In 1929, Virginia Woolf published her famous essay A Room of One’s Own, arguing that women needed both literal and figurative space to write. Ms. Woolf’s essay was primarily focused on the strictures placed on women writers, especially during that era, that prevented them from creating, including lack of access to education and fundamental rights. Much has changed since that time, but the idea that it is necessary to have space for creativity — both emotionally and physically — still holds true.
This is easier said than done. I spent years thinking that I would write when I had something more to say, when I became more interesting, when the kids grew up a bit more, when I wasn’t so tired, when work wasn’t so crazy, when there weren’t so many dishes in the sink and laundry piled on the couch, when when when ad infinitum. …
We’ve become a society of consumers instead of citizens
I grew up thinking that capitalism and democracy go hand in hand.
And certainly for many years, the two were intertwined. Increasingly, however, the two have begun to diverge, with capitalism and consumerism overshadowing traditional democratic attitudes, structures, civic institutions, and way of life.
But capitalism is not democracy. Capitalism is an economic system characterized by free markets. Democracy is a political system where the people of the nation can take an active part in decisions that affect the common good.
Capitalism has consumers. Democracy has citizens.
But increasingly, in modern discourse, the terms “citizen” and “consumer” are used interchangeably. …
Growing up in the south, meat was king. Pork was it’s own food group, and a meal wasn’t a “real” meal unless it included some type of meat. Vegetarians were regarded with suspicion. What kind of red-blooded American doesn’t eat meat?
I still love a good steak, and bacon remains dear to my heart. But it could be that the future may be meatless — or at least, mostly meatless.
For thousands of years, world population grew slowly, but in recent centuries, the growth has been explosive. Two hundred years ago, there were less than one billion humans living on earth. Between 1900 and 2000, the population increased from 1.5 to 6.1 …
Income taxes are focused on the value we add to society as measured by income. But should we focus more on what we consume?
Tax policy is an area that usually elicits groans, rolled eyes, and general statements of dissatisfaction with the Internal Revenue Service (to put it mildly). I try not to bring it up at parties.
But taxes are, as they say, the only certainty in life apart from death. They are a necessary part of a functioning government and society.
In the United States, tax law is enormously complex. An often-circulated factoid is that the federal tax code is 70,000 pages long. While this is not true (it’s more like a couple thousand), it is true that the complexity reflects a number of things. First, taxes matter very much to those paying them. Second, taxes have the capacity to influence decisions and outcomes, both at the individual and corporate level. …
One of the defining characteristics of American mythology is that of the rugged individual.
Individualism — the idea that the human individual possesses dignity and worth above and beyond communal, political, or religious priorities — had its modern roots in 18th and 19th century Europe, with philosophers such as Thomas Hobbes and John Locke ascribing to individuals a natural liberty.
These concepts were enthusiastically adopted by America’s founding fathers, who explicitly stated in the Declaration of Independence that individuals have “inalienable rights” including “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
Alexis de Tocqueville, the French diplomat and political scientist, expressed both admiration and concern for American democracy and its individualistic focus in his 1835 Democracy in America. Generally, Tocqueville saw democracy as an system that balanced freedom of the individual with concern for the community, but he also expressed concern that untrammeled individualism could result in a type of egoism that results in an isolation from community. …
Or are we just evolving?
A 2015 Microsoft Corporation Study found that people generally lose concentration after eight seconds — which is apparently a second shorter than the attention span of a goldfish, and a significant drop from the year 2000, when the average attention span was twelve seconds.
This led to much hand wringing about how our increasingly digitized lifestyles have negatively affected our brains and destroyed our ability to focus. Social media, in particular, is frequently blamed, with an article by Debbie Kim in The Odyssey stating that
It only makes sense that our attention spans have shortened. Tweets have a maximum 140-character limit, Vines have a max video length of six seconds and Snapchats max out at 10 seconds. We’re constantly scrolling through our different feeds, half-reading all the content we see. …
I like to think I’m a good person. I like to think I try to do the “right” thing, to be kind and good and patient.
But the truth is, I can be a terrible person. Petty, selfish, vain, cowardly, judgmental— I could go on, but you get the idea. I have character flaws.
In real life, I try to hide these qualities.
We all do. Nobody Instagrams a picture of themselves acting like a total asshole. Nobody writes a Facebook post about how they acted with callous disregard for someone else’s feelings. …
The Happiness Industry is Big Business. But are we being sold a bill of goods?
Americans are obsessed with happiness. It is literally written into the foundational ethos of the country that Americans have the right to pursue happiness.
Yet despite pursuing happiness with a patriotic zeal, Americans are not a particularly happy bunch. According to the United Nations’s 2018 World Happiness Report, the U.S. came in 18th place, an impressive drop from 2007, when the it was ranked as the third happiest nation in the world.
Other measures support this drastic decline in happiness, such as the astronomical increases in the number of Americans — approximately 1 in 6 — taking anti-depressants or other psychiatric drugs, and the fact that for some Americans, life expectancy is actually declining after years of increases. …
In a moment of temporary insanity, my husband and I decided that it would be a great idea to pack our six month old Australian cattledog, two kids, and every item of beach paraphernalia we own into our car and tackle a 12 hour nonstop road trip to Florida for spring break.
I know. No more box wine for me when making major decisions, I guess.
As we pulled out in the pouring rain into the unending traffic of spring breaker-clogged I-95 South, I began to feel the first swells of panic.
What were we thinking?
About halfway into the drive, the ipads had run out of power, so the kids had abandoned their headphones. The phones were no longer getting reception, so our usual music options on Amazon music or Pandora were no longer available. So, we did something we hadn’t done in a long time. …
After a self-proclaimed white supremacist opened fire on two separate mosques in Chistchurch on March 15, 2019, leaving fifty dead and an additional fifty wounded, New Zealand’s government introduced a bill to ban “military-style” semi-automatic guns and high-capacity magazines at the beginning of April, and the Parliament passed the bill almost unanimously on Wednesday, April 10 — less than a month after the massacres.
This action seems to make perfect sense in the wake of such a senseless and fully avoidable tragedy. The law does not ban other types of guns, such as certain small-caliber rifles, pump-action shotguns, and regular bolt-action hunting rifles, and provides a buy-back program for owners of the newly banned assault rifles. …