This essay is a bit shtick, but because it's reacting to such a ludicrous apology of sexual misconduct, it worked for me. The apologist in question is Mario Batali, a person I never heard of.
Ile writes: This seems kinda interesting . . .possibly good, possibly terrible. .
. and I'd love to hear the Mineshaft's thoughts on it:
The not-for-profit angle & fishing for volunteers angle intrigues me .
. . .the slick look and feel skeezes me out . . .
Heebie's take: Ile is exactly right. It's like the Truman Show version of an egalitarian ideal. Like maybe it's a "it's free so you're the product!" type deals. (Sorry about the lack of proper formatting. Time crunch/ipad.)
My dad mentioned recently that he privately believes (based on the literature) that the push to ensure everybody finishes their course of antibiotics might have been counterproductive towards avoiding the creation of superbugs. He hedged all over the place, but basically said that it's going to depend on the specific infection and specific antibiotic, and that in some cases, it is better to stop when you feel better. He also said not to bother mentioning this to my GP the next time I'm given a prescription because it won't go well. This is more or less what he was describing - that for some classes of drugs and bugs, the longer the exposure, the more you select for superbugs. Ah well.
It's an everything-is-a-dumpster-fire kind of day. Probably because of the State of the Union speech tonight? But also because, in quick succession, I saw:
1. FEMA is ending food and water aid to Puerto Rico. Dumbstruck and horrified.
2. The new thing is for medical insurers to deny claims to emergency rooms that turned out to be non-emergencies, even if the symptoms that sent the patient in were legitimately concerning. You had better be sure that you aren't having severe indigestion and that it's definitely a heart attack before you call an ambulance.
In recent years, Anthem has begun denying coverage for emergency room visits that it deems "inappropriate" because they aren't, in the insurance plan's view, true emergencies.
The problem: These denials are made after patients visit the ER, sometimes based on the diagnosis after seeing a doctor, not on the symptoms that sent them, like in Cloyd's case.
The policy has so far rolled out in four states: Georgia, Indiana, Missouri, and Kentucky.
Isn't that ducky.
Mossy Character writes: My post is coming out stupidly long, so I'm going to break it up. Each post will focus on one book, but draw on all three.
1. Ideology: Consider Phlebas
Banks states that he deliberately created the Idirans as the Culture's opposite. They are continually identified with religion, and to some extent with Islam: most clearly in the second epigraph, from the Koran, echoed almost verbatim by the fanatical Idiran officer Xoxarle. However, the actual Idiran ideology presented does not resemble Islam, or any other religion I know of, so much as it does Social Darwinism. Some version of this ideology is espoused not only by the Idirans, but also by Horza, the Eaters, the mercenary Dorolow, the Azadians in The Player of Games, and the Humanists in Use of Weapons.
The opposition Banks sets up between religion and secularism in Consider Phlebas is better described as an opposition between different flavors of Darwinism, with the Culture representing survival and adaption by co-operation, its enemies the same via competition and hierarchical control. This is explicit in Horza's early debate with the SC agent Balveda: "If the evolutionary force you seem to believe in really works, then it'll work through us, and not the Idirans. If you're wrong, then it deserves to be superseded." On Horza's own terms, the Culture wins the argument by winning the war, so demonstrating its adaptive superiority. Similarly, the Culture defeats the Azadians by beating them on their own terms in their own game. This is achieved mostly by sheer weight of numbers: the Culture can produce a better Azad player than Azad itself because it has a larger population; the Culture succeeds in virtue of its own previous successes, just as a species or trait spreads in virtue of reproductive success. Likewise Zakalwe: "a concept; the adaptive, self-seeking urge to survive, to bend everything that can be reached to that end, and to remove and to add and to smash and to create so that one particular collection of cells can go on, can move onwards and decide, and keeping moving, and keeping deciding, knowing that - if nothing else - at least it lives."
Social Darwinism is remembered largely for doctrines of survival of the fittest and of racial hierarchy, mirrored in Idiran, Azadian, and Humanist ideology. Historically though, it included many thinkers arguing from biology toward co-operative policies (welfare, international law, whatever) just as actual biology is concerned with symbiosis as well as competition. The Culture and its enemies could therefore be folded into a framework of competing Darwinisms; for instance in the Culture's commitment to interbreedability* among its citizens, its opposition to terraforming, and its fundamental machine-animal symbiosis.
However, I expect Banks is actually thinking mostly of economics, despite couching the ideology in biological terms. In this connection, the Idirans are described as a commercial as well as a religious empire, and Azad and the Cluster are explicitly capitalist. In the Notes Banks writes "The market is a good example of evolution in action...while the market merely shines...the planned lases, reaching out coherently and efficiently towards agreed-on goals." Zakalwe makes a similar point to his captive upon the island in the floods: victory is achieved not solely by the virtues of competition at the front but also by the virtues of co-operation in the whole society behind it; Gurgeh demonstrates the same in his final game of Azad, beating a competitive hierarchy with an interdependent network.
Enamored as he is of fractals, Banks even gives us a literal "capitalism red in tooth and claw" scene with the gladiator beasts above the game of damage:
The fighting animals would fight no more. Beneath the shining hoop that was Vavatch's far--and, at the moment, day--side, one beast lay, in a broad, shallow pool of milky blood, high in the air, its huge four-limbed frame an X poised over the proceedings beneath, the dark fur and heavy head gashed, white flecked. The other creature hung, swaying gently, from its trapeze; it dripped white blood and twisted slowly, hanging by one closed and locked set of talons, as dead as its fallen adversary.Horza racked his brains, but could not recall the names of these strange beasts. He shook his head and hurried away.
With equal futility, the Changers die out by choosing Idir over neutrality or the Culture. As humans living in an asteroid they would presumably be eligible for Culture membership, and Culture genofixing would have permitted their reproduction, as it did for the childless Horza with the part-Culture mercenary Yalson.
The Culture is shown to be concerned with preservation, even in wartime, and even of enemies: at the outset Balveda tries to have Horza spared ("They are also an ancient and proud people, Minister, and there are very few of them left..."); the Culture gives up a GSV to evacuate Vavatch Orbital, and takes the time to preserve a sample Megaship. By contrast, we see the Idirans wantonly destroying cities and orbitals, the Azadians committing genocide, the terraforming Humanists ecocide.
Symbolically, Horza is repeatedly shown to care greatly about his name, a totem to anchor his shifting identity; yet, thrown into the Pit of Self-Doubt in the game of damage, he recovers his sanity not with his name but with his hate for the Culture, and ultimately his name survives only because it is taken by a Culture Mind. We can surmise that the Changers will survive only in Contact archives, just as many extinct societies survive only in the notebooks of anthropologists.
*Please tell me there's a better word for this. Apparently "cenospecies" is the noun.