Hypothesis

The world is being undone before us. If we do not reimagine Australia, we will be undone too | Richard Flanagan

Commonwealth is an old middle English word that derives from an older word, commonweal, which was understood as a general good that was shared, a common well-being. It suggests a mutuality and shared strength. It evokes relationships, the idea of a common inheritance. It is, you could argue, the counterpoint to the Yolngu word for selfishness, for lack of kinship. Commonwealth is kinship. It is to a completed commonwealth that I wish to belong. A commonwealth not just of states but more fundamentally a commonwealth of kin, a commonwealth of the Dreaming, of 60,000 years of civilisation. That’s the land I want to walk to, and it’s time we began the journey along the path Indigenous Australia has with grace shown us. To tomorrow. To hope.

A true 'commonwealth' is one built around mutual recognition.

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The world is being undone before us. If we do not reimagine Australia, we will be undone too | Richard Flanagan

It is in the Indigenous languages I hear all around me here, each a different way of divining the universe, unique and irreplaceable. It is in the cosmology and wisdom of traditional communities; it remains artfully written over much of our landscape in the fire-shaped patterning of bush, scrub and grassland; it stares back at us from the great rock paintings of the past and the extraordinary Indigenous art of today, from the films of Warwick Thornton to the paintings of Emily Kame Kngwarreye to the dance of Stephen Page, to the exquisite beauty of Michael Long holding the ball out to Carlton in the 1993 grand final, daring anyone to be better, as a grand final became wholly about his time, and his place, and his magnificent wonder. And in that strange frozen moment of pure motion, as Australia thrilled as a man seemed to move at once backward and forward in time in defiance of time and space, it is possible to see also that our great struggle as a nation has always been to find ourselves in each other – the white in the black, the black in the white.

Whether we choose to recognise our cultural past or not, it is written in the land all around us.

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The world is being undone before us. If we do not reimagine Australia, we will be undone too | Richard Flanagan

I hope one day someone finds an Indigenous word to describe the unique nature of this enduring tragedy, this eternity of crimes, crimes that continue and that continue to deform us all, black and white, a word particular to our national tragedy’s own epic lineaments of suffering, resistance and endurance, a word such as the Holocaust is to the Jewish tragedy, as the Holodomor is to the Ukrainian tragedy.

A part of the storytelling is recognition of past transgressions.

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The world is being undone before us. If we do not reimagine Australia, we will be undone too | Richard Flanagan

The world is being undone before us. History is once more moving, and it is moving to fragmentation on the basis of concocted differences, toward the destruction of democracy using not coups and guns to entrench autocracies and dictators, but the ballot box and social media. The bonfire of our vanities is fully loaded with the fuel of growing inequality, fear, and division We see gay and transgender people being once more scapegoated, and we see race and religion used to divide. We see truth everywhere denied. Duterte. Orbán. Erdoğan. Putin. Democracy is withering in Poland. Slovakia. Cambodia. Once great nations are lost in division that with each passing day grows more intractable. The chaos of Brexit. The catastrophe of Trump’s white nationalism. My warning is this: if we here in Australia do not reimagine ourselves we will be undone too.

I wonder if notions of 'nationalism' have always been somewhat fragmented?

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The world is being undone before us. If we do not reimagine Australia, we will be undone too | Richard Flanagan

And as I boarded flight after flight, making my way slowly northwards, I wondered what joins us over such a vast expanse, what connects wintry worlds with tropical? What finally joins us as people into this idea that we call Australia? And the answer is story. The story of us as a nation. The story of us as Australia and as being Australian.

This feels like a reimagining of nationalism.

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The Messy Fourth Estate – Trust Issues – Medium

Doctorow creates these oppositional positions to make a point and to highlight that there is a war over epistemology, or the way in which we produce knowledge.The reality is much messier, because what’s at stake isn’t simply about resolving two competing worldviews. Rather, what’s at stake is how there is no universal way of knowing, and we have reached a stage in our political climate where there is more power in seeding doubt, destabilizing knowledge, and encouraging others to distrust other systems of knowledge production.

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The Messy Fourth Estate – Trust Issues – Medium

As the institutional construction of news media becomes more and more proximately divorced from the vast majority of people in the United States, we can and should expect trust in news to decline. No amount of fact-checking will make up for a widespread feeling that coverage is biased. No amount of articulated ethical commitments will make up for the feeling that you are being fed clickbait headlines.

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The Messy Fourth Estate – Trust Issues – Medium

It doesn’t take a quasi-documentary to realize that McDonald’s is not a fast-food franchise; it’s a real estate business that uses a franchise structure to extract capital from naive entrepreneurs.

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The Messy Fourth Estate – Trust Issues – Medium

no amount of innovative new business models will make up for the fact that you can’t sustain responsible journalism within a business structure that requires newsrooms to make more money quarter over quarter to appease investors. This does not mean that you can’t build a sustainable news business, but if the news is beholden to investors trying to extract value, it’s going to impossible. And if news companies have no assets to rely on (such as their now-sold real estate), they are fundamentally unstable and likely to engage in unhealthy business practices out of economic desperation.

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The Messy Fourth Estate – Trust Issues – Medium

ROI capitalism isn’t the only version of capitalism out there. We take it for granted and tacitly accept its weaknesses by creating binaries, as though the only alternative is Cold War Soviet Union–styled communism. We’re all frogs in an ocean that’s quickly getting warmer. Two degrees will affect a lot more than oceanfront properties.

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The Messy Fourth Estate – Trust Issues – Medium

There are three key higher-order next steps, all of which are at the scale of the New Deal.

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The Messy Fourth Estate – Trust Issues – Medium

Create a sustainable business structure for information intermediaries (like news organizations) that allows them to be profitable without the pressure of ROI.

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The Messy Fourth Estate – Trust Issues – Medium

Actively and strategically rebuild the social networks of America.

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The Messy Fourth Estate – Trust Issues – Medium

Trust cannot be demanded. It’s only earned by being there at critical junctures when people are in crisis and need help. You don’t earn trust when things are going well; you earn trust by being a rock during a tornado.

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The Messy Fourth Estate – Trust Issues – Medium

Find new ways of holding those who are struggling.

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We Don’t Know What ‘Personal Data’ Means - uncomputing

If there is one takeaway from the Cambridge Analytica story and the Facebook hearings and so on, it is that democracies, and that means democratic governments, need to get a handle on these phenomena right away, because the general public does not and cannot know the extent to which giving away apparently “impersonal” data might, in fact, reveal our most intimate secrets.

Golumbia says that governments need to get on top of issues associated with data, because the public is struggling.

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We Don’t Know What ‘Personal Data’ Means - uncomputing

Yes, we should be very concerned about putting direct personal data out onto social media. Obviously, putting “Democrat” or even “#Resist” in your public Twitter profile tells anyone who asks what party we are in. We should be asking hard questions about whether it is wise to allow even that minimal kind of declaration in public and whether it is wise to allow it to be stored in any form, and by whom. But perhaps even more seriously, and much less obviously, we need to be asking who is allowed to process and store information like that, regardless of where they got it from, even if they did not get it directly from us.

Golumbia warns about what we share only when we do not really know who is collecting such information.

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We Don’t Know What ‘Personal Data’ Means - uncomputing

No highlighted text in this annotation.

David Golumbia provides a list of six types of personal data: provided, observed, derived, inferred, anonymised and aggregate.

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Can Reading Make You Happier?

In a secular age, I suspect that reading fiction is one of the few remaining paths to transcendence, that elusive state in which the distance between the self and the universe shrinks. Reading fiction makes me lose all sense of self, but at the same time makes me feel most uniquely myself. As Woolf, the most fervent of readers, wrote, a book “splits us into two parts as we read,” for “the state of reading consists in the complete elimination of the ego,” while promising “perpetual union” with another mind.

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Can Reading Make You Happier?

So even if you don’t agree that reading fiction makes us treat others better, it is a way of treating ourselves better. Reading has been shown to put our brains into a pleasurable trance-like state, similar to meditation, and it brings the same health benefits of deep relaxation and inner calm. Regular readers sleep better, have lower stress levels, higher self-esteem, and lower rates of depression than non-readers. “Fiction and poetry are doses, medicines,” the author Jeanette Winterson has written. “What they heal is the rupture reality makes on the imagination.”



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  • Aaron Davis