Most Interesting Reads for the Week (November 15, 2014)

Sorry I’m a little late with this, some things got ahead of me last week. Here’s some of the more interesting things I read…

  • A fascinating description of how and why violence is used in prison. “Every incident I witnessed in prison, except for the melees that we had to break up when I worked in a unit for the mentally ill, was premeditated and done with purpose, however twisted that purpose was. The violence functioned as a tool for preserving order, whether to maintain the hierarchies of prisoners or to reassert the authority of the guards. It was the best form of currency we had.”
  • Jonathan Edwards, theologian. “In his great treatises, Edwards dealt directly with aspects of orthodox teaching that were and are most problematic, taking on himself, in the eyes of posterity, the dark associations that had caused many within his own tradition to renounce them. Original Sin was a crucial element in his theology in a way dependent on his and his tradition’s understanding of it. For him it had little or nothing to do with sin as we ordinarily understand the word, taking its character instead from a kind of unawakened experience or perception that is blind to the glory of God and therefore to the glory that pervades being.”
  • ISIS gets a national anthem. “If Ayatollah Khomeini was still around, he’d probably look at some of the techno stuff and go, ‘What the hell is this?’ But the groups are all operating off some kind of religious guideline. They’re getting an ayatollah who’s saying, ‘Yes, this is halal. Go for it.’”
  • Things that shouldn’t become industries or industrial. “I think the core problem is that both these types of institutions apply the industrial division of labor to the care and education of humans. In other words, they apply methods developed for creating, maintaining, and programing machines to ‘maintain’ and ‘program’ creatures.”
  • What if how we fight terrorism makes us less safe? “What I’m suggesting, in short, is that the ‘surveil and strike’ mentality that has dominated the counterterrorism effort (and which is clearly reflected in Hannigan’s plea to let Big Brother — oops, I mean the NSA and GCHQ — keep its eyes on our communications) is popular with government officials because it’s relatively easy, plays to our technological strengths, and doesn’t force us to make any significant foreign-policy changes or engage in any sort of self-criticism at all. If we can solve the terrorist problem by throwing money at it, and enriching some defense contractors and former government officials in the process, what’s not to like?”
  • Anders Breivik and the fear of Islam in Norway. “Tolerance has never been Norway’s strong suit. Jews and Catholics were constitutionally banned from entering the country for much of the 19th century; the prohibition against Jesuits was lifted only in 1956. The so-called tatere – travelling Romani who have been in Norway for several hundred years – were subject to ruthless assimilation policies, including forced sterilisation, from the 1930s until the 1970s.”
  • Wishing “undesirables” away. “But these regulations aren’t about maintaining ‘quality of life’ for the local community’s residents: the laws are simply about colonising the commons to make it safe for the rich, typically to the exclusion of others. Their proponents are using the allure of social harmony to paper over the shame of massive inequality.”
  • Dealing with the 1 percent. “Dorling wants to form a coalition against the super-rich that he knows (and argues) is more likely to be led successfully by the well-heeled middle classes than by the downtrodden – by the other Dorlings than by the Tirados. The poor may wave a pike or knit in the shadow of the guillotine but the committee of public safety will be made up of doctors and deputy head teachers.”