Thursday, 5 October 2017

Random Reads (5/10/17)

I have read a number of fascinating articles lately which are worth sharing.
  • "The Dying Art of Disagreement" by Bret Stephens, published in the New York Times, is the text of a lecture Stephens delivered in September at the Lowy Institute in Australia. It is a powerful speech and one which I have thought about many times since I read it. Stephens talks about the polarization of viewpoints and the demise of liberal education in which we are taught to have an open mind. He talks about the rise of identity politics and the role of the media in speaking truth. One paragraph that really resonated with me is when Stephens says 
' disagree well, you must first understand well. You have to read deeply, listen carefully, watch closely. You need to grant your adversary moral respect; give him the intellectual benefit of the doubt; have sympathy for his motives and participate empathically with his line of reasoning. And you need to allow for the possibility that you might yet be persuaded of what he has to say.'
  • The Cincinnati Enquirer sent over 60 journalists out into the city to cover a week in the life of its citizens to explore the impact of drugs. The result is an incredible "Seven Days of Heroin: This is what an epidemic looks like" and how one July week resulted in 18 deaths, 180+ overdoses, 200+ incarcerations, and 15 babies born with heroin-related conditions. In this compelling piece we meet the addicts, their distraught family members, the first responders, the police officers and others who are impacted by the heroin epidemic. It is a powerful portrait of a city in crisis and the images are astounding. 
  • I love Joni Mitchell. She is a music pioneer and legend. So I was drawn to an article in The Atlantic by Jack Hamilton called "The Unknowable Joni Mitchell". Hamilton reviews many of the biographies written about the singer and talks about the intimacy of her music. Reading the article reminded me of many of her songs from early albums and encouraged me to put my Joni playlist on repeat. Here is a live performance from 1974 of 'A Case of You', perhaps my favourite Mitchell song.

  • The mass shooting in Las Vegas on 1 October 2017 has produced countless column inches of coverage. It is a horrible, devastating crime that should be a wake up call to the gun loving Americans about the need for restraint. Perhaps I have become numb to the inevitability of the aftermath commentary in which the white perpetrator will be called a lone wolf rather than a homegrown terrorist, his owning a ridiculous amount of semi-automatic weapons is not questioned, and there is no action on gun control. There are plenty of articles covering this story and asking why it is allowed to happen. One of the best is by Roxane Gay's "No More Shootings That Follow The Rules" writing in the New York Times.  Also, Jimmy Kimmel opened his show on Monday 2 October with a moving plea for change which I found really powerful.

  • Finally, there was an interesting piece in the New York Times by John Herman called "What if platforms like Facebook are too big to regulate?" in which he explores the recent eviction of Uber from London and Facebook's attempts to 'strengthen the democratic process'. Many of the  big tech players - Google, Facebook, Twitter - see themselves as democratic tools, giving voice to the disenfranchised and bringing about connectivity and community. These platforms are now part of the modern infrastructure and yet these tools can be used with malicious intent as seen in last year's American election. So should they be regulated? And if so, how? Much to think about...