"In a time of universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

What Monogamous Couples Can Learn From Polyamorous Relationships, According to Experts

In Uncategorized on September 12, 2018 at 3:02 pm


Oldspeak: Excellent recent piece in Time magazine. Looove the growing monostream acceptance of Polyamory! Whoo HOO!  #Polyglamorous  -Jevon

Written By Samantha Cooney @ Time:

Polyamory — having more than one consensual sexual or emotional relationship at once — has in recent years emerged on television, mainstream dating sites like OkCupid and even in research. And experts who have studied these kinds of consensual non-monogomous relationships, say they have unique strengths that anyone can learn from.

Consensual non-monogamy can include polyamory, swinging and other forms of open relationships, according to Terri Conley, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Michigan who has studied consensual non-monogamy. While there aren’t comprehensive statistics about how many people in America have polyamorous relationships, a 2016 study published in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy found that one in five people in the U.S. engage in some form of consensual non-monogamy throughout their lives.

But these relationships can still be shrouded in stigma. And people in polyamorous relationships often keep them a secret from friends and family.

“Often they’re scared of losing their jobs, not getting a job, losing family or friends who won’t respect them anymore or scared that their children will be taken away,” says Carrie Jenkins, a professor of philosophy at the University of British Columbia and the author of What Love Is: And What It Could Be.

But Jenkins, who participates in polyamorous relationships herself, cautions that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to relationships. “One impression that I don’t want to give is that I think polyamorous relationships are better for everyone,” she says. “We’re all very different from one another.”

Still, experts who study relationships say polyamorous relationships can provide useful lessons for monogamous couples. Here are a few areas where, researchers say, polyamorous couples are particularly successful:


Successful monogamous relationships require communication about desires, needs and problems, says Joanne Davila, a professor of clinical psychology at Stony Brook University who studies monogamous relationships. And this is one area where polyamorous couples excel.

A May 2017 study published in PLOS One noted that people in consensual non-monogamous relationships communicate to “negotiate agreements, schedules, and boundaries, and to work through the kinds of problems that emerge when negotiating polyamory, amongst the typical relational problems that can emerge in any relationship.” The study found that polyamorous individuals tend to communicate better with their primary partner than secondary partners — because “greater communication may be necessary for primary relationships to endure while other relationships are pursued.”

This is one area particularly relevant to monogamous couples, according to Benjamin Karney, a professor of social psychology at UCLA who researches monogamous relationships. “I don’t see studying non-monogamous couples as studying a totally separate country with no relevance to monogamy at all,” he says. “Consensually non-monogamous couples might have a lot to teach everybody about negotiating desire and competing interests.”

Defining the relationship

Polyamorous partners often define boundaries and form agreements about what each relationship should look like, and Conley says these agreements can be beneficial to monogamous relationships, where partners might assume they’re on the same page about what monogamy means.

When deciding to enter a relationship, “there might be a conversation beyond that about what that means: does it mean we’re monogamous? What does it mean to be monogamous?” Conley says. “For some people, even mere thoughts of attraction to someone else can be defined as cheating. For other people, anything but intercourse is OK.”

Polyamorous relationships can take many different forms. Sometimes, partners will know each other and form a family-like network sometimes called “kitchen table polyamory“, according to Kate Kincaid, a psychologist at Tucson Counseling Associates who works with polyamorous couples. Another style, known as “parallel polyamory,” means that all of the partners are aware of each other, but have little to no contact, Kincaid explains.

Kincaid says that she works with couples to figure out which model is best for them — though she often recommends kitchen table polyamory because it’s often more efficient for all parties to communicate directly. She says that one of the biggest challenges she encounters with polyamorous couples is time management.

“Everyone jokes that love is not a finite resource, but time is,” Kincaid says. “You can have multiple partners you want to see a lot — you have to negotiate time and space to do that.”

Practicing safe sex

A 2012 study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that individuals in polyamorous relationships were more likely to practice safe sex than those who cheat in monogamous relationships. The study showed that monogamous individuals often consider monogamy a safe sex practice in and of itself, so “sexually unfaithful individuals may reject safer sex strategies because of the presence of a stable relationship.”

Kincaid says that she works with clients to fill out a questionnaire about what sexual acts they’d be comfortable with them doing with other partners to make sure they’re on the same page. Amy Moors, an assistant professor of psychology at Chapman University who conducted the 2012 study with Conley, says consensually non-monogamous couples often make explicit agreements with partners to use condoms and get information about STI history with each new partner.

“They have to navigate the sexual health of a bunch of people,” Moors says. “Implicit in that is that there’s very clear conversations about sexual health that are happening in consensual non-monogamous relationships that may not be happening in monogamous relationships.”

But in monogamous relationships, couples often “stop using condoms as a covert message of intimacy: now, we’re really dating,” Moors says. But if a monogamous individual decides to cheat on their partner, there’s no guarantee he or she will practice safe sex.

Managing jealousy

You might think that having multiple romantic partners would elicit more jealousy than being in a monogamous relationship. But according to a a 2017 study published in Perspectives on Psychological Science, that’s not necessarily the case.

The study, which surveyed 1,507 people in monogamous relationships and 617 people in consensual non-monogamous relationships, found that people in consensual non-monogamous relationships, including those who engaged in polyamory and swinging, scored lower on jealousy and higher on trust than those in monogamous relationships.

“People in monogamous relationships were really off the charts high on jealousy. They were more likely to check their partners’ phones, go through their emails, their handbags,” Moors says. “But people in consensual non-monogamous relationships were really low on this.”

Davila, who also works as a couples therapist, says that she’s observed monogamous couples avoid addressing jealousy altogether, whereas consensual non-monogamous couples might be more vocal with their feelings. “In consensual non-monogamous relationships, jealousy is expected,” Davila says. “But they see what feelings arise and actively work to navigate them in a proactive way.”

Maintaining a sense of independence

Another area where polyamorous couples tend to excel, according to Kincaid, is allowing their partners to maintain a sense of independence outside of their relationship. Conley and Moors found in their 2017 study that monogamous couples are more likely to sacrifice their own needs for the sake of their relationship, while polyamorous couples put their own personal fulfillment first.

“The biggest thing that I appreciate about poly people is that they focus on knowing what their needs are and get their needs met in creative ways — relying more on friends or multiple partners instead of putting it all on one person,” Kincaid says. “Once [monogamists] get into a relationship, they tend to value their romantic partner above everyone else.”

She suggests that doing the former allows your relationships to be deeper and can enable you to get a lot more support from your loved ones.

Karney says that he could also see how having your needs met by others might strengthen consensual non-monogamous relationships.

“If we’re a married monogamous couple, we have to figure out what to do about our problems. We’re either going to avoid them, resolve them or break up,” Karney says. “But if I’m in a non-monogamous relationship and I have the same problem, I might not have to resolve it if I’m not getting all my needs met from you.”


Money For Nothing – Universal Basic Income, The Future Of Bullshit Work & Shit Jobs

In Uncategorized on September 12, 2018 at 2:43 pm


Oldspeak: The idea of being paid to do nothing is difficult to adjust to in a society that places a high value on work. Yet this idea has lately gained serious attention amid projections that the progress of globalization and technology will lead to a “jobless” future. The underlying worry goes something like this: If machines do the work for us, wage labor will disappear, so workers won’t have money to buy things. If people can’t or don’t buy things, no one will be able to sell things, either, which means less commerce, a withering private sector, and even fewer jobs. Our value system based on the sanctity of toil will be exposed as hollow; we won’t be able to speak about workers as a class at all, let alone discuss “the labor market” as we now know it. This will require not just economic adjustments but moral and political ones, too... How much activity on social media takes place during work hours? How many doctor’s appointments, errands, and online purchases occur between nine and five? In other words, how many of us could stand to work half as much as we currently do without any significant consequences? And yet we insist over and over that we are terribly, endlessly busy.” –Atossa Araxia Abrahamian

Imagine that. If we could do away with wage slavery and bullshit work. If we could realize that the perceived value and sanctity of needless toil is indeed hollow. If most of humanity had genuine choices about how they spent one third of their lives. If most of humanity wasn’t threatened with homelessness & poverty if they chose not to be a wage slave, being forced to subject themselves daily to a “profound form of psychological violence, a scourge that’s fueling resentment, anomie, depression, and apathy.”  If most of humanity wasn’t making & selling each other shit they don’t need. How much energy and resources could we conserve? How much less toxic waste could we produce? How much less anthropogenic emissions and heat could we generate? If we could  let go of this absurd cultural programming that is literally driving people to addiction, insanity, infirmity and premature death? What if we could be done with this conditioned obsession with the death cults of productivity and busyiness? I feel like we’d live in a much saner, cleaner, balanced, healthier and happier world. -Jevon

Raoul Vaneigem author of the 1967 situationist classic “The Revolution of Every Day Life” wrote some incisive and insightful words about work in the chapter titled “The Decline and Fall of Work”:

In an industrial society that conflates work and productivity, the need to produce has always stood opposed to the desire to create. What spark of humanity, which is to say possible creativity, can remain alive being dragged from sleep at 6 every morning, jolted about in commuter trains, deafened by the racket of machinery, bleached and steamed by speed-up and meaningless gestures and production quotas and tossed out at the end of the day into great railway station halls – temples of arrival and departure for the hell of weekdays and the nugatory paradise of the weekend, where the masses commune in brutish wearyness? From adolescence to retirement age, relentlessly, every twenty-four-hour-cycle helps lengthen all the cracks – like those in a broken window pane – that work inflicts in the shape of mechanical repetition, time-that-is-money, submission to bosses, boredom, exhaustion, and so on.  From that shattering of youthful vitality to the yawning chasm of old age, life splinters in every direction under the blows of forced labor.  Never has a civilization achieved such a degree of contempt for life; never, though, has a generation, overwhelmed by revulsion, experienced such a wild urge to live. Those threatened by slow-motion murder in labor’s mechanized slaughterhouses are suddenly debating, singing, dancing, drinking, making love, taking to the streets, picking up weapons, and inventing a new poetry.  Already the front against forced labor is forming; already it’s acts of refusal are shaping the consciousness of the future.  Every call for productivity under the conditions imposed by capitalist and Soviet economies alike is a call to slavery.

The latin the word labor means ‘suffering”. We do well to bear in mind these origins of the words ‘travail’ and ‘labor’. It must be said for the nobles that they never forgot either their dignity or the lack thereof that characterized their bondservants: the aristocratic contempt for work reflected the masters’ contempt for the subject classes; work was the expiation to which serfs were condemned  for all eternity by divine decree which, for impenetrable reasons, had willed their inferiority. Work had it’s place, among the sanctions of Providence, as the punishment for poverty, and because it determined future salvation such a punishment could paradoxically take on a joyful aspect. At bottom, though, work was less important than submission.

The bourgeoisie for its part does not dominate. It exploits. It does not subject people so much as wear them out. Why has nobody noticed that the principle of productivity was simply a replacement for the principle of feudal authority? Why has nobody wanted to understand this?

Work as organized at present transforms the face of continents not intentionally but as a spin off effect. Work to transform the world? What nonsense! The world is being transformed as a function of the existence of forced labor, not vice-versa which is why it is being transformed so badly. 

So, what is the function of forced labor? They myth of power exercised jointly by the master and God drew it’s coercive force from the unity of the feudal system. Destroying the unitary myth, the fragmented power of the bourgeoisie, flying the flag of crisis, ushered in the reign of ideologies, which can never, separately or in combination, achieve a fraction of the effectiveness of myth. The dictatorship of productive work stepped into the breech. It’s mission is physically to weaken the majority of men, collectively to castrate and stupefy them in order to make them receptive to the least pregnant, least virile, most senile ideologies in the entire history of falsehood. 

Most of the proletariat at the beginning of the nineteenth century had been physically enervated, systematically broken by the torture of the workshop. Revolts came from artisans, from privileged or unemployed groups, not from workers shattered by fifteen hours of labour. Isn’t it disturbing that the reduction of working time came just when the spectacular ideological miscellany produced by consumer society was beginning effectively to replace the feudal myths destroyed by the young bourgeoisie? (People really have worked for a refrigerator, a car, a television set. Many still do, ’invited’ as they are to consume the passivity and empty time that the ’necessity’ of production ’offers’ them.)

Statistics published in 1938 indicated that the use of the most modern technology then available would reduce necessary working time to three hours a day. Not only are we a long way off with our seven hours, but after wearing out generations of workers by promising them the happiness which is sold today on the installment plan, the bourgeoisie (and its Soviet equivalent) pursue man’s destruction outside the workshop. Tomorrow they will deck out their five hours of necessary wear and tear with a time of ’creativity’ which will grow just as fast as they can fill it with the impossibility of creating anything (the famous ’leisure explosion’).

…..Has anyone bothered to study the modes of work of primitive peoples, the importance of play and creativity, the incredible yield obtained by methods which the application of modern technology would make a hundred times more efficient? Obviously not. Every appeal for productivity comes from above. But only creativity is spontaneously rich. It is not from ’productivity’ that a full life is to be expected, it is not ’productivity’ that will produce an enthusiastic collective response to economic needs. But what can we say when we know how the cult of work is honoured from Cuba to China, and how well the virtuous pages of Guizot would sound in a May Day speech?

To the extent that automation and cybernetics foreshadow the massive replacement of workers by mechanical slaves, forced labour is revealed as belonging purely to the barbaric practices needed to maintain order. Thus power manufactures the dose of fatigue necessary for the passive assimilation of its televised diktats. What carrot is worth working for, after this? The game is up; there is nothing to lose anymore, not even an illusion. The organization of work and the organization of leisure are the blades of the castrating shears whose job is to improve the race of fawning dogs. One day, will we see strikers, demanding automation and a ten-hour week, choosing, instead of picketing, to make love in the factories, the offices and the culture centres? Only the planners, the managers, the union bosses and the sociologists would be surprised and worried. Not without reason; after all, their skin is at stake.”

Ooof. Mic Drop.

Written By Atossa Araxia Abrahamian @ The New Republic:

Some years ago, I had a colleague who would frequently complain that he didn’t have enough to do. He’d mention how much free time he had to our team, ask for more tasks from our boss, and bring it up at after-work drinks. He was right, of course, about the situation: Although we were hardly idle, even the most productive among us couldn’t claim to be toiling for eight (or even five, sometimes three) full hours a day. My colleague, who’d come out of a difficult bout of unemployment, simply could not believe that this justified his salary. It took him a long time to start playing along: checking Twitter, posting on Facebook, reading the paper, and texting friends while fulfilling his professional obligations to the fullest of his abilities.

The idea of being paid to do nothing is difficult to adjust to in a society that places a high value on work. Yet this idea has lately gained serious attention amid projections that the progress of globalization and technology will lead to a “jobless” future. The underlying worry goes something like this: If machines do the work for us, wage labor will disappear, so workers won’t have money to buy things. If people can’t or don’t buy things, no one will be able to sell things, either, which means less commerce, a withering private sector, and even fewer jobs. Our value system based on the sanctity of toil will be exposed as hollow; we won’t be able to speak about workers as a class at all, let alone discuss “the labor market” as we now know it. This will require not just economic adjustments but moral and political ones, too.

One obvious solution would be to separate income from labor altogether, a possibility that two recent books tackle from radically different angles. Give People Money, by journalist Annie Lowrey, offers a measured, centrist endorsement of Universal Basic Income—the idea that governments should give everyone a certain amount of cash each month, no questions asked. The anthropologist David Graeber posits that the link between salaried positions and real work has long been tenuous in any case, since many highly paid jobs serve little purpose at all. In Bullshit Jobs, he tries to make sense of the peculiar yet all-too-common situations in which people are hired, after much fanfare, to do a job, then find themselves not doing much—or worse, performing a task so utterly pointless that they might as well not be doing it.

In the absence of a truly useful job, most people, Graeber considers, would be better off living on “free” money. Lowrey views UBI less as a way to eliminate useless work than a way to compensate invisible forms of labor, such as caring for a relative or doing housework, or to bolster underpaid workers. Cash transfers, she proposes, could also stimulate entrepreneurship and creativity. Either way, the idea of paying people just for being alive is now one that both a radical scholar and a reasonable Beltway journalist can take seriously—though neither author fully reckons with the social reordering that would arise from a world organized around love and leisure, not labor.

Graeber’s book expands on his viral 2013 essay “On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs,” in which he took aim at “employment that is so completely pointless, unnecessary, or pernicious that even the employee cannot justify its existence even though, as part of the conditions of employment, the employee feels obliged to pretend that this is not the case.” Eric, who worked as an “interface administrator” at a design firm, found himself in such a job. His responsibility was to make sure the company’s intranet system worked properly, which sounded useful enough. But, it turned out, he was set up to fail. None of the employees used the system because they were all convinced it was monitoring them. It had been designed with the worst, buggiest software. A confluence of office politics and poor management had led the company to hire Eric, who had no experience working with computers. He was to oversee a system that was never supposed to work in the first place.

BULLSHIT JOBS: A THEORY by David GraeberSimon & Schuster, 368 pp., $27.00

Eric ended up doing little. He kept irregular hours and explained to the odd employee how to upload a file or find an email address. He started drinking one, then two, beers at lunch; reading novels at his desk; learning French; and taking trips for nonexistent “business meetings.” If this sounds idyllic—a salary with no work and boozy lunches!—Eric didn’t experience it that way. Instead, he acutely felt “how profoundly upsetting it was to live in a state of utter purposelessness.” Graeber suggest two reasons for Eric’s despondency. One concerns social class: The first person in his family to go to college, Eric wasn’t expecting the white-collar world to be such, well, bullshit. Another reason is existential: When faced with it, “there was simply no way he could construe his job as serving any sort of purpose.”

By Graeber’s metric, my old gig wasn’t quite bullshit, mainly because I rather enjoyed it and found it meaningful. The term is subjective: If someone thinks a job is pointless, it probably is. There are also many repetitive, grueling, or boring jobs that do not qualify as bullshit because they meet an essential need: If a cleaner or bus driver doesn’t report for work, it hurts other people. (These Graeber terms “shit” jobs.) His method for identifying bullshit is, by his own account, unscientific. He draws from a pool of anecdotes to produce an anatomy of bullshit workers, who fall into five categories: “flunkies,” “goons,” “duct-tapers,” “box tickers,” and “taskmasters.”

“Flunkies” are the modern equivalent of feudal minions who make bosses feel big, important, and strong. Whereas they were once doormen and concierges, they now tend to be receptionists who do little besides answer cold calls and refill the candy bowl, or personal assistants who drop off their boss’s dry cleaning and smile when he walks through the door. “Goons” essentially bully people into buying things they don’t need: Marketing managers and PR specialists do this, as do telemarketers. “Duct-tapers” are employed to fix things that aren’t or shouldn’t be broken or do tasks that could easily be automated—data entry, copying and pasting, photocopying, and so on. “Box tickers” help companies comply with regulation (or offload responsibility for complying), and finally “taskmasters,” or middle managers, spread more BS by assigning it to others.

“The creation of a BS job,” one manager tells Graeber, “often involves creating a whole universe of BS narrative that documents the purpose and functions of the position as well as the qualifications required to successfully perform the job, while corresponding to the [prescribed] format and special bureaucratese.” She explains that her organization’s bureaucracy created odd incentives to retain employees whose work was inadequate. It was easier for her to hire someone in a new position than to fire and replace the incompetent employee. This, she notes, helped BS jobs proliferate.

Graeber attempts to quantify just how much—and after some back-of-the envelope calculations, he wagers that 37 to 40 percent of all office jobs are “bullshit.” He further contends that about 50 percent of the work done in a nonpointless workplace is also bullshit, since even useful jobs contain elements of nonsense: the pretending to be busy, the arbitrary hours, the not being able to leave before five. “Bullshitization” is even infecting the most nonbullshit professions, with teachers overloaded with administrative duties that didn’t use to exist and doctors forced to deal with paperwork and insurance firms that probably should be abolished.

There’s no sure way to verify Graeber’s estimates, but for white-collar workers, they seem basically right. Work backward: How much activity on social media takes place during work hours? How many doctor’s appointments, errands, and online purchases occur between nine and five? In other words, how many of us could stand to work half as much as we currently do without any significant consequences? And yet we insist over and over that we are terribly, endlessly busy.

This state of affairs seems to defy not just human reason, but also basic capitalist logic: Wouldn’t a profit-seeking organization tend to cull unnecessary compensated labor rather than encourage it? Graeber proposes that there is an explicitly irrational reason why such jobs exist—a system he calls “managerial feudalism,” wherein employers keep adding layers and layers of management so that everyone can feel their job is important or at least justified. (They’re “mentoring” young people. They’re helping others develop careers!) The bigger the staff, the more important the company and its leaders feel, regardless of purpose or productivity.

There might be something refreshing about the fact that capitalism has not yet gained full control over its means and ends, and that there are millions of people sitting around getting paid to do nothing all day. Graeber doesn’t buy it. On the contrary: He considers bullshit jobs to be a profound form of psychological violence, a scourge that’s fueling resentment, anomie, depression, and apathy. Patrick, an employee of a student union convenience store, mostly agrees with this judgment. He didn’t mind the work itself; what he resented was being assigned inane busywork, like rearranging things, after he’d finished his tasks six times over. “The very, very worst thing about the job was that it gave you so much time to think,” he tells Graeber in an email:

So I just thought so much about how bullshit my job was, how it could be done by a machine, how much I couldn’t wait for full communism, and just endlessly theorized the alternatives to a system where millions of human beings have to do that kind of work for their whole lives in order to survive.

Of course, some people can escape by focusing on creative pursuits during the hours they are idle. And it helps if everyone in said job acknowledges, if tacitly, that they serve no purpose by being there. But that’s hard, too, Graeber argues, because of the structure and nature of the modern workplace: the rules, the conventions, “the ritual of humiliation that allows the supervisor to show who’s boss in the most literal sense.”

The existence of bullshit jobs has, further, led to the devaluation of vital occupations. Workers in essential, nonbullshit jobs are constantly told by moralizing politicians that their work is noble and that they ought to be grateful for the often low pay they receive. Even though the middle managers and box tickers of the world can console themselves with the thought that they are “generating wealth” and “adding jobs” by virtue of their “economic output,” they secretly envy the real, human sense of purpose that useful workers—teachers, garbage collectors, care workers—share, Graeber writes, and end up vilifying them out of “moral envy.” This impulse plays out politically: Nurses, teachers, and bus drivers, for example, are constantly portrayed as “greedy” when they bargain for better union contracts, or they’re said to be “stealing” from the state when they make overtime wages. When voters in bullshit jobs hear these words over a campaign season, it can swing legislative bodies to the right.

Would it be better if those workers stuck in bullshit jobs could simply walk away? Graeber isn’t one for policy recommendations, but he does float UBI as a potential salve to our sad professional predicaments. A UBI would “unlatch work from livelihood entirely”: If, guaranteed enough money to live on, people could choose between bullshit or nothing, he wagers that they’d choose nothing and do something more useful and interesting with their time instead.

In Give People Money, Annie Lowrey is less concerned with dissatisfied professionals than with some of the world’s poorest (including those in the United States), who in addition to already being overworked and underpaid—if they are employed at all—will likely face the harshest economic consequences if or when menial tasks are automated. These workers are already up against weakened unions, corporations dead set on extracting maximum value from their workforces by scaling back benefits and slashing wages, the rising costs of education and health care, and other trends that wind up concentrating wealth at the very top. When the robots come, as Lowrey believes they will, there’s little that governments, companies, or other organizations can do to make them go away. The best shot for these people, she comes to believe, is unconditional money.


Lowrey makes a convincing moral argument for UBI, insisting that “every person is deserving of participation in the economy, freedom of choice, and a life without deprivation—and that our government can and should choose to provide these things.” She also points out to great effect the destructive moralizing that Americans, at least, attach to money. “We believe there is a moral difference between taking a home mortgage interest deduction and receiving a Section 8 voucher,” she writes, in a refreshing moment of indignation. “We judge, marginalize, and shame the poor for their poverty.” Gaining support for UBI would mean persuading people to reject those assumptions; convincing a majority to see, as Graeber and Lowrey both urge, that commanding a high salary doesn’t automatically make you a good person.

A further challenge for advocates of UBI today is the lack of definitive, long-term surveys “proving” the mechanism’s efficacy: There have been no truly universal cash transfers within one country for an extended period of time, and there are thus no narratives to follow or macroeconomic conclusions to draw. Thanks to increased interest in the phenomenon, though, there are more and more smaller-scale studies, and Lowrey visits one of them in Kenya with GiveDirectly, a charity that essentially hands out cash through mobile payments in poor places. There she meets a man named Fredrick Omondi Auma, who “had been in rough shape when GiveDirectly knocked on his door: impoverished, drinking, living in a mud hut with a thatched roof. His wife had left him,” she writes. “But with the manna-from-heaven money, he had patched up his life and, as an economist might put it, made the jump from labor to capital.”

More money, Lowrey reports, turns the villagers into good capitalists who invest their savings in education and supplies, start businesses, and help grow the local economy. Her observations recall the breathless and somewhat naïve boosterism that surrounded microcredit programs in the late 1990s and early 2000s. She even meets three sister-wives who plan to pool their funds and create a small bank to lend to women. In the United States, too, she finds clear-cut potential for success. In separate chapters, she illustrates the promise of cash transfers for the American poor with more clarity and purpose, visiting a family with disabled children and speaking to women whose jobs just don’t pay enough for them to get by. Simple cash could help teenagers finish school instead of working to support their families; it could adequately compensate women who stay home to care for sick loved ones; it could spare the elderly or disabled from the bureaucratic hell of waiting in line to plead for meager welfare benefits.

Ending poverty around the world ought to be a priority, and Lowrey makes a strong case that unconditional cash transfers can help do that. But in the wrong hands, a UBI can do more harm than good. It can serve as a pretext to further decimate social programs and put more blame still on the individual for any mishaps or shortcomings. As Lowrey notes, libertarians love the idea that UBI could replace the welfare state, shrinking big government—a move that could render the whole program ineffective, since it’s hard to imagine a UBI stretching to cover market-rate housing and exorbitant private health care. Meanwhile, cash payments can also reinforce social and racial divisions by throwing money at a problem without addressing its causes. Giving the individual residents of an over-policed neighborhood cash transfers won’t, for instance, make them any less susceptible to unreasonable searches or violence.

That’s why it matters who supports UBI and, more significantly, whose policies it gets attached to. Many of the people funding UBI research or advocating for cash transfers—Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes and Y Combinator’s Sam Altman, to name just two—are in fact among those who do best from the current distribution of wealth. A UBI would, after all, benefit corporations: For any company that depends on people having money to buy their products—whether groceries, prescription drugs, or driverless cars—the idea of a jobless, incomeless population presents a threat to its bottom line. Free money lets consumers stay consumers; it maintains the current system. And that’s without getting into the possibility that unemployment and poverty might add up to riots, class war, and mass unrest. In that situation, the CEOs would be the first to go.

Both Graeber and Lowrey struggle with the fact that—for all work’s miseries and for all the promise of UBI—work is deeply ingrained in American society. While many of us might hate our individual jobs, most of us love the idea of a job. Our world is constructed around the idea that a job is not just a paycheck: It’s a status symbol and a form of social inclusion. This, of course, supports the creation of bullshit jobs, which prop up the socioeconomic status quo. Now that a jobless (or less job-full) future may be within reach, the question is how to reimagine our relationship with work.

Lowrey appreciates the extent to which people identify with their work—even if it’s bullshit or shit (in her parlance, “crummy”) work. Having reported extensively on the psychological toll that unemployment can take, she insists that the culture (or is it cult?) of work is most likely here to stay. It might not be the healthiest approach—she dislikes moralizing around the virtue of work almost as much as Graeber does—but she realizes it’s something we have to build in to our short- and medium-term expectations because “the American faith in hard work and the American cult of self-reliance exist and persist, seen in our veneration of everyone from Franklin to Frederick Douglass to Oprah Winfrey.”

For his part, Graeber insists that there’s no value in working for the sake of just working. That often gives the impression that anyone who does want to work for work’s sake must be a bit of a sucker and that the compulsion to work is a manifestation of false consciousness or, worse, stupidity. He thus glosses over the strongly felt benefits, be they professional, social, or psychological, that many people get from their jobs. If Graeber’s unscientific assertions about bullshit jobs feel vital, urgent, and intuitively true, his dismissals of work’s inherent value—not moral, but social—feel incomplete.

With a compulsion to work so deep-rooted, UBI is a solution that will only go so far, even if implemented in a way that truly does alter lives for the better. Giving people money will not make us less moralistic about labor: People used to working will not necessarily know what to do with themselves or with their time. (I certainly wouldn’t.) Such measures represent only a fraction of the socioeconomic overhaul that will be needed to deal—if not now, then for future generations—with this twin utopia-dystopia: a world with less work and less money.

A solution that neither Lowrey nor Graeber spends much time dwelling on is perhaps the obvious: to split the difference. In a 1932 essay titled “In Praise of Idleness,” the philosopher Bertrand Russell noted that he had come to think of work not as something morally necessary, but as a means to enhance pleasures in the rest of life (after all, would you want to attend a dinner party you could never leave?). While acknowledging that he is a product of a Protestant work ethic and thus a compulsive worker, Russell suggests halving the workday to four hours, which would be enough for a person to secure “the necessities and elementary comforts of life,” leaving the rest of his time to do whatever he wanted.

“There will be happiness and joy of life, instead of frayed nerves, weariness, and dyspepsia,” Russell goes on. “The work exacted will be enough to make leisure delightful, but not enough to produce exhaustion.”








‘We Are Climbing Rapidly Out of Humankind’s Safe Zone’: New Report Warns Dire Climate Warnings Not Dire Enough

In Uncategorized on September 11, 2018 at 8:01 pm


Oldspeak: “Climate change is now reaching the end-game, where very soon humanity must choose between taking unprecedented action, or accepting that it has been left too late and bear the consequences. It is no longer possible to follow a gradual transition path to restore a safe climate, We have left it too late; emergency action, akin to a war footing, will eventually be accepted as inevitable. The longer that takes, the greater the damage inflicted upon humanity.

That was written 3 weeks ago. Today, the U.N. Secretary General said that that climate change was moving faster than us, the Paris Climate Agreement was the “bare minimum” required to perhaps avert catastrophe, but that all of the nations signed on to it are failing to live up to its “inadequate goals”. As usual, the existential threats we face have been grossly underestimated and under reported.  Our Great Mother is on the precipice of an irreversible regime shift, from habitable earth, into a hothouse earth. Record-breaking wildfires and heat have scorched the planet from Pole to Pole. Oceans turn more acidic and hot. Droughts persist and spread. Food crops are failing. The 6th great mass extinction continues apace. Weather gets more extreme, more frequently. Yet, the nations of the world respond, not with emergency actions on a war footing, but useless “climate agreements”, piecemeal transitions to “clean energy” production and marches for the climate.  Still committed to infinite growth, hyperconsumption and generating more indestructible toxic wastes that kill everything.  And while everything that lives is dying en masse around us, this persistent, narcissistic & myopic focus on humanity. As if we could exist without the vast and variegated web of life we depend on. At this late hour, humans are still not getting it. Sigh. It’s becoming increasingly obvious, our days here are numbered, In my view, sadly, we’re nowhere near the endgame with anthropogenic climate change. The madness has only just begun.  –Jevon

Written By Jon Quealy @ Common Dreams:

Offering a stark warning to the world, a new report out Monday argues that the reticence of the world’s scientific community—trapped in otherwise healthy habits of caution and due diligence—to downplay the potentially irreversible and cataclysmic impacts of climate change is itself a threat that should no longer be tolerated if humanity is to be motivated to make the rapid and far-reaching transition away from fossil fuels and other emissions-generating industries.

“It is no longer possible to follow a gradual transition path to restore a safe climate. We have left it too late; emergency action, akin to a war footing, will eventually be accepted as inevitable. The longer that takes, the greater the damage inflicted upon humanity.” —David Splatt & Ian Dunlop, report authorsIn the new report—titled What Lies Beneath: The Understatement of Existential Climate Risk (pdf)—authors David Splatt and Ian Dunlop, researchers with the National Centre for Climate Restoration (Breakthrough), an independent think tank based in Australia, argue that the existential threats posed by the climate crisis have still not penetrated the collective psyche of humanity and that world leaders, even those demanding aggressive action, have not shown the kind of urgency or imagination that the scale of the pending catastrophe presents.

While the report states that “a fast, emergency-scale transition to a post-fossil fuel world is absolutely necessary to address climate change,” it bemoans the fact that this solution continues to be excluded from the global policy debate because it is considered by the powerful as “too disruptive.” However, the paper argues, it is precisely this lack of imagination and political will that could doom humanity’s future.

As Splatt and Dunlop summarize at Renew Economy, their paper analyzes why:

  • Human-induced climate change is an existential risk to human civilisation: an adverse outcome that will either annihilate intelligent life or permanently and drastically curtail its potential, unless dramatic action is taken.
  • The bulk of climate research has tended to underplay these risks, and exhibited a preference for conservative projections and scholarly reticence.
  • IPCC reports tend toward reticence and caution, erring on the side of “least drama,” and downplaying the more extreme and more damaging outcomes, and are now becoming dangerously misleading with the acceleration of climate impacts globally.
  • Why this is a particular concern with potential climatic “tipping points,” the passing of critical thresholds which result in step changes in the climate system. Under-reporting on these issues is contributing to the “failure of imagination” in our understanding of, and response to, climate change.

“Climate change is now reaching the end-game,” reads the forward to the report by Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, head of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, “where very soon humanity must choose between taking unprecedented action, or accepting that it has been left too late and bear the consequences.”

“It is no longer possible to follow a gradual transition path to restore a safe climate,” write Spratt and Dunlop in an op-ed published in the Guardian on Monday. “We have left it too late; emergency action, akin to a war footing, will eventually be accepted as inevitable. The longer that takes, the greater the damage inflicted upon humanity.”

At the center of their argument, the pair explain, is that while the global scientific community—including the vital work of the UN-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)—has been at the forefront of warning humanity about the processes and dangers of human-caused global warming, there has been simply too much “reticence and caution” that has led researchers to downplay the most “extreme and damaging outcomes” that lurk beneath their publicly stated findings and pronouncements.

While this has been understandable historically, given the pressure exerted upon the IPCC by political and vested interests, it is now becoming dangerously misleading with the acceleration of climate impacts globally. What were lower probability, higher-impact events are now becoming more likely.

This is a particular concern with potential climatic tipping points – passing critical thresholds which result in step changes in the climate system – such as melting polar ice sheets (and hence increasing sea levels), permafrost and other carbon stores, where the impacts of global warming are nonlinear and difficult to model with current scientific knowledge.

The extreme risks which these tipping points represent justify strong precautionary risk management. Under-reporting on these issues is irresponsible, contributing to the failure of imagination that is occurring today in our understanding of, and response to, climate change.

“Either we act with unprecedented speed,” Spratt and Dunlop conclude, “or we face a bleak future.”