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Freedom is a delicate, fragile flower. It requires a nurturing hand and the ministrations of intentional preservation. At the risk of sounding melodramatic, that flower is now wilting. Its caretakers turn their faces away from it in indifference and vague disillusionment. Long a crown jewel of the American tradition, a strong vindication for freedom had a bonding effect on the population. People thought of freedom as a shared legacy which they felt a certain invigoration to maintain.

I would make the claim that this mass invigoration has been slipping. And in the age of the coronavirus it has made one of its most disturbing regressions yet. I do not mean to suggest that we have become a society that actively attacks freedom — no, that is almost never how it works. …


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Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

Ever since the coronavirus first washed up on our shores and the ensuing hysteria unfurled across our nation, I’ve been preoccupied with the cultural legacy it will end up leaving for posterity. What kind of society will we be left with when the virus cools? How will we as people psychologically change and morph under the pressures of our current predicament?

It is easy to overlook such stretching questions in the heat of an imminent threat and easy to become submerged in the myopia that is the natural result of implementing fast, breathlessly urgent changes. …


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Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

When you think of tension, what comes to mind? Maybe an uncomfortable rigidity, a frozen state of quivering nerves, restlessness? We typically do not think of ‘tension’ in positive terms. To most of us, it sounds like a fast-track towards stress. Tension, however, is a two-sided animal. It is incorrect to think of it as uniformly negative — as stress manifest. The tension that we experience in life ought to be thought of as pent-up energy, of neutral affect initially. And that energy can be channeled in vastly different ways with vastly different results.

Negative tension looks like repetitive worrying which drains mental stamina. Positive tension looks like intentional pressure which yields results and increased personal resiliency.


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Photo by Joshua Sukoff on Unsplash

In the span of just a week the informally-titled Covid Relief bill cleared Capitol Hill and summarily departed Trump’s desk with his signature. It clocks in at an eye-watering 5,593 pages. What an end to the dizzying spectacle that was 2020! The bill itself is a confusing mashup of Congress’ regularly-scheduled year-end spending spree and the pressing business of a Covid relief package. The sheer length of it is not the bill’s only staggering aspect. The combined package sits at $2.3 trillion and jarringly, of the reading time allotted for the bill, a mere afternoon was offered.

As it turned out, the vast majority of Congress backed the bill. But of those that withheld their vote, they were a vocal bunch! (And a surprisingly bipartisan one too.) Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard memorably inveighed against the appallingly short time frame in which to read the bill and expressed her outrage at the lack of citizen-focused aid. (Her counterpart AOC did the same.) On the other side of the aisle, Republican Senators Rand Paul and Ted Cruz leveled their ire at the wide range of expenditure waste and shameless pork-barrel spending. …


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Photo by Richard Horne on Unsplash

The crisis of 2008, known for its cascade of implosions extending from high-tier securitizations on Wall Street down to underlying loans on Main Street certainly has not suffered a shortage of commentary in the intervening years. However, this voluminous amount of chatter did not exactly generate a solid consensus as to what had caused it all in the first place.

This is largely because the 2008 crisis cannot be traced back to a singular source; it is instead, a mashup of many: there was interdependency present, but so too was there a freak collision of elements.

Years removed from this spectacular misfortune, a certain degree of fuzziness still clouds the picture and so, individuals are naturally apt to pick one, or a few factors, and carve out a narrative that makes sense of the past. Hence, the lack of consensus and the abundance of competing stories.


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Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

You would think that those marching in the streets decrying grand, time-tested systems like capitalism and law & order might count themselves among the ranks of the lowest economic tier or otherwise belong to the fringes of society. Curiously, this does not seem to be the case.

Instead, the radical campaigns to reorder society which saturate our news feeds today are invariably comprised of young, digitally-connected, financially-cushioned individuals. This to say, by most historical standards, the street revolutionaries of modernity are surprisingly, even bewilderingly, “privileged”.

They shout with hoarse voices and picket with garish posters and make grim references to “burning the system down,” yet large numbers of them have smartphones in their pockets, diplomas on their walls, and go home to a decent job and place to live. (That the vast majority are college-educated is a strikingly crucial part of the story of the modern revolutionary’s evolution, but more on this later.) …


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Photo by Bundo Kim on Unsplash

Everyone needs a philosophy of life to fall back onto: a set of predetermined policies and stances that have one’s long-term well-being in mind. The idea being, if you operate out a coherent life philosophy in the day-to-day, you will author precisely the kind of long-term story that you want. You will automate the conditions for the life you want.

The long-term (that is, what we wish our future to look like) seems a daunting, distant abstraction but truly, it is constructed mostly of very small, tamable decisions that happen in droves on the plane of the everyday.

To that end, I’ve long been a proponent of a life philosophy that endeavors to make one’s life easier in the long-term. Easier? you might say. Yes. For instance, automating healthy habits with firm resolve into your life will make your life easier in the long-term. …


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Photo by César Couto on Unsplash

You’ve heard it before: we live today in what’s called the “Information Age”. And before that? It was the Industrial age. We progressed from aesthetically pleasing systematization — from the elegant efficiency of mass production of physical things to the chaotic, grotesquely expanding rhythm of mass information production.

Such a shift is not merely a difference in kind. It is a difference in speed and in quantity. It also constitutes a refashioning of the temperament of our society. Like so many outgrowths of the 21st century, the riotous information age is underpinned by an exponential force and not by the linearity of yore. …


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As cultural artifacts, Internet memes are fascinating things. They are at once rich with meaning but when pressed to explain their humor, somehow suddenly mystifying. Their definition is difficult to put into words and anything but narrow. Simply put, Internet memes are just ideas memorialized. They exist in the form of images hijacked from television shows, from the unlucky (or lucky?) social media profiles of completely random people on the Internet, and even from medieval paintings.

Sometimes the memes are digitally altered, papered over with other images in a kind of rudimentary children’s activity of cut-and-paste. The unsophistication of it is perfectly intentional, however, a testament to the early Internet as unrefined and amateur. But memes don’t just show up in static image form: They also thrive in video format as well as plain text — for example, as tweets that gain a cult following and subsequently proliferate. …


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Photo by Katja-Anna Krug on Unsplash

Classical liberalism used to be something we could all agree on, conservatives and liberals alike. But the consensus on its sacredness appears to be slipping, yielding instead to increasing attempts to problematize its precepts.

“Classical liberalism”, as it is usually taken to mean, is a useful umbrella for the championing of civil liberties, individual rights, and free and open discourse. In a nutshell, it adopts a stance of first-amendment absolutism. Weirdly, it is this pillar of the American tradition that is presently cracking.

Such “first-amendment absolutism” is not accorded the widespread confidence and moral righteousness that it once did. More and more people find something suspiciously problematic about it. More and more people are willing to enact concessions on it, and are apt to believe such concessions are improvements rather than degradations.

About

Lauren Reiff

Writer of economics, psychology, and lots in between. laurennreiff@gmail.com

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