I hope October has started well for you – we’re now in the final quarter of the year – how strange is that.
Coronavirus on the up in Denmark
The government has introduced some measures to try and stem the recent uptick in cases. Bars are shut at 10pm and people have been asked to WFH, where possible. Day to day it doesn’t seem to have changed things too much, though anecdotally I now know friends of friends who have had it.
Interviewing some interesting people
People have been fine to meet up and do interviews for the podcast I’m putting together which has been good fun. I took a trip to visit the head of the Danish Handball Federation a couple of weeks ago, interviewed an author about Danish approach to managing people, and have some interviews lined up with some academics about why Danes have ironic humour.
Maybe travelling to Kenya
There’s potentially a window opening to make a trip to Kenya plausible. Still, some logistics to figure out, but it could be that we spend a couple of weeks in Nairobi which will enjoyable.
The influence of soap operas: after listening to a podcast episode about China’s influence in Kenya I have been reminded about how popular soap operas/ novellas are in various parts of the world. Their influence isn’t to be underestimated
- In Brazil it’s attributed to shrinking family sizes: this 2008 paper looked at areas of Brazil with and without access to TV, and then controlled for those who watched “novellas” (soap operas). Those that watched novellas, where smaller families are portrayed, themselves had smaller families
- In Ethiopia it’s huge business: when I was there in November 2017 everyone was talking about a TV channel Kana. They dub soap operas into Amharic (local language) which has the population gripped every evening. When there’s a power outage, there’s outrage
- In Kenya, China are exporting soap operas: dubbing their stories in local languages (i.e. mother tongues rather than the nationwide Swahili). Their hope is that this “soft power” will translate into a more favourable attitude to China
- In Rwanda it was used to heal the country post-genocide: as we discussed in last month’s edition and told in this podcast episode
- Why is not a policy?: this got me thinking whether more (Western) countries have overlooked it as a policy when trying to win the hearts and minds of other countries. Maybe because policymakers typically don’t watch soap operas it wouldn’t instinctively come up in brainstorming committees? Of course, the ultimate outcome is high quality locally produced content for local markets – Netflix is doing a big push in Nigeria
Developing an opinion on “wokeness”: 2020 has resulted in lots of conversations about how to overcome the oppression many people in society face. I’m 100% in favour of wanting to get to all people to feel their own an even footing, but have found it a bit of minefield navigating through the various voices extolling how to get there
- Wokeness seems to be the word: that has championed the progressive cause. As such, without doing much research, I naturally gravitated to this concept – as it was talking about improving e.g. gender/ racial equality
- But what does it actually mean?: this article (The Roots of Wokeness)summarised/ criticised the movement. Whilst the intent of woke activism is generally agreed to be a good thing (i.e. black people should be on an even footing with white people), the article argues that where the movement comes of from, and hence the direction it might take, could be a cause of concern
- Overcoming “the system”: I listened to some podcast interviews with the authors of the main book that was referenced. The short version is that they believe wokeness comes from post-modernism which sees the world as one big structure that favours the few. The woke response (as I’ve understood it) is to shine a light on people who share common characteristics, and then actively help them overcome “the system”
- “Wokeness is anti-liberal”: the authors feel that whilst this has good intentions, defining people by their identity makes it much harder to attain true equality, because it sets up an “us vs them” dynamic. Better, they say, to persevere with the framework that uses freedom of expression and debate to reach the outcome that all m̶e̶n̶ persons are created equal
- What’s the right approach then?: like all things, the optimal place is probably somewhere in the middle. The thing that seems tricky is to communicate your shared desire in the ultimate outcome (everyone on an even footing) whilst challenging the methodology. Too often it seems that any criticism of wokeness can be interpreted as e.g. racism which only leads to more shouting matches. This rarely helps anyone and, if anything risks alienating people who are on the fence about the woke cause in the first place
Types of communal living: I’ve been in Copenhagen for a year now and my fiancée and I (we got engaged btw) are thinking about where we might move next at some point
- Getting to know the neighbours: a big thing I’m keen for is to have some sort of community with the people I live nearby, for reasons talked about in e.g. The Nuclear Family was a Mistake but also because it feels nice to get to have everyday interactions with people
- The brave new world of shared living: is a report and podcast mini-series all about the concept. I listened to it last week and thought it was super interesting. As things like loneliness, isolation and calls for sustainable living are on the rise, it’ll be interesting to see if the practices of the pioneering few will become mainstream enough for us to find somewhere…
Finding a pragmatic “no notifications” phone setting: I really try to not look at my phone often but having it on silent meant I would often miss important calls, and I always worried “what if my friends/ family need me urgently”. As such, my phone would continue to buzz.
I think I’ve found a solution:
- Do Not Disturb mode: exists on Android phones and from what I can tell, iOS too. It means all notifications are blocked, except ones that you specify
- Who gets through the filter?: the key thing is which notifications you will allow when in this mode. For me, I’ve made a list of contacts (friends, family) where my phone will ring, and also any number that calls twice in quick succession (e.g. if someone is using someone else’s phone because there’s got lost)
- My set up: I have DND as default now with “sound on”. If people on the list call then my phone rings, otherwise I see Whatsapp etc. notifications only once I pick up phone again
Let me know if you have any tips for reducing distractions etc. from your phone!
A link to podcast recommendations I’ve listened to can be found on this Spotify playlist you can follow. A selection from this month include
- Annie Nightingale | Desert Island Discs: I’m always impressed when “old” people continue to seek out new things. There’s a mathematic sub-genre about when one *should* stop seeking out new experiences and stick with “what you know”. It has purported a theory on when one should “settle” on choosing a partner amongst other things. Anyway, with music, most people stop trying new music when they reach 33. Annie Nightingale (aged 80) is no such person – as a DJ with over 50 years experience she picked out Billie Eilish (b. 2001) as her first track
- Meritocracy and Inequality | Start the week: great topic, high calibre guests and a host that (nicely) provoked the experts. The topic is all about how the idea of promoting people based on their merit is flawed. Philosopher Michael Sandel goes as far as to say that meritocracy is bad in principle as well as in practice (where there’s not a level playing field to start from). The other guests are elsewhere on the spectrum. A common theme is that less prestige should be put on university education and how the coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the value of “essential workers”. The big question is whether the pay of e.g. nurses/ couriers/ care workers will now be adjusted upwards accordingly…
- Utopia in Practice | IMAGINE: if you listen to one of the episodes about shared living, I’d recommend this one
- Mercury Sounds | Ludivico Einaudi/ Whiteree: not a podcast, but a song I’ve been enjoying. A sort of transcendental piece using the classical composer’s music
- The genius way the Ancient Greeks taxed their citizens | The Week: I had this drafted a couple of weeks ago before the whole “Trump pays no taxes” story emerged. It now seems pretty relevant! What the Greeks did was make a public ledger of how much tax people paid which then became a kind of ego contest for who was the most prestigious. Whenever people say things like “it’s irrational to want to pay more tax”, I’m always reminded of how situations/ incentives can be reframed and history teaches us that’s not always the case
- What makes strangers click | BBC Worklife: interesting piece about why you can suddenly feel in sync with someone. The theory presented in this article is that it’s to do with having a “shared reality” i.e. you both see something and think the same thing, often at the same time. As such, when meeting someone for a date – it’s better to go somewhere with external stimuli to talk about (e.g. museum) so you can test it
- Small Change | The New Yorker: Malcolm Gladwell writes in 2010 about the role of social media in protests/ revolutions/ activism. The short version is that social media is good for “weak-tie” activism, such as signing a petition/ finding a match for an organ transplant, but where actions require “something to lose” (i.e. chance of being arrested for doing a sit-in boycott) you need “strong-tie” relationships.
- Five Ideas To Fight For | Anthony Lester: this is a book written by a former barrister who wrote and campaigned for parliamentary laws in the UK. He talks about the renewed need for today’s generation to preserve Human Rights, Equality, Free Speech, Privacy and The Rule of Law, and how easy it is for their rights to be eroded away. My main takeaway was how multi-faceted the legal system needs to be – and how perilous it becomes when popular sounding soundbites take precedence
- In the Name of the Father (1993): I was in that classic “What do I watch?” mode a few Saturdays and decided to narrow down by finding a Daniel Day-Lewis film. This is the story of Irish people being put in jail in the wake of some IRA bombings with scant evidence and a public pressure to prosecute *someone*. It’s essentially the same story as The Harlem Five (portrayed in Netflix’s When They See Us) but switching around “black” and “Irish”. Both were depressing.
- The Social Dilemma (2020): the Netflix documentary got a lot buzz (at least, in my online echo chamber) about the impact of social media on our lives. There’s been some pushback saying social media alone isn’t the only party guilty for screen addiction and other ills, but I nevertheless got some good perspective and arguments for the distortions it can lead to. Speaking to friends with teenagers in their lives, they felt it was important to share with them, because many have no idea about what’s going on behind the scenes, but regularly spend hours glued to their phone
- Workers’ Rights in the Digital Age | Stanford University: a friend from East Africa is now working on how to give more protection to people in the gig economy (Uber drivers etc.). The early 20th century led to huge gains in providing workers’ protection (in the US) on things such as healthcare, tribunals, sick leave etc. But this all depends on being an employee. The march of the gig economy completely sidesteps these protections by classifying people as “independent contractors”. The anecdote she starts with is great rebuff to the argument of “if drivers don’t like it, they should just stop using Uber”.
- Why we won’t be raising our kids in the suburbs | Not Just Bikes: how car-centric suburbs suppress childhood independence (shout out to The Loop for the tip)
- Parrots removed from UK family safari park after teaching each other to swear – and laughing about it | Manchester Evening News
- ABBA wore crazy costumes so they could qualify for tax break | Twitter
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