In Denmark things are basically back to normal regarding Covid, especially as one only needs to show a negative Covid test (or vaccination certificate) to return from most foreign countries. Though the furthest we’ve managed to exercise this new freedom is an afternoon trip to Malmø – a city in Sweden literally 25 mins on the train from where we live.
Work stuff has been ticking over nicely with a couple of new podcast clients, though I’m looking forward to having a bit of a break (a combination of being self-employed + limited travel options has meant I’ve not really had a “proper holiday” this year). Or if I have, I could do with another one.
Hope you are enjoying these summer (assuming you’re in the northern hemisphere) months and are generally keeping well!
Things I’ve been thinking about last month
I’ve been enjoying following the Euro championships this month.
When I was younger I was an avid follower of the Premier League, and could tell you the results of most matches throughout the season, had an up to date opinion on who was going to win/ lose, and updated my fantasy team most weeks.
Since going to university I haven’t been able to keep up the investment required to maintain that level of involvement, and so end up picking up fragments of what’s going on.
International tournaments are different though.
Their finite nature, and the fact that more people take an interest means that it is possible to have an opinion on who is doing well/ not so well, and it becomes quite fun again to have a common talking point to have when speaking with people.
It obviously helps that England (and Denmark) are still involved (my friend shared this video which accurately captures the feeling of non-England fans…).
Both England and Denmark play this evening and, if they both win, would meet in the semi finals on Wednesday. This could be my most uncomfortable day living in my new host country…
Much has been said in the past few years how the traditional political spectrums have begun shifting. It’s no longer safe to assume that someone from a manufacturing town will vote for the left wing party as it was in years gone by.
The concept of “left” and “right” still feels here to stay, but other ways of encapsulating people’s political views in a single word seems more tricky.
One word which has seemed synonymous with “left wing” is liberal.
For me, this is has always meant a certain tolerance and open-mindedness towards new ideas and different opinions, even if you don’t agree with them.
The last few years have seen a big surge in activist movements to overcome various injustices/ inequalities that exist around the world (Black Lives Matter; Climate Change; Trans Rights). These fights have almost all been led by people “on the left”.
Barring a few extremists, I think most people would agree that a world with less inequality/ injustice is a good thing. The thing that seems to grate on people (and fuel “the culture war”) is that absolutism often features in the “liberal” cause.
This can manifest as “cancel culture” whereby if someone holds a controversial opinion (e.g. JK Rowling saying trans men shouldn’t use female toilets) then they are disinvited to appear in public debates.
I certainly don’t know the specifics of each instance of this “cancel culture”, but my general rule of thumb is that less demonising and more level-headed conversation is the way to change people’s minds rather shutting off the option of dialogue. A group of vocal (left wing) activists pressurising a public institution to fire an employee with an opinion they deem to be wrong leaves less space for the nuance of a topic to be discussed.
As a result, people who don’t care so much about the specifics just see someone being fired for an expression of their opinion, which seems at odds with a liberal view of the world that they most likely grew up with.
Anyway, this is a massive topic, but the thing that strikes me at the moment is that there needs to be a new word for people who believe that it is wrong for public institutions to feature speakers whose opinions they believe are wrong (see this study).
It could well be legitimate to “deplatform” in many instances, but deciding to not allow people of different opinions to talk about multiple views on a topic doesn’t seem consistent with the notions of “liberalism”.
A selection of podcasts etc. I’ve enjoyed recently
- Into The Grey Zone | Sky News: very interesting miniseries on how modern warfare is much more about disinformation than it is firing bullets. Lots of security experts interviewed analysing how Russia (mis)behaves on the international stage
- Could Covid-19 have come from a lab leak? | The Inquiry: balanced perspective on the idea that human error in China resulted in Covid-19 spreading around the world. It’s been interesting how the initial backlash to something presented as belligerent rhetoric (Trump saying “China started it”) led many to automatically dismiss the notion, even though there were some compelling reasons to back up the idea (even if “the leak” wasn’t done deliberately, as some claim)
- A Canine Prisoner of War | Futility Closet: amazing/ heart warming story of a dog in WW2 who befriended a troop of soldiers and ended up being awarded a medal of honour (normally reserved for humans)
- Ballade | Lasse Schjerning & Co: it’s currently the Copenhagen Jazz Festival and I thought I’d try out listening to some of the acts. I’m never really sure when to listen to slow paced jazz, but this was enjoyable when I did listen to it (on a train, as it happens)
- The ‘Zoom towns’ luring remote workers to rural enclaves | BBC: local governments giving perks (and ensuring good Wifi) to tempt remote workers to live in beautiful places with not a lot of IRL jobs
- The 60-Year-Old Scientific Screwup That Helped Covid Kill | Wired: I found this super interesting both for how such a huge health policy recommendation (i.e. wear a mask or not) can be based on such minutia, and also the story of scientific researchers overturning a paradigm in how airborne diseases like Covid spread
- tl;dr – the early WHO advice that masks don’t matter too much in stopping the spread of Covid was based on a flawed assumption that coronavirus particles would drop to the floor when you breathed. In fact they seem to linger in the air longer which means that rather than *just* washing hands/ surfaces (where the particles could fall) it makes more sense to ventilate rooms stop people’s Covid breath getting in close contact with others
- Where Did I Go Right? | Geoff Norcott: this book was recommended by a friend and was a really interesting read about a working class stand up comedian “coming out” as a Tory. Whilst I don’t agree with all of is views, hearing where they came from felt like an education. Politics aside, he has an interesting life story, and it’s also very funny in places, and so worth a read in that regard
I rarely find the time/ inclination to go on Youtube, but spent a few hours searching through some videos that were pretty high quality. These were the ones I remember most:
- The Israel-Palestine conflict: A brief, simple history | Vox: this was a good 10 minute explainer on a topic I really should know more about
- How vaccines work | Simply Explained: pretty self-explanatory
- Michael Laudrup Football’s Greatest | Sky Sports: after watching a film about the crazy story about how Denmark won the 1992 Euro Championships I watched this little documentary on Denmark’s star player at the time. I’d heard the name, but he was a bit before time. Turns out he was considered one of the world’s best
In terms of films, my girlfriend and I watched The Father (Anthony Hopkins, Olivia Colman) which felt like a really good portrayal of how dementia affects the lives of people and those around them.