討論會行事曆

March 2017
【3/10 (五) 8pm Debt Culture
【3/24 (五) 8pm Maybe you should just be single
【3/31 (五) 8pm 思‧英語討論會】

April 2017
【4/7 (五) 8pm 思‧英語討論會】
【4/21 (五) 8pm 思‧英語討論會】
【4/28 (五) 8pm 思‧英語討論會】

May 2017
【5/5 (五) 8pm 思‧英語討論會】
【5/19 (五) 8pm 思‧英語討論會】
【5/26 (五) 8pm 思‧英語討論會】

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Maybe you should just be single

There's a lot of single women in Taiwan. Part of that is that there are more women than men in this country, but then there's the phenomenon of all the foreign brides that are marrying into Taiwan. This is a complicated and painful issue, but let's look at it from the level of the personal this time.


Finding ‘the one’ as ‘the happy ending’
You see, I don’t believe that my relationship constitutes a happy ending. I don’t want a “happy ending”. I don’t want an ending at all, particularly not while I’m still in my goddamn twenties—I want a long life full of work and adventure. I absolutely don’t see partnership as the end of that adventure. And I still believe that being single is the right choice for a great many young women. 


Marriage: still an economic relationship at heart
Buried under the avalanche of hearts and flowers is an uncomfortable fact: romantic partnership is, and always has been, an economic arrangement. The economics may have changed in recent decades, as many women have gained more financial independence, but it’s still about the money. It’s about who does the domestic labour, the emotional labour, the work of healing the walking wounded of late capitalism. It’s about organising people into isolated, efficient, self-reproducing units and making them feel bad when it either fails to happen or fails to bring them happiness. 

Debt Culture

Debt has been ingrained in our cultures since at least Mesopotamian times (5000BC). This article argues that when debt becomes a way of life, that debt becomes meaningless. Let’s look at these arguments and see if they are valid.


Debt is how most people are making ends meet

CM: How important, then, is debt—or maybe more precisely, credit—in the quality of life that we now enjoy? That is, how much would we suffer, and how much would we have to sacrifice if we didn’t have access to debt through credit?

AM: For a lot of working and middle class people, it is the only way that they are able to continue to survive, given the stagnation of wages over the last few decades. I think that’s true for the economy as a whole as well. The economy depends on the credit relationships that allow us to continue to purchase consumer goods even when our wages are stagnating. The economy depends on the ability to defer payment.

Corporations depend on the ability to defer payment into the future. But they depend on that payment eventually being made. One of the ways to start thinking about how to resist capitalism is to think about how to refuse to make those payments. Because that deferral has to come to an end at some point, and finding a way, collectively, to refuse to allow that debt to be paid, is probably the only way out of capitalism that we have at the moment.

CM: How much is debt, and greater access to credit, the cause of the boom-and-bust, bubble-bursting, precarious, unstable economic era we are living in (dating back all the way to the NASDAQ bubble of the 1990s, if not earlier)?

The Work Ethic

I feel like the points made in this article work on some level, but I’m uncomfortable with them on many other levels. Let’s talk about the work ethic, its validity to people, the way it may or not be used to manipulate people in our economic system, and its relation to ideas like the UBI.

What is the point of full employment?
Why do we have to put everybody to work? In these terms, full employment becomes a punitive program. A way of saying you must earn your keep. You must be a producer of something. Why in the world do we have to think of ourselves as producers of goods—whether actual durable goods or the kind that you’re producing with this radio show? Why? What is the imperative, what is the constraint at work here? I don’t see that we need that identity anymore.

Do you think other people can be trusted?

This is some material from a recent Freakonomics podcast. It seems relevant to our recent discussion about whether having a uniform society is a precondition for democracy. In that discussion, we concluded that you needed trust in the system, critical thinking and economic stability as preconditions for successful democracy. So let's look a little more deeply into 'trust in the system' today. What exactly does that entail?

“Social trust” is what, exactly?
HALPERN: It’s just one of those things. It’s sort of like the dark matter of the economy and society, it matters very greatly and yet we don’t seem to focus on it very much.
HALPERN: Social trust is an extraordinarily interesting variable and it doesn’t get anywhere near the attention it deserves. But the basic idea is trying to understand what is the kind of fabric of society that makes economies and, indeed, just people get along in general. It’s clearly so critical for a whole range of outcomes.
HALPERN: This is a more powerful predictor of future national growth rates than, for example, levels of human capital or skills in the population.
HALPERN: Basically, having someone or feeling that other people can be trusted or people you can rely on in your life is worth a great deal. It’s roughly the same positive effect in a series of studies as giving up smoking. And smoking is really, really bad for you so, you know, social isolation, essentially, is incredibly bad for your health.

討論逐字稿: Do we need a uniform society to have a functional democracy?

From the discussion: Do we need a uniform society to have a functional democracy?

—Okay, before we start the discussion, I have a question. What actually does a ‘uniform society’ mean, does it mean everyone has the same purpose, same values, or the same opinion?
—This is a good question!
—I ask this because I can’t figure out the relation between 'uniform society' and 'functional democracy'.

—Do you remember how we got to this conclusion when we were talking about it?
—We were talking about Denmark, and Denmark is supposed, in our conception, it’s supposed to be a more uniform, homogenous society.
—So what kind of 'homogenous'?
—Okay, I’ll list the concepts. Same race, same socioeconomic class?
—Which means the gap is very small?
—Same historical background
—I think it means a large middle class, but also maybe the economic gap is small
—So few very rich and very poor
—So if there is a large group of poor people, can you say it’s a uniform society?
—This is also my question, it depends on the definition of uniform, you know? I was thinking about this definition, is it a specialized term?
—Hahaha no we just tried for a word to catch our feelings
—Okay but my difficulty is the relationship between the two terms.

—Lets approach it from another angle, which is 'multiculturalism'.
—In the history of the US, we had the idea of the ‘melting pot’ 大熔爐 it was all, give up your culture, become ‘American’ and I’ve been thinking about this, you know, like, why?
Because there are implications now which are bad, which is to say white people feel they don’t have any culture, so they cling to 'whiteness' which increases racism and is part of the 'whitelash' that trump harnessed to get elected
—So the US is no longer trying to be a melting pot
—But why does melting pot equal no culture?
—It’s because we had to become Americans! Which, although is kind of derivative British culture—
—Now I’m not sure, but I think, the uniformity of culture is the rationality behind the melting pot, so that democracy could happen.
—So you’re suggesting that because the US is all sorts of different people, so they needed a uniform society to support democracy
—Yeah, but this is just a theory, trying to understand this melting pot thing

—Okay, but my angle is, that since the US has many different people, there are different cultures, different lifestyles, so we need a system to help society work. And that kind of system may be democracy. So this angle may be that diverse society needs a democracy.
—I definitely agree with you. I don’t think the melting pot was a good idea.
—It seems though, if the society is too heterogeneous, it’s hard to obtain agreement on how to make things happen.
—Indonesia is a good example of this, of a lot of different cultures trying to make a nation together.

—So here's the angle I've been pondering for awhile, especially since our UBI discussion: If people are economically comfortable, will they be more okay with people who were different than them?

Do we need a uniform society to have a functional democracy?

Here are some points we made during our last democracy discussion: (Boaty McBoatface) I want to talk about the things we mentioned and bring them along further, using this as the focus question:

“Do we need a uniform society to have a functional democracy?”
討論的逐字稿


—Basically, we need to have a consensus to erace racism, or a consensus on how to treat social inequality, but there is no consensus now because we cannot guarantee who we are dealing with.

—In capitalist society, since there is no equality of resources a person can obtain, no equality of wealth, no equality of education, people have to strive to climb up to the highest level in society so as to acquire all these things. And also, because of limited resource, people compete to divide their own territory in society. As a result, hierarchy is formed.
—‘Their own territory' refers to a vertical one not a horizontal one, because the place we can live is too small ha

—The fundamental question of society or politics is, are you one of the masses, or are you separate from the masses?

—Crowds presents power that can’t be controlled or predicted. But democracy is predicated on crowds. We fight together for the future. But at the same time I don’t trust the masses, because of the tyranny of the majority, the ignoring of subtle differences.
There’s a famous poem by Ezra Pound: “The apparition of the faces in the crowd, the petals on the wet, black bough.” He’s talking abouthe crowds in the Metro station of paris, it’s the character of modernism.
We know now that Pound became a fascist, but the fascist attitude towards crowds is complicated. They relied on the support of the crowd to get power, but they have to control and manipulate the crowd to stay in power.
—That’s powerful, though, that’s the same power as democracy

—How do we make government responsive to the needs that people actually have in the world right now? Does it do a decent enough job already? What could improve?

Emotional Labor Part 2

What is emotional labor, and why do we have to do it? Previously at the RO Studio we discussed this concept in relation to paid jobs where emotional labor is a component: "Emotional labor is the process of managing feelings and expressions to fulfill the emotional requirements of a job. More specifically, workers are expected to regulate their emotions during interactions with customers, co-workers and superiors."—x

But today I want to talk about it in the context of relationships. Since I can’t find a good definition of it online, let’s look at a list people on the internet compiled to describe it.


# Partnered Life
* Am I checking in with my partner to see if they had a rough day?
* If so, am I stepping up to make their life easier in other ways (cooking, cleaning, etc.)?
* Am I open and clear about my wants, and not forcing my partner to guess/drag it out of me?
* Am I contributing constructively to planning of meals, events, trips, etc?
* Am I actively trying to make my presence feel safe for my partner?
* Do I try to do nice things for my partner without being asked (flowers, treats, etc.)?
* Do I take care of my own administrative life (paperwork, bills) without needing to be repeatedly reminded?

Hygge


So, coming across this article about hygge (please don't ask me how to pronounce it, I really don't know) in The Guardian suddenly brought up a lot of questions for me. Taiwan is moving from being a deeply homogenous society to dealing with what is now termed "New Taiwanese" (新台灣人). Despite being a society of immigrants, I believe Taiwan's particular experiences with being colonised/governed by outside powers created a strong singular social identity, which is now being challenged as Taiwan has been opening up to the wider world and new kinds of immigrants arrive.

What does this have to do with hygge? Well as I understand it, Denmark is a highly homogenous society with high levels of social welfare (and the taxes to support it!) that is now experiencing a lot of immigration. So there are some parallels with Taiwan that we could explore to illuminate our own situation.


Here are the questions that came to me as I was reading the article:
What’s Taiwan’s version of hygge?
What basic assumptions of how life should be are there in Taiwan? What would you name as the core good-life values in Taiwan?

What values are used as social parameters/control in Taiwan?
Do the core good-life values mentioned about ever also function as a form of social control?

Can society only when homogenous? Can common social values exist in a heterogenous society? Are the only happy societies closed societies?
If all society’s member’s basic needs are covered, would that promote or break down social togetherness?


What is Hygge?
…hands cupping warm mugs; bicycles leaning against walls; sheepskin rugs thrown over chairs; candles and bonfires; summer picnics; trays of fresh-baked buns. To look at them is to long for that life, that warmth, that peace, that stability – for that idealised, Instagrammable Denmark of the imagination.

“For me it’s a lot about family. Being together. Candles. It’s never about being posh, about cakes from the ‘right’ place. It’s cake you baked yourself. It’s a feeling. It’s something that has meaning in itself, it’s not a means to becoming a better person, like doing exercise. I associate it with being a child, the smell of my mother cooking onions in the next room. The smell of the Christmas tree.”

Over lunch the following day, Davidsen-Nielsen and her colleague, media commentator Lasse Jensen, debated the meaning of hygge. “Intellectualism is not hygge,” said Davidsen-Nielsen. “Severe debates on philosophy and ideas – that’s not very hyggelig. Alcohol, sugar and fat are the three key ingredients of hygge.” He added: “It used to be beer and aquavit, now it’s wine.” She said, “There’s something about socks and hygge.” He added, “Handknitted socks.”

Rethinking Infidelity

Esther Perel asks so many good questions in this TED talk. Also, it's a very good example of storytelling! She gets her points across with humour and clarity. Watch!




Why do we cheat?
Why do happy people cheat?
When we say "infidelity," what exactly do we mean?