Why do we feel so guilty all the time?


Do you feel guilty when you are happy?

Liberal guilt has become a shorthand for describing those who feel keenly a lack of social, political and economic justice, but are not the ones who suffer the brunt of it. According to the cultural critic Julie Ellison, it first took hold in the US in the 1990s, on the back of a post-cold-war fragmentation of the left, and a loss of faith in the utopian politics of collective action that had characterised an earlier generation of radicals. The liberal who feels guilty has given up on the collective and recognises herself to be acting out of self-interest. Her guilt is thus a sign of the gap between what she feels for the other’s suffering and what she will do actively to alleviate it – which is not, it turns out, a great deal.

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Devorah Baum — The Guardian

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How the face mask became the world’s most coveted commodity


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In this pandemic, the mask reveals far more than it hides. It exposes the world’s political and economic relations for what they are: vectors of self-interest that ordinarily lie obscured under glib talk of globalisation and openness. For the demagogues who govern so much of the world, the pandemic has provided an unimpeachable excuse to fulfil their dearest wishes: to nail national borders shut, to tar every outsider as suspicious, and to act as if their own countries must be preserved above all others.

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Samanth Subramanian — The Guardian

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Coronavirus has exposed the myth of British exceptionalism


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This innate, genetic resistance to conformity is a myth. This is obvious from the persistence of an equal and opposite cliche of Englishness: the queue. George Orwell could rhapsodise “the gentle-mannered, undemonstrative, law-abiding English” and “the orderly behaviour of English crowds, the lack of pushing and quarrelling, the willingness to form queues”. The anthropologist Kate Fox wrote: “During the London riots in August 2011, I witnessed looters forming an orderly queue to squeeze, one at a time, through the smashed window of a shop they were looting.” Orderliness is just as prominent as waywardness in the English self-image – which suggests that neither of these truisms is ancient, inalienable or worth a damn when you are making policy in a time of plague.

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Fintan O’Toole — The Guardian

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What I have learned from my suicidal patients


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When I think of the hundreds of patients I have heard speak of suicide over the past 20 years, whether their own or that of others, and I imagine all those I will no doubt hear in the years of medical practice to come, what seems of most help is not an unwarranted optimism, or a belief that suicide can be right or that it is always wrong, but our flawed human capacity to hold mutually contradictory beliefs and voice them with conviction. When the task in hand is to convince a suicidal patient there is value and purpose in life, then thoughts of suicide are best framed as a shared enemy, a corruption of reality, a manifestation of illness – something to be reasoned away, or quelled with medication. But for the families of the dead, who sit later in the same consulting room, those metaphors of distortion and disease can be unhelpful, even hurtful, and what best replaces them are metaphors of victory and redemption, of suffering followed by release.

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Gavin Francis — The Guardian

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Is trauma handed down through generations?


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The results are not entirely clear. There are studies which do find negative impacts – that the children of holocaust survivors, for example, can experience emotional problems of their own, difficulties in relationships, in the way they function. Researchers in Northern Ireland concluded that the transmission of trauma to children of victims of the Troubles made them more prone to developing toxic stress in childhood. But some research has ended up in an entirely different place, finding that trauma in a parents’ life can lead to higher resilience in children. And yet more studies have concluded that there is no clear effect whatsoever.

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Bibi van der Zee — The Guardian

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‘We’re not a dump’ – poor Alabama towns struggle under the stench of toxic landfills


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“The odor was unbearable, as were the flies and stink bugs,” said Brasfield, who sports a greying handlebar moustache and describes himself as a conservative Republican. “The flies were so bad that you couldn’t walk outside without being inundated by them. You’d be covered in all sorts of insects. People started getting headaches, they couldn’t breathe. You wouldn’t even go outside to put meat on the barbecue.”

The landfill, called Big Sky Environmental, sits on the fringes of West Jefferson and is permitted to accept waste from 48 US states. It used a nearby rail spur to import sewage from New York and New Jersey. This epic fecal odyssey was completed by trucks which took on the waste and rumbled through West Jefferson – sometimes spilling dark liquid on sharp turns – to the landfill.

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Oliver Milman — The Guardian

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The rise of the pointless job


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It is like digging the trenches and filling them back. Maybe even worse.

The defining feature is this: one so completely pointless that even the person who has to perform it every day cannot convince themselves there’s a good reason for them to be doing it. They may not be able to admit this to their co-workers – often, there are very good reasons not to do so – but they are convinced the job is pointless nonetheless.

Bullshit jobs are not just jobs that are useless; typically, there has to be some degree of pretence and fraud involved as well. The employee must feel obliged to pretend that there is, in fact, a good reason their job exists, even if, privately, they find such claims ridiculous.

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David Graeber — The Guardian

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How do 11 people go to jail for one murder?


“How did a stabbing by one young man lead to 11 convictions? The answer is one of the most controversial principles in English law.”

But concerns about the dual injustice of joint enterprise – both in overcharging individuals for their roles in crimes, and in the racially disproportionate way the law is applied – have dogged joint enterprise for years, as reports by the House of Commons justice select committee noted in 2012 and 2014. Lucy Powell, MP for Manchester Central, believes that these fears have been proven right once again in the case of Hafidah’s murder.

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Harry Stopes — The Guardian

What I learned when naked pictures of me were leaked online


The sad thing about these privacy breaches is that your pictures and other private information linger on the web forever.

It is hard to describe my feelings in the moment I found out that boys were showing my pictures around my old school. I felt exposed and – a feeling I’ll never forget – disgusted with myself. In the days that followed, I remember feeling so helpless that I could not function. My older sister had to take care of me, reminding me to eat and holding me when I randomly burst into panicked tears. It felt like a break-up, but instead of a broken heart, there was only shattered self-worth.

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Sophia Ankel — The Guardian

Why Silicon Valley billionaires are prepping for the apocalypse in New Zealand


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Would the billionaires have the same exalted status without common people? Interesting to see what people do when they are right at the peak of the pyramid.

Because this is the role that New Zealand now plays in our unfurling cultural fever dream: an island haven amid a rising tide of apocalyptic unease. According to the country’s Department of Internal Affairs, in the two days following the 2016 election the number of Americans who visited its website to enquire about the process of gaining New Zealand citizenship increased by a factor of 14 compared to the same days in the previous month. In particular, New Zealand has come to be seen as a bolthole of choice for Silicon Valley’s tech elite.

In the immediate aftermath of Trump’s election, the theme of American plutocrats preparing for the apocalypse was impossible to avoid. The week after the inauguration, the New Yorker ran another piece about the super-rich who were making preparations for a grand civilisational crackup; speaking of New Zealand as a “favored refuge in the event of a cataclysm”, billionaire LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, a former colleague of Thiel’s at PayPal, claimed that “saying you’re ‘buying a house in New Zealand’ is kind of a wink, wink, say no more”.

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Mark O’Connell – The Guardian

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