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Monday, May 2, 2016

Democracies End When They Are Too Democratic., by Andrew Sullivan, New York Magazine

This rainbow-flag polity, Plato argues, is, for many people, the fairest of regimes. The freedom in that democracy has to be experienced to be believed — with shame and privilege in particular emerging over time as anathema. But it is inherently unstable. As the authority of elites fades, as Establishment values cede to popular ones, views and identities can become so magnificently diverse as to be mutually uncomprehending. And when all the barriers to equality, formal and informal, have been removed; when everyone is equal; when elites are despised and full license is established to do “whatever one wants,” you arrive at what might be called late-stage democracy. There is no kowtowing to authority here, let alone to political experience or expertise.

The very rich come under attack, as inequality becomes increasingly intolerable. Patriarchy is also dismantled: “We almost forgot to mention the extent of the law of equality and of freedom in the relations of women with men and men with women.” Family hierarchies are inverted: “A father habituates himself to be like his child and fear his sons, and a son habituates himself to be like his father and to have no shame before or fear of his parents.” In classrooms, “as the teacher ... is frightened of the pupils and fawns on them, so the students make light of their teachers.” Animals are regarded as equal to humans; the rich mingle freely with the poor in the streets and try to blend in. The foreigner is equal to the citizen.

And it is when a democracy has ripened as fully as this, Plato argues, that a would-be tyrant will often seize his moment.

From Tahrir To Tiananmen, 'City Squares' Can't Escape Their History, by Lynn Neary, NPR

From Mexico City's Zócalo to Rome's Piazza Navona, public squares have always been a vibrant part of urban life. After visiting Italy a few years back, editor Catie Marron began thinking about the different roles these public spaces have played. She asked some well-known writers to share their thoughts about famous squares around the world, and the resulting essays are gathered in a new book called City Squares.

There Is No Death, Only A Series Of Eternal ‘Nows’, by Bob Berman and Robert Lanza, Aeon

But our theory of the universe, called biocentrism, in which life and consciousness create the reality around them, has no space for death at all. To fully understand this, we need to go back to Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity, one of the pillars of modern physics. An important consequence of his work is that the past, present and future are not absolutes, demolishing the idea of time as inviolable.

Ten Years Without Jen, Twenty-six With, by Matt Zoller Seitz

Still, I backslide. This year I felt like I should do some special piece, something clever, something with real ambition—a monument to Jen and the art that inspired both of us, or something. The closer I got to the day the more I resisted getting started. A couple of weeks ago, I realized I was doing it again—trying to shape the narrative of my life, and give numbers and calendar pages power over me, instead of just living my life and letting the world speak to me and through me.

Again, as is so often the case, as soon as I let go, things started to happen, seemingly at random—and they all helped me process the loss and feel the weight of the passage of time. The signs were there, the symbols were there. They didn’t “mean” anything in any conventional Fiction 101 sense. They were just there, like shapes in clouds.