Of Exactitude in Science

Of Exactitude in Science:

…In that Empire, the craft of Cartography attained such Perfection that the Map of a Single province covered the space of an entire City, and the Map of the Empire itself an entire Province. In the course of Time, these Extensive maps were found somehow wanting, and so the College of Cartographers evolved a Map of the Empire that was of the same Scale as the Empire and that coincided with it point for point. Less attentive to the Study of Cartography, succeeding Generations came to judge a map of such Magnitude cumbersome, and, not without Irreverence, they abandoned it to the Rigours of sun and Rain. In the western Deserts, tattered Fragments of the Map are still to be found, Sheltering an occasional Beast or beggar; in the whole Nation, no other relic is left of the Discipline of Geography.

From Travels of Praiseworthy Men (1658) by J. A. Suarez Miranda

Reading Material – November 26, 2023

I tend to think suggestions of widespread trauma are overdone but maybe I’m too skeptical.  Ana Marie Cox makes sense in “We Are Not Just Polarized. We Are Traumatized.“:

What if our entire national character is a trauma response?

Before you say “bullshit,” remember: Cynicism is a trauma response

Collective trauma, [Kai Ericson] wrote, means “a blow to the basic tissues of social life that damages the bonds attaching people together and impairs the prevailing sense of communality.” Collective trauma happens in slow motion, “A form of shock all the same…. ‘I’ continue to exist, though damaged and maybe even permanently changed. ‘You’ continue to exist, though distant and hard to relate to. But ‘we’ no longer exist as a connected pair or as linked cells in a larger communal body.”

In other words, the defining characteristic of collective trauma—and what makes it almost impossible to self-diagnose—is that people who have been through it no longer believe in the integrity of their community.

Paul Schofield, Liberals shouldn’t scoff at people’s fears of homelessness and crime:

Many cities around the United States with significant homeless populations also have large numbers of low-income renters, people of color and immigrants. Because these groups are less likely to have resources to buy their way out of a troubled neighborhood, they end up being the people whose kids are harassed by people under the influence of drugs on the way to school, the ones whose doorsteps are defecated on and the ones whose sidewalks are made impassible by tents and trash. They are the ones whose stores close early to avoid being stolen from, and whose eateries move to the other side of town. To shrug this off, or to dismiss it as mere conservative propaganda, is profoundly unprogressive.

Continue reading

Reading and Listening Material – November 5, 2023

Lee Vinsel’s Peoples and Things podcast, Episode 61, Twenty Years After “The New Economy”: A Conversation with Doug Henwood:

“The New Economy” was a catchphrase that became extremely popular with economists, politicians, pundits, and many others during Bill Clinton’s presidency. The phrase was thought to describe a new economic reality rooted in information and computing technologies that would give rise to an extended period of abundance and prosperity that Clinton compared to the industrial revolution. But the phrase became unpopular after the dot com bust of 2000-2002, which also marked the end of the 1990s economic expansion. Henwood and Vinsel discuss Henwood’s long career as an economic journalist and how he came to write the book as well as how studying “the New Economy” makes the technology bubbles of the 2010s feel like deja vu.

[Ed.:  Henwood’s “overproduction of elites” comment ~2/3 of the way in made me wince.  Painful.  True.  I won’t try to provide context here.  Listen to their whole conversation.]

Justin E. H. Smith in conversation with Christopher Beha on the Harper’s Magazine podcast, Generation X:

Smith argues that Gen X, having come of age before the erosion of fixtures like liberal democracy and rock and roll, failed to protect postwar counterculture from commercialism and corporatization. As debates about art and politics loom large today, Smith affirms the essential link between the two while championing what he identifies as his generation’s core pursuit of artistic autonomy and human liberation. Editor of Harper’s and fellow Gen Xer Christopher Beha sat down with Smith to discuss intergenerational relations, how Smith’s essay evolved over the editorial process, and how art at its best interrogates the arguable and not the obvious.

[Ed.:  Their discussion of intergenerational relations is what got my attention.  Also, Smith’s distinction between “uncontested evil” and “contested evil” sticks in my mind.]

Continue reading

Miscellany – October 29, 2023

Jerusalem Demsas, Why America Doesn’t Build:

Local American environmentalists have developed tools to help citizens delay or block development. These tools are now being used against clean-energy projects, hampering a green transition. The legal tactics that allow someone to challenge a pipeline can also help them fight a solar farm; the political rhetoric deployed against the siting of toxic-waste dumps can be redeployed against transmission lines. And the whole concept that regular people can and should act as a private attorneys general has, in practice, put the green transition at the mercy of people with access, money, and time, while diluting the influence of those without…

The problem with bad projects isn’t the local opposition; the problem is that they are bad. Opposition can be a sign of that, but it can also just be a sign that people fear change. The green-energy transition rests on our ability to distinguish between the two. Right now, we can’t.

Julian Sanchez on Twitter:

People often fret about the dangers of entertainment media in terms of things like desensitizing people to violence. But people are mostly pretty good about distinguishing fantasy from reality on that score. I think a less-appreciated harm is cultivating main character syndrome.

As in: Most of life for most people is a little boring. You try to do your work well and love your family. But probably you never become president or thwart a terrorist plot or discover a lost city full of booby traps and treasure.

We’ve been inundated for the last 50 years, to an extent prior generations haven’t really experienced, with visions of life as Epic in a way it just isn’t for most people. And I think that leaves a lot of folks with an itch video games won’t scratch.

Continue reading