Christopher Knight was only 20 years old when he walked away from society, not to be seen again for more than a quarter of a century. He had been working for less than a year installing home and vehicle alarm systems near Boston, Massachusetts, when abruptly, without giving notice to his boss, he quit his job. He never even returned his tools. He cashed his final pay cheque and left town.Knight did not tell anyone where he was going. “I had no one to tell,” he says. “I didn’t have any friends. I had no interest in my co-workers.” He drove down the east coast of America, eating fast food and staying in cheap motels – “the cheapest I could find”. He travelled for days, alone, until he found himself deep into Florida, sticking mostly to major roads, watching the world go by.Eventually, he turned around and headed north. He listened to the radio. Ronald Reagan was president; the Chernobyl nuclear disaster had just occurred. Driving through Georgia and the Carolinas and Virginia, blessed with invincibility of youth, buzzed by “the pleasure of driving”, he sensed an idea growing into a realisation, then solidifying into resolve.
Tag Archives: Society
If women can’t win, everyone loses. That, at least, is the conclusion of several new studies into how gender attitudes are changing. One team of academics from Wharton, looking into how men and women negotiate, observed that since Donald Trump’s election there had been a marked “increase in men acting more aggressively toward women”. In lab sessions, young men were more inclined than previously to fight young women for a small amount of money that had to be split between them – and the net result was that everyone went home poorer.This sounds like a neat modern morality tale, as do most psychological studies into sex and behaviour – at least the ones that get press attention. We tend to interpret such studies as we want to see them, which makes this sort of research only slightly more useful than reading palms or animal entrails – albeit a lot less fun, because after generations of painstaking psychological research, the one thing academics have conclusively proven is that students are endlessly willing to humiliate themselves for beer money.
There is immense concern about economic inequality, both among the scholarly community and in the general public, and many insist that equality is an important social goal. However, when people are asked about the ideal distribution of wealth in their country, they actually prefer unequal societies. We suggest that these two phenomena can be reconciled by noticing that, despite appearances to the contrary, there is no evidence that people are bothered by economic inequality itself. Rather, they are bothered by something that is often confounded with inequality: economic unfairness. Drawing upon laboratory studies, cross-cultural research, and experiments with babies and young children, we argue that humans naturally favour fair distributions, not equal ones, and that when fairness and equality clash, people prefer fair inequality over unfair equality. Both psychological research and decisions by policymakers would benefit from more clearly distinguishing inequality from unfairness.
I hoard slippers—the thin-soled, terry kind that many hotels include in their amenity packages. My house is full of them, some still plastic-wrapped. Shoes that will never be good for anything but indoor wear. Yet to me, they are simply too precious to leave behind.
A young man I know joined the armed forces to fight in Afghanistan because he wanted to have an experience that money couldn’t buy. He is not an ardent patriot or believer in any particular cause. He just wanted a unique experience in his life; to have done something difficult, something money cannot buy.I wanted to talk to this brave young man; ask him if he was prepared to kill or maim another human being. But I didn’t. His father impressed me with his understanding that this was what his son wanted to do with his life and therefore he should be allowed. It was his son’s right to decide.
Conosco da venticinque anni due persone – due stranieri, due anziani ormai – che per tutto questo tempo hanno vissuto per strada a Roma, spesso dormendo al freddo o sotto la pioggia, vicino alla stazione, in un parcheggio, in una macchina abbandonata, bevendo alcolici scadenti ogni giorno, ammalandosi di ogni genere di malattia della pelle, campando di elemosina. Dalla settimana scorsa non più: uno è morto due giorni fa, l’altro da poco ha preso per la prima volta una stanza in affitto.Quando ho saputo della morte di quest’uomo avevo appena letto il decreto sicurezza emanato dal governo, quello che recita all’inizio:
Last month, Daniel Ellsberg and Edward Snowden had a public conversation about democracy, transparency, whistleblowing and more. In the course of it, Snowden – who was of course Skyping in from Moscow – said that without Ellsberg’s example he would not have done what he did to expose the extent to which the NSA was spying on millions of ordinary people. It was an extraordinary declaration. It meant that the consequences of Ellsberg’s release of the top-secret Pentagon Papers in 1971 were not limited to the impact on a presidency and a war in the 1970s. The consequences were not limited to people alive at that moment. His act was to have an impact on people decades later – Snowden was born 12 years after Ellsberg risked his future for the sake of his principles. Actions often ripple far beyond their immediate objective, and remembering this is reason to live by principle and act in hope that what you do matters, even when results are unlikely to be immediate or obvious.The most important effects are often the most indirect. I sometimes wonder when I’m at a mass march like the Women’s March a month ago whether the reason it matters is because some unknown young person is going to find her purpose in life that will only be evident to the rest of us when she changes the world in 20 years, when she becomes a great liberator.
Get out now” are the first three words of Outside Lies Magic, a book published almost 20 years ago by the Harvard academic John Stilgoe, but that feels more necessary than ever, in these mean-minded days of Trump and Brexit and trolling and shrivelling attention spans. It’s common enough advice: we’re always being told to exercise more and sit less, to go running to combat depression, to head to the hills for a mental-health boost. But such activities leave Stilgoe aghast. “Do not jog,” he writes. “Do not run. Forget about blood pressure.” Nor is he urging travel to wild, awe-inspiring locations. Outside Lies Magic is about the ordinary outdoors: the fire hydrants, telegraph poles, electrical substations and scratty verges outside your door right now. (I found it via Austin Kleon’s excellent email newsletter at austinkleon.com.) It’s about “probing and poking at ordinary space”. Stilgoe thinks we’ve forgotten how to notice – and need “formal education in just going for a walk”.
Dopo aver passato gli ultimi anni a sbattere la testa contro il nodo dei diritti delle coppie formate da persone dello stesso sesso, l’opinione pubblica italiana ha recentemente riscoperto una sua vecchia passione: l’attenzione morbosa per il comportamento sessuale degli omosessuali.
Il tema è tornato alla ribalta prima di tutto per via dell’omicidio di Luca Varani, il giovane massacrato un anno fa in un appartamento di Roma da due amici, Manuel Foffo e Marco Prato. Alcol, droga, sesso e morte: questo omicidio conteneva tutti gli ingredienti giusti per spingere i mezzi d’informazione a rispolverare i toni da “sordido ambiente omosex” di cui si erano sbarazzati solo qualche anno prima. E ci hanno offerto perfino un nostalgico spauracchio da aids, quando nei giorni scorsi si è diffusa la notizia che Marco Prato è sieropositivo, una rivelazione che secondo la stampa avrebbe gettato nel panico la movida romana. Come se una persona sieropositiva fosse un lebbroso tornato a ungerci dal medioevo.