Week 16 — knives in your heart

I have just (barely) started reading uni stuff but I’m going to save it for next week and bundle them together. Get ready for some new content on the philosophy of animal sciences. Gonna be wild.

I forgot to say in my last newsletter because I was a bit scrambled (sorry about all the typos) but I set a new reading challenge for 2020. 52 isn’t a challenge anymore. Will I one day build up to 100? When I’m 80-something and retired, perhaps yes. If you have goodreads, add me.

Btw, if a book is in my goodreads bookshelf “my books”, I’m happy to lend/book swap etc. Not an exhaustive list of my books because I add them as I read them, but poke around and lmk. Both this week’s books are mine.


The Uninhabitable Earth: A Story of the Future
by David Wallace-Wells

The first section of the book Elements of Chaos outlines a bunch of outcomes as a result of climate change, floods, fires, war, etc etc etc. It makes for pretty depressing reading, which the author acknowledges

If you have made it this far, you are a brave reader. Any one of these twelve chapters contains, by rights, enough horror to induce a panic attack in even the most optimistic of those considering it. But you are not merely considering it; you are about to embark on living it. In many cases, in many places, we already are.

The section after that is a little less coherent, touches on what could be done and what is sorta kinda being done now. The whole time I was reading it, I had this post-it stuck to my bookmark. Too real.

Fortunately for my mental health, this week I also went to my first Friends of the Earth meeting and I’m now involved in helping prepare for an event called “Speak Up for the Climate”. If you are south of the river, get tickets. I will buy you a drink if you come.

Emoji summary: 🌍 🔥 🥵

Radical Technologies: The Design of Everyday Life
by Adam Greenfield

This book is good. Each chapter stands on its own, so you can dip in and just read about whatever technology you are interested in. I read it the normative book way. Found the first two chapters a bit boring. After that though, phew.

It’s well researched with fair, measured analyses and critical perspectives. His chapters on crypotocurrency and the blockchain are some of the best explained and examined I’ve come across, and I’ve read most of the original Satoshi Nakamoto paper. He doesn’t just discount things off the bat but really digs into how and why they might be useful or harmful, and in what contexts. And he seems to have good politics.

I usually find tech/design books quite boring. I basically live for the humanities. This one though, I have to stan.

Emoji summary: 📱 🔗 🤖

Bad Infinity
by James Duesterberg

Quite long article about liberalism that is hard to summarise and organise my thoughts on. Here are some quotes that stood out for me, perhaps they will make you clickity click the link. Perhaps not.

On desire. Desire, philosophically, has been swirling around in my brain for a while now. It keeps cropping up in places that just make sense to me. I need some to do some research in this space. It feels like an itch that I need to scratch. Down the rabbit hole of desire. Lol what a sentence, I’m sorry I’m sorry.

Why do we continue to create an economic system that we know is bad for us? We might ask the same of liberalism. How do we explain, not to mention justify, the persistence of an ideology that so few seem willing to defend? The critiques of liberalism that have emerged in recent years, so effective at exposing the empty procedures and hypocrisies of an apparently reasonable ideology, raise this question but have trouble answering it. Holloway’s essay suggests another approach, one that directs our attention away from the rational justifications for or against liberalism, and instead toward the desires that liberalism both enables and reflects.

But liberalism is not a technology, and politics is not a science: it makes not things, but a way of life. We live it. The persistence of our political system is not simply something that is happening, but something we are doing.

It also talks about Kafka’s story in the Trial. I went back and re-read the passage “Before The Law”. Its like knives in your heart. I last read Kafka in 2015, I forgot how moving it is.

Why does the man continue to wait? This “bleak” persistence without hope is, Anderson argues, no cipher for the law’s eventual transcendence. The man wants “access” to the law because he wants to be free: to be part of politics, at once shaping his world and being shaped by it. This promise of politics keeps him waiting his whole life; shut out of the law, his life is dedicated to it. The story, Anderson suggests, is about how people remain committed to liberal principles because they go unrealized.

Emoji summary: 💁‍♂ 💔 ⚖

The Atmosphere of the Clyde
by Jean McNicol

Another long one, but a very engaging and interesting article about Glasgow/Scotland around the first war. Full of brilliant stories, but I’ll leave you with this one as a taster.

In the spring of 1915 a rent strike was organised in Govan by Mary Barbour of the Glasgow Women’s Housing Association … Soon at least 25,000 households were taking part. Threatened evictions were thwarted by Mrs Barbour’s Army: a woman would sit on the stairs outside a flat and ring a bell if an eviction was attempted. ‘The women came from all parts of the building,’ according to the suffragette Helen Crawfurd, one of the strike leaders. ‘Some with flour, if baking, wet clothes, if washing, and other missiles. Usually the bailiff made off for his life, chased by a mob of angry women.’

Emoji summary: 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 👷‍♀ 🔴

Also…

In these bleak times, imagine a world where you can thrive by Gary Younge. Short and sweet and hopeful and beautiful.

With racism, cynicism and intolerance on the rise, wages stagnant and faith that progressive change is possible declining even as resistance grows. Things look bleak. The propensity to despair is strong, but should not be indulged. Sing yourself up. Imagine a world in which you might thrive, for which there is no evidence. And then fight for it.

One Year in Washington by David Freedlander. Kind of interesting article about AOC and some of the inner workings of American politics. One can’t help but watch the primaries play out. Ya girl is a Bernie stan, likely a surprise to no one ever.

Presented without comment. To Win We Must Unite All of Labour’s Heartlands by Rebecca Long-Bailey. Also, purely informational, no partiality… if you are interested in voting in the Labour leadership election, deadline to sign up as a member is Jan 20th. Just saying.

Reading some things for my day job. Of course, there is much more I always forget to save them though and they are mostly informational. On Design Systems, tl;dr share mistakes and failures. And one about accessibility testing. I’ve nearly finished a massive WCAG audit at Citizens Advice. If I linked to all the articles this email would be a book, but here is what is hopefully my last one for a bit.