Hello! Things still very busy, plus I've been thoroughly under the weather for the last few weeks (having an 8 month old baby and sleeping a cold off? Not going to happen). Nonetheless, the commuting continues, as does the blog reading. Firstly, the most enjoyable article I've read in weeks - a nice long piece by Nathaniel Rich in the New York Times about Japan's 'immortal jellyfish' - and the man who loves them. Wondrous, fascinating and strangely sad, almost Miyazaki-like.
[H]e thinks we’re close to solving the species’s mystery — that it’s a matter of years, perhaps a decade or two. “Human beings are so intelligent,” he told me, as if to reassure me. But then he added a caveat. “Before we achieve immortality,” he said, “we must evolve first. The heart is not good.”
I assumed that he was making a biological argument — that the organ is not biologically capable of infinite life, that we needed to design new, artificial hearts for longer, artificial lives. But then I realized that he wasn’t speaking literally. By heart, he meant the human spirit.
“Human beings must learn to love nature,” he said. “Today the countryside is obsolete. In Japan, it has disappeared. Big metropolitan places have appeared everywhere. We are in the garbage. If this continues, nature will die.”
Man, he explained, is intelligent enough to achieve biological immortality. But we don’t deserve it.
This intriguing piece by Ian Jack in the Guardian compares the loss of locality in football teams with the foreign ownership of essential utilities, and how we've seemingly acquiesced to both.
[...] "Less and less are we a nation and more and more just a captive market to be exploited," Alan Bennett writes in the introduction to his new play, People, complaining that "the diminution in magnanimity" in the state's provision has rebranded the citizen as a customer "supposedly to dignify our requirements but in effect to make us available for easier exploitation". A few weeks earlier, the writer James Meek had published in the London Review of Books a similar diagnosis of the private ownership, often foreign, of public utilities. The commodity that made water, roads and airports valuable to investors was us, the people who had no choice but to use them. "We are a human revenue stream; we are being made tenants in our own land, defined by the string of private fees we pay to exist here."
And while it's all too easy to break into some kind of panic about our children and all the harms waiting to befall them, Fran Abrams in the New Statesman takes a historical perspective and sees reason to cheer, not dread:
Perhaps the great mystery about children today is not why they continue to suffer from abuse, neglect and overindulgence. It is why the adult world continues to worry so intensely about these things. After all, there is much to celebrate. A child born in the UK in 2010 can expect to live to be 80 years old; the average child born in 1910 lived to the age of 50. Of every 1,000 children born in the UK in 2010, just five will die before their fifth birthday; a hundred years earlier, 140 of every 1,000 did not survive infancy. Before the Second World War, three in every 100 children went to university; by 2010, about one in every two. The reported crime rate began dropping from the mid-1990s. Suicide and self-harm are becoming less common. Even unemployment is nowhere near as high as it was in the 1930s. Children nowadays are less likely to be in lone-parent households than they were during Victorian times – but now family break-up is usually caused by divorce rather than death.
But the fears and the myths are not just fears and myths about children alone. They are based on ideas and anxieties about mankind, anxieties that have emerged repeatedly throughout the ages because they have drawn people together as external threats tend to do. In uncertain times – and times often have been uncertain – there is a reassurance to be found in worrying about abstract, unknowable dangers. If the evil, the poison, the violence, is out there, prowling around the dark boundaries of the camp, then those huddled inside nearest to the fire may take comfort in the rhythms of their own lives.