“It always strikes me as supremely odd that high culture venerates the written word on the one hand, and the fine visual arts on the other,” says Jonathan Hennessey, the author of The United States Constitution: A Graphic Adaptation. “Yet somehow putting the two together is dismissed as juvenilia. Why is that? Why can’t these forms of art go together like music and dance?”
Since the ’70s we have shown less loyalty to institutional superstructures. “Family life exerts a greater and greater pull on Americans, native and foreign-born alike,” Matt says. “Families who live within the United States increasingly cluster together.” The arrival of BlackBerrys, iPhones, Facebook, and Twitter accounts promised to end homesickness forever. The soldier with access to Burger King and computer terminals would never complain about the rigors of wartime separation. The immigrant with cheap calling card minutes wouldn’t have to be present to chart the moods of his hometown. “Yet those who have suffered from homesickness know that even with such conveniences and technologies, the distances between an old home and a new one are great, and often unbridgeable,” Matt concludes. “Despite the new inventions and economic connections, homesickness has not disappeared from the panoply of human emotions.”
Checkout The Price of Silence: A Mom’s Perspective on Mental Illness by Liza Long. From a review:
Raw emotion propels “The Price of Silence.” Like most parents, Long initially “did not want to admit that my son had a mental illness.” Accepting it meant having to navigate, while at the same time resisting, the school-to-prison pipeline that sees hordes of mentally ill children become public burdens — homeless or incarcerated adults. In most states, public treatment services for young people are operated by the juvenile justice system; children like Long’s son are stigmatized early by being criminalized. Federal laws promising special education are on the books, but the cost of implementation is high. Responsible parents become full-time advocates on behalf of their mentally ill children. “Advocacy breeds resentment both from school district personnel and from other parents, as I learned with my own son,” Long writes.
Most people see the benefits of empathy as akin to the evils of racism: too obvious to require justification. I think this is a mistake. I have argued elsewhere that certain features of empathy make it a poor guide to social policy. Empathy is biased; we are more prone to feel empathy for attractive people and for those who look like us or share our ethnic or national background. And empathy is narrow; it connects us to particular individuals, real or imagined, but is insensitive to numerical differences and statistical data. As Mother Teresa put it, “If I look at the mass I will never act. If I look at the one, I will.” Laboratory studies find that we really do care more about the one than about the mass, so long as we have personal information about the one.
Ackerman possesses a talent for the incisive aphorism. Humans, she declares, are “the most successful invasives of all time.” “The Human Age” teems with unexpected insights. Who knew that incessant texting prompts a child’s brain map of the thumbs to expand? Who knew that the shift from children playing outside to indoors hunched over screens may be triggering an epidemic of myopia, as studies of young people in Shanghai and Seoul reveal that 95 percent are nearsighted? That fruit flies share 70 percent of human disease genes, including those associated with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s? And that some de-extinction proponents envisage reintroducing mammoths to Siberia?
Biss ably tracks the progress of immunization: as metaphor—the protective impulse to make our children invulnerable (Achilles, Oedipus); as theory and science (the author provides a superb explanation of herd immunity: “when enough people are vaccinated with even a relatively ineffective vaccine, viruses have trouble moving from host to host and cease to spread”); as a cash cow for big pharma; and as a class issue—the notion of the innocent and the pure being violated by vaccinations, that “people without good living standards need vaccines, whereas vaccines would only clog up the more refined systems of middle-class and upper-class people.” Biss also administers a thoughtful, withering critique to more recent fears of vaccines—the toxins they carry, from mercury to formaldehyde, and accusations of their role in causing autism.