Even if it doesn't last, Europeans are showing a sense of continental solidarity at a time when it's badly needed.
French President Sarkozy attends a funeral ceremony for the French soldiers killed by a gunman in incidents thought to be connected to the school shooting / Reuters
French security forces today arrested a man suspected of shooting four people at a Jewish school in Toulouse earlier this week, as well as carrying out earlier shootings of French soldiers. The suspect has claimed affiliation with al-Qaeda. This is a story that doubtless will develop and take on new dimensions in the coming days and weeks. One remarkable aspect of the coverage of the past few days, however, has been the sense of solidarity within Europe as the French police hunted for the killer.
"We are all Americans," ran Le Monde's famous headline on September 12, 2001. Solidarity is a common response to tragedy. But European coverage of the French shootings evinces more than mere sympathy: many outlets are portraying the violence as an attack on European values, and thus a European problem to solve. In a year when the European community has seen more than its fair share of finger-pointing and national stereotyping, this perhaps fleeting sense of collective responsibility and common identity is an interesting moment.
Papers all over Europe picked up French philosopher and public figure Bernard-Henri Lévy's op-ed on the incident. "Stand up, when children are massacred!" ran the German headline in Die Welt over Lévy's piece. Spanish paper El Paísopted for, "After the Toulouse killing: all united against anti-Semitism."
The individual offerings were still more telling."Terrorism in France is an attack on Europe's freedom," argued Michael Stürmer in Die Welt.
Terror is no party, no sect, no army, but a method to spread fear and dread, to cripple the soul and control the public realm. [...] In this discipline Europe still has much to learn, without paranoia and panic [...] No one should think that Germany is immune to such a crime. We have thus far largely been spared. Much has been intercepted in advance. Sometimes we, and especially the authorities, have simply been lucky. There is no guarantee that it will remain that way in the future. Is all this a French concern or something that concerns Europe as a whole, because it threatens the European way of life?
This is similar to the responses in other papers. "Is Europe returning to political violence?" askedEl País, opening up the sensitive question. This particular debate prompt seemed to link the French shootings with other instances of right-wing nationalist violence across Europe: the attack on Senegalese traders in Florence by a member of Italy's far-right, and the case of Anders Breivik in Norway. Now that the suspect has claimed membership in al-Qaeda, the contours of this particular debate seem likely to change.
Yet the sense of common mourning and common problem-solving, as expressed in the past few days, does not seem to have been wholly predicated on a certain conception of the shooter's identity. For one thing, several prominent articles, including one particularly simple and forceful one by Günther Nonnenmacher for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, suggested as early as Monday that this attack seemed likely to be linked to Islamic terrorism -- this theory was hardly unknown as the other articles were being written and published.
"The children who died in the massacre in Toulouse are not 'other' people's children, of another land and another country," wrote Joanne Favro for the Italian La Stampa. "Our children are also victims. Killed by a monster that overruns not only France but also Italy, Europe, and the world." Italian minister of education Francesco Profumo clearly agreed, asking for a minute of silence on Tuesday to "reflect" on "intolerance." This theme, he said, "goes beyond the borders of France and even Europe," but should be examined particularly carefully by "the countries of the E.U." He also noted that schools play "a primary role in the formation of consciences."
The call to action was echoed in an editorial in Austria's prominent Wiener Zeitung as well, though again with some mention of the European far right, which thus far appears to be uninvolved in this case.
The gruesome series of murders in France should awaken Europe as a whole. In Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orban is serving nationalist circles, and extreme right party Jobbik, resting at 20 percent in the polls, is openly anti-Semitic -- and willing to resort to violence.
In the Netherlands the government depends on a far-right party. In Denmark and France the nationalist parties are extremely strong, and in Austria the FPÖ [Freedom Party of Austria] lies in second place in the polls.
Everywhere in Europe, where ruling parties strive with speeches and actions to pull the voters of such parties to their side and make intolerable concessions, society radicalises.
It remains to be seen whether the vision of France's shootings, as indicative of a broader European problem, will persist as we learn more about the shooter. One thing, however, seems clear. Europe may have its problems, and the E.U. may well show further signs of fracture in the coming months. But what has been appearing in the European media are the unmistakable signs of a common European identity and a sense of common responsibility for social problems and violent intolerance. This sort of language -- particularly at this level of strength and clarity -- was extremely rare only a few decades ago.
At least they didn’t go for the giant, spring-loaded needle traps.
The events that led teams of helicopter-borne vets to pelt the Swiss countryside with vaccine-impregnated chicken heads began in 1939. Two things were then sweeping through Poland: the Nazis, and an epidemic of rabies carried by red foxes. Every year, the wavefront of disease advanced southward and westward by several dozen kilometers, hitting country after country. In March of 1967, it reached Switzerland.
The epidemic was a huge problem. Rabies is caused by a virus that spreads through the bites of animals and targets the brain. Unless infected people get a (really expensive) vaccine right away, the disease is almost always fatal. So, something had to be done about the foxes. The usual methods—poisoning, trapping, gassing, and shooting—weren’t working. The alternative was to vaccinate them.
It’s a paradox: Shouldn’t the most accomplished be well equipped to make choices that maximize life satisfaction?
There are three things, once one’s basic needs are satisfied, that academic literature points to as the ingredients for happiness: having meaningful social relationships, being good at whatever it is one spends one’s days doing, and having the freedom to make life decisions independently.
But research into happiness has also yielded something a little less obvious: Being better educated, richer, or more accomplished doesn’t do much to predict whether someone will be happy. In fact, it might mean someone is less likely to be satisfied with life.
That second finding is the puzzle that Raj Raghunathan, a professor of marketing at The University of Texas at Austin’s McCombs School of Business, tries to make sense of in his recent book, If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Happy?Raghunathan’s writing does fall under the category of self-help (with all of the pep talks and progress worksheets that that entails), but his commitment to scientific research serves as ballast for the genre’s more glib tendencies.
Nearly half of Americans would have trouble finding $400 to pay for an emergency. I’m one of them.
Since 2013,the Federal Reserve Board has conducted a survey to “monitor the financial and economic status of American consumers.” Most of the data in the latest survey, frankly, are less than earth-shattering: 49 percent of part-time workers would prefer to work more hours at their current wage; 29 percent of Americans expect to earn a higher income in the coming year; 43 percent of homeowners who have owned their home for at least a year believe its value has increased. But the answer to one question was astonishing. The Fed asked respondents how they would pay for a $400 emergency. The answer: 47 percent of respondents said that either they would cover the expense by borrowing or selling something, or they would not be able to come up with the $400 at all. Four hundred dollars! Who knew?
A professor of cognitive science argues that the world is nothing like the one we experience through our senses.
As we go about our daily lives, we tend to assume that our perceptions—sights, sounds, textures, tastes—are an accurate portrayal of the real world. Sure, when we stop and think about it—or when we find ourselves fooled by a perceptual illusion—we realize with a jolt that what we perceive is never the world directly, but rather our brain’s best guess at what that world is like, a kind of internal simulation of an external reality. Still, we bank on the fact that our simulation is a reasonably decent one. If it wasn’t, wouldn’t evolution have weeded us out by now? The true reality might be forever beyond our reach, but surely our senses give us at least an inkling of what it’s really like.
The president’s unique approach to the White House Correspondents’ Dinner will surely be missed.
No U.S. President has been a better comedian than Barack Obama. It’s really that simple.
Now that doesn’t mean that some modern-day presidents couldn’t tell a joke. John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton excelled at it. But Obama has transformed the way presidents use comedy—not just engaging in self-deprecation or playfully teasing his rivals, but turning his barbed wit on his opponents.
He puts that approach on display every year at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. This annual tradition, which began in 1921 when 50 journalists (all men) gathered in Washington D.C., has become a showcase for each president’s comedy chops. Some presidents have been bad, some have been good. Obama has been the best. He’s truly the killer comedian in chief.
Two scholars discuss the ups and downs of life as a right-leaning professor.
“I don’t think I can say it too strongly, but literally it just changed my life,” said a scholar, about reading the work of Ayn Rand. “It was like this awakening for me.”
Different versions of this comment appear throughout Jon A. Shields and Joshua M. Dunn Sr.’s book on conservative professors, Passing on the Right, usually about people like Milton Friedman and John Stuart Mill and Friedrich Hayek. The scholars they interviewed speak in a dreamy way about these nerdy celebrities, perhaps imagining an alternate academic universe—one where social scientists can be freely conservative.
The assumption that most college campuses lean left is so widespread in American culture that it has almost become a caricature: intellectuals in thick-rimmed glasses preaching Marxism on idyllic grassy quads; students protesting minor infractions against political correctness; raging professors trying to prove that God is, in fact, dead. Studies about professors’ political beliefs and voting behavior suggest this assumption is at least somewhat correct. But Shields and Dunn set out to investigate a more nuanced question: For the minority of professors who are cultural and political conservatives, what’s life actually like?
The U.S. president talks through his hardest decisions about America’s role in the world.
Friday, August 30, 2013, the day the feckless Barack Obama brought to a premature end America’s reign as the world’s sole indispensable superpower—or, alternatively, the day the sagacious Barack Obama peered into the Middle Eastern abyss and stepped back from the consuming void—began with a thundering speech given on Obama’s behalf by his secretary of state, John Kerry, in Washington, D.C. The subject of Kerry’s uncharacteristically Churchillian remarks, delivered in the Treaty Room at the State Department, was the gassing of civilians by the president of Syria, Bashar al-Assad.
A pastor and a rabbi talk about kids, poop, and tearing down the patriarchy in institutional religion.
The Bible is a man’s book. It was mostly written by men, for men, and about men. The people who then interpreted the text have also been predominately male.
No wonder there’s not much theology preoccupied with weird-colored poop and the best way to weather tantrums. Throughout history, childcare has largely been considered women’s work—and, by extension, not theologically serious.
Danya Ruttenberg—a Conservative rabbi whose book about parenting came out in April—disagrees. So does Bromleigh McCleneghan, a Chicago-area pastor and the author of a 2012 book about parenting and a forthcoming book about Christians and sex. Both women have made their careers in writing and ministry. But they’re also both moms, and they believe the work they do as parents doesn’t have to remain separate from the work they do as theologians.
“A typical person is more than five times as likely to die in an extinction event as in a car crash,” says a new report.
Nuclear war. Climate change. Pandemics that kill tens of millions.
These are the most viable threats to globally organized civilization. They’re the stuff of nightmares and blockbusters—but unlike sea monsters or zombie viruses, they’re real, part of the calculus that political leaders consider everyday. And according to a new report from the U.K.-based Global Challenges Foundation, they’re much more likely than we might think.
In its annual report on “global catastrophic risk,” the nonprofit debuted a startling statistic: Across the span of their lives, the average American is more than five times likelier to die during a human-extinction event than in a car crash.
Partly that’s because the average person will probably not die in an automobile accident. Every year, one in 9,395 people die in a crash; that translates to about a 0.01 percent chance per year. But that chance compounds over the course of a lifetime. At life-long scales, one in 120 Americans die in an accident.
Princeton freshman Tal Fortgang was right that "privilege" is a problem, but not about why.
Poor Tal Fortgang. (Well, perhaps “poor” isn’t the right word.) Not long ago, the Princeton freshman’s white male privilege was known only to those in his life. Then he published an essay about this privilege in a conservative student publication, arguing that because his ancestors had struggled, he personally doesn’t benefit from unearned advantage. If he’s not privileged, no one should be asking him to check his privilege, right? After all, some of his advantage was earned; he just doesn’t happen to be the one who earned it.
Because “privilege” is clickbait, Fortgang’s piece made the rounds, culminating in the New York Times interviewing his classmates about his privilege and whether he had, in fact, checked it. The consensus is that he did not. Fortgang’s privilege has now been checked not only by his classmates and Facebook friends but by the entire Internet.