Category: Uncategorized

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Wild Europe: Perceptions of the Balkans and the East

Travel writing appeals to me because it’s possible to be honest and sincere, yet write something ignorant and vapid. That tension, and the problems it reveals, makes travel writing a sociological lens for perceptions and assumptions about foreign countries. London, Paris, and Rome, for example, have mythical qualities and romantic...

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Another Castle in Moravia: Helfštýn

Castles intrude upon most of my trips. I don’t plan to visit, but a friend always drags me along. After a handful, they blur together like cathedrals. Not being Catholic, the cathedrals come off to me as beautiful (sometimes), but pompous and slightly shameful. At least with a castle I get a...

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Repression By Any Other Name

From “Repression By Any Other Name” by Ariel Dorfman in Guernica: Of course, the U.S. government will continue to spy, no matter what limited and cosmetic restrictions may henceforth be enacted, and of course the criminalization of journalists who question or inform about these activities and methods is bound to increase...

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An American Surveillance Story: Congressional Edition

Does the NSA spy on Congress? “Probably.” Is there a more American way to admit it? The surveillance apparatus has become so sprawling, so all-encompassing, that we can’t get a “yes,” but a “we collect so much data, it’s hard to believe we don’t.” The affirmation might cause the first...

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Lazy Thinking: Problems of Exceptionalism and the Threat of Nationalism

Western tradition gets upheld as a lone bastion of freedom, the shining city on a hill. To make that story plausible, we can argue that, among other things, Western countries uphold conceptions of nationalism that center around individual rights and intermediate institutions which preserved freedom and community. That story falters,...

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10 Essays That Will Improve Your Mind

The following, in no particular order, range across the political, literary, virtuous, and philosophical. They lack a thematic coherence, but capture something valuable in a process, thought, or method. Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson I do not wish to expiate, but to live. My life is for itself and not...

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The Cult of Economic Progress Isn’t Always Progress

I always dismissed “people before profits.” It sounds reactionary, an economically ignorant slogan rather than anything meaningful. Hippies or “artists” living in the city on trust funds from suburban parents shout it at rallies. However, it deserves more than flippant disregard. Uttered in a more nuanced light, it’s a commentary on progress....

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Walter Block and Vladimir Putin: When Reactionary Aversion Blinds Common Sense

In politics, Americans have a penchant for domestic cynicism and foreign naivete. Conservatives write, earnestly and unironically, that Barack Obama wants to destroy America, and liberals warn that the specter of the Koch Brothers threaten democracy in the United States. Such cynical attitudes feed conspiracy theories or comprehend different political...