You don’t protect my freedom: Our childish insistence on calling soldiers heroes deadens real democracy [more inside]
Italy is no more a democracy. According to freedom house, in 2009 the italian press was only "Partly Free"; but from today, it is definitely Not Free.
How Wal-Mart's values are shaping America's economy -- and why this is a very bad thing:
Around the time that the young Sam Walton opened his first stores, John Kennedy redeemed a presidential campaign promise by persuading Congress to extend the minimum wage to retail workers, who had until then not been covered by the law. Walton was furious. Now the goddamn federal government was telling him he had to pay his workers the $1.15 hourly minimum. Walton's response was to divide up his stores into individual companies whose revenues didn't exceed the $250,000 threshold. Eventually, though, a federal court ruled that this was simply a scheme to avoid paying the minimum wage, and he was ordered to pay his workers the accumulated sums he owed them, plus a double-time penalty thrown in for good measure. Wal-Mart cut the checks, but Walton also summoned the employees at a major cluster of his stores to a meeting. "I'll fire anyone who cashes the check," he told them.
The Milgram Experiment Today? "Students commonly assume that, even if Milgram’s famous experiment sheds important light on the power of situation today, were his experiment precisely reproduced today, it would not generate comparable results. To oversimplify the argument behind that claim: The power of white lab coats just ain’t what it used to be. Of course, that assertion has been difficult to challenge given that the option of replicating the Milgram experiment has been presumptively unavailable — indeed, it has been the paradigmatic example of why psychology experiments must be reviewed by institutional review boards ('IRBs'). Who would even attempt to challenge that presumption? The answer: Jerry Burger, a psychology professor at Santa Clara University. With some slight modifications, Burger manage to obtain permission to replicate Milgram’s experiment — and the results may surprise you." [Via MindHacks]
Questioning the banality of evil. "There is a widespread consensus amongst psychologists that tyranny triumphs either because ordinary people blindly follow orders or else because they mindlessly conform to powerful roles. However, recent evidence concerning historical events challenges these views. In particular, studies of the Nazi regime reveal that its functionaries engaged actively and creatively with their tasks. Re-examination of classic social psychological studies points to the same dynamics at work. This article summarises these developments and lays out the case for an updated social psychology of tyranny that explains both the influence of tyrannical leaders and the active contributions of their followers." [Via Mind Hacks.]
Ian Buruma reviews World War IV: The Long Struggle Against Islamofascism, by senior neo-conservative Norman Podhoretz, in the New York Review of Books. The key to Podhoretz's politics seems to me to lie right there: the longing for power, for toughness, for the Shtarker [strong man] who doesn't give a damn about anyone or anything, and hatred of the contemptible, cowardly liberals with their pandering ways and their double standards. Since Podhoretz, himself a bookish man, can never be a Shtarker, his government must fill that role, and not give a damn about anyone or anything. [more inside]
Retiring psychology professor Philip G. Zimbardo, who ran the Stanford Prison Experiment, gave his final lecture at Stanford this week, criticizing the Bush administration and saying that senior government officials responsible for Abu Ghraib should be "tried for the crimes against humanity." [Via MindHacks.]
Never wanna work/Always wanna play/Pleasure, pleasure every day. What happens when the jobs go away and don't return? Should we take the surpluses generated and pay people not to work? What happens to the assumption of scarcity when nanotechology allows us to generate potentially anything we want from grass clippings? Maybe Marx had it wrong all along. Maybe, instead of fetishizing work and the authoritarian mindset that it generates, we should have been reading Paul Lafargue instead. Just as a thought experiment, what would you do if your job category disappeared? How would you spend your time? Would you invest more time and energy in friendships and other relationships? Hobbies? If you were your employer, what technologies would you use to get rid of your position and save money?