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Libertarianism and Anti-Libertarianism on Sunday Evening TV
So what will you be doing Sunday night? My advice: Watch more TV! Now you innovative and disruptive BIG THINK readers might think you don't have the time. But that's only because you've forgotten about "multitasking." Professors, for example, can be watching while grading papers and filling out assessment rubrics. Some people listen to music. I like the noise of conversation.
Professors of American politics and sociology and so forth should be required to achieve TV literacy. It's the closest thing our country has to a common culture. There's no way you've read the same contemporary books as your students. And TV, after all, has gotten much better. Well, some of it has. (There are also some new reality shows that are very interesting without being good—such as The Amish Mafia.)
On Sunday night, two shows in particular have won the favor of critics: Downton Abbey and Girls. Is it really possible to like them both? One displays a way of life in which everyone knows his or her place and so knows his or her duties or relational responsibilities. Everyone on Downtown Abbey has class—not in the nasty sense of oppressing and being oppressed, but mainly in the more positive sense of being classy.
The other show celebrates the liberation of people without class, who are on the tough journey of figuring out who they are and what they're supposed to do without much guidance at all. On Girls, everyone seems to experience him- or herself as disconcertingly pro-choice when it comes to relational responsibilities. So nobody would say that the characters are typically classy. We're reminded just enough that the girls' parents and just as clueless and emotionally disconnected as they are themselves.
From our view, both shows are critical commentaries on the creeping and sometimes creepy libertarianism of our time. Downton is the anti-libertarian show, of course. Girls exaggerates our libertarian tendencies so that we can see them more clearly. It's hard to tell when its neon displays of who sophisticated young people are these days are celebratory, negative or at least ironic, or just descriptive in a value-neutral way. We do see the toll liberation takes on love, and it's clear enough that the liberated opinions that love is for suckers or could be duty-free are held by the emotionally wounded and confused.
With the beginning of the new season last Sunday, we saw that Hannah on Girls has changed, although I assume it's not change we can believe in for long. She’s no longer the victim ready to have sex with anyone who’s ready to exploit her. She thinks of herself as through caring for others (which, of course, she never really did). She has contempt for the guy who used to exploit her because he’s bedridden with injuries (that were her fault) and is now needy both physically and emotionally. When says he loves her in a whiny way, she almost runs out of his apartment. She’s sleeping around with confidence and is at least fake-cheerful. And she refuses to allow her new main guy to even use “love” in a sentence when speaking of her. She's says she's now all about calculation and good judgment when it comes to connections with others. She's having (emotionally) safe sex now.
So it's only appropriate that her new black boyfriend is all about reading The Fountainhead. In the show's last business-like seduction scene Hannah only semi-jokes about wanting to borrow his Rand book. She's really borrowed its outlook. We see that deeply clueless Hanna has oscillated from one anti-relational extreme to the other—from victim to selfish (Randian) domination. Maybe this self-obsessed move from one extreme to another is subversive commentary on libertarian nerve of our time. It's not so clear she's really cured herself of her self-esteem problems.
Critics are excited that Hannah is now involved with a conservative. What could be more daring than that? Lena Dunham, the real-life Hannah, has said that she couldn't be involved with someone who doesn't share her outlook on issues such as abortion rights. But it seems this guy does share her views. Although a Randian might vote Republican, he certainly wouldn't disagree with her on any right to choose. From the view of a religious conservative or a traditionalist (Downton) conservative, this guy is no conservative.
On Downton, we saw once again that when there’s a lapse in doing what one should, the men, especially, feel really guilty and reliably end up eventually doing the right thing, sometimes at considerable personal sacrifice, by others—both those whom one loves and those whom one either serves or commands. There’s a downside—a subtext—to the somewhat melodramatic goings on at the Abbey, but more on that later.
Some religious conservatives wish that the characters at the Abbey seemed more Christian. It is clear that the Earl of Grantham and family own the local Vicar and don't value his spiritual guidance. That may be commentary on the Church of England. But it's also true that what's usually called Victorian morality was based on detaching the traditional code of conduct from its religious foundation. It was, as English conservative Roger Scruton has explained, a kind of "first-wave" secularism.
Tomorrow night, join me in experiencing the thrill of the quick move from aristocratic class at 9 to Randian trash (talk, at least) at 10. Let's see if you can handle the "multiple perspectives" in figuring out something about who you are and what you're supposed to do.
A man's skeleton, found facedown with his hands bound, was unearthed near an ancient ceremonial circle during a high speed rail excavation project.
- A skeleton representing a man who was tossed face down into a ditch nearly 2,500 years ago with his hands bound in front of his hips was dug up during an excavation outside of London.
- The discovery was made during a high speed rail project that has been a bonanza for archaeology, as the area is home to more than 60 ancient sites along the planned route.
- An ornate grave of a high status individual from the Roman period and an ancient ceremonial circle were also discovered during the excavations.
Foul play?<p>A skeleton representing a man who was tossed face down into a ditch nearly 2,500 years ago with his hands bound in front of his hips was dug up during a high speed rail excavation.</p><p>The positioning of the remains have led archaeologists to suspect that the man may have been a victim of an ancient murder or execution. Though any bindings have since decomposed, his hands were positioned together and pinned under his pelvis. There was also no sign of a grave or coffin. </p><p>"He seems to have had his hands tied, and he was face-down in the bottom of the ditch," <a href="https://www.livescience.com/iron-age-murder-victim-england.html" target="_blank">said archaeologist Rachel Wood</a>, who led the excavation. "There are not many ways that you end up that way."</p><p>Currently, archaeologists are examining the skeleton to uncover more information about the circumstances of the man's death. Fragments of pottery found in the ditch may offer some clues as to exactly when the man died. </p><p>"If he was struck across the head with a heavy object, you could find a mark of that on the back of the skull," Wood said to <a href="https://www.livescience.com/iron-age-murder-victim-england.html" target="_blank">Live Science</a>. "If he was stabbed, you could find blade marks on the ribs. So we're hoping to find something like that, to tell us how he died."</p>
Other discoveries at Wellwick Farm<p>The grim discovery was made at Wellwick Farm near Wendover. That is about 15 miles north-west of the outskirts of London, where <a href="https://www.hs2.org.uk/building-hs2/hs2-green-corridor/" target="_blank">a tunnel</a> is going to be built as part of a HS2 high-speed rail project due to open between London and several northern cities sometime after 2028. The infrastructure project has been something of a bonanza for archaeology as the area is home to more than 60 ancient sites along the planned route that are now being excavated before construction begins. </p><p>The farm sits less than a mile away from the ancient highway <a href="http://web.stanford.edu/group/texttechnologies/cgi-bin/stanfordnottingham/places/?icknield" target="_blank">Icknield Way</a> that runs along the tops of the Chiltern Hills. The route (now mostly trails) has been used since prehistoric times. Evidence at Wellwick Farm indicates that from the Neolithic to the Medieval eras, humans have occupied the region for more than 4,000 years, making it a rich area for archaeological finds. </p><p>Wood and her colleagues found some evidence of an ancient village occupied from the late Bronze Age (more than 3,000 years ago) until the Roman Empire's invasion of southern England about 2,000 years ago. At the site were the remains of animal pens, pits for disposing food, and a roundhouse — a standard British dwelling during the Bronze Age constructed with a circular plan made of stone or wood topped with a conical thatched roof.</p>
Ceremonial burial site<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzUzMTk0Ni9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NDgwNTIyMX0.I49n1-j8WVhKjIZS_wVWZissnk3W1583yYXB7qaGtN8/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C82%2C0%2C83&height=700" id="44da7" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="46cfc8ca1c64fc404b32014542221275" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="top down view of coffin" data-width="1245" data-height="700" />
A high status burial in a lead-lined coffin dating back to Roman times.
Photo Credit: HS2<p>While these ancient people moved away from Wellwick Farm before the Romans invaded, a large portion of the area was still used for ritual burials for high-status members of society, Wood told Live Science. The ceremonial burial site included a circular ditch (about 60 feet across) at the center, and was a bit of a distance away from the ditch where the (suspected) murder victim was uncovered. Additionally, archaeologists found an ornately detailed grave near the sacred burial site that dates back to the Roman period, hundreds of years later when the original Bronze Age burial site would have been overgrown.</p><p>The newer grave from the Roman period encapsulated an adult skeleton contained in a lead-lined coffin. It's likely that the outer coffin had been made of wood that rotted away. Since it was clearly an ornate burial, the occupant of the grave was probably a person of high status who could afford such a lavish burial. However, according to Wood, no treasures or tokens had been discovered. </p>
Sacred timber circle<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzUzMTk0Ny9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2MDAwOTQ4Mn0.eVJAUcD0uBUkVMFuMOPSgH8EssGkfLf_MjwUv0zGCI8/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C149%2C0%2C149&height=700" id="9de6a" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ee66520d470b26f5c055eaef0b95ec06" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="An aerial view of the sacred circular monument." data-width="1245" data-height="700" />
An aerial view of the sacred circular monument.
Photo Credit: HS2<p>One of the most compelling archaeological discoveries at Wellwick Farm are the indications of a huge ceremonial circle once circumscribed by timber posts lying south of the Bronze Age burial site. Though the wooden posts have rotted away, signs of the post holes remain. It's thought to date from the Neolithic period to 5,000 years ago, according to Wood.</p><p>This circle would have had a diameter stretching 210 feet across and consisted of two rings of hundreds of posts. There would have been an entry gap to the south-west. Five posts in the very center of the circle aligned with that same gap, which, according to Wood, appeared to have been in the direction of the rising sun on the day of the midwinter solstice. </p><p>Similar Neolithic timber circles have been discovered around Great Britain, such as one near <a href="https://bigthink.com/culture-religion/stonehenge-sarsens" target="_blank">Stonehenge</a> that is considered to date back to around the same time. </p>
Research reveals a new evolutionary feature that separates humans from other primates.
- Researchers find a new feature of human evolution.
- Humans have evolved to use less water per day than other primates.
- The nose is one of the factors that allows humans to be water efficient.
A model of water turnover for humans and chimpanzees who have similar fat free mass and body water pools.
Credit: Current Biology
Being skeptical isn't just about being contrarian. It's about asking the right questions of ourselves and others to gain understanding.
- It's not always easy to tell the difference between objective truth and what we believe to be true. Separating facts from opinions, according to skeptic Michael Shermer, theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss, and others, requires research, self-reflection, and time.
- Recognizing your own biases and those of others, avoiding echo chambers, actively seeking out opposing voices, and asking smart, testable questions are a few of the ways that skepticism can be a useful tool for learning and growth.
- As Derren Brown points out, being "skeptical of skepticism" can also lead to interesting revelations and teach us new things about ourselves and our psychology.