For a long time, a faction of U.S. liberals shouldered the burdens of a fully inclusive social compact. They rightly indicted welfare-state compromises that served some and not others, and that served even the most privileged beneficiaries—white working-class men—only to some extent. Recognizing that the New Deal was a raw one for the neglected poor as well as African Americans and women, some liberals in the early and mid-1960s gave sustained critique to the structural limitations of New Deal liberalism and the Cold War geopolitics that framed the enterprise.
After 1968, disaster set in. Faced with the sins of Vietnam, the Democrats flirted with ending Cold War militarism only to double down on it. The critique of the welfare state, not the demand for its extension, prevailed. A toxic brew of white identity politics, a rhetoric of “family values” and “personal responsibility,” and, above all, anti-statist economics wafted across party lines. Fifty years later, Donald Trump is in the White House, embattled but victorious.
The real scandal of bacon, however, is that it didn’t have to be anything like so damaging to our health. The part of the story we haven’t been told – including by the WHO – is that there were always other ways to manufacture these products that would make them significantly less carcinogenic. The fact that this is so little known is tribute to the power of the meat industry, which has for the past 40 years been engaged in a campaign of cover-ups and misdirection to rival the dirty tricks of Big Tobacco.
‘I know a lot of people are worried about computers replacing humans, but I really don’t see that happening,’ says Professor Wiggins. ‘Having cars doesn’t stop people having fun walking in the countryside. Because creativity is something humans get a kick out of doing it’s very unlikely humans will ever be replaced by computers. I also think it’s unlikely the kind of computers we have now will ever do art as well as a human. Maybe future kinds of computers will, but they’d also probably do it differently.’
I’m choosing to believe him. I like the idea of an AI co-author that makes writing more fun, or one that gives everybody the chance to tell their stories. And truthfully, it doesn’t matter whether I embrace the technology or not, because it’s coming one way or another.
I often write in my journal as though I am writing for an audience. Imaging those readers seems to affirm that the stories I tell in my journal actually matter, actually mean something. This imagining goes beyond the words I choose; I use my favorite fountain pen, paper that smells nice, an attractive notebook. I am trying to mimic images I’ve seen, both online and in real life, of calmness: beautiful desks and cups of steaming tea. Such images momentarily ease an anxiety I have about writing, or productivity, or living a meaningful life. Self-care is bound up with images of serenity that can prefigure it.
This seems part of the point of the bullet journal community too: that “stories” of self-care, whether represented by calligraphy, or lists of fitness goals, or pictures of coconut milk chia seed pudding with blueberries and bananas, become meaningful and effective when they’re sent out into the world and can function as a template. They make bullet journaling not merely a protocol but an aspiration that can be visualized, emulated. The images posit a group of peers who serve as role models and supporters.
Can any of us escape our own perspective? What are the risks, if we do not? What is art for, and how do we fit our lives around it? This is a debut asking a dizzying number of questions, many to thrilling effect. That it leaves the reader wondering is a mark of its success.