential structure—cultural worldviews, social roles, and goals that give us purpose. Some speculate that we are suffering a crisis of meaning in the modern Western world for a variety of reasons including increased social alienation, automation, and the decline of religion. Others believe that meaning comes from within the individual, that we can abandon traditional beliefs, duties, and attachments and fashion our own existential framework. Some argue that meaning isn’t really that important at all and that we should instead focus solely on practical concerns such as physical health, economics, education, and the environment. As a behavioral scientist who has spent nearly two decades conducting research in existential psychology, I have some thoughts on why we should care about meaning and how modern life challenges our search for it. First, meaning is important. Perceptions of meaning in life influence a wide range of life outcomes. People who have a strong sense of meaning in life, compared …

The Impassable Road to Redemption

Oops! That page can’t be found. This is what I find when I click on the author link that says “Frank Sherlock—Bloof Books.” Before clicking, I catch a preview in my search results of what was once there. A photograph of the short-haired, bearded poet, wearing a white collared shirt and black blazer, pink background behind him, a partial bio: “Frank Sherlock is the author of Life Is to Blame for Everything, Space Between These Lines, Not Dedicated, Over Here, The City Real & Imagined (w/CA Conrad), and a collaboration with Brett—“ Nothing was found at this location. Try searching or check the links below. Nothing may be found, but surely, something has been lost. The former Philadelphia poet laureate had recently admitted on Facebook that he’d played in a racist skinhead band as a poor and misguided teenager back in the late 1980s, after he was outed by another poet. Sherlock was probably nervous about the risk he was taking. Would his followers understand? Was an artist required to disclose everything about his past to the …

Self-Harm Versus the Greater Good: Greta Thunberg and Child Activism

Greta is eleven years old and has gone two months without eating. Her heart rate and blood pressure show clear signs of starvation. She has stopped speaking to anyone but her parents and younger sister, Beata.  After years of depression, eating disorders, and anxiety attacks, she finally receives a medical diagnosis: Asperger’s syndrome, high-functioning autism, and OCD. She also suffers from selective mutism—which explains why she sometimes can’t speak to anyone outside her closest family. When she wants to tell a climate researcher that she plans a school strike on behalf of the environment, she speaks through her father. The book Scenes from the Heart (“Scener från Hjärtat,” 2018) recounts these medical difficulties and the events that led to Greta Thunberg’s now-famous “school strike for climate,” in which hundreds of thousands of children have refused to attend school to protest about government inaction over climate change. Greta herself strikes every Friday and spent three weeks sitting outside the Swedish Parliament at the beginning of the school year. Written by her family—mother, father, Beata and Greta—the …

A College President Stands Up for Academic Freedom

What happens when university students call on authority figures to censor students or staff at institutions of higher education? At Yale such students have been awarded prizes, at the University of Missouri they’ve been successful in forcing administrators to resign, at Claremont they were able to force their president to implement a long list of demands, and at Evergreen State College a throng of students were allowed to take control of the campus while harassed faculty sought refuge off-campus. At other colleges around America, and even on campuses in the U.K., Canada and Australia, university administrators have met illiberal student mobs with a parade of mealy-mouthed platitudes and prostrations. This pattern of weakness has been dismaying for all people who value academic freedom and open inquiry. This week, however, a line has been drawn by David Yager, President of Philadelphia’s University of Arts (UArts). In response to students calling for the censorship of Camille Paglia—one of the most admired humanities scholars in the world—he articulated a full-throated defence of intellectual freedom, showing administrators of supposedly superior …