Peace and the politics of outrage

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“Any religion worth talking about is essentially political and any politics worth talking about has some vision of transcendence and of the mystery of human life,” said the Jesuit priest, antiwar activist and poet, Daniel Berrigan, at the time of the trial of the Plowshares Eight in 1981. Berrigan died on Saturday at the age of 94.

In 2006, noting that the “short fuse of the American left is typical of the highs and lows of American emotional life,” Berrigan said: “It is very rare to sustain a movement in recognizable form without a spiritual base.”

This absence of a spiritual base, expressed through commonly held values, can be seen as one of the defining characteristics of the politics of dissent in the post 9/11 era.

The commonalities around which shifting forms of unity have emerged and dissolved have invariably come in the form of shared outrage and hatred.

We decide who we stand with by flagging what we stand against:

  • American Empire
  • Western Imperialism
  • Zionism
  • Capitalism
  • Neoliberalism
  • Militarism
  • Corporate power
  • Globalization
  • National security state
  • Mass surveillance
  • Mass incarceration
  • Police brutality
  • Racism
  • Xenophobia
  • Islamophobia
  • Homophobia
  • Sexism

But the affirmative common ground gets far less clearly defined if articulated at all.

Where humanitarianism and internationalism once prevailed, anti-interventionism has become one of the most frequently voiced principles.

Opposition to America imposing its values on the world, has come to mean the plight of people who lives and basic rights are in peril can often be ignored.

It seems we have less responsibility to make this a better world than to merely claim we have done it little harm.

It is as though the measure of a life well lived be that it is of no consequence as we each swear to a political Hippocratic oath.

Indeed there are those who now view the concept of human rights as so tainted that it functions as nothing more than a justification for war.

Out of this emerges for some a libertarian insularity where the least harm each of us might do is to mind our own business, and for others an isolationist social-justice realism which says, take care of the folks at home instead of trying to fix the world.

In a political context where it’s much safer to assume an adversarial posture and stand up against our nameable enemies, what’s much harder is to move beyond divisions and to focus instead on the greatest deficits in our world: a lack of love and kindness and the absence of a widely embraced vision of a better future.

It’s much easier to unify around what we stand against.

Bring love and kindness into the equation and most of the boundaries we use to define our political identities become less secure; our opponents cannot so easily be made other.

Consider, for instance, the issue of Palestine.

If viewed through a dispassionate political lens, we can talk about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in terms of self-determination, social justice, and anti-colonialism and yet as a human concern, empathizing with Palestinians being bombed in Gaza by Israelis is surely no different than responding with empathy to atrocities being carried out in Aleppo.

For those on the ground, the outcome of the bombing is no different and yet the fact that the former provokes global outcries while the later is met largely with global indifference speaks to something that few observers will dare state: their hatred for the perpetrators of the violence is more deeply rooted than they sympathy for the victims.

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To recognize the political and social influence of Daniel Berrigan did not require that you shared his pacifism or his religious beliefs and yet his striking integrity derived from the fact that he was a living expression of religion and politics made indivisible.

In 2006, as Berrigan turned 85, he was interviewed by Chris Hedges for The Nation:

All empires, Berrigan cautions, rise and fall. It is the religious and moral values of compassion, simplicity and justice that endure and alone demand fealty. The current decline of American power is part of the cycle of human existence, although he says ruefully, “the tragedy across the globe is that we are pulling down so many others. We are not falling gracefully. Many, many people are paying with their lives for this.”

“The fall of the towers [on 9/11] was symbolic as well as actual,” he adds. “We are bringing ourselves down by a willful blindness that is astonishing.”

Berrigan argues that those who seek a just society, who seek to defy war and violence, who decry the assault of globalization and degradation of the environment, who care about the plight of the poor, should stop worrying about the practical, short-term effects of their resistance.

“The good is to be done because it is good, not because it goes somewhere,” he says. “I believe if it is done in that spirit it will go somewhere, but I don’t know where. I don’t think the Bible grants us to know where goodness goes, what direction, what force. I have never been seriously interested in the outcome. I was interested in trying to do it humanly and carefully and nonviolently and let it go.”

“We have not lost everything because we lost today,” he adds.

A resistance movement, Berrigan says, cannot survive without the spiritual core pounded into him by [Thomas] Merton. He is sustained, he said, by the Eucharist, his faith and his religious community.

“The reason we are celebrating forty years of Catonsville and we are still at it, those of us who are still living — the reason people went through all this and came out on their feet — was due to a spiritual discipline that went on for months before these actions took place,” he says. “We went into situations in court and in prison and in the underground that could easily have destroyed us and that did destroy others who did not have our preparation.”

During an interview in 1981, Berrigan was asked how he came to the “deep waters” — the spiritual perspective — that enabled his activism.

It’s a question of coming from somewhere, having some tradition available to you — some symbols, some worship, some common life… coming from somewhere better than America, because I don’t think America is anywhere to come from.

In a world where it has become so easy to denounce America and point to the extensive harm this nation has done as its imperial power ungracefully unwinds, the politics of outrage nevertheless evokes little sense of somewhere better than America.

The collapse of empire is nothing to celebrate if we lack a vision of something better to take its place.

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How democracy can turn into tyranny

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Andrew Sullivan writes: As this dystopian election campaign has unfolded, my mind keeps being tugged by a passage in Plato’s Republic. It has unsettled — even surprised — me from the moment I first read it in graduate school. The passage is from the part of the dialogue where Socrates and his friends are talking about the nature of different political systems, how they change over time, and how one can slowly evolve into another. And Socrates seemed pretty clear on one sobering point: that “tyranny is probably established out of no other regime than democracy.” What did Plato mean by that? Democracy, for him, I discovered, was a political system of maximal freedom and equality, where every lifestyle is allowed and public offices are filled by a lottery. And the longer a democracy lasted, Plato argued, the more democratic it would become. Its freedoms would multiply; its equality spread. Deference to any sort of authority would wither; tolerance of any kind of inequality would come under intense threat; and multiculturalism and sexual freedom would create a city or a country like “a many-colored cloak decorated in all hues.”

This rainbow-flag polity, Plato argues, is, for many people, the fairest of regimes. The freedom in that democracy has to be experienced to be believed — with shame and privilege in particular emerging over time as anathema. But it is inherently unstable. As the authority of elites fades, as Establishment values cede to popular ones, views and identities can become so magnificently diverse as to be mutually uncomprehending. And when all the barriers to equality, formal and informal, have been removed; when everyone is equal; when elites are despised and full license is established to do “whatever one wants,” you arrive at what might be called late-stage democracy. There is no kowtowing to authority here, let alone to political experience or expertise.

The very rich come under attack, as inequality becomes increasingly intolerable. Patriarchy is also dismantled: “We almost forgot to mention the extent of the law of equality and of freedom in the relations of women with men and men with women.” Family hierarchies are inverted: “A father habituates himself to be like his child and fear his sons, and a son habituates himself to be like his father and to have no shame before or fear of his parents.” In classrooms, “as the teacher … is frightened of the pupils and fawns on them, so the students make light of their teachers.” Animals are regarded as equal to humans; the rich mingle freely with the poor in the streets and try to blend in. The foreigner is equal to the citizen.

And it is when a democracy has ripened as fully as this, Plato argues, that a would-be tyrant will often seize his moment. [Continue reading…]

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How the curse of Sykes-Picot still haunts the Middle East

Robin Wright writes: In the Middle East, few men are pilloried these days as much as Sir Mark Sykes and François Georges-Picot. Sykes, a British diplomat, travelled the same turf as T. E. Lawrence (of Arabia), served in the Boer War, inherited a baronetcy, and won a Conservative seat in Parliament. He died young, at thirty-nine, during the 1919 flu epidemic. Picot was a French lawyer and diplomat who led a long but obscure life, mainly in backwater posts, until his death, in 1950. But the two men live on in the secret agreement they were assigned to draft, during the First World War, to divide the Ottoman Empire’s vast land mass into British and French spheres of influence. The Sykes-Picot Agreement launched a nine-year process — and other deals, declarations, and treaties — that created the modern Middle East states out of the Ottoman carcass. The new borders ultimately bore little resemblance to the original Sykes-Picot map, but their map is still viewed as the root cause of much that has happened ever since.

“Hundreds of thousands have been killed because of Sykes-Picot and all the problems it created,” Nawzad Hadi Mawlood, the Governor of Iraq’s Erbil Province, told me when I saw him this spring. “It changed the course of history — and nature.”

May 16th will mark the agreement’s hundredth anniversary, amid questions over whether its borders can survive the region’s current furies. “The system in place for the past one hundred years has collapsed,” Barham Salih, a former deputy prime minister of Iraq, declared at the Sulaimani Forum, in Iraqi Kurdistan, in March. “It’s not clear what new system will take its place.”

The colonial carve-up was always vulnerable. Its map ignored local identities and political preferences. Borders were determined with a ruler — arbitrarily. At a briefing for Britain’s Prime Minister H. H. Asquith, in 1915, Sykes famously explained, “I should like to draw a line from the ‘E’ in Acre to the last ‘K’ in Kirkuk.” He slid his finger across a map, spread out on a table at No. 10 Downing Street, from what is today a city on Israel’s Mediterranean coast to the northern mountains of Iraq.

“Sykes-Picot was a mistake, for sure,” Zikri Mosa, an adviser to Kurdistan’s President Masoud Barzani, told me. “It was like a forced marriage. It was doomed from the start. It was immoral, because it decided people’s future without asking them.” [Continue reading…]

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How the ‘Green Zone’ helped destroy Iraq

Emma Sky writes: While the United States has been fixated on the Islamic State and the liberation of Mosul, the attention of ordinary Iraqis has been on the political unraveling of their own country. This culminated on Saturday when hundreds of protesters breached the U.S.-installed “Green Zone” at the heart of Baghdad for the first time and stormed the Iraqi parliament while Iraqi security forces stood back and watched. The demonstrators, supporters of radical Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, toppled blast walls, sat in the vacated seats of the parliamentarians who had fled and shouted out demands for the government to be replaced. A state of emergency was declared.

This incident should be a jarring alarm bell to Washington, which can no longer ignore the disintegration of the post-Saddam system it put in place 13 years ago. The sad reality is that Iraq has become ungovernable, more a state of militias than a state of institutions. As long as that state of affairs continues, even a weakened Islamic State, which has been losing territory and support, will find a home in Iraq, drawing on Sunni fears of corruption and incompetence by the Shia-dominated government.

The greatest threat to Iraq thus comes not from the Islamic State but from broken politics, catastrophic corruption, and mismanagement. Indeed there is a symbiotic relationship between terrorists and corrupt politicians: They feed off each other and justify each other’s existence. The post-2003 system of parceling out ministries to political parties has created a kleptocratic political class that lives in comfort in the Green Zone, detached from the long-suffering population, which still lacks basic services. There is no translation into Arabic of the term kleptocracy. But judging by the protesters chanting “you are all thieves,” they know exactly what it means. [Continue reading…]

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How Moqtada al-Sadr could take down Iraq’s government

The Daily Beast reports: Hussain Jassim refused to leave the Green Zone, once considered the impenetrable citadel at the heart of Baghdad, until his leader Muqtada al-Sadr ordered him to do so. “We have entered parliament and we have broken it’s prestige in front of people because they are thieves, they deserve for that to happen to them,” Jassim told The Daily Beast.

He was one of thousands of angry protestors who on Saturday raided the Iraqi legislature, chasing MPs out of their own seats in government, and often assaulting or denouncing those not aligned with al-Sadr trying to run away from the melee. “We saw them fleeing from us,” Jassim said.

Some legislators stayed behind, trapped in the basement of the parliament for fear of not wanting to confront the angry crowd outside. There were even false reports that a few had repaired to the sprawling U.S. embassy complex, seeking refuge from their own countrymen.

Remarkably, Iraq’s security forces tolerated the demonstrators day-long occupation of a notorious no-go area in the capital. The protesters climbed over concrete blast walls and burst through cordons with ease. Some tear gas was used, but law enforcement the state mingled comfortably with those against whom they were meant to guard. “The security forces have dealt with us with a high sense of patriotism and responsibility,” Jassim said.

These protests were a long time going. Iraq’s public coffers are a sieve, where billions have vanished in the salaries of “ghost soldiers” or into the bank accounts of well-connected pols and their kin. Problematic enough in peacetime and during high global oil prices, economic crisis is 2016 has become a national security crisis, as state bankruptcy could easily damage or end the ongoing war against the Islamic State. [Continue reading…]

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As bombs fall, Aleppo asks: ‘Where are the Americans?’

The Telegraph reports: Recovering in Turkey after a deadly air strike on a hospital in Aleppo, all that Abu Abdu Tebyiah could think about was the six children he had been forced to leave behind.

Mr Tebyiah was critically injured when the Syrian regime dropped three bombs on al-Quds hospital next to his house in the east of the city last Thursday.

He was one of a lucky few allowed over the border to receive treatment for his broken ribs and pelvis, wounds that would probably have killed him otherwise. But the 49-year-old shop owner was taken away so quickly that he had little chance to tell his rescuers that his children were waiting for him at home.

“They are too young to be on their own,” Mr Tebyiah told the Telegraph. “The government is using barrel bombs on our neighbourhood again, so I stopped them going to school. They are now in great danger.”

Mr Tebyiah said the only way to bring his children to Turkey, which closed its border to fleeing Syrians earlier this year, was to pay smugglers $500 for each child – money he did not have.

“I have to find a solution as soon as possible,” he said. “Or I don’t want to think what will happen.”

Fighting has intensified in Syria’s second city this week, claiming over 250 lives and ending in all but name a much-vaunted ceasefire agreed in February.

Now the opposition-controlled eastern side of Aleppo is braced for an offensive by Bashar al-Assad’s regime and his Russian and Iranian allies. If Assad succeeds in recapturing the whole of the city, it could change the course of the war.

As the regime’s bombs dropped on their houses, hospitals and schools, residents wondered where their supposed protectors, the Americans, were.

Many had been optimistic that the ceasefire, brokered by the United States and Russia, was the ray of hope that Aleppo needed after enduring four years of killing since Syria’s war came to the city in 2012. [Continue reading…]

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A moral debt for bombing the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz

In an editorial, the New York Times says: The torrent of mistakes that led an American military gunship to obliterate a hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, last October, killing 42 innocent people and wounding dozens, resulted from gross negligence, judging from the findings of a report the Pentagon released on Friday.

And yet, military officials have refused to identify the individuals responsible for the disaster and to explain what type of punishment each will face. The Pentagon also appears to have ruled out the possibility of holding them accountable in a court of law for one of the most egregious war zone blunders in recent history.

Those decisions are deeply troubling. Gen. Joseph Votel, the commander of the military’s Central Command, or Centcom, told journalists on Friday that the service members who made the mistakes would not face criminal prosecution because investigators determined that their errors were unintentional.

According to the report, the gunship crew failed to locate the intended target and fired on the Doctors Without Borders hospital assuming that it was a building occupied by Taliban fighters. Senior officers approved the strike despite having the coordinates of the hospital. Equipment and communication failures that night contributed to the catastrophe, and the airstrike did not stop immediately after Doctors Without Borders alerted the United States government of the error.

Gen. John Campbell, the commander of American troops in Afghanistan at the time, concluded that some service members had flouted the rules of engagement and violated the law of armed conflict, Centcom said in a statement. However, Pentagon officials determined that they would not face criminal charges because of their lack of intent.

Human rights advocates and Doctors Without Borders rightly point out that under the American military code and international laws of war, fatal mistakes that result from recklessness and gross negligence can constitute crimes. [Continue reading…]

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How Zac Goldsmith imported Donald Trump’s politics into Britain

Peter Oborne writes: I live in Chiswick in west London, just across the Thames from Zac Goldsmith’s Richmond constituency. I heard reassuring reports that he was an excellent constituency MP. For this reason, like many other Tories, I welcomed his emergence as Tory candidate for mayor of London and planned to vote for him.

Wild horses could not make me do so now. Goldsmith’s campaign for mayor has become the most repulsive I have ever seen as a political reporter.

Only two other campaigns bear comparison, both before my time. One was the infamous Bermondsey by-election of 1983 when the Labour candidate Peter Tatchell was targeted on account of his homosexuality. “Which Queen will you vote for?” asked an anonymous leaflet sent round the constituency in the final week of the campaign.

The other was the Smethwick campaign in the 1964 General Election. Peter Griffiths stood as the Conservative candidate against the shadow foreign secretary Patrick Gordon-Walker. Griffiths used the campaign to make a statement about immigration. “If you want a nigger for a neighbour, vote Labour” was the Tory slogan. [Continue reading…]

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Racist Trump fan arrested with stockpile of pipe bombs after threatening Obama

Huffington Post reports: A fanatical Donald Trump supporter, who was arrested by the FBI in Oregon this week after repeatedly threatening to kill President Barack Obama and federal agents, had multiple pipe bombs in his home, authorities alleged in court on Friday.

John Martin Roos, a 61-year-old from Oregon, has been charged with communication of a threat in interstate commerce, and additional charges are likely forthcoming. Roos first came onto the federal government’s radar after a “concerned citizen” brought Roos’ Facebook and Twitter postings to the FBI’s attention in February, according to an affidavit from Special Agent Jeffrey Gray.

In one Jan. 31 Facebook post cited by the FBI, Roos referred to agents as “pussies” and wrote he would “snipe them with hunting rifles everywhere.” (Despite his threats to kill members of law enforcement, he also complained on Facebook earlier this month about the “liberal media … slamming police.”) In a post in November that was also cited by the FBI, Roos spoke out against accepting refugees and threatened to kill Obama. [Continue reading…]

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Could the latest blunder by Egypt’s Sissi be the nail in his coffin?

Sarah Yerkes wrote on April 25: Today, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi is witnessing the most vocal and angry objection to his rule since he took power via a military coup in 2013. Across Cairo and beyond, Egyptians are gathering and chanting some of the same slogans from the January 2011 revolution — such as “the people want the fall of the regime” and “down with military rule.” These protests are not a spontaneous uprising. They were planned and announced on April 15, when thousands of Egyptians took to the streets, protesting the latest in a series of bold and controversial decisions that are slowly and steadily chipping away at Sissi’s once solid support structure abroad and at home.

During Saudi King Salman’s recent visit to Cairo, the Egyptian government announced that it had agreed to transfer sovereignty of two Red Sea islands — Tiran and Sanafir — to Saudi Arabia. This decision, which coincided with a $22 billion oil and aid deal, has a clear short term pay-off: a substantial Band-Aid on Egypt’s gaping economic wounds. But Sissi and his government are once again dramatically underestimating just how self-destructive their behavior can be. As my colleague Tamara Wittes eloquently noted, Egypt “continues to throw obstacles in the road of U.S.-Egyptian cooperation.” But even worse than the self-sabotage in Egypt’s foreign relations is the damage Sissi is doing to his reputation at home. [Continue reading…]

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The time has come for a ‘Sexual Spring’ in the Arab world

Kacem El Ghazzali writes: When we say that nowadays to call for sexual freedom in Arab and Muslim societies is more dangerous than the demand to topple monarchies or dictatorial regimes, we are not playing with metaphor or attempting to gain sympathy. We are stating a bitter and painful fact of the reality in which we are living.

In Arab and Muslim milieus, sex is considered a means and not an end, hedged by many prickly restrictions that make it an objectionable matter and synonymous with sin. Its function within marriage is confined to procreation and nothing else, and all sexual activity outside the institution of marriage is banned legally and rejected socially. Innocent children born out of wedlock are socially rejected and considered foundlings.

This situation cannot be said to be characteristic of Arab societies only, but we experience these miseries in far darker and more intense ways than in other countries. This is especially so because of the dominance of machismo, which considers a man’s sexual adventures as heroics worthy of pride, while a woman who dares to give in to her sexual desires is destined to be killed — or at best beaten and expelled from home — because she has brought dishonor upon her family. [Continue reading…]

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A few miles from San Bernardino, a Muslim prom queen reigns

The New York Times reports: In the days after the December terrorist attack in San Bernardino, Calif., when pictures of the hijab-wearing suspect filled television screens and newspapers, Zarifeh Shalabi’s mother and aunts stayed at home.

With their home just a few miles from the scene of the attack that left 14 dead, they worried about an anti-Muslim backlash. When they went shopping, Zarifeh, 17, said, other mothers pulled their children away when they saw the women wearing head scarves.

“We were more afraid that someone was going to hurt us,” Zarifeh said.

But this month, Zarifeh received the ultimate symbol of teenage acceptance: She was crowned prom queen after her non-Muslim friends campaigned for her by wearing hijabs in solidarity.

“We saw it as a chance to do something good, to represent something good,” said a friend, Sarahi Sanchez, who like Zarifeh is one of a few dozen peer mentors at Summit High School. “This was a way to prove we don’t have problems with bullying or racism.”

Zarifeh said her win “proved that not all Muslims are something to worry about.” [Continue reading…]

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Daniel Berrigan: Poet and prophet

Following the death of Daniel Berrigan, S.J., Luke Hansen, S.J. writes: In 1963, Berrigan embarked on a year of travel, spending time in France, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Rome, South Africa and the Soviet Union. He encountered despair among French Jesuits related to the situation of Indochina, as the United States ramped up military involvement in Vietnam.

Berrigan returned home in 1964 convinced that the war in Vietnam “could only grow worse.” So he began, he later wrote, “as loudly as I could, to say ‘no’ to the war…. There would be simply no turning back.”

He co-founded the Catholic Peace Fellowship and the interfaith group Clergy and Laity Concerned about Vietnam, whose leaders included Martin Luther King Jr., Richard John Neuhaus and Abraham Joshua Heschel.

Berrigan regularly corresponded with Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day and William Stringfellow, among others. He also made annual trips to the Abbey of Gethsemani, Merton’s home, to give talks to the Trappist novices.

In Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander (1966), Merton described Berrigan as “an altogether winning and warm intelligence and a man who, I think, has more than anyone I have ever met the true wide-ranging and simple heart of the Jesuit: zeal, compassion, understanding, and uninhibited religious freedom. Just seeing him restores one’s hope in the Church.”

A dramatic year of assassinations and protests that shook the conscience of America, 1968 also proved to be a watershed year for Berrigan. In February, he flew to Hanoi, North Vietnam, with the historian Howard Zinn and assisted in the release of three captured U.S. pilots. On their first night in Hanoi, they awoke to an air-raid siren and U.S. bombs and had to find shelter.

As the United States continued to escalate the war, Berrigan worried that conventional protests had little chance of influencing government policy. His brother, Philip, then a Josephite priest, had already taken a much greater risk: In October 1967, he broke into a draft board office in Baltimore and poured blood on the draft files.

Undeterred at the looming legal consequences, Philip planned another draft board action and invited his younger brother to join him. Daniel agreed.

On May 17, 1968, the Berrigan brothers joined seven other Catholic peace activists in Catonsville, Md., where they took several hundreds of draft files from the local draft board and set them on fire in a nearby parking lot, using homemade napalm. Napalm is a flammable liquid that was used extensively by the United States in Vietnam.

Daniel said in a statement, “Our apologies, good friends, for the fracture of good order, the burning of paper instead of children, the angering of the orderlies in the front parlor of the charnel house. We could not, so help us God, do otherwise.” [Continue reading…]

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You’re more likely to die in a human extinction event than a car crash

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Robinson Meyer writes: Nuclear war. Climate change. Pandemics that kill tens of millions.

These are the most viable threats to globally organized civilization. They’re the stuff of nightmares and blockbusters — but unlike sea monsters or zombie viruses, they’re real, part of the calculus that political leaders consider everyday. And according to a new report from the U.K.-based Global Challenges Foundation, they’re much more likely than we might think.

In its annual report on “global catastrophic risk,” the nonprofit debuted a startling statistic: Across the span of their lives, the average American is more than five times likelier to die during a human-extinction event than in a car crash.

Partly that’s because the average person will probably not die in an automobile accident. Every year, one in 9,395 people die in a crash; that translates to about a 0.01 percent chance per year. But that chance compounds over the course of a lifetime. At life-long scales, one in 120 Americans die in an accident.

The risk of human extinction due to climate change — or an accidental nuclear war — is much higher than that. The Stern Review, the U.K. government’s premier report on the economics of climate change, estimated a 0.1 percent risk of human extinction every year. That may sound low, but it also adds up when extrapolated to century-scale. The Global Challenges Foundation estimates a 9.5 percent chance of human extinction within the next hundred years. [Continue reading…]

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Music: Can — ‘Future Days’

Can (formed 1968): Irmin Schmidt (keyboards), Holger Czukay (bass), Jaki Liebezeit (drums), Michael Karoli (guitar), Malcolm Mooney then Damo Suzuki (vocals)

one of the most important bands of the last century.

Can were the archetypal “krautrock” group – ironically, given that much of their best work featured either Malcolm Mooney, an American, or Damo Suzuki, from Japan, as vocalists. Students of Stockhausen, blessed with renegade jazz and classical chops, and fully aware of the possibilities opened up by John Cage, they brought a feverishly questing spirit to rock music.

Rather than the blues roots underpinning most Anglo-American rock, they drew on minimalism, serialism, the churning motor-pulse of the Velvet Underground, and ethnic strains then unheard in Western pop. The result was some of the most striking, individual music ever made.

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