On knowing your place

Home’s where you go when you run out of homes. John le Carré, The Honourable Schoolboy In British usage, at least, telling someone they should know their place is (or used to be) a rebuke. It meant knowing their place in the class hierarchy – with the not very subtle subtext that their place wasContinue reading “On knowing your place”

On the Vast Machine

We are being watched, but who is in charge of the watching? Although some of us freely offer up our private lives to the Vast Machine, we have no knowledge of how the information is being used and who is using it. Criminals can duplicate our identities. Corporations can manipulate our spending behavior [sic]. GovernmentsContinue reading “On the Vast Machine”

On education

In George Orwell’s prophetic novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, the various government ministries are named for the opposite of what they actually do: the Ministry of Peace is responsible for the perpetual state of war, the Ministry of Plenty is in charge of rationing, and so on. (I will admit that I was a little worried inContinue reading “On education”

On free speech

Freedom of speech is a principal pillar of a free government; when this support is taken away, the constitution of a free society is dissolved, and tyranny is erected on its ruins. Benjamin Franklin, On Freedom of Speech and the Press (1737) Let me begin by stating frankly that I am not, personally, at allContinue reading “On free speech”

On the suppression of agriculture

The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings. Masanobu Fukuoka, The One-Straw Revolution, Warning: Contains book recommendations. Proceed at your peril. Only a complete idiot, of course, would want to suppress agriculture. But apparently we now have complete idiots in charge of our foodContinue reading “On the suppression of agriculture”

On borders

Nations, like individuals, tell stories in order to understand what they are, where they come from, and what they want to be. National narratives, like personal ones, are prone to sentimentality, grievance, pride, shame, self-blindness. There is never just one—they compete and constantly change. The most durable narratives are not the ones that stand upContinue reading “On borders”

On taking the first step

Houston, we have a problem. Jim Lovell (attr.) It is a truism, although nonetheless true, that the first step towards dealing with a problem is acknowledging that it exists. We know this because a very large fraction of adults in the industrialised world are either in an addiction programme of some sort, have been inContinue reading “On taking the first step”