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#PandemicDreams

Recurring theme in my pandemic-era dreams: I am in a social situation with many other people, and then I notice none of us is wearing a mask. These scenes used to freak me out, even wake me up. Now my dreaming mind sometimes thinks, “not this again.” Seems the thrill is gone.

Leasership Failure

… As senators and House members trapped inside the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday begged for immediate help during the siege, they struggled to get through to the president, who—safely ensconced in the West Wing—was too busy watching fiery television images of the crisis that was unfolding around them to act or even bother to hear their cries for help.
“Six Hours of Paralysis”

Statistics and Tears

In fact, the more who die, sometimes the less we care, [Paul] Slovic said in an interview. In greater numbers, death becomes impersonal, and people feel increasingly hopeless that their actions can have any effect.

Statistics are human beings with tears dried off," Slovic said. "And that’s dangerous because we need tears to motivate us.”

William Wan and Brittany Shammas

Leadership and Trust

Trust is fundamental, reciprocal and, ideally, pervasive. If it is present, anything is possible. If it is absent, nothing is possible. The best leaders trust their followers with the truth, and you know what happens as a result? Their followers trust them back. With that bond, they can do big, hard things together …

George P. Schultz

Children Watching

“The Children Were Watching,” dir. Robert Drew and Richard Leacock, USA 1961, 25 min. — This documentary doesn’t feel as old to me as I wish it did. In part that’s because I watched it in Trump’s America during an especially difficult year, but something deeper is at play. The film’s ongoing relevance represents an ambiguous answer to its directors’ main question: What were the children of a New Orleans neighborhood learning as they watched their parents during the conflicts surrounding school integration in November 1960?

Looking forward to a more productive week in quarantine now that martial law and the end of our democracy appear to be off the table for the time being.

Curfew

The disturbing emergency alert sound from my phone (for DC’s 4th curfew night) makes me think of an air raid siren. The blaring is an apt metaphor for this presidency.

Riots

Minnesota Governor Walz’s assertion that ongoing riots are no longer about George Floyd ring true in a way. But were they ever about one man? Floyd’s death was certainly no one-off. The protests—and the participation of so many young people—should give pause to those leaders who would gloss over this society’s brutal injustices and disparities.

‘Mr Smith Goes to Washington’

I watched “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” (1939) last night. Despite the many differences to today’s world and the oversimplification of the state political machine, the politics in the film strike me as relevant to our own time. Thing is, though, it would probably resonate with Americans regardless of ideological or party orientation. Anti-Trump people could take its anti-corruption and pro-democracy message to heart. Pro-Trump people could embrace how the Washington outsider triumphs, and credulous pro-Trumpers could go for the anti-corruption, pro-democracy stuff too. Finally, the rough-and-tumble quality of the political game would resonate across the political spectrum.

To stand in Mann’s study today, with editions of Goethe and Schiller on the shelves, is to feel pride in the country that took him in and shame for the country that drove him out—not two Americas but one. In this room, the erstwhile “Greatest Living Man of Letters” fell prey to the clammy fear of the hunted. Was the year 1933 about to repeat itself? Would he be detained, interrogated, even imprisoned? In 1952, Mann took a final walk through his house and made his exit. He died in Zurich, in 1955—no longer an émigré German but an American in exile.

— Alex Ross, “The Haunted California Idyll of German Writers in Exile,” The New Yorker, March 9, 2020 issue.

Leveling hummocks in dust bowl, thirty miles north of Dalhart, Texas. Farmer: “Every dime I got is tied up right here. If I don’t get it out, I’ve got to drive off and leave it. Where would I go and what would I do? I know what the land did once for me, maybe it will do it again.” Son: “It would be better if the sod had never been broke. My father’s broke plenty of it. Could I get a job in California?”

—Dorothea Lange for the Farm Security Administration, June 1938. New York Public Library.

“Naomi [who denounces ‘climate alarmism’] said her political activism was sparked a few years ago when she began asking questions in school about Germany’s liberal immigration policies. She said the backlash from teachers and other students hardened her skepticism about mainstream German thinking.”

— Desmond Butler and Juliet Eilperin, “The Anti-Greta: A Conservative Think Tank Takes on the Global Phenomenon.”


Yes, our cognition is bound up in our social existence, as Ludwik Fleck noted in 1935.