The UK Government – In other words

It’s been a good week for adjectives. The abrupt end of Liz Truss’s premiership, positioning the country for its third Prime Minister in two months and worryingly fifth Chancellor (finance minister) in four months, has given political writers and pundits plenty to say. But what do you say when a country and its leading political party are in meltdown that doesn’t sound cliched or as inarticulate as pub-speak on a Saturday night? I was hoping for some colourful metaphors but have mostly encountered adjectives.

I’m not a great fan of adjectives. Their overuse plagues student writing, genre fiction and celebrity memoires. But today I make an exception, noting that the weekend papers have resurrected the adjective in good form – at least for now. Among those used to describe the actions of Liz Truss and her cabinet include ill-fated, calamitous, demented, brexity, Gonzo, eye-popping, chaos-churning and career-serving (though obviously careers at the top of government have crashed to an ignominious end, these clown ministers will likely have high-paying jobs in the private sector for years to come). The best stacked-modifier award goes to Patrick Cockburn of The Independent who described Boris Johnson, who is bizarrely a contender for PM again, as having a career with ‘a comic opera Gilbert and Sullivan feel to it.’

But it hasn’t all been about adjectives. The -ism nouns haven’t done too badly either. Several pundits have stepped back from the immediate circus that is the British government to ask what this means for the ideologies that have gained prominence in the West in recent decades. Could the fall of Britain in such a way trigger the end of neoliberalism, of libertarianism, of populism, of nationalism? As these ideas have been put into practice and have disastrously failed, one does wonder. Writing in The Independent, Adam Boulton, remarked that the Conservative party, which is likely to reign for another two years, will continue with its factionalism and the instability it creates. That is, some of the aforementioned isms aren’t likely to go away overnight, or quietly for that matter.

Oh, yes, I did stumble across one metaphor from Andrew Rawnsley in The Observer that brought a smile to my face for its sentiment as well as its creativity: ‘… the polls suggest the Tories will be disembowelled by the voters when they get their hands on them at the polling stations.’ Nothing beats a good metaphor.

Larry the cat, who lives at 10 Downing Street has outlasted six Prime Ministers.

Watching the Bear

I’ve been receiving the New York Times daily newsletters on the war in Ukraine. In the early days, I was reading every item, every report, every commentary. This was on top of other reports from television, radio, papers (The Observer, I Paper) and magazines (The New Yorker, The Atlantic). As the days turned into weeks and now months, I’ve been skimming the reports and reading only the commentaries, looking for predictions of when and how the war will end. By skimming, I’m left with something like a word cloud in my mind. This week’s reports look like this:

As for the predictions, I’m reminded of lines from Robert Frost’s famous poem:

Some say the world will end in fire,

Some say in ice.

From what I’ve tasted of desire

I hold with those who favor fire.

Today, the New York Times announced that it was ending the daily newsletter: ‘The pace of news has changed from the initial furious days of the war. And so, we’re changing too. Beginning next week, we’ll be landing in your inbox three times per week: Monday, Wednesday and Friday.’ With this, the NYT is admitting that the war is dragging on and is less newsworthy given the international financial crisis, the pandemic fallout and climate change. In Britain, the news this week has been dominated by rising fuel prices and the shooting death of a nine-year old girl in Liverpool. The Ukrainian war seems further than the 1,500 miles between London and Kiev.

This concerns me. Other recent wars have continued for years and petered out of our collected consciousness in the West, such as in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. Official conflicts over, they seem to leave behind anti-western sentiments and percolating terrorists’ cells. But these are problems western governments deal with, experiencing mixed results among peaks and troughs of public interest. The situation with Russia is different. In Putin we see an unpredictable leader, who conducts cyberattacks on foreign powers, imprisons and poisons his personal enemies and makes strategic military mistakes, which are covered up by propaganda. Above all else, Putin’s government, which doesn’t look like it’s crumbling down any time soon, has nuclear weapons – even the smallest ground missiles can destroy crops and cause illnesses well-beyond Ukraine – and Putin’s Russia could damage and is currently circling nuclear power stations in Ukraine.

This is where I’m at after continuing to read the commentaries. I’m afraid the word cloud has been replaced by a mushroom cloud.

Gringas, Latinas and Selective Nostalgia

I wasn’t looking for a theme, but in the last few weeks I just happened to read two books set in the US and Central America during the 1960s. I was a baby when Kennedy was assassinated and only half experienced this decade as a young child. Yet it keeps a grip on my consciousness – a combination of selective nostalgia for the music and the changing attitudes and a fascination with that era’s dubious social politics and reshaping of world order. These two books, Joan Didion’s A Book of Common Prayer and Angie Cruz’s Dominicana, delivered on both fronts.

A Book of Common Prayer was written in 1977 and has enjoyed a resurgence since the author’s death last year. (I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to get around to it given that I’ve been an admirer of Didion’s non-fiction for decades.) Set mostly in the fictitious country of Boca Grande, somewhere in Central America, it dips in and out of the US, where the main characters are from, with flashbacks and flashforwards. A personal and political story, the novel gently satires the privileged lives of Americans in the corrupt country, war-torn and exploited by American involvement. The narrator, the widowed Grace, owns most of the country’s land and knows its political secrets when she meets Charlotte, a wealthy and naïve norteamericana, as she is called. Charlotte, married to a lawyer who traffics weapons, is eluding the FBI, who are searching for Charlotte’s fugitive daughter, an architype of the 60s rebellious generation. Keenly observing Charlotte’s behaviours that range from flippantly self-centred to darkly mysterious, Grace’s narration exudes a controlled voice that delivers wry comments with aplomb. It’s writing that leaps out at you while never neglecting the character-driven story or the slippery ruthlessness of the US presence in Central America at that time.

Angie Cruz’s Dominicana came out in 2019 and is mainly set in New York in the 60s, when immigrants were arriving from the Dominican Republic to escape poverty, civil war and ultimately an American invasion. In the Dominican Republic, Ana, aged 15, is chosen to marry Juan, who has negotiated a deal to purchase her family’s land and take Ana to America, where he and his brothers are working. With falsified documents, Ana becomes 19 and soon finds herself in a starkly different culture where she doesn’t speak the language, spending her days alone cooking and cleaning for her abusive two-timing husband. The stranger in a strange land is a worn trope, but here it works because it doesn’t drive the plot. The need to send money home to her family and contend with her own personhood while pregnant move this story into a page-tuner. Along with delving into the hardships of immigration and oppression of women, the reader is treated to glimpses of 60s America, where vintage episodes of I Love Lucy bemuse and influence Ana’s views of Americans. Though stylistically not in the class of Didion’s writing, it has its literary moments, including a delightful sex scene featuring a pregnant woman.

Both novels fed into my 60s selective nostalgia, while reminding me of the difficulties of the time. If I could time travel, I wouldn’t go back to that decade, especially as an adult, especially as a woman. Some time periods are best viewed from the vantage point of hindsight with a helping of fictional escapism.

Supreme Arrogance

In recent days, the US Supreme Court has made two rulings against the wishes and strongly held opinions of most US citizens.

The first was the ruling against the state of New York’s gun laws. The Supreme Court divined that carrying a concealed handgun in public was a legal right upheld by the US Constitution. The Constitution that I studied in the eighth grade was not only written in the 18th century by white landowning males, but never mentioned concealed handguns or individuals protecting themselves with guns. The constitutional right to bear arms was to protect communities from militarized governmental powers.

This Supreme Court ruling brought to mind the whole handgun debate that was sweeping America back in the early 90s, when I last lived Stateside. This was before semi-automatics were regularly featured in mass shootings. One of the arguments against handguns was that they, unlike hunting rifles, were easy to conceal and therefore the weapon of choice for criminals. Such arguments are still true thirty years later.

Following American news from Europe, I expect to see more murders and more bystanders shot by misguided bullets, just as I expect to see a continuation of mass shootings. These predictions are not only the common-sense views shared by most Americans, but also the expert opinion of criminologists and law enforcement specialists. Yet, the nine members of the Supreme Court, who hold jobs for life and do not need to run political campaigns sponsored by the NRA, seem to be motivated by their own sense of intellectual superiority.

The other ruling against the views of US citizenry and expert opinion – in this case public health workers and medical scientists – was the reversal of Roe v. Wade. Some studies say two-thirds of Americans, others say 85%, support the right to an abortion. That is, the majority of us are aware that most women seeking abortions have already had children and cannot afford to have any more. We also know about abuse and rape and medical conditions that make giving birth untenable, if not dangerous. For the justices on the Supreme Court, the rights of women over their bodies and the health of women are no longer important, nor is the prospect of more children born into poverty and the public health consequences of that.

While many in the media and public figures around the world have been quick to call this decision a ‘step backward’ for women’s rights, this is even worse than that. According to The New Yorker, recent decades have seen some US states create laws that criminalise not only women who have abortions, but those who have had miscarriages and stillbirths that government officials claim were induced by the mother. It’s hard to believe that the Supreme Court justices are unaware of these Gilead-like laws. Apparently, these justices are again acting on their understandings of what is best for society – that is, the subjugation of women. These justices know better than the women themselves, than health workers, than social workers, than medical scientists, than those of us that support the pro-choice movement. The arrogance of it all.

From this side of the pond, I find myself, like many Europeans, shocked and bewildered. Like many Americans who have emigrated from the so-called Land of the Free, I’m grateful that I’m not living there.

Belonging

I usually don’t start with quotes, but this time I will:

‘Does an American belong more in America than elsewhere when most of us came from elsewhere? How to account for the violence of founding a country on someone else’s land? How can any model of American belonging function unproblematically on top of such a heritage? But then wasn’t every country in the world formed out of conflict over who owned the land? All of human history is a story of migrations and conquests. All of us are exiles, but some of us are more aware of it than others.’

This is from Lauren Elkin’s book-length essay, Flaneuse: Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice and London.

Given the current prominence of replacement theory and its proponents among the extreme right in Western countries, especially America, I do wonder about the role of belonging, or this false sense of belonging, in this twisted ideology.

The New York Times recently published their study of 1,150 episodes of Tucker Carlson Tonight. Among the many disturbing findings was Carlson’s version of replacement theory, where ‘they‘ want to replace ‘you’ with ‘third world immigrants,’ who are more ‘obedient voters.’ The ‘they’ is the powerful ‘ruling class’ of left-wing so-called liberals, and the ‘you’ is supposed to be his audience, who are perhaps best defined when Carlson points out ‘They call you a racist.’ The reference to ‘immigrant’ suggests that they do not belong in America. Belonging also slinks into Carlson’s diatribes with comments such as ‘They care more about foreigners than their own people.’ Carlson’s idealised American belongs to a grouping of people. Which group of people is never specified. If Carlson tried to specify and delineate this group, he would run into the problem that Elkin writes about.

All of this reminds me that race is a sociocultural concept. But this idea is nothing new, I remember reading an article by Ta-Nehisi Coates in The Atlantic Monthly some nine years ago – which shows the powerful impression it left on me, as opposed to any superb memory on my part. The article was entitled ‘What We Mean When We Say “Race Is a Social Construct.”’ After quoting the historian Nell Irvin Painter who said, ‘Race is an idea, not a fact,’ Coates concludes ‘Indeed. Race does not need biology. Race only requires some… guys with big guns looking for a reason.’ Nine years on, this could still help explain the latest hate-related mass shooting in America in a literal sense and figuratively the likes of Tucker Carlson.

The moral of all of this brings me back to where I started, with a quote from Lauren Elkin: ‘Beware roots. Beware purity. Beware fixity. Beware the creeping feeling that you belong. Embrace flow, impurity, fusion.’  

Dark Tourism

Disasters fascinate. The Titanic still garners interest after 100-plus years. Though I suspect some of that has to do with the lost ship and its treasures. The other side of Titanic fetish comes from the high number of casualties, that mass grave in the North Atlantic, arguably an example of what’s been called ‘dark tourism.’

My disaster fascination is with Pompeii, where some 2,000 people died when Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD. I first caught Pompeii fever as a child when an exhibit about Pompeii toured America and came to the Art Institute of Chicago. I was mesmerized by the plaster casts made from the ashen moulds of bodies frozen in time at the moment of horrific death. My recollection of this includes seeing people screaming. But that’s an unfaithful childhood memory. The reality wasn’t so detailed or morbidly vivid. Most of the figures are covering their heads, crouched or lying down. My adult self looks at these casts and imagines people being in a state of meditative acceptance of their mortality I visited the remains of Pompeii on two occasions, once in the 80s and sometime around 2005-06. The disaster is still fascinating, but more so for what it has left behind – the artifacts and structures that reveal how the inhabitants of the ancient town lived.

More recently, I had the pleasure of hearing the historian and classicist Mary Beard talk about her book and television series on Pompeii. Beard has changed my way of thinking about these people, for instance, pointing out that it would be wrong to call them Romans. The graffiti and inscribed objects indicate a diverse population, with speakers of Latin, Oscan, Greek and Hebrew.

Mary Beard among the human remains of Pompeii

This point is also picked up in Robert Harris’s brilliant novel Pompeii, a true page-turner set in the days before and during the eruption, with well-drawn characters and an attention to detail praised by historians. Harris digs into the minds of the people of that time who regarded such disasters as vengeance from the gods and the warnings that they had that went unceded. His protagonist, the region’s aquarius responsible for the aqueducts feeding into the towns, makes this observation: ‘Perhaps Mother Nature is punishing us, he thought, for our greed and selfishness. We torture her at all hours by iron and wood, fire and stone. We dig her up and dump her in the sea. We sink mineshafts into her and drag out her entrails – and all for a jewel to wear on a pretty finger. Who can blame her if she occasionally quivers with anger?’ This underlying environmental message also makes this worth a read.

There’s another type of dark tourism that I’ve been thinking about lately. The phrase is also used for visiting places like the concentration camp at Auschwitz, the Rwandan genocide towns (Kigali, Nyamata and Ntarma) and the Atomic Bomb Dome in Hiroshima, where apparently the rubble and twisted metal from the immediate aftermath of the bomb remain in situ. I’d argue that these sites, though they might hold a morbid fascination for some, are more about education, pointing the finger at human destruction and the mistakes of those who turned a blind eye. Watching, reading and hearing the news day in and day out, I wonder if Bucha and Mariupol will become sites for dark tourism.

Blue and Yellow

There’s an awful lot of blue and yellow out there these days. According to a few online ‘-edias’ and ‘-ictionaries’, the blue and yellow of the Ukrainian flag represent the sky and fields of wheat. This combination of colours comes from the flag of the Kingdom of Galicia–Volhynia, used in the 12th century for the lands that include modern-day Ukraine.

Even the Covid-19 pandemic has failed to unite people the way Putin’s attack on Ukraine has. The pandemic was beleaguered from the start with different theories on how it spreads and what strategies governments should take to protect people. And let’s not forget the covid-deniers and anti-vaxers. The war in Ukraine is more straightforward. Though the solutions and ways of taming Putin are complex, we have all witnessed this unprovoked attack on a liberal democracy and recognise propaganda when we hear it.

I suspect that we’re sporting the blue and yellow, not only because we’re humanitarians, but because we feel vulnerable. I sure do. The possibility of another world war, one that would be, unlike its predecessors, fuelled in part by cyber-attacks and nuclear arsenals leaves me edging towards panic, that sensation of falling from high without a net.

Everyone has their own means of dealing with this feeling of vulnerability. I find myself meditating longer and more often, trying to live in the moment as vulnerability entails some projection into the future. I’ve also tried to do something for the people of Ukraine in a couple of small ways – a donation to the Red Cross and participating in a march through the streets of Cambridge, UK. (I’m aware that by mentioning this I risk being accused of virtue signalling.)

March in Cambridge, 5 March 2022

Above all else, I’ve sought solace in the Ukrainian writings and artistic works that have been surfacing en masse in mainstream and social media. Before this war, I was only familiar with a handful of Ukrainian writers, including Natalka Bilotserkivets. I found one of her poems again and reread it, forced by the present to interpret it differently:

ROSE

It’s time to pack your bag and go.
You don’t know what to take – something easy
to carry; everything you’d possibly need,
instantly found.

Two or three brushes, soap and a towel.
Clean underwear, just in case your lover
meets you – or God. Either way,
you should have clean underwear.

In a secluded place, among weeds
of a dense, heavenly forest, I’ll meet a rose.
Like Blake’s symbol of delicate mysticism –
the rose who loves the worm.

Having allowed him into her alluring womb,
she trembles, hidden, to avoid me,
and all poetry – a shame, a bore,
oh, poor flower, lovely, dear . . .

© Translation: 2002, Dzvinia Orlowsky
First published on Poetry International, 2006

Now I imagine a yellow rose against a blue sky and people packing hurriedly as if leaving their lovers, but with the hope of meeting them again.

‘Support’ by Olga Shtonda

Putin’s Words

“‘When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”’ I’ve been thinking about this well-worn quote from Lewis Carroll in recent days as I listen to the verbal gymnastics performed by Vladimir Putin.

Much of what Putin is saying about Ukraine can be found in the bully’s handbook as well as the propagandist’s handbook: Create a false narrative that makes you look like a victim and that leaves you with no other choice but to attack. Putin has claimed that Ukraine is committing ‘genocide’ against the Russian diaspora in the separatists’ regions of the country, and that his military actions will ‘liberate’ the people. This might at first sound like reckless hyperbole, but I think Putin has chosen his words carefully. ‘Genocide’ induces a heady mix of anger and fear, while ‘liberation’ is what most of us desire in some form or another. He’s manipulating the most basic of human instincts. The falsity of Putin’s claims doesn’t matter. He knows if something is said enough, there are people out there who will believe it. Trump’s ludicrous claims of a rigged presidential election are a case in point.

I’ve also been struck by Putin’s characterisation of the Ukrainian government as a ‘gang of drug addicts and neo-Nazis.’ Apparently for Putin drug addicts are not only a blight on society, but they should be feared. I see drug addicts as substance abusers in the same way I would regard alcoholics, people struggling with psychological and/or societal ills. The real danger is the drug lord and those who aid and abet the distribution network.

As for neo-Nazis, or just plain Nazis, this word has the currency of being both powerful and meaningless at the same time. The Nazis of the Weimar Republic were anti-Semitic, racists, homophobic thugs responsible for one of the worst acts of genocide of recent centuries. Since I’m not hearing or reading about anything like this taking place in Ukraine, and certainly not under the auspices of the Ukrainian government, I have to assume that Putin (if he were being truthful) must be using the word Nazi in its other sense. I remember as a child thinking my older sister was a Nazi because of the way she ordered me around when it came to making my bed and washing the dishes. Perhaps Putin is using Nazis to mean something else, something between the literal/historical meaning and the anodyne sense for a bossy person. If Putin is calling the Ukrainian government authoritarian or dictatorial, again he’s missing the mark as by all other accounts, Ukraine is a liberal democracy.

I started with Humpty Dumpty, so I’ll end with a metonymic meaning of a humpty-dumpty. Today a humpty-dumpty is a person or thing that once destroyed cannot be restored. In this battle for Ukraine, I’m seeing humpty-dumpties on both sides. While I relish the idea that this will ultimately be Putin’s downfall, I also fear for the Ukrainian people who won’t be able to put their lives back together again.

A Saturday in London

This is not a travelogue, nor is it packed with recommendations for places to eat in the Big Smoke – apparently the most popular nickname for London, according to Google. Yesterday marked my first daytrip to London in well over two years. That’s not to say I haven’t seen London at all during the pandemic, but those were trips getting to or from airports, with fleeting glimpses of the skyline from an overground train. Ely to Nice is inevitably via London. But Nice, the fourth largest city in France, has nothing on London when it comes to crowds and narrow spaces, where I have been imagining spiky Covid cells floating from one Londoner to the next. My day in our country’s crowded capital was my act of defiance, my coming to terms with the idea that I must learn to live with ‘it.’

Like so many of my past trips to London, this one was spawned by political activism.  Make Votes Matter had organised a rally in Parliament Square to protest against voter suppression and in support of proportional representation. Voter suppression is the hidden agenda of this government’s proposed Elections Bill, currently getting readings back and forth in the two houses of Parliament. As for proportional representation, the current system for voting in the UK gives victories to candidates with the most votes and the party with the most seats, even if these results are far less than 50%. Stay with me. This means that in a country with more than two viable political parties, the majority of the votes could be against the Conservatives, for example, but the Conservatives still win because the opposition votes are divided among say four other parties. If you’ve been following British politics, you’ll have recognised that my example is in fact the reality. The last time Parliament was won by a majority was in 1935 (Statista) and the unpopular Conservatives were in power for most of the 20th century and since 2010.

While these are causes worth rallying around, more important for me was being outside in the gathering of some 500 people. We didn’t need to wear masks or keep two meters apart. We talked to people we knew and to a couple of strangers and we joined the group chant of ‘No way,’ responding to a speaker’s rallying cry. We were in a dome where Covid seemed a distant memory.

Yet, the true highlight of my London day was a visit to the Tate. I’ve been to some museums in Nice during the pandemic but felt safe doing so with pass sanitaires being scanned for entry.  At the Tate, some Covid protocols were in place. We had to book our free tickets in advance as numbers entering were limited, and we had to wear masks – all sensible measures. The health protocols kept me aware of the times we live in, but the works of art – J.M.W. Turners, Henry Moore, the Pre-Raphaelites – transported to that other space where only art and creativity can take me. A true and real space, to loosely paraphrase Aristotle.

The rally and the museum were the pleasurable parts of the day, as was a long stroll in the winter sun from Parliament Square to Blackfriars Station to catch the Thameslink train back to St Pancreas. The not so pleasurable experience came when riding an underground train, the aptly named Tube – in these small carriages, designed in the days of Victoria, I felt like a rat in an underground pipe, encrusted with dirt, potentially with disease.

On a more positive note about the Tube, I’m reminded of a much-quoted passage from Peter Ackroyd’s London Under which encapsulates how I felt at the end of the day:

‘The passenger travels within the origin of the city. It is a curious fact that the further the train moves from the centre of the city, the more anonymous it becomes. The journey becomes less intense. It becomes less intimate. It loses its mystery.’

London in these Covid days of partial restrictions has become less mysterious and less intimidating as I have grown more used to living with the pandemic.

Meritocracy: the self and the social

While I’ve read some fine books in 2021, my favourite this year has to be Michael Sandel’s The Tyranny of Merit. Central to this book is the idea that thinking we live in a meritocracy – an idea much-used by politicians – has created a false sense of deserving and has alienated the unsuccessful. Sandel points out that many who have not received the rewards of their hard work, in particular those who have been most effected by the economic crises of recent decades, blame their governments and/or immigrants, giving rise to populists’ movements in democracies such as the UK and America. Reading this book made me re-examine my own thinking on meritocracy and how it has changed over the years.

When I was a child, I believed that if I tried really hard at something I would reach my goals. Watching Jimmy Stewart films and being told by teachers and parents that anything was possible if you worked for it, I was a product of my culture. Yet, I knew even then that there were limits. I was never going to be Miss America (because I didn’t have the looks), nor was I going to be a professional baseball player (because I was a girl). By the time I was a teenager in the 70s, the women’s lib movement made me all too aware that adult life was not played on a level field and that if I succeeded at anything, I would be paid less than my male counterparts.  

While the bubble was deflating, there was still enough air in it for me to believe that hard work and ambition would have their rewards. Living in predominately white, working and lower-middle class America, believing in meritocracy was a default position. On top of that, I was caught up in the wave of aspirational coaching and new age spirituality espousing the notion that positive thinking yielded positive results. My reading list in those days featured self-help gurus Wayne Dyer and Louise Hay. It was all about self-improvement – it was all about me, me, me…

Although I found such thoughts empowering, there was a flipside to all of this: that failure was something I projected on to the situation. I would never blame a government or social structures – that seemed a sign of weakness, blaming others as a child would. By my mid-twenties, I easily blamed myself for the jobs I didn’t get, the publications not realized and for times of being negatively targeted by family members or colleagues. Likewise, when I did achieve and accomplish something I owed it to myself (and sometimes luck). I was being rewarded for my labours and for jumping over obstacles. It was still all about me, me, me…

Over the years, the more I talked to friends, the more books I read in politics and sociolinguistics, the more films and stage plays I saw, the more my thinking included how the power of social structures, the media, advertising and popular culture, along with money of course, dictates who achieves and who does not. Sandel’s book deconstructs our so-called meritocracy in a similar way. I was particularly pleased to see how he uses corpus linguistics to illustrate points on language used by politicians and advertisers to sell the idea that we live in or could live in a meritocracy if we vote a certain way or do certain things.

But Sandel has done more than just validate my own thinking. He has made me aware of the judgements I have made in recent years about the less educated, noting how they tended to vote more for Brexit and Trump. Sandel points out that a university degree is on the one hand not always given to the smartest or most deserving and is on the other hand an entrée to the jobs our society places more value on. He also looks at education in the climate change debate, again making me think differently. Politicians on America’s far right who are climate change deniers are just as educated as those who believe that climate change is real and human made. Both sides of the argument have used their schooling and analytical skills to justify beliefs they already had.

As 2021 winds down, my thanks to Michael Sandel.

Michael Sandel