The justification of Idling

by Emrys Westacott The work ethic is deeply ingrained in much of modern society, both Eastern and Western, and there are many forces making sure that this remains the case. Parents, teachers, coaches, politicians, employers, and many other shapers of souls or makers of opinion constantly repeat the idea that hard work is the key…

On George Saunders’ “A Swim in a Pond in the Rain”

by Emrys Westacott George Saunders’ recent book, A Swim in a Pond in the Rain, is the most enjoyable and enlightening book on literature I have ever read. Saunders’ collections of short stories and his 2017 Booker Prize winning novel Lincoln in the Bardo have earned him numerous awards and much acclaim. He has taught…

The oldest injustice

by Emrys Westacott Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations begins with this claim: The annual labour of every nation is the fund which originally supplies it with all the necessaries and conveniences of life which it annually consumes….[1] In other words, labour is the ultimate source of a society’s wealth. In feudal times it had…

The European Super League and its Critics

by Emrys Westacott The scheme Two weeks ago European soccer world was rocked by an announcement that 12 of the top clubs had agreed among themselves to form a European Super League (ESL) to replace the existing European Champions League (ECL). The “dirty dozen” were Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Juventus, Inter Milan, AC Milan,…

Where work came from and where it is going

by Emrys Westacott If, for a long time now, you’ve been getting up early in the morning, setting off to school or your workplace, getting there at the required time, spending the day performing your assigned tasks (with a few scheduled breaks), going home at the pre-ordained time, spending a few hours doing other things…

‘Consolation’: A poem for now

by Emrys Westacott A friend, knowing that I’ve been learning German, recently sent me a volume of Theodore Fontane’s poetry.  Fontane (1819-1898) is best known today for the novels that he wrote in the later part of his life.  But some his poems have an affecting simplicity–a simplicity that is perhaps especially charming to those…

Reflections on American democracy’s near-death experience

by Emrys Westacott Like millions of others, my reaction to the result of the US presidential election was primarily relief. Relief at the prospect of an end to the ghastly display of narcissism, dishonesty, callousness, corruption, and general moral indecency (a.k.a. Donald Trump) that has dominated media attention in the US for the past four…

If you hold liberal values, you should vote!

by Emrys Westacott Some people whose political views are liberal and progressive say they will not vote in the 2020 US election. They detest Donald Trump and his Republican enablers like senate leader Mitch McConnell; they oppose Trump’s policies on most issues–the environment, immigration, health care, voting rights, police brutality, gun control, etc.; but they…

Defeating Trump takes precedence over everything

by Emrys Westacott America is a truck rolling down a hill towards a cliff. The downhill slope is the erosion of democratic norms; the cliff is the point where anti-democratic forces become powerful enough to crush democratic opposition by authoritarian means. The re-election of Donald Trump would very likely see the country sail over that…

The lucky ones–even in a pandemic

by Emrys Westacott When I feel myself becoming irritable, disheartened, or just plain fed-up with life during the pandemic, I find it helpful to conduct a thought-experiment familiar to the ancient Stoics. I reflect on how much I have to be grateful for, and how things could be so much worse. That prompts the more…

Free Ding Jiaxi!

Editor’s Note: Dear Reader, if you could share this interview on social media, by email, etc., it might be helpful in securing Ding Jiaxi’s release. by Emrys Westacott After several weeks of sheltering in place, being holed up in quarantine, or just experiencing a dramatically restricted mode of living due to the ongoing Covid 19…

How the pandemic exposes irrationalities in our social system

by Emrys Westacott The current Covid 19 pandemic is undoubtedly a disaster for millions of people: for those who die, who grieve for the dead, who suffer through a traumatic illness, or who, suddenly lacking work and income, face the prospect of dire poverty as the inevitable recession kicks in. And there are other bad…

A sonnet for Socrates

Socrates, snub-nosed, wall-eyed, paunchy, squat, stood before his accusers and confessed to being a gift from god—a gadfly, a pest sent to save the city from moral rot by stinging it out of its torpor.  He was not believed.  The Athenians could not think themselves blessed to be bitten by philosophy.  Unimpressed, they silenced their…

Disunity: the perennial problem that plagues progressives

by Emrys Westacott “In unity is strength!” This is one of the foundational maxims repeated by progressive forces everywhere. As history has often demonstrated, though, unity is easier to affirm than to achieve. And the consequences of failing to achieve it can be dire. Germany 1932 The direst of all dire examples of progressive disunity…