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The Self Delusion by Tom Oliver review how we are connected and why that matters

Forget the concept that people are independent people. We require to understand that became part of environments

S hould we attempt to think about ourselves not as people however as parts of the cultural and physical environment? Tom Oliver, an ecologist specialising in land usage, the environment crisis and biodiversity, thinks we require a significant shift because instructions. His view is that science now requires this modification, which just by making it will we end up being efficient in reacting to worldwide warming and a host of other issues. The concept of the self as a fairly closed system is a misconception that has actually frequently given benefit, however is now an unsafe trap. Moving through hard science with important clearness, Oliver informs us why.

He begins with the science of the body. Complex forces make it, sustain it and simplify. Like the body itself, these forces are not closed systems with tough external limits. The atoms that compose us originate from the blend of hydrogen and helium in the huge bang, and numerous originated from far areas of deep space. The particles that form our bodies have actually taken a trip the environment and maybe remained in other animal body parts. Bacteria and infections generate brand-new genes. Our cells live for 7 to 10 years usually, some just for weeks, days or months. Food, oxygen and water enter our bodies, while heat and waste leave us for other parts of the system.

Fungi and germs occupy our bodies, their 38tn cells surpassing ours. A human mouth consists of over a thousand types. Genes pass in between them. New types get into. Some pass away or leave, possibly since of something we consume or stop consuming. Some stay for life. Lots of become part of the performance of our bodies. Even inside our cells there are mitochondria, energy-generating organs acquired from germs that merged with our single-celled forefathers 2 billion years earlier. Correction: they were a few of our forefathers.

Gut germs break down food for us. Digestive germs have a protective impact versus diseases consisting of bowel cancer, while others launch particles that increase our vulnerability. Even actions and sensations, which we may believe specify our identity, are not always just our own. Germs make a distinction to state of minds and anxiety. Amazingly, there are parasites that help their own life process by customizing their hosts’ behaviour, for instance toxoplasma, that makes rats act recklessly and expose themselves to predation. Individuals who bring this organism are most likely to be associated with traffic mishaps.

Neuroscience brings more proof. When we experience memories and ideas, what occurs physically is that electrochemical impulses take a trip in between nerve cell brain cells, forming courses. The collection of courses at any one minute consists of that individual’s “connectome”, which is the very best match for our idea of self that materialist science can produce. Like other parts of the body, it is constantly being moulded by the world. Oliver prices quote Susan Greenfield’s view that identity is an activity, not a state. New courses continuously form in big numbers. Some courses fall under disuse, or the nerve cells reabsorb them. Oliver utilizes the image of a well-trodden roadway compared to a thick track. Selfhood holds its shape just through usage. He compares the neurites, the countless miles of linking filaments in a brain, to the fibre-optic cable televisions, smart phone masts and satellites that confine the world in a web of technological interaction. Both become part of the procedure that forms our identities, as are the environment and the land.

As western industrialism has actually ended up being international, the consumerist concept of self has actually spread out even more. Marketing provides customers with visions of their selves improved by the ownership of each brand-new product or capability. The structures that enhance this sort of self are powerful; nonetheless, Oliver hopes that we might be approaching a tipping point. The science that discovers the outdoors world at work in all our elements of selfhood is pulling us that method, as is the enormity of the environmental crisis.

His tone modifications. The book’s title remembers Richard Dawkins, and, early on, Oliver sometimes reveals a Dawkins-like exasperation at the world’s rejection to fall under line with unbiased science. For each people, I presume, our awareness seems like a centre, a set point from which we see things, nevertheless mindful we are of the issues with this view. To Oliver, at first, this stubbornness looks like that of the flat-earthers who contradicted the Copernican transformation. He comes to see that the individualistic idea of self is a more uncertain case. Certifying adjectives begin to appear more regularly. The independent, atomised, unvarying, meaningful, self-governing self is the issue. We do not need to decline all kinds of uniqueness.

That individualistic concept of self has actually had fantastic benefits, both ethical and evolutionary; take care of the self is a primal intention for resourcefulness in discovering food, shelter and reproductive success. Oliver calls it a white lie, an adaptive deception. In little precarious neighborhoods, the requirement for sharing and shared defense will have been a strong reversing force, making extreme selfishness pricey. Possibly it is just in the context of environmental crisis and international consumerist commercialism that the adaptive deception has actually ended up being maladaptive, and the ethical balance is tipping. And it is not assuring to remember those societies in which masses of individuals have actually wanted to crave a cumulative identity such as country, religious beliefs or a political cause. Important to Oliver’s argument here is the ethical distinction in between a cumulative identity that specifies itself versus others, and the environment, which has no outsiders. Accepting the science is just the start. Ethical reweighing and weighing needs to never ever stop.

At the end, I wondered. What will we want and fear in this future? How in a different way will we fall in love? Will we be more fixed up to death? What will our preferred stories resemble? If the shift starts in earnest, these will be remarkable concerns. This prompt, tough book informs us why it simply might.

The Self Delusion is released by Weidenfeld &Nicolson ( 20). To buy a copy go to guardianbookshop.com. Free UK p &p over 15.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2020/jan/18/the-self-delusion-tom-oliver-review

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Former Baltimore mayor faces fraud and tax evasion charges

Federal indictment implicates Catherine Pugh of utilizing her Healthy Holly kids books to promote her profession and fund mayoral run

The disgraced previous mayor of Baltimore has actually been charged with scams and tax evasion including sales of her self-published kids’s books.

An 11-count federal indictment unsealed on Wednesday implicates Catherine Pugh of utilizing her Healthy Holly kids’s books to improve herself, promote her political profession and fund her run for mayor.

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The Department of Justice stated the grand jury prosecuted Pugh on federal charges of conspiracy to dedicate wire scams, 7 counts of wire scams, conspiracy to defraud the United States, and 2 counts of tax evasion. She is anticipated to give up to United States Marshals prior to a preliminary look and arraignment on Thursday prior to Judge Deborah K Chasanow in Baltimore.

Also unsealed on Wednesday were the guilty pleas of the previous Baltimore City workers Gary Brown, Jr and Roslyn Wedington. Both pleaded guilty to conspiracy and tax scams.

“Corrupt public staff members dupe the taxpayers and weaken everybody’s faith in federal government,” stated United States lawyer Robert K Hur in a statement of the charges. “Our chosen authorities should put the interests of the residents above their own.”

Pugh resigned in early May after authorities started examining whether she set up bulk sales of Healthy Holly books to camouflage numerous countless dollars in kickbacks.

FBI and IRS representatives robbed her workplaces, houses and other places in late April and took a number of products, consisting of cash transfer invoices, a laptop computer, cds and a $100,000 check from the University of Maryland Medical System to Pugh’s Healthy Holly business.

The first-term Democrat ended up being mayor in late 2016.

Pugh has actually remained in privacy because early April, when she took a leave from the mayor’s workplace due to what her legal representative referred to as bad health following a bout of pneumonia. Lawyer Steven Silverman at that time asserted that Pugh was so vulnerable physically and psychologically that she was not able to make “significant choices”.

Federal, state and regional examinations have actually been checking out doubtful monetary plans that for many years netted Pugh approximately $800,000 for her hard-to-find books. The books were implied to be offered to schools and day care centers, however it is uncertain where 10s of countless copies wound up.

The Democrat ended up being mayor in late 2016 after having actually served in the state legislature because 2005.

Pugh, 69, ended up being the 2nd mayor of Baltimore in less than a years to step down since of a scandal. Previous Mayor Sheila Dixon left workplace in 2010 as part of a plea offer for misusing about $500 in present cards implied for clingy households.

A long time city board member, Bernard “Jack” Young, took control of the function of mayor after Pugh resigned. He acquired a city with stopping working schools, a prospering controlled substance market and among the country’s greatest rates of violent criminal offense.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/nov/20/former-baltimore-mayor-catherine-pugh-fraud-tax-evasion-charges

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German novelists on the fall of the Berlin wall: It was a source of energy we lived off for years

Five German novelists recall the heady days of 30 years ago, and assess their legacy

Heike Geissler: For the first few years, I fell into every single consumer trap put in my way

Heike Geissler was born in 1977 in Riesa in the former German Democratic Republic. She is the author of four novels, most recently Seasonal Associate, a highly acclaimed fictionalised account of a period she spent working in an Amazon warehouse in Leipzig.

Oh, its all so long ago, isnt it? When the wall came down I was 12 years old and crazy about belongings and about the world. I was embarrassed about coming from the GDR. I was embarrassed about going into shops in West Germany and being a grey and dark-blue complex of drab timidity amidst all the colours. With my first western money I bought myself a neon-coloured rucksack and a cassette recorder. I was already more colourful when I travelled with my mother in a packed train to Oberhausen in West Germany to see the acquaintances who had for years been sending us parcels for feast days and birthdays. I ate yoghurt for the first time, and liked it, and I draped myself in colours. Autumn colours were chic at the time: purple, ochre, etc.

Heike
Heike Geissler photographed near her home in Leipzig. Photograph: Adrian Sauer/The Observer

Maybe Id just lost interest in politics. If only I knew. At any rate Ernst Thlmann (the leader of the Communist Party who was later shot in Buchenwald) had recently been my hero, Id wanted to be like him, and Id thought about how he had managed to fashion a little inkwell with the bread that a prison warder had given him, fill it with milk and thus have a source of invisible ink that he could eat straight away if he had to. I wondered about that, and a moment later I wondered what it would be like to live with Martin Lee Gore (of synth-pop band Depeche Mode). I papered my room with posters of him, I dreamt about him, I was, even though I wasnt quite a grown-up, Martin Lee Gores wife.

You probably didnt know that before, but now you do. What I didnt know for a long time: I was a torment to my parents, because capitalism now gripped me as firmly by the hand as the Pioneer Organisation had done before. As soon as it was there I was its willing talking doll, its passionate advocate, and I was right at the front of the queue of people buying and coveting consumer goods. I appropriated externals as if nothing else existed, and spent all my time observing who had what, and who had more, and established without much difficulty that we had less. To be precise, that was how things had seemed to me even before the wall came down, but now the differences were getting bigger. I couldnt see what was being lost. Ive only come to see it recently. I could see only what I didnt have, and I was busy making demands and seeing those demands become reality. I never made any political demands, so for example I never complained in a public place about the new and much more visible distribution of money and opportunities; instead all my demands were made on my parents.

So I think I spent the years of growth after the fall of the GDR shopping. I barely knew how to do anything else but seek out those swiftly erected tent constructions full of cardboard boxes that contained all kinds of wonderful and desirable-looking cheap clothes, and later the new branches of large chains, afternoon after afternoon, and looking, wanting, buying. In retrospect I hold my hand up in front of my nose, because it smells of smoke. I remember that the nearby block where the Vietnamese guest-workers lived was said to be on fire. Its clear in my memory that the fire had been started deliberately. I see people running, I see the excitement, I sense it, but perhaps it wasnt even on fire, Im not sure. But I remember very clearly that something was on fire somewhere for a while.

Forgive me, I wanted to talk about my behaviour as a consumer and how it changed, but I got distracted.

Forgive me again. I worked out that I didnt want to say anything more about my behaviour as a consumer, because what is there to say about it that you yourself havent known for ages? So for the first few years after the fall of the wall I became a master at falling into every single consumer trap put in my way, over and over again. I am, and perhaps you need to know this, the child of determined players of the lottery. What we lived on, what fed us, was the hope of a big win, never the hope of political change. I am the daughter of a mother who rationalised herself out of her own job in 1992 whether out of negligence or honesty or both, Im not sure. I am the daughter of a father who dreamt of reaching the age of retirement years before he actually retired. I see my father sitting in the living-room in the morning. The living room in this low-rise on the edge of the forest looks like a diorama with a set that could have been made for a post-wall museum: Father (38) on short time sitting silently in his armchair. The armchair is turned towards the television. The television is off. There is no sound in the living-room. The father is the silent type anyway. The daughter stands on the edge of the diorama, between the dining area and the corridor, looking at the father; her mouth is half-open and she is dreaming about the world, and secretly of being a global star, although nothing came of it.

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A German policeman with flowers on his uniform mingles with the celebrating crowds, November 1989. Photograph: Sipa Press / Rex Features

Im a writer, I was born in the former GDR, I live in the state of Saxony, notorious for its strong rightwing scene. You could describe me as an east German, but I place no value on that, Im not comfortable with the term, and Im not trying to become comfortable with it either. When I think east German and at the same time think west German, I immediately think about how my country was sold off piecemeal, about how lives were devalued, about how conversations were curtailed, and I think about solutions other than the unification of the two German states. Solutions which were discussed, which could have happened and which, from the perspective of the present day when for example all needs can be satisfied with a small amount of money and when pretty much all properties are sold and all districts gentrified seem more exciting and worthwhile than the status quo, which everybody I know finds extremely tiring. The term east German triggers unpleasant memories about my own greed, about GDR citizens desire for the Deutschmark, and their urging towards the unification of the two German states. Its a phrase that also conjures up injustices. Im thinking about west Germans who were eloquently and jovially able to impress, who occupied lucrative positions and transferred to us structures from their own country which I was unable to examine and question at the time. (As I said, I only ever thought about consumption.) I think about articles that still forget to mention the existence of the GDR or just mention it in self-justificatory sub-clauses to do their duty. I think of imperfection, repression and miscommunication. But I dont want to describe myself as an east German because I think that would mean getting involved in a competition for media attention and helping to set one past against another. Emotional though it might sound, whats needed is exchange rather than boundaries, so while I may have been a citizen of the GDR Im not prepared to become an east German. Im a German, because my passport tells me so. Thats label and challenge enough. Translated by Shaun Whiteside

Maxim Leo: Let me tell you a funny east German story

Maxim
Photograph: Derek Hudson/Getty

Maxim Leo, 49, is a screenwriter, author and journalist. Born and raised in East Berlin, he continues to live in the city, where he is editor of the Berliner Zeitung. His memoir, Red Love: The Story of an East German Family, won the European Book prize.

Germans like anniversaries; they give such a clear shape to history. At these times you can simplify complicated things a bit, smooth out the contradictions. The GDR, which repeatedly comes back to life on these dates, long ago became a kind of museum country. These days hardly anybody wants to know what the East German state was really like; instead the same stories are told over and over again, about very brave civil rights activists or very nasty Stasi people. Normal people seldom appear in these stories, and the German Democratic Republic has long since rigidified into a historical caricature.

That is primarily because west Germans dont want to know anything at all; they simply want confirmation that they were on the right side and east Germans were on the wrong side. West Germans also like it when youre grateful to them for sharing their wealth and their constitution with us [former east Germans]. If youre not grateful enough, west Germans get angry.

For their part, east Germans stopped explaining themselves ages go. Sometimes they still point out hesitantly that it didnt rain all the time even in the GDR, that even under a dictatorship people were able to fall in love. That a genuinely normal life was possible even in a non-normal country. But then people in the west start wailing that the dictatorship is being played down, the GDR is being nostalgically transformed. So east Germans fall silent again, because whats the point?

I myself always feel bad on these big anniversaries, because I cant help remembering the student from Dsseldorf that I met at my first party in west Berlin shortly after the fall of the wall. I had just bought a Billy bookcase at Ikea with my DM100 welcome money. When I was assembling the shelves Id accidently hit my thumb with the hammer. My thumbnail was brown and swollen. At the party the student from Dsseldorf asked me what had happened to my thumb. I told him that in school in the GDR they hit you on the thumb with a hammer if you didnt do your homework. And because I forgot my homework a lot, after 10 years of torture my thumb was pretty much beyond saving.

The student gave me a look full of surprise and pity. He would probably have believed me if Id told him that pupils with bad marks were shot at the end of the school year. For those young west Germans the GDR was so completely wicked anything was imaginable. I wanted to confess that evening, tell the student Id been talking nonsense, but we lost sight of each other and I never saw him again. Since then, every anniversary, I imagine the student from Dsseldorf, years later, telling his children about that strange east Berliner with the battered thumb, that torture victim of the rogue East German state. So Im not entirely innocent when it comes to the fact that the GDR only exists nowadays as a horror version of itself.

Also regular as clockwork on the anniversary come the reports about the state of German unity. And each time theres a huge sense of disappointment because east Germans are still so different. So strange, so ungrateful, so hard to train. East Germans vote for the right, they dont like foreigners, they dont believe in God, they eat a lot of meat and hardly have any children, but they do have a higher than average amount of sex. Worst are east German men, who are seen as left behind, frustrated, aggressive, uneducated, racist, homeless, wifeless. Has there, since Gollum from Lord of the Rings, been an uglier creature than the east German man?

Berliners
Berliners celebrate on top of the wall as East Germans flood through into West Berlin at Potsdamer Platz. Photograph: Lionel Cironneau/Associated Press

I write these lines as an aggrieved party. Ive been an east German man since I was born. And Im often asked to appear as crown witness; particularly on anniversaries Im supposed to explain myself and my odd compatriots. Last week a woman called me up from the radio. She said shed like to do an interview. With me as an east German. Perhaps you could give us a bit of an introduction to some of the peculiarities of east Germans, she said. It sounded as if I was a native of Papua New Guinea.

A few days earlier, Deutsche Welle radio had given me a call, as had a paper from Munich and a French radio station. They all urgently need east Germans for the big anniversary. As witty as possible, as original as possible, with a wink, you know, Mr Leo. Thats the new trend in the GDR history business. A few years ago people in the west only wanted to hear sad stories; now the tales have to be funny. No problem. Over the years Ive become a professional east German. If people want Stasi, I give them Stasi. And if people want to laugh, Ill keep chucking those funny stories at them until the earth shakes.

I hadnt planned to be a professional east German. You might say I just slipped into it. There was a great need for east German stories and, to be honest, I needed the money. Ten years ago, at the last big anniversary, I had written a book about my East German family. I did a reading tour and, after many evenings in the west German provinces, I was lying in bed in the Intercity Hotel in Celle one night, thinking about how damned ironic history is: who would have expected the GDR, of all places, to involve so much world travel?

Recently, incidentally, Ive felt very close to the British, because so many people are disappointed by the British right now, and no one really understands the British any more. I have an idea: how about the British split from Northern Ireland and unify with east Germany instead? I see a lot of parallels and advantages there. But lets talk about that some other time, when weve got a bit of peace and quiet. Translated by Shaun Whiteside

Bernhard Schlink: East and West Germans were curious about each other, delighted in each other

Bernhard
Photograph: Daniel Hofer/laif/Camera Press

Bernhard Schlink is a writer, lawyer and academic. Born in Heidelberg in 1944, he now divides his time between Berlin and New York. His best-known book is The Reader, an international bestseller which was made into a film, starring Kate Winslet, in 2008 by Stephen Daldry.

The wall fell on 9 November 1989. A few days later I was in Berlin history was being made here, and I wanted to be part of it.

East Berliners were out and about in West Berlin, easy to spot thanks to their cars, their clothes, the way they inspected shop displays, the bananas and oranges in their shopping bags. At the border, the East German Volkspolizei were friendly, in contrast to their earlier attitude, and in East Berlin I could walk into Humboldt University without going through the security check that had previously been obligatory. Otherwise people did what they always do; they went to work, did their shopping, sat in cafs. History is everyday life.

But that November everyday life was light-hearted and cheerful. Rather than the low grey clouds that usually hang above the city in November, the sun was shining. Grumpy Berliners smiled. East and West Berliners exchanged greetings. The Volkspolizei were not just friendly, they were glad that they finally could be friendly. The first days, the first weeks after the fall of the wall, were a German-German love-fest. East and West Germans were curious about each other, intrigued by each other, talked to each other, delighted in each other. Anything seemed possible journeying to new worlds, embarking on new careers, beginning new relationships. Would we reinvent Germany?

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The famous Checkpoint Charlie crossing point, marking the border between East (Soviet sector) and West Berlin (American sector), 1968. Photograph: Joel Robine/AFP/Getty Images

I had always known that the division of Germany would pass. I was the son of a Protestant pastor, and Protestant eastern Germany, the land of Luther and Bach and Zinzendorf, was my Germany just as much as the Catholic Rhineland was. In the 1960s I studied in West Berlin, had friends in East Berlin and went there regularly until I helped my girlfriend escape from East to West and risked arrest and imprisonment if I set foot in East Berlin again. When the relationship between the Federal Republic and the GDR normalised and I could once again travel there safely, I drove with my son through the East German cities and landscapes, poorer and greyer than their West German counterparts, sometimes in a lamentable state, but sometimes with a touching simplicity too and, unlike West Germany, not ravaged by brutalist architecture and colourful advertising. We encountered the older Germany that could still be found there in those days and now no longer exists.

When I came back from Berlin to Bonn, where I was professor of public law at the university, I received an enquiry about teaching in East Berlin. One of my colleagues knew a colleague at Humboldt University and had the impression they were looking for a visiting professor from the West now that the wall had fallen. He couldnt take it on himself, for he couldnt stand the winter air in East Berlin, where lignite was used for heating. I didnt hesitate for a moment, travelled back to Berlin to introduce myself at Humboldt University, realised that they didnt really want anyone from the West, but thought that they were supposed to, and I settled for that.

That was how I ended up teaching a class on fundamental rights and another on constitutional theory in January 1990 as the first visiting professor from the Federal Republic of Germany to teach at Humboldt University. After the second session, a colleague invited me to participate as an expert in deliberations to draft a new constitution for the GDR. Over the next two months, I shared the hopes involved in drafting the new constitution. It was intended to be a free, constitutional, democratic underpinning for the GDR that would preserve the legacy of the peaceful revolution, allowing the GDR to enter into reunification negotiations with self-assurance and confidence. It was meant to be a contribution to reinventing Germany. In March, however, after the first and last free elections in the GDR, it was clear that reunification would come so quickly that plans to develop a new GDR constitution were already obsolete.

In March, the love-fest between the two Germanies also drew to a close. The economic problems involved in reunification became apparent. Switching from life under socialism to life in a capitalist system was not easy for many East Germans, and it became clear that their experiences and knowledge were unappreciated, while the penalties imposed on those who had spied for the State Security Service affected both those who deserved them and those who did not. Advisers and visitors from the West were nicknamed Besserwessis (a pun on Besserwisser, the German term for know-it-alls); many of them were convinced that they did indeed know better and treated the East Germans as annoying, impoverished, helpless relatives. The wounds inflicted in that period have still not fully healed.

We did not reinvent Germany. We did not even reinvent Humboldt University, as we had hoped we would in 1990 and 1991; it has become a German university like any other. Many things have become more difficult in Germany. Often Germans from the new federal states in the east and the old federal states in the west act as if there were an awkward distance between them, reacting to their differences as if they were annoying rather than a blessing. But I have confidence in the future. Great gifts change your life and cannot just blithely be chalked up as a turn for the better; you need to get to grips with them. It remains a great gift that Germany is reunited, a gift I delight in over and over again when I cycle through the Brandenburg Gate to Humboldt University, when I travel through Brandenburg, go hiking in the Elbe Sandstone Mountains or see the sun rise over the Baltic Sea in Rgen. Bernhard Schlink

Norman Ohler: The fall of the wall was a source of kinetic energy that we lived off for years

Norman
Norman Ohler, at home in Berlin. Photograph: Malte Jaeger/The Observer

Norman Ohler was born in 1970 in the west German town of Zweibrcken. He is the author of three novels and two novellas and co-wrote Wim Wenderss film Palermo Shooting. His bestselling non-fiction book, Blitzed, about the surprising reliance on drugs of the Nazi hierarchy, was translated into 18 languages. Ohler lives in Berlin.

It was the moment everything changed, and I became a writer.

Before then it had still been the 80s, the cold war, and it was clearly always going to be like that: the wall, which was after all a wall in peoples heads too, would never fall, and I, a politicised teenager at the time, was going to be a journalist I would furiously attack the state of things in the progressive media: the propaganda, the cold war

Even the day before the wall actually did come down in that moment of ecstasy, incredibly I didnt have the slightest inkling. None of us did. And then it happened. And Ill never forget how it happened. It was at about 7pm on 9 November 1989, during a really boring hour-long press conference [on live TV] by a second-rate politburo official called Gnter Schabowski. Among other things, he answered questions about a new draft GDR travel law that he said also included some transit regulations. Schabowski himself could barely get through the GDR polit-speak of the text, and rustled his papers despairingly, cleared his throat helplessly a few times and eventually, because he wanted to get it over with, announced that in his view the freedom of GDR citizens to travel to West Germany applied with immediate effect, which, in spite of the unease that suddenly spread through the room some journalists were open-mouthed was nothing really special as far as he was concerned, since the GDR had always described itself as a democracy, the only form of society that guaranteed the freedom of its subjects.

The result of Schabowskis confusion was that immediately after the end of the conference when he did finally call it a day hundreds of thousands of people in Berlin went out and knocked down the wall that same night. A Kafkaesque momentum had been set in motion, and this time it wasnt lack of freedom that revealed itself, as usually happens in bureaucratic processes, but a fairytale breach that opened up.

At that moment I was 800km away in the small West German town where I was born, but I did have access to a car, and the next morning I called in at my grammar school to announce that I was taking the day off, sped up the autobahn and, seven hours later, reached Berlin just in time.

It was already getting dark as I climbed up on to one of those platforms that still stood around from before, from which West Germans would look over the wall into the east. Over there, everywhere I looked, a GDR soldier was kneeling on the wall and dividing the sections with a jackhammer total rocknroll as well as an anticipation of techno before a bulldozer came, with a kind of claw, to tear the segments individually out of the earth with military precision and then drive off with them somewhere at the back to dump them on the scrapheap of history. As each passageway was opened up it immediately filled with people who flowed in from east to west, and suddenly a young woman of 18 or so (the same age as me) was standing next to me, asking excitedly what was over there. Well, East Berlin, I replied, surprised, but she said she knew that already, she was from there, in fact, she had asked the question in a much bigger context. That was my first encounter with an East Berliner, and with her words she tore away something inside me that continues to define my life today.

Its this idea of possibility. This transformation of hollow phrase and hackneyed term into a magically charged space the change, for me personally, from journalist to writer and poet. The 90s began on that day, 9 November 1989, thanks to the inattentiveness of one police officer. The whole of world history was changed by a poetic moment at a press conference that was actually designed to exclude such moments. Since then anything has seemed possible to me, and my first three novels, about global revolution, the metropolises of New York, Johannesburg and indeed Berlin, emerged from the big bang that atomised the Berlin Wall. The fall of the wall gave Germany an incredible, positive boost, because for so many people who experienced it, myself included, it was a source of kinetic energy that they lived off for many years.

Of course that energy dissipated in the end, and we are now back in a situation in Europe in which we no longer have a warm welcome for refugees who manage to get over its walls, we no longer want to learn from them. Instead Europe has slipped into a xenophobic rigidity that wants separation rather than unification. So we need new collective experiences that will give us back the strength that the politicians as privileged people who can travel freely have systematically tried to steal from us. We need people in the streets who will physically work for change. It wasnt capitalism that won in the fall of the Berlin Wall, but a human need for freedom. Our future is much too precious to be left to politicians and their empty words. Translated by Shaun Whiteside

Julia Franck: Berlin today is a city of enthusiastic dreamers with several jobs each

Julia
Photograph: Guillem Lopez/Photoshot

Julia Franck is the author of five novels including The Blind Side of the Heart, a family drama set in postwar Germany, which won the German book prize and sold over a million copies in Germany alone. She was born in East Berlin in 1970 and still lives and writes in the city.

All I know of Germany is a small fragment: Berlin. Thanks to the curiosity of a lot of people from far away, and the hopes and dreams they brought with them, over the past 30 years this city has rapidly changed and internationalised like no other in Germany. Of all major European cities, Berlin is perhaps not only the youngest, but the one with a thousand broken bones; the craziest one, the one with the most tangible and visible scars left by wars and culture. It is like a poor, beautiful woman, dressed up and wearing makeup, but squalid and scruffy she needs visitors, tourists and lovers to keep her going with their fantasies and money. Whether you seek a retreat into ascetic silence or anonymity, or the passionate thrill of nightlife anything is possible here. Though Berlins economy lies idle, tourism and foreign investors have cranked up the property market to unreachable heights. Berliners scarcely have jobs, pensions or savings that would make life in the city viable in the long term. But Berlin belongs to visionaries, dreamers and individualists from all over the place who either bring money with them or struggle, modestly and ambitiously, to survive in their particular niches. Students and artists get by, enriching the city with their inexhaustible creativity and self-exploitation, living hand to mouth while working on their concert or video or 1,000-page novel.

Our family lived barely four kilometres from the west, with only the Spree and the wall, with its threat of deadly punishment in between. When the wall was built in 1961 and sealed with orders to shoot on sight, my uncle, 18 at the time, killed himself. In 1972, my 21-year-old aunt fled to the west in an empty fuel tanker. My single mother made her first application for an exit visa in 1974. After a ban on employment and various other kinds of chicanery, her application for herself and her daughters, four of them at the time was finally authorised in 1978. The five of us lived for almost nine months in a single room in Marienfelde refugee camp in west Berlin, the destination for all eastern European cold war refugees. It was a long time, even after we were granted asylum, before we felt properly integrated. The camp still exists, and has been used often in the 30 years since the fall of the wall: in the early 1990s, for emigrants from the former Soviet Union and Poland, later for war refugees from the Balkans and other parts of eastern Europe, and today for refugees from Syria and south-east Europe. In 2014 there was a surge of violence in the camp, when about 100 Muslim Chechens beat up 30 Syrian Christians. The situation in camps, with people of different origin, religion and perspective, is never easy. Yet the countless people who have come to Germany from all corners of the planet over the past 30 years have enriched it hugely.

Tourists
Tourists pose at the replica hut on the site of Checkpoint Charlie. Photograph: Murdo MacLeod/The Guardian

After the war, the divided Germans, supervised and strongly supported by the Allies, set up a new form of democratic state in west Germany and an astonishing economic miracle developed, offering those born there in the postwar period the promise of self-advancement. My generation in the west grew up with the promise that things would only get better and better. But by the mid-80s, with growing globalisation, then perestroika and the fall of the wall and reunification, it became clear that the economic miracle was over: Germanys favourite child, Federal Savings Bonds, were abolished, and after reunification the unemployment rate in some regions of the east rose to 25%, although it has been falling constantly since 2005 across the whole of Germany. There is a worsening shortage of permanent, well-paid jobs, and our generations pension expectations have declined sharply. Despite rising numbers of high-school graduations and improvements in final exam grades, literacy rates are falling, education in schools is deteriorating and failing to promote social integration, health insurance is more and more expensive, incomes are plummeting and, as in most countries, social inequality has worsened.

In the east, many peoples careers and lives were badly affected by the fall of the wall. Whole regions of the former GDR lie abandoned, because so many went to the west in search of work. While most west Germans were able to look forward to the legacy of their economic-miracle parents, hardly anyone in east inherits anything they didnt have private property or an economic miracle there. Instead they had the guardianship of the state familiar from all dictatorships whose watchful eye encouraged an attitude of entitlement and immaturity. Anyone who supported the system, anyone who worked for the Party or the Stasi, could make a career inside the system without making any great sacrifice in terms of time or intellect, and be sure of being provided for through their entire lives. With that security gone, there is no cushion for the economic downturn in the east. Such social and economic fissures, and the different forms they assume in east and west, make many people, particularly in the east, feel like the losers and victims of reunification. In the last elections people, having lost faith in both democracy and government, turned their backs on the big political parties and vented their defiance as Wutbrger furious citizens. That should be taken as an alarm signal. These people who feel left behind radicalise themselves individually or flee to politically extreme parties. Their fear

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/nov/03/berlin-wall-30-years-on-five-german-writers-assess-bernhard-schlink-franck-geissler-ohler

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Smashing the patriarchy: why there’s nothing natural about male supremacy

Psychologists such as Steven Pinker and Jordan Peterson argue patriarchal society is the natural order, but it is a relatively new development, writes Gaia Vince

Fathers are happier, less stressed and less tired than mothers, finds a study from the American Time Use Survey. Not unrelated, surely, is the regular report that mothers do more housework and childcare than fathers, even when both parents work full time. When the primary breadwinner is the mother versus the father, she also shoulders the mental load of family management, being three times more likely to handle and schedule their activities, appointments, holidays and gatherings, organise the family finances and take care of home maintenance, according to Slate, the US website. (Men, incidentally, are twice as likely as women to think household chores are divided equally.) In spite of their outsized contributions, full-time working mothers also feel more guilt than full-time working fathers about the negative impact on their children of working. One argument that is often used to explain the anxiety that working mothers experience is that it and many other social ills is the result of men and women not living as nature intended. This school of thought suggests that men are naturally the dominant ones, whereas women are naturally homemakers.

But the patriarchy is not the natural human state. It is, though, very real, often a question of life or death. At least 126 million women and girls around the world are missing due to sex-selective abortions, infanticide or neglect, according to United Nations Population Fund figures. Women in some countries have so little power they are essentially infantilised, unable to travel, drive, even show their faces, without male permission. In Britain, with its equality legislation, two women are killed each week by a male partner, and the violence begins in girlhood: it was reported last month that one in 16 US girls was forced into their first experience of sex. The best-paid jobs are mainly held by men; the unpaid labour mainly falls to women. Globally, 82% of ministerial positions are held by men. Whole fields of expertise are predominantly male, such as physical sciences (and women garner less recognition for their contributions they have received just 2.77% of the Nobel prizes for sciences).

According to a variety of high-profile figures (mainly male, mainly psychologists), bolstered by professorships and no shortage of disciples, there are important biological reasons for why men and women have different roles and status in our society. Steven Pinker, for instance, has argued that men prefer to work with things, whereas women prefer to work with people. This, he said, explains why more women work in the (low-paid) charity and healthcare sector, rather than getting PhDs in science. According to Pinker, The occupation that fits best with the people end of the continuum is director of a community services organisation. The occupations that fit best with the things end are physicist, chemist, mathematician, computer programmer, and biologist.

Others deny societal sexism even exists, insisting that the gender roles we see are based on cognitive differences spoiler: men are more intelligent. The people who hold that our culture is an oppressive patriarchy, they dont want to admit that the current hierarchy might be predicated on competence, Jordan Peterson has said, for instance. His reasoning suggests that women would be happier not railing against it but instead observing their traditional gender roles. Such theories have been demolished by a range of scholars, including neuroscientist Gina Rippon and psychologist Cordelia Fine.

There are certainly biological differences between men and women, from their sexual anatomy to hormones. Yet even this isnt as clear cut as it seems. For instance, around one in 50 people may be intersex with some sort of atypical chromosomal or hormonal feature thats about the same as the proportion of redheads. Mens brains are on the whole slightly larger than womens, and scans reveal some differences in the size and connectedness of specific brain regions, such as the hippocampus, in large samples of men and women.

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Illustration: Timo Kuilder

And yet, only a tiny percent (between 0 and 8%) of individual men and women turn out to have a typically male or female brain. Most people are somewhere in the middle, and whether someone has skills for maths, spatial awareness, leadership or any other gendered attribute can not be predicted from knowing their sex, as multiple studies have shown. Anatomically and cognitively, there are more differences within the two sexes than between them.

There is no evidence that women are any less capable of the jobs and social positions that men predominantly hold. When women are given the opportunity to hold male roles, they show themselves to be equally proficient. Researchers recently calculated that it was bias against women, not under-representation, that accounts for the gender distribution seen in the Nobel prizes, for instance. Women are not less intelligent, less logical or less able than men. The roots of patriarchy, in other words, cannot be found in our biology.

Male supremacy, for all its ubiquity, is surprisingly recent. Theres compelling evidence that patriarchal societies date back less than 10,000 years. Humans probably evolved as an egalitarian species and remained that way for hundreds of thousands of years. One clue is in the similar size of human males and females, which show the least disparity of all the apes, indicating that male dominance is not the driving force in our species. In fact, equality between the sexes in our early ancestry would have been evolutionarily beneficial. Parents who were invested in both girls and boys (and the grandchildren from both) gave our ancestors a survival advantage, because this fostered the critical wider-ranging social networks they depended on to exchange resources, genes and cultural knowledge.

Today, hunter-gatherer societies remain remarkable for their gender equality, which is not to say women and men necessarily have the same roles, but there is not the gender-based power imbalance that is almost universal in other societies. In contemporary hunter-gatherer groups, such as the Hadza people of Tanzania, men and women contribute a similar number of calories, and both care for children. They also tend to have equal influence on where their group lives and who they live with.

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A Bribri community, in Costa Rica. Photograph: Maxime Bessieres/Alamy Stock Photo/Alamy

Matriarchal societies may also have been more common in our ancestral communities. Strong female relationships would have helped to glue a larger community together, and being able to rely on friends to babysit would have given our ancestors the time and energy to support the group through food provision and other activities. Indeed, there are several societies where matriarchy is the norm Ive visited some of them, including the cocoa farming Bribri people of Costa Rica, and the rice farming Minangkabau of Sumatra, Indonesia. These are communities in which women are the landowners and decision makers.

In other words, humans are not genetically programmed for male dominance. It is no more natural for us to live in a patriarchy than in a matriarchy or, indeed an egalitarian society. In the same way, it is just as natural for humans to eat a paleo diet as it is to eat bubblegum-flavoured candyfloss; to have sex as a man and a woman or as three men; to live in a straw hut or in a glass bubble beneath the ocean. This is because, unlike other animals, we are cultural beings for our species, culture is our nature, and key to understanding our behaviours and motivations.

Social, technological and behavioural invention are part of our nature part of what it means to be human. We are driven by culture more than instinct. And our culture influences our environment and our genes. Our extraordinarily flexible, cumulative culture allows us to make ourselves even as we attribute our successes and failings to our genes.

Thats not to say that just because a cultural trait has emerged it is necessarily good. Patriarchal norms, for instance, are damaging to our health and our societies, increasing death and suffering, and limiting humanitys creative potential. We are, though, neither slaves to our biology nor our social norms even if it can feel that way.

Human cultural conditioning begins at birth, indeed, social norms even have an impact before birth: one study found that when pregnant women were informed of the sex of the baby they were carrying, they described its movements differently. Women who learned they were carrying a girl typically described the movements as quiet, very gentle, more rolling than kicking; whereas those who knew they were carrying a boy described very vigorous movements, kicks and punches, a saga of earthquakes.

Traditional
Traditional cow racing, celebrating the end of the harvest by the Minangkabau people. Photograph: Robertus Pudyanto/Getty Images

Many of the ideas we consider universally held are simply the social norms in our own culture. Libert, galit, fraternit may be values worth dying for in France, for instance, but personal freedom is not considered important or desirable for other societies, which prioritise values such as purity instead. Consider the idea of responsibility. In my culture, if you deliberately hurt a person or their property this is considered a much worse crime than if you did it by accident, but in other cultures, children and adults are punished according to the outcome of their actions intentionality is considered impossible to grasp and therefore largely irrelevant.

The biological differences between males and females, or indeed between ethnic groups, tell us nothing about how intelligent, empathetic or successful a person is. Modern humans are 99.9% genetically identical. Although we have expanded far beyond our tropical evolutionary niche over tens of thousands of years, we have not speciated we have not even diversified into different subspecies. Our ancestors have not needed to make dramatic biological adaptations to the very different environments we live in, because, instead, we culturally evolved and diversified into a complexity of differently adapted cultures, each with their own social norms.

It is our cultural developing bath, not our genes, that profoundly changes the way we think, behave and perceive the world. Studies comparing the neural processing of populations of westerners and East Asians, for example, show that culture shapes how people look at faces (westerners triangulate their gaze over eyes and mouth, whereas East Asians centralise their focus). Language reveals our norms and shapes the way we think. Children who speak Hebrew, a strongly gendered language, know their own gender a year earlier than speakers of non-gendered Finnish. English speakers are better than Japanese speakers at remembering who or what caused an accident, such as breaking a vase. Thats because in English we say Jimmy broke the vase, whereas in Japanese, the agent of causality is rarely used; they will say: The vase broke. The structures that exist in our language profoundly shape how we construct reality and it turns out that reality, and our human nature, differ dramatically depending on the language we speak. Our brains change and our cognition is rewired according to the cultural input we receive and respond to.

Many of our social norms evolved because they improve survival, through group cohesion, for instance. But social norms can also be harmful. There is no scientific basis for the belief that a persons skin colour or sex has any bearing on their character or intelligence. However, social norms can affect a persons behaviour and their biology. Social norms that classify particular groups to the bottom of a social hierarchy encourage society to collude with that positioning and those people do worse in outcomes from wealth to health, strengthening the norm. A major study, by researchers at Berkeley, of 30,000 American shift workers found that black, Hispanic and other minority workers particularly women are much more likely to be assigned irregular schedules, and the harmful repercussions of this were felt not just by them but also by their children, who fared worse.

The danger of ascribing genetic and biological bases for our actions is that individuals and groups are not given equal opportunities in life, and they suffer. It is, after all, very convenient to believe that the poor are feckless and undeserving, morally weak or stupid, rather than casualties of a deeply unfair systemic bias. Equally, its much more appealing to think of ones own successes as down to some sort of innate personal brilliance rather than luck and social position.

If we persist in the idea that there is a natural a best way to be a human, then we blind ourselves to the great diversity of potential ways of being, thinking and feeling, and impose social limitations on those whose life choices are no less legitimate than ours. Its worth noting, though, that many norms that were once believed to be set in biological stone or ordained by gods have been changed by societies sometimes remarkably quickly. If we invented it, we can alter it. An accepted natural state that has existed for millennia can be changed in mere months.

Transcendence: How Humans Evolved Through Fire, Language, Beauty, and Time by Gaia Vince is published by Allen Lane. To order a copy go to guardianbookshop.com. Free UK p&p on all online orders over 15.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/nov/02/smashing-the-patriarchy-why-theres-nothing-natural-about-male-supremacy

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‘They said we used cheddar!’: chef demands removal from Michelin Guide

Marc Veyrat of La Maison des Bois stated he had actually been depressed for months after losing a sought after star following amateur examination

Knives are being honed in the elite world of French gastronomy after a well-known chef required that his dining establishment, which just recently lost among its 3 stars, be withdrawn from the Michelin Guide — a demand the publishers of the renowned red book have actually declined.

In a remarkable letter, exposed by Le Point , Marc Veyrat railed versus his demotion in January, voicing his doubts that the guide’s inspectors had actually even visited his dining establishment, La Maison des Bois, in the Haute Savoie.

“I have actually been depressed for 6 months. How attempt you take the health of your chefs captive?” composed Veyrat, who is understood for his signature black hat. When Gordon Ramsay was removed of a Michelin star at his New York dining establishment, he compared the experience to losing a sweetheart and losing the Champions League.

Veyrat knocked the “extensive incompetence” of the guide’s inspectors. “They attempted to state that we put cheddar in our souffle of beaufort, reblochon and tomme! They have actually insulted our area; my staff members raged,” he stated, according to Le Monde . “When we have eggs from our chickens, milk from our cows, and 2 botanists gather our plants every early morning!”

In an interview with Lyon Capitale , Veyrat stated the inspectors”understand definitely nothing about cooking
! … Let them place on an apron and get in the cooking area! We are waiting. Let them reveal us what they understand how to do … The Michelin, they’re essentially novices. They could not prepare a good meal,” he stated.

Veyrat likewise required to be revealed the costs from the inspectors ‘go to.”You need to have the ability to discover that proof,” he composed to the publishers.”You are impostors who just desire clashes, for industrial factors.”

The guide’s worldwide director, Gwendal Poullennec, stated Veyrat’s dining establishment has actually been gone to”a number of times every year considering that he resumed “. Regardless of the chef’s demand, La Maison des Bois would not be withdrawn. Poullennec continued, the guide is working for the consumers and not for the dining establishment:”The stars are granted by Michelin on an annual basis and they are not the home of the chefs. They are for foodies and readers to provide the chance to find an experience.”

In 2018, French chef Sebastien Bras requested for his dining establishment Le Suquet to be withdrawn from the guide, stating he did not wish to prepare under the “substantial pressure” of a possible assessment. His demand was at first satisfied– however this January, Le Suquet was re-listed , this time with 2 stars instead of 3.

Poullennec included that he was sorry to become aware of Veyrat’s suffering, however”we need to look forward. Possibly one day he will be back to the 3 star level, that’s a matter for him. For that he has to focus on providing the finest experience for the consumers.”

Eating at La Maison des Bois, which has a view of Mont Blanc, is explained on Veyrat’s site as comparable to”a genuine pastoral and mineral symphony in which nature’s bounty is shown in each and every meal”. The”stellar event” menu, priced at EUR395( 354), provides meals consisting of”impression”of caviar with trout eggs and” king prawns prepared in spruce bark”. The dining establishment has its own arboretums, veggie gardens and orchards, raises its own cows, chickens and freshwater fish, and makes its own bread and cider.

The Michelin article of La Maison des Bois stays radiant . The dining establishment is, it states,” worth the detour “, with an”remarkable food”– the very best example of which is the”balade”in the woods”where flavours burst, escape, in between herby notes, sap of fir and mushrooms”. The only drawback, the write-up notes, is the cost.

Despite Veyrat’s anger at being implicated of utilizing cheddar, no reference is made in the guide of the range of cheese utilized in the souffle.

The Michelin Guide has its roots in the late 19th century, when siblings Andre and Edouard Michelin established their tire business and chose to produce a recommendation for vehicle drivers, filled with info for their journeys. By the 1920s, the red book included reviews of dining establishments and hotels, which were evaluated anonymously by a group of secret restaurants. The star rankings were presented in 1926, with the hierarchy of absolutely no, one, 2 and 3 stars generated 5 years later on.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/jul/11/le-maison-des-bois-chef-marc-veyrat-demands-removal-michelin-guide

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The death of truth: how we gave up on facts and ended up with Trump

Truth decay has been spreading for decades. How can we stop alternative facts from bringing down democracy, asks Michiko Kakutani

Two of the most monstrous regimes in human history came to power in the 20th century, and both were predicated on the violation and despoiling of truth, on the knowledge that cynicism and weariness and fear can make people susceptible to the lies and false promises of leaders bent on unconditional power. As Hannah Arendt wrote in her 1951 book The Origins of Totalitarianism, The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction (ie the reality of experience) and the distinction between true and false (ie the standards of thought) no longer exist.

Arendts words increasingly sound less like a dispatch from another century than a chilling description of the political and cultural landscape we inhabit today a world in which fake news and lies are pumped out in industrial volume by Russian troll factories, emitted in an endless stream from the mouth and Twitter feed of the president of the United States, and sent flying across the world through social media accounts at lightning speed. Nationalism, tribalism, dislocation, fear of social change and the hatred of outsiders are on the rise again as people, locked in their partisan silos and filter bubbles, are losing a sense of shared reality and the ability to communicate across social and sectarian lines.

This is not to draw a direct analogy between todays circumstances and the overwhelming horrors of the second world war era, but to look at some of the conditions and attitudes what Margaret Atwood has called the danger flags in George Orwells Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm that make a people susceptible to demagoguery and political manipulation, and nations easy prey for would-be autocrats. To examine how a disregard for facts, the displacement of reason by emotion, and the corrosion of language are diminishing the value of truth, and what that means for the world.

The term truth decay has joined the post-truth lexicon that includes such now familiar phrases as fake news and alternative facts. And its not just fake news either: its also fake science (manufactured by climate change deniers and anti-vaxxers, who oppose vaccination), fake history (promoted by Holocaust revisionists and white supremacists), fake Americans on Facebook (created by Russian trolls), and fake followers and likes on social media (generated by bots).

Donald Trump, the 45th president of the US, lies so prolifically and with such velocity that the Washington Post calculated hed made 2,140 false or misleading claims during his first year in office an average of 5.9 a day. His lies about everything from the investigations into Russian interference in the election, to his popularity and achievements, to how much TV he watches are only the brightest blinking red light among many warnings of his assault on democratic institutions and norms. He routinely assails the press, the justice system, the intelligence agencies, the electoral system and the civil servants who make the US government tick.

Nor is the assault on truth confined to America. Around the world, waves of populism and fundamentalism are elevating appeals to fear and anger over reasoned debate, eroding democratic institutions, and replacing expertise with the wisdom of the crowd. False claims about the UKs financial relationship with the EU helped swing the vote in favour of Brexit, and Russia ramped up its sowing of dezinformatsiya in the runup to elections in France, Germany, the Netherlands and other countries in concerted propaganda efforts to discredit and destabilise democracies.

How did this happen? How did truth and reason become such endangered species, and what does the threat to them portend for our public discourse and the future of our politics and governance?

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/jul/14/the-death-of-truth-how-we-gave-up-on-facts-and-ended-up-with-trump