Links and Comments: Benedictine Option; Pandemic Spread; Economic Stabilizers; Ed Yong; Evangelicals and Trump

The Atlantic: The Christian Withdrawal Experiment. Subtitle: Feeling out of step with the mores of contemporary life, members of a conservative-Catholic group have built a thriving community in rural Kansas. Could their flight from mainstream society be a harbinger for the nation?

An example of the Benedictine Option that I mentioned earlier: a religious community sealing itself into a self-sustaining bubble that rejects the reality and influence of the outside world.

I’m sure it works! It sustains the community! (As in that M. Night Shyamalon film The Village, which worked to a point.) It’s analogous to how virtually every other animal species on the planet, engaged with its environment only to the extent it needs to survive, does survive, with no understanding of the bigger world, of the universe. Humans *can* perceive the bigger world and universe, and to me it seems a shame to renounce that ability… a renunciation of the supposedly God-given ability to think, reason, perceive. (If you believe God gave humans those powers of reason and perception, why deny them and seal yourself into a reality-denying bubble?)

Still, science fiction writers have speculated that such insular societies might survive a global catastrophe when globalist elitist city-dwellers might not. (A mixed case is presented in a book I recently re-read, John Wyndham’s 1955 novel The Chrysalids.)


A few more with fewer comments (but more quotes perhaps).

Salon, 31 July: The year of dark magical thinking: Trump’s petty revenge fantasies have killed thousands. Subtitle: Trump believed the virus would only hit blue states, which would work out great. So he let tens of thousands die.

Partly about Jared Kushner, who advised Trump that, since the virus was hitting the big cities [because of population density], and big cities tend to be Democratic [because they are not sealed into small-town bubbles], and since the Democrats didn’t vote for Trump… it wasn’t a problem. Let them die. This is contemptible, of course, but seemingly routine for the Trump administration.

Of course this administration are all idiots with no understanding of how pandemics spread. Currently, the areas of highest new outbreaks in the US is in the rural areas of California and in the southern states, those initially relatively unaffected.


Slate, 31 July: The Extremely Boring Idea That Could Save the Economy. Subtitle: They’re called automatic stabilizers — and we need them to stop Republicans from screwing up another recovery.

About ways to manage the economy a bit more complex that the Republicans’ go-to strategy of cutting taxes for the rich, no matter the state of the economy.


The Atlantic: here’s Ed Yong’s long article about How the Pandemic Defeated America. Subtitle: A virus has brought the world’s most powerful country to its knees.

Despite ample warning, the U.S. squandered every possible opportunity to control the coronavirus. And despite its considerable advantages—immense resources, biomedical might, scientific expertise—it floundered. While countries as different as South Korea, Thailand, Iceland, Slovakia, and Australia acted decisively to bend the curve of infections downward, the U.S. achieved merely a plateau in the spring, which changed to an appalling upward slope in the summer. “The U.S. fundamentally failed in ways that were worse than I ever could have imagined,” Julia Marcus, an infectious-disease epidemiologist at Harvard Medical School, told me.

A couple final paragraphs:

It is hard to stare directly at the biggest problems of our age. Pandemics, climate change, the sixth extinction of wildlife, food and water shortages—their scope is planetary, and their stakes are overwhelming. We have no choice, though, but to grapple with them. It is now abundantly clear what happens when global disasters collide with historical negligence.

COVID‑19 is an assault on America’s body, and a referendum on the ideas that animate its culture. Recovery is possible, but it demands radical introspection. America would be wise to help reverse the ruination of the natural world, a process that continues to shunt animal diseases into human bodies. It should strive to prevent sickness instead of profiting from it. It should build a health-care system that prizes resilience over brittle efficiency, and an information system that favors light over heat. It should rebuild its international alliances, its social safety net, and its trust in empiricism. It should address the health inequities that flow from its history. Not least, it should elect leaders with sound judgment, high character, and respect for science, logic, and reason.


Alternet: Neuroscientist explains why Christian evangelicals are wired to believe Donald Trump’s lies.

For Christian fundamentalists, being taught to suppress critical thinking begins at a very early age. It is the combination of the brain’s vulnerability to believing unsupported facts and aggressive indoctrination that create the perfect storm for gullibility. Due to the brain’s neuroplasticity, or ability to be sculpted by lived experiences, evangelicals literally become hardwired to believe far-fetched statements.

This wiring begins when they are first taught to accept Biblical stories not as metaphors for living life practically and purposefully, but as objective truth. Mystical explanations for natural events train young minds to not demand evidence for beliefs. As a result, the neural pathways that promote healthy skepticism and rational thought are not properly developed. This inevitably leads to a greater susceptibility to lying and gaslighting by manipulative politicians, and greater suggestibility in general.

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