This week was overcast and rainy nearly every day. I barely caught rays so had to ration electric power, meaning a lot of reading and listening to books on my phone, which uses less power. I’m writing this post fast since it’s raining again and barely have power left.
I finished this week:
Superabundance by Marian Tupy and Gale Pooley for the Cato Institute: I knew the premise of the book from all the interviews with the authors I watched. I enjoyed reading it, despite its shortcomings. It tried to prove a hypothesis but never considered alternative hypotheses that it didn’t disprove. I hope to bring the authors to the podcast to learn more about them and their intent. I enjoyed their research in history and philosophy, not just the numbers. I see a lot of common ground on our approaches, seeing the forces that led to our situation.
Every chapter, though, I thought of things they missed or didn’t consider. I hope when we talk, we don’t debate but try to learn from each other.
The Population Bomb by Paul and Anne Ehrlich: I also enjoyed reading this book more than I expected, to my pleasant surprise. I knew its premise and figure many readers would expect I would have read it. I’ve been put off by Paul Ehrlich calling people he disagreed with idiots and other insults. I’ve also read and heard many criticisms from people who agreed with him. The book isn’t as simple as updating Malthus, as many detractors wrongly imply. It covers many angles of environmental problems. It predicts some problems overly precisely and with too much confidence. It also promotes too much authoritarianism.
War Is a Racket, by Smedley D. Butler, a retired Marine Corps Major General and two-time Medal of Honor recipient. From Wikipedia: “Based on his career military experience, Butler discusses how business interests commercially benefit from warfare. After Butler retired from the US Marine Corps in October 1931, he made a nationwide tour in the early 1930s giving his speech ‘War Is a Racket.’ The speech was so well received that he wrote a longer version as a short book published in 1935. I listened to the book, which is under an hour, which means about forty minutes at 1.5 speed. Poignant, insightful, full of character. I recommend it.
Becoming by Michelle Obama: An engaging book. She describes her life from her working-class home to Princeton, Harvard, and corporate law, then meeting a young Barack, falling in love with each other, finding politics, and reaching the White House. She worked hard and took on a role of supporting an ambitious man.
I couldn’t help noticing that when she and Barack began courting, she was his superior in the office. If the sexes were reversed, so the man was higher in the hierarchy, many would say he abused his authority or that she couldn’t consent. I wonder if those people noticed the power dynamic.
Finding the Mother Tree by Suzanne Simard: I followed references to her as an inspiration for a central character in The Overstory. I’d heard of several books on trees but hadn’t sat to read any, though I did read a book on fungus. She discovered new branches (no pun intended) of science, pushing beyond our limits of understanding of evolution on group evolution. She persevered. I hope to bring her to the podcast.
She describes how forests develop communications networks like neural networks, suggesting they might decide and do something like thinking, which I distinguish from consciousness. As I pondered that concept, which seems plausible, and read about forests being clear cut, I started seeing clear cutting like a lobotomy—that is, destroying part of an intelligence’s intelligence—without consent.
Gandhi directed by Richard Attenborough: I haven’t seen this movie since the 1980s, probably, when I wouldn’t have understood it. My family has ties to India and Ahmedabad, in particular. Gandhi was my first leadership hero and role model. It’s impossible to capture any person’s life in three hours, least of all someone who did as much and pushed boundaries as Gandhi did.
I watched because I was curious about the scene where he was kicked off the train in South Africa. Did the movie treat it as a moment of resolve? I wondered because many Indians were treated without dignity by people of higher status in a dominance hierarchy. None responded with his resolve, so simply to show that moment wouldn’t show when he resolved to act or started acting. I’m interested in that distinction because everyone today sees the environmental problems they contribute to, but nearly none act. How do we motivate them to resolve to act, then act, not just profess outrage and suggest what others should do in their opinion while they don’t act.
I thought the movie portrayed his evolution and some of his most effective actions well, but glossed over many of the hardest parts. It jumped from his starting to act to rooms full of people enthusiastic to help. It didn’t show him overcoming resistance, though did show how much resistance came from within. He also seemed like he was probably annoying and self-righteous to work with in person.
I feel closer to and more inspired by him than ever, though meeting with Elaben Bhatt a few years ago for the first time since my infancy helped too. I hope to follow in his footsteps and not feel I should apologize or explain my expectation and resolve to achieve on as big a scale or bigger. He helped an empire see it was acting against its values so to leave its colony. I am about to start helping a global culture see it’s acting against its values, blinded by addiction, and stop depriving others of life, liberty, property, and more to indulge itself for comfort, convenience, and lies that that indulgence is about family, helping the less fortunate, or things other than self-indulgence and intentional ignorance.
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