The voice of sadness is censored as sick. What if it’s sane? | Aeon Essays


The reason for my depression was a breakup. But what led to depression was not so much the reaction to our split, but the realization that the one you believed loved you, who was closest to you and promised to be with you forever, had turned out to be someone else, a stranger indifferent to your pain.

I discovered that this loving person was an illusion. The past became meaningless, and the future ceased to exist. The world itself wasn’t credible any more.

In that state of depression, I found the attitude of others changed dramatically. Depression is not particularly tolerated in society, and I realized that those around me were of two persuasions.

One group of people wanted to fix me, telling me to pull myself together or recommending professional help. The other group tended to shun me like a leper.

In hindsight, I understand this reaction: after all, I had become cynical, agnostic and pessimistic, and I hadn’t bothered to be polite.

Source: The voice of sadness is censored as sick. What if it’s sane? | Aeon Essays

How Confucius loses face in China’s new surveillance regime | Aeon Ideas


Face is particularly important in East Asian societies such as China, and found in two related forms. The first and more popular conception, mianzi (面子), primarily concerns wealth, social status, position, power and prestige; the second, lian (臉), concerns moral character and behavior.

A person can have mianzi – eg, status, position, etc – but lack a corresponding level of lian eg, be regarded as morally bad. A complete lack of lian erodes and eventually undermines one’s mianzi, while someone with great lian will have considerable mianzi.

In contemporary Chinese society the question of face has taken a new and disturbing form that profoundly affects these more traditional, Confucian-inspired conceptions.

China’s rapidly expanding network of surveillance cameras increasingly relies upon AI-aided facial-recognition technology to achieve much of its primary mission: to keep track of, record, control and modify the behavior of its citizens.

Source: How Confucius loses face in China’s new surveillance regime | Aeon Ideas

2019 Nobel Prize Winners in Economics Present: Good Economics for Hard Times | World Bank Live

Immigration and inequality, globalization and technological disruption, slowing growth and accelerating climate change — these are sources of great anxiety across the world, from New Delhi and Dakar to Paris and Washington, D.C. The resources to address these challenges are there-what we lack are ideas that will help us jump the wall of disagreement and distrust that divides us. If we succeed, history will remember our era with gratitude; if we fail, the potential losses are incalculable.

In this revolutionary book, renowned MIT economists Abhijit V. Banerjee and Esther Duflo take on this challenge, building on cutting-edge research in economics explained with lucidity and grace. Original, provocative, and urgent, Good Economics for Hard Times makes a persuasive case for an intelligent interventionism and a society built on compassion and respect. It is an extraordinary achievement, one that shines a light to help us appreciate and understand our precariously balanced world.

Source: 2019 Nobel Prize Winners in Economics Present: Good Economics for Hard Times | World Bank Live

Analysis: Can the Constitution Stop the Government from Lying to the Public? | Government Executive


When regular people lie, sometimes their lies are detected, sometimes they’re not. Legally speaking, sometimes they’re protected by the First Amendment – and sometimes not, like when they commit fraud or perjury.

But what about when government officials lie?

I take up this question in my recent book, “The Government’s Speech and the Constitution.” It’s not that surprising that public servants lie – they are human, after all. But when an agency or official backed by the power and resources of the government tells a lie, it sometimes causes harm that only the government can inflict.

My research found that lies by government officials can violate the Constitution in several different ways, especially when those lies deprive people of their rights.

Source: Analysis: Can the Constitution Stop the Government from Lying to the Public? – Government Executive

Iran’s Quds Force After Soleimani


The Islamic Republic of Iran has suffered a loss with the assassination of Qasem Soleimani, its most prominent military general. The nature and dimensions of that injury, however, are not a simple function of Soleimani’s high-profile regional role. The Quds Force, the external operations arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, will outlast its erstwhile commander, as will Iran’s regional security policy.

But Soleimani’s assassination must still occasion soul searching within an establishment that failed to foresee the danger to his person and that has now lost a conspicuous star from its firmament.

Viewed from Tehran, the success of the U.S. air strike on Soleimani and his longtime colleague Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy head of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces, looks like a counterintelligence and security failure on the part of the Islamic Republic. An increasing number of unofficial accounts and news media reports suggest that intelligence leaks and breaches in Soleimani’s security protocol made the general’s effective elimination possible.

“We know that the Americans have been chasing the two men for a long time, but without success,” an Iraqi paramilitary leader said on January 4.

“It is clear that they [the Americans] have recruited some people close to the two to follow their movements and determine the place and time to assassinate them.” Two people who were aboard the plane that transported Soleimani have reportedly been detained by Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces for further investigations.

Such incidents suggest that, as I argued in these pages in November, Iran’s revolutionary core, including the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and the country’s security apparatus more generally, have been compromised. But the loss of Soleimani speaks to even deeper and more important problems.

A fundamental failure of imagination and a fatal miscalculation blinded Iran’s leadership to the imminent attack.

Distracted by the controversy surrounding the suppression of nationwide protests at home, and emboldened by having adopted a more offensive posture in the region, Iran’s leaders failed to imagine that tensions could escalate to a new level.

They were altogether too sanguine, given that U.S. President Donald Trump, erratic in the best of times and now entangled in a discrediting impeachment plight and surrounded by Iran hawks, had just ordered the fatal targeting of Iranian-backed paramilitary fighters in Iraq and explicitly threatened Tehran over the ensuing breach of the U.S. embassy in Baghdad.

Such overconfidence led Tehran, rather than undertaking special precautions, to arrange a business-as-usual security protocol for the commander of a force that the United States had designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization last April.

Fortunately for Khamenei and Qaani, the IRGC is a complex institution with deep roots, making it less than susceptible to “leadership decapitation.” Qaani lacks Soleimani’s charisma and sense of humor, and since leading a vast network of militia groups depends as much on informal connections and friendships as it does on organizational discipline, he might never become as smooth and popular as his predecessor. This deficiency alone, however, will not detract substantially from the Quds Force’s effectiveness under his command.

Source: Iran’s Quds Force After Soleimani

Trump Proposes Sweeping Rollback of Environmental Oversight | Time


President Donald Trump on Thursday proposed rolling back enforcement of a landmark environmental law, reducing federal oversight of many major projects, from pipelines to commercial development, to speed the approval process.

He said the United States cannot compete “if a bureaucratic system holds us back from building what we need.”

Source: Trump Proposes Sweeping Rollback of Environmental Oversight | Time

The history of riot shows the importance of democratic tumult | Aeon Essays


In his book Languages of the Unheard (2013), the philosopher Stephen D’Arcy writes that a riot is the last resort of the disenfranchised and oppressed.

He differentiates riot associated with a quest for equality from other ‘genres’ of rioting such as rioting at sports events, acquisitive rioting (looting), and authoritarian rioting, such as the Tulsa race riot of 1921, which was used to further oppress marginalized people.

In fact, says Hunt, using ‘riot’ to describe both sporting events and political or social protest is a calculated political move: it colors protest or assembly as unlawful and unjustified. What we habitually call riot, writes D’Arcy, is ‘an opportunity to insist upon what official politics too often ignores: the dignity of each, and the welfare of all’.

Source: The history of riot shows the importance of democratic tumult | Aeon Essays

How the Jesuits cultivated the idea of European empire | Aeon Essays


In the 16th and 17th centuries, European presence in, say, the backlands of Brazil or the shores of India did not much resemble the grandiose discourse of European empire.

Missionaries, in particular, failed or found themselves thwarted all the time. Indigenous people proved uninterested in their message, often responding with hostility and violence or, at best, adapting Christian theology to their own ends. Imperial agents were less concerned with spreading Christianity than with securing and mollifying local allies in the name of the king – or even just to line their own pockets.

Yet, despite repeated failures and disappointments, missionaries – and especially the Jesuits – built and passed on a blueprint of imperial thinking. Their schema of classifying the peoples of the world in civilizational hierarchies in which the European occupies the top echelon, and a sacralizing, triumphant vision of empire, remains with us today. It is not a way of thinking that calls attention to either the violence or the many failures of European empire.

How did this gap between the reality of empire and its grandiose discourse emerge?

Source: How the Jesuits cultivated the idea of European empire | Aeon Essays

Is Farming the Most Interesting Job in America? Kristin Kimball Makes a Case | Vogue

Kimball and her husband Mark began Essex Farm in 2003. They had 80 acres, $15,000, and a plan. “It’s either brilliant,” Mark said at the time. “Or very, very stupid.” They fixed sagging fences, patched leaky roofs, and installed a grant-funded solar panel array. Then they started producing all types of food: Not only grass-fed beef, pastured pork, free-range chicken and eggs, but also vegetables, berries, tree fruit, flour milled from their grains, syrup from their maple trees, even soap from excess animal fats.

Unlike many community-supported agriculture (or CSA) programs in which local farms offer a weekly box of fruit and veg during the growing season to supplement a family’s grocery purchases, the Kimballs planned to offer a “full-diet” CSA. Their 300 members, Kimball writes in her latest book, “eat the way farmers do—or the way they did two generations ago: a whole diet, year-round, unprocessed, in rhythm with the seasons, from a specific piece of land, with a sense of both reverence and abundance.”

The goal of Essex Farm is deceptively simple: “feed people, be nice, don’t wreck the land.” And yet achieving that goal has been anything but simple.

Source: Is Farming the Most Interesting Job in America? Kristin Kimball Makes a Case | Vogue

Books to Help You Understand the Relationship Between Human and Machine | Fortune


Both books agree that people and machines can achieve great things when they understand each other—and invite cataclysm when they don’t.

But whereas Kuang stresses the importance of keeping technology “human-centric,” Maeda suggests that humans, especially designers, aren’t trying hard enough to understand how technology works and, therefore, aren’t taking full advantage of all that it can do.

Source: Books to Help You Understand the Relationship Between Human and Machine | Fortune