quarta-feira, 18 de outubro de 2017

To learn how to walk is to walk

In Democracy for Realists, for instance, the authors criticise what they call the ‘folk theory’ of democracy. This maintains that elected representatives should translate their constituents’ preferences into public policy. The problem, according to these political scientists, is that most voters lack the time, energy or ability to immerse themselves in the technicalities of public policy. Instead, people tend to vote based on group identification, or an impulse to align with one political faction rather than another.
In a memorable chapter of their book, Achen and Bartels show that politicians often suffer electoral defeat for events beyond their control. In the summer of 1916, for example, New Jersey’s beachgoers experienced a series of shark attacks. In that November’s election, the beach towns gave President Woodrow Wilson fewer votes than New Jersey’s non-beach towns. The voters, it seems, were punishing Wilson for the shark attacks. According to Achen and Bartels, voters’ ability ‘to make sensible judgments regarding credit and blame is highly circumscribed’. This is a polite way of saying that most voters are not smart enough to realise that presidents are not responsible for shark attacks. (...)
The remedy for our democracy deficit is to devolve as much power as possible to the local level. Many problems can be addressed only on the state, federal and international level, but the idea is that participating in local politics teaches citizens how to speak in public, negotiate with others, research policy issues, and learn about their community and the larger circles in which it is embedded. Like any other skill, the way to become a better citizen is to practise citizenship.
Nicholas Tampio, Treat people as citizens.

segunda-feira, 16 de outubro de 2017

Monday mood (9)

Sufjan Stevens, finalista do liceu em 1993, como nós longe de conceber a existência da maldade humana.

domingo, 15 de outubro de 2017

"Levanta os olhos para o céu e conta as estrelas."

(...) a esperança não é unívoca. Ela tem um claro eixo temporal, mas complementado por um eixo relacional forte. Ela é uma tensão, um desejo, um "esperar que", e ao mesmo tempo supõe uma relação de confiança com outro, à maneira de um pacto dialógico que nos faz dizer "espero em ti".
José Tolentino de Mendonça, Esperar contra toda a esperança.

terça-feira, 10 de outubro de 2017

O que fica - não diria melhor

What’s left, instead, is a movie about the very newest of Jim Crows, a movie about how a skin-job cop got radicalized and joined the revolution. It’s not a good movie, exactly; the visuals are spectacular—and worth the price of a ticket—but none of the gorgeous weird scenery nor slow camera pans over updated 80’s synth chords can cover over the fact that the plot is confused and confusing. As the movie loses interest in the story of two replicants living uneasily within the system, the less interesting it gets; Ryan Gosling’s K doesn’t have a clue how to live as anything but an LAPD cop and the script’s aimlessness reflects it, just as “Luv” is a really interesting character until she becomes a terminator instead. The last third of the movie makes no particular sense at all, however pretty it is to look at. 
That the replicant revolution is underbaked and uninteresting, presumed rather than written, and figured by bees rather than characters, well, this is part of what makes it not a good movie. The last third of it—the long minutes as you shift in your seat, check your phone, and wonder how this is all going to end—is not the time to be introducing new characters and new plotlines, but Blade Runner 2149 spends that time trying to write itself out of the corner its written itself into. The results are mixed, though the sets are pretty. But what’s interesting to me is how overdetermined it is, how in the scrapheap of genres that this movie inherits, the only story left to tell is about uprisings. There is no wild west, detectives are just cops, now, and like all the other science fiction these days, the future is just an endless horizon of scarcity, fear, and authoritarian corporate rule. With capitalism run aground—or turned back into feudalism—prisons and worm farms are the only thing we have left; when the most utopian of all desires is family and work, to have a child is the sort of miracle you have to see to even believe could be possible. Sequels are all there is, and bees.

terça-feira, 3 de outubro de 2017


He had wondered as had most people at one time or another precisely why an android bounced helplessly about when confronted by an empathy-measuring test. Empathy, evidently, existed only within the human community, whereas intelligence to some degree could be found thoughout every phylum and order inclunding the arachnida. For one thing, the empathetic faculty probably required an unimpaired group instinct; a solitary organism, such as a spider, would have no use for it; in fact it would tend to abort a spider's ability to survive. It would make him conscious of the desire to live on the part of his prey. Hence all predators, even highly developed mammals such as cats, would starve.
Philip K. Dick, Do androids dream of electric sheep?

segunda-feira, 2 de outubro de 2017

A taste for violence

On 10 February 1355, St Scholastica Day, two students at the University of Oxford got into a dispute with the landlord of the tavern at which they had been drinking. The quality of the wine, they felt, was not up to snuff. The landlord disagreed. In response, the students threw a quart pot of wine in his face and proceeded to beat him senseless. The mayor of Oxford asked the chancellor of the university to arrest the students, but 200 other ‘scholars’ turned out in their defence. Three days of rioting followed, with the townsfolk, from the mayor downwards, calling in local villagers to help defeat the students. Around 63 were killed, as were 30 locals. Many more were injured, and massive damage was done to university property. This really was town versus gown.

Oxford in the 14th century was a pretty dangerous place, even without this type of incident. A study of coroners’ rolls from the 1340s suggests a homicide rate of 120 per 100,000 of the population – compared with around 1 per 100,000 of the population today for England, Wales and Scotland, meaning you were 100 times more likely to be murdered in medieval Oxford than you are in modern Britain. And homicide in 14th-century Oxford, for both perpetrators and victims, was an overwhelmingly male affair, whereas now a third of all homicide victims are women. Some of the victims were simply unlucky: in a case of mistaken identity from 1319, Luke de Horton, probably a townsman, was cut down in the course of a student feud when he left his house to urinate in the street. More commonly, homicides arose from arguments between young adult men, whether townsfolk, students or members of Oxford’s transient population. The truism that, if you want to avoid violence, don’t go to bars where young men drink had already been established in 14th-century Oxford. But in most other respects, this medieval city presents us with a violence which was unlike, and running at a much higher level than, the current experience in Britain.