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Licensing Parents?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 29/12/2020 - 4:00am in

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parenting

What can we do to reduce child abuse and neglect?

Is Love Addiction Real?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 22/12/2020 - 6:25am in

Shia LaBeouf will do anything to have a woman love him. Or must she be addicted to him like he is to her?

The Trauma of the Windsors

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 18/11/2020 - 2:15am in

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Media, parenting

Are the Windsors, as depicted in “The Crown,” victims of trauma? What about William and Harry?

Colorado’s New Family Leave Law Could Transform Fatherhood

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 10/11/2020 - 2:56am in

In last week’s U.S. presidential election, voters in states across the country approved an array of ballot initiatives. Among them was Proposition 118, which guarantees residents of Colorado the right to three months of paid family leave. It’s a right that comes standard in Iceland, where it’s common for fathers to take several months off work when their kids are born.

This norm has had far reaching effects in Iceland — not just for men, but for Icelandic society as a whole, which enjoys some of the highest rates of gender equality in the world. In this excerpt from Solved! How Other Countries Have Cracked the World’s Biggest Problems and We Can Too, author Andrew Wear examines how paid parental leave for both moms and dads in Iceland has paid off.

“This is probably the most important time to bond with a kid. Why not take the chance to be with your child when they’re just becoming an individual?”

Sigurður Bragason is outlining his approach to parenting. Sigurður, who is Icelandic, and his Swiss wife, Dr Nicole Keller, have two young children: Felix, six, and Miriam, three. They are speaking to me via Skype from their kitchen in Iceland with their kids on — and off — their knees.

When each of their children was born, both parents took extended parental leave. Nicole returned to work six months after the birth of Felix and eleven months after the birth of Miriam, and each time Sigurður took six months. Both now work — Sigurður full-time as a graphic designer and Nicole four days per week at the Environment Agency. Sigurður explains how things work in their family. “We divide the parenting quite equally. It’s not like one of us is taking care of everything.”

icelandReykjavik, Iceland. Credit: Chris Yunker / Flickr

In Iceland, it is normal for fathers to take extended parental leave, although six months is less typical. “Most men I know have taken three months,” says Nicole. As a consequence of this early time with their children, fathers tend to be extremely involved in parenting. 

The Icelandic government provides each parent with three months of non-transferrable leave at 80 percent of their salary (up to a ceiling). This leave must be taken within 18 months of the child’s birth. Parents also have a joint right to an additional three months that can be used by one parent or divided between them. So Icelandic parents face a “use it or lose it” situation. 

While the flexible component of parental leave is mostly used by mothers, about 80 percent of fathers take at least three months of paternity leave to care for their children as infants. Paid paternity leave is just one of a host of measures that have helped Iceland to address historical gender-based inequalities in the areas of education, health, employment and political representation.

With the world’s smallest gender gap, Iceland has topped the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index for 11 years running, and The Economist ranks Iceland as the best place in the world to be a working woman. Iceland’s experience shows us that with organized and persistent community campaigning and a government prepared to legislate protest demands into practice, we can move much closer to a world in which the gender gap is eliminated. 

A strike for women’s rights

Iceland has a long history as a seafaring nation, which meant the men were often at sea for extended periods. Women were farmers, hunters, or builders and managed the household finances. Like many maritime nations, Iceland’s ability to prosper was underpinned by its women.

In 1850, Iceland became the first country in the world to grant equal inheritance rights to men and women. The Icelandic Women’s Association was established in 1894, and the struggle for women’s suffrage grew to become a powerful movement.

Yet by the 1970s, Iceland was no longer leading the way on equality. Women earned at least 40 percent less than men, and there were just three female members of parliament, five percent of total parliamentarians.

The Red Stockings, a radical women’s movement, proposed action. Their plan to strike felt too confrontational for some citizens, but when the protest was renamed the Women’s Day Off, it achieved near-universal support, including backing from influential unions.

On October 24, 1975, 90 percent of Iceland’s female population went on strike, refusing to work, cook or look after children for the day, demonstrating the “indispensable work” women did for the nation’s economy. Schools, childcare centers and businesses were closed for the day. No newspapers were printed, as most typesetters were female. Flights were cancelled as flight attendants did not come to work.

More than 40 years later, Icelandic women are still taking to the streets to agitate for equality. They have gone on strike five times since 1975: in 1985, 2005, 2010, 2016 and 2018. At the 2018 Women’s Day Off, women walked out at 2.55 p.m., in protest over the fact that Icelandic women earn 74 percent of men’s income on average and have therefore “earned their wages after only five hours and 55 minutes.”

Partly due to its history of feminist activism, Iceland now tops the world on measures of political empowerment. In the Global Gender Gap Index, no other country comes close. Iceland has closed 70 percent of the gap between men and women, while the second-ranked country, Norway, has closed only 60 percent. The United Kingdom (40 percent), Australia (23 percent) and the United States (16 percent) are a long way down the list.

Putting parenthood first

In 2000, Iceland’s parental leave legislation came into effect, giving parents a total of nine months of leave, including three months for each parent. Both parents are entitled to this leave regardless of gender, custody arrangements, or size or shape of family. The full nine months can be allocated to one parent in special circumstances, such as serious illness or when one parent is serving a prison sentence. Since the law’s introduction, about 80 percent of fathers have taken paternity leave to care for their children as infants. In 2013, fathers took an average of 87 days of leave after the birth of their child.

Take a moment to reflect on what this means. Almost every male truck driver, lawyer or construction worker spends months out of the workplace to care for their child while their partner returns to work. Picture these men en masse, pushing prams at the playground or changing nappies at home. Think about what this means for how their families function.

Fathers’ participation in caregiving is essential to ensure that mothers can remain and advance in the workforce. Research into Icelandic paternity leave arrangements has shown that it has led to greater involvement of fathers in child-rearing and women returning to work faster — and returning to their pre-childbirth hours faster too. Furthermore, parenting behavior established at childbirth tends to persist as children age.

This in turn shapes children’s experience of gender, says Frida Rós Valdimarsdóttir, chair of the Icelandic Women’s Rights Association. “Those measures are so important. You can see changes in the society.”

Discussion in Iceland has been focused on extending paid parental leave still further. In 2019, the Icelandic parliament enacted legislation to extend paid parental leave to an impressive 12 months. From 2020, each parent will be given five months of leave, with the remaining two months to share between them.

Returning to work after having children is made easier in Iceland by a workplace culture that supports flexible approaches to parenting. “Our work supports parenting,” Sigurður says. “If I tell people I need to take care of a sick child, or I need to go to the kindergarten because there’s a festival there, they’re super supportive. They just say, ‘Yes, go for it.’”

Government in Iceland plays a critical role in supporting parents through heavily subsidized childcare. In Reykjavík, a married couple would typically pay about US$215 per month for eight hours of childcare a day (that includes food), while a single parent would only pay US$145.45 

Access to affordable childcare is fundamental to achieving gender equality as it helps parents return to work when children are young. In a survey of 23 OECD countries, more-accessible childcare was the most commonly cited way of removing barriers to female workforce participation.

Perhaps due to these measures, Icelandic women participate in the workforce at almost the same rate as men. The workforce participation rate is 86 percent for women and 92 percent for men. This rate for women is among the highest in the world, far higher than countries such as Australia (72 percent), Canada (74 percent), the United Kingdom (72 percent) or the United States (66 percent). Iceland has also managed to smash the stereotype of women in STEM careers. While women are underrepresented in STEM careers globally, in Iceland men are now a minority in these disciplines — some 56 percent of “professional and technical workers” are now women, the highest rate in the world.

It’s clear that gender equality at work is only possible if there is also equality at home. Given the huge share of unpaid domestic work that women have historically undertaken, equal pay and greater female workforce participation is unlikely to be possible unless men spend more time at home. Hence, Iceland — through a comprehensive and well-planned paid paternity leave scheme — has intervened to encourage fathers to establish a new relationship between work and parenting.

It’s important that they do. The evidence suggests that children of highly involved fathers develop better cognitive abilities, perform better at school, are more resilient and have enhanced social relations. Positive co-parenting relationships also provide a model of the types of skills that children can use in their own relationships. Mothers benefit from highly involved fathers too. While extended paternity leave allows women to return to work more quickly, involved fathers also lead to mothers experiencing a greater sense of wellbeing and lower rates of post-natal depression. 

Reflecting on their experience of parenting in Iceland, Sigurður and Nicole both emphasize the importance of early connections. 

“Children are developing most in the early years of life, and being able to connect during that time is priceless,” says Sigurður. “I hope more fathers will have a chance to build a strong relationship with their children.”

The post Colorado’s New Family Leave Law Could Transform Fatherhood appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

How others are organising the Covistance: ideas for those who want to help.

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 02/11/2020 - 10:02pm in

How are we going to escape the authoritarian nightmare and regain our liberties and zest for life? This long read is written for organisers of new Covistance initiatives, explaining the logic of what others have done and what could further be done. So I am speaking to those of you who want to help and are looking around for how you could help. I will discuss website-based Covistance initiatives (lockdownsceptics.org, pandata19.org , covidplanb.co.nz , viruswaarheid.nl, and social media groups) , petition-type activities (timeforRecovery.org and others), Covistance media (including do-it-yourself activities), and others.

There are many things people with different talents can do and very little is being done already. There is for instance no organisation or initiative yet that really is dedicated to people who initially went along with the covid-hysteria and have woken up to the realisation that they have been a victim of scare-mongering and disinformation. We are seeing hundreds of thousands of people around the world in essence “waking up” from a kind of cult-nightmare, bewildered and uncertain. There is a real role for groups and initiatives of an Alcoholics Anonymous type where people can share experiences and tips on how to cope, how to recover, how to help their families and friends snap out of the hysteria and support them through the transition, etc.. Teaching material needs to be generated for such organisations, including written and visual material. Pastoral care is urgently needed. TalentedFree Community Service Cliparts, Download Free Clip Art, Free Clip Art on Clipart Library empathic people can set up these types of organisations and really make a contribution to their immediate environment.

I also think artists have a really important role. We need plays, songs, paintings, poems, etc., to remind us of beauty and the good life. Now is very much a time for art to play its role as a source of solace and hope.

There is also of course a need for scientists to research the hysteria and what kind of societies we should try to become. This is something I have written about a lot in the past (see https://clubtroppo.com.au/author/paul-frijters/). There is now plenty of good material by top scientists and institutions that tell a Covista what is going on and what policies our societies could adopt. It needs adding to by those with real skill in that area, but it is not the biggest bottleneck at the moment.

The biggest bottleneck at the moment is community formation: the creation of groups and organisations that help people become engaged citizens. The new organisations needed include new media networks that offer a Covistance perspective and new academic-type institutions where people can learn and study. There is also a need for local organisations to engage in local and regional politics. I want to discuss the many initiatives in different countries that have emerged so far, pointing out the more successful models.

Is more help needed at all, you might wonder? Unfortunately, it is becoming clear that many countries in the West and elsewhere will not be returning to the old normal anytime soon. Not only is it highly unlikely that any vaccine will mean the end of covid-19 deaths, but more fundamentally is it now the case that a machinery of coercion and control has arisen in many countries. That machinery has a very strong incentive to keep going, either by finding new threats or by ramping up the fear of whatever remains of the current threat.

So those with an interest in personal liberty, joy, reason, and all those other good things we had and took for granted, should organise. True, some us can just migrate to places that still have joyful liberty and let jealousy and poverty chip away at the authoritarian systems they leave behind. But not all of us can or want to migrate, as many want to create a good place where we are now. They will have to organise a resistance and find solace and joy doing so.

There are many very worthy and heartening Covistance initiatives underway in many countries. Some initiatives have transformed existing institutions, others have set up new ones. So there are now newspapers, tv-stations, and political parties that are part of the Covistance.

New civic society communities are sprouting up all over the place, fighting the misery and authoritarianism of the covid-mania that has such a stranglehold over the vast majority of existing media and institutions. I want to discuss some examples of what others have done and the internal logic of their choices so you can judge whether doing something similar is for you.

 

Lockdownsceptics.org

The most successful type of community building I have seen so far among the Covistance initiatives is the lockdownsceptics.org website run by Toby Young, a British journalist. He does two mains things:  he gives a daily update on events relevant to the Covistance in the UK, and he provides a forum for people to share and discuss what is happening in their own neck of the woods. Both of these things are done in a very clever, but cheap and easy to copy manner.

Writing his daily updates must take Toby Young a fair chunk of each day: he gets sent and looks for interesting academic papers and commentary on what is happening. He uses extensive quotes rather than his own summary. Importantly, he flatters whom he approves of and brutally takes down whom he ridicules, with no in-betweens. His daily update then consists of about 5 summaries of particularly noteworthy contributions and events, introduced by a funny cartoon and usually with a few graphs, topped up with a list of 10 to 20 links to other pieces written elsewhere. The site also has a compendium of longer pieces on particular issues people often ask about (like herd immunity, the crowd-nature of the covid-mania, the issue of the PCR tests, etc.) and forums for particular discussions. But every day you basically get to see a new update as the first page, where you can click through the daily updates of previous days.

The second part of the daily updated page is just as important and much less work: a comment section in which, daily, some 1,000 to 2,000 mainly British citizens share their personal experiences, joys, laughs, and observations. I have watched this comment section evolve and it is like seeing a community emerge. There are regulars who push their views on covid and their personality each day. There are many who had a bad covid-related experience just recently and for instance need to vent about their cancelled cancer-screening, a co-worker who committed suicide out of loneliness, or a wedding that cant go ahead. There are those who share jokes or good news that they finally found a job. Then there are many who only write in once to say how much support they get from just reading about others who share their views. Then there are those who tell of personal resistance where they are, ranging from refusing to wear masks to writing to their members of parliament, to assembling lists of evidence. Toby never engages in these comments but seems to pick up some links from it now and then anyway.

Toby’s daily update forms a symbiosis with the commenting community he has enabled on his website, in that they send him interesting new information which he sometimes takes up in the next update. He is also in symbiosis with a community of Covistas in UK academia, business, and the public service. They write to him and send him secret documents, eye-witness accounts of what happened in crucial places (like hospitals or during demonstrations), or analyses of what is happening elsewhere. Toby is acutely aware of this symbiosis and thus links to his Covista friends. He is also very deliberate in forming communities and for instance has a “postcard from” section in which his readers get to hear about life somewhere else in the world, as well as a “love in times of covid” website where the Covistas find dates with each other.

So Toby is creating and enabling a mainly British community of Covistas consisting of ordinary citizens, academics, public servants, journalists, lawyers, and many others. He is the spider in the web of that Covistance community, making introductions between different members of that community (both via that website and by email), selecting what he thinks is worthy and trying to understand what is going on.

Note what Toby does not do on that website: whilst he provides forums on the same website for people to have their own discussions on lots of topics, he does not share the main story-telling with anyone else. The daily updates are his and his alone, though he doesn’t write ‘the world according to Toby’ pieces but rather tries to make main points by extensively quoting others. Also, he does not form a community of journalists who all post their own updates, nor does he allow real challenge to the conclusions he has come to. He thus uses the website to push some of his favourite opinions on other matters, and he does not have a board of trustees that verifies or judges what he does. It is thus not an academic place, nor is it a blog or a society. It is a mixture of infotainment and community-formation enabling.

The reason lockdownsceptics.org works so well is that Toby Young puts a huge amount of effort into it, he is quick on the uptake and so can sift through mountains of new information every day, has a good feel for what his constituency will have followed in the mainstream news, makes the site visually appealing and funny, and is willing to network far and wide on this topic. He is damned good at all of this.

Importantly, in my opinion Toby is not that good at reading the academic side of things. I actually think that is a strength because it allows knowledgeable outsiders to genuinely think they have something to add (and he often lets them), and regular readers will forgive him for making mistakes. So the direction of travel changes with new insights and what the high-status Covistas say whom Toby follows (so it does very much follow a class-system logic, which is probably a strength at this point for him). He also seems difficult to get on with personally, at least according to the comments I have seen on other sites by quite a few of his journalist colleagues who knew him for years. He is thus not a slick communicating super-scientist but a journo who has spotted a mass hysteria when he saw it, trying a new model which can be followed by those with similar strengths and weaknesses.

I have seen nothing like that endeavour elsewhere, though perhaps there are lots of other websites on different topics which work the same as his. But I think his model would work in many countries and would also attract sponsorship and some help (for instance with those cartoons). I can see it work in the Netherlands, in Australia, in the US, in New Zealand, etc. Maybe they already have such sites, but I don’t know about them.

Indeed, as a way of making a name and a new network for yourself as an unknown journalist, starting your own lockdownsceptics.org endeavour in your own country seems a great idea to copy if you have a similar skill set. If you can do the cartoons yourself or find someone who allows you to copy theirs, which is important because you will need funny visuals, it seems pretty cheap to do as well in terms of overhead.

 

Let me use the lockdownsceptics.org (LS.O) initiative to discuss some other community-building endeavours I have seen in the Covistance, like social media forums and blogs.

Money Heist Mask La Casa De Papel Vinyl Decal Sticker Car Window Wall in 2020 | Marvel comics wallpaper, Doodle art drawing, Mask paintingA good example of a Covistance social media forum is the facebook group in Victoria about this: https://www.facebook.com/groups/endthelockdownaustralia/ organised by Tim Flynn. It works like a regular facebook group in that those who are members can put up their own posts, on which everyone who is a member can comment. Anyone can apply and are usually let in, but I guess Tim Flynn decides. There are some very loosely defined and obeyed rules of the game, such as not posting conspiracy theories.

From Tim Flynn’s point of view, this Facebook group is much less work than LS.O as there is a whole community of people who post. He and his friends will have to do some policing and some inviting of new people, plus the occasional post by themselves. But it’s not a large daily job and does not involve constant networking and keeping up to date with what is happening on various fronts. So it’s the low-effort way of trying to create a bit of a Covistance community.

I have observed that Facebook group for a while and I find it of some use, but not all that much. It has become a bit of an echo chamber in which it’s the more energetic (which unfortunately does mean the conspiracy theorists and disgruntled) who post the most. There is a lot of swearing, the level of debate has not moved up, and there is little interest or attempt to get to a more constructive and informed Covistance. It is not really conducive to the formation of grassroots organisations either, such as walking groups, reading groups, and other groups that meet physically and thus become groups of friends who take on joint Covistance projects, although it does allow people to announce they are going to protest in particular venues. It’s very much an angry mob appealing to authority to save them from that same authority. Its a good source for funny cartoons.

This is not to deny that it has some benefits, which is mainly to allow the good people of Victoria to vent their anger at what is happening, share some personal hurt stories, and allow some coordination on events. So it helps to reassure many they are not alone.

From the point of view of the organiser, this facebook group type of endeavour is not highly appealing either. Tim can’t ask for money and it is not a means to have high-brow conversations that allow for networking with academics, businesses, politicians, and civil servants. So it can’t grow to anything that will help Tim’s standing and career.

Exactly the same issue pertains to lots of other social media Covistance groups that you see on Reddit, TikTok, Instagram, Telegram, Twitter, or wherever. They help people vent, grieve, and share some information, but the format is not useful for anything more effective and transformative. If you like, in the ecosystem of Covistance communities, they form easy-access “thank god I am not alone and can swear at the b*stards who have done this to us” groups.

Compared to LS.O they are also rather inefficient in sharing information and in forming a clear group: because lots of people are shouting at lots of different times, there is no central shared narrative but more a cacophony in which most things said are unnoticed by most involved. There is thus a huge waste of energy and insight happening there, much as if you have a church with 100 part-time priests shouting from the pulpit at the same time. It is cathartic for a while, but no more. There is no program, no direction, and little organisation.

 

pandata19.org , covidplanb.co.nz , and viruswaarheid.nl

A very different attempt at community formation can be seen in the websites run by groups of people with academic training, who try and convince their own countries of what they think is going on. Let me discuss three examples of this genre: the Dutch viruswaarheid.nl which is run by a virologist and a lawyer in order to convince the Dutch population about covid-mania, the Kiwi covidplanb.co.nz which is run by medics to advocate a different set of policies on covid in New Zealand, and pandata19.org run by South African academics and actuaries to convince the South Africans of the folly of what their government is doing.

A general point about all three of these is that they are focused on the debate inside their own country, with little attention to what is happening elsewhere. This reflects the fact that the populations of each country have become more insular and focused on what is happening in that country, which is what fear does. It is also the case that each three are “let me tell you what I think” websites, all based on the particular professional expertise of those running them. This helps with conserving a clear message the creators believe in, but puts a severe limit on the degree to which they enable community formation.

Now, covidplanb.co.nz is the least sophisticated of these website-based initiatives, perhaps reflecting that New Zealand is the smallest of the three countries involved and that the handful of medics running it only have very limited time to run it. It is basically a collection of pages on a specific website that says what the organisers think of covid policies in New Zealand, plus some letters and links regarding related activities and findings of others.

Unlike the community building Covistance endeavours talked about previously, there is no interaction at all on covidplanb.co.nz, nor are there daily updates or anything necessarily current. It goes through weeks of total inactivity and so will not hold a community of people regularly tuning in: a golden rule of any community is that there must be regular community life. covidplanb.co.nz is more a billboard plus a couple of email addresses for Kiwi journalists to look up if they need someone to comment with a particular opinion. True, they did run a conference with foreign guests, whereafter they posted the results on the website, but without regular life one simply does not have a community. So it’s a resource and a statement, but not more than that.

The logic and difficulties of covidplanb.co.nz are clear: the organisers want to be very careful with the message they sign up for as they have their careers to worry about. So they write little and try to link as much to outside high-status academics as they can in order to make their views look reasonable and respectable (which they are). Only in an extremely loose sense do they team up with anyone else, thus signing the Great Barrington Declaration but not providing a mechanism for similar opinion formation inside New Zealand. So what they do is low effort with no personal reward, but a very clean message.

The viruswaarheid.nl endeavour in the Netherlands is more ambitious. The main organisers are a lawyer and a former PhD in virology who ran a dance studio for a few years but clearly still knows how to read the medical academic literature. So they are capable, young, and energetic, but neither have academic careers that could be ruined and so are free to simply say what they and their invited contributors think. They engage in three activities: they organise court cases against government decisions and laws, they write various critical stand-alone pieces (which they post in three languages, including English), and they organise protest activities.

The comparison with LS.O is instructive here: like LS.O they have standing pieces, videos, and are involved in attempts to work within the institutions of the country. Like Toby Young, the organisers of viruswaarheid.nl are also networking behind the scenes and have invited pieces and exposés using the tips given by others. It also attracts funding. What they do not do is provide a means of community formation, forums to discuss lots of aspects of the problem, or a daily update to attract a crowd and basically be involved in the 24/7 media cycle. So viruswaarheid.nl does similar ‘high brow’ activities as LS.O but is much less involved in enabling a grassroots and media-integrated movement. Hence while Toby Young effectively each day puts 20 others in the limelight (academics, civil servants, random passers-by), viruswaarheid.nl praises no more than maybe 2 others each week.

I think this is one of the reasons why the Covistance in the Netherlands is still much less organised than in the UK: there has been no equivalent of lockdownsceptics.org to help engender a community of Covistas to emerge, network, and to skill up via discussion forums on lots of issues. Now, that partly reflects that in the Netherlands the grassroots organisation takes place in some of the main political parties and the country has lots of social media Covistance groups, but all that is far less effective than LS.O at building links between grassroot experiences and high-brow resistance.

However, from an organisational point of view, viruswaarheid.nl is much easier to run because it is essentially an occasional-write-and-post endeavour, leaving the organisers free to spend their time preparing court cases and protest marches. They can’t do everything. If a good ambitious journalist would team up with them to run something like LS.O on their already existing website, I think that would put a huge multiplier on their existing activities.

Now, the most sophisticated of these academic-type initiatives is the South African pandata19.org endeavour run by 4 volunteers. It is basically run as a slightly more tech-savvy version of the Dutch endeavour. The website has videos, posts, running graphs with daily predictions and updates, articles, and outside links. It has explicit policy advice and a broad narrative on why covid-mania has happened and all the failures in national and international civic society (including academia) that have allowed it to happen. The people running it are often on their own national news, and are putting a lot of effort into running predictive models of the pandemic as it is happening in South Africa, producing small reports on what is happening in particular places and sectors. So it is very similar to the website of a small research outfit. They thus also have a ‘scientific advisory board’ made up of the people who organised the Great Barrington Declaration whom they simply mailed. They have also made interviews calling for international cooperation.

The pandata initiative takes a lot of effort and specific expertise in the way they have done it, with slick graphics and media-oriented narratives. So to copy it one would need serious scientific expertise, some money, someone really good at maintaining a website and someone with a lot of expertise in media management.

Unlike the Dutch viruswaarheid.nl though, the pandata people are not organising protests inside South Africa, nor are they involved in court challenges: while they talk within their own high-level networks about these issues and thus lobby personally, they are not openly challenging the system.

Like the Kiwi and Dutch initiative, they don’t highlight what many others do or enable the formation of a broad Covistance community. This is probably one of the reasons they by their own admission are not getting anywhere with their efforts in South Africa, despite the fact they are on the news frequently and can credibly boast to have better predicted all aspects of the epidemic than official forecasters. They are coming to terms though with the fact that truth matters for very little in politics nowadays and are openly musing what they could do further.

 

Joint declarations like gbdeclaration.org and docs4opendebate.be/en/open-letter/

In many countries by now, groups of professionals have banded together to pen a Covistance declaration. In Australia, there were the 500 Victorian doctors saying covid-lockdowns there were doing more harm than good, echoing similar declarations by German, American, Dutch, French, British, and other groups of doctors. You have had groups of concerned citizens, economists, lawyers, and businesses doing the same.

The Belgian doctor effort in docs4opendebate.be/en/open-letter/ is typical of the genre: a small group of doctors who probably knew each other already got together to sweat over a joint declaration, which they then got as many colleagues as they could to co-sign, after which they bought a website and posted their declaration. The Belgian doctor declaration is quite extensive and lashes out at the World Health Organisation, the Belgium government, and even makes a big effort to explain the epidemic to the Belgian parliamentarians in the hope that truth matters in Belgian politics.

These things are getting bigger and bigger, with the next biggest one “timeforRecovery.org”, a UK group made up of people from lots of walks of life. They call for inquiries, balanced approaches, public debate, etc. Its a huge effort.

What is true of nearly all these efforts is that they lead to nothing and had no follow up. The good doctors, lawyers, economists, and citizens spoke up, were ignored, and sat down again. I have personally co-written one of these things, so know exactly how it goes. One feels all brave and useful doing them, and very happy when lots of others sign them indicating one is not considered a mad loner, but there is no follow-up and the mainstream media interest in them last a few seconds.

As a statement of what the values and opinions of a whole profession is, I think these things are useful because they provide legitimacy to other efforts. They are an open signal that many high-status people (which all these professionals are) ascribe to the Covistance. That signal is noticed by everyone else in those professions and by public servants, so they are not entirely without merit. Furthermore, they are often not that much effort to write and organise, basically using existing networks and some basic website technology.

The most successful and important of these so far is the Great Barrington Declaration. It was more noticed than all the much earlier ones put together because the signatories were of particularly high-status in the very academic field from which the health bureaucrats instrumental in the covid-mania emerged (virology, immunology, epidemiology). So many who signed national declarations, like myself, teamed up with the Great Barrington Declaration and pushed it in their private networks and websites. This made it too big to ignore for mainstream media, politicians, and some parts of the population.

Now, setting up declarations is relatively easy to do for high-status and high-profile people and they serve as a signal to everyone else that its ‘ethically and intellectually ok’ to be part of the Covistance. However, as we have seen, they don’t move the policy dial on their own an inch anywhere and the signatories get relentlessly attacked by the machinery and hangers-on of the covid-mania. They allow a low-entry step for the covid-hysterics though to move towards the Covistance and that is a valuable role.

They have disadvantages. They come with a numbing and entertaining effect that reduce the Covistance into yet another show for the majority to boo or barrack for. They are not the solution but rather an inevitable element of the road to freedom and fuller recovery.

 

Covistance media and lobby such as @talkRadio , Zerohedge.com , and aier.org

A few existing media sites and blogs have essentially turned into the media arm of the Covistance. In the UK you have @talkRadio. In Australia you have Allen Jones of the tv network Sky News and Adam Creighton of the newspaper the Australian. They relentlessly push the message along their other topics, having successfully dragged their local media group with them in their stance, providing a platform for academics and others in their country. Internationally there are blog sites like Zerohedge that have added a Covistance element to their offerings. You also have some existing societies that have basically turned into non-stop Covistance outlets, like the American Institute for Economic Research (aier.org) that went from 1 article per week in January on covid to 10 a day at present. The Australian Institute for Progress by Graham Young (aip.asn.au) was similarly quick to wisen up to what was happening and has done similar things to aier.org

The advantage these media and lobby/research institutes have is that they have an existing network of people that is already susceptible to the message because they come from a similar ideological or intellectual mindset as those running the institutes. So the convincing is less difficult and the ability to raise profiles, money, and to push out books and such is much more developed. Basically these places took up the Covistance as another product to add to their shelves and implemented their standard production protocols on them.

These institutions are great helps to the Covistance and they don’t need any advice on what to do or how to network, though it is useful for self-made Covistance people to know they exist and can be cooperated with. Each has an existing prior slant and is usually also pushing for something many Covistas will not agree with, but that is inherent in any existing media, political party, scientific group, or profession. Collaborating with them on an issue of joint interest does not mean endorsing them on everything, nor do such groups agree with everything their contributors say or write on topics.

It is true that one will always be attacked for the groups one teams up with, so a new Covistance contributor has to use judgment whether one finds that group too unpalatable on other matters. I personally don’t find libertarians, who make up most of the early Covistance media and societies, so bad and have joined in with quite a few of their conferences and media events. They seem to sense that their ancient preoccupations with freedom and the value of small businesses now has a real chance of becoming mainstream if they dial down some of their other messages.

You also see quite a few people going alone and streaming interviews and videos on youtube or elsewhere, hoping to make a name for themselves. The Dutch video interview site cafeweltschmerz.nl is a good example. I don’t know how to judge what they do so well, but as they are essentially trying to replicate a mainstream format there is little new to say about them in terms of techniques or organisation. They play an important function but they invariably do not really enable the formation of civic society. Rather they provide outlets, information and entertainment, which has a numbing effect (“coming up next: the Covistance”) as much as a validation and rousing effect.

 

Evaluating and summing up: what to do

We are seeing the emergence of a lot of Covistance groups and civil society institutions around the Western world, ranging from academic groups unpicking the science of the virus and the damage of the policies, to radio stations relentlessly criticising governments, to facebook groups where individuals vent.

For my money, the most interesting and effective attempt at galvanising people and building networks for the least amount of effort is lockdownsceptics.org in the UK. It is a model that can be copied in other countries by young ambitious journalists or others with that kind of skill set, though it would be good if it also becomes more of a conduit for more local community formation.

Lawyers and media-interested medical academics could do worse than look at the tricks used by viruswaarheid.nl, particularly if they could combine that with the key tricks of lockdownsceptics.org

Still, all these efforts, including the more organised academic efforts of the Great Barrington Declaration and the seasoned lobby machinery of aier.org or Australian Sky News, are still just scratching the surface of what can be done and what needs to be done. As said in the introduction, we need all kinds of initiatives and organisations, ranging from art, to pastoral care for those recovering from covid-hysteria, to political activism.

Consider what being truly ambitious would look like. I’d like to see new universities, or reoriented existing ones, that take up the task of teaching new scientists in such a way that they wont repeat the mistakes of the current majority of ‘mainstream’ scientists. I’d like to see new political movements that don’t just have an anti-lockdown mantra, but that also think seriously about the democratic machinery under which our societies would not repeat the mistakes next time. I’d like to see the emergence of whole new social media platforms in which the current censorship by Big Tech is no longer possible, one that is preferably more immune to the hysteria sweeping through existing social media platforms in February and March. I’d like to see citizen assemblies working through the many issues involved, coming up with recommendations and perspectives. I’d like to see the general population taking more responsibility for their own education and become politically active, though I do not know how to achieve that.

I see many worthy challenges for the Covistance of which I have no idea how to achieve them or whether they can be achieved. Maybe you can?

Children: The Familiar And Strange, The Known And Unknown

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 10/10/2020 - 12:44am in

Parenting, and my relationship with my daughter, is persistently fraught by the presence of two seemingly incompatible states of affairs.

First, my child seems utterly familiar to me, the most intimately known person in our family: I was with her at her birth, and have been a companion and guardian since then, cleaning, bathing, feeding, escorting to school, playing with, teaching, comforting, advising, encouraging, ‘disciplining’ and so on. My daughter’s face, I have often said, seems to reflect my family album: sometimes, wistfully, I see glimpses of my father and mother; sometimes, I catch fleeting resemblances to cousins or nephews; on other occasions, miraculously enough, I see myself staring back at me. She is unmistakably, a recipient of my genetic material, a biological bond I have formed with the cosmos thanks to my relationship with her mother, and our joint decision to bring our child into this world.

And yet, for all of that, my child remains an utter mystery to me. To be confronted with her is to come face to face with the most profound question of all: Who is this person? When my daughter was younger, working through her terrible twos, her toddler stage, I used to  joke with my friends that while my daughter immediately took to her mother–the person who shared her body with her for nine months and then breastfed her for the next two–I had to ‘start from scratch’ and introduce myself, negotiating the parameters of a brand new relationship with a person who knew nothing about me. I could take nothing for granted in this relationship; I had, so to speak, to begin from the basement and work my way upwards, establishing myself as a presence in her life. Hopefully one to be loved and trusted. But it didn’t come for free; I couldn’t have it granted to me; I was dealing with an unknown quantity, as was she. And she is changing, in ways I cannot fully fathom and of course, cannot predict.

Most of this is utterly unsurprising to parents. Children, for their part, have long known that their parents are mysteries to them; indeed, when I think of how much my life had already transpired before my daughter met me,  of the little dribbles of information with which I seek to inform her of the kind of person I was, am, and am trying to become, I feel utterly defeated. As an immigrant parent, this task is particularly intractable. I will remain a mystery to her.

The nature of this relationship broadly understood is not radically dissimilar from that we enjoy with our lovers and friends: the most intimate of relationships is revealed to have acute perplexities at its heart, which have inspired countless poetic and philosophical flights of fancy: the encounter with another subjectivity, when we look into the eyes of the seemingly utterly familiar and find instead, the greatest mystery of all, one that we have merely deferred from our interiors to the external, and which serves to remind us of the task of discovery that waits within.

Constant distractions are leading to major declines in top-level reasoning. What to do?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 14/09/2020 - 9:22pm in

Till 20 year ago, IQ scores in the West increased about 3 points per decade ever since the 1920s, a phenomenon known as the “Flynn effect”. That rise in IQ test scores, which have an average of 100 and a standard deviation of 15, was attributed to improved schooling, improved nutrition, and the increased demands of the workplace. In recent decades that steady increase has turned into a sharp decrease. I want to discuss the evidence for this, the role of constant distractions, and what can be done.

The evidence.

Since about 1995, IQ scores have started to decline in the West, first in places that by then had optimised education systems wherein the vast majority of the population were stimulated to reach their cognitive potential. A good example of the data that shows this decline is in the graph below, taken from a 2018 PNAS study.

These graphs all show IQ scores derived from a test given in the period 1980-2009 to Norwegian boys aged 18-19 when they were considered for the military. Since Norway had a conscription army in this period, we are looking at the IQ scores of most of the male population. The graphs show that the cohorts born in 1961, who took the test around 1980, had lower IQs than those born in 1975 (the peak), after which there was a large drop.

The three graphs show you the differences in these trends if you look at different bits of the data. The middle graph uses only data on brothers within the same family, thus holding family circumstances relatively constant. The third graph is the one favoured by the authors of the piece because it corrects for selection problems over time, namely that over time those with cognitive problems became less likely to be given the test in the first place. The estimated decline from the cohort born in 1975 till 1990 is then about 5 points, or 0.35 IQ point decline per year.

A 2018 survey by Flynn himself (and others) surveys the results across many Western countries. The average IQ decline since 1995 turns out to be a phenomenon seen nearly everywhere, with the exception of the US where improvements in schooling meant the reversal was observed later in the general population, although already clear to see for the top.

The general pattern Flynn found was that abstract cognitive thinking, which is particularly important for understanding and forward planning, reduced the most, somewhat compensated by improvements in spatial awareness and pattern recognition. Interestingly, the drop is particularly pronounced at the top of the academic ladder: the “Pendulum” and “Equilibrium” tests in England among teenagers showed that the percentage able to get top marks in these tests declined from 20% to 5% from 1976 to 2006 (Equilibrium test), and from 24% to 12% (Pendulum test).

Tests done in Australia show a similar decline, though the last Australian data in the Flynn survey is 2003 and the only comparison data was from the 1970s. Still, if you look at the rapidly declining PISA scores for Australians aged 15 in the last 20 years, where the PISA tests mainly look at “higher-order thinking”, it seems the decline has progressed at a faster pace in Australia than elsewhere.

 

Likely reasons

The explanation of Flynn and others ties in with the “distraction” hypothesis that has been coming out of neuroscience work the last 20 years. This says that social media, mobile phones, and the internet have lead to a dramatic change in our attention span. We are now distracted much more frequently than before, and our minds are adjusting by becoming better at dealing with disparate information coming from many different sources, at the cost of being able to concentrate for long periods or think deeply about complex problems.

In the words of Flynn and co-authors (crediting Shayer):

“Children drifted away from formal toward concrete thinking. They became more and more immersed in modern visual and aural electronic culture. More time (four to five hours a day, more on weekends) spent on TV, computer games, and cell-phones, all of which decrease their attention span.”

Flynn and his co-authors also have something interesting to say about the boy/girl difference in teenage years. They note that in the 1970s boys did better at IQ tests on average, but that boys started to get worse at cognitively demanding tasks first such that girls overtook them, though both their IQs declined after the 1990s. One main explanation is that boys were seduced by computer games before girls discovered the internet.

These explanations fit the findings in neuroscience about the plasticity of the brain and how constant distractions are both addictive and lead to slow changes in our wiring. In a 2016 book “The distracted Mind”, Gazzaley and Rosen discuss these phenomena at length, predicting that it is only going to get worse, ie

“It is clear that our interruptive technologies are only going to become more effective in drawing our attention away from important aspects of life, so we urgently need to understand why we are so sensitive to interference and how we can find a ‘signal amidst the noise’ in our high-tech world.”

I basically entirely agree with these offered explanations. The economic version of these arguments is that individual attention is largely a commons and that we’re encountering a tragedy of the commons: those who manage to distract us are more likely to sell us something, without those distractors paying the price of the negative externality on our focusing abilities. Moreover, most of us are willingly distracted and our social information systems are now set up for distraction since we use the same platforms that distract for coordination and doing our work.

I have noticed the importance of incessant distractions for my own functioning and those of others. Distractions are addictive and difficult to avoid, even if you are fully cognisant of their long-term damaging effects. The loss of top-cognitive functioning is particularly bad for academia and for societal systems that rely heavily on the intelligence of its elites, like the UK.

The “modern university” is the worst of all worlds when it comes to the detrimental effects of distractions. For one, university administrations themselves distract students and academics all the time with their constant virtue-signalling messages of “health and safety” and many other matters: for administrative systems distracting the whole organisation has little cost and is simply seen as “informing”, “making aware”, etc..

Students are made into sitting ducks for attention-grabbing because of the good mobile phone and internet connections at universities. By offering online lectures in stead of forcing students to sit down and at least try to pay attention for some continuous period of time, universities are even diluting the pro-focus impact of its traditional teaching. Universities have also clamped down in recent decades on activities that would create a bit of a counter-balance, such as long field trips and writing long essays. Field trips are deemed too dangerous and long essays are both unpopular and take too much effort to police.

 

What can be done?

Supposed you agree that it is extremely important that our societies find a way to regain a large group of individuals who can keep their attention focussed on one thing for a long time. And you agree that the problem is one of incessant distractions coming from the extremely low price people pay when distracting others via mobile phones, pads, internet, email, social media, etc. You know that the effects of these distractions on the ability to concentrate are slow but they accumulate over several years.

The challenge is then that if you want to do something about it, you would have to shield groups from distractions for years. The key problem is that our social systems of communication and production use the very platforms that have optimised distraction protocols on it: we communicate by mobile phones, allowing others to constantly distract us, and we produce via computers and the internet that are also specifically designed to distract us as much as possible. How can one take out the distractions while keeping communication and production going?

The solution that comes to mind is to shield top students from distractions from an early age. One thinks of rules like “no more than 30 minutes of social media and mobile phone from the age of 4 onwards”, “Internet usage only for focussed activities, like writing essays and settling factual arguments”, “a sender-charge system for emails, text messages, and all other forms of distracting others”, and “no internet and mobile connections on most of a University campus, except libraries”.

These market-price and club-rule solutions unfortunately seem likely to fail when imposed on people because they do not address the fact of life that the rest of society will keep using the same super-distracting technology. Those technologies are completely integrated making club-solutions hard to enforce and easy to counteract. The teenager who is not allowed to use the mobile phone or pop-up internet sites at school will go back home and play internet games with friends, whilst constantly texting and apping. The teenager who does not do this is not merely a social outcast, but also is not learning the technology and social skills that the vast majority is learning, thereby cutting him or herself off from the ability to relate and interact with others later on.

The same holds for the student supposedly only allowed to send emails and texts via a university system in which she has to pay to distract others: she’d very quickly set up “free” email accounts to resume “normal life” with others students. If they cant use phones and emails on campus, they’d first of all complain that this puts their health in danger because they then cannot check on the health and condition of their children and parent, and of course they will simply go off campus and use the facilities there.

Even if you’d effectively seal off the student population for a few years on a remote campus (or a mountain retreat) where you do manage to keep distractions to a minimum by means of heavy interference with the technology they use, you’d most likely do more harm than good. Before and after their retreat, the distractions are in full force. More importantly, the students would be cut-off from the rest of society. That is bad for their social relationships and prevents them from being full members of their society, its civil discourse and political systems. One would thus be creating anti-social ivory-tower academics, which is the opposite of what you want for the social sciences. It’s probably not so bad for theoretical physics and chemistry, but who needs another economist with no interest in the outside world or in social relations?

What can one then realistically do as parents, universities, companies, and governments worried about this?

The first step has to be to make intellectuals and universities aware of the problems. Parents in particular will be motivated to do something about it. Governments will want universities and companies to find counter-moves. You’d think that high-status people and high-productivity places would first move against distractions if they’d be convinced of their negative effects.

Over time I can imagine whole societies decide to move against distractions, trying to price the externality into our behaviour. It would be yet another reason to get national control over the Internet. One can also think of social media free days and periods, extending the basic idea of Lent, Ramadan, and Sundays. One can think of compulsory use of sender-pay technologies for phones and emails inside companies and the civil services: think of electronic stamps one would have to put on messages that cost money depending on size. One can think of clubs of parents who recognise they need to shield their children and workers from constant distractions.

In essence, I think the tragedy of the commons that is eroding our best mind via continuous distractions can only be adressed by a conscious society-wide counter movement. At the minimum, a counter-move needs a whole social stratum to be convinced of the issue. That kind of thing takes decades and starts with a broader recognition of the magnitude of the problem.

The U.S. Open: 5 Prominent Figures in Women's Tennis

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 12/09/2020 - 4:15am in

Despite losing in the semifinals of the U.S. Open, Serena Williams is a winner. As is women’s tennis.

Mark Twain On The ‘Growing’ Wisdom Of Our Parents

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 10/09/2020 - 12:12am in

Mark Twain is famously said to have revised his assessment of his parents’ wisdom:

When I was seventeen I was convinced my father was a damn fool. When I was twenty-one I was astounded by how much the old man had learned in four years.

Twain’s words speak to a crucial perspectival aspect of our life: our critical judgments are a function of our lived lives and experiences. We appreciate our parents doubly, if not many times more, when we finally become parents ourselves; we realize what their parenting experiences must have been like in their own complex particularity. The people we thought were experts (or sometimes,  less kindly, bumbling fools) were fumbling around themselves, learning the tricks of the parenting trade on the fly, making it up as they went along, sometimes getting it right, sometimes not. We realize how little we knew of them, just as we later realize with a start that our children know very little of us and will live their lives largely free of our presence and inspection and evaluation. We realize too, like Twain, that while our youthful impatience often led us to condemn our parents’ bumbling in matters that seemed straightforward to us, we did so because we did not understand the full dimensions of the problems that perplexed them. The facile solutions we had imagined for our ‘life problems’ had already been considered, rejected, and moved on from by our parents; we must, despite our reluctance, follow in their footsteps. That imperfect solution that so enraged us when we were young now strikes us as a masterful compromise, a skillful navigation between the Scylla and Charybdis of competing moral and parenting imperatives; we can only see that now because we have grown and learned and realized it as such. 

Twain notes too that the more we know, the more we realize we know very little. Moreover, our knowledge now makes our past more ignorant, and our assessments of the ignorance of others ever more flawed. By learning more, we realize how little we know and how much others know. This is especially true of academics who lose confidence as they progress through their PhD; gone is the cocky undergraduate who thought he knew everything; in his place stands the modest and humble grad who has learned how vast human knowledge is, how insuperable its problems, and how much everyone else knows in the fields in which he did not pursue further study; he learns that in his chosen field, many have explored its furthest reaches with diligence and creativity. We realize we have shrunk while the world has grown; the road we have set out on speaks of no end. 

Youth is wasted on the young; the wisdom of this claim is never more apparent than when we realize how we muddled around in our fogs of misconceptions and ignorance, even as it is true that while we are young, we were aware of truths we forget as we grow older. 

How Early Childhood Shapes Your Political Views

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 09/09/2020 - 7:11am in

A new study finds that temperament and attachment style in early childhood predict conservative or liberal political orientation in adulthood.

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