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Thought provoking essays

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Inclusive futures: the most urgent work of our generation.

If there’s one conclusion I’ve drawn in 2018, it’s that the economic template of the world is surely fucked. Everything is getting better, but everything is also getting worse. And the bits that are getting better are accelerating the bits that are getting worse. The interconnectedness of social and environmental sustainability means we cannot afford to solve the problems of social inclusion without also solving the problems of ecological destruction and climate change. To do so would be to build a better golf cart to hurtle towards oblivion in. Somehow we have to get past our narrow, tribal, parochial, nationalistic definitions of what it means to make ourselves better off. We cannot value the lives of New Zealanders more highly than the lives of Indian slum children, we cannot value the lives of today more highly than the lives of tomorrow, and we cannot value human life above all life. Because the consequence of this fragmented thinking is being demonstrated clearly to us. – barbaragrieve

Bloodsuckers - How malaria has shaped humanity. Bagehot - Scrooge’s wisdom in modern Britain. A BRITISH CHRISTMAS is inseparable not just from a jolly fat man in a red suit but also from a grumpy, thin “squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner”.

Bagehot - Scrooge’s wisdom in modern Britain

Charles Dickens’s novella “A Christmas Carol” was an instant hit. Within two months of its publication in 1843 there were 12 adaptations on the London stage. Nearly two centuries on, its anti-hero retains his hold on the popular imagination. Have Yourself a Lonely Little Christmas. Few can better understand the challenge of self-love better than the orphaned and disowned.

Have Yourself a Lonely Little Christmas

I belong to that club. My mother and father both abandoned me in my teens. As an only child, with no family in the United States, I endured the first of many solo Christmases my senior year of high school. The Rotting of the Republican Mind. This ecosystem, Rauch wrote, operates as a funnel.

The Rotting of the Republican Mind

It allows a wide volume of ideas to get floated, but only a narrow group of ideas survive collective scrutiny. “We let alt-truth talk,” Rauch said, “but we don’t let it write textbooks, receive tenure, bypass peer review, set the research agenda, dominate the front pages, give expert testimony or dictate the flow of public dollars.” Over the past decades the information age has created a lot more people who make their living working with ideas, who are professional members of this epistemic process. The information economy has increasingly rewarded them with money and status.

Obama quote. Why a generation is choosing to be child-free. Why Covid-19 is turning us all into philosophers. By David Rutledge for the ABC.

Why Covid-19 is turning us all into philosophers

If you haven't yet spent a few moments this year staring out the window, chin in hand and ruminating on the meaning of life - or its absence - then the chances are it's only a matter of time. Photo: janfaukner/123RF. Letter from a Region in My Mind, by James Baldwin. I was frightened, because I had, in effect, been summoned into a royal presence.

Consequently, white Americans are in nothing more deluded than in supposing that Negroes could ever have imagined that white people would “give” them anything. It is rare indeed that people give. Most people guard and keep; they suppose that it is they themselves and what they identify with themselves that they are guarding and keeping, whereas what they are actually guarding and keeping is their system of reality and what they assume themselves to be. One can give nothing whatever without giving oneself—that is to say, risking oneself. If one cannot risk oneself, then one is simply incapable of giving. And, after all, one can give freedom only by setting someone free. – barbaragrieve
A people from whom everything has been taken away, including, most crucially, their sense of their own worth. People cannot live without this sense; they will do anything whatever to regain it. This is why the most dangerous creation of any society is that man who has nothing to lose. You do not need ten such men—one will do. – barbaragrieve

I was frightened for another reason, too.

Letter from a Region in My Mind, by James Baldwin

I knew the tension in me between love and power, between pain and rage, and the curious, the grinding way I remained extended between these poles—perpetually attempting to choose the better rather than the worse. But this choice was a choice in terms of a personal, a private better (I was, after all, a writer); what was its relevance in terms of a social worse? Here was the South Side—a million in captivity—stretching from this doorstep as far as the eye could see. And they didn’t even read; depressed populations don’t have the time or energy to spare. The young man who came to the door—he was about thirty, perhaps, with a handsome, smiling face—didn’t seem to find my lateness offensive, and led me into a large room. The invention of ‘heterosexuality’ - BBC Future. Why judge what is natural and ethical to a human being by his or her animal nature?

The invention of ‘heterosexuality’ - BBC Future

Many of the things human beings value, such as medicine and art, are egregiously unnatural. At the same time, humans detest many things that actually are eminently natural, like disease and death. If we consider some naturally occurring phenomena ethical and others unethical, that means our minds (the things looking) are determining what to make of nature (the things being looked at).

Nature doesn’t exist somewhere “out there,” independently of us – we’re always already interpreting it from the inside. White privilege and male privilege. A Class Divided (full film) Palestine and Israel: Mapping an annexation. The current map of Palestine is often described as resembling "Swiss cheese".

Palestine and Israel: Mapping an annexation

Over the past century it has been carved up, walled-in and filled with hundreds of illegal Israeli settlements and military checkpoints. Now, in the latest round of Israel's ongoing occupation and policy of land-grabs this map could become even more disjointed. On July 1, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to announce Israel's annexation of the Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea. Annexation is a term used when a state unilaterally incorporates another territory within its borders. Annexing the Jordan Valley would mean that Israel would officially consider it part of the state of Israel. "International law is very clear: annexation and territorial conquest are forbidden by the Charter of the United Nations," said Michael Lynk, the UN independent expert on human rights in the Palestinian territories.

A letter from Jeffrey Sachs, SDSN President. Why Do Republican Leaders Continue to Enable Trump? On a cold March afternoon in 1949, Wolfgang Leonhard slipped out of the East German Communist Party Secretariat, hurried home, packed what few warm clothes he could fit into a small briefcase, and then walked to a telephone box to call his mother.

Why Do Republican Leaders Continue to Enable Trump?

“My article will be finished this evening,” he told her. That was the code they had agreed on in advance. It meant that he was escaping the country, at great risk to his life. To hear more feature stories, get the Audm iPhone app. Though only 28 years old at the time, Leonhard stood at the pinnacle of the new East German elite. The Power Worshippers: A look inside the American religious right.

For 40 years now, the religious right has been a fixture in American politics and for all that time it has befuddled observers who continually misunderstand it, beginning with its support for Ronald Reagan, a divorced Hollywood actor, against Jimmy Carter.

It is, in fact, modern in its methods and doctrines, which "notwithstanding their purported origins in ancient texts have been carefully shaped to serve the emotional needs of its adherents, the organisational needs of its clerical leaders, and the political needs and ambitions of its funders". – barbaragrieve

Reagan was the first US president to describe himself as a "born-again Christian".

The Power Worshippers: A look inside the American religious right

But Reagan - whose wife consulted an astrologer for guidance as first lady - was a virtual saint compared to Donald Trump, the most recent presidential beneficiary of their enthusiastic support, and someone that 81 percent of self-described white evangelical protestants rewarded with their votes.

George Monbiot

The Privatization of Hope by Ronald Aronson. What are the Panama Papers? A guide to history's biggest data leak. The Panama Papers are an unprecedented leak of 11.5m files from the database of the world’s fourth biggest offshore law firm, Mossack Fonseca.

What are the Panama Papers? A guide to history's biggest data leak

The records were obtained from an anonymous source by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, which shared them with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). The ICIJ then shared them with a large network of international partners, including the Guardian and the BBC. Trump's scheme to sell the Moon. When astronaut Neil Armstrong landed on the Moon in 1969, it was seen as an idealistic leap into the cosmos - a "giant leap for mankind".

Earlier this month, the real estate developer who improbably became US President legally declared that he sees the Moon in far less elevated terms. He signed an executive order authorising private, commercial uses of the Moon and other "off-Earth" "resources" like Mars and meteors. Heavenly bodies are now seen as underleveraged assets meant to generate profits.

Invoking competitive threats from Russia and China, US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has called on the government to support budding space businesses by rolling back regulations and coordinating government aid. Bank of England. Andrew Haldane In giving how much do we receive the social value of volunteering. Andy Haldane Who owns a company. Andrew Haldane The creative economy. Andrew Haldane Growing fast and slow. American Democracy on the Brink by Joseph E. Ending America’s War of Choice in the Middle East - CIRSD. Login Subscribe now Download PDF Jeffrey D. Sachs is University Professor and Director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University, as well as Director of the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network. You may follow him on Twitter @JeffDSachs. The United States of America has long viewed itself as an exceptional nation, even as God’s New Israel, sent to redeem the world. This view has bipartisan support, with deep roots in the country’s history, culture, and religious traditions.

One part of American exceptionalism is relentless war, causing historian Harry S. Are Things Getting Better or Worse? Why are you so afraid of tax? Last updated 07:51, September 17 2017 "We are not a highly taxed nation," says Shamubeel Eaqub. OPINION: There is little on tax policy in the upcoming election. National will cut income taxes, Labour will not cut and will have a working group to propose policies for the next election. Top scientist discusses big data, social policy. The Prime Minister's chief science advisor has warned of pitfalls in using big data and analytics for social policy development. Brian Fallow: Time to end the tax experiment, to ease property pressure?

Keep the revolution rolling? Or bring back the cardigan? – Colin James. Colin James, Australia New Zealand School of Government seminar, Wellington, 5 August, 2016. David Hisco: Housing and NZ dollar over-cooked. David Hisco is the CEO of ANZ New Zealand, the country's biggest bank. Auckland house prices and the New Zealand dollar are over-cooked. Having been in banking since 1980 I have seen this movie before. Iwi sign vow of respect for 'nation's kids' Tony Baldwin: Fonterra needs to be fixed, and here's how. Emily Beausoleil: Voice of dispossessed makes itself heard. Count me out on the tax-love bandwagon. Building More Homes will not Solve Britain [or NZ’s] Housing Crisis.

Everyone – from the government, to housing charities, to housebuilders – has bought into the conventional wisdom that the dysfunction that racks our housing market is a matter of demand and supply. We’re not building enough houses, so house prices have been sent rocketing, taking home-ownership out of reach for growing numbers of young people. But in reality, our housing problems are not a simple feature of supply and demand. Rather, our housing market has a bitcoin problem. Wheel of Fortune. Only the left can break the cycle of wealth accumulation. By George Monbiot, published on, 21st February 2018. Prosperity By Design : Democracy Journal.