Category “Civilization & History”

The Shepherd’s Life

James Rebanks (2015)

I don’t know what it is about Brits and nature writing … but they punch above their weight. Instant classic.

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Hiding in Plain Sight

Sarah Kendzior (2020)

There are surprisingly few rigorous summaries of Trump’s rise to Powah. This is one of them.

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The Death of Truth

Michiko Kakutani (2018)

There’s a lot of choice out there when it comes to books dealing with the ‘post-Truth’ era (which is to say, the present one). This particular one ranks right up there, along with Snyder, Holmes and Krastev.

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The Light That Failed: Why the West Is Losing the Fight for Democracy

Stephen Holmes & Ivan Krastev (2020)

One the most rigorous and coherent cases for why & how the current anti-liberal backlash started and endures.  Quite repetitive but worth it.

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On Tyranny

Timothy Snyder (2017)

 A citizens guide to the Post-Truth era.

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The Road to Unfreedom

Timothy Snyder (2018)

  A must.

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Congo

David van Reynbrouck (2012)

I read this in the Amazon. Wild.

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Utopia for Realists

Rutger Bregman (2017)

Bregman’s thesis in ‘Utopia for Realists’ is one that I place squarely alongside the likes of Raymond Kurzweil, Yuval Harari, Steven Pinker and Matt Ridley as relying on essentially the same drastic normative fundament.  In consequence, these thinkers, though steeped in the trade of widely different disciplines, all essentially conclude that things are basically going pretty great on planet Earth.  Reams and reams of statistics fill chapter after chapter to belabor the apparently indomitable point: average income is up, many women are now voting, infant mortality is down, smallpox is gone, everyone has cellphones, … testimony to progress goes on and on.

The reign of humanism

These thinkers are so fundamentally humanist in outlook that they don’t even acknowledge their anthropocentrism.  Harari expends a chapter in ‘Homo Deus’ on the plight of domesticated animals.  But nowhere is appreciation shown for the fact that such creatures – which exist in concentration-camp conditions with the sole purpose of sustaining humans, the elites atop the planetary food chain – now make up 97 odd per cent of living animal biomass.  Not so long ago, our biosphere was dominated by wild creatures whose raison d’etre wasn’t just nourishment for sapiens sapiens.  Am I the only one who feels that is highly highly relevant here?  And the shrivelled remainder are suffering, suffering terribly, under the relentless human march that the past few centuries have wrought in ever greater volume and diversity.  That these considerations hardly ever feature in the calculus of ‘progress’ is more than just unfortunate – it is symptomatic of the reigning humanist doctrine.

Short-term gain for long-term pain

It’s also worth considering that the Industrial Revolution ushered in a window of opportunity to live on borrowed time, that is, the future.  These writers make scant reference to climate change, and the epidemic of plasticization is, as far as I recall, not treated by any of them.  What if all these gains, if we accede that that is what they are, come at a great cost not just on the non-human world, but also on future humans?

The Age of Estrangement

Could it be that estrangement from Nature is the fuel at the heart of ressentiment?

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Christianity, selected denominations

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Empire of the Summer Moon

S. C. Gwynne (2011)

“AR 70-28, dated 18 June 1976, specifies that Army aircraft should be given the names of American Indian tribes or chiefs or terms. The name should appeal to the imagination without sacrifice of dignity, and should suggest an aggressive spirit and confidence in the capabilities of the aircraft. The name also should suggest mobility, agility, flexibility, firepower and endurance.” –Aviation Digest (March 1977)

It is tempting to take the naming of the United States Army’s most technologically sophisticated helicopters after tribes of the great American Plains as a final act of usurpation.

For what it’s worth, I think the term ‘Comanche’ inspires a feeling of immense awe amongst most white men, and using it for a stealth helicopter signifies a certain aspiration, an enduring (yet nostalgic) vision of masculinity.

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