In an interview at the Royal Geographic Society on Tuesday about his career, Naipaul, who has been described as the “greatest living writer of English prose”, was asked if he considered any woman writer his literary match. He replied: “I don’t think so.” Of Austen he said he “couldn’t possibly share her sentimental ambitions, her sentimental sense of the world”.He felt that women writers were “quite different”. He said: “I read a piece of writing and within a paragraph or two I know whether it is by a woman or not. I think [it is] unequal to me.”The author, who was born in Trinidad, said this was because of women’s “sentimentality, the narrow view of the world”. “And inevitably for a woman, she is not a complete master of a house, so that comes over in her writing too,” he said.
Those who were born in mid-to-late 20th century America take this for granted; I grew up eating meat seven days a week, usually for lunch and dinner, sometimes for breakfast, too. But the phenomenon is global: there’s more than twice as much meat available per person than there was in 1950. Citizens of most developed nations have gone down the same path, and as the poor become less so, they buy more meat, too.…The extreme example is China, whose soaring meat consumption is dramatically affecting the global markets for corn, soy, poultry and pork. But even here in Turkey, which is hardly an economic miracle, the diet is rocketing into the 20th century, moving away from the traditional and toward the inevitable.Turkey’s diet was classic Mediterranean, of course, high in all kinds of plants, olive oil, some dairy (yogurt and feta, mostly) and a bit of fish, lamb or goat. Now it’s a jumble: a rural grocery store I visited displayed American-style breakfast cereal and plenty of soda front and center, along with (good) local vegetables, industrially produced dairy, and a small supply of expensive, stylishly packaged legumes and grains. There was no fish, lamb or goat, but there were at least 10 cuts of beef and lots of chicken. (Chicken consumption has nearly tripled here in the last 20 years.)
Although Parks And Recreation is currently in its annual downtime, Nick Offerman has still found a way to bring stability to the world through his facial hair: He’s growing out his reassuringly stalwart Ron Swanson mustache into a full-on beard—not just as a vacation from his character, but as part of an effort to conserve water for World Environment Day, which takes place this Sunday. Offerman has teamed with Budweiser in the “Grow One. Save A Million” campaign, asking other men to join him in not shaving, thereby helping to save the average five gallons of water every guy consumes when he uses his non-electric razor.
Gone!He has fled,My only companion,My splendid enemy,My unknown,My executioner-god!…No!Come back!With all your afflictions!All my tears gush forthTo you they streamAnd the last flames of my heartGlow for you.Oh, come back,My unknown god! my pain!My ultimate happiness!…– Nietzsche
Perhaps everyone is fully capable, even after years of brainwashing and indoctrination, of living without religion. Perhaps it is the initial agony of accepting a world without an all-powerful father figure that I am trying to spare my loved ones out of some misguided sense of mercy. I certainly don’t mean to suggest that there would be mass suicides or even homicides as some believers suggest (as if the only thing preventing them from raping and killing is their belief in god.) What I’m suggesting is that those other things that they are currently using religion to cope with i.e. stress, drug addiction, alcohol addiction, loneliness, hopelessness, poverty, etc, would become overwhelming without their beliefs. Surely, most would survive and learn other means of coping with life, but it would be naively optimistic to believe that everyone would. Thousands of people a year commit suicide after getting clean and sober and thousands more run right back to the drugs. There is no question that religion is just as powerful a drug as the pharmaceutical variety and can be just as hard to kick.…I’m sure many of you have gone through a period of malaise and ennui after realizing at last that all this religion crap was a lie. Many of us struggled mightily on our own roads to intellectual freedom. I’m sure we know many others who abandoned the journey unable to handle the stress of a world without the dream of God and heaven. Tolstoy is probably the most famous example of this and nutcases like Kirk Cameron, the most recent. Should we have dragged Tolstoy screaming into the light when he admittedly found the conclusions reason brought him to “Too horrible to contemplate”? Should I drag my mother and grandmother screaming into the light no matter how painful they might find the experience? Or should I leave them in peace and concentrate on those who are perhaps not quite as brainwashed? Who have not been deluded for quite so long? Does suggesting that some people are unable to change make me an elitist?
Most people who kill themselves actually lived better-than-average lives. Suicide rates are higher in nations with higher standards of living than in less prosperous nations; higher in US states with a better quality of life; higher in societies that endorse individual freedoms; higher in areas with better weather; in areas with seasonal change, they are higher during the warmer seasons; and they’re higher among college students that have better grades and parents with higher expectations.Baumeister argues that such idealistic conditions actually heighten suicide risk because they often create unreasonable standards for personal happiness, thereby rendering people more emotionally fragile in response to unexpected setbacks. So, when things get a bit messy, such people, many of whom appear to have led mostly privileged lives, have a harder time coping with failures. “A large body of evidence,” writes the author, “is consistent with the view that suicide is preceded by events that fall short of high standards and expectations, whether produced by past achievements, chronically favorable circumstances, or external demands.”…To summarize this first step in the escape theory, Baumeister tells us that, “it is apparently the size of the discrepancy between standards and perceived reality that is crucial for initiating the suicidal process.” It’s the proverbial law of social gravity: the higher your majesty is to start off with, the more painful it’s going to be when you happen to fall flat on your face.
If you are a Theory 1 person, you worry that, with so many Americans going to college, the bachelor’s degree is losing its meaning, and soon it will no longer operate as a reliable marker of productive potential. Increasing public investment in higher education with the goal of college for everyone—in effect, taxpayer-subsidized social promotion—is thwarting the operation of the sorting mechanism. Education is about selection, not inclusion.If you are friendly toward Theory 2, on the other hand, you worry that the competition for slots in top-tier colleges is warping educational priorities. You see academic tulip mania: students and their parents are overvaluing a commodity for which there are cheap and plentiful substitutes. The sticker price at Princeton or Stanford, including room and board, is upward of fifty thousand dollars a year. Public colleges are much less expensive—the average tuition is $7,605—and there are also many less selective private colleges where you can get a good education, and a lot more faculty face time, without having to spend every minute of high school sucking up to your teachers and reformatting your résumé. Education is about personal and intellectual growth, not about winning some race to the top.…It’s possible, though, that the higher education system only looks as if it’s working. The process may be sorting, students may be getting access, and employers may be rewarding, but are people actually learning anything? Two recent books suggest that they are not. They suggest it pretty emphatically.