Populism, Homo Sapiens, Will Powers, Geert Wilders, Adam Curtis, Horror Stories


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Future Populism

Alex Harrowell | A Fistful Of Euros | 7th March 2017

Notes towards a unified theory of populism. Classical liberals see the just State as a neutral force, “above the parties”. Conservatives and socialists see the State as a force for universal good, though they have different ideas of the Good. Populists “demand that the government takes sides among its citizens, that it acts in an explicitly partisan manner. They want to feel that the state is on their side, not because it serves the public good, but because they personally get taken care of” (1,820 words)

What Does It Mean To Be Human?

Gaia Vince | Mosaic | 7th March 2017

Interesting throughout. Recent findings in ancient genetics and palaeontology shed new light on human prehistory. Neanderthals were as cultured as the homo sapiens who began displacing them in Europe 60,000 years ago. It was probably deforestation, not intelligence, which eventually tipped the balance in favour of homo sapiens. Lactose tolerance became general in Europe only 2,000 years ago. Plagues encountered 10,000 years ago give Scandinavians higher resistance to HIV today (4,100 words)

Behaviour — The Control Of Perception

Scott Alexander | Slate Star Codex | 6th March 2017

Appraising the ideas of Will Powers, an engineer turned psychologist who enjoyed a vogue in the 1960s for his model of the brain as a sort of thermostat perpetually adjusting the body to outside conditions. “Why do I like this theory so much? First, it correctly notes that (almost) the only thing the brain can actually do is change muscle tension. Yet we never think in terms of muscle tension. We deal in higher-level abstractions that automatically carry all the lower ones along with them” (3,600 words)

White Riot

Martin Fletcher | New Statesman | 6th March 2017

Geert Wilders wants Islam out of the Netherlands, and the Netherlands out of the European Union. One-fifth of Dutch voters agree, making Wilders’s PVV the country’s most popular political party. But beyond the headlines, and rare public appearances, everything about Wilders is a mystery. Who funds him? Who advises him? Why that hair? “The PVV remains as strange and secretive a party as any in Europe. Wilders is its only member. Its MPs, senators, MEPs and councillors are merely followers” (5,900 words)

And Then The Strangest Thing Happened

Owen Hatherley | n+1 | 6th March 2017

On the evolution of Adam Curtis, the BBC’s counter-cultural film-maker in residence. Curtis built his reputation with probing but conventional documentaries in the 1980s — about housing in Britain, the revolution in Iran. In the 1990s his work cut loose, becoming a genre all its own, using “dizzying montages and complex arguments” to convey a conspiracy theory of the world in which post-war hopes of social justice are crushed by a few powerful actors and out-of-control technology (3,700 words)

Darryl Jones: The Best Horror Stories

David Shackleton | Five Books | 27th February 2017

The turn of the twentieth century was a golden age of horror, from The Island of Doctor Moreau in 1896 and Dracula in 1897 to M.R. James’s Collected Ghost Stories in 1904. James may be the most frightening writer ever: “The classic example is the scene in Casting the Runes, in which Edward Dunning is alone in bed. He reaches under his pillow where he keeps his matches in order to light a candle. But he finds a mouth, with teeth, and with hair about it, and not the mouth of a human being” (2,900 words)

Video of the day: How To Alphabetise Your Bookshelf

What to expect:

Ted-Ed. You can spend nine days putting 1200 books in order. Or you can spend three hours (4’38”)

Thought for the day

You may know a new utterance by the element of danger in it
D.H. Lawrence

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