Rabbit Holes 🕳 #30
From living closer to our friends to applying degrowth to our minds, letting loose, the age of work intensification and decolonizing charity
Rabbit Holes 🕳
Here we go, back to the usual Rabbit Holes format with five (!) perspective-shifting ideas that I’ve come across lately, plus some extras:
#1 🧑🤝🧑 Why We Should All Live Close To Our Friends
“Sometime during the pandemic lockdowns, I began to nurture a fantasy: What if I were neighbors with all of my friends? […] Wouldn’t it be great to have someone who could join me on a stroll at a moment’s notice? Or to be able to drop by to cook dinner for a friend and her baby? How good would it be to have more spontaneous hangs instead of ones that had to be planned, scheduled, and most likely rescheduled weeks in advance?"
“This doesn’t have to be just a dream. Friends who already live in the same city could decide to move within walking distance of one another—the same neighborhood, block, or even apartment building—and campaign for others to do the same. Doing so would likely involve a lot of effort on the front end, but the resulting community could pay emotional dividends for years. Meeting up would be a breeze if you didn’t have to travel as far to see one another. More than that, the proximity would make it easier to support one another materially and emotionally. Even just knowing that someone you cherish is near could be reassuring. The more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve become convinced: We should all live close to our friends.”
“Yet young adults are conventionally expected to focus on their career, getting married, and starting a family. Putting this energy into coordinating a move with all of your buddies may seem quirky—but doing so could actually be really good for you. Having supportive friends is associated with greater day-to-day happiness and longer life spans, sometimes even more so than having strong familial or spousal relationships. It’s also linked to lower levels of depression and mental decline as we age. And friends are particularly important at a time when 36 percent of Americans report feeling “serious loneliness.””
“Many people are prepared to move for a new job, to be with a romantic partner, or even just for an adventure. Moving to be closer to buddies should be no different. Friends are not incidental to a good life; they’re essential to one. So why not shorten the distance between you and them?”
#2 🧘 Applying Degrowth To Our Minds
“I find it fascinating to consider how “growth has entered our minds and souls”, and how an awareness of these “mental infrastructures of growth” might free us from growthism and help unlock the cultural changes that will bring about the necessary systemic changes.”
“[…] Our ability to recognise and unpick these ‘mental infrastructures’ - that is, the worldview that influences all of our actions - will be key to throwing off the shackles of growth and unlocking a culture of sufficiency, whereby we recognise when we have ‘enough’ in a material sense and from then on meet our “nonmaterial needs nonmaterially”, increasing our sense of wellbeing and contentment.”
“Gramsci tells us that the way to overcome cultural hegemony is by creating a new culture that is not based on the values of the ruling class. A counter-culture, if you like. […] There are many examples of counter-hegemonic narratives arising more recently too. The following list is skewed more towards examples from the global North because the global North represents the vast majority of the over-consumption and is therefore where cultural change is most needed. Such examples include:
Those people, like the Futuresteaders and others who practice voluntary simplicity and frugal abundance, who appreciate the simple things in life, and find happiness in what they have rather than what they want. Seeking only ‘enough’ and not ‘more’ represents an affront to the dominant culture of dreams of the future being materially greater than today. […]
People who choose to spend their time doing work that is traditionally undervalued and lacking in both career trajectory and pay increases, but is socially valuable, forgoing future surpluses (think of the stay-at-home parents, childcare workers, teachers, nurses, carers, small farmers,[…]).
The move towards minimalism which seeks to value time and non-material items over ‘the grind’ and the accumulation of things as a reward for hard work. The Tiny House Movement shows us that it is possible to enjoy living with less, including the freedom of a smaller mortgage.
People organising for the community rather than the individual […].
The move towards a 4-day work week challenges the dominant narrative that more time at work is better.
The locals of the Greek Island Ikaria, who do things in their own time, not that of the industrial workday. This fascinating paper describes “people arriving to appointments in ‘Ikarian time’, that is, a ‘few hours late’ or shopkeepers telling bewildered tourists that ‘the shop will open when it is time to open’”.
Co-operative housing, community land trusts and Vienna’s enviable form of social housing show us that there are other ways of providing a community’s housing and land needs that don’t rely on private ownership.
There are, of course, many other wonderful counter-culture examples beyond this short list - this is merely scratching the surface - but the point is that we need to advance these, and those of the same theme, until they become the leading narrative.
Unpicking the dominant, growth-based worldview will mean closely analysing the stories we have been told (and who those stories might serve), and bravely and courageously assessing whether all of this growth really does bring us ‘the good life’. We will likely find that we can achieve ‘a good life’ (that is, harmony with ourselves, our community, and the physical world) by living simpler but more meaningful lives.”
#3 🕺 Letting Loose
“The golden age of normal people letting loose was, in my perhaps biased view, the late ’80s and early ’90s, when music videos, kids’ shows and especially TV commercials were full of them.”
“[…] As a child, when I saw the crossing guard boogieing in a Koala Yummies ad or Cyndi Lauper convincing a gentleman in a suit to put down his newspaper and dance, I saw a world of possibility, one in which adulthood could be fun, with surprise waiting around every corner.”
“[…] The 1992 movie “Sister Act” made such an impression on me. Whoopi Goldberg plays a lounge singer who’s sent to hide out in a convent after she witnesses a mob hit. In the film, nuns sing Motown, jump into double Dutch games, cut the rug in a dive bar and otherwise act goofy, all while wearing their habits. […] For me, the unifying subtext of “Sister Act” and all of these cheesy artifacts was that even the most seemingly unremarkable person had a mysterious interior life and untold capacity for pleasure.”
“[…] I like it when business people or police officers or parents — representatives of the corporation, the state, and the nuclear family — lose control if only for a minute in a stupid commercial. It can happen in real life, too. I’m not talking about flash mobs, which can be aggressive and exclusionary. Those rely on preparation, planning and a public that is not in on the joke. Letting loose, on the other hand, is corny and inclusive. Like when a bunch of nerdy Microsoft executives including Steve Ballmer and Bill Gates clapped and “danced” onstage in the Windows 95 era.”
“These spectacles are cringey but also humanizing. It’s a reminder that even the squarest among us can enjoy ourselves, that even the most boring situations can sometimes surprise.”
Today, I have an office job, and even though I don’t wear a suit to work, I identify more with the killjoys in these clips. […] Still, when I watch these scenes, these explosions of zaniness touch something deep. I remember that I’m capable of having fun, of being spontaneous, of forgetting myself long enough to join a conga line at a wedding reception.”
#4 The Age of Work Intensification
“Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg declared this the Year of Efficiency for the company. It was time for them to buckle down and get leaner, get flatter, and get more optimized. […] Call me a cynic, but none of that sounds good for the people who remain. […] Efficiency initiatives are all about doing the same (or more) with less. And while sometimes that can be done purely through technology, humans often bear the brunt of efficiency initiatives.”
“[…] This is, unsurprisingly, called “work intensification.”
Work intensification happens on two levels. First, there’s the amount and pace of work. In the case of layoffs and the euphemistic “restructuring,” that’s literally making up for the work that used to be done by one’s former colleagues by adding it to the remaining employees’ workloads. Second, there’s the type of work being done and its emotional or cognitive load.
When Zuckerberg says the organization is getting “flatter,” he means that more non-management workers will have to take on types of work—coordinating, synthesizing, communicating, and affective tasks—that managers used to do. For many, that means a significant intensification of a style of work that is not for everyone.”
“[…] According to a review of studies in the journal Work & Stress, work intensification contributes to negative outcomes for both employees’ well-being and their performance on the job. And work intensification is not a short-term issue. It’s persistent and tends to increase over time. Work intensification is a problem that tends to creep slowly into problematic territory.”
“So what about the independent worker? The person—maybe you—who is regularly thinking about how to get more done in less time? Who is always looking for ways to make things more efficient, to become more productive? Well, that’s work intensification, too. And it’s stressful. It poses a real risk to your well-being and even your “job” performance.
Becoming a more efficient, more productive worker seems like, at worst, a value-neutral goal. More often, as I discuss in my book, becoming more efficient and productive seems to hold positive moral value. It goes into the plus column on the balance sheet of your character. But this moral quality of efficiency acts to turn us each into a certain kind of person. Not just a certain kind of worker, but a certain kind of voter, parent, partner, mentor, and citizen.”
“[…] While I certainly won’t deny the satisfaction of learning how to do a task faster, I do think it’s worth interrogating the way efficiency comes to shape our lives."
“It’s worth questioning the moral quality we assign to efficiency and productivity in our society is healthy, or even useful. And it’s worth asking whether efficiency and productivity are really the modes through which we want to relate to our partners, children, friends, and communities.
A Year of Efficiency is bound to make shareholders happy. But what does it do to the humans who create the value those shareholders add to their portfolios? A Year of Efficiency might mean you can fit in more social media posts, more podcast episodes, more emails, or even more products or services. But how do you feel at the end? How has your relationship with yourself changed? How has your relationship with others changed?
Who do you become when efficiency is your guiding principle?”
#5 ✊ Decolonizing Charity
“Charitable foundations are an enormous repository of wealth in the U.S., in particular the foundations whose initial endowments originated in big family fortunes—the Rockefellers, Fords, and Gateses, for example.[…] Big giving is loudly touted on corporate public relations missives, by major foundations, by wealthy individuals, and sometimes by the recipients themselves. But foundations also are sitting on approximately $1.1 trillion in assets, and federal law only requires they pay out 5% of their endowments each year, a rate that hasn’t increased since it was enacted in 1976. Donor-advised funds, a newer form of philanthropic endeavor, aren’t required to pay out anything, and they held an additional $159.8 billion in assets in 2020.”
“The fact that you could start a foundation or start a donor-advised fund and those dollars get the tax benefits of doing that, and those resources potentially never see the light of day or have any public benefit, to me is ridiculous,” says Edgar Villanueva, founder of the Decolonizing Wealth Project. On top of that, philanthropic endowments are often invested in the same economic structures and corporations that created the social problems that philanthropy is intended to address. Villanueva and others have pointed to the fact that this largely white sector often supports well-known charities with established connections to philanthropy instead of nonprofits led by Black, Indigenous, or other people of color working in those communities. That’s created a lopsided system in which nonprofits gear their operations around the needs of wealthy funders rather than the needs of communities.”
“The Decolonizing Wealth Project’s reparative philanthropy framework, which Villanueva outlined in his book Decolonizing Wealth: Indigenous Wisdom to Heal Divides and Restore Balance, involves using money as a tool for healing, so that philanthropy doesn’t perpetuate exploitative systems. “We have to be honest and transparent around what has transpired, how wealth has been built in this country,” he says.”
“Philanthropy was set up not as a purely altruistic endeavor, Villanueva says, but one driven by wealthy industrialists giving themselves an image makeover. And U.S. tax policy rewards that behavior. “Not only are you becoming wealthier, your reputation is boosted as a person who is charitable, who is doing good in the world,” he adds. Bill Gates famously declared in 2012 that he was going to give away all his wealth through his foundation. A decade later, he’s nearly twice as rich as he was back then.”
“That’s why the example of MacKenzie Scott, who has given away $14 billion to more than 1,600 nonprofit organizations since 2019 in no-strings-attached grants, is an outlier. […] “I think she is changing the game and probably making a lot of billionaires uncomfortable,” he says. “But even she, as fast as she is giving her money away, it just keeps accumulating.””
50 super inspiring nominees of the Make It Circular Challenge
This study shows the massive, “rage-inducing” scale of carbon inequality
Commonspoly is a non-profit, open-source board game that encourages a culture of cooperation and questions the violent model of neoliberal privatization
Bernie Sanders: “It’s OK to be angry about capitalism”
That’s it for this week!