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Category Archives: Culture

A simple case study: How propaganda works

There are very few exceptions: Right-wingers and the Republican Party cannot win elections or have their way without lying and cheating. Without a sophisticated propaganda system (and, increasingly under Trumpism, the demonization of the responsible media), the right wing would be exposed as what it truly is: A radical minority with a highly unpopular agenda, […]

Environmental justice: The people fight back

Al Gore This is a rather long photo essay. I hope you’ll bear with me. People sometimes ask me why I choose to live in a rural and seemingly backward place like Stokes County, North Carolina, after 18 years in an urbane place like San Francisco. Stokes is a poor county in the foothills of […]

If only we had more of these

My guess would be that there are very few stiles remaining in America, though I also would guess that there were never that many in the first place, except possibly in New England. Most Americans probably don’t even know the word. Even I, born and raised a country person with roots in the Appalachian Highlands, […]

The evolution of morality

The Evolution of Morality, by Richard Joyce. MIT Press, 2006. 272 pages. Our best universities have philosophy departments, but what the heck are philosophers — particularly moral philosophers — up to these days? Is it mischief? Certainly some think so. Occasionally, a philosopher from some university or other writes an op-ed in the New York […]

A boys’ answer to #metoo

Yes, #metoo has exposed some ugly abuses of male power and male impunity. But most men are not like that. And there is nothing wrong with boys. I won’t waste any words of my own. These young men sing the point quite beautifully. In French: Abandon entouré d’abandon, tendresse touchant aux tendresses… C’est ton intérieur […]

Hiding in the woods indeed

I watched this doe for a good while yesterday. She couldn’t see me. I was at a window facing the orchard gate. She skulked out of the woods and made for the nearest patch of clover. Then she tore at the clover as though she was starving. Though her ribs were slightly visible, I don’t […]

Old Scotland and the modern world

How the Scots Invented the Modern World: The true story of how Western Europe’s poorest nation created our world and everything in it. By Arthur Herman. Random House, 2001. 472 pages. The title and subtitle of this book contain quite a lot of hyperbole. Of course the Scots didn’t create the modern world and everything […]

The paradoxes of purity

Jakub Józef Orliński, YouTube. What is he singing? Please don’t play the video yet. We’ll watch it in a second. Far more than we realize, the idea of purity affects how we see, and how we react to, the world. Yet we’re barely conscious of our reactions based on purity. We can’t talk about purity […]

The lingering darkness

The Darkening Age: The Christian Destruction of the Classical World. Catherine Nixey, Houghton Miflin Harcourt, 316 pages. It is remarkably difficult, even with rational and educated contemporary minds, to challenge the belief that the church and the Christian religion have been a force of steady moral progress in the world. Yet that belief is easy […]

The eve of self-destruction

Stephen Miller, Donald Trump, Paige Patterson, Paul Presslar Slogging through the news each morning (and afternoon, and evening) is increasingly dangerous to the mental health of rational, morally sane people. Yet I hold my nose and continue to do it. Whether we acknowledge it or not, Americans really are living through a Manichaean period of […]