The West's consumerism has run amok
Paul Kingsnorth wrote an excoriating essay this week, in which he placed the fault of the climate crisis at the feet of the Western bourgeoisie. Kingsnorth certainly wouldn’t call himself a Marxist, but he believes that Marx’s analysis of the bourgeoisie provides a canny prediction of the world that has come to pass:
Continual product innovation (which may in fact be a delusion), disruption, creative destruction: all of these approaches have normalised the stark reality that things that were luxuries for our grandparents have become necessities, even rights, to us.
We are all #bougie now. When Marx popularised the term, the bourgeoisie were distinct from rural peasants and the ruling aristocracy. They were defined by their ownership of the means of production and ability to amass capital and thus indulge in aspirational consumerism. Schumpeter used the term with a particular focus on entrepreneurs and innovators who use creative destruction to continually create new ‘needs’ and thus new markets. But #bougie, as a social media meme, implies very little power beyond the ability to purchase slightly fancy consumer goods. It’s an insult, but a knowing one, applicable to all but the most hair-shirted hermit. Upwardly mobile, aspirational, primed to see the good life as the pursuit of ever more comfort, convenience and status. Hyacinth Bucket, for those who remember her. If we’re honest, all of us too. ...
Octogenarians are getting themselves arrested — and it makes sense
What is your mental image of an environmental activist? Probably a young, idealistic millennial, eating lentils and wearing a multicoloured beanie. What is striking about Extinction Rebellion protestors, though, is just how old they are. The people blocking roads across England look closer to eighty than to eighteen.
The newspapers have been full of pensioners who have been getting themselves arrested: the Welsh 82-year-old, the Oxford 81-year-old and, perhaps most impressively, the 91-year-old from Kent. A study by Claire Saunders and others from the Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity found that XR has “a much broader and more diverse age profile than has been the case for the previously small networks of mainly young activists,” with a mean age of over 40. ...
Tyler Cowen thinks it will be America's next great export — I disagree
Will wokeism rule the world? That’s an interesting (i.e. terrifying) question asked by “the decidedly un-woke” Tyler Cowen.
Writing in Bloomberg, Cowen asks “whether the U.S. will be able to deploy this new intellectual tool for exporting American cultural influence. Put another way: if there is going to be an international progressive class, why not Americanize it?” He continues:
It was trialled and failed in 2015
The failings of WHO’s Covid-19 policies are extensive, especially in the world’s poor countries. Today, I spoke to ex-Médecins-Sans-Frontières (MSF) Deputy Head for the Emergency Unit in Spain, Llanos Ortíz Montero, who laid out in grim detail just how badly these countries have been affected.
Ortíz Montero has worked for decades in emergency responses in countries from Mozambique and South Sudan to Haiti and the Philippines. Her interview adds to the growing evidence for the catastrophic and unprecedented policy shift which took place in the WHO’s pandemic response policy in February 2020. “The impression you get,” says Ortíz Montero, is that these policies were “a diversion away from the Alma Ata declaration.” ...
Dissenting arguments went missing at this weekend's conference
Conversion therapy is an abhorrent practice, and talk of it conjures up images of electric shock treatments inflicted on gay men fifty years ago. This weekend’s Liberal Democrat Conference resolved to ban it. So important was this issue to the party that it was the first policy motion to be debated.
But the new policy implemented by the Liberal Democrats goes beyond the October 2017 Memorandum of Understanding that was supported by 21 organisations including the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy. Crucially, that document supported exploratory therapy when working with a client who, “wishes to explore, experiences conflict with or is in distress regarding, their sexual orientation or gender identity.” ...
It was the last TV show collectively watched by the nation
There is a funny Stewart Lee sketch with the premise that a village has created an annual folk tradition based on the bit in Only Fools And Horses where Del Boy falls through the bar. Lee was inspired by an audience vote some years back which determined that the incident, from the 1989 episode “Yuppy Love”, was the series’ single funniest moment.
In the sketch and its preamble, Lee seems to be mocking the alleged vacuity of broad, slapstick-style sitcom humour. But there is a counterpoint to his comedy elitism, namely that a widely shared stock of well-known jokes, situations and characters is very valuable for our national life. ...
Two new reports confirm that we are heading back to a medieval mentality
Astrology and postcolonial theory. Some things just go better together and always will. That, at least, is the view of ‘Alice Sparkly Kat’, a ‘queer Chinese Astrologer’ based (where else?) in Brooklyn.
Mx Sparkly has published a book applying post-colonial theory to astrology, a move that the cynic in me thinks makes at least as much sense as applying astrology to post-colonial theory.
But we should set aside the temptation to see this as two strands of confected nonsense fusing to create a new, hybrid strand of confected nonsense. Take it rather as another example of the death-rattle of Enlightenment rationalism as the dominant elite epistemology. This decline is evident in a paper published in January by MIT, which explored competing uses of the same datasets by official advocates of Covid restrictions and opposing, self-organising groups of Covid sceptics. ...
The real-estate bubble in China is reminiscent of 2008 — only worse
Just in case you’ve never heard of it, Evergrande is China’s second largest property development company. It has 1,300 projects spread over hundreds of Chinese cities, but more to the point it is $300 billion in debt.
Evergrande’s share price this year has fallen on fears that the company is running out of money to pay creditors. The slide has now turned into a headlong rush — and dealing in the company’s bonds has been suspended.
It’s not just the markets that are panicking. Last week, angry protesters besieged the company’s offices.
If it collapses, the consequences could extend much further than the company’s creditors and investors. Indeed, there are fears that Evergrande could be China’s Lehman Brothers — the American financial services giant whose 2008 collapse came close to bringing down the banking system. ...