breaking news from the world of ideas

by Mary Harrington
Saturday, 19
October 2019
Seen Elsewhere
07:30

Weekend Long Read: Inside China’s Gulags

In this sobering long read, A Million People Are Jailed at China’s Gulags. I Managed to Escape. Here’s What Really Goes on Inside, David Stavrou at Israeli newspaper Haaretz interviews Sayragul Sauytbay, a Kazakh-speaking teacher who escaped China and was granted asylum in Sweden.

Sauytbay claims to have spent nine months in a Chinese ‘re-education camp’ where ethnic and religious minorities, notably the Uyghur population of the Xinjiang region, are routinely imprisoned.

Though their existence was initially denied, since images of the camps were released, Chinese officials have now acknowledged the construction of ‘vocational re-education centres’ they claim are needed in order to address radicalism and poverty. ...  Continue reading

by Peter Franklin
Friday, 18
October 2019
Idea
18:22

Daylight robbery: how lack of sunlight is keeping us awake

According to Anoosh Chakelian of the New Statesman, lack of sleep is hitting Britain’s economic productivity:

A Rand study into the economic effects of sleep deprivation last February found that the insufficient and poor quality sleep of UK workers was losing the country 1.86 per cent of its GDP, or 200,000 working days each year.
- Anoosh Chakelian

But what’s keeping us awake?

Our screen addiction often get the blame: by flooding our eyes with bluish light at night, we’re messing with our circadian rhythms.

But there’s another part of the picture that gets ignored – which is that we’re getting too little light during the day. The science is explained by Linda Geddes in an extract on Literary Hub from her book Chasing the Sun:

…there is growing evidence to suggest that exposing oneself to bright light during the daytime can help to negate some of the detrimental effects of light at night —as well as improving our mood and alertness more directly.
- Linda Geddes

Researchers found significant impacts:

Exposure to bright, morning light was particularly powerful: those exposed to it between 8 a.m. and noon took an average of 18 minutes to fall asleep at night, compared to 45 minutes in the low light exposure group; they also slept for around 20 minutes longer and experienced fewer sleep disturbances.
- Linda Geddes

Unsurprisingly, the effects were particularly pronounced during winter when it’s much easier to miss out on daylight. ...  Continue reading

by Giles Fraser
Friday, 18
October 2019
Idea
14:16

Is Nick Cave right about Christianity and Woke Culture?

Before cult singer/songwriter Nick Cave became a Bad Seed he was a cathedral choirboy in his native Australia. Like a number of people who have that background, organised religion does not sit comfortably with him. So it was unsurprising that he had a pop at religion in a recent letter.

Living in a state of enquiry, neutrality and uncertainty, beyond dogma and grand conviction, is good for the business of songwriting, and for my life in general. This is the reason I tend to become uncomfortable around all ideologies that brand themselves as ‘the truth’ or ‘the way’.
- Nick Cave

This is familiar enough stuff. What has raised a few eyebrows, however, is that Cave extends this criticism not only to religion, but also to atheism, and also – more broadly – to woke culture in general.

Regardless of the virtuous intentions of many woke issues, it is its lack of humility and the paternalistic and doctrinal sureness of its claims that repel me.
- Nick Cave

I have no quarrel with this. Indeed – and this is just a hunch – I wonder if there is also a surprising degree of connection between woke culture and a certain sort of protestant Christianity that could even be seen as its intellectual forbear. The combination of absolute moral certainty and evangelistic self-righteousness is often a peculiarly religious sort of pathology. And once God is replaced by the self as the centre of one’s moral life, woke culture may well be a consequence. ...  Continue reading

by Paul Embery
Friday, 18
October 2019
Idea
10:38

Why Poland’s Law and Justice Party appeals

The Law and Justice party (known in Poland as PiS), was re-elected in the Polish elections last weekend, securing 43% of the popular vote. The party stands on a platform combining economic interventionism with social conservatism.

Leader of the PiS, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, after his party won with 43% support.

Commonly – though somewhat lazily – characterised as ‘Right-wing’, PiS, after coming to office in 2015, set about redressing economic inequality. It boosted the minimum wage, lowered the retirement age and increased the state pension. It also made heavy investment in a variety of social and welfare programmes, helping to free thousands from poverty. That Poland currently enjoys an economic growth rate superior to many of its European neighbours should command attention. ...  Continue reading

by Elizabeth Oldfield
Friday, 18
October 2019
Reaction
07:30

How Russell Brand won me round

When I met Russell Brand this week for his podcast Under the Skin I began with mixed feelings. I have a background in radio and television, where Brand’s reputation, especially amongst women, is poor. Most of the hostility is from a while ago, before his public clean up, marriage and treatment for sex addiction, but women have watched too many men burnish their reputations and rise too swiftly after a fall from grace to be immediately forgiving. His comments a few years ago about leaving the childcare to his partner didn’t add to my sense of meeting someone I’d immediately click with.

I’ve changed my mind. ...  Continue reading

by Chris Curtis
Thursday, 17
October 2019
Explainer
16:51

Not so fast. Boris Johnson will have an uphill battle with voters

Besides the challenges it faces in Parliament, Boris Johnson will be keeping an eye on how his deal lands amongst the wider general public – particularly if it’s going to be a key part of his General Election campaign.

And whilst it’s still too early to say how the deal will go down, the Conservative Party leader certainly faces a challenge.

The first difficulty is that voters have moved to the extremes over Brexit in recent years, meaning there isn’t a very large pool of voters who sit in the middle ground who may be inclined to support the deal. This was one of the main reasons that Theresa May’s deal struggled to win the public over, and just 15% supported it when it first came back. ...  Continue reading

by Ed West
Thursday, 17
October 2019
Spotted
14:09

Important news of the day: the Eleanor Cross is safe

Big news for our country today, I think we can agree. Yes, the Eleanor Cross in Northamptonshire, one of only three surviving 13th century monuments built by Edward I to commemorate his late queen, is off Historic England’s “endangered list” of buildings.

Work had begun earlier this year after the cross had become seriously dilapidated.

The crosses mark the route taken by Eleanor of Castile’s corpse after she died in Lincoln in 1290. Edward and Eleanor had been married for 36 years, having been betrothed in childhood, but unusually for royal marriages theirs was a genuine love match and he didn’t even have illegitimate children. ...  Continue reading

by Freddie Sayers
Thursday, 17
October 2019
Seen Elsewhere
10:16

The politics of Donald Trump’s stoopid language

The letter from Donald Trump to President Erdogan of Turkey that emerged on Twitter last night is so bafflingly childish that even his most ardent supporters are stuck for words. The White House had to confirm its authenticity as so many people presumed it was a fake:

White House confirms authenticity of Trump letter to Erdogan, dated 10/9: “History… will look upon you forever as the devil if good things don’t happen. Don’t be a tough guy. Don’t be a fool! I will call you later.”
First reported by Fox Business. pic.twitter.com/lImxfhb2j1

— Peter Alexander (@PeterAlexander) October 16, 2019 ...  Continue reading

by Peter Franklin
Wednesday, 16
October 2019
Reaction
18:53

There is nothing wrong with neoliberalism… as a word

A tweet from Ezra Klein, co-founder of Vox Media:

No, sir, it would not. ‘Neoliberalism’ is not the loveliest of words, but it is a useful one — referring to a particular era of capitalism, i.e. the one we’re living through now.

One can debate precise definitions, but neoliberalism is what replaced the post-war model of capitalism — in which government was heavily involved in the productive side of the economy. In the 1980s and 90s, a wave of privatisation and deregulation rolled back the frontiers of the state — but not all the way. The welfare state, despite some reforms, stayed very much in place. ...  Continue reading

by Freddie Sayers
Wednesday, 16
October 2019
Video
10:36

Hassan Damluji: How to build a global nation

I sat down with author and Deputy Director of the Gates Foundation Hassan Damluji to discuss his new book, The Responsible Globalist.

His central idea is that globalists need to learn from nationalists about the importance of ideas of belonging and identity. The only way they will succeed, he argues, is by replicating those same feelings at a global level.

What I really like about Hassan’s book is that he takes seriously the complaints of populist voters over the past few years – for example, he thinks individual countries must be able to control their own pace of immigration. He doesn’t demonise them as dark regressive forces that need to be put back in their box. ...  Continue reading

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