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Opinion | The Rich Kid Revolutionaries - The New York Times
"Rather than repeat family myths about the individual effort and smarts of their forebears, those from wealthy backgrounds tell “money stories” that highlight the more complicated origins of their families’ assets. If their fortunes came from the direct dispossession of indigenous peoples, enslavement of African-Americans, production of fossil fuels or obvious exploitation of workers, they often express especially acute guilt. As a woman in her early 20s told me of the wealth generated by her family’s global business: “It’s not just that I get money without working. It’s that other people work to make me money and don’t get nearly as much themselves. I find it to be morally repugnant.”

Even those I have talked with whose family wealth was accumulated through less transparently exploitative means, such as tech or finance, or who have high-paying jobs themselves, question what they really deserve. They see that their access to such jobs, through elite schools and social networks, comes from their class (and usually race) advantages.

They also know that many others work just as hard but reap fewer rewards. One 27-year-old white woman, who stands to inherit several million dollars, told me: “My dad has always been a C.E.O., and it was clear to me that he spent a lot of time at work, but it has never been clear to me that he worked a lot harder than a domestic worker, for example. I will never believe that.” She and others challenge the description of wealth garnered through work as “earned.” In an effort to break the link between money and moral value, they refer to rich people as “high net wealth” rather than “high net worth.”

Immigrants who “make it” are often seen to exemplify the American dream of upward mobility. The children of immigrants I spoke with, though, don’t want their families’ “success stories” to legitimate an unfair system. Andrea Pien, 32, is a Resource Generation member and a daughter of Taiwanese immigrants who accumulated significant wealth in the United States. She spoke of refusing to be “the token that then affirms the capitalist meritocracy myth, the idea that ‘Oh, if Andrea’s family made it, we don’t need affirmative action, or we don’t need reparations.’”

In general, these young people don’t believe they are entitled to so much when others have so little. Many describe feeling guilt or shame about their privilege, which often leads them to hide it. One college student, a woman of color, told me that she worried what other campus activists might think of her. “What a fraud, right?” she said. “To be in those spaces and be acting like these are my struggles, when they’re not.” A white woman who lives on her inheritance of more than $15 million spoke of “deflecting” questions about her occupation, so that others would not know she did not do work for pay.

These progressive children of privilege told me they study the history of racial capitalism in the United States and discuss the ways traditional philanthropy tends to keep powerful people at the top. They also spend a fair amount of time talking about their money. Should they give it all away? Should they get a job, even if they don’t need the income? How much is it ethical to spend on themselves or others? How does money shape friendships and relationships? Resource Generation and its members facilitate these conversations, including one local chapter’s “feelings caucus.”

If you’re thinking, “Cry me a river,” you’re not alone. I have faced skepticism from other sociologists when discussing this research. One colleague asserted that rich young people struggling with their privilege do not have a “legitimate problem.” Others ask: How much do they really give, and what do they really give up? Aren’t these simply self-absorbed millennials taking another opportunity to talk endlessly about themselves?

I understand this view. There is certainly a risk — of which many of them are aware — that all this conversation will just devolve into navel-gazing, an expression of privilege rather than a challenge to it. It is hard for individual action to make a dent in an ironclad social structure. And it is impossible, as they know, to shed the class privilege rooted in education and family socialization, even if they give away every penny.

But like Abigail Disney, these young people are challenging fundamental cultural understandings of who deserves what. And they are breaking the social taboo against talking about money — a taboo that allows radical inequality to fade into the background. This work is critical at a moment when the top 1 percent of families in the United States owns 40 percent of the country’s wealth, and Jeff Bezos takes home more money per minute than the median American worker makes in a year.

As Holly Fetter, a Resource Generation member and Harvard Business School student, told me, “It’s essential that those of us who have access to wealth and want to use it to support progressive social movements speak up, to challenge the narrative that the 1 percent are only interested in accumulation, and invite others to join us.”

Wealthy people are more likely to convince other wealthy people that the system is unfair. And they are the only ones who can describe intimately the ways that wealth may be emotionally corrosive, producing fear, shame and isolation.

Class privilege is like white privilege, in that its beneficiaries receive advantages that are, in fact, unearned. So for them to conclude that their own wealth is undeserved, and therefore immoral, constitutes a powerful critique of the idea of meritocracy.

The fact that the system is immoral, of course, does not make individuals immoral. One person I spoke with, a white 30-year-old who inherited money, said: “It’s not that we’re bad people. It’s just, nobody needs that much money.” But judgments of systems are often taken as judgments of individuals, which leads white people to deny racism and rich people to deny class privilege.

So even the less-public work of talking through emotions, needs and relationships, which can seem self-indulgent, is meaningful. As Ms. Pien put it, “Our feelings are related to the bigger structure.”

One huge cultural support of that structure is secrecy around money, which even rich people don’t talk about.

Wealthy parents fear that if they tell their kids how much they will inherit, the kids won’t develop a strong work ethic. Yahya Alazrak, of Resource Generation, has heard people say, “My dad won’t tell me how much money we have because he’s worried that I’ll become lazy.” One man in his early 30s recounted that his parents had always told him they would pay for his education, but not support him afterward until they revealed that he had a trust worth over $10 million. Parents also have a “scarcity mentality,” Resource Generation members said, which leads them to “hoard” assets to protect against calamity.

Secrecy also often goes hand in hand with limited financial literacy. Women, especially, may not learn about money management growing up, thanks to gendered ideas about financial planning and male control of family assets. Some people I met who will inherit significant amounts of money didn’t know the difference between a stock and a bond.

When wealthy parents do talk about money, they tend to put forth conventional ideas about merit: They or their ancestors worked hard for what they have, scrimped and saved to keep and increase it, and gave some of it away. When their children reject these metrics, parents’ sense of being “good people” is challenged.

When one woman told her immigrant parents she wanted to give their millions away, it was like “a slap in the face” for them, she said, because they felt they had “sacrificed a lot for this money.”

Parents — and the financial professionals who manage family wealth — also tend to follow conventional wisdom about money: Never give away principal. Charitable donations should be offset by tax breaks. And the goal of investing is always to make as much money as possible. As one 33-year-old inheritor said, “No financial adviser ever says, ‘I made less money for the client, but I got them to build affordable housing.’”

Talking about how it feels to be rich can help build affordable housing, though. Once the feeling of being a “bad person” is replaced by “good person in a bad structure,” these young people move into redistributive action. Many talked about asserting control over their money, pursuing socially responsible investments (sometimes for much lower returns) and increasing their own or their families’ giving, especially to social-justice organizations. And eventually — like the people I have quoted by name here — they take a public stand.

Finally, they imagine an alternative future, based on a different idea of what people deserve. Ms. Pien, for example, wants to be “invested in collective good, so we can all have the basics that we need and a little more.” In her vision, this “actually makes everyone more secure and fulfilled and joyful, rather than us hiding behind our mountains of money.”"
abigaildisney  wealth  inequality  activism  legacy  2019  rachelsherman  affluence  security  disney  merit  meritocracy  inheritance  privilege  socialjustice  justice  redistribution  morality  ethics  upwardmobility  immigrants  capitalism  socialism  fulfillment  joy  charity  shame  guilt  charitableindustrialcomplex  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  philanthropy  power  hierarchy  secrecy  hoarding  scarcity  abundance  money  relationships  isolation  class 
may 2019 by robertogreco
Why Is There a Housing Crisis? | Opinion | East Bay Express
"The Bay Area's outrageous housing prices have led to howls of protest. Average rents have shot up by half during the last five years. Rents and house prices are the highest of any metropolitan area in the country and among the most unaffordable in the world. This is not just true of San Francisco but applies to the entire Bay region — now twelve counties and 8.5 million people, according to the US Census.

According to mainstream policy shops and planners, such as Gabriel Metcalf, president and CEO of the pro-urban growth organization SPUR, the housing crisis is caused by activists and neighborhood residents who oppose more market-rate housing development. Their solution is to allow developers to build more freely.

But while it's true that we need to expand the region's housing supply, building more housing cannot solve the problem as long as demand is out of control, as it is today. There is simply no way housing could have been built quickly enough to avoid the price spike of the current boom.

Three basic forces are driving the Bay Area's housing prices upward: growth, affluence, and inequality. Three other things make matters worse: finance, business cycles, and geography. All of these operate on the demand side of the equation, and demand is the key to the runaway housing market.

The prime mover of housing prices is economic growth. The Bay Area has been booming for the last five years, creating more than 500,000 new jobs on a base of 3 million. This is the global capital of tech, the world's most dynamic industry, and all those jobs have drawn in thousands of newcomers looking for housing. Moreover, tech delivers huge profits and pays high salaries and wages, as do other key sectors, like biomedical and finance. The Bay Area's per capita income has long been one of the highest in the country, and high incomes give people the wherewithal to pay top dollar for housing.

On top of this, income distribution is highly unequal, and wealth inequality is even worse, allowing the upper classes to put additional pressure on the market for good housing in favored locations. The Bay Area has one of the highest indexes of income inequality of any region, caused principally by the high salaries of the top 20 percent of earners. As for wealth, the Bay Area has more millionaires per capita than any other US metro and can claim 45 of the 400 richest people in the United States, second only to New York City.

Most people understand these essential drivers of the housing market, if not how extreme they are in the Bay region. But much more lies behind the runaway rents and sale prices of late. We need to think outside the box of simple supply and demand and look further at a trio of conditions shaping demand: credit and capital, boom and bust cycles, and the spatial preferences of the elite.

First, housing is a big-ticket item that normally requires a mortgage, and an excess of credit will exaggerate people's ability to purchase houses. California had the most overheated mortgage markets during the housing bubble of the 2000s, and our financial institutions have not been substantially reformed. Finance is subject to dramatic swings, and the pressure becomes unbearable at the peak of the cycle. Furthermore, footloose capital from around the world has once again been flooding into the Bay Area in search of high returns, whether as venture investments in hot start-ups, stock holdings in tech giants, or purchases of mortgage bonds. All the wealth in tech is not generated locally, nor is all housing demand.

Second, the housing market does not behave like eBay because supply is slow to adjust to demand. It takes a long time to build new units and most people stay in the same residence for years. Hence, only a small percentage of total housing stock comes on the market in any year — normally less than 5 percent — and markets suffer from intense bottlenecks. As expansive demand chases limited supply over the course of a business cycle, prices accelerate ahead of new building. Speculators and landlords intensify the pressure as they buy properties, evict tenants, and displace people in anticipation of even higher rents. The good news is that booms go bust, sooner or later. Construction will overshoot the market, as it always does, and then prices will fall by 10 to 20 percent, as usual.

Third, housing markets are badly distorted by the geography of privilege and power. If the nouveaux riches of the tech world want to live in San Francisco (even if they commute to Silicon Valley), they have the means to outbid working stiffs, families, artists, and the poor; the result, as we've seen, is a city that has become richer and whiter with remarkable speed. And that's just the tip of the iceberg: The greatest distortion to housing markets is the demand by the wealthy for exclusive, leafy, space-eating suburbs from Palo Alto to Orinda. These favored enclaves reduce overall housing supply by using low-density zoning to block the high-rises and apartments that provide moderate priced homes (not to mention low-income public housing).

So is there no recourse? Since the biggest sources of the housing crisis lie in the general conditions of contemporary capitalism — the tech boom, gross inequality, frothy finance, boom and bust cycles, and the power of the elites — local reforms can only do so much. Without a major political upheaval for financial control, higher taxes, equality, and more public spending, we are in for perennial housing crises. The housing market can never heal itself under existing conditions.

But some things can be done locally. Rent control with reasonable annual increases works quite well to dampen overheated markets. Eviction controls are critical, along with other restrictions on speculation. Demands for set-asides for low-income units are another proven strategy, along with development fees. Land trusts have worked well for open space protection in the Bay Area, and could work for housing, but will require major funding. And a real commitment of earmarking money for low-income housing by the federal government — on a scale to match the money going to highways — is a must.

New housing will have to be built, as well. But developers are profit-seekers, so don't expect them to be innocent bearers of what people need. It is absolutely necessary to question developers and city planners over what is to be built, how high, how big, and where. A livable city demands good design, historic preservation, neighborhood protections, mixed use, and social diversity, among other things, and figuring out what those things are should be a collective, democratic and, yes, conflictual process of politics and public debate. Nonetheless, opposing all new building, greater density, and neighborhood change is not a viable policy, and we cannot cling to the idea that our town or neighborhood will remain the same in a dynamic urban system.

Conservative critics, of course, denounce all popular efforts to control runaway housing costs, displacement, speculation, and bad planning as unnatural violations of some "natural law" of perfect markets. No one should be fooled by such fantasies. The real "market distortions" propelling the housing crisis are inequality, speculation, financial bloat, tax havens, and more. The day when the runaway privileges of bankers, builders, speculators, wealthy suburbanites, and the rest are reined in — that's the day the housing crisis will be over.

Richard Walker."
housing  california  richardwalker  2016  speculation  inequality  growth  affluence  geography  economics  bayarea  power  privilege  capitalism  rent  rentcontrol  eviction 
april 2019 by robertogreco
White progressive parents and the conundrum of privilege - Los Angeles Times
"Greg and Sarah live in a predominantly white neighborhood and send their children to a predominantly white private school. “I don’t want to believe we are hypocrites,” Greg tells me. “But if we say diversity is important to us, but then we didn’t stick around in the place that was diverse, maybe we are?” He looks at Sarah. “I dunno,” he continues, “I guess we made decisions based on other things that were more important. But what does that say about us then?”

For two years I conducted research with 30 affluent white parents and their kids in a Midwestern metropolitan area. Over and over I heard comments like Greg’s reflecting a deep ambivalence: As progressive parents, is their primary responsibility to advance societal values ­— fairness, equal opportunity and social justice — or to give their children all the advantages in life that their resources can provide?

More often than not, values lost out.

Parents I interviewed felt conflicted about using their social status to advocate for their kids to have the “best” math teacher, because they knew other kids would be stuck with the “bad” math teacher. They registered the unfairness in leveraging their exclusive social networks to get their teenagers coveted summer internships when they knew disadvantaged kids were the ones who truly needed such opportunities. They felt guilty when they protectively removed their children from explicitly racist and contentious situations because they understood that kids of color cannot escape racism whenever they please. Still, those were the choices they made.

Parents felt caught in a conundrum of privilege — that there was an unavoidable conflict between being a good parent and being a good citizen. These two principles don’t have to be in tension, of course. Many parents, in fact, expressed a desire to have their ideals and parenting choices align. In spite of that sentiment, when it came to their own children, the common refrain I heard was, “I care about social justice, but — I don’t want my kid to be a guinea pig.”

In other words, things have been working out pretty well for affluent white kids, so why rock the boat? And so parents continue to make decisions — about where to buy a house, which school seems best, or whether robotics club or piano lessons is a better after-school activity — that extend the advantages of wealth. Those choices, however, have other consequences: They shape what children think about race, racism, inequality and privilege far more than anything parents say (or do not say).

Children reach their own conclusions about how society works, or should work, based on their observations of their social environment and interactions with others — a process that African American studies scholar Erin Winkler calls “comprehensive racial learning.” So how their parents set up kids’ lives matters deeply.

Some children in my study, for instance, came to the conclusion that “racism is over” and that “talking about race makes you racist” — the kind of sentiments that sociologists identify as key features of colorblind racism. These were kids who were growing up in an almost exclusively white, suburban social environment outside the city.

The kids who lived in the city but attended predominantly white private schools told me that they were smarter and better than their public schools peers. They also thought they were more likely to be leaders in the future. One boy said proudly, “My school is not for everyone” — a statement that reflected how thoroughly he’d absorbed his position in the world in relation to others.

And yet, other white kids living in the city concluded that racism “is a way bigger problem than people realize. … White people don’t realize it… because they are scared to talk about it.” These young people spoke passionately about topics like the racial wealth gap and discrimination. They observed how authority figures such as teachers and police officers treated kids of color differently. They more easily formed interracial friendships and on occasion worked with their peers to challenge racism in their community. These were children who were put in racially integrated schools and extracurricular activities purposefully by their parents.

Still, even some of those parents’ actions reproduced the very forms of inequality they told me they intellectually rejected. They used connections to get their children into selective summer enrichment programs or threatened to leave the public school system if their children were not placed in honors or AP courses that they knew contributed to patterns of segregation. So even as parents promoted to their kids the importance of valuing equality, they modeled how to use privilege to get what you want. White kids absorbed this too; they expected to be able to move easily through the world and developed strategies for making it so.

If affluent, white parents hope to raise children who reject racial inequality, simply explaining that fairness and social justice are important values won’t do the trick. Instead, parents need to confront how their own decisions and behaviors reproduce patterns of privilege. They must actually advocate for the well-being, education and happiness of all children, not just their own.

Being a good parent should not come at the expense of being — or raising — a good citizen. If progressive white parents are truly committed to the values they profess, they ought to consider how helping one’s own child get ahead in society may not be as big a gift as helping create a more just society for them to live in in the future."
education  parenting  politics  progressive  2018  margarethagerman  schools  schooling  socialjustice  race  racism  privilege  cv  affluence  inequality  privateschools  segregation  civics  society  canon 
march 2019 by robertogreco
Inequality - how wealth becomes power (1/2) | (Poverty Richness Documentary) DW Documentary - YouTube
"Germany is one of the world’s richest countries, but inequality is on the rise. The wealthy are pulling ahead, while the poor are falling behind.

For the middle classes, work is no longer a means of advancement. Instead, they are struggling to maintain their position and status. Young people today have less disposable income than previous generations. This documentary explores the question of inequality in Germany, providing both background analysis and statistics. The filmmakers interview leading researchers and experts on the topic. And they accompany Christoph Gröner, one of Germany’s biggest real estate developers, as he goes about his work. "If you have great wealth, you can’t fritter it away through consumption. If you throw money out the window, it comes back in through the front door,” Gröner says. The real estate developer builds multi-family residential units in cities across Germany, sells condominium apartments, and is involved in planning projects that span entire districts. "Entrepreneurs are more powerful than politicians, because we’re more independent,” Gröner concludes. Leading researchers and experts on the topic of inequality also weigh in, including Nobel-prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, economist Thomas Piketty, and Brooke Harrington, who carried out extensive field research among investors from the ranks of the international financial elite. Branko Milanović, a former lead economist at the World Bank, says that globalization is playing a role in rising inequality. The losers of globalization are the lower-middle class of affluent countries like Germany. "These people are earning the same today as 20 years ago," Milanović notes. "Just like a century ago, humankind is standing at a crossroads. Will affluent countries allow rising equality to tear apart the fabric of society? Or will they resist this trend?”"

[Part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cYP_wMJsgyg

"Christoph Gröner is one of the richest people in Germany. The son of two teachers, he has worked his way to the top. He believes that many children in Germany grow up without a fair chance and wants to step in. But can this really ease inequality?

Christoph Gröner does everything he can to drum up donations and convince the wealthy auction guests to raise their bids. The more the luxury watch for sale fetches, the more money there will be to pay for a new football field, or some extra tutoring, at a children's home. Christoph Gröner is one of the richest people in Germany - his company is now worth one billion euros, he tells us. For seven months, he let our cameras follow him - into board meetings, onto construction sites, through his daily life, and in his charity work. He knows that someone like him is an absolute exception in Germany. His parents were both teachers, and he still worked his way to the top. He believes that many children in Germany grow up without a fair chance. "What we see here is total failure across the board,” he says. "It starts with parents who just don’t get it and can’t do anything right. And then there’s an education policy that has opened the gates wide to the chaos we are experiencing today." Chistoph Gröner wants to step in where state institutions have failed. But can that really ease inequality?

In Germany, getting ahead depends more on where you come from than in most other industrialized countries, and social mobility is normally quite restricted. Those on top stay on top. The same goes for those at the bottom. A new study shows that Germany’s rich and poor both increasingly stay amongst themselves, without ever intermingling with other social strata. Even the middle class is buckling under the mounting pressure of an unsecure future. "Land of Inequality" searches for answers as to why. We talk to families, an underpaid nurse, as well as leading researchers and analysts such as economic Nobel Prize laureate Joseph Stiglitz, sociologist Jutta Allmendinger or the economist Raj Chetty, who conducted a Stanford investigation into how the middle class is now arming itself to improve their children’s outlooks."]
documentary  germany  capitalism  economics  society  poverty  inequality  christophgröner  thomaspiketty  brookehrrington  josephstiglitz  neoliberalism  latecapitalism  brankomilanović  worldbank  power  influence  policy  politics  education  class  globalization  affluence  schools  schooling  juttaallmendinger  rajchetty  middleclass  parenting  children  access  funding  charity  charitableindustrialcomplex  philanthropy  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  status  work  labor  welfare  2018  geography  cities  urban  urbanism  berlin  immigration  migration  race  racism  essen  socialsegregation  segregation  success  democracy  housing  speculation  paulpiff  achievement  oligarchy  dynasticwealth  ownership  capitalhoarding  injustice  inheritance  charlottebartels  history  myth  prosperity  wageslavery  polarization  insecurity  precarity  socialcontract  revolution  sociology  finance  financialcapitalism  wealthmanagement  assets  financialization  local  markets  privateschools  publicschools  privatization 
january 2019 by robertogreco
White Kids | Growing Up with Privilege in a Racially Divided America | Books - NYU Press | NYU Press
"Riveting stories of how affluent, white children learn about race

American kids are living in a world of ongoing public debates about race, daily displays of racial injustice, and for some, an increased awareness surrounding diversity and inclusion. In this heated context, sociologist Margaret A. Hagerman zeroes in on affluent, white kids to observe how they make sense of privilege, unequal educational opportunities, and police violence. In fascinating detail, Hagerman considers the role that they and their families play in the reproduction of racism and racial inequality in America.

White Kids, based on two years of research involving in-depth interviews with white kids and their families, is a clear-eyed and sometimes shocking account of how white kids learn about race. In doing so, this book explores questions such as, “How do white kids learn about race when they grow up in families that do not talk openly about race or acknowledge its impact?” and “What about children growing up in families with parents who consider themselves to be ‘anti-racist’?”

Featuring the actual voices of young, affluent white kids and what they think about race, racism, inequality, and privilege, White Kids illuminates how white racial socialization is much more dynamic, complex, and varied than previously recognized. It is a process that stretches beyond white parents’ explicit conversations with their white children and includes not only the choices parents make about neighborhoods, schools, peer groups, extracurricular activities, and media, but also the choices made by the kids themselves. By interviewing kids who are growing up in different racial contexts—from racially segregated to meaningfully integrated and from politically progressive to conservative—this important book documents key differences in the outcomes of white racial socialization across families. And by observing families in their everyday lives, this book explores the extent to which white families, even those with anti-racist intentions, reproduce and reinforce the forms of inequality they say they reject."
race  racism  society  education  privilege  class  parenting  books  toread  via:tealtan  2018  opportunity  margarethagerman  sociology  affluence  police  policeviolence  inequality  socialization  segregation  bias  via:lukeneff 
august 2018 by robertogreco
The Marshmallow Test: What Does It Really Measure? - The Atlantic
> These findings point to the idea that poorer parents try to indulge their kids when they can, while more-affluent parents tend to make their kids wait for bigger rewards. Hair dye and sweet treats might seem frivolous, but purchases like these are often the only indulgences poor families can afford. And for poor children, indulging in a small bit of joy today can make life feel more bearable, especially when there’s no guarantee of more joy tomorrow.
psychology  philosophy  intelligence  willpower  cognition  affluence  gratification  poverty  behavioral.science 
june 2018 by po
Lost Einsteins: The Innovations We’re Missing -
DEC. 3, 2017 | The New York Times | David Leonhardt.

societies have a big interest in making sure that as many people as possible have the opportunity to become scientists, inventors and entrepreneurs. It’s not only a matter of fairness. Denying opportunities to talented people can end up hurting everyone.

.....Raj Chetty....is a Stanford professor who helps lead the Equality of Opportunity Project.... considered among the most important research efforts in economics today.....The project’s latest paper, out Sunday, looks at who becomes an inventor — and who doesn’t. The results are disturbing....The key phrase in the research paper is “lost Einsteins.” It’s a reference to people who could “have had highly impactful innovations” if they had been able to pursue the opportunities they deserved.....children who excelled in math were far more likely to become inventors. But being a math standout wasn’t enough. Only the top students who also came from high-income families had a decent chance to become an inventor.

This fact may be the starkest: Low-income students who are among the very best math students — those who score in the top 5 percent of all third graders — are no more likely to become inventors than below-average math students from affluent families:

....“There are great differences in innovation rates,” Chetty said. “Those differences don’t seem to be due to innate ability to innovate.” Or as Steve Case — the entrepreneur who’s now investing in regions that venture capital tends to ignore — told me when I called him to discuss the findings: “Creativity is broadly distributed. Opportunity is not.” [or life’s basic truth: Talent is universal, but opportunity is not.]
innovation  equality_of_opportunity  Steve_Case  Albert_Einstein  achievement_gaps  affluence  high-income  low-income  mathematics  capitalization  human_potential  inventions  inventiveness  inventors  creativity  quotes  unevenly_distributed 
december 2017 by jerryking
Ancestral Schooling: Unschoolers No More
"After eight years our family is switching gears, we are unschoolers no more.

It has been a long time coming yet, we barely just noticed the need for a change.

Personal and family journeys of decolonization are often slow and take many twists and turns...lots of ups and downs. When it comes to our life learner's journey into self-direction, this issue hasn't been the exception. Twist and turns abound indeed. We are surprised not to have noticed but the signs were there all along.

They were there when my Mom and Mother in Law took turns taking care of me for 40 days after I gave birth, giving me caldo and tea so I would get strong and produce lots of milk for my newborn. They were there when my daughter was seven months and I tried to carry her using a sheet around my back when I couldn't find an affordable Mexican rebozo.

They were there when I was at the library and a hip looking Mom from the dominant culture asked me if I was an attachment parent and would I mind telling her more about my methods...And I said I didn't know what that was and she looked at me like I was stupid as I replied "I'm just doing what my Mom and the women in my family do" and got the heck away from her and her kid as soon as I could, just to avoid her contentious stare.

They were there when I instinctively knew to seek a circular community of women in the same situation as me, with children like my child so she would have others to speak Spanish with.

They were there when I knew to let her play with dirt. When I knew to let her cook among us, the women in the family, because regardless of age women of our kind always have a part to play and a weight to carry in a cooking circle. Which happens to always turn into a life wisdom sharing circle, as we work.

The signs got a little blurry when the women in my circle started sending their kids to school and their kids started to disappear into the business of their school days. I remember telling my husband, I didn't like how quiet and stiff our daughter looked when we tried out a formal classroom for a day. Would he be willing to consider homeschooling?

The sign was there when he replied with an obvious, yet shocking question..."Aren't you homeschooling already by being part of that Spanish immersion coop? What would change?" Indeed I was! So this time I followed the sign and reminded myself of how, when I was twelve and our family's fortune changed, I was "unschooled" by our oppressive circumstances and was given the chance to work alongside adults. A valuable experience, which turned out to be the secret to my professional success later in life. The sings blurred again, as the pressure of the dominant culture told me my child wouldn't learn to read if I didn't teach her and yet she did. On her very own at an early age.

The signs began to get fuzzy again, as I sought online guidance an read things that resonated with me. Mostly Unschooling literature and advice..."Deeper multi-generation connections within the family and community"check. "Emotional safety and connection are necessary for learning to happen" check. "Value and enjoy the journey and process" check. "Unschooling produces life long learners" check. "Learning takes place anytime and anywhere" check."Learning is pleasurable and noncoercive" check. "Learning happens as a coincidence as we go about our lives" check."Learning is a communal activity" check. "Learning comes as a product of emotional connection" check. Check on all those things I could recognize, as part of my own personal educational experiences. I immediately thought...I must be an uschooler!!! That's what we are, I affirmed to my husband and child. They followed suit.

Then more signs crossed my journey but I overlooked them. Like when after doing research and realizing school is mainly and instrument for colonization and destruction of cultures like ours, how it is mainly a European invention used to disconnect children and youth...here I was...Learning from others that were not my kin, who had very much sanitized and reclaimed our old ancestral customs calling them new. I had been sitting on an ancestral treasure a treasure of self-directed education and knowledge preserved thru thick and thin so it could sit invisible right in front of me after generations.


Then the moment of truth came after having unschooling discussions among other women of color, who also felt discomfort using the unschooler label for themselves and their families. The moment came, after several visits to México in a short amount of time. During which I took the time to interview some of our elders, for oral history purposes and I realized many of our ancestors grew up under "unschooling' circumstances just like I did.

Circumstances which for them, involved being put down and marginalized for their informal ways of learning, of playing barefoot and unsupervised in nature, for breastfeeding, for working alongside adults to earn a living, for working as if they were adults to contribute to the family finances, for carrying children in rebozos or seeming too emotionally attached to their children for the taste of the dominant culture.

Instances when they were devalued, mocked and even marginalized for having a deep emotional connection to family and community, for being innate and informal life long learners, for the deep generational emotional connections formed while learning. For solving conflicts among family circles of equal power, regardless of age. For learning as a vehicle for mere survival.

It finally hit me. Calling ourselves unschoolers is no way to honor that journey and all those sacrifices. Because it does not give our family the credit it is due.

Because now that our ancestral ways of carrying children with prohibitively expensive "baby wraps", breastfeeding, attachment parenting, non violent communication and self-directed learning is all too fashionable, especially for relatively affluent women from the dominant culture...credit is not generally given where it is due and when it is, it is talked about as a thing of the past, something we no longer do in the present day.

I'm here to tell you, we very much do, otherwise I would not have been able to innately find it among the remains of my family's culture and customs. We are indeed unschoolers no more. If we continue to call ourselves unschoolers, we are contributing to our own cycle of oppression, by erasing the merits of an entire culture and not acknowledging where that knowledge comes from and the sacrifices it took to preserve it. The next time another Mom from the dominant culture approaches me wanting to learn about the ways in which we "unschool"... I will proudly correct her and say..."We are not unschoolers. We are ancestral schoolers. What do you want to know? I will gladly share""
unschooling  homeschool  education  mexico  affluence  colonization  schooling  learning  history  oppression  informallearning  informal  parenting  language  words  meaning 
december 2017 by robertogreco
How Civilization Started | The New Yorker
"In “Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States,” James C. Scott, a professor of political science at Yale, presents a plausible contender for the most important piece of technology in the history of man. It is a technology so old that it predates Homo sapiens and instead should be credited to our ancestor Homo erectus. That technology is fire. We have used it in two crucial, defining ways. The first and the most obvious of these is cooking. As Richard Wrangham has argued in his book “Catching Fire,” our ability to cook allows us to extract more energy from the food we eat, and also to eat a far wider range of foods. Our closest animal relative, the chimpanzee, has a colon three times as large as ours, because its diet of raw food is so much harder to digest. The extra caloric value we get from cooked food allowed us to develop our big brains, which absorb roughly a fifth of the energy we consume, as opposed to less than a tenth for most mammals’ brains. That difference is what has made us the dominant species on the planet.

The other reason fire was central to our history is less obvious to contemporary eyes: we used it to adapt the landscape around us to our purposes. Hunter-gatherers would set fires as they moved, to clear terrain and make it ready for fast-growing, prey-attracting new plants. They would also drive animals with fire. They used this technology so much that, Scott thinks, we should date the human-dominated phase of earth, the so-called Anthropocene, from the time our forebears mastered this new tool.

We don’t give the technology of fire enough credit, Scott suggests, because we don’t give our ancestors much credit for their ingenuity over the long period—ninety-five per cent of human history—during which most of our species were hunter-gatherers. “Why human fire as landscape architecture doesn’t register as it ought to in our historical accounts is perhaps that its effects were spread over hundreds of millennia and were accomplished by ‘precivilized’ peoples also known as ‘savages,’ ” Scott writes. To demonstrate the significance of fire, he points to what we’ve found in certain caves in southern Africa. The earliest, oldest strata of the caves contain whole skeletons of carnivores and many chewed-up bone fragments of the things they were eating, including us. Then comes the layer from when we discovered fire, and ownership of the caves switches: the human skeletons are whole, and the carnivores are bone fragments. Fire is the difference between eating lunch and being lunch."



"It was the ability to tax and to extract a surplus from the produce of agriculture that, in Scott’s account, led to the birth of the state, and also to the creation of complex societies with hierarchies, division of labor, specialist jobs (soldier, priest, servant, administrator), and an élite presiding over them. Because the new states required huge amounts of manual work to irrigate the cereal crops, they also required forms of forced labor, including slavery; because the easiest way to find slaves was to capture them, the states had a new propensity for waging war. Some of the earliest images in human history, from the first Mesopotamian states, are of slaves being marched along in neck shackles. Add this to the frequent epidemics and the general ill health of early settled communities and it is not hard to see why the latest consensus is that the Neolithic Revolution was a disaster for most of the people who lived through it.

War, slavery, rule by élites—all were made easier by another new technology of control: writing. “It is virtually impossible to conceive of even the earliest states without a systematic technology of numerical record keeping,” Scott maintains. All the good things we associate with writing—its use for culture and entertainment and communication and collective memory—were some distance in the future. For half a thousand years after its invention, in Mesopotamia, writing was used exclusively for bookkeeping: “the massive effort through a system of notation to make a society, its manpower, and its production legible to its rulers and temple officials, and to extract grain and labor from it.” Early tablets consist of “lists, lists and lists,” Scott says, and the subjects of that record-keeping are, in order of frequency, “barley (as rations and taxes), war captives, male and female slaves.” Walter Benjamin, the great German Jewish cultural critic, who committed suicide while trying to escape Nazi-controlled Europe, said that “there is no document of civilization which is not at the same time a document of barbarism.” He meant that every complicated and beautiful thing humanity ever made has, if you look at it long enough, a shadow, a history of oppression. As a matter of plain historical fact, that seems right. It was a long and traumatic journey from the invention of writing to your book club’s discussion of Jodi Picoult’s latest."



"The news here is that the lives of most of our progenitors were better than we think. We’re flattering ourselves by believing that their existence was so grim and that our modern, civilized one is, by comparison, so great. Still, we are where we are, and we live the way we live, and it’s possible to wonder whether any of this illuminating knowledge about our hunter-gatherer ancestors can be useful to us. Suzman wonders the same thing. He discusses John Maynard Keynes’s famous 1930 essay “The Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren.” Keynes speculated that if the world continued to get richer we would naturally end up enjoying a high standard of living while doing much less work. He thought that “the economic problem” of having enough to live on would be solved, and “the struggle for subsistence” would be over:
When the accumulation of wealth is no longer of high social importance, there will be great changes in the code of morals. We shall be able to rid ourselves of many of the pseudo-moral principles which have hag-ridden us for two hundred years, by which we have exalted some of the most distasteful of human qualities into the position of the highest virtues. We shall be able to afford to dare to assess the money-motive at its true value. The love of money as a possession—as distinguished from the love of money as a means to the enjoyments and realities of life—will be recognized for what it is, a somewhat disgusting morbidity, one of those semi-criminal, semi-pathological propensities which one hands over with a shudder to the specialists in mental disease.

The world has indeed got richer, but any such shift in morals and values is hard to detect. Money and the value system around its acquisition are fully intact. Greed is still good.

The study of hunter-gatherers, who live for the day and do not accumulate surpluses, shows that humanity can live more or less as Keynes suggests. It’s just that we’re choosing not to. A key to that lost or forsworn ability, Suzman suggests, lies in the ferocious egalitarianism of hunter-gatherers. For example, the most valuable thing a hunter can do is come back with meat. Unlike gathered plants, whose proceeds are “not subject to any strict conventions on sharing,” hunted meat is very carefully distributed according to protocol, and the people who eat the meat that is given to them go to great trouble to be rude about it. This ritual is called “insulting the meat,” and it is designed to make sure the hunter doesn’t get above himself and start thinking that he’s better than anyone else. “When a young man kills much meat,” a Bushman told the anthropologist Richard B. Lee, “he comes to think of himself as a chief or a big man, and he thinks of the rest of us as his servants or inferiors. . . . We can’t accept this.” The insults are designed to “cool his heart and make him gentle.” For these hunter-gatherers, Suzman writes, “the sum of individual self-interest and the jealousy that policed it was a fiercely egalitarian society where profitable exchange, hierarchy, and significant material inequality were not tolerated.”

This egalitarian impulse, Suzman suggests, is central to the hunter-gatherer’s ability to live a life that is, on its own terms, affluent, but without abundance, without excess, and without competitive acquisition. The secret ingredient seems to be the positive harnessing of the general human impulse to envy. As he says, “If this kind of egalitarianism is a precondition for us to embrace a post-labor world, then I suspect it may prove a very hard nut to crack.” There’s a lot that we could learn from the oldest extant branch of humanity, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to put the knowledge into effect. A socially positive use of envy—now, that would be a technology almost as useful as fire."
jamescscott  fire  technology  hunter-gatherers  2017  anthropology  johnlanchester  anthropocene  sedentism  agriculture  nomads  nomadism  archaeology  writing  legibility  illegibility  state  civilization  affluence  abundance  jamessuzman  bushmen  kalahari  namibia  khoisan  mesopotamia  egalitarianism  humans  self-interest  jealousy  greed  inequality  accumulation  motivation  society  happiness  money 
october 2017 by robertogreco
New Book Argues That Hunter-Gatherers May Be Happier Than Wealthy Westerners : Goats and Soda : NPR
"There's an idea percolating up from the anthropology world that may make you rethink what makes you happy.

The idea is not new. It surfaced in the popular consciousness back in the late 1960s and helped to galvanize a growing environmental movement.

And now several books are bringing it back into the limelight.

The idea is simple: Perhaps the American and European way of living isn't the pinnacle of human existence. Humanity hasn't been marching — in a linear fashion — toward some promised land. Perhaps, Western society isn't some magical state in which technology free us from the shackles of acquiring basic needs and allows us to maximize leisure and pleasure.

Instead, maybe, modernization has done just the opposite. Maybe the most leisurely days of humanity are behind us — way, way behind us.

"Did our hunter-gatherers have it better off?" James Lancester asks in a recent issue of The New Yorker. [https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/09/18/the-case-against-civilization ]

"We're flattering ourselves by believing that their existence was so grim and that our modern, civilized one is, by comparison, so great," Lancester writes.

This idea surfaces, over and over again, in the fascinating new book by anthropologist James Suzman, called Affluence Without Abundance.

Suzman has spent the past 25 years visiting, living with and learning from one of the last groups of hunter-gatherers left on Earth — the Khoisan or Bushmen in the Kalahari Desert of Namibia.

A study back in the 1960s found the Bushmen have figured out a way to work only about 15 hours each week acquiring food and then another 15 to 20 hours on domestic chores. The rest of the time they could relax and focus on family, friends and hobbies.

In Suzman's new book, he offers rare glimpses of what life was like in this efficient culture — and what life was like for the vast majority of humans' evolution.

What we think of as "modern humans" have likely been on Earth for about 200,000 years. And for about 90 percent of that time we didn't have stashes of grains in the cupboard or ready-to-slaughter meat grazing outside our windows. Instead, we fed ourselves using our own two feet: by hunting wild animals and gathering fruits and tubers.

As people have diverged so widely from that hunter-gatherer lifestyle, maybe we've left behind elements of life that inherently made us happy. Maybe the culture of "developed" countries, as we so often say at Goats and Soda, has left holes in our psyche.

Suzman's experiences make him uniquely qualified to address such philosophical questions and offer suggestions on how to fill in the gap. So we spoke to him about his new book.

What do you think of this idea that the hunter-gatherer way of living makes people the happiest they can be? Is there anything that suggests this to be the case?

Look, the Bushman's society wasn't a Garden of Eden. In their lives, there are tragedies and tough times. People would occasionally fight after drinking.

But people didn't continuously hold themselves hostage to the idea that the grass is somehow greener on the other side — that if I do X and Y, then my life will be measurably improved.

So their affluence was really based on having a few needs that were simply met. Just fundamentally they have few wants — just basic needs that were easily met. They were skilled hunters. They could identify a hundred different plants species and knew exactly which parts to use and which parts to avoid. And if your wants are limited, then it's just very easy to meet them.

By contrast, the mantra of modern economics is that of limited scarcity: that we have infinite wants and limited means. And then we work and we do stuff to try and bridge the gap.

In fact, I don't even think the Bushman have thought that much about happiness. I don't think they have words equivalent to "happiness" like we think of. For us, happiness has become sort of aspirational.

Bushmen have words for their current feelings, like joy or sadness. But not this word for this idea of "being happy" long term, like if I do something, then I'll be "happy" with my life long term.

The Bushmen have a very different sense of time than we do in Western culture. In the book, you say we think of time as linear and in constant change, while they think of it as cyclical and predictable. Do you think that makes them happier?

This is one of the big, big differences between us and hunter-gatherer cultures. And I'm amazed that actually more anthropologists haven't written about it.

Everything in our lives is kind of future-oriented. For example, we might get a college degree so we can get a job, so that we can get a pension. For farmers it was the same way. They planted seeds for the harvest and to store.

But for hunter-gatherers, everything was present-oriented. All their effort was focused on meeting an immediate need.

They were absolutely confident that they would be able to get food from their environment when they needed it. So they didn't waste time storing or growing food. This lifestyle created a very different perspective on time.

People never wasted time imagining different futures for themselves or indeed for anybody else.

Everything we do now is rooted in this constant and enduring change, or our history. We look at ourselves as being part of our history, or this trajectory through time.

The hunter-gatherers just didn't bother locating themselves in history because stuff around them was pretty much always the same. It was unchanging.

Yes, there might be different trees sprouting up year after year. Or things in the environment change from season to season. But there was a systemic continuity to everything.

I think that it's a wonderful, extraordinary thing. I think it's something we can never get back — this different way of thinking about something as fundamental as time.

It manifests in very small ways. For example, I would ask them what their great grandfather's name was and some people would just say, "I don't know." They just simply didn't care. Everything was so present-focused.

Today people [in Western societies] go to mindfulness classes, yoga classes and clubs dancing, just so for a moment they can live in the present. The Bushmen live that way all the time!

And the sad thing is, the minute you're doing it consciously, the minute it ceases to be.

It's like making the perfect tennis shot. You can know all the theory in the world about how to play tennis. But to make the perfect shot, it's a profoundly physical thing. It's subconscious.

So the Bushmen held the secret to mindfulness and living in moment. Is that key to their happiness?

There is this supreme joy we get in those moments, you know, when time sort of disappears.

I felt that way when I was younger, and I used to go clubbing and dancing. Time disappeared. There was no earlier that day and no tomorrow.

So is there a way people can get this hunter-gatherer sense of time back? To live in the moment subconsciously?

I think there are some things in modern life that can fill in the gap left by not connecting with nature the way hunter-gatherers did.

I think sports can help fill this void or going on long hikes. You can also lose sense of time by doing activities which give you a great sense of purposed fullness and satisfaction, such as crafts, painting and writing.

After spending so much time with the Bushmen, does Western society just seem crazy?

Ha, ha. When I was younger, I was angry about "us," you know about the way people in our society behave.

But over time, I realized, that if I'm open-minded about my Bushmen friends, I should be open-minded about people here.

So over time, the experiences have really humanized everybody. I've come to realize that all types of people — and their cultures — are just as clever and just as stupid."
globalism  happiness  anthropology  bushmen  jameslancester  affluence  abundance  jamessuzman  namibia  khoisan  culture  society  time  hunter-gatherers 
october 2017 by robertogreco
Travel Agents? No. Travel ‘Designers’ Create Strategies, Not Trips. - The New York Times
By JOANNE KAUFMAN JULY 5, 2017

Affluent travelers are turning to travel designers, whose services go beyond booking trips to managing travel portfolios.....a subset of travel planners — they prefer the term travel designers — who do far more than simply book trips. They manage the travel portfolios of their affluent clients, mapping out a schedule that might, over a year, include mother-daughter weekends in the Caribbean, father-son heli-skiing, a romantic husband-and-wife weekend getaway and an elaborate summer trip for the whole family.....A high level of planning and involvement “is part of an emerging market where there are people who have more money than time and want expertise,” ..... For example, he said, “a traditional travel agent wouldn’t know to ask questions like ‘what’s the smallest plane you’d be willing to fly on?’”

Such clients,...may not be price sensitive, but are highly sensitive to perceived slights. “Someone I know professionally,” he said, “went on a trip to a remote location and was served frozen orange juice, and told me he would never use his travel designer again because he expected fresh juice.”

Often, long-range planning is a practical necessity. Some of the most sought-after lodges and boutique hotels have limited space.....my own take, a caveat, is that it is unclear whether the degree of planning involved leaves room for serendipity (See Add Uncertainty to Your Financial Plans - NYTimes.com)
affluence  boutique_hotels  concierge_services  curation  detail_oriented  high_net_worth  high-touch  hospitality  hotels  itineraries  long-range  luxury  planning  portfolio_management  serendipity  travel  travel_agents  uncertainty 
july 2017 by jerryking
The Great Affluence Fallacy - The New York Times
"In 18th-century America, colonial society and Native American society sat side by side. The former was buddingly commercial; the latter was communal and tribal. As time went by, the settlers from Europe noticed something: No Indians were defecting to join colonial society, but many whites were defecting to live in the Native American one.

This struck them as strange. Colonial society was richer and more advanced. And yet people were voting with their feet the other way.

The colonials occasionally tried to welcome Native American children into their midst, but they couldn’t persuade them to stay. Benjamin Franklin observed the phenomenon in 1753, writing, “When an Indian child has been brought up among us, taught our language and habituated to our customs, yet if he goes to see his relations and make one Indian ramble with them, there is no persuading him ever to return.”

During the wars with the Indians, many European settlers were taken prisoner and held within Indian tribes. After a while, they had plenty of chances to escape and return, and yet they did not. In fact, when they were “rescued,” they fled and hid from their rescuers.

Sometimes the Indians tried to forcibly return the colonials in a prisoner swap, and still the colonials refused to go. In one case, the Shawanese Indians were compelled to tie up some European women in order to ship them back. After they were returned, the women escaped the colonial towns and ran back to the Indians.

Even as late as 1782, the pattern was still going strong. Hector de Crèvecoeur wrote, “Thousands of Europeans are Indians, and we have no examples of even one of those aborigines having from choice become European.”

I first read about this history several months ago in Sebastian Junger’s excellent book “Tribe.” It has haunted me since. It raises the possibility that our culture is built on some fundamental error about what makes people happy and fulfilled.

The native cultures were more communal. As Junger writes, “They would have practiced extremely close and involved child care. And they would have done almost everything in the company of others. They would have almost never been alone.”

If colonial culture was relatively atomized, imagine American culture of today. As we’ve gotten richer, we’ve used wealth to buy space: bigger homes, bigger yards, separate bedrooms, private cars, autonomous lifestyles. Each individual choice makes sense, but the overall atomizing trajectory sometimes seems to backfire. According to the World Health Organization, people in wealthy countries suffer depression by as much as eight times the rate as people in poor countries.

There might be a Great Affluence Fallacy going on — we want privacy in individual instances, but often this makes life generally worse.

Every generation faces the challenge of how to reconcile freedom and community — “On the Road” versus “It’s a Wonderful Life.” But I’m not sure any generation has faced it as acutely as millennials.

In the great American tradition, millennials would like to have their cake and eat it, too. A few years ago, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis came out with a song called “Can’t Hold Us,” which contained the couplet: “We came here to live life like nobody was watching/I got my city right behind me, if I fall, they got me.” In the first line they want complete autonomy; in the second, complete community.

But, of course, you can’t really have both in pure form. If millennials are heading anywhere, it seems to be in the direction of community. Politically, millennials have been drawn to the class solidarity of the Bernie Sanders campaign. Hillary Clinton — secretive and a wall-builder — is the quintessence of boomer autonomy. She has trouble with younger voters.

Professionally, millennials are famous for bringing their whole self to work: turning the office into a source of friendships, meaning and social occasions.

I’m meeting more millennials who embrace the mentality expressed in the book “The Abundant Community,” by John McKnight and Peter Block. The authors are notably hostile to consumerism.

They are anti-institutional and anti-systems. “Our institutions can offer only service — not care — for care is the freely given commitment from the heart of one to another,” they write.

Millennials are oriented around neighborhood hospitality, rather than national identity or the borderless digital world. “A neighborhood is the place where you live and sleep.” How many of your physical neighbors know your name?

Maybe we’re on the cusp of some great cracking. Instead of just paying lip service to community while living for autonomy, I get the sense a lot of people are actually about to make the break and immerse themselves in demanding local community movements. It wouldn’t surprise me if the big change in the coming decades were this: an end to the apotheosis of freedom; more people making the modern equivalent of the Native American leap."
society  capitalism  davidbrooks  2016  history  sebastianjunger  communalism  nativeamericans  abundance  depression  us  affluence  millenials  johnmcknight  peterblock  consumerism  care  hospitality  nationalism  local  community  privacy  isolation  competition  autonomy  berniesanders  solidarity  wealth  atomization  well-being  qualityoflife  hectordecrèvecoeur 
august 2016 by robertogreco

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