Things to Read - 6 Interesting Article From Around the Web (on Adult Friendships, The Handmaid's Tale, The Future of Not-Working, Guns Rights Advocates Meeting Gun Violence Victims, Richard Simmons, & Adjectives)

After we watched Captain Fantastic, F decided to ban the word "interesting" from daily use, because it vague and not descriptive enough. But yet I'm still going to call this random grouping of articles, "interesting", because I'm too lazy to come up with something better.

1. ADULT FRIENDSHIPS - Vox published an article that made me sad, but made so much sense - "How Our Housing Choices Make Adult Friendships More Difficult"

"[W]hen we marry and start a family, we are pushed, by custom, policy, and expectation, to move into our own houses. And when we have kids, we find ourselves tied to those houses. Many if not most neighborhoods these days are not safe for unsupervised kid frolicking. In lower-income areas there are no sidewalks; in higher-income areas there are wide streets abutted by large garages. In both cases, the neighborhoods are made for cars, not kids. So kids stay inside playing Xbox, and families don't leave except to drive somewhere.

Thus, seeing friends, even friends within "striking distance," requires planning. "We should really get together!" We say it, but we know it means calls and emails, finding an evening free of work, possibly babysitters. We know it would be fun. But it's very easy just to settle in for a little TV."

. . . .

"But it is not inevitable. In fact it's quite new! For the vast majority of Homo sapiens' history, we lived in small, nomadic bands. The tribe, not the nuclear family, was the primary unit. We lived among others of various ages, to which we were tied by generations of kinship and alliance, throughout our lives. Those are the circumstances in which our biological and neural equipment evolved.

It's only been comparatively recently (about 10,000 years ago) that we developed agriculture and started living in semi-permanent communities, more recently still that were thrown into cities, crammed up against people we barely know, and more recently still that we bounced out of cities and into suburbs."


2. THE HANDMAID'S TALE - In the NY Times, Margaret Atwood reflects on the what the Handmaid's Tale means today.

"Yes, women will gang up on other women. Yes, they will accuse others to keep themselves off the hook: We see that very publicly in the age of social media, which enables group swarmings. Yes, they will gladly take positions of power over other women, even — and, possibly, especially — in systems in which women as a whole have scant power: All power is relative, and in tough times any amount is seen as better than none. Some of the controlling Aunts are true believers, and think they are doing the Handmaids a favor: At least they haven’t been sent to clean up toxic waste, and at least in this brave new world they won’t get raped, not as such, not by strangers. Some of the Aunts are sadists. Some are opportunists. And they are adept at taking some of the stated aims of 1984 feminism — like the anti-porn campaign and greater safety from sexual assault — and turning them to their own advantage. As I say: real life."

. . .

"In the wake of the recent American election, fears and anxieties proliferate. Basic civil liberties are seen as endangered, along with many of the rights for women won over the past decades, and indeed the past centuries. In this divisive climate, in which hate for many groups seems on the rise and scorn for democratic institutions is being expressed by extremists of all stripes, it is a certainty that someone, somewhere — many, I would guess — are writing down what is happening as they themselves are experiencing it. Or they will remember, and record later, if they can.

Will their messages be suppressed and hidden? Will they be found, centuries later, in an old house, behind a wall?

Let us hope it doesn’t come to that. I trust it will not

3. THE FUTURE OF NOT-WORKING - Annie Lowry wrote another great piece for the NY Times on "The Future of Not Working," which looks at the question, "is Silicon Valley about to put the world out of work? And if so, do technologists owe the world a solution?"

"GiveDirectly wants to show the world that a basic income is a cheap, scalable way to aid the poorest people on the planet. “We have the resources to eliminate extreme poverty this year,” Michael Faye, a founder of GiveDirectly, told me. But these resources are often misallocated or wasted. His nonprofit wants to upend incumbent charities, offering major donors a platform to push money to the world’s neediest immediately and practically without cost.

What happens in this village has the potential to transform foreign-aid institutions, but its effects might also be felt closer to home. A growing crowd, including many of GiveDirectly’s backers in Silicon Valley, are looking at this pilot project not just as a means of charity but also as the groundwork for an argument that a universal basic income might be right for you, me and everyone else around the world too."


4. GUN RIGHTS ACTIVISTS MEET VICTIMS OF GUN VIOLENCE - In an "Experiment in Empathy" New York Magazine asks the question "He auctioned off the pistol that killed Trayvon Martin. She watched her child die in a mass shooting. Can they change each other’s minds about guns?" (Be prepared to cry while reading this one).

"Todd and Carolyn proved that radical empathy is at least possible. They were shape-shifters. They became each other. And in that moment, the videographers were crying. The organizers, who have seen versions of this a hundred times before, were crying. No one in the room that day will ever forget what they saw.

In that moment, the commonality of experience, the universality of human vulnerability, had been so obvious — and so breathtaking. Everyone in the room was separated not by a deep canyon but by a thin line. The dividing factor wasn’t really beliefs about gun control; it was about fear and how you respond to it. There were those who held to their gun ownership as an instrument of power and security in a world that too often seemed unsafe and uncertain, and there were those who knew too well that nothing on earth can guarantee safety and certainty for the people you love. They had lived through what the others so desperately feared. As David Peters, the former Marine, put it, “Am I safe or am I not safe?” That is, at some very basic level, always the question. No one quite knew where to go from there, but it seemed promising, this collective realization that all of their beliefs were coming from essentially the same human place.

But when the participants regathered after a break, it was as if a spell had been broken, as if this group, which had forged a fragile unity through vulnerability, couldn’t sustain so much heartbreak. Everyone was tired. They had tarried long enough in alternate realities."

5. RICHARD SIMMONS AND LIFE IN THE PUBLIC EYE - NPR has a great piece about the podcast Missing Richard Simmons (which I haven't heard) and the nature of being "known".

"I don't really believe in the old Andy Warhol prediction that in the future, everyone will be famous for 15 minutes. What I believe is that fame will indeed be served in small portions, limited not by time but by scope. If that's the case, then instead of being famous for 15 minutes, many will be famous to 15 people. Or perhaps 1,500 or 15,000 people — a small enough number that you can move through most of the world unnoticed, but a large enough number that the circle of people who follow you with intensity necessarily includes people who don't know you. What to do about that is something I think more and more people have faced.

. . . .

There is only so much energy. There is only so much to give, and there is only so much you can turn yourself inside out for so many people before something runs low, or runs out.

. . . .

Some thank-you's arrive written on rocks, and if you feel obligated to carry all of those rocks everywhere you go for the rest of your life, if you can't learn to look at them, be grateful for them, and set them down, even they become a lot to carry.

The more the gratitude is for what has already been done, the more it is written on paper: I'm so grateful for the thing you made; it meant the world to me. That is weightless; it is wonderful. The closer it gets to expecting something from you in the future, something that must continue, the more it is written on stone: You're the only one who understands me. You're the only reason I can get out of bed every day. I have a feeling Richard Simmons received a lot of gratitude written on stones, just as Judy Blume did, but it certainly sounds like it was much harder for him to put down."

6. THE PERSON WITH THE POWER TAKES THE NOUN - And, last but not least, Gloria Steinem on "Women Have Chick Flicks, What About Men?"

"Indeed, as long as men are taken seriously when they write about the female half of the world — and women are not taken seriously when writing about ourselves, much less about men and public affairs — the list of Great Authors will be more about power than talent, more about opinion than experience.

[Regarding the male equivalent of "chick flicks"], I realized the problem began with the fact that adjectives are mostly required of the less powerful. Thus, there are “novelists” and “female novelists,” “African-American doctors” but not “European- American doctors,” “gay soldiers” but not “heterosexual soldiers,” “transgender activists” but not “cisgender activists.”

As has been true forever, the person with the power takes the noun — and the norm — while the less powerful requires an adjective."

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