I fell in love with Greek mythology as a boy. My grandparents, on my father’s side, gave us the beautiful D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths, and it touched me like few books did. Not that I didn’t love the Bible, which we grew up with in a Christian home. But the Greek myths were so different from the Bible. Perhaps more relatable. I adored powerful Athena and Diana, with their arbitrary but extraordinary commitments. I wished to be like Ares or Apollo, who could topple enemies with the swing of a sword.
Yet even the D’Aulaires, with all their skill, couldn’t make sense of Hera. Zeus’ wife, queen of the gods, supposedly the next most powerful being next to her husband — yet she is portrayed as willful and incompetent in nearly every story she appears in. The D’Aulaires begin their section on Hera with this sentence: “Hera, the beautiful queen of Olympus, was a very jealous wife.” …
To my fellow Lyft drivers:
There’s a big to-do about California’s Prop 22 right now, as all of you know because of the constant messaging from Lyft. (Uber drivers and others, I’m sure you’ve experienced the same.) And as someone with a long-time interest in both politics and the tech sector, I was really interested by the arguments on both sides. So I did a little digging and wanted to share what I found.
The skinny? Prop 22, while imperfect, offers us the opportunity to keep our flexible jobs, with increased pay. It would likely need to be amended in the long term, but it is a start. The legislature’s alternative, AB5, would lay off millions of workers in the short term and reduce both flexibility and pay in the long term. And as far as I can tell, it’s either one or the other at this point. …
Dear Mr. Bezos,
I finished my last day as an Amazon Delivery Driver today. I drove for 6 weeks — 31 working days — and in that time I delivered about 3,000 of your Amazon packages. I realize they’re not exactly “yours,” since you only own 11% of Amazon. But as the largest shareholder, the founder, the CEO, and the president, I figure you’re the best one to address this letter to.
So here’s a quick update from the front lines — what it’s like day to day and some lessons I’ve learned on the job.
The alarm goes off. You roll over, hit snooze once. The second time you get up. You probably showered last night after a long day, so you just make some coffee, wolf down a granola bar, and slip into your blue and black Amazon uniform. …
Capitalism seems to be under debate these days, for the first time in decades. “Socialists” of one stripe or another have won elections all over the world. “Democratic socialism” — the idea that much property should be held commonly, but under some form of meaningful democratic control — is among several alternatives proposed.
The response from capitalists has been swift and powerful. Capitalism, they argue, has lifted millions of people out of poverty when Communism and religious empires failed to do so. Capitalism is the only economic system compatible with our fundamentally selfish human nature. After all, Adam Smith wrote in the 1700s that “it is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.” …
I’ve never read Gabriel García Marquez’s classic Love in the Time of Cholera, but the title has always fascinated me. It seems to carry the weight of hope and fear balanced precariously on its three nouns — the inexhaustible hope for love, the inescapable fear of death, and the madness which ensues when the two meet.
It is now a story almost all of us are living, in one way or another. You, with the elderly grandfather at home and a constant risk of bringing the disease home to him. You, with the newborn child in the ICU while the city’s first coronavirus cases are being treated in the same hospital. You, with the wife who works fourteen-hour days diagnosing and treating coronavirus patients in a hospital which is running out of masks and gloves for its staff. …
I was sitting in church last Sunday. Episcopal Church — I’m Mormon, but let’s just say I have a complicated relationship with Christianity, particularly my own church. So I was in an Episcopal Church, because a pastor I follow on Twitter was preaching that day.
He preached a lovely sermon. But it was a little prayer we spoke aloud after the sermon which really got me. These are the words we spoke together, as tears formed in my eyes:
“God of all mercy,
we confess that we have sinned against you,
opposing your will in our lives.
We have denied your goodness in each other,
in ourselves, and in the world you have created.
We repent of the evil which enslaves us,
the evil we have done,
and the evil done on our behalf.
Forgive, restore and strengthen us
through our Savior Jesus Christ,
that we may abide in your love
and serve only your will. …
An American History
There has always been a current of feeling within US society that people of color do not truly “belong” in the United States and that they should “go back” to their own countries. One little-known and shocking episode of that history is the black colonization movement.
Author of the Declaration of Independence, President Jefferson was a brilliant writer and statesman. He was also a (mildly reluctant) slaveholder who favored the eventual abolition of slavery. He was born and bred in the green hills of Virginia, an identity which he cherished all his life. In the midst of the Revolutionary War, when he was only 36 years old, the citizens of Virginia selected him as their governor. …
In 1932, Angelo Herndon was arrested in Atlanta, Georgia.
Herndon was only 19 years old, a labor organizer fighting for unemployment benefits during the Great Depression, but the case against him was strong for one reason: he was an avowed Communist. Prosecutors found “communist literature” in his hotel room and used it to argue that he was trying to overthrow the government of the state of Georgia.
The charge was absurd, of course — Herndon was the son of a poor mining family who left home for a full-time job at 13. He had little education and no grand political agenda. He had come across communism while working on his belly in the mines in Alabama and attached himself to the cause because it rejected both Jim Crow racism and the starvation wages paid to working-class blacks and whites alike. What he wanted was equality — equality of black people with white people and equality of people who worked in mines and factories with people who worked in offices. …
Turn on the news these days and you’ll probably hear something about Trump’s infamous wall. Since I just visited Mexico and passed the border where that wall might be, I thought I’d write a few notes on my experience there.
My qualifications to write about this subject include:
I live in Paris. For the past three weekends there have been massive protests about taxes on fuel (along with more general complaints about government policies). This last weekend it came to a head; there was vandalism at the famous Arc de Triomphe and President Emmanuel Macron’s administration agreed to a temporary freeze on all fuel taxes.
A friend sent me a New York Times editorial which says that such a “retreat is a dangerous gamble,” one which risks conceding even more (like a Macron resignation) to an unorganized protest which has no formal leadership or specific demands.
That is not what I see, living in France. The protest movement has been building for more than a year. Last year the administration cut taxes on the rich, this year it raises them on the poor (a fuel tax being mostly paid by the rural working class). Macron pledged to break the power of unions, which may be inefficient but still work to help the working class. That has begun. He makes big promises of strengthening Europe, which is an institution which works best for the elites. He lectured an unemployed protester about how easy it is to find a job. He employed a security chief who dressed up as riot police to beat a guy up (and probably didn’t fire him when he first heard about it). So I cannot agree that it’s wrong for Macron to retreat a little. …