mfioretti: equal opportunities*

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  1. a typical white neighborhood would have twice more listings on the platform (four listings, at $120 per night, and 96 percent rating) compared with a non-white neighborhood (two listings, at $107 per night, and 94 percent rating). That is, not everybody has equal opportunities to participate as a host on Airbnb.

    A similar experimental study (i.e. fictitious Airbnb profiles) conducted in 2016-2017, showed that requests from guests with African-American names (vs. white names) were 19 percent less likely to be accepted. So despite Airbnb's efforts — community commitment, removing host pictures in the initial search — these studies document that racial discrimination has always been and is still a critical issue today. There's even a study specifically focused on Airbnb's change of layout last year, comparing daily bookings and price data before and after the implementation of the "anonymity" policy, but it only shows a negligible increase in bookings for black hosts, and only in New York City — not in Los Angeles, New Orleans, or Philadelphia.

    The issue applies to other sectors in the sharing economy. For instance, a study of Uber and Lyft ride-hailing companies indicated a similar pattern of discrimination: Drivers canceled the hailed rides twice more for passengers with African-American sounding names.
    https://www.shareable.net/blog/what-d...iscrimination-and-the-sharing-economy
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  2. It’s a grassroots revolution led by people who want to take charge of their own financial future, people who know that lotteries and casinos are hopeless but didn’t had nowhere to go because they were too “small” for mainstream investment opportunities.
    https://decentralize.today/cryptocurr...are-not-the-real-problem-ccf4bf8da637
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  3. Myanmar has been a technologically backwards authoritarian state for much of the past 50 years, with less than 1% of the country connected to the net, until 2015, when the country held its first elections in decades, a moment that was swiftly followed by a relaxation in telcoms controls and widespread access to the internet via mobile devices.

    50,000,000 people are now able to get Facebook, in other words. The net has delivered a complex basket of social changes, among them a revival of the country's ugly, murderous history of ethnic cleansing, fueled by blood libels about minority Muslims attacking the Buddhist majority. The new incitements to violence are travelling hand in hand with news about Trump and his promise to end Muslim migration into the USA. Trump's election is being used to normalize and justify ethnic cleansing movements in Myanmar ("We should do like America and do it here too. No more Muslims!").


    As was the case in earlier eras of the internet's history, these new users equate the net with the service they use the most (once it may have been "Netscape" and "the net"; then "the web" and "the net"; then "Google," etc) -- they use "Facebook" and "internet" interchangeably. This is due to increase, as Facebook has sold the carriers on its "Free Basics" system -- a net discrimination deal with the mobile carriers, who take bribes from Facebook to exempt the company (but not its rivals) from their data-caps.

    The racist extremists in Myanmar are using Facebook to forge alliances with xenophobic movements elsewhere in the world.

    Sheera Frenkel's piece on the rise of Facebook, the internet and xenophobia in Myanmar is a fascinating and detailed look at the complex and often unique circumstances of the country's high-speed entry into the networked world: from the division in the kinds of script used to represent written Burmese to the legal crackdown on parodists who attain notoriety by shooping politicians' heads onto Hollywood stars' bodies.

    Wirathu rose to prominence as part of a group of extremist monks once known as the Association for the Protection of Race and Religion, and then the “969” movement. Today, they are called Ma Ba Tha, after their Burmese acronym. Since the end of military rule, monks have assumed an increasingly public role in the largely Buddhist country. Wirathu, and the Ma Ba Tha movement, have denied any role in the Buddhist lynch mobs, which, in recent years, have killed more than 200, and displaced more than 150,000 of the country’s Muslims, who make up roughly 4% of the total population. Civil society groups allege that the state’s security forces have fomented recent outbreaks of violence against the Rohingya. But there is no denying that Ma Ba Tha’s bashing of Muslims as “cruel and savage” is often repeated by those who want to see all Muslims expelled from Myanmar — and they admit that their anti-Muslim stance has gained its largest following through Facebook.

    This week, following news that Trump’s administration was being staffed with hardliners, Wirathu released a statement hailing Trump’s White House as a victory in the fight against “Islamic terrorism.”


    “May US citizens be free from jihad. May the world be free of bloodshed,” Wirathu wrote in a public statement. It was one of many Trump received from figures across the world who appeared to feel emboldened by his win.
    https://www.buzzfeed.com/sheerafrenke...orld?utm_term=.ys2Z9p7PeZ#.sewdrNl1Od
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  4. no serious scholar of modern geopolitics disputes that we are now at war — a new kind of information-based war, but war, nevertheless — with Russia in particular, but in all honesty, with a multitude of nation states and stateless actors bent on destroying western democratic capitalism. They are using our most sophisticated and complex technology platforms to wage this war — and so far, we’re losing. Badly.

    Why? According to sources I’ve talked to both at the big tech companies and in government, each side feels the other is ignorant, arrogant, misguided, and incapable of understanding the other side’s point of view. There’s almost no data sharing, trust, or cooperation between them. We’re stuck in an old model of lobbying, soft power, and the occasional confrontational hearing.

    Not exactly the kind of public-private partnership we need to win a war, much less a peace.

    Am I arguing that the government should take over Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple so as to beat back Russian info-ops? No, of course not. But our current response to Russian aggression illustrates the lack of partnership and co-ordination between government and our most valuable private sector companies. And I am hoping to raise an alarm: When the private sector has markedly better information, processing power, and personnel than the public sector, one will only strengthen, while the latter will weaken. We’re seeing it play out in our current politics, and if you believe in the American idea, you should be extremely concerned.
    https://shift.newco.co/data-power-and-war-465933dcb372
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  5. we should be moving in the exact opposite direction. When you die, your wealth reverts to the public. It can be used to pay for roads and bridges and disaster relief and Social Security and Medicaid and education and childhood food programs and all of the other things that we as a society all need. Hell, if you really want to make it politically palatable, earmark estate tax revenues for only the most popular government programs. That’s fine. Make the subways work! Make the subways free! Free school lunches! Free state college! Free homeless shelters! Etcetera. Make the benefits of transferring private wealth to the public easy for everyone to see. We’re not monsters here. We’re trying to help the maximum number of people. From the perspective of the public good, there is no reasonable argument against this. It promotes equality of opportunity and helps to prevent the very sort of overaccumulation of power that undermines our democratic ideals. And just to cater to our nation’s collective fantasy that we each harbor of one day becoming rich, keep a little exemption. You can give a million bucks to your kids. That’s fine. No kid needs, or deserves, more than that anyhow.

    The Republican cries of dismay on this topic seem somewhat inconsistent. We tell poor people to work their way up with pure grit, but we tell rich people that their right to produce a century’s worth of wastrel heirs who never have to work a day in their lives is a sacrosanct matter of freedom. Hmmm. In reality, a 100% estate tax would be a great motivator for rich people to donate all of their wealth to charity before they die. At least then they would get to bask in the narcissism of it all. This would be infinitely preferable to our current system in which rich people donate all of their wealth to offshore tax shelters.

    You worked hard? You made good investments? You got real lucky, and you got real rich? Great. Enjoy it while you can, and then rest secure in the knowledge that when you’re gone, all of the proceeds of your luck or labor—justified and unjustified alike—will go towards the public good. That’s something for you to feel good about as you pass away, even if you were a real bastard most of the time.
    https://splinternews.com/the-estate-t...plinter_twitter&utm_medium=socialflow
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  6. "I can think of no better way to subjugate women than to convince us that assault is around every corner.”

    as this unexpected revolution unfolds, we should also keep in mind the dangers of creating new injustices in the service of correcting old ones.

    For that, it’s useful to look at how reforms played out on campus, where, unfortunately, many of the Obama administration’s good intentions went awry. Among the principles and polices that have become entrenched at schools—and are now spilling out into the wider world—are the beliefs that accusers are virtually always telling the truth; that the urgency to take action is more important than fair procedures; that we shouldn’t make distinctions between criminal acts and boorishness; and that predatory male behavior is ubiquitous. These beliefs have resulted in many campus cases in which the accused was treated with fundamental unfairness, spawning a legal subspecialty of suing schools on behalf of these young men. Examining what happened on campuses shows where the politics and social rules of interaction between the sexes might be headed—and how to avoid making the same mistakes on a larger scale.

    In 2011, the Department of Education sent a bombshell letter with the bland greeting, “Dear Colleague” to the country’s 4,600 institutions of higher education laying out new rules for how campuses were to root out and punish sexual assault.

    It was the beginning of a concerted effort that radically remade how students could interact sexually, with severe penalties for violating increasingly stringent codes of conduct. Title IX is the federal law that prohibits discrimination in education on the basis of sex. Under the Obama pronouncements, college Title IX offices became vast bureaucracies, and students were encouraged to report any perceived violation. The Dear Colleague letter forbade “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal, nonverbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature.” To stay on the right side of federal regulators, many school codes expanded to turn even unwanted flirtation or sexual jokes between students into actionable offenses. New rules known as “affirmative consent” were put in place on many campuses, requiring that partners engaging in any sexual contact get explicit permission, preferably verbal, for each touch, each time. (Affirmative consent on campus has become law in California, Connecticut and New York.)

    "As a much-needed reckoning happens in the workplace, look to college campuses for a note of caution"

    In the final five years of his presidency, Barack Obama’s administration undertook a worthy and bold challenge: the elimination of sexual assault on campuses. In fact, Obama’s team had a much more ambitious goal in mind. Vice President Joe Biden, the point person for the campus initiative, said at the end of his term that the administration was seeking “to fundamentally change the culture around sexual assault”—everywhere. New rules of sexual engagement between college students were written at the directive of the administration, but top Obama officials said they wanted these to be applied in the workplace and beyond. “You’re going to change the workplaces you work in,” Tina Tchen, director of the White House Council on Women and Girls, said at a 2016 event honoring campus sexual assault activists. “You’re going to raise your sons and daughters differently.”

    They expected this transformation to take years. But with the daily toppling of powerful men who have committed sexual violations in Hollywood, the media, Congress and more, these changes have become seismic. The silenced have been given voice, and their testimony has resulted in the swift professional demise of perpetrators. Shocking descriptions of the behavior of powerful men have shown that it’s not universally understood that it’s unacceptable to display one’s genitals at work or to sexually abuse colleagues.

    We now have an opportunity for profound reform, for women and men to join together to treat each other with dignity and respect. But as this unexpected revolution unfolds, we should also keep in mind the dangers of creating new injustices in the service of correcting old ones.

    For that, it’s useful to look at how reforms played out on campus, where, unfortunately, many of the Obama administration’s good intentions went awry. Among the principles and polices that have become entrenched at schools—and are now spilling out into the wider world—are the beliefs that accusers are virtually always telling the truth; that the urgency to take action is more important than fair procedures; that we shouldn’t make distinctions between criminal acts and boorishness; and that predatory male behavior is ubiquitous. These beliefs have resulted in many campus cases in which the accused was treated with fundamental unfairness, spawning a legal subspecialty of suing schools on behalf of these young men. Examining what happened on campuses shows where the politics and social rules of interaction between the sexes might be headed—and how to avoid making the same mistakes on a larger scale.

    ***

    Much of the Obama administration’s policy was at the initiative of Biden, for whom the issue of violence against women was career-defining. In 1994, as a senator, he oversaw the passage of the Violence Against Women Act, what he calls his “proudest legislative accomplishment.” When he became vice president, a new position was created under his aegis, White House adviser on violence against women, and he appointed Lynn Rosenthal, a national leader on domestic abuse, to fill it. The administration then decided to focus its efforts on what it said was an epidemic of sexual violence against female students by their male classmates. In 2011, the Department of Education sent a bombshell letter with the bland greeting, “Dear Colleague” to the country’s 4,600 institutions of higher education laying out new rules for how campuses were to root out and punish sexual assault.

    It was the beginning of a concerted effort that radically remade how students could interact sexually, with severe penalties for violating increasingly stringent codes of conduct. Title IX is the federal law that prohibits discrimination in education on the basis of sex. Under the Obama pronouncements, college Title IX offices became vast bureaucracies, and students were encouraged to report any perceived violation. The Dear Colleague letter forbade “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal, nonverbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature.” To stay on the right side of federal regulators, many school codes expanded to turn even unwanted flirtation or sexual jokes between students into actionable offenses. New rules known as “affirmative consent” were put in place on many campuses, requiring that partners engaging in any sexual contact get explicit permission, preferably verbal, for each touch, each time. (Affirmative consent on campus has become law in California, Connecticut and New York.)

    Rosenthal later explained why the administration put such focus on the sexual encounters of college students: “We felt it was a problem we could identify, evaluate, study and develop targeted interventions for,” she said at a seminar on sexual assault in January 2015, a few days after leaving the administration. “We also believed that what happens on our college campuses affects our nation. If we get this right on college campuses, we can influence an entire generation.”

    Now, it’s not just an entire generation—it’s the entire nation. No matter whether an accusation is made about violations on campus, in the workplace or on the streets, it is essential that the accounts be taken seriously and the accusers be treated respectfully. But in the debate over campus sexual assault, believing accusers, especially female ones, has become a virtual article of faith. Many Democratic politicians have expressed an opinion similar to the one recently tweeted by California Senator Kamala Harris, regarding college campuses: “Survivors of sexual assault deserve to be believed, not blamed.” As Harvard Law professor Jeannie Suk Gersen wrote in the New Yorker, wanting to examine the evidence before coming to a conclusion has come to mean being perceived on campus as being “biased in favor of perpetrators.”

    In this national “just believe” the accuser moment, it’s important to remember that part of the power of the recent accusations against movie producer Harvey Weinstein and so many others is that they are backed up by meticulous reporting that has provided contemporaneous corroboration and other evidence. Presented with these revelations, the accused themselves in many cases have provided confirmation by acknowledging at least some of their violations. A failed attempt by the right-wing group Project Veritas to persuade the Washington Post to publish the account of a fake accuser of U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore demonstrated the power of verifying before believing.

    The complications of “just believe” are illustrated by the saga of Al Franken, who, on Thursday announced his upcoming resignation as a Democratic U.S. senator from Minnesota. In the past few weeks, he has been accused by several women of unwanted attempted kissing, or touching them on the buttocks or breast while having photographs taken with them. Franken started by issuing a series of tortured apologies, which neither acknowledged that he did the touching, nor categorically denied it. In responding to Leeann Tweeden, a fellow performer who says Franken aggressively kissed her during a rehearsal for a United Service Organizations show more than a decade ago, he said, “While I don’t remember the rehearsal for the skit as Leeann does, I understand why we need to listen to and believe women’s experiences.” He added, “And the truth is, what people think of me in light of this is far less important than what people think of women who continue to come forward to tell their stories. They deserve to be heard, and believed.”

    This made it sound as if either Franken knew he had done inappropriate things and wouldn’t admit it, or he believed he hadn’t but couldn’t say so—proclaiming his innocence would mean casting aspersions on his accusers’ truthfulness. Franken sounded as if he had taken last year’s mandatory Title IX training for freshman at the University of Southern California, where the first piece of advice given to USC students accused of sexual assault is to acknowledge the likelihood that they are guilty, as documented in an article in the conservative outlet Campus Reform: “Admit to yourself that even if you don’t remember the event, or don’t believe yourself capable of hurting someone, that it’s possible that you may have crossed a boundary.”

    In the announcement of his resignation, Franken took a more defiant tone, backing off the admonition to believe his accusers’ version of events. He said he had “wanted to be respectful of that broader conversation, because all women deserve to be heard and their experiences taken seriously,” but that his statements “gave some people the false impression that I was admitting to doing things that in fact I haven’t done. Some of the allegations against me are simply not true. Others I remember very differently.” So we are left knowing Franken was forced out by his Democratic colleagues, but not knowing exactly what to believe about the charges against him.

    Ironically, Franken has been an ardent supporter of the Obama-era policies on campus sexual assault, policies that have required the creation of an industry to train, adjudicate and litigate Title IX matters. In August, four feminist Harvard Law professors—Gersen, Elizabeth Bartholet, Nancy Gertner and Janet Halley—released a paper, titled “Fairness for All,” writing that the procedures on campus today “are frequently so unfair as to be truly shocking.” For example, “some colleges and universities fail even to give students the complaint against them, or notice of the factual basis of the charges, the evidence gathered, or the identities of witnesses.”

    The Obama administration Dear Colleague letter also required that “interim measures” be taken against the accused, before any adjudication. These can be harshly punitive, resulting in students being removed from certain classes, their movements on campus limited; sometimes they are even banned from school. The case of veteran New York public radio host Leonard Lopate illustrates what such “interim measures” look like in the workplace. On Wednesday, just before he was about to go on the air, Lopate was told he was being suspended because an investigation of “many” sexual harassment complaints against him was underway. He told the New York Times that he was “shocked” and “baffled” and that WNYC “didn’t even give me a clue” about the nature of the allegations. He added, “I am sure any honest investigation will completely clear me.” Indeed, both Lopate and the public are entitled to hear the results of a fair investigation. But surely before being publicly shamed, Lopate was entitled to know what the accusations against him were.

    Statistics on the scale of the sexual assault problem on campuses nationally are controversial. And there are no good numbers about the breadth and nature of schools’ responses. But we do know that since the Dear Colleague letter was issued in 2011, more than 200 civil lawsuits have been filed by the accused, almost all males, against their universities, according to one advocacy group that tracks such suits. And these plaintiffs are getting an increasingly positive response from judges, who often express astonishment at the campus procedures that have been promulgated. In a scathing rebuke of today’s investigation and adjudication processes on campus, the National Center for Higher Education Risk Management, a leading Title IX consulting firm, released a white paper in April accusing many Title IX officers of “victim-favoring” and putting students’ “sexual decisions under a microscope.” The paper warned that unless campus processes were reformed, a backlash could “set back the entire consent movement.”

    Democratic politicians in particular have acted with disdain for the rights of accused male students, and with disregard for ending their education and professional prospects. At a 2015 congressional hearing on campus sexual assault, Representative Jared Polis of Colorado suggested that anyone accused of sexual misconduct should be dismissed without any fact-finding at all. “If there are 10 people who have been accused, and under a reasonable likelihood standard maybe one or two did it, it seems better to get rid of all 10 people,” he said. “We’re not talking about depriving them of life or liberty. We’re talking about them being transferred to another university, for crying out loud.” (Polis was heavily criticized and walked back his remarks.)

    Now, Franken and his colleagues seem to have absorbed at least some of that thinking. In his forced farewell, he noted that he was now forgoing his once-promised Senate Ethics Committee investigation: “I said at the outset that the ethics committee was the right venue for these allegations to be heard and investigated and evaluated on their merits. That I was prepared to cooperate fully and that I was confident in the outcome.” Senators had praised the idea of a proceeding that would provide, in the words of Senator Dick Durbin at the end of November, “due process. ” But last week, Durbin called for Franken’s resignation, along with 31 other Democratic senators. Now the public, and Franken’s soon-to-be former constituents, are left to draw their own conclusions.

    In the past few weeks, a number of accused men have disappeared Soviet-style from public life, with the work of some—Louis C.K. and Garrison Keillor, for example—withdrawn from distribution. There has been discussion about whether everyone accused deserves a professional death penalty, or whether there should be a scale of punishment. After all, the violations run the gamut from multiple allegations of rape to unwanted touching. But in a statement on Facebook calling for Franken’s resignation, New York Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand came out against making such distinctions. “While it’s true that his behavior is not the same as the criminal conduct alleged against Alabama Senate candidate » Roy Moore, or Harvey Weinstein, or President Trump, it is still unquestionably wrong,” she wrote. “We should not have to be explaining the gradations between sexual assault, harassment and unwelcome groping.”

    In a New York Times op-ed, actress Amber Tamblyn wrote that making distinctions will mean the cultural change that is happening will stall and bad behavior will win out. So, she wrote, “The punishment for harassment is you disappear. The punishment for rape is you disappear. The punishment for masturbation in front of us is you disappear. The punishment for coercion is you disappear.” (She conceded that some men may be allowed to come back professionally after a period of contrition.)

    This erasing of distinctions between the criminal and the loutish was a central feature of the campus initiatives of the Obama administration and led to many unjustified punishments. “Definitions of sexual wrongdoing on college campuses are now seriously overbroad,” the feminist Harvard Law professors wrote. “They are so broad as to put students engaged in behavior that is overwhelmingly common in the context of romantic relationships to be accused of sexual misconduct.”
    https://www.politico.com/magazine/sto...ual-harassment-college-franken-216057
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  7. what happened to cause such a profound shift in the human psyche away from egalitarianism? The balance of archaeological, anthropological and genomic data suggests the answer lies in the agricultural revolution, which began roughly 10,000 years ago.

    The extraordinary productivity of modern farming techniques belies just how precarious life was for most farmers from the earliest days of the Neolithic revolution right up until this century (in the case of subsistence farmers in the world’s poorer countries). Both hunter-gatherers and early farmers were susceptible to short-term food shortages and occasional famines – but it was the farming communities who were much more likely to suffer severe, recurrent and catastrophic famines.

    Hunting and gathering was a low-risk way of making a living. Ju/’hoansi hunter-gatherers in Namibia traditionally made use of 125 different edible plant species, each of which had a slightly different seasonal cycle, varied in its response to different weather conditions, and occupied a specific environmental niche. When the weather proved unsuitable for one set of species it was likely to benefit another, vastly reducing the risk of famine.

    As a result, hunter-gatherers considered their environments to be eternally provident, and only ever worked to meet their immediate needs. They never sought to create surpluses nor over-exploited any key resources. Confidence in the sustainability of their environments was unyielding.
    The Ju/’hoansi people have lived in southern Africa for hundreds of thousands of years.
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    The Ju/’hoansi people have lived in southern Africa for hundreds of thousands of years. Photograph: James Suzman

    In contrast, Neolithic farmers assumed full responsibility for “making” their environments provident. They depended on a handful of highly sensitive crops or livestock species, which meant any seasonal anomaly such as drought or livestock disease could cause chaos.
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    And indeed, the expansion of agriculture across the globe was punctuated by catastrophic societal collapses. Genomic research on the history of European populations points to a series of sharp declines that coincided first with the Neolithic expansion through central Europe around 7,500 years ago, then with their spread into north-western Europe about 6,000 years ago.

    However, when the stars were in alignment – weather favourable, pests subdued, soils still packed with nutrients – agriculture was very much more productive than hunting and gathering. This enabled farming populations to grow far more rapidly than hunter-gatherers, and sustain these growing populations over much less land.

    But successful Neolithic farmers were still tormented by fears of drought, blight, pests, frost and famine. In time, this profound shift in the way societies regarded scarcity also induced fears about raids, wars, strangers – and eventually, taxes and tyrants.
    Fruits and tubers gathered by the Ju/’hoansi.
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    The Ju/’hoansi traditionally made use of 125 different edible plant species. Photograph: James Suzman

    Not that early farmers considered themselves helpless. If they did things right, they could minimise the risks that fed their fears. This meant pleasing capricious gods in the conduct of their day-to-day lives – but above all, it placed a premium on working hard and creating surpluses.

    Where hunter-gatherers saw themselves simply as part of an inherently productive environment, farmers regarded their environment as something to manipulate, tame and control. But as any farmer will tell you, bending an environment to your will requires a lot of work. The productivity of a patch of land is directly proportional to the amount of energy you put into it.

    This principle that hard work is a virtue, and its corollary that individual wealth is a reflection of merit, is perhaps the most obvious of the agricultural revolution’s many social, economic and cultural legacies.
    From farming to war

    The acceptance of the link between hard work and prosperity played a profound role in reshaping human destiny. In particular, the ability to both generate and control the distribution of surpluses became a path to power and influence. This laid the foundations for all the key elements of our contemporary economies, and cemented our preoccupation with growth, productivity and trade.

    Regular surpluses enabled a much greater degree of role differentiation within farming societies, creating space for less immediately productive roles. Initially these would have been agriculture-related (toolmakers, builders and butchers), but over time new roles emerged: priests to pray for good rains; fighters to protect farmers from wild animals and rivals; politicians to transform economic power into social capital.
    https://www.theguardian.com/inequalit...lity-10000-years-ago?CMP=share_btn_tw
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  8. Politicians and policy wonks worry about the persistence of poverty across generations, but affluence is inherited more strongly. Most disturbing, we now know how firmly class positions are being transmitted across generations. Most of the children born into households in the top 20 percent will stay there or drop only as far as the next quintile. As Gary Solon, one of the leading scholars of social mobility, put it recently, “Rather than a poverty trap, there seems instead to be more stickiness at the other end: a ‘wealth trap,’ if you will.”

    There’s a kind of class double-think going on here. On the one hand, upper-middle-class Americans believe they are operating in a meritocracy (a belief that allows them to feel entitled to their winnings); on the other hand, they constantly engage in antimeritocratic behavior in order to give their own children a leg up. To the extent that there is any ethical deliberation, it usually results in a justification along the lines of “Well, maybe it’s wrong, but everyone’s doing it.”

    The United States is the only nation in the world, for example, where it is easier to get into college if one of your parents happened to go there. Oxford and Cambridge ditched legacy preferences in the middle of the last century. The existence of such an unfair hereditary practice in 21st-century America is startling in itself. But I have been more shocked by the way that even supposedly liberal members of the upper middle class seem to have no qualms about benefiting from it.

    The upper middle class is also doing lots right, not least when it comes to creating a stable family environment and being engaged parents. These are behaviors we want to spread, not stop. Nobody should feel bad for working hard to raise their kids well.

    Things turn ugly, however, when the upper middle class starts to rig markets in its own favor, to the detriment of others. Take housing, perhaps the most significant example. Exclusionary zoning practices allow the upper middle class to live in enclaves. Gated communities, in effect, even if the gates are not visible. Since schools typically draw from their surrounding area, the physical separation of upper-middle-class neighborhoods is replicated in the classroom. Good schools make the area more desirable, further inflating the value of our houses. The federal tax system gives us a handout, through the mortgage-interest deduction, to help us purchase these pricey homes. For the upper middle classes, regardless of their professed political preferences, zoning, wealth, tax deductions and educational opportunity reinforce one another in a virtuous cycle.
    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/10/op...y/stop-pretending-youre-not-rich.html
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  9. How do we engage in work as scholars in the service of northern canons, and, in so doing, can we really admit what took us there? Many of us, operating in homogeneous academic spaces (with some hints of liberal tendencies), conform when that question is bluntly asked.

    As someone who was herself observed and studied under the microscopes by ‘gringos’ in the 1980s, when pedagogues came to ask us what life was like in a war zone in El Salvador, Raquel’s questions especially resonate with me. Both of us have been dispossessed and situated in North American canons that serve particular research agendas. In this sense, we share similar experiences of being ‘read’ according to certain historical criteria.

    Raquel’s voice was impassioned. On that day, we had congregated in the Ruka of Riholi. Facing center and in a circle, we were paying attention to the silence of the elders. Raquel taught us a priceless lesson. After questioning the processes used to realize research projects in Nepal and Jordan, Raquel’s passionate demand introduced a final punch. She showed us that while we may have the outward face of political consciousness, we continued to use an academic discipline to study ‘exotic’ behaviors and, in so doing, were in fact undermining, denigrating and denying lessons of what constitutes cultural exchange from their perspective.

    From these interactions in the field emerge questions that go to the heart of the matter: How do we deal with issues of social compromise in the Humanities? In unlearning? In many cases, academic circles resemble circuses rather than centres of higher learning, wherein a culture of competition based on external pressures to do well motivates the relationship between teacher and student.

    One of the tragic consequences of a traditional system of higher education is working with colleagues who claim to have expertise on the topic of social activism, but who have never experienced any form of intervention. I am referring here to those academics who have made careers out of the pain of others by consuming knowledge obtained in marginalized communities. This same practice of “speaking about which you know little (or nothing)” is transmitted, whether acknowledged or not, to the students who we, as teachers and mentors, are preparing to undertake research studies about decolonizing.

    Linda Smith speaks about the disdain she has for the word “research,” seeing it as one of the dirtiest words in the English language. I couldn’t agree more with her. When we sit down each semester to write a guide to “unlearning’,” or rather a syllabus, we must reflect upon how we can include content that will help to transmit a pre-defined discipline in the Humanities with current social realities. How can we create a space where a student can freely speak his/her mind without fear of receiving a bad grade?

    Today, anything and everything is allowed if a postcolonial/decolonizing seal of approval accompanies it, even if it is devoid of any political urgency. These tendencies appear to be ornamental at best, and we must challenge the basis of those attempts. We can’t keep criticizing the neoliberal system while continuing to retain superficial visions of solidarity without striving for a more in-depth understanding. These are acts for which we pat ourselves on the back, but in the end just open up space for future consumers of prestige.

    The corridors of the hallways in the institution where I currently work embodies this faux-solidarity in posters about conferences, colloquiums, and trips in the Global South or about the Global South that cost an arm and a leg. As long as you have money to pay for your airfare, hotel, meals and transportation, you too could add two lines in the CV and speak about the new social movement and their radical strategies to dismantle the system. You too can participate in academic dialogues about poverty and labor rights as you pass by an undocumented cleaner who will make your bed while you go to the main conference room to talk about her struggles.
    http://racebaitr.com/2017/04/06/how-academia-uses-poverty-oppression/#
    Voting 0
  10. while of course it’s cheaper and healthier to eat every meal at home, what if you’ve just worked 12 hours scrubbing hotel bathrooms, and the nearest grocery store is a bus ride away? Or what if it’s little Bobby’s birthday, and a Happy Meal is the only treat you can afford?

    “What I had not understood until I found myself in true poverty is that it means living in a world of ‘no,’” writes Alex Andreou in the Guardian. “Ninety-percent of what you need is answered no. Ninety-nine percent of what your kids ask for is answered no. Cinema? No. Night out? No. New shoes? No. Birthday? No.

    “So if the only indulgence that is viable, that is within reach, that will not mean you have to walk to work, is a styrofoam container of cheesy chips, the answer is a thunderous ‘YES.’”

    Obviously none of this is cause to eat fast food every night or buy the fanciest cable package on the market — and conversations about these expenses are worth having, respectfully, with struggling families. But sometimes choices that seem foolish from the outside make a lot more sense from within.
    http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-poli...derstand-about-poverty-i-didnt-either
    Voting 0

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