Archive | Clippings & Commentary

The opposite of radical individualism is not radical fascism

Jonathan Green over at ABC’s The Drum, on common humanity:

OK, but is a shout of “individualism!” the end of it when so many of the deepest issue we confront are shared? Must everything devolve into doctrine? If we all agree we hate poverty, do we have to fight forever on the precise nature of the solution? And at what point does the fight become an end in itself? Might not various unquestionably good ends justify any amount of compromise toward the means?

This is a serious problem – it’s not just one person’s view and one argument over Twitter, it’s a sign of an old disagreement which happens to greater or lesser extent, in many contexts, with many different formulations all the time. The consequences Jonathan mentions aren’t hypothetical argumentative fictions, they’re real.

Misguided responses

Heraldo Munoz, from Al Jazeera’s opinion pages:

More worrying still: Some 20 million young Latin Americans aged 15 to 18 neither work nor study. That’s nearly one in every five, 54 per cent of them female and 46 per cent male. Many young people are exposed to tremendous risk and violence. The region comprises less than 9 per cent of the world’s population but accounts for 27 per cent of its homicides, the UNDP has found. As a result, public perceptions of the young are distorted. Those from low-income communities in particular are seen as potentially violent, morally weak and frequent substance abusers.

There are so many things awry with this – let me pick just one. Even if the young are ‘morally weak substance abusers’, how is scorn appropriate? Exactly how could anyone seriously think that improves anything?

A window into the house of cards

Jonathan Haidt over at the New York Time’s The Stone:

“I’m saying that reason is far less powerful than intuition, so if you’re arguing (or deliberating) with a partner who lives on the other side of the political spectrum from you, and you approach issues such as abortion, gay marriage or income inequality with powerfully different intuitive reactions, you are unlikely to effect any persuasion no matter how good your arguments and no matter how much time you give your opponent to reflect upon your logic.”

Which is to say that a clear conversation can’t just be about what’s admissible as ‘fact’, but how those facts are going to be understood.

Just seems like good advice actually

Jeff Bezos says, via Jason Fried over at 37signals:

He said people who were right a lot of the time were people who often changed their minds. He doesn’t think consistency of thought is a particularly positive trait. It’s perfectly healthy — encouraged, even — to have an idea tomorrow that contradicted your idea today.

It’s never been clearly explained to me, even as an undergrad, why consistency at all costs was the minimum requirement for being taken seriously.