Issue 33: The Global Citizen

In Defense of the Three-Day Work Week

Has “the job” as we now know it become obsolete?

Unemployment metrics have become the best proof that our economic recovery is incomplete. Free market advocates are using high unemployment figures to show that Keynesian-style government spending doesn’t really move the needle. Leftists use the same figures to argue that corporate capitalism has reached its endpoint: Investors make money in the stock market while real people earn less income, if they can find jobs at all. But what if joblessness were less of a bug than a feature of the new digital economy?

Don’t get me wrong. I feel the pain of those whose livelihoods have been replaced by computers and robots. In fact, we may be reaching a stage of technological efficiency once imagined only by science fiction writers and early cyberneticists: an era when robots can till the fields, build our houses, and even revive the sick. It’s an era that was supposed to be accompanied by more leisure time. If robots are doing all the work, shouldn’t we get to lie back and enjoy some iced tea?

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The UCLA campus was deserted the day I arrived during spring break, its stillness doing little to combat the sense of dread I felt as I made my way to a large conference room. Inside were 10 people of all different ages. They were sitting quietly. I took a seat and waited for someone to speak, and when nobody did, I looked around and wondered what brought everyone here and whether I should be here instead of doing the million other things I’d rather be doing. Then I thought about those other things while scolding myself for thinking about them, because today was about the opposite of that. Today was about the present.

I was at The Mindful Awareness Research Center, founded in 2006— just a year before the present moment of which I speak—which was hosting a program called “A Day of Mindfulness” to promote mindfulness in daily life. I was the perfect candidate: I, who hummed like a Chihuahua and couldn’t stop her brain from ricocheting all over the place; I, who read while the radio was on and stopped each activity for the other every few minutes; I, who had lists of things I wanted to do and did each one of those things simultaneously.

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A Unified Theory of Pope Francis

Re-tracing Jorge Bergoglio’s journey to forgiveness.

On March 28, 2013, only two weeks after he was elected, Pope Francis celebrated Holy Week in a jail in Rome. For the previous thousand years, hundreds of popes had re-enacted Jesus washing the feet of his disciples at the Last Supper, ceremonially pouring holy water over the toes of priests and bishops at the Vatican. Pope Francis, in a very clear snub of tradition, chose 12 juvenile offenders instead of priests. One pair of feet was deformed from too much walking in cheap shoes. Another was covered with gang tattoos. And, for the first time in church history, a Pope washed the feet of women, including those of a Muslim and a refugee from Bosnia.

“Washing your feet means that I serve you,” Bergoglio told the young men and women in an accent that still bore traces of his native Buenos Aires. “And we should all serve each other. We don’t wash each other’s feet every day…but it’s a symbol, a sign. A sign that we are here to help each other.”

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In Praise of Rage

On welcoming the most unlikely of muses

Prone to inertia, like other bodies moving through space, I find rage a loyal spur. As a writer, nothing drives me to the page as reliably as rage and its offshoots: annoyance, irritation, frustration, indignation, anger, and outrage—an interesting, late development that is etymologically distinct. From the French outr-, its original meaning was an act that went beyond the bounds of acceptable behavior. Now we also use it to name the emotion those very acts arouse: we are outraged against the outrages perpetuated against us and other, undeserving beings.

How seductive is the pleasure of being right, righteous, wronged. The heart is aflame, the muscles coiled, ready to strike. Deep in the brain, twin almonds called the amygdalae—dubbed the “fight cells” by neurobiologist David J. Anderson—spark into action. (In Anderson’s lab, male mice whose amygdalae were hyperstimulated by lasers attacked each other, their females, and even a rubber glove.)

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Making Sense of the “No Regrets” Obsession

In its hostility with all forms of remorse, doth our culture protest too much?

The other day someone asked about the scar above one of my incisors, which appears when I smile. I did crew for a minute in high school, just long enough for my boat to drift into another boat, or vice versa—I never found out. There was shouting, and a huge oar ripping toward me. It slammed into my face and I started slipping into the water. Someone grabbed me, and then I was in a motorboat, and then bleeding all over someone’s mom’s backseat on the way to the hospital. Broken nose and gum surgery, mainly. I’m fine now.

After I relayed this story, the guy said, “Bet you regret the day you signed up for crew.” It was a throwaway remark, but I thought about it anyway. Did I regret it? Do I regret anything? I grew up, got married, had kids. Once, I found a hundred-dollar bill under a plum tree. I wouldn’t miss this scar but it seems dangerous to go around regretting things. Yank the wrong thread from your past and maybe the whole tapestry comes apart.

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Editor’s Letter

Joshua Neuman discusses the idea of a ‘global citizenship’ that’s rooted in values and transcends geographic borders

The past year all but put to rest the cliché that the millennial generation will only commit to taking action in the form of 140 characters or less. From Ukraine, to Ferguson, to Hong Kong, we saw examples of people—perhaps too young to see a cut-and-dry distinction between our online and real world selves—taking to the streets, taking back public spaces, demanding accountability from their leaders, and justice for crimes unpunished. I am by no means the first to suggest that social media and other contemporary communications amplified these efforts, but there has been little discussion about the ways that those forms of communication have connected us as global citizens with a shared sense of values.

The idea of the ‘global citizen’ goes back to ancient Greece in the 4th century B.C., when the philosopher Diogenes struck a blow against petty provincialism and small-minded sectarianism by proclaiming, “I am not an Athenian or a Greek, but a citizen of the world.”

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