Assorted Articles III

I’m continuing my summer cleaning of old articles I’ve had kicking around. Here’s a batch of clippings I found interesting.

In a blog entry written in 2018. Charles Stross wrote about science fiction world building. “Why I barely read SF these days” is framed around the bad assumptions made by many speculative fiction writers, but a lot of the discussion can also apply to how we imagine the very real futures we can build with what we know, have and can do now.

Similar to the sad baggage surrounding space battles and asteroid belts, we carry real world baggage with us into SF. It happens whenever we fail to question our assumptions. Next time you read a a work of SF ask yourself whether the protagonists have a healthy work/life balance. No, really: what is this thing called a job, and what is it doing in my post-scarcity interplanetary future? Why is this side-effect of carbon energy economics clogging up my post-climate-change world? Where does the concept of a paid occupation whereby individuals auction some portion of their lifespan to third parties as labour in return for money come from historically? What is the social structure of a posthuman lifespan? What are the medical and demographic constraints upon what we do at different ages if our average life expectancy is 200? Why is gender? Where is the world of childhood?

Why I barely read SF these days

Every year around Martin Luther King Jr. Day I spot centrists and even the far right quote MLK and try to catch a bit of his shadow, limiting the view of him in significant ways. Then I see the responses from Communists, Socialists, Anarchists and other fellow travelers who demand a more just, more kind world that emphasize that he actually had a lot to say about ending capitalism. I could dig up a bunch of articles like this, but “The 11 most anti-capitalist quotes from Martin Luther King Jr.” covers enough to make the point.

“We must recognize that we can’t solve our problem now until there is a radical redistribution of economic and political power… this means a revolution of values and other things. We must see now that the evils of racism, economic exploitation and militarism are all tied together… you can’t really get rid of one without getting rid of the others… the whole structure of American life must be changed. America is a hypocritical nation and [we] must put [our] own house in order.”- Report to SCLC Staff, May 1967.

The 11 most anti-capitalist quotes from Martin Luther King Jr.

Homelessness exists today only because the work hasn’t been done to end it, and study after study confirms this. The real challenge comes from convincing everyone holding the levers that we can act. In “We know how to fix homelessness, we just won’t do it” Cory Doctorow laid out a lot of what triggers opposition to ending homelessness and made the solution being apparent.

It’s actually not that hard to deal with homelessness. The evidence is well-established: homeless families should be given heavy rent subsidies through housing vouchers; long-term homeless individuals with mental health and substance problems should be given unconditional housing (“Housing First“).

We know how to fix homelessness, we just won’t do it

In that piece, he referenced “Big Tech Isn’t the Problem With Homelessness. It’s All of Us” from Wired, which ends with a hint at alternatives for making cities denser and better.

Every vacant lot or surface parking space could’ve been apartments with street-level shops. Every grassy median amid a wide boulevard makes me hear faint trolley bells, mass transit from an alternate timeline that runs alongside protected bike lanes and stops at pedestrian plazas where there used to be vast intersections.

Denser cities make all those things possible. They’re the keys to livable, walkable, surprising and varied cities, and they make it easier to not have people living on the streets.

Big Tech Isn’t the Problem With Homelessness. It’s All of Us

In yet another article, “Finland has found the answer to homelessness. It couldn’t be simpler“, the case is made that increased social justice, better personal outcomes and lower costs to governments can all be achieved by providing housing as a right.

Sceptics will argue that giving homes to homeless people is a recipe for disaster. Aren’t we just subsidising addiction? Won’t we end up with huge bills when it all goes wrong? Don’t people need an incentive to get their lives back on track and engage in services?

Actually, no. The evidence from Finland – as well as numerous other pilot schemes across the world – shows the opposite is true. When people are given homes, homelessness is radically reduced, engagement in support services goes up and recovery rates from addiction are comparable to a “treatment first” approach. Even more impressive is that there are overall savings for government, as people’s use of emergency health services and the criminal justice system is lessened.

Finland has found the answer to homelessness. It couldn’t be simpler

To end on a lighter note, on of my favourite pieces of ephemera from Karl Marx is a pair of Confessions he answered. Confessions were Victorian analogs to the questionnaires that circulated on blogs and Facebook in the early days of both. His answers placed his squarely in his time but they are interesting. Here’s a selection of some of his answers:

Your chief characteristic: Singleness of purpose
Your favourite occupation: Bookworming
The vice you hate most: Servility
The vice you excuse most: Gullibility
Your idea of happiness: To fight
Your idea of misery: To submit
Your favourite flower: Laurel
Your motto: De omnibus dubitandum [doubt everything]
Your favourite colour: Red

“Confession”

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