“‘Biopolitics’ Are Unavoidable.” Matthew Loftus turns to Wendell Berry for a properly expansive understanding of health: “not only our individual activities, but also the health of the people, animals, plants, microbes, air, water, and soil around us all affect our health and we in turn affect them. As often as modern human beings would like to think of themselves as autonomous agents who determine their own bodily destinies, the reality is that the only appreciable limit to our contingency is how many things around us we can name.”
“Do Unvaccinated COVID Patients Deserve Scarce Care? A Doctor Weighs in.” And if you want more of Loftus’s thoughts on the pandemic and rationing care, see this interview between him and Bonnie Kristian. Loftus points out that “being a part of a mob feels fun,” but it’s probably not a good starting point for making ethical judgments.
“Minor Threat.” In a haunting and well-reported essay for Harper’s, Will Bardenwerper tries to answer some fundamental questions about minor league baseball and the local communities that enjoy it: “What is baseball? Our national pastime, an enduring slice of Americana? Or just a business? Does an enterprise that purports to be part of the fabric of America—and one that for the past hundred years has enjoyed a unique federal antitrust exemption—have a responsibility to prevent that fabric from fraying? Or should the league simply maximize value for its owners, as most corporations do?”
“The West has Lost its Roots.” Paul Kingsnorth turns to Simone Weil for wisdom regarding how to live in an uprooted world: “For the past several centuries, this intersection of financial power, state power and increasingly coercive and manipulative technologies has constituted an ongoing war against roots and against limits.”
“The Experts Somehow Overlooked Authoritarians on the Left.” Sally Satel unpacks the implications of a recent study on authoritarian attitudes: “The Trump era likely deepened psychology’s conventional wisdom that authoritarians are almost always conservatives; the insurrection at the Capitol earlier this year showed the urgency of understanding the phenomenon. And yet calls to de-platform controversial speakers and online campaigns to get people fired for heterodox views suggest that a commitment to open democratic norms is eroding, at least in some quarters, on the left.”
“Populism Poses Dangers to Democracy.” Robert Tracy McKenzie offers a thoughtful definition and critique of populist rhetoric. It’s entirely possible to nod along in agreement while Christopher Lasch stitches together and commends an American populist tradition and agree with McKenzie regarding the dangers to which such a tradition is prone.
“Build a Bridge.” In her monthly newsletter, Gracy Olmstead reflects on how we might strengthen friendships across political and cultural differences. She also shares details on an upcoming Wendell Berry reading group I’m looking forward to participating in.
“How Wildlife Sightings Create Community.” Writing from Stehekin, WA, Ana Maria Spagna describes how conversations over animal neighbors help mend divides between human neighbors.
“The Problem with Productivity and the Good Work of Love.” Alan Jacobs asks some necessary questions about work and productivity: “How is it possible to consider productivity as either a good or bad thing unless you know what is being produced?” He turns to Wendell Berry for help in answer these questions.
“The Battle of the Classics: The Humanities without Humanism.” Eric Adler recommends the work of Irving Babbitt to address contemporary confusions regarding the humanities: “Without a genuine humanist revival, it is doubtful that we can rescue the humanities from their precarious position in colleges and universities today.”
“Could Climate Change Put an End to Arizona’s Alfalfa Heyday? Greta Moran reports on how water shortages are likely to reshape the kinds of crops grown in the Western US. Alfalfa could be on the decline there: “nearly half of the Colorado’s water goes to irrigating cattle crops, with 32 percent going to alfalfa. A dairy cow requires a lot of indirect water, consuming 50 to 55 pounds of dry feed per day, by one estimate.”
“The Future of Conservative Climate Leadership.” Alex Bozmoski and Nate Hochman trace part of how “the environmental movement’s political identity has become inextricably entwined with the broader progressive agenda.” They convincingly argue that this has real negative consequences, and they offer some possible ways forward for an “eco-right.”
“The Florentine Option.” In a thoughtful essay, Tara Isabella Burton wrestles with the history of cosmopolitanism and works her way toward an embrace of healthy roots: “I can tell the story of rootless cosmopolitanism in my life, and of the elements of it I wish to reject. But I can tell, too, another story: a story of rooted cosmopolitanism, of the ways in which I learned that I was vulnerable to, and rooted in, so many different kinds of love. It is the story of developing roots, and belonging, not through either biology or affinity, conceived of as ideologies, but rather through the particularity of those we know, and love.”
“The Importance of Repression.” Park MacDougald surveys Philip Rieff’s arguments about our therapeutic culture: “Modern therapeutic culture, in his view, had become what he called in his later writings an “anti-culture”: a negation of the very idea of culture that, because it set itself in opposition to everything that had traditionally given human lives meaning, was inherently unstable. It could not reproduce itself indefinitely, and would be succeeded, Rieff predicted, by barbarism and chaos.”