At Aeon, Swedish history professor Lars Trägårdh describes a really interesting framework for understanding power structures, which you can plot on a triangle:

Germany  ╱  ╲  Sweden
Family         Individual
     United States

Each point of the triangle represents a social structure (state, family, individual), and each edge has an example of a country that relies more heavily on the two adjacent power structures.

What does the “family” point represent? To illustrate, the Trägårdh gives the example of going to school in the United States. When the registrar at his university told him that he would need to submit his parents’ income to apply for funding, he was puzzled. This requirement suggested that Trägårdh should rely on his parents for support, even though he was already an adult. It also gave his parents theoretical power over him. If he did rely on them for financial support, they could place demands on him, like telling him what he was allowed to study. As a Swede, this was a completely foreign idea. In Swedish society, the individual is beholden to the collective, but not necessarily to the family.

In the West, we’re very comfortable subsuming the rights of the individual to the family unit — whether in our approach to childcare, divorce, or social support. If we alleviated the pressure on the family unit, maybe individuals would feel more freedom to participate in family life based on joy, rather than expectation.

This article has a nice summary of how to navigate a disagreement with someone, using the acronym “HEAR”:

H = Hedge your claims, even when you feel very certain about your beliefs. It signals a recognition that there are some cases or some people who might support your opponent’s perspective.

E = Emphasize agreement. Find some common ground even when you disagree on a particular topic. This does not mean compromising or changing your mind, but rather recognizing that most people in the world can find some broad ideas or values to agree on.

A = Acknowledge the opposing perspective. Rather than jumping in to your own argument, devote a few seconds to restating the other person’s position to demonstrate that you did indeed hear and understand it.

R = Reframing to the positive. Avoid negative and contradictory words, such as “no,” “won’t” or “do not.” At the same time, increase your use of positive words to change the tone of the conversation.

From my experience, I feel like this is pretty solid advice.

A UN expert has voiced concerns about the rights of LGBTI people in the UK.

In the current political and media culture, the rights of LGBTI people, particularly trans people, are often presented as a threat to other groups, such as women (with some perhaps forgetting that a significant number of LGBTI people are also women).

Living in the UK, I see every day that those concerns are completely justified. More and more “progressives” monger fear about fictional harms caused by trans people while ignoring the very real spike in hate crimes against trans people.

This is a great telling of the history of Jonovision, the show that thousands of Canadian millennials watched after school on public television while waiting for The Simpsons to come on. I was one of those kids, and I had special affection for Jonovision host Jonothan Torrens because he was the half-brother of a friend of mine. As the article explains, that’s part of what made Jonovision cool: it felt approachable, like something your friend’s friend might make.

I hadn’t fully appreciated Jonovision’s cultural impact until reading the article. This weird teen talk show can be credited with launching Sum-41 and Degrassi: The Next Generation (and, thereby, Drake).

The people of Vienna enjoy easy access to high-quality, affordable rental apartments. How did Austria figure it out?

In New York Times Magazine, Francesca Mari explains that it comes down to basic economics. Most Western countries subsidize housing by giving money directly to renters and homeowners, which only increases demand for housing, driving up prices and profits. In America, buying a house is more lucrative than working. Meanwhile, a third of Americans live in inadequate housing.

In Vienna, the government subsidizes the construction of “limited-profit housing,” which ensures that low-cost housing is available to almost anyone. That keeps prices low in the private housing market, too.

Why is housing in America so bad? Mari says it goes back to early American anti-Communism. After the Great Depression, Roosevelt needed to rebuild American housing, but he didn’t want to follow the socialist model of Austria. Instead, his government created huge subsidies for homeowners, including guaranteeing long-term mortgage loans for first-time buyers, which banks would otherwise never touch. This government money provided the fuel for the suburban housing boom after WWII. It also radically reshaped America’s demographic landscape, deepening segregation and inequality.

Over on Substack, my mom has published a call for everyone to embrace litter collection as the new cool trend in active living.

I retrofitted a perfectly good grocery buggy someone had abandoned and now use it for days when I want to take on an entire section of street. Do you live here?, an apartment dweller yells down from his balcony. No, I say, But I’m not picky, Garbage is garbage.

Litter’s not always the product of carelessness; it’s not necessarily the work of a deranged sociopath. Sometimes it’s bagged garbage that’s gotten loose, the victim of a hit and run or a strong wind, contents spilled and spreading. Someone has to deal with it. It won’t pick itself up, my mother would say.

A Google search for “what’s the word for picking up litter” informs me that it’s already starting to happen: Merriam Webster calls it “placking”, derived from the Swedish plogging (picking up litter while jogging) itself a portmanteau of plocka upp (Swedish for picking up) and jogging.

In December, I wrote about how artificial intelligence is automation, not magic. A new report says that ChatGPT labelers — workers who train the AI — are paid $15/hour. ChatGPT is an amazing technology, and that’s because of the laborers who have built it for a little more than minimum wage.