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Offline Surly1

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[b]Escaping extinction through paradigm shift
« Reply #3795 on: June 03, 2019, 03:38:01 AM »
Not news to Diners but he says it well.

Escaping extinction through paradigm shift
‘Rebellion’ is not enough. We need to build new systems from the ground up, right now[/b]

Drone footage of displaced family tents in one settlement in Badghis, Afghanistan, due to ongoing drought and climate change. There are thousands of makeshift homes spread between mountain hills on the outskirt of Qala-i-naw city. (Source: NRC/Enayatullah Azad)

Published by INSURGE INTELLIGENCE, a crowdfunded investigative journalism project for people and planet.

For the last month, as a journalist and academic, I’ve experienced a strange sensation of paralysis.

I don’t usually experience this. Usually I find myself driven by the pressures of wanting to cover with due justice a full spectrum of intersecting crises and potential solutions.

But this month watching the spectacle of political madness unfolding across Washington, London and Brussels, while chaos and suffering continues to kick off across Venezuela, Yemen, Israel-Palestine, Syria, Nigeria and beyond, I experienced something I haven’t felt in a long-time. A sense of total burn-out. Of futility. Of tiredness.

Watching the news has become like entering a psychological boxing ring where you get the shit punched out of you repeatedly until you drop to the floor, broken, bloodied, and inert: helpless.

I can’t imagine this is a particularly unique sensation. But I wanted to share it with you because this is common ground. Common ground across the deepening divides tearing our societies apart. No matter which side of the divide we stand on, that sensation of paralysis and helplessness is playing out in tangible form in the political processes we see out there.

The sensation of paralysis is therefore not just a psychological artifact. It’s the internal experience of the systemic dysfunction playing out in the world. It’s a reflection of the state of collapse that our prevailing democratic institutions are experiencing as they prove completely incapable of responding to and solving for the intricate complexity of inherently interconnected converging global crises.

How to deal with the ‘Other’ has now become the defining sticking point of contemporary Western politics. It is particularly exemplified in the paralysis of the UK government and parliament in the face of the Brexit process; the paralysis of the US government over the Trump administration’s ‘Wall’; the inexorable mainstreaming of anti-‘Other’ sentiment across Europe; in the extent to which the failure of the incumbent order to resolve internal crises has driven the resurgence of new forms of extreme politics, inspired by nativism and nationalist rejections of groups of people considered both ‘foreign’ and parasitical.

Within this paradigm, expulsion of the ‘Other’ is the final solution. This is the zero-sum game model of existence. There’s not enough to go round, so we need to accumulate as much for our(narrowly-defined)selves as possible. More growth, but just for ‘us’ — because ‘They’ are the ones taking our jobs.

But rumbling beneath the surface of this obsession with the ‘Other’ is a deeper problem that we find much difficulty facing up to: the fact that the system of life we have built for ourselves and which many of us think is being undermined by too many of ‘Them’, is already collapsing in its own right.

There has been welcome media coverage of a startling new UN report by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). The report concludes that human civilization is systematically destroying its own life-support systems, resulting in the potential mass extinction of at least one million animal and plant species.

The driving motor of this destruction is the ‘endless growth’ paradigm of our current global economy, a paradigm that has seen human populations and cities grow exponentially across the world, in turn driving the exponential growth in consumption of resources, raw materials, food and energy.

That accelerating expansion of industrial civilization-as-we-know-it has ravaged natural ecosystems, leading to the decline of numerous species who are critical for the continued healthy functioning of natural services providing food, pollination and clean water that are essential to sustain our own civilization.

If we continue on this path, our ongoing destruction of nature, forests, and wetlands will fatally damaging the earth’s capacity to renew breathable air, productive soil and drinkable water.

The report is by far the most comprehensive to hit home how the collapse of biodiversity ultimately entails the collapse of human civilization. But it is hardly the only study confirming our current trajectory.

In February, the UN Food & Agricultural Organisation (FAO) issued its own comprehensive global assessment across 91 countries, warning that prevailing agricultural techniques were destroying the biodiversity needed to sustain global food production.

According to the report, of 7,745 local (occurring in one country) breeds of livestock reported globally, 26 percent are at risk of extinction; nearly a third of fish stocks are overfished, with more than half having reached their sustainable limit; and 24 percent of nearly 4,000 wild food species — mainly plants, fish and mammals — are decreasing in abundance (a number likely to be much higher due to lack of data).

Another report out this month by the World Wildlife Fund and Global Footprint Network outlines how this massive, systematic environmental destruction is rooted in a way of life based on overconsumption of natural resources: we are growing beyond our means. We are taking without giving back.

The new report shows how if everyone in the world consumed at the same level as EU residents, from the period of 1st January 1 to 10th May alone, humanity would have used as much as the planet’s ecosystems can renew over the entire year: which means that 2.8 planet earths would be needed to provide for this level of consumption.

So there is something fundamentally wrong. Yet for the most part, our political leaders are preoccupied with the surface symptoms of this fundamental crisis of civilization, rather than the crisis itself.

The UN IPBES global assessment, for instance, confirms that the planet is currently experiencing 2,500 conflicts over fossil fuels, water, food and land — conflicts which are therefore directly related to the ongoing collapse of the earth’s biodiversity.

These conflicts are driving the mass displacement and migrations of people across the world, in turn radicalizing political bureaucracies and triggering extreme nationalist responses.

This month, a new study by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) — launched at the UN headquarters in Geneva — found that a record 41.3 million people worldwide are displaced inside their own countries due to conflict and violence. This is the highest it has ever been, an increase of more than a million since the end of 2017 and two-thirds more than the global number of refugees.

The report flags up particular crises: the ongoing conflicts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Syria, a rise in intercommunal tensions in Ethiopia, Cameroon and Nigeria’s Middle Belt region — which together contribute most of the 10.8 million new displacements.

Many of these disruptions are directly linked to climate change impacts. In 2018, extreme weather events were responsible for the majority of the 17.2 million new displacements. Tropical cyclones and monsoon floods led to mass displacement in the Philippines, China and India, mostly in the form of evacuations. California suffered the most destructive wildfires in its history, which displaced hundreds of thousands of people. Drought in Afghanistan triggered more displacement than the country’s armed conflict, and Nigeria’s crisis in the northeast was aggravated by flooding that affected 80 per cent of the country.

The climate connection was further underscored in a major scientific study published earlier this year in Global Environmental Change, which concludedthat climate change played a significant role in migration and asylum seeking from 2011 to 2015, by creating severe droughts which drove and exacerbated conflicts.

Conflicts across the Middle East, Western Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa were exacerbated by “climatic conditions” — eventually resulting in as much as one million desperate refugees turning up on European shores. That mass migration, of course, played a pivotal role in the UK campaign to leave the European Union, and the revival of nationalist sentiment across Europe, the US and elsewhere.

By end of century, it won’t just be migration we have to worry about — it will be, if we continue business-as-usual, an uninhabitable planet: a situation where we, too, will end up becoming the Other.

And this is where the sheer futility of conventional political responses — and prevailing political discourse — rears its ugly head. Because of course, whether or not we leave the EU will have literally no meaningful impact in itself on the fundamental systemic drivers of mass migration. Neither will whether or not we do indeed build a Wall along the US-Mexico border.

Yet while the planet burns beneath our feet, we are preoccupied with essentially irrelevant questions whose answers offer nothing of substance to address the real crisis — to which, for all intents and purposes, we are blind.

It is no wonder that following the inspirational lead of Greta Thunberg, some have seen little option except to take to the streets through protest movements like Extinction Rebellion. The hope is that sustained nonviolent resistance can compel governments to take the urgent action necessary to transition rapidly to fossil fuel free societies.

But there is a serious faultline in this approach. XR suffered from a serious lack of joined-up thinking. It was not grounded in a comprehension of the climate crisis as a systems crisis, and therefore failed to explicitly link up climate action to other key systems such as austerity, food, water, politics, culture, and ideology. XR therefore failed to appeal to the working class and largely occluded people of colour and diverse faith groups.

The other faultline is that the target of action — national government — may well have missed the point. Governments are merely nodes in a wider system of power which they do not really control, but tend to pander to — a system of power which we are all to varying degrees and in different ways complict in.

It is precisely through governments that the prevailing system has, over the last several decades, carefully built-up a special resistance to the power of street protests. This is why the largest demonstrations failed to derail the Iraq War. Counterinsurgency doctrines fine-tuned in theatres of war have been increasingly applied in domestic settings to counter, disrupt and neutralise all forms of protest action. The fear of what Samuel Huntington once called the ‘crisis of democracy’ has meant that governments have dedicated themselves to ensuring that direct protest action has as little tangible impact as possible. Hitting the streets and hoping the powers-that-be do what you want is, therefore, not a viable strategy.

That doesn’t mean that XR shouldn’t be part of a wider strategy.

But right now there is no wider strategy, there is no cross-coordination between groups and sectors to create a more systems-level understanding of the crisis, and therefore enable a more systems-level vision of the solutions. And there is a very key reason for that. The response which sees ‘open rebellion’ as the only feasible form of reaction is a direct result of the degrading impact of a system whose entire design is to invoke a sense of helplessness and apathy in citizens.

We have been trained to believe that voting every once in a while in parliamentary systems suffices for effective democratic action that serves our legitimate interests. We now know that this is not enough. Our democracies are not just broken, beholden to special interests belonging to an interlocking network of energy, defense, agribusiness, biotechnological, communications and other industrial conglomerates dominated by a tiny minority.

Our democracies are in a state of collapse: incapable of addressing the systemic complexity of the crisis of civilization. As they fail, they are veering toward rejecting their own democratic ethos toward increasing authoritarianism — shoring up centralized state powers to ward off dangerous ‘Others’ and unruly citizens. And so it is only natural that we feel the most immediate response must be to reactagainst this state of abject failure. Yet this response itself is a function of the same sensation of helplessness and paralysis induced by the system itself.

The problem is that liberal democracies in their current form are in a state of collapse for a reason: they are, indeed, incapable of addressing the systemic complexity of the crisis of civilization. No amount of nonviolent resistance will provide our existing political institutions with the capacity to address the crisis. Because the problem runs much, much deeper.

Until we address the question of transforming the very sinews and structures of contemporary neoliberal capitalism-as-we-know-it, the defining economic paradigm of our global civilization, we are speaking the wrong language.

But even here, this transformation is not simply a question of economics. It is a question of our entire paradigm of existence. And it is here — in recognising that the current crisis is calling us not merely to a fundamental transformation in our external relations, but one that is simultaneously co-extensive with our internal being — that the pathway for action emerges.

Over the last 500 years or so, humanity has erected an ‘endless growth’ civilization premised on a particular patchwork of ideological worldviews, ethical values, political and economic structures, and personal behaviours. This is a paradigm that elevates the vision of human beings as disconnected, atomistic, competing material units, which seek to maximise their own material consumption as the principal mechanism for self-gratification. This is the paradigm that defines how we live in our everyday lives, and constantly bleeds into how we end up conducting our relationships with our family and friends, in our workplaces, and beyond. It is the paradigm that has cemented our current trajectory toward mass extinction.

This is not just about external systems. It’s also about the internal systems of thought with which the external is co-extensive, and through which we have imprisoned ourselves. Our entire reductionist, mechanical model of what we think it means to be human needs to be re-written.

To break this paradigm requires far more than making demands of broken institutions. Because, let’s just lay out our cards and be totally honest here, for most of the largely middle class white people that participated in the XR protests, it’s really not that difficult to do so. The biggest gap here is that it doesn’t necessarily require an act of transformative change on the part of the protestors themselves.

This is what is missing from our response to the crisis of civilization. Our responses are based on demanding change from the ‘Other’. Whether it’s governments, or philanthropy or business — it’s about calling to account everyone other than ourselves. The problem is out there, and we have to shout and glue ourselves to the ground to get Them to listen.

When are we are going to realise that They are Us?

It’s not that we shouldn’t protest or call for institutions to change. But far more than that, if we are really serious about this, the far bigger challenge is for each of us to work within our own networks of influence, to explore how we ourselves can begin changing the organisations and institutions in which we are embedded.

And it means grounding this effort in completely new frame of orientation, one in which human beings are inherently interconnected, and inter-embedded within the earth; where we are not atomistically separated from the reality in which we find ourselves as technocratic overlords, but are co-creators of that reality as individuated parts of a continuum of being.

Whatever happens out there in the world, the crisis out there is calling unto each of us to become who we need to be, truly are, and always were. And on the basis of that internal renewal, to take radical action in our own place-based contexts to build the seeds of the new paradigm, right here, right now.

How can we change some of the systems within our schools, our places of work, our places of play? How can we harness learnings from our personal practice and transformation as people and family units, and translate that into working with our local communities to galvanise place-based change in our own local contexts? How can we plant the seeds for new organisations, institutions, businesses, political approaches, through our own actions, even while we call on pre-existing ones to take urgent action, refusing however to simply wait idly for them to do so, by starting up ourselves? How can we, throughout these efforts, work toward seeding the recognition that the great task is to build a new post-growth, post-carbon, post-materialist paradigm?

Let us not simply go to a protest. Let us build our own capacity as individuals and members of various institutions to think and do differently within our own consciousness and behaviour, as well as across energy, food, water, culture, economics, business, finance. By doing so, we plant the seeds of an emerging paradigm of life and reality that redefines the very essence of what it means to be alive.

This is the conversation we need to begin having, from our boardrooms, to our governing councils — for those of us who have woken up to what is at stake, the real question is, how can I actually mobilise to build the new paradigm?

Dr. Nafeez Ahmed is the founding editor of the 100% reader-funded investigative journalism project INSURGE intelligence. His latest book is Failing States, Collapsing Systems: BioPhysical Triggers of Political Violence (Springer, 2017). He is an 18-year investigative journalist, formerly of The Guardian where he reported on the geopolitics of social, economic and environmental crises. He now reports on ‘global system change’ for VICE’s Motherboard. He has bylines in The Times, Sunday Times, The Independent on Sunday, The Independent, The Scotsman, Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, Foreign Policy, The Atlantic, Quartz, New York Observer, The New Statesman, Prospect, Le Monde diplomatique, among other places. He has twice won the Project Censored Award for his investigative reporting; twice been featured in the Evening Standard’s top 1,000 list of most influential Londoners; and won the Naples Prize, Italy’s most prestigious literary award created by the President of the Republic. Nafeez is also a widely-published and cited interdisciplinary academic applying complex systems analysis to ecological and political violence. He is a Research Fellow at the Schumacher Institute.

"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

Offline Surly1

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First global look finds most rivers awash with antibiotics
« Reply #3796 on: June 12, 2019, 05:38:59 AM »
First global look finds most rivers awash with antibiotics
Almost two-thirds of the rivers studied contained enough antibiotics to contribute to the growing problem of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

The Bramaputra River, Bangladesh. Some river locations in Bangladesh carry antibiotic levels 300 times higher than is considered safe for the environment.

Each year, humans produce, prescribe, and ingest more antibiotics than they did the year before. Those drugs have done wonders for public health, saving millions from infections that might otherwise have killed them.

But the drugs' influence persists in the environment long after they've done their duty in human bodies. They leach into the outside world, where their presence can spur the development of “antibiotic resistant” strains of bacteria. In a new study that surveyed 72 rivers around the world, researchers found antibiotics in the waters of nearly two-thirds of all the sites they sampled, from the Thames to the Mekong to the Tigris.

That's a big deal, says Alistair Boxoll, the study's co-lead scientist and an environmental chemist at the University of York, in the U.K. “These are biologically active molecules, and we as a society are excreting tons of them into the environment,” he says.

That leads to the potential for huge effects on the ecology of the rivers—as well as on human health.

Resistance is growing

Antibiotics prevent harmful infections, saving millions of lives each year. But the populations of the bacteria they fight against can evolve in response, morphing and changing in ways that let them evade death by the drugs designed to kill them. That means an infection by one of these “resistant” bacteria strains is harder, and sometimes impossible, to treat. The U.K. Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies, says the problem is getting worse each year, and poses a "catastrophic threat" to doctors' ability to treat basic infections in the future.

A 2016 report found that each year around 700,000 people worldwide die of infections that are resistant to the antibiotics we have today. Scientists, medical experts, and public health officials worry that number could skyrocket as resistance to commonly used medicines increases. In 2014, a U.K.-commissioned study warned that by 2050, antimicrobial-resistant infections could be the leading cause of death worldwide.

And antibiotic “pollution,” in which excess antibiotics enter natural systems and influence the bacteria living there, helps speed along the development of resistant strains. It also disrupts the delicate ecological balances in rivers and streams, changing the makeup of bacterial communities.

That can affect all kinds of ecological processes, says Emma Rosi, an aquatic ecologist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, in Millbrook, New York, because many bacteria play critical roles in river ecosystems, like helping to cycle nutrients like carbon or nitrogen.

One big problem for scientists is that no one has had a good picture of exactly where, when, and how many antibiotics are flowing into the natural world. Many countries have little or no data about antibiotic concentrations in their rivers. So Boxall and his colleagues decided to start mapping out the scope of the problem.

London's Thames was one of the rivers in the UK-commissioned study, which warns ’that by 2050, antimicrobial-resistant infections could be the leading cause of death worldwide.’

Fishing for antibiotics

The team—which presented their results on Monday at the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry in Helsinki—gathered a group of collaborators from around the world, each of whom sampled their nearby rivers: 72 in all, on all continents but Antarctica. The scientists would go out on a bridge or jetty and dangle a bucket into the river water, pull up a sample, carefully push some through a filter, freeze their sample and airmail it back to the U.K. to be analysed.

The samples were screened for 14 different types of commonly used antibiotics. No continent was immune: They found traces of at least one drug in 65 percent of all the samples they studied.

“The problem really is global,” says Boxall.

That’s not particularly surprising, says Rosi, because “anywhere people use pharmaceuticals in their everyday lives, we see the evidence downstream.”

Bodies don’t break down the drugs, so the excess comes out in urine or waste. In many developed countries, the waste—and its load of antibiotics—passes through a wastewater treatment plant, but even the state-of-the-art plants don’t clear away all of the drugs. In places with no treatment plants, the antibiotics can flow even more directly into rivers and streams.

The data matched up with those expectations. The concentrations of many of the antibiotics were highest downstream of treatment plants and river-adjacent trash dumps, and in places where sewage was routed directly into river waters.

In one river, in Bangladesh, concentrations of metronidazole, a commonly prescribed treatment for skin and mouth infections, was 300 times higher than a recently determined limit deemed “safe” for the environment. In the Danube, the second-longest river in Europe, the researchers detected seven different types of antibiotics. They found one—clarithromycin, which is used as a treatment for respiratory tract infections like bronchitis—in concentrations four times higher than “safe” levels.

“In many ways it's like the plastic pollution problem,” says Boxall. “The issue is we don't think about where our waste goes, and that it has a life beyond us.”

Even faint traces of antibiotics could have big effects on the development of resistance, says William Gaze, a microbial ecologist at the University of Exeter. Bacteria are particularly good at swapping genes around in ways that let them quickly evolve in response to a threat, like an antibiotic. That evolution can happen in the presence of even very low concentrations of the drugs, concentrations like those the research team found in rivers worldwide.

Gaze stresses that there is much more research to be done before scientists understand exactly how the evolution of antibiotic resistance works. But, he says, now is the time for communities to find solutions that will keep antibiotics from flooding into rivers, because the potential outcomes for human health are so serious.

"There's a tendency to say we should use a precautionary approach," he says. "But by the time we have all the scientific evidence, it may be too late. We may have gotten ourselves to a post-antibiotic era when people are dying after being scratched by a rose in their garden and ending up with an untreatable infection.”

"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

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Millennials are ‘canaries in the coalmine’ for toxic economic trends
« Reply #3797 on: June 12, 2019, 05:45:38 AM »
Millennials are ‘canaries in the coalmine’ for toxic economic trends, say Stanford scholars
A new report by Stanford scholars lays out the problems U.S. millennials face as a result of decades-long rising inequality. Problems they experience include rising mortality rates and increased poverty among those without college degrees.

Millennials – young adults in their 20s and 30s – earn less money without a college degree and are more likely to die prematurely from suicide or drug overdose than previous generations, according to a new report from the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality.

The report also found that millennials also have a wider set of identities from which they can choose: Unlike older generations, millennials are frequently embracing multiracial and unconventional gender identities. However, this doesn’t mean they are any more accepting of people different from them compared with previous generations. The report found that millennials believe common racial and gender stereotypes to be true just as much as people from the Baby Boomer cohort, who were born from 1946 to 1964, and Generation X, born between 1965 and 1980.

The report, issued on June 6, brought together some of the country’s leading experts on poverty and inequality and offers a comprehensive assessment of data on education, health, employment and income, occupational segregation, debt and poverty rates, economic mobility, racial and gender identities, social connections, housing and incarceration trends.

“Millennials are the first generation to experience in a full-throttled way the social and economic problems of our time,” said David Grusky, professor of sociology and director of the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality.

As millennials tried to enter the job market during the Great Recession of the late 2000s, they also had to deal with decades-long economic issues, such as rising inequality and declining economic mobility. This made it an especially difficult period, he said.

“We can think of them as canaries in the coalmine who reveal just how toxic those problems are. By assembling a report that provides a comprehensive understanding of their situation, we can go beyond the usual patchwork policy and begin to address underlying problems,” Grusky said.

Millennial education
Contrary to some popular assumptions, when college-educated millennials entered the labor market, they earned just as much as Baby Boomers and Gen Xers when they were their age.

But millennials with only a high school diploma or less are earning much less than their counterparts from previous generations, according to the report’s analyses of education, written by Stanford sociologist Florencia Torche and doctoral sociology student Amy Johnson.

For example, the median earnings for 25-year-old millennial men with a bachelor’s or higher degree were about $50,000 per year, which is slightly higher than for previous generations after adjusting for inflation. The median earnings for 25-year-old millennial men who have high school degrees or less were $29,000 per year, which is about $2,600 dollars less than Gen Xers and nearly $10,000 less than Baby Boomers received at the same age, according to Torche and Johnson’s analysis of U.S. Census data from 1975 to 2018.

“It’s not that going to college amounts to striking gold for most people,” Grusky said. “The big news is that if you don’t go to college you’re likely to do worse than ever. What makes college attractive is mainly that it offers some protection from that fate.”

Millennial health
Mortality rates among young adults have also increased substantially, according to the report’s analyses of health, written by Stanford economist Mark Duggan and economics undergraduate Jackie Li.

Between 2008 and 2016, mortality rates among those between 25 and 34 years old increased by more than 20 percent. These deaths were mainly driven by a rise in suicides and drug overdoses, Duggan and Li found. The mortality rate among non-Hispanic whites, aged 20 through 34, saw the highest jump – 27 percent – in comparison to a 9 percent increase for blacks and a 6 percent increase for the Hispanic population, according to their analyses of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

These findings are in juxtaposition with the fact that more millennials were covered by health insurance. Duggan and Li found that because of the Affordable Care Act, the share of adults in their 20s without health insurance fell by more than half from 2009 to 2017.

Duggan and Li also showed that the racial gap in health insurance coverage has grown smaller through the expansion of health insurance under the ACA.

Millennial identities
The report shows that millennials were more likely to identify as multiracial and to adopt unconventional gender identities.

But millennials embrace racial and gender stereotypes in a similar way to previous generations. According to the report, one-fifth of millennials still adopt traditional views of gender roles, nearly the same as the rates among Gen Xers and Baby Boomers, according to analysis of data from the General Social Survey between 1994 and 2016 and previous research from Stanford scholars.

Millennials are also equally likely as Gen Xers to believe that blacks are lazier than whites, according to analyses by sociologist Aliya Saperstein and sociology doctoral student Sasha Shen Johfre.

“When it comes to their identities, millennials are a truly innovative generation that is forging new options,” Grusky said. “But when it comes to their attitudes about race and gender, they’re just not as special.”

Compassion for young adults
Among other findings, the report shows that the racial gap in homeownership among young adults was larger for millennials than for any generation in the past century.

In 2010, young white adults between 20 and 29 years old were 2.7 times more likely to own a home than their black counterparts, according to an analysis of U.S. Census data from 1940 to 2017. Even if you reach back to the Silent Generation, which includes those born between 1928 and 1945, the racial gap in homeownership among those young adults was smaller than it is now.

According to Grusky, these and other results make it clear that millennials are facing big challenges, many of which stem from the “endemic racial, gender and economic problems” of our time. He hopes that the report can inform future policies.

“If you understand the economic and social context within which millennials are growing up,” Grusky says, “it’s natural to feel real empathy and hard, by contrast, to understand the anger that’s often directed toward them.”

Stanford scholars contributing to the report are David Grusky, professor of sociology in the School of Humanities and Sciences; Florence Torche, professor of sociology; Mark Duggan, professor of economics and director of the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research; Aliya Saperstein, associate professor of sociology; Sasha Shen Johfre, doctoral sociology student; Amy Johnson, doctoral sociology student; and Jackie Li, economics undergraduate student and a research assistant at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.
"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

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The Illiberal Right Throws a Tantrum
« Reply #3798 on: June 16, 2019, 07:19:17 PM »
The Illiberal Right Throws a Tantrum
A faction of the religious right has concluded that if liberal democracy does not guarantee victory, then it must be abandoned.


By the tail end of the Obama administration, the culture war seemed lost. The religious right sued for détente, having been swept up in one of the most rapid cultural shifts in generations. Gone were the decades of being able to count on attacking its traditional targets for political advantage. In 2013, Chuck Cooper, the attorney defending California’s ban on same-sex marriage, begged the justices to allow same-sex-marriage opponents to lose at the ballot box rather than in court. Conservatives such as George Will and Rod Drehergriped that LGBTQ activists were “sore winners,” intent on imposing their beliefs on prostrate Christians, who, after all, had already been defeated.

The rapidity of that cultural shift, though, should not obscure the contours of the society that the religious right still aspires to preserve: a world where women have no control over whether to carry a pregnancy to term, same-sex marriage is illegal, and gays and lesbians can be arrested and incarcerated for having sex in their own homes and be barred from raising children. The religious right showed no mercy and no charity toward these groups when it had the power to impose its will, but when it lost that power, it turned to invoking the importance of religious tolerance and pluralism in a democratic society.

That was then. The tide of illiberalism sweeping over Western countries and the election of Donald Trump have since renewed hope among some on the religious right that it might revive its cultural control through the power of the state. Inspired by Viktor Orbán in Hungary and Vladimir Putin in Russia, a faction of the religious right now looks to sectarian ethno-nationalism to restore its beliefs to their rightful primacy, and to rescue a degraded and degenerate culture. All that stands in their way is democracy, and the fact that most Americans reject what they have to offer.

The past few weeks have witnessed a nasty internecine fight among religious conservatives about whether liberal democracy’s time has passed. Sohrab Ahmari, writing at First Things, attacked National Review’s David French for adhering to a traditional commitment to liberal democracy while “the overall balance of forces has tilted inexorably away from us.” Would the left have stood by liberal democracy in the face of such circumstances? In fact, the balance of forces tilted away from the left’s cultural priorities for most of my lifetime, and the left’s response was to win arguments—slowly, painfully, and at incalculable personal cost.

Many religious conservatives see antidiscrimination laws that compel owners of public accommodations to serve all customers, laws that might compel priests to break the seal of confession if they are told of child abuse, and the growing acceptance of trans people as a kind of impending apocalypse. It is no surprise that among their co-partisans, Ahmari seems to have the upper hand here; in such circles, “Crush your enemies” almost always plays better than “The other side has rights too.”

The concerns Ahmari airs are not wholly without merit: Religious conservatives are not paranoid to imagine themselves pariahs someday in the future because of their views; it was not so long ago that liberal champions such as Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton held public positions that today would be described by the left as bigotry. Nor should the left expect to win every battle with the right over matters of religious conscience; there will be moments when its opponents are correct. The same wall between Church and state that prevents the state from being dominated by the Church also bars the state from dictating the religious commitments of the Church. A law that compels Catholic priests to break the seal of confession, for example, likely runs afoul of the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment, despite the state’s obvious and compelling interest in preventing child abuse, and despite the Church’s abysmal record in doing so.

In spite of their disagreements, Ahmari and French are in accord about a great deal when it comes to abortion, women’s rights, and LGBTQ rights. French’s adherence to liberal democracy is a commitment to a set of rules under which these goals can be pursued in a pluralistic society: through public discourse, the courts, and the ballot box. For Ahmari and his ilk, this is insufficient. He seems to believe not only that the state should always settle such disputes in his favor, but that it should prevent cultural and political expressions he finds distasteful.

This isn’t an exaggeration. In a since-deleted tweet, Ahmari praised Alabama Public Television for refusing to air an episode of the cartoon Arthur in which the titular character’s male teacher marries another man; his attack on French was preceded by another since-deleted eruption, over Drag Queen Story Hour at a public library, in which he cried, “To hell with liberal order”; and he has since suggested the humanities should be defunded because “they may be lost to us for good.” If this is where Ahmari and his cohort are while the GOP still controls the courts, the Senate, and the presidency, imagine what they’ll be willing to countenance should they lose them.

Ahmari’s demands here outline the United States that illiberals would like to see: one that resembles Orbán’s Hungary, where rigged electoral systems ensure that political competition is minimal, the press is tightly controlled by an alliance between corporations and the state on behalf of the ruling party, national identity is defined in religious and ethnic terms, and cultural expressions are closely policed by the state to ensure compliance with that identity. It is no surprise that the vast majority of black and Latino Christians see a secular but pluralist left as more trustworthy allies than conservatives who rail against “poisonous and censorious multiculturalism,” and darkly warn of a plot to “displace American citizens.”

When Ahmari was asked, however, by Jane Coaston at Vox what his “ideal order” would look like, he said, “Working mothers wouldn’t be expected to return to work a mere eight weeks after giving birth.” This sort of obvious, coy insincerity about the actual nature of the changes they seek is one of the major reasons religious conservatives like Ahmari have lost so much ground in the public square, and why the left is inclined to view their demands for religious exceptions to be thinly veiled excuses for discrimination. The question of whether working mothers deserve more generous maternity leave does not represent a bitter split between the religious right and the secular left, nor is it given prominence in his manifesto, which focuses on crushing the left, or, as he put it, fighting “the culture war with the aim of defeating the enemy and enjoying the spoils in the form of a public square re-ordered to the common good and ultimately the Highest Good.”

Although the intraconservative critiques leveled by Ahmari and his allies sometimes take on the language of opposition to market fundamentalism, they are not truly opposed to the concentration of power and capital. These critics observe the decline in wages and community that has resulted from this concentration, and propose to do nothing at all about it other than seize that power for themselves, to be used to their ends. The illiberals see the wealthy and upper-middle classes getting married, forming families, and raising children much as they did in the 1950s, and conclude that the problem with working-class Americans is not the diminished political power relative to their bosses, but the absence of a sharp enough lash, whether from the state or from a culture that has escaped the religious right’s grasp. Gillette should be making commercials about women staying at home and fathers going off to work, not dads teaching their trans sons to shave for the first time.

This understanding also helps illuminate the right’s eruption over YouTube’s decision to demonetize (but not remove) the channel of Steven Crowder, a conservative YouTuber who called the Vox reporter Carlos Maza a “lispy queer,” among other slurs. A world in which one can refer to gay people as “lispy queers” without repercussion is one in which the illiberal right is winning the culture war, so it matters little that YouTube is no less a private business than Masterpiece Cakeshop, and has a right to define the rules for using its platform. The same sort of protests that the right decries as illiberal when deployed against right-wing speakers on college campuses are suddenly a legitimate tactic when used against Drag Queen Story Hour. The objective here, in Ahmari’s words, is to defeat “the enemy,” not adhere to principle, and that requires destigmatizing anew the kind of bigotry that was once powerful enough to sway elections.

Indeed, the illiberal faction in this debate retains Trump as its champion precisely because the president is willing to use the power of the state for sectarian ends, despite being an exemplar of the libertinism to which it is supposedly implacably opposed, a man whose major legislative accomplishment is slashing taxes on the wealthy, and whose most significant contribution to the institution of the family is destroying thousands of them on purpose. It is power that is the motivator here, and the best that could be said for these American Orbánists is that they believe that asserting an iron grip on American politics and culture would offer the greatest good for the greatest number of people. Every authoritarian movement has felt the same way.

don’t want to overstate the significance of this dispute between French and Ahmari. They are yelling at each other in a walled garden; conservative pundits in ideological magazines have little influence over a base whose opinions are guided by the commercial incentives of Fox News and right-wing talk radio, and the partisan imperatives of the Republican Party. If they possessed such influence, Trump would not be president.

The question of whether the Republican Party would abandon liberal democracy for sectarian ethno-nationalism was decided in the 2016 primary, and all French and Ahmari are doing is arguing about it after the fact. The commercial and social incentives for conservative writers to succumb to Trumpism are vast. Some, like French, have had the integrity to stick to their stated principles. Others, like Ahmari, have already fallen. Today’s skirmishes among conservatives resemble the irregulars in 1865 shooting at one another because they had not yet heard of Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox. And the support Ahmari has drawn suggests that the conservative intelligentsia will offer less resistance to authoritarianism than it did in 2015 and 2016.

Trump is the symptom of the Republican Party’s turn toward illiberalism, not its cause; even before Trump ran for president, some Republican elites were plotting to diminish the political power of minorities and enhance those of white voters. Whatever their disagreements, the leaders of both the populist and establishment wings of the Republican Party have concluded that they cannot be allowed to lose power simply because a majority of American voters do not wish them to wield it. The president speaks of imprisoning his political rivals, and his voters cheer. He valorizes political violence, and his followers take note. His attorneys argue both that Congress cannot investigate criminality in the executive branch and that the president has the authority to end criminal investigations into himself or his allies, while ordering them against his opponents. Trump’s supporters exult in the head of state attacking private citizens who demand equal rights, then wave the banner of free speech exclusively in defense of expressions of bigotry. In the end, Trump will dictate the course of his party on these matters, and his base will do whatever he gives it license to do. Writers such as French and Ahmari cannot shape this course; they can only argue about it after the fact.

What is notable is that crisis of faith in liberalism for this faction of the religious right comes only now. It is true, as The New York Times’ Ross Douthat writes, that “liberalism has never done as well as it thinks at resolving its own crises.” Yet this faction did not abandon its faith in liberalism’s capacity to solve problems during the decades of Jim Crow. It did not cry, “To hell with the liberal order!” over mass incarceration. It did not erupt in fury over the shattering of Latino families at the border, or the Trump-made aftermath of the catastrophe in Puerto Rico. It did not question whether liberalism had failed after the first, third, fourth or 15th mass shooting at a school, or because it is typical for Americans to beg strangers on the internet for money to cover their health-care costs or after an untimely death. The state of emergency occurred when, and only when, liberal democracy ceased to guarantee victory in the culture war. The indignity of fighting for one’s rights within a democratic framework is fine for others, but it is beneath them.

Some perspective is in order. Douthat looks to the future and asks whether a society “dominated by virtual reality and eugenics and mood-stabilizing drugs, post-familial and post-religious and functionally post-human,” would “deserve the political loyalty of (let us say) a traditional Christian or Muslim, just because it still affords them some First Amendment protections? It is reasonable to say that it might not.”

Black Americans did not abandon liberal democracy because of slavery, Jim Crow, and the systematic destruction of whatever wealth they managed to accumulate; instead they took up arms in two world wars to defend it. Japanese Americans did not reject liberal democracy because of internment or the racist humiliation of Asian exclusion; they risked life and limb to preserve it. Latinos did not abandon liberal democracy because of “Operation Wetback,” or Proposition 187, or because of a man who won a presidential election on the strength of his hostility toward Latino immigrants. Gay, lesbian, and trans Americans did not abandon liberal democracy over decades of discrimination and abandonment in the face of an epidemic. This is, in part, because doing so would be tantamount to giving the state permission to destroy them, a thought so foreign to these defenders of the supposedly endangered religious right that the possibility has not even occurred to them. But it is also because of a peculiar irony of American history: The American creed has no more devoted adherents than those who have been historically denied its promises, and no more fair-weather friends than those who have taken them for granted.

Undetectable in the dispute on the right is any acknowledgment of the criticisms of liberal democracy by those who have been fighting for their fundamental rights in battles that are measured in decades and even centuries; that the social contract implicitly excluded them from the very rights white Christian men have been able to assert from the beginning. Perhaps to do so would be to acknowledge the fundamental immaturity underlying the American Orbánists’ critique: that what they describe as a crisis of liberal democracy is really just them not getting exactly what they want when they want it.

"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound


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