Back here, sorry I've been slow--it's a busy September for me! After the next several weeks, I should be back here more. In the meantime, I have been harvesting links...
Another piece about population in Africa, this one from someone writing from within Africa, and it’s worthwhile. I don’t agree with all of it—some of it is special pleading, saying that Europe Asia and Africa all had equivalent populations in 1500 is true, but only because the African coast of the Mediterranean was (relatively) hugely populated at this point—but it is worth your while to read.
This is such a nice thought: Michael Tomasky, arguing that Biden’s policies and legislation are changing the nature of the American economy in ways favorable to the middle class. Important if true.
John Ganz is fundamentally correct here, and while it's possibly cruel to pick on (or pick out) one example of this, Hamid is a good one:
"this is all about posing as an intellectual without actually saying much of anything of actual substance. The think-tanker, the pundit, the talking-head, the tenured columnist, etc. many of these have become first and foremost stock characters, and resort to the clichéd turns of phrase and conceptions expected from their role. Allow me my own form of pundit’s brow-furrowed concern: I think the fact that shallow posing and position-taking now dominates so much of public discourse constitutes a much more serious problem than the lack of civility. This to me is the real problem with our elites: the incapacity for real thought and imagination, the reliance on worn-out formulas and accepted wisdom, and the performance of expertise. Being flat-out, empirically wrong is not disqualifying or the occasion for serious self-reflection. The script must be followed. The show must go on. No wonder we are in an era of populist discontent and resentment of elites."
Yes! “Dad cinema” and Top Gun: Maverick. Very good.
Interesting piece on “Effective Altruism,” which seems to me increasingly a matter of fashion, which makes it hard to get a good assessment of its actual value. I’m still not sure what to make of it but I don’t think it’s too harmful for people to be thinking of using their money in these ways.
This is a smart reflection on the way that the whole James Sweet AHA piece reflects what he calls “an overabundance of history” in public discussion these days—how history has moved to near the center of much public discussion. There’s a way, he notes, that history has become a metaphysical device for positioning ourselves within a narrative that consoles us with its inevitability, rather than one that encourages us in our responsibility:
History, in this moment, has an anesthetizing, diversionary effect; instead of talking about what’s happening to recent immigrants to the United States in 2022, we are talking about what happened to gold miners in the 19th century. The connections we draw between the two might make sense logically, but they ultimately do not go anywhere.
These intellectual flailings are the more compelling evidence that the journalists, thinkers and scholars who set much of the public discourse might be making a bit too much of history. Whenever something bad happens to an oppressed group, there is an impulse to buttress it with the bad things that happened in the past as a way to almost confirm that the present is still terrible. This isn’t a necessarily bad reflex, but it oftentimes feels unnecessary. Most of the time, we can just process what happens as it happens and try to deal with the problem in front of us.
From 2021, before the current war, but this is a devastating indictment of eastern orthodox theology for its political intuition and its ethical capacities:
"It is my deep conviction that the basic principles of the neo-patristic synthesis as a method in Orthodox theology has contributed to the development of conspiracy theories and the decline of ethics in contemporary Orthodoxy. Of course, when I say this, I mean the mainstream neo-patristic theology that flourishes in theological schools and is taught to future priests. There are outstanding examples of theologians who work in this paradigm and who cannot be accused of anything described above: Met. Kallistos Ware and John Zizioulas, Fr. John Behr, Andrew Louth, Cyril Hovorun, and others. But the average neo-patristic theologian, as a rule, casts doubt on their Orthodoxy."
Be well, everyone.