Ph.D program vs. Time-Life book

…I attended a political theory Ph.D. program at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Something happened there. One day I was reading a Time-Life book about the painter Goya. I forget who the king was at the time, but he was one of the few enlightened kings of Spain. In the capital, there was a lot of crime. Men wore these big capes and hats, which made for a great disguise. The king was mad about all the crime, so he made that outfit illegal, but then there was a riot because me were so attached to the capes and hats. So the king repealed the law. He found a new adviser and said, Look, youve got to stop all this thieving. The new guy said, Don’t worry, Your Majesty, I got it covered. And the next day, he made the cape and hat the uniform of the executioner, who worked out in the open every day. People stopped wearing them just like that. Nobody wanted to be identified with the executioner. And I thought, I’ve learned more in reading this one stupid page in this Time-Life book about Goya than I have in my Ph.D. program. So I quit.

– Walter Mosley, interviewed in The Paris Review.

TOI from this week (i.e. Things of Interest)

• At the Near Future Summit, one of the most astonishing presentations was by Osman Kibar, the founder and CEO of Samumed, a biotech firm, valued at $12 Billion, which proposes to reverse aging, restore eyesight, fix Alzheimer’s…the list goes on. It boggled the mind. My kneejerk reaction is that if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. But what if it were true, that we could make our cells re-regenerate? If we do eventually die, and Samumed releases all their magic, we’ll feel great up until death and look beautiful in our coffins.

• Fantastic talks here at #nfs2017.  I think we’ve found the new TED, and learned so many things. I knew that during Lincoln’s day the average person read as much in their lifetimes as is contained in the Sunday Edition of the New York Times, but I hadn’t known that in Medieval times people met only 150 people in their entire lives. We encounter that many people after an hour spent on the internet. Dunbar Fatigue.

• I was astonished by this image that David Gallo showed during his talk, which shows how much water there is on Earth–it’s really just a thin film on the surface. The much tinier dot is the amount of fresh water there is on Earth–not much, my friend, not much.

• Our friends took us for a lunch at Gjelina in Venice, where we ordered a round of vegetables (broccolini, Brussels sprouts, carrots), then the Duck Confit, which was divine, and then the butterscotch cream something for dessert. Recommended!

• Some lovely pastel-colored motion graphics with some facts about the internet, by Sander van Dijk

 

Anti-Psychiatry and Community Care

One thing that visitors from other countries–-we see a lot of Finns in our house––notice is that there are a lot of homeless people on our streets here in San Francisco, and that many of them are clearly mentally ill.

I was reading this article on Mute (whose tagline is the intriguing “WE GLADLY FEAST ON THOSE WHO WOULD SUBDUE US”) on the anti-psychiatry activities of an Italian psychiatrist in the 1960s, Franco Basaglia, and a book about him, The Man Who Closed the Asylums: Franco Basaglia and the Revolution in Mental Health Care.

All of this led me to look up the Community Mental Health Act of 1963, and then to this Timeline of Deinstitutionalization and its Consequences–all which made made ever clearer that mental health care in this country has gone from abuse to neglect, that more people in need of care are on the streets or in jails rather than in hospitals, all of which is a terrible crime against already suffering people.

Basaglia: ‘It seems important that people know that beyond “health” and “illness” there are human beings and there are contradictions that we cannot master individually.’

Trump voters aren’t voting policy, they’re voting identity

We’ve been reading so many words about who the Trump voter is and why they vote the way they do. So many explanations. But this is the first article that made sense to me, and it tells how people are voting more for who they “identify” with, who they feel represents them, and people like them than for any particular issue or policy. It is an interview with Katherine J. Cramer about her book The Politics of Resentment. Here is part of the interview:

…we all do that thing of encountering information and interpreting it in a way that supports our own predispositions. Recent studies in political science have shown that it’s actually those of us who think of ourselves as the most politically sophisticated, the most educated, who do it more than others.

So I really resist this characterization of Trump supporters as ignorant.

There’s just more and more of a recognition that politics for people is not — and this is going to sound awful, but — it’s not about facts and policies. It’s so much about identities, people forming ideas about the kind of person they are and the kind of people others are. Who am I for, and who am I against?

Policy is part of that, but policy is not the driver of these judgments. There are assessments of, is this someone like me? Is this someone who gets someone like me?

I think all too often, we put our energies into figuring out where people stand on particular policies. I think putting energy into trying to understanding they way they view the world and their place in it — that gets us so much further toward understanding how they’re going to vote, or which candidates are going to be appealing to them.

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