Media Spectacles are Unhealthy

April 13, 2020 For the health and safety of the American public, it’s probably best to avoid the daily White House press conference. I know there’s a lot of buzz about the proceedings, with all sorts of reporting about what is said, who said it and how the reporters are going after the speakers. It certainly makes for interesting theater. But it’s woefully short on substance and filled with misrepresentations. No surprise there. That’s exactly what it’s designed to do. The daily ritual, sometimes stretching out to two hours, is intended as a media spectacle that has nothing to do with providing information and more to do with dominating the airwaves and establishing the terms of discussion for ”the commentariat” on the cable political news shows that follow. The point of this spectacle is to have everything revolve around the ego, agenda and spontaneously combustible personality of one man and one man only. Everything else that happens up there is a side show. That includes what precious little accurate information is actually provided by medical professionals like Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has been director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease since 1984 and actually knows what he’s...Read more

The Dignity of Labor

April 9, 2020 Some people knew it before, but not enough. A lot more are learning to appreciate it now. Our world depends heavily on folks who are grievously underpaid: who work hard for their wages and who live in a precarious state of anxiety and financial uncertainty on a day-to-day basis. Yet they’re also the ones we rely upon today far more than ever. Grocery clerks. Cleaning staff. Delivery men and women. Farmers. Cooks and food servers. Landscape laborers.  Drivers. Truckers. That’s just of the kinds of wage workers whose efforts simply get covered over when an economy focuses on big industry, celebrity CEOS, entertainment idols, sports heroes and financial moguls. We lose touch with everyday life, mistake the lure of vast wealth as if it were a reasonable goal for all, and end up devaluing the hard work by which a society builds itself up materially. The export overseas of whole classes of filthy, dirty exhausting manufacturing in textiles, metal and tool-making has enabled us to forget the extent to which it took brutal, often deadly labor to build up this and other developed Western countries. It’s as if we’ve all succumbed to the view that we’re all...Read more

Game Changer

April 5, 2020 Lost in all of the headlines is the way in which the Corona Virus has upended everyday life. I’m not just referring to social distancing and shelter-at-home. This pandemic goes much farther than anything in all of modern experience in how thoroughly it has transformed daily work routines and everyday habits. World wars take years to develop and wreak their misery upon civilian populations. Earthquakes, tsunamis and cyclonic storms are localized in their impact. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were devastating in their immediate impact and transformative how global society viewed science and the military. The Great Depression cut a wide path across developed industrial societies in the 1930s and led to 20 percent unemployment; but it took years for the misery to reach its deepest levels of affliction.  During that whole time the populace was not deprived of basic human contact with friends, family and colleagues. Theaters stayed open. Loved ones received hospital visits. Students still filled classrooms. People gathered in major sports arenas, public fairs and local parks. Restaurant served meals. Work slowed down dramatically but it did not come to a sudden, absolute halt and pose an existential threat to many threads of the everyday fabric....Read more