Thursday, January 11, 2018

CULTUREPLACES SALON: A SYNOPSIS





DRAFT


Rather than try to tackle complex national and international issues and institutions that affect the entire U.S. , we concentrate on place based trends and academic research that more directly reflect our everyday experiences in our own neighborhoods, workplaces, and other closer connections.

We seek to grapple with ideas that stem from and have immediate implications for our personal ties and intellectual enjoyment.  We deal with those grassroots issues not to influence public policy or resolve differences but to gain an understanding of the way of the world in order to sort out the chaos and thereby increase our pleasure.

We start from the premise that changing the body politic at the state and national level is becoming increasingly difficult for citizens of the 21st century in the way that the power structure was able to do at the start of the 20th century, when American Progressivism was imbued with a strong reformist optimism.  “I propose that we lead” declared Edward Adams in the paper delivered at the organizational dinner of the Commonwealth Club of California in 1907. That determination has long since been replaced by anger or apathy, cynicism or irony. Were it not otherwise, the Commonwealth Club would still be engaged in “public service” i.e. attempting through their long standing “Study Sections” to help shape California laws and regulations. Now only specialists attached to policy institutes and politicians’ offices can comprehend such complicated issues, not to mention offsetting the power of money.

We put aside debates over broad public policy matters such as “the media”, health care, diplomacy, climate change, and immigration policies that require a level of expertise that defeats all but most determined policy wonk.  Or they happen in our everyday interactions but devolve into heated declarations.

That said, however, certain patterns of behavior associated with racial, gender, and employment relations, for instance, which have various impacts affecting human activity around the world including strong influence over our own daily lives. These human tendencies, we believe, can best be examined as they are manifested in particular contexts which we call CulturePlaces.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

TEEN CRIME MAY BE A RESULT OF CULTURE, NOT BIOLOGY, STUDY SUGGESTS


BY  


A new study from Penn State University posits that cultural forces, not biological ones, may be responsible for crime among teens. Criminologists at the university studied the relationship between crime and age in Taiwan, finding that involvement in crime peaks in one's late 20s and early 30s. This differs from trends in Western countries like the U.S., where the culture is more individualistic than it is in Taiwan, where teenagers place less emphasis on having fun and are more likely to behave similarly to adults.
"Whatever the biological, or neurobiological, factors that might contribute to criminal behavior, culture and social structure apparently play as great, or greater role," said Yunmei Lu, one of the study's co-authors.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Understanding 'ahorita' takes not a fluency in the language but rather a fluency in Mexican culture.




When I first stepped foot on Mexican soil, I spoke relatively good Spanish. I was by no means fluent, but I could hold a conversation. So when I asked a local ice-cream seller in downtown Guadalajara when he expected a new delivery of chocolate ice cream, and he said ‘ahorita’, which directly translates to ‘right now’, I took him at his word, believing that its arrival was imminent.
I sat near his shop and waited, my Englishness making me feel it would be rude to leave. Half an hour passed and still no ice cream arrived, so I timidly wandered back to the shop and asked again about the chocolate ice cream. “Ahorita,” he told me again, dragging out the ‘i’ ‒ “Ahoriiiiita”. His face was a mix of confusion and maybe even embarrassment. 
The author learned that ‘ahorita’ shouldn’t be taken literally while waiting for ice cream to arrive (Credit: Credit: Madeleine Jettre/Alamy)
The author learned that ‘ahorita’ shouldn’t be taken literally while waiting for ice cream to arrive (Credit: Madeleine Jettre/Alamy)
I was torn. Waiting longer wasn’t appealing, but I felt it was impolite to walk away, especially if the ice cream was now being delivered especially for me. But finally, after waiting so long that I’d built up an appetite for dinner, dark clouds appeared overhead and I made a rush for the nearest bus to take me home. As I left, I signalled up at the sky to the ice cream seller to let him know that I obviously couldn’t wait any longer and it really wasn’t my fault. His face was, once again, one of total confusion.
As I sat on the bus, rain pattering on the windows, I replayed the conversation in my head and decided indignantly that the ice cream seller was a liar.  
This incident faded from my memory until years later when I came back to live in Mexico. I discovered that cracking what I came to call the ‘ahorita code’ took not a fluency in the language, but rather a fluency in the culture.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

How Class Distinctions are Ruining America


David Brooks
    New York Times
    July 11, 2017
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/11/opinion/how-we-are-ruining-america.html?mcubz=0




Over the past generation, members of the college-educated class have become amazingly good at making sure their children retain their privileged status. They have also become devastatingly good at making sure the children of other classes have limited chances to join their ranks.
How they’ve managed to do the first task — giving their own children a leg up — is pretty obvious. It’s the pediacracy, stupid. Over the past few decades, upper-middle-class Americans have embraced behavior codes that put cultivating successful children at the center of life. As soon as they get money, they turn it into investments in their kids.
Upper-middle-class moms have the means and the maternity leaves to breast-feed their babies at much higher rates than high school-educated moms, and for much longer periods.
Upper-middle-class parents have the means to spend two to three times more time with their preschool children than less affluent parents. Since 1996, education expenditures among the affluent have increased by almost 300 percent, while education spending among every other group is basically flat.
As life has gotten worse for the rest in the middle class, upper-middle-class parents have become fanatical about making sure their children never sink back to those levels, and of course there’s nothing wrong in devoting yourself to your own progeny.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Do parents really matter? Everything we thought we knew about how personality is formed is wrong


Brian Boutwell

The Spectator
June 14, 2017

https://life.spectator.co.uk/2017/06/do-parents-really-matter/


Parenting does not have a large impact on how children turn out. An incendiary claim, to be sure, but if you can bear with me until the close of this article I think I might be able to persuade you — or at the very least chip away at your certainty about parental influence.
First, what if later today the phone were to ring and the voice at the other end informed you that you have an identical twin. You would have lived your entire life up to that point not realising that you had a clone. The bearer of this news says arrangements have been made to reunite you with your long-lost sibling. In something of a daze, you assent, realising as you hang up that you’ve just agreed to meet a perfect stranger.
There was a time when separating identical twins at birth, while infrequent, did happen thanks to the harsh nature of adoption systems. One of the people who helped reunite many of them was the great psychologist Thomas Bouchard. I first read about Professor Bouchard’s work, wonderfully described by the psychologist Nancy Segal, when I was a graduate student. I still think about it often. What would it be like to live a large chunk of my life not knowing that I had a twin, and then meet him as an adult? Would our conversations ever go beyond polite small talk about the weather, sport or current events?

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Frankfurt Becomes First German City Where Natives Are Minority

Turkish migrants are the largest non-German minority who have settled down in Frankfurt, accounting for 13 per cent of the population. Pictured is a Turkish woman waving a flag showing President Erdogan at an AKP event in Frankfurt this March



"Noting that two-thirds of young people in many of Western Europe’s major cities are of foreign origin, the authors of Super-Diversity: A New Perspective on Integration slammed politicians’ calls for newcomers to assimilate, stating: 'If there is no longer an ethnic majority group, everyone will have to adapt to everyone else. Diversity will become the new norm.'

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

In Defense of Cultural Appropriation

by Kenan Malek
Op Ed Writer
New York Times
June 14, 2017





Seventy years ago, racist radio stations refused to play “race music” for a white audience. Today, antiracist activists insist that white painters should not portray black subjects. To appropriate a phrase from a culture not my own: Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

In Canada last month, three editors lost their jobs after making such a defense.
The controversy began when Hal Niedzviecki, editor of Write, the magazine of the Canadian Writers’ Union, penned an editorial defending the right of white authors to create characters from minority or indigenous backgrounds. Within days, a social media backlash forced him to resign. The Writers’ Union issued an apology for an article that its Equity Task Force claimed “re-entrenches the deeply racist assumptions” held about art.
Another editor, Jonathan Kay, of The Walrus magazine, was also compelled to step down after tweeting his support for Mr. Niedzviecki. Meanwhile, the broadcaster CBC moved Steve Ladurantaye, managing editor of its flagship news program The National, to a different post, similarly for an “unacceptable tweet” about the controversy.

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Andrew Sullivan on our cultural divide

April 30, 2017

And then there is the cultural impact of mass immigration, which the Party of Davos, living in a post-national world, celebrates as a vision of the global future. Neo-reactionaries beg to differ. They get a little vague here — tiptoeing awkwardly around the question of race. A nation, they believe, is not just a random group of people within an arbitrary set of borders. It’s a product of a certain history and the repository of a distinctive culture. A citizen should be educated to understand that country’s history and take pride in its culture and traditions. Honed and modulated over time, this national culture gives crucial legitimacy to the American political system by producing citizens acclimated to the tolerance, self-government, and other civic values that democracy needs if it is to function. And so [National Security Council's Michael] Anton, who gives America’s long history of successful integration of immigrants short shrift, worries about the influx of what he delicately calls “non-republican peoples.” “What happens when the West ceases to be western?” he asked me. On the blog, he was much more direct: He wrote that “Islam and the West are incompatible” and that Muslim immigration should be almost entirely banned. A country like the United States requires “a certain type or character of people.”

For the entire essay: 
http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/04/andrew-sullivan-why-the-reactionary-right-must-be-taken-seriously.html 

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Jonathan Haidt on the Cultural Roots of Campus Rage

An unorthodox professor explains the ‘new religion’ that drives the intolerance and violence at places like Middlebury and Berkeley.


New York
When a mob at Vermont’s Middlebury College shut down a speech by social scientist Charles Murray a few weeks ago, most of us saw it as another instance of campus illiberalism. Jonathan Haidt saw something more—a ritual carried out by adherents of what he calls a “new religion,” an auto-da-fé against a heretic for a violation of orthodoxy.
“The great majority of college students want to learn. They’re perfectly reasonable, and they’re uncomfortable with a lot of what’s going on,” Mr. Haidt, a psychologist and professor of ethical leadership at New York University’s Stern School of Business, tells me during a recent visit to his office. “But on each campus there are some true believers who have reoriented their lives around the fight against evil.”
These believers are transforming the campus from a citadel of intellectual freedom into a holy space—where white privilege has replaced original sin, the transgressions of class and race and gender are confessed not to priests but to “the community,” victim groups are worshiped like gods, and the sinned-against are supplicated with “safe spaces” and “trigger warnings.”
The fundamentalists may be few, Mr. Haidt says, but they are “very intimidating” since they wield the threat of public shame. On some campuses, “they’ve been given the heckler’s veto, and are often granted it by an administration who won’t stand up to them either.”

Monday, March 27, 2017

The last thing on ‘privilege’ you’ll ever need to read

Book Party



A new book argues that accusing people of unearned advantages does nothing to address inequality -- and may only make things worse.

 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/book-party/wp/2017/03/23/the-last-thing-on-privilege-youll-ever-need-to-read/?utm_term=.3f6450c0f480


THE PERILS OF ‘PRIVILEGE': Why Injustice Can’t Be Solved by 
Accusing Others of Advantage
by Phoebe Maltz Bovy
St. Martin’s Press. 324 pp. $26.99
Someone needs to book Phoebe Maltz Bovy on one of those television shows featuring people who have the most awful jobs in America, because she has just completed a project so soul-crushing that I can’t imagine anyone ever doing it again, certainly not voluntarily.
She has scoured the Internet for every overwrought think piece and self-indulgent personal essay about privilege — and has read all of them, apparently. And if that were not enough masochism, she has also read the comments sections, those swamps of vitriol and condescension that no one is ever supposed to even contemplate or speak of, let alone wade into. And she has drawn on that experience to write a book about why so much of the current debate and online pile-on about privilege tends to be contradictory, embarrassing, superficial and, above all, self-defeating.
The result is “The Perils of ‘Privilege,’ ” an often lively and more often meandering book that will be of intense interest to the sort of people who are up on the latest cultural criticism on the state of our cultural criticism. Unless you are steeped in the privilege debates already, the book will be most striking for its obsessively narrow focus, and for its expenditure of Bovy’s analytic and writing talents on a work that explores the vicious and petty ways people talk about a concept more than it interrogates the truth of the concept itself. If this book constitutes a “takedown” of the privilege orthodoxy, as the author suggests, it is very much an inside job.
Must I first define “privilege” in its current use, or should I imagine that if you’ve reached this paragraph, you’re already among the cognoscenti? As it is known today and discussed in progressive circles, a jurisdiction Bovy writes about with the knowing weariness that comes with longtime residence, privilege is not just about having special advantages available only to the few, but it is also about those advantages that are entirely unearned, and usually ones of which the privileged party is blissfully unaware or, even better, somewhat defensive.

Is diversity for white people?

Review of "We Gon' Be Alright: Notes on Race and Resegregation" by Jeff Chang
  


WE GON’ BE ALRIGHT: Notes on Race and Resegregation
By Jeff Chang
Picador. 192 pp. $16.
The copious books confronting this moment in America’s racial politics — a mix of reporting and meditations on President Obama, on Black Lives Matter, on police violence and mass incarceration — can be roughly divided into two broad categories. There are the My Story works, deeply personal accounts in which the authors draw on their own lives to illuminate their arguments, often in self-conscious reference or emulation of notable activist voices of the past; and the Our Story versions, works of history and big-picture analysis, more academic in inspiration but no less ambitious in their ends.
Jeff Chang’s book on the culture wars and resegregation of America is different, though. There is history and analysis in these pages, and there is life and experience, too, but neither form of storytelling overpowers the other. Instead, what comes through most clearly is a versatile mind in the service of a painful and protracted story, an author who ranges widely before drawing tough conclusions and one who, despite the book’s optimistic title, appears deeply pessimistic about things getting any better, much less becoming all right. “We live in a time when merchants of division draw us away from mutuality and toward the undoing of democracy itself,” Chang writes, and by the end of his book you feel that, despite the author’s best efforts, the merchants are winning.
“We Gon’ Be Alright” is organized as a series of seven essays — the “notes” in the subtitle is a bit of an undersell but still pretty accurate — that could each be read on its own in the pages of some high-brow magazine. Two of them in particular stand out, most memorable for their ability to move easily between Chang’s story and a collective one. In “Is Diversity for White People?” Chang explains how the concept of diversity has been “exploited and rendered meaningless,” used as a corporate marketing tool as well as an evasive maneuver against more radical efforts at mitigating inequality. And in “The In-Betweens,” Chang gets personal about the Asian American experience, in all its possibility and artificiality and tension.