What I’ve Been Reading: 7/12–7/18

“Days before Obama’s inaugural ceremonies, despite freezing temperatures, thousands of people, many of them African-American, wandered around the Capitol Building and the Mall just to get close to what they knew would be a historic event. At Shiloh Baptist, Lewis told the congregants that on inauguration day the crowds on the Mall would be joined by the “saints and angels”: by Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, John Brown, Nat Turner, W. E. B. Du Bois. Later, as Lewis was walking around the Mall, talking with people, a young black man approached shyly and introduced himself, saying he was the police chief in Rock Hill, South Carolina. Lewis smiled. “Imagine that,” he said. “I was beaten near to death at the Rock Hill Greyhound bus terminal during the Freedom Rides, in 1961. Now the police chief is black.””

“Mr. Marshall condemned the Freedom Rides as a wasted effort that would only get people killed. But in the mind of Mr. Lewis, the depredations that Black Americans were experiencing at the time were too pressing a matter to be left to a slow judicial process and a handful of attorneys in a closed courtroom. By attacking Jim Crow publicly in the heart of the Deep South, the young activists in particular were animating a broad mass movement in a bid to awaken Americans generally to the inhumanity of Southern apartheid. Mr. Lewis came away from the encounter with Mr. Marshall understanding that the mass revolt brewing in the South was as much a battle against the complacency of the civil rights establishment as against racism itself.”

“Mr. Lewis’s personal history paralleled that of the civil rights movement. He was among the original 13 Freedom Riders, the Black and white activists who challenged segregated interstate travel in the South in 1961. He was a founder and early leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which coordinated lunch-counter sit-ins. He helped organize the March on Washington, where Dr. King was the main speaker, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

Mr. Lewis led demonstrations against racially segregated restrooms, hotels, restaurants, public parks and swimming pools, and he rose up against other indignities of second-class citizenship. At nearly every turn he was beaten, spat upon or burned with cigarettes. He was tormented by white mobs and absorbed body blows from law enforcement.”

“We know that there is no time to be overwhelmed by our current myriad catastrophes. The unfathomable is occurring, to everyone, through climate change. Reactions to this ticking of the clock vary, and one that reckons with the totality of it — the experience of disaster; the necessity of maintaining humanity during disaster — doesn’t come naturally to people in the U.S. Blame the individualism; blame the capitalism.

In the U.S., distractions that offer vague, ineffective solutions to the disaster being experienced are preferred. Instead of cancelling rent, mortgages, student loans — everything — completely during a pandemic, we send people back to work as soon as possible to get them off unemployment. Instead of eating a traditional Whopper at Burger King, we go for the Impossible Whopper. Anything to continue consuming, to pretend nothing is happening.”

““New Yorkers that have left the city and that then are not doing their civic duty and filling the census out are truly hurting our city — not just this year but for 10 years to come,” said Julie Menin, the director of NYC Census 2020.

“It is one of the single worst ways that you can act in New York’s greatest time of need,” she added.”

“On the subway, I make sure to kiss everyone in my car. My grandma, who also works at the factory, taps me on the shoulder and reminds me not to get “too fresh.” I kiss her, as well. I can’t help it. I’m just so happy. Exiting the subway, skipping, I rub both my hands along the stairway railings.

At work, I set up at my station and get right to it, holding hands as fast as I can. After lunch at a crowded restaurant, our boss surprises us all with a pan-Asian vacation, departing from New York City! I wonder if we’ll have time to physically touch everyone in Times Square. I desperately hope so. It’s been my lifelong goal to kiss the top of the Chrysler Building. But only if all my friends, neighbors, and relatives (both close and distant) are there with me.”

“Sam Gandy, a research collaborator with Imperial College London, most strongly advocates for psychedelics as an environmental solution. As evidence, he marshalls several scientific publications, including a depression study linking psilocybin to increased nature relatedness, and an online survey showing psychedelic users report more pro-environmental behaviors — such as recycling and conserving water — relative to other types of drug users. In a paper titled “From Egoism to Ecoism,” Gandy and his colleagues confirm the connection between psychedelic ego dissolution and nature-relatedness, obliquely insinuating decriminalization is a viable environmental strategy: “It would seem [the] widespread prohibition [of psychedelics] is not in the best interests of our species, or the biosphere at large.”

Gandy has even suggested that psychedelics could play a role in “converting nature skeptics.” Similarly, University of California Davis researcher David Olsen has posited that psychedelics could be used to turn people into activists by introducing climate concepts during their trips.”

“INTERVIEW: What has this pandemic confirmed or reinforced about your view of society?

TOLENTINO: That capitalist individualism has turned into a death cult; that the internet is a weak substitute for physical presence; that this country criminally undervalues its most important people and its most important forms of labor; that we’re incentivized through online mechanisms to value the representation of something (like justice) over the thing itself; that most of us hold more unknown potential, more negative capability, than we’re accustomed to accessing; that the material conditions of life in America are constructed and maintained by those best set up to exploit them; and that the way we live is not inevitable at all.”

“At this point, you may wonder: “why don’t users just want one place to manage all their communities?” Today’s existing tools will continue to be sufficient for some communities, and Discord and Slack’s robust bot APIs are capable of solving some community needs. But fundamentally, they are still based on chat, and chat simply isn’t the right core user experience for many other communities. Unique functionality and bespoke interfaces provide distinct advantages that off-the-shelf tooling can never achieve.”

“My central thesis behind the rise of content subscriptions is that people are willing to pay for high quality, differentiated content to support the creators. This is not a unique take, but I think it’s important to stress the connection between reader and creator — when I enjoy my Twitter feed (which I usually don’t), it’s because of individual posters, not the “website.” A lot of the analysis around subscriptions is around whether or not they offer utility to the subscriber, and “supporting a $25 billion market cap corporation” is a lot less appealing than supporting an independent content creator.”

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