Look at recent election maps, especially in Canada, and it is easy to spot a demographic pattern taking shape: vast swaths of residential land around cities voting conservative or worse while the urban cores they surround vote far more progressively. The US has similar patterns and maps like these are not difficult to find in other countries as well. Much ink has been spilled about the rural/urban divide in developed-world elections, but increasingly, the divide that matters is between urban and suburban voters, and the reality that makes it matter is that suburbs seem inescapably conservative. But why?
The core of sociology is one simple truth: individual people can be a mess to predict, but masses of people are easy. Human behavior in aggregate is subject to simple incentives and simple outcomes. Crowds can be studied with models that verge on purely physical, scarcely requiring that even biology play a role. It is not difficult to figure out what humans will do when presented with a certain set of incentives, and one of the insights that follows is that if one wants people to take a certain action, one of the most effective ways to make that happen is to make the correct thing easy.
Do not make yourself smaller for a partner.
Do not shrink the effusiveness or radius of your affections.
Do not restrain the exuberance of your passions.
The online left is a very, very strange place. It’s full of people who are all urgently certain of how right they are and how wrong everyone else is. It’s loud and hostile, with minor ideological differences turning into over-dramatic schisms in bizarrely little time. Vast slices of it are chronically, toxically vigilant, waiting with unwholesome eagerness to be the one who gets to turn on or cast out someone else for a misstep. Dial all of that up to 11, and you get the tankies.
For those who don’t know, “tankies” are devotees of the strand of leftist thinking usually called Marxism-Leninism, the philosophy of Josef Stalin rather than the eponymous Marx and Lenin. An extension of this idea, Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, incorporates thoughts from Mao Zedong. They get the name “tankie” from their penchant for defending the less defensible actions of the Soviet Union and similar governments throughout history, in particular the mechanized (hence “tankie”) invasion of Hungary during its anti-communist revolt in 1956. In the modern era, long arguments about specific events from 70 years ago are far less salient than their modern corollaries. Tankies are, these days, characterized by their full-throated defenses of modern China and North Korea, which become more and more uncomfortable the clearer it becomes that some rather nefarious things are happening in those countries.
Here’s where I come in.
As the surreal hellscape of 2017 winds to a close, it’s time to look back on the past year of blogging and pick out some high points my dear readers might have missed. So, for your enjoyment, here are ten of Alyssa’s proudest creations of 2017.
It’s a sign of how far atheism has come in recent decades that religious organizations openly discuss how to lure us (back) into the fold. They used to lump us in with non-practicing theists and miscellaneous sinners, but now, we’re worth specific attention. There’s something satisfying in that.
David Robertson of Dundee, Scotland thinks he knows how to convince atheists that being Christian is a better bet, and wrote “Four Ways to Witness to Atheists” for the blog Desiring God. I’ve been mulling over his thoughts for a while now, because they’re a rollercoaster of amusement, bemusement, and insult, and the ride is as incoherent as the text.
It’s common, in conversations about atheism taking place in public, for one or more members of minority faiths to chime in with claims that what is being discussed somehow neglects their perspective. These rejoinders are often delivered with the snide implication that atheism is a reaction to the problems of big, common, monotheistic faiths, and that giving a little consideration to these nontheistic or polytheistic styles (or some other alternative to what they only assume the atheists’ religious background was) would have set the atheists on a righter path. They also, consistently, assume that atheist criticisms of religion, whether about its ethics or its metaphysics, somehow don’t apply to them.
I find these people only a little less irritating than I find folks who try to deflect conversations about alternative medicine and other unevidenced practices with accusations that criticizing these things is culturally insensitive, and that’s only because this latter set gets people killed.
Despair is a heavy burden, and I bear its weight by working out.
I am not diagnosed with depression or anxiety, but there are days when I wonder whether I should be. Hints of how I deal with anxiety are scattered throughout my writing, but depression is a rarer visitor. I’ve avoided any real accounting of my depressive symptoms of episodes because of one peculiar fact: they’ve been incredibly useful to me.