Noul herpes

Narcissism: a reflection By Laura Kipnis

Richard Russo, Straight Man

My husband and I spend a lot of time arguing about who’s more of a narcissist, him or me. Clearly it’s him. To be fair, it’s not entirely his fault – after all, we don’t choose what social types to become. Did medieval peasants choose to write memoirs about their traumatic childhoods or try out as reality TV contestants? No, we’re stuck with what history puts on the table: events and necessities beyond our control flood our psychologies with little zeitgeist germs, greasing the machinery of social selfhood. Flashback to early capitalism: the Protestant ethic sucked up happy-go-lucky peasants and churned out industrious wage slaves. Flash forward to digital capitalism, which sucks up helpless little babies and churns out Facebook slaves who labour for the likes and turn the conversation to themselves at every opportunity.

Basically, narcissism is the new herpes. It’s not like you got it on purpose, you were just in the wrong place at the wrong time, and now everyone’s pointing fingers and trying to pretend they don’t have it, too. Hence the blame game. You’re so self-involved. Can you think of anything but your self? What’s that horrible smell? It’s you.

Obviously no one wants to think of himself as a ‘social type’, let alone a narcissist. It would be injurious to our narcissistic desire for uniqueness. ‘You’re so typical’, I say to my husband, which should be uncontroversial, since who isn’t typical? Trust him to find something to get peeved about in that, too. His entire being feels constantly under siege: he’s a warrior defending valuable territory and I’m the opposing forces marching up the hill.


Schimbări în Consiliul Naţional de Securitate

With National Security Council Shakeup, Steve Bannon Gets A Seat At The Table By Merrit Kennedy

President Trump has reorganized the National Security Council by elevating his chief strategist Steve Bannon and demoting the Director of National Intelligence and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Now, Bannon will join the NSC’s principals committee, the top inter-agency group for discussing national security. The National Security Council is the staff inside the White House that coordinates decision making by the president on such matters, in coordination with outside departments including the State Department and the Pentagon.

It’s an unusual decision, NPR’s Mara Liasson reported. „David Axelrod, for instance, who had a similar job as Bannon in the Obama administration, never sat in on Principals meetings,” she added. When such figures seen as part of the political wing of the White House have participated in broader National Security Council meetings, it’s sparked sharp criticism from the national security establishment.

Post -statistica

How statistics lost their power – and why we should fear what comes next By William Davies

In theory, statistics should help settle arguments. They ought to provide stable reference points that everyone – no matter what their politics – can agree on. Yet in recent years, divergent levels of trust in statistics has become one of the key schisms that have opened up in western liberal democracies. Shortly before the November presidential election, a study in the US discovered that 68% of Trump supporters distrusted the economic data published by the federal government. In the UK, a research project by Cambridge University and YouGov looking at conspiracy theories discovered that 55% of the population believes that the government “is hiding the truth about the number of immigrants living here”.

Rather than diffusing controversy and polarisation, it seems as if statistics are actually stoking them. Antipathy to statistics has become one of the hallmarks of the populist right, with statisticians and economists chief among the various “experts” that were ostensibly rejected by voters in 2016. Not only are statistics viewed by many as untrustworthy, there appears to be something almost insulting or arrogant about them. Reducing social and economic issues to numerical aggregates and averages seems to violate some people’s sense of political decency.


Much of the Cuisine We Now Know, and Think of as Ours, Came to Us by War By Victoria Pope

The relish on my plate is Sicilian, a tangy blend of sweet and sour flavors. I can pick out some of the ingredients—eggplant, capers, celery—right away. I haven’t a clue, however, about the forces that came together to create this exquisite vegetable dish.

Gaetano Basile, a writer and lecturer on the food and culture of Sicily, does know. He has invited me to Lo Scudiero, a family-run restaurant in Palermo, as a tasty introduction to the island’s food and its history. He explains that the appetizer I am eating, caponata, exists because of transformative events that took place more than a thousand years ago. It was then that Arab forces invaded, bringing new crops, agricultural know-how, and other innovations that were far above the standards of medieval Europe.

On the first day of the conquest, in June, 827 a.d., ten thousand men arrived from Tunisia. “They were not led by a general as you might think,” Basile says, “but by a jurist, an expert in law. What was their business here? They were Aghlabids from Tunisia and Fatimids from Egypt. These guys came here for a simple operation of religious conquest.” But along with that mission they brought “so many things I can’t even list all of them,” Basile adds. “Hard grain, without which we could not make pasta, and sugarcane. Sugar alone would have already been enough, since it means having a powdered sweetener with which wonderful things could be made.”

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Read more:
Give the gift of Smithsonian magazine for only $12!
Follow us: @SmithsonianMag on Twitter