robertogreco + paranoia   18

‘Silence Is Health’: How Totalitarianism Arrives | by Uki Goñi | NYR Daily | The New York Review of Books
"A nagging question that first popped into my head while I was a twenty-three-year-old reporter at the Buenos Aires Herald has returned to haunt me lately. What would happen if the US, the country where I was born and spent my childhood, spiraled down the kind of totalitarian vortex I was witnessing in Argentina back then? What if the most regressive elements in society gained the upper hand? Would they also lead a war against an abhorred pluralist democracy? The backlash in the US today against immigrants and refugees, legal abortion, even marriage equality, rekindles uncomfortable memories of the decay of democracy that preceded Argentina’s descent into repression and mass murder."



"This normalization of totalitarian undertones accelerated after my family moved back to Argentina when I was nineteen. To make myself better acquainted with Buenos Aires, I would take long walks through the capital. One day, in 1974, I found myself frozen in my steps on the broad 9 de Julio Avenue that divides Buenos Aires in half. In the middle of this avenue rises a tall white obelisk that is the city’s most conspicuous landmark, and in those days a revolving billboard had been suspended around it. Round and round turned the display and inscribed upon it in large blue letters on a plain white background was the slogan “Silence Is Health.”

With every turn, the billboard schooled Argentines in the total censorship and suppression of free speech that the dictatorship would soon impose. The billboard message was the brainchild of Oscar Ivanissevich, Argentina’s reactionary minister of education, ostensibly to caution motorists against excessive use of the horn. His other mission was an “ideological purge” of Argentina’s universities, which had become a hotbed of student activism. During an earlier ministerial term in 1949, Ivanissevich had led a bitter campaign against the “morbid… perverse… godless” trend of abstract art, recalling the Nazis’ invective against “degenerate” art. During that period, his sister and his nephew were both involved in smuggling Nazis into Argentina.

Ivanissevich’s Orwellian billboard made its appearance just as right-wing violence erupted in the buildup to the military coup. That same year, 1974, Ivanissevich had appointed as rector of Buenos Aires University a well-known admirer of Hitler’s, Alberto Ottalagano, who titled his later autobiography I’m a Fascist, So What? His job was to get rid of the kind of young left-wing protesters who gathered outside the Sheraton Hotel demanding that it be turned into a children’s hospital, and he warmed to the task of persecuting and expelling them. Being singled out by him was more than merely a matter of academic discipline; some fifteen of these students were murdered by right-wing death squads while Ottalagano was rector.

As a partial stranger in my own land, I noticed what those who had already been normalized could not: this was a population habituated to intolerance and violence. Two years later, Ivanissevich’s slogan made a macabre reappearance. In the basement of the dictatorship’s death camp based at the Navy Mechanics School (known as ESMA), where some 5,000 people were exterminated, officers hung two banners along the corridor that opened onto its torture cells. One read “Avenue of Happiness,” the other “Silence Is Health.”

*

To comprehend would-be totalitarians requires understanding their view of themselves as victims. And in a sense, they are victims—of their delusional fear of others, the nebulous, menacing others that haunt their febrile imaginations. This is something I saw repeated in the many interviews I carried out with both the perpetrators of Argentina’s dictatorship and the aging Nazis who had been smuggled to Argentina’s shores three decades earlier. (My interviews with the latter are archived at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.) Their fears were, in both cases, irrational given the unassailable dominance of the military in Argentina and of the Nazis in Germany, but that was of no account to my interviewees.

Because my method was to grant them the respect and patience to which they felt entitled (difficult though that was for me to do), they sometimes seemed briefly to be aware that they had become willing hosts to violent delusions. Getting them to admit that, fully and consciously, was another matter. The chimera of a powerfully malign enemy, responsible for all their perceived ills, made complex, ambiguous realities comprehensible by reducing them to Manichean simplicities. These people were totalitarians not only because they believed in absolute power, but also because their binary thought patterns admitted only total explanations.

Argentina’s military and a large number of like-minded civilians were especially prone to fears of a loosely-defined but existential threat. The youth culture of the 1960s, the sexual revolution, the student protests of the 1970s, all struck alarm in their hearts. That a younger generation would question their strongly-held religious beliefs, challenge their hypocritical sexual mores, and propose alternative political solutions seemed positively blasphemous. The military set out to violently revert these trends and protect Argentina from the rising tide of modernity. To do so, they devised a plan of systematic annihilation that targeted especially young Argentines. It was not just an ideological struggle, but a generational war: about 83 percent of the dictatorship’s estimated 30,000 fatal victims were under thirty-five. (A disproportionate number also were Jewish.)"



"If you want to know what sustains totalitarian violence in a society, psychology is probably more useful than political analysis. Among the elite, support for the dictatorship was enthusiastic. “It was seen as kind of a social faux pas to talk about ‘desaparecidos’ or what was going on,” says Raymond McKay, a fellow journalist at the Buenos Aires Herald, in Messenger on a White Horse, a 2017 documentary about the newspaper. “It was seen as bad taste because the people didn’t want to know.”

Those who have lived their entire lives in functioning democracies may find it hard to grasp how easily minds can be won over to the totalitarian dark side. We assume such a passage would require slow, laborious persuasion. It does not. The transition from day to night is bewilderingly swift. Despite what many assume, civilized coexistence in a culture of tolerance is not always the norm, or even universally desired. Democracy is a hard-won, easily rolled back state of affairs from which many secretly yearn to be released.

Lest there be any doubt of its intention, the dictatorship titled itself the “Process of National Reorganization.” Books were burned. Intellectuals went into exile. Like medieval Inquisitors, the dictatorship proclaimed itself—in fiery speeches that I hear echoed in the conspiracist rants of American populists and nationalists today—to be waging a war to save “Western and Christian civilization” from oblivion. Such a war by definition included the physical annihilation of infected minds, even if they had committed no crime.

Another horrifying characteristic of totalitarianism is how it picks on the weakest elements in society, immigrants and children. The Darré-inspired Lebensborn program seized Aryan-looking children from Nazi-occupied territories, separating them from their parents and raising them as “pure” Germans in Lebensborn homes. In 1970s Argentina, the military devised a similar program. There were a large number of pregnant women among the thousands of young captives in the dictatorship’s death camps. Killing them while carrying their babies was a crime that not even Argentina’s military could bring themselves to commit. Instead, they kept the women alive as human incubators, murdering them after they gave birth and handing their babies to God-fearing military couples to raise as their own. A society that separates children from their parents, for whatever reason, is a society that is already on the path to totalitarianism.

This heinous practice partly inspired Margaret Atwood’s 1985 book The Handmaid’s Tale. “The generals in Argentina were dumping people out of airplanes,” Atwood said in an interview with The Los Angeles Times last year. “But if it was a pregnant woman, they would wait until she had the baby and then they gave the baby to somebody in their command system. And then they dumped the woman out of the airplane.”

This was the ultimate revenge of fearful older men upon a rebellious younger generation. Not only would they obliterate their perceived enemy, but the children of that enemy would be raised to become the model authority-obeying citizens against whom their biological parents had rebelled. It is estimated that some five hundred babies were taken from their murdered mothers this way, though so far only 128 have been found and identified via DNA testing. Not all of these have accepted reunification with their biological families."



"For many Argentines, then, the military represented not a subjugation to arbitrary rule, but a release from the frustrations, complexity, and compromises of representative government. A large part of society clasped with joy the extended hand of totalitarian certainty. Life was suddenly simplified by conformity to a single, uncontested power. For those who cherish democracy, it is necessary to comprehend the secret delight with which many greeted its passing. A quick fix to the insurgency seemed infinitely preferable to plodding investigations, piecemeal arrests, and case-by-case lawful trials. Whipped up by the irrational fear of a communist takeover, this impatience won the day. And once Argentina had accepted the necessity for a single, absolute solution, the killing could begin."
argentina  totalitarianism  fascism  history  2018  margaretatwood  nazis  wwii  ww2  hatred  antisemitism  germany  surveillance  trust  democracy  certainty  robertcox  ukigoñi  richardwaltherdarré  repressions  government  psychology  politics  christianity  catholicism  catholicchurch  antoniocaggiano  adolfeichmann  military  power  control  authoritarianism  patriarchy  paternalism  normalization  silence  resistance  censorship  dictatorship  oscarivanissevich  education  raymondmackay  juanperón  evita  communism  paranoia  juliomeinvielle  exile  generations 
november 2018 by robertogreco
Competition Is Ruining Childhood. The Kids Should Fight Back. - The New York Times
"Like the crack of a starting pistol, November begins the official college application season. But for students, this race started long ago.

Many of today’s kids have lived their entire lives, from sunup until midnight, in a fierce tournament with their peers. (I was one of them. A decade after graduation, I still can’t think of a period when I’ve worked harder than in high school.) From kindergarten to 12th grade, schools brag about how “competitive” they are. That means it’s not enough for students to do their best. Whether in the classroom, on the athletic field or at home on the computer, they must always be better. Youth has become a debilitating endurance test.

The thing is, we don’t even really know what we are racing for, much less how to tone down the competition. And most people don’t seem to be benefiting from this frantic contest, either as students or as adult workers. Americans are improving themselves, but the rewards keep flowing uphill to the 1 percent.

Everyone tells students that the harder they work to develop their job skills — their “human capital” — the better off they will be. It’s not true. In fact, the result is the opposite: more and better educated workers, earning less.

An analysis in September of Census Bureau data by the Economic Policy Institute, a think tank, found that between 2000 and 2016 — years when many millennials first entered the job market — there was “little to no gain” in median annual earnings. This isn’t some limited fallout from the 2008 financial crisis; it’s a different type of phenomenon and part of a longer trend of wage stagnation that reaches back to the 1970s.

Educational achievement, on the other hand, follows a different trend. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, over the same period (2000 to 2016), the percentage of young people with a high school diploma or its equivalent passed 90 percent for the first time. In the same period, the portion of graduates seeking and obtaining both two- and four-year degrees increased consistently, and the percentage of people ages 25 to 29 with postgraduate degrees jumped to 9 percent from 5.

And this cohort of young Americans hasn’t only put in the classroom work — to say nothing of extracurricular activities and internships. This cohort of young Americans has also taken on incomprehensible amounts of debt in order to do it.

Despite what we’ve heard, money isn’t a reward America hands out for hard work. Not only is more education not leading to higher wages, there isn’t even a positive correlation between the two. If anything, the flood of human capital puts employers in a position to offer workers a shrinking slice of the pie and get more in return. Kids are getting conned. I got conned, too.

If enough students manage to master cutting-edge job skills, it will be great for the “economy,” but as workers they will find themselves rewarded with lower wages. The dynamic may seem counterintuitive but not totally unexpected. In the ’70s, the economist Gary Becker theorized that employers would shift the costs of developing human capital onto workers, from paid on-the-job training to unpaid schooling. He figured that, though they need skilled labor, corporations would be disinclined to pay for training since other companies could then lure away “their” human capital.

As training left the factory and the office for the classroom, it also meant that work could be shifted to children, who are mostly not eligible for wage labor but can, it turns out, do a whole lot of school. If firms want workers who can speak Mandarin or code Python, why should they pay trainees to learn when they can scare kids into training themselves? Within this system, all an individual kid can do is try to put a sufficient number of their peers between themselves and poverty.

There are some winners, but the real champions are the corporate owners: They get their pick from all the qualified applicants, and the oversupply of human capital keeps labor costs down. Competition between workers means lower wages for them and higher profits for their bosses: The more teenagers who learn to code, the cheaper one is.

The struggle for success has heavy financial and psychological costs for the participants. Constant competition has affected how young Americans see themselves in relation to the world. That’s why the United States has measured huge increases in youth anxiety and depression, as well as a sharp decline in social trust. If kids are told to find comfort in the idea that they are sacrificing their mental health now for security in adulthood, they are being tricked once more.

At the end of their journey into adulthood they aren’t reimbursed for their efforts. And in this winner-take-all economy, most of them just lose. They can’t increase the size of Harvard’s freshman class just by working harder; all they can do is drive one another to anxiety, depression, paranoia and exhaustion. That, and save money for their future bosses.

It doesn’t have to be this way. The kids don’t have to keep getting conned.

This system may work for a small number of bosses and shareholders, but it’s not in the interest of education in a broad, exploratory sense — and it’s clearly not in the interests of young people themselves. But even though older adults are ostensibly worried about the kids, policymakers will never scale back academic competition, and most educators and parents are understandably loath to tell children, “Don’t work so hard.”

If change is going to come, it should come from students, in the classroom.

As individuals, students have no choice but to compete. But together, there’s no telling what kind of power they could exercise. They face an age-old collective action problem, but they are smart. Schools can’t run without students, and the economy can’t run without schools; their work matters, and they can withdraw it.

Unions aren’t just good for wage workers. Students can use collective bargaining, too. The idea of organizing student labor when even auto factory workers are having trouble holding onto their unions may sound outlandish, but young people have been at the forefront of conflicts over police brutality, immigrant rights and sexual violence. In terms of politics, they are as tightly clustered as just about any demographic in America. They are an important social force in this country, one we need right now.

It’s in students’ shared interest to seek later start times for the school day to combat the epidemic of insufficient sleep among high schoolers. It’s in their shared interest to improve their mental health by reducing competition. They could start by demanding an end to class rank or a cap on the number of Advanced Placement courses each student can take per year. It’s in their shared interest to make life easier and lower the stakes of childhood in general. Only young people, united, can improve their working conditions and end the academic arms race."
mlcolmharris  2017  children  competition  schools  schooling  homework  education  unions  organization  childhood  admissions  humancapital  achievement  economics  garybecker  sfsh  work  labor  wagelabor  corporatism  depression  paranoia  exhaustion  exploration  violence  us  policy  capitalism 
november 2017 by robertogreco
‘Pokémon Go’ and the Persistent Myth of Stranger Danger — Pacific Standard
"For as long as we’ve had kids on the Internet, we’ve worried about adults with bad intentions luring them into an in-person meeting. If anyone can name a television crime procedural from the past 20 years that doesn’t feature the plotline, I’ll give them $10. “Parents and teachers today worry a lot about digital safety, in particular — and far more than young people do themselves,” write John Palfrey and Urs Gasser in the new, updated version of their book Born Digital: How Children Grow Up in a Digital Age. The book’s implied audience is adults who want a good explanation of kids from other adults, and safety is clearly a big concern, whether it’s reasonable or not. Citing a 2006 anecdote of an assault victim who’d been groomed on Myspace, the authors write: “Despite the absence of data to show that young people are at a greater risk in an Internet era, there is reason enough for young people to be very cautious about how much information they share.”

This expert perspective — both authors were at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society until Palfrey became head of school at Phillips Andover Academy — is the usual one when it comes to kids online. Somewhere between scholarship and a parenting manual, Born Digital manages somehow to be neither. “From an adult perspective,” Palfrey and Gasser write, “young people often divulge too much information about themselves online.” But despite this awareness of the limits of their perspective, the authors still aren’t able to think beyond their own point of view. As a result, they don’t display a very good understanding of youth risk-taking.

Take sexting, for example. The authors think it’s important to “develop approaches that include young people as problem-solvers” when it comes to sexting, but they also think they have the answer: “Sharing naked pictures of oneself, even on a service like Snapchat, which is supposedly ‘temporary,’ is not worth the risk of suffering public embarrassment, possibly having to register as a sex offender, and even potentially going to jail.” Palfrey and Gasser thinks it’s important to educate young people about Internet safety so that they make the right choices, like not meeting strangers or sending nudes.

I called up Jeffrey Temple, director of behavioral health and research in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Texas Medical Branch (and a foremost authority on teenage sexting behavior), to check the data. Temple has authored or co-authored five studies on the actual practices of young sexters, and what he’s found doesn’t line up with the news. “Nothing ‘bad’ happens to the vast majority of those who sext,” he tells me. “There aren’t any legal complications, there aren’t any psycho-social consequences, anything like that.” There are risks of course, but a fully informed teen might reasonably decide to sext anyway. “The strongest correlate undoubtedly for teen sexting is a consensual sexual relationship,” Temple says. It’s important to remember, he tells me, that more teens are having actual sexual intercourse than are sexting.

Palfrey and Gasser write that sexting stories “rarely end well,” but the stories we hear are hardly representative of actual youth experiences. If two teens trade sexy pics and don’t share them with anyone else, we don’t hear about it. If a group of girls plan a mall meet-up with a grown Internet stranger just to gawk at him from the food court, their parents probably won’t find out, never mind the local cable affiliates. Combine scaremongering news reports and the fact that there’s no story when nothing bad happens, and we’re set up to be misled. If you look at the data, young people have a better sense of the risks they’re taking than commentators who base their thinking on the evening news.

When Palfrey and Gasser write about the absence of data to support the idea that Internet-era kids are at greater risk, they’re being a little disingenuous. They make it sound as though they looked everywhere and simply couldn’t find the statistics, when the truth is that all available data sets indicate that young Americans are increasingly safe from accidental and intentional victimization alike. The people who are most likely to violate children are known to them: Acquaintances, peers, and, yes, parents. Strangers only commit 1 to 10 percent of child abuse. Almost no one wants to harm children, and the ones who do tend to target kids close to them.



When Palfrey and Gasser write about the absence of data to support the idea that Internet-era kids are at greater risk, they’re being a little disingenuous. They make it sound as though they looked everywhere and simply couldn’t find the statistics, when the truth is that all available data sets indicate that young Americans are increasingly safe from accidental and intentional victimization alike. The people who are most likely to violate children are known to them: Acquaintances, peers, and, yes, parents. Strangers only commit 1 to 10 percent of child abuse. Almost no one wants to harm children, and the ones who do tend to target kids close to them.

From a parental or custodial perspective, Palfrey and Gasser write, it’s important that kids learn to manage risks — but the authors don’t ever acknowledge any apparent upside to particular instances of risky behavior: They aren’t so much interested in why a kid might decide to send a nude or chat with strangers or go hunting for a Flareon in an abandoned lot at three in the morning, as in how to convince them not to. Even looking at his own data, Temple stresses to me that, as the father of a 13-year-old and an 11-year-old, he doesn’t want to give the impression that underage sexting is “OK.” But, I ask him, is it fair to say that most teens who sext are OK? “Yes, most kids who sext are OK.”

It’s fine for parents and adult authorities to have a risk-averse perspective when it comes to youth behavior — nobody really wants too-cool parents with boundary issues. But adults also shouldn’t confuse paranoia with fact, which is easy to do when there aren’t many teen pundits around to explain what’s going on from their perspective. Sexual exploration is a valid and important part of healthy development. Going outside and talking to strangers is a valid and important part of healthy development. Kids assert their own judgment, they do it online and in real life at the same time, and they are, by and large, pretty good at it.

It’s OK, too, that adults aren’t the best at assessing risky youth behavior, especially on the Internet — kids are the ones who have to make those judgments for themselves. It only becomes a problem when adults want it both ways: when they want kids to learn decision-making, but also to automatically avoid unnecessary risks. But learning to navigate unnecessary risks is, well, necessary.

I started thinking about Pokémon and safety after I saw one of many viral tweets about interacting with kids who were playing the game. Lisa McKinley tweeted, “A little boy in my neighborhood just knocked on our door and said ‘sorry to bother you, but there’s a Pokémon in your house and I need it.’” She — “of course!” — let him in. This stuck with me because the skills a kid needs to ask their neighbor for Pokémon are not so different from the skills a boy named JaJuan needed to stay safe when his mother Shetamia Taylor was hit in the crossfire at the Dallas Black Lives Matter march. Separated from his mom, JaJuan found Angie Wisner, a stranger. Wisner told NBC that JaJuan bumped into her and asked “Ma’am can I come with you because I lost my mama?” Wisner said the same thing as McKinley, the same thing most adult strangers say when kids ask for their help: “Of course.”

In a parental nightmare scenario, Taylor was able to keep her son safe. JaJuan was prepared to handle an emergency on his own, even if that just meant finding a trustworthy stranger and asking for help. There are consequences to never taking unnecessary risks, and it’s dangerous not to let children talk to strangers, even if a parent’s risk-averse impulse might be to say, “Stop bothering that man, he hasn’t seen any Jigglypuffs!” Maybe the kid’s right. Maybe the stranger can help."
2016  malcolmharris  pokemongo  strangerdanger  risktaking  teens  children  youth  johnpalfrey  ursgasser  snapchat  sexting  paranoia  dange  safety  parenting  uber  internet  web  online  data  pokémongo 
july 2016 by robertogreco
Visiting Scarfolk, the Most Spectacular Dystopia of the 1970s | Collectors Weekly
"Though adults tend to look back on youth as a time of innocence, childhood is actually terrifying. Kids are always privy to more of the world’s horrors than we realize, and those glimpses of war on the evening news or the mutilation on display in anti-drunk-driving films leave permanent scars on their permeable little minds.

Richard Littler had a frightening childhood, too, but as a designer and screenwriter, he turned his memories of life in suburban Britain during the 1970s into a haunting and hilarious blog and book about the fictional dystopian town of Scarfolk. Littler mined the dark side of his childhood to create pamphlets, posters, book covers, album art, audio clips, and television shorts—remnants of life in a paranoid, totalitarian 1970s community, where even babies are not to be trusted.

What started as a handful of faux-vintage images for friends’ birthday cards grew into this universe of fake memorabilia, so complete that the Scarfolk concept was recently optioned for a British TV series. Littler borrows liberally from authentic designs of the era to craft his artfully decaying images, which are so familiar at first glance that many have been mistaken for authentic found objects rather than re-creations.

We recently spoke with Littler about the real-world inspiration for Scarfolk and what we can learn from its language of fear."
scarfolk  childhood  art  culture  design  history  richardlittler  children  1970s  memory  fear  paranoia 
july 2016 by robertogreco
Bret Easton Ellis on Living in the Cult of Likability - The New York Times
"On a recent episode of the television series “South Park,” the character Cartman and other townspeople who are enthralled with Yelp, the app that lets customers rate and review restaurants, remind maître d’s and waiters that they will be posting reviews of their meals. These “Yelpers” threaten to give the eateries only one star out of five if they don’t please them and do exactly as they say. The restaurants feel that they have no choice but to comply with the Yelpers, who take advantage of their power by asking for free dishes and making suggestions on improving the lighting. The restaurant employees tolerate all this with increasing frustration and anger — at one point Yelp reviewers are even compared to the Islamic State group — before both parties finally arrive at a truce. Yet unknown to the Yelpers, the restaurants decide to get their revenge by contaminating the Yelpers’ plates with every bodily fluid imaginable.

The point of the episode is that today everyone thinks that they’re a professional critic (“Everyone relies on my Yelp reviews!”), even if they have no idea what they’re talking about. But it’s also a bleak commentary on what has become known as the “reputation economy.” In depicting the restaurants’ getting their revenge on the Yelpers, the episode touches on the fact that services today are also rating us, which raises a question: How will we deal with the way we present ourselves online and in social media, and how do individuals brand themselves in what is a widening corporate culture?

The idea that everybody thinks they’re specialists with voices that deserve to be heard has actually made everyone’s voice less meaningful. All we’re doing is setting ourselves up to be sold to — to be branded, targeted and data-mined. But this is the logical endgame of the democratization of culture and the dreaded cult of inclusivity, which insists that all of us must exist under the same umbrella of corporate regulation — a mandate that dictates how we should express ourselves and behave.

Most people of a certain age probably noticed this when they joined their first corporation, Facebook, which has its own rules regarding expressions of opinion and sexuality. Facebook encouraged users to “like” things, and because it was a platform where many people branded themselves on the social Web for the first time, the impulse was to follow the Facebook dictum and present an idealized portrait of their lives — a nicer, friendlier, duller self. And it was this burgeoning of the likability cult and the dreaded notion of “relatability” that ultimately reduced everyone to a kind of neutered clockwork orange, enslaved to the corporate status quo. To be accepted we have to follow an upbeat morality code where everything must be liked and everybody’s voice respected, and any person who has a negative opinion — a dislike — will be shut out of the conversation. Anyone who resists such groupthink is ruthlessly shamed. Absurd doses of invective are hurled at the supposed troll to the point that the original “offense” often seems negligible by comparison.

I’ve been rated and reviewed since I became a published author at the age of 21, so this environment only seems natural to me. A reputation emerged based on how many reviewers liked or didn’t like my book. That’s the way it goes — cool, I guess. I was liked as often as I was disliked, and that was OK because I didn’t get emotionally involved. Being reviewed negatively never changed the way I wrote or the topics I wanted to explore, no matter how offended some readers were by my descriptions of violence and sexuality. As a member of Generation X, rejecting, or more likely ignoring, the status quo came easily to me. One of my generation’s loudest anthems was Joan Jett’s “Bad Reputation,” whose chorus rang out: “I don’t give a damn about my reputation/ I’ve never been afraid of any deviation.” I was a target of corporate-think myself when the company that owned my publishing house decided it didn’t like the contents of a particular novel I had been contracted to write and refused to publish it on the grounds of “taste.” (I could have sued but another publisher who liked the book published it instead.) It was a scary moment for the arts — a conglomerate was deciding what should and should not be published and there were loud arguments and protests on both sides of the divide. But this was what the culture was about: People could have differing opinions and discuss them rationally. You could disagree and this was considered not only the norm but interesting as well. It was a debate. This was a time when you could be opinionated — and, yes, a questioning, reasonable critic — and not be considered a troll.

Now all of us are used to rating movies, restaurants, books, even doctors, and we give out mostly positive reviews because, really, who wants to look like a hater? But increasingly, services are also rating us. Companies in the sharing economy, like Uber and Airbnb, rate their customers and shun those who don’t make the grade. Opinions and criticisms flow in both directions, causing many people to worry about how they’re measuring up. Will the reputation economy put an end to the culture of shaming or will the bland corporate culture of protecting yourself by “liking” everything — of being falsely polite just to be accepted by the herd — grow stronger than ever? Giving more positive reviews to get one back? Instead of embracing the true contradictory nature of human beings, with all of their biases and imperfections, we continue to transform ourselves into virtuous robots. This in turn has led to the awful idea — and booming business — of reputation management, where a firm is hired to help shape a more likable, relatable You. Reputation management is about gaming the system. It’s a form of deception, an attempt to erase subjectivity and evaluation through intuition, for a price.

Ultimately, the reputation economy is about making money. It urges us to conform to the blandness of corporate culture and makes us react defensively by varnishing our imperfect self so we can sell and be sold things. Who wants to share a ride or a house or a doctor with someone who doesn’t have a good online reputation? The reputation economy depends on everyone maintaining a reverentially conservative, imminently practical attitude: Keep your mouth shut and your skirt long, be modest and don’t have an opinion. The reputation economy is yet another example of the blanding of culture, and yet the enforcing of groupthink has only increased anxiety and paranoia, because the people who embrace the reputation economy are, of course, the most scared. What happens if they lose what has become their most valuable asset? The embrace of the reputation economy is an ominous reminder of how economically desperate people are and that the only tools they have to raise themselves up the economic ladder are their sparklingly upbeat reputations — which only adds to their ceaseless worry over their need to be liked.

Empowerment doesn’t come from liking this or that thing, but from being true to our messy contradictory selves. There are limits to showcasing our most flattering assets because no matter how genuine and authentic we think we are, we’re still just manufacturing a construct, no matter how accurate it may be. What is being erased in the reputation economy are the contradictions inherent in all of us. Those of us who reveal flaws and inconsistencies become terrifying to others, the ones to avoid. An “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”-like world of conformity and censorship emerges, erasing the opinionated and the contrarian, corralling people into an ideal. Forget the negative or the difficult. Who wants solely that? But what if the negative and the difficult were attached to the genuinely interesting, the compelling, the unusual? That’s the real crime being perpetrated by the reputation culture: stamping out passion; stamping out the individual."
socialmedia  facebook  culture  2015  likeability  presentationofself  breteastonellis  online  internet  conservatism  via:rushtheiceberg  uber  relatability  genx  generationx  ratings  criticism  critics  yelp  society  authenticity  liking  likes  reputation  data  biases  imperfections  subjectivity  virtue  anxiety  sharingeconomy  paranoia  blandness  invention  risktaking  conformity  censorship  groupthink 
december 2015 by robertogreco
Rob Grayson - ““People whose governing habit is the...
““People whose governing habit is the relinquishment of power, competence, and responsibility, and whose characteristic suffering is the anxiety of futility, make excellent spenders,” wrote Wendell Berry in The Unsettling of America. “They are the ideal consumers. By inducing in them little panics of boredom, powerlessness, sexual failure, mortality, paranoia, they can be made to buy (or vote for) virtually anything that is ‘attractively packaged.’” And there are no shortages of experiences that, for a price, promise to stimulate us, make us powerful, sexy, invincible, admired, beautiful, and unique.”

— Chris Hedges, Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle

[via: http://bettyann.tumblr.com/post/131415265782 ]
chrishedges  power  consumerism  boredom  powerlessness  mortality  paranoia  spectacle  literacy  government  politics  wendellberry  capitalism 
november 2015 by robertogreco
How baby boomers ruined parenting forever - Quartz
About 25 years ago, when the era of irrational exuberance allowed enough disposable income for irrational anxiety, the concept of “helicopter parenting” arose. A “helicopter parent” micromanages every aspect of his child’s routine and behavior. From educational products for infants to concerned calls to professors in adulthood, helicopter parents ensure their child is on a path to success by paving it for them.

The rise of the helicopter was the product of two social shifts. The first was the comparatively booming economy of the 1990s, with low unemployment and higher disposable income. The second was the public perception of increased child endangerment—a perception, as “Free Range Kids” guru Lenore Skenazy documented, rooted in paranoia. Despite media campaigns that began in the 1980s and continue today, children are safer from crime than in prior decades. What they are not safe from are the diminishing prospects of their parents.

In America, today’s parents have inherited expectations they can no longer afford.The vigilant standards of the helicopter parents from the baby boomer generation have become defined as mainstream practice, but they require money that the average household earning $53,891 per year— and struggling to survive in an economy in its seventh year of illusory “recovery”— does not have. The result is a fearful society in which poorer parents are cast as threats to their own children. As more families struggle to stay afloat, the number of helicopter parents dwindles—but their shadow looms large.
parenting  helicopterparenting  us  elitism  elite  wealth  inequality  babyboomers  fear  2014  paranoia  sarahkendzior  classism  lenoreskenazy  children  childhood  racism  helicopterparents  boomers 
november 2014 by robertogreco
Open Ed 12 - Gardner Campbell Keynote - Ecologies of Yearning - YouTube
[See also: https://storify.com/audreywatters/ecologies-of-yearning-and-the-future-of-open-educa ]

[See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steps_to_an_Ecology_of_Mind and
PDF http://www.edtechpost.ca/readings/Gregory%20Bateson%20-%20Ecology%20of%20Mind.pdf ]

[References these videos by a student: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCmFL4Khu2yJoR0Oq5dcY5pw ]

[via: https://pinboard.in/u:robertogreco/b:e91b15f323b8

"In his keynote at the 2012 OpenEd conference, Gardner Campbell, an Associate Professor of English at Virginia Tech, talked about the “Ecologies of Yearning.” (Seriously: watch the video.) Campbell offered a powerful and poetic vision about the future of open learning, but noted too that there are competing visions for that future, particularly from the business and technology sectors. There are competing definitions of “open” as well, and pointing to the way in which “open” is used (and arguably misused) by education technology companies, Campbell’s keynote had a refrain, borrowed from “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”: “That is not it at all. That is not what I meant, at all.”"]

"30:29 Bateson's Hierarchy of learning

30:52 Zero Learning:"receipt of signal". No error possible

31:37 Learning I: "change in specificity of response by correction of errors of choice within a set of alternatives". Palov, etc. Habituation, adaptation.

32:16 Learning II: Learning-to-learn, context recognition, "corrective change in the set of alternatives from which choice is made, or.. in how the sequence of experience is punctuated". Premises are self-validating.

34:23 Learning III: Meta-contextual perspective, imagining and shifting contexts of understanding. "a corrective change in the system of sets of alternatives from which choice is made" Puts self at risk. Questions become explosive.

36:22 Learning IV: change to level III, "probably does not occur in any adult living organisms on this earth"

38:59 "Double bind"

44:49 Habits of being that might be counter-intuitive

51:49 Participant observers constructed Wordles of students' blogs"

[Comment from Céline Keller:

"This is my favorite talk online: Open Ed 12 - Gardner Campbell Keynote - Ecologies of Yearning +Gardner Campbell

This is what I wrote about it 7 month ago:

"Academia is to knowledge what prostitution is to love; close enough on the surface but, to the nonsucker, not exactly the same thing." Nassim Nicholas Taleb

If you care about education and learning don't miss listening to Gardner Campbell!

As described on the #edcmooc resource page:

"(This lecture)...serves as a warning that what we really want - our utopia - is not necessarily to be found in the structures we are putting in place (or finding ourselves within)."
Love it."

I still mean it. This is great, listen."]

[More here: http://krustelkrammoocs.blogspot.com/2013/02/gardner-campbell-sense-of-wonder-how-to.html ]
2012  gardnercampbell  nassimtaleb  academia  web  participatory  learning  howwelearn  hierarchyoflearning  love  habituation  adaption  open  openeducation  coursera  gregorybateson  udacity  sebastianthrun  mooc  moocs  georgesiemens  stephendownes  davecormier  carolyeager  aleccouros  jimgroom  audreywatters  edupunk  jalfredprufrock  missingthepoint  highered  edx  highereducation  tseliot  rubrics  control  assessment  quantification  canon  administration  hierarchy  hierarchies  pedagogy  philosophy  doublebind  paranoia  hepephrenia  catatonia  mentalhealth  schizophrenia  life  grades  grading  seymourpapert  ecologiesofyearning  systems  systemsthinking  suppression  context  education  conditioning  pavlov  gamification  freedom  liberation  alankay  human  humans  humanism  agency  moreofthesame  metacontexts  unfinished  ongoing  lifelonglearning  cognition  communication  networkedtranscontextualism  transcontextualism  transcontextualsyndromes  apgartest  virginiaapgar  howweteach  scottmccloud  michaelchorost  georgedyson  opening  openness  orpheus  experience  consciousness  pur 
may 2014 by robertogreco
Schedule 30C3
"The news of the past few years is one small ripple in what is a great wave of culture and history, a generational clash of civilizations. If you want to understand why governments are acting and reacting the way they are, and as importantly, how to shift their course, you need to understand what they're reacting to, how they see and fail to see the world, and how power, money, and idea of rule of law actually interact.

Our relationships with work and property and with the notion of national identity are changing rapidly. We're becoming more polarized in our political opinions, and even in what we consider to be existential threats. This terrain determines our world, even as we deal with our more individual relationships with authority, the ethics imposed by our positions in the world, and the psychological impact of learning that our paranoia was real.

The idea of the Internet and the politics it brings with it have changed the world, but that change is neither unopposed nor detatched from larger currents. From the battles over global surveillance and the culture of government secrecy to the Arab Spring and the winter of its discontent, these things are part of this moment's tapestry and they tell us about the futures we can choose. The world is on fire, and there is nowhere to hide and no way to stay neutral."
2013  quinnnorton  eleanorsaitta  politics  change  government  culture  history  arabspring  futures  identity  geopolitics  economics  labor  property  nationalidentity  authority  psychology  paranoia  surveillance 
december 2013 by robertogreco
Can These Parents Be Saved: The Growing Backlash Against Over-Parenting - TIME
"All great rebellions are born of private acts of civil disobedience that inspire rebel bands to plot together. And so there is now a new revolution under way, one aimed at rolling back the almost comical overprotectiveness and overinvestment of moms and dads. The insurgency goes by many names — slow parenting, simplicity parenting, free-range parenting — but the message is the same: Less is more; hovering is dangerous; failure is fruitful. You really want your children to succeed? Learn when to leave them alone. When you lighten up, they'll fly higher. We're often the ones who hold them down.

A backlash against overparenting had been building for years, but now it reflects a new reality. Since the onset of the Great Recession, according to a CBS News poll, a third of parents have cut their kids' extracurricular activities. They downsized, downshifted and simplified because they had to — and often found, much to their surprise, that they liked it."

[via: http://www.joannejacobs.com/2009/11/overparenting-is-so-over/ AND http://blog.coreknowledge.org/2009/11/20/infantilizing-our-kids-into-incompetence/ ]
education  society  culture  parenting  paranoia  us  recession  helicopterparents  learning  freerangekids  slow  simplicity  carlhonoré  tcsnmy  unschooling  deschooling  overparenting  lcproject  helicopterparenting 
november 2009 by robertogreco
ParanoidLinux.org [making the OS from Cory Doctorow's Little Brother a reality]
"When those words were written, ParanoidLinux was just a fiction. It is our goal to make this a reality. The project officially started on May 14th, and has been growing ever since. We welcome your ideas, contributions, designs, or code. You can find us o
linux  privacy  security  opensource  littlebrother  paranoia  activism  corydoctorow  hacking  hacks  software  development  arg 
june 2008 by robertogreco
Schneier on Security: Security vs. Privacy
"The debate isn't security versus privacy. It's liberty versus control...If you set up the false dichotomy, of course people will choose security over privacy -- especially if you scare them first. But it's still a false dichotomy."
government  economics  privacy  rights  security  society  bruceschneier  politics  us  policy  cryptography  control  democracy  liberty  freedom  paranoia  fascism  terrorism  surveillance  censorship  anonymity  bigbrother  identity  law  datamining  fear 
january 2008 by robertogreco
What Our Top Spy Doesn't Get: Security and Privacy Aren't Opposites
"There is no security without privacy. And liberty requires both security and privacy...those who would give up privacy for security are likely to end up with neither."
privacy  security  government  us  politics  policy  control  democracy  liberty  freedom  paranoia  fascism  terrorism  surveillance  society  censorship  bruceschneier 
january 2008 by robertogreco
100 Items to Disappear First
+ "From a Sarajevo War Survivor: Experiencing horrible things that can happen in a war - death of parents and friends, hunger and malnutrition, endless freezing cold, fear, sniper attacks."
us  anxiety  war  via:rodcorp  survival  howto  crisis  paranoia  autonomy  emergencies  lifehacks  lists  security  food  farming  agriculture 
january 2008 by robertogreco
Schneier on Security: The War on the Unexpected
"Equally important, politicians need to stop praising and promoting the officers who get it wrong. And everyone needs to stop castigating, and prosecuting, the victims just because they embarrassed the police by their innocence."
culture  society  surveillance  terrorism  paranoia  police  fear  hype  gamechanging  security  politics  privacy  psychology  war 
november 2007 by robertogreco
BLDGBLOG: Architecture as a form of deliberate paranoia
"a man, or woman, who spends all of his or her time sketching strange buildings – finds that his (or her) sketchbook has been stolen."
architecture  design  paranoia  theft  ideas  crime  patents 
january 2007 by robertogreco

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