Over the past several decades, we have witnessed the essential collapse of Christianity in Western civilization; not a collapse in an official sense, but in the sense that Christianity no longer has social force or tenancy in people’s minds; as an idea it has become unfashionable and discredited, and as a religion it is, in the West, in terminal decline.
Those who, like me, believe in a secular, rationalist society founded upon Enlightenment values, have naturally welcomed this development, especially the retreat of the social orthodoxies, moral censoriousness, and denial of scientific realities such as evolution it instituted. For the secular rationalist the direction of Western civilization therefore looked briefly optimistic.
However, it is now clear, to me at least, that this optimism is entirely unfounded. Where Christianity has left a moral and religious vacuum in the wake of its collapse, we are now seeing the construction of a new social and moral orthodoxy to fill this void — in short, a new religion.
As religious faith has declined, ideological intensity has risen. Will the quest for secular redemption through politics doom the American idea?
The supposedly liberal ‘wokeness’ and cancel culture have little to do with awakening to what’s going on in the world and trying to change it – it’s just noise for the sake of noise, while the status-quo is carefully preserved.
The silly idea that a fictional character’s statements reflect an author’s actual beliefs is spreading.
The students did right.
Just over a year ago, the music streaming giant Spotify announced a new addition to its services: an innovation called Artist Fundraising Pick, which would allow people to send musicians the online equivalent of a tip. The move came just as controversy began to snowball about the often pitiful returns from streaming, something that reached a peak in April this year, when such big-name musicians as Paul McCartney, Kate Bush and Stevie Nicks signed a letter calling on the UK government to finally get to grips with the issue.
At around the same time, there was rising speculation about the Spotify co-founder and CEO Daniel Ek – whose net worth is put at £3.3bn – leading a consortium that wanted to buy Arsenal football club. In the context of that potentially vast deal, what Spotify had launched highlighted the tendency of big business to offer its detractors and complainants mere crumbs, but there it was: an acknowledgment that many musicians needed some extra financial help, coupled with an apparent attempt to shift the onus on to their fans.
In addition to being well-versed in the art of monetizing her personal brand, Fadeev is a reservist in the Israel Defense Forces, and much of her page is devoted to pro-Israeli military content. Earlier this month, she posted a video of Israeli soldiers playing soccer with Palestinian children; in another, she dances and preens at the camera while the caption, “when they tried to destroy your nation but you ended up having one of the most powerful armies” flashes on-screen. In the context of the most recent turmoil in Gaza, which has left 13 Israelis and over 240 Palestinians dead, many criticized Fadeev’s content for making light of the Israeli military’s actions and attempting to put a sexy face on the conflict.
Fadeev has a long history of using her platform to spread what is essentially nationalist propaganda. She’s a member of the Alpha Gun Angels, an Israeli gun-modeling and social media marketing agency featuring buxom former and current IDF soldiers brandishing heavy military artillery while wearing crop tops and camo pants. And Fadeev, who did not respond to Rolling Stone‘s requests for comment, is not the only hot IDF soldier who’s gone viral for blatant pro-Israeli military cheerleading: last week, Yael Deri, who describes herself in her bio as a member of the Ta’oz battalion in the IDF, garnered controversy when a TikTok of her lip-synching to Harley Quinn from Suicide Squad saying, “What was that? I should kill everyone and escape?” while brandishing her gun and preening adorably at the camera went viral. Such content is interspersed with videos of her filming at what appear to be military checkpoints.
It’s not clear what the IDF’s official stance on such content is: though the military ostensibly has guidelines restricting “unbecoming online content,” Deri herself has been featured on the official IDF TikTok page, and her page is still active. (The IDF did not respond to a request for comment.) But it’s fair to say that IDF soldier thirst traps are part and parcel with the official IDF’s general strategy to use social media to win hearts and minds across the globe.
If Instagram could speak its algorithms would say: ‘you are important, and you could — yes, you! — solve the crisis in the Middle East’. Of course, it might seem a little dangerous to jump into these debates head-first — you don’t want to accidentally side yourself with the wrong people. Well, not to worry, whispers the algorithm. You have a myriad of ready-made hot takes to select from at your leisure.
If you’ve maintained any kind of social media presence over the last few years, you’ve probably come across an ‘infographic’. These perfectly-sharable little images are jam-packed with dubiously sourced factoids addressing the hot-button issues of the current moment.
Often presented in soothing pastel colours, these infographics are extremely easy to make — and extremely popular. The demand for Instagram infographics is enormous, with major accounts sporting millennial-friendly handles like ‘shityoushouldcareabout’ (2.9m followers) and ‘intersectionalenvironmentalist’ (345,000 followers). Often accompanied with a ‘what you can do to help’ header, these posts implore the viewer to boost the message further by re-sharing.
A policy of allowing activism in the workplace is anti-fellowship. It suggests, at its core, that people don’t need to put aside their personal agendas to come together. It promotes people to stick to their beliefs rather than put them aside. It attracts those who have their own interest and want a platform for their own interests, rather than those who want to be fellows in a fellowship.
As the United States enters what is hopefully the final phase of the pandemic, the global outlook is darkening rapidly. Brazil has been suffering one of the world’s worst outbreaks all year, and over the past month much of the rest of South America, from Colombia to Argentina, has joined them. At the same time, India has become the hottest COVID hot spot on the planet, repeatedly breaking global single-country records for daily confirmed cases, which are widely understood to be understated by at least an order of magnitude from the true horrific picture. While America will shortly have more vaccine than it can deploy, the rest of the world is crying out in desperation for relief.
In response, there’s a burgeoning effort afoot to wrest control of the vaccines from Western and particularly American hands, and give them to other countries in more desperate need. A particular focus has landed on the patents owned by the pharmaceutical companies that developed the vaccines. Waive these, it is asserted, and the world will at least have a fighting chance at catching up to American vaccination levels; refuse to do so, and you’re not only putting profits before people, but sustaining the virus, giving it time to mutate further and undo all that we’ve achieved so far. The rejoinder from the pharmaceutical companies has been swift and forceful: Breaking their patents would deny them a proper return on their capital, and even threaten national security by giving Chinese and Russian competitors the opportunity to build on American ingenuity.
Last week, the American Humanist Association (AHA) stripped British author Richard Dawkins of his 1996 Humanist of the Year award after he made a comment on Twitter that offended some in the transgender community.
“Regrettably, Richard Dawkins has over the past several years accumulated a history of making statements that use the guise of scientific discourse to demean marginalized groups, an approach antithetical to humanist values,” said the AHA. “His latest statement implies that the identities of transgender individuals are fraudulent, while also simultaneously attacking Black identity as one that can be assumed when convenient.”
This is nonsense: Dawkins had raised a point that it is perfectly worthy of discussion, in accordance with the rationalist philosophy of the humanist movement. But it would also have been ridiculous for the organization to punish Dawkins even if the remark had been offensive, given that many of its past awardees have espoused controversial views, and even said insensitive things on Twitter.
New books by Jon Cruddas and Amelia Horgan exploring work share much common ground, but come to radically different conclusions – exposing a deep generational divide over the future of the workplace.
Is hygge still a thing? The Danish concept of comfortable conviviality and all things cozy is supposed to capture the essence of Danish culture and has been marketed as the secret for happy living. A few years back, there was a surge of hygge-related books, articles, and household products. Journalists from around the world were touring Denmark to document various aspects of this unique lifestyle. The enthusiasm around Denmark was stimulated by the nation’s reputation of being the happiest country in the world. However, last time I checked, the designer store across the street here in Ann Arbor, Michigan, had moved its selection of Hygge branded candles to the clearance corner.
If there has been a downturn in the hygge industry in recent years, it may be because Finland, my home country, has surpassed Denmark in the World Happiness Report four years running. Denmark occupies the third place, after Iceland, in the most recent edition, released in March, and its distance to Finland is growing. As reported by multiple media outlets, the Finnish spiritual equivalent to hygge is something far less convivial and much more difficult to pronounce: kalsarikännit, which translates as “pantsdrunk,” refers to the practice of binge drinking home alone in your underpants. If this is a secret to happy life, let’s keep it that way: a secret.
From work to income to health to social mobility, the year 2000 marked the beginning of what has become a distressing era for the United States
Job applications from men are disfavoured when they apply for work in female-dominated occupations. Reaching the interview stage was most difficult for men applying for jobs as cleaners. These are the results of a study by researchers from Linköping University and the University of California, Irvine, recently published in the scientific journal PLOS One.
In an astonishing disclosure about the two greatest dangers to the future of America’s economy, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell revealed on CBS’ “60 Minutes” last month the peril posed by “young males”: young males not looking for work; being addicted to drugs (think opioid crisis); and being unprepared for the transition to technology. Powell posits that this economic problem is also a national security problem. He implies that we ignore this crisis at our own peril. Yet his warning is ignored.
In my half-century of research on boys and men, I have discovered that there is, in fact, a boy crisis, that it is a global crisis, and that it is particularly egregious in America. The crisis is more than economic. It is multifaceted, with each facet magnifying the others.