Thursday, March 18, 2021

Amy Westervelt's The Contract

There's so much to read, and I'm only falling behind. For instance, I recently heard about a new newsletter from Amy Westervelt called The Contract, the first post of which is called Selfishness Isn't Freedom.

Westervelt is one of the creators of the excellent Drilled podcast. I've only listened to Season 1, because podcasts are not great fit for my life and work needs, but what I've heard is excellent. And Season 1 has so much information on how the big oil companies worked to hide the truth about climate change, it's hard to imagine what's in the other seasons.

The Contract also looks like something meant for me, who is interested in thinking about what human society should be:

As currently interpreted and applied, the social contract in America requires that individuals take personal responsibility for both the impacts of systemic problems, and for developing solutions to them. You’re poor? You aren't working hard enough, or perhaps you just lack talent and brains. You’re discriminated against? You should have been more polite, dressed better, worked harder. Worried about climate change? Better have zero carbon footprint or you can't talk about it at all. Struggling to balance work and parenthood? Maybe you shouldn’t have had kids, or a career (depending on your race and gender). Can’t afford healthcare? Should’ve gotten the right job. Can’t afford to retire? Shoulda saved! Recently, Texas governor Greg Abbott said Texans should take personal responsibility both for the failure of the state’s grid (itself a great example of how well going it alone works) and for protecting themselves from Covid. It's a neat way around government or corporate accountability, but as we've seen for decades with issues ranging from climate change to parenthood, and can now see in such stark relief with the Covid-19 pandemic, this approach leads to broken systems that ultimately fail all, even those who have historically benefited most from them. 

Westervelt says she'll be writing weekly-ish:

Things you can expect to see here: random thoughts about The Enlightenment and the impact it had on the formation of America and American identity, how that all intersects with the construction of race and gender, how it all flows into climate change and other social issues. I’ll also be looking at how the idea of a social contract evolved in other countries. Some weeks I’ll read books by well-respected rightwing thinkers to get a handle on the conservative and libertarian views of the social contract, others I’ll read socialist and Marxist thinkers on the subject. We’re gonna do the reading together, and maybe we’ll learn something about how we got here and where we might go next. 

Sounds like fun. Now I have to go look Dave Roberts' Volts, too. And Eric Holthaus's The Phoenix. And...


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