Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Book 6 of 2019 -- Growing Pains

In a discussion recently about the state of the world and the Donald Trump effect one of the people mentioned this book and offered to lend it to me.

It is a good read, unsettling at times but thought-provoking. While I have never read any of Dyer's books I did generally appreciate his syndicated columns. He is able to take what could be relatively dry material (the book contains analysis of voting patterns and economic data) and present it in an engaging manner.

Dyer offers an alternate interpretation of the populism espoused by Trumpsters and Brexiteers, one I find much more logical than the rhetoric from the populist side. I found myself wondering what he would have to say about the rhetoric from our recent provincial elections in Alberta and Ontario where populism has made a definite impact.

I especially appreciated the case Dyer makes for an Universal Basic Income. I have long believed a Gauranteed Annual Income would be a good idea, though of course the devil is in the details. I really liked Dyer's contention that it should be universal where many proposals have seen it solely as a piece of the social safety net. The idea of universality and therefore removing stigma of receiving it makes sense. And of course if Dyer is right (and I think he largely is) that the future changes to the global economy will bring on massive shifts in employment then UBI becomes a good way to avoid the revolution.  Coincidentally I was reading an article earlier today outlining the link between income inequality and social and physical health. Dyer highlights the dangers of this as well

Another interesting take in the book is Dyer's suggestion that humans are somehow hard-wired to seek a more equitable society, even as humans are also apparently hard-wired to seek dominance. This would be a good book for a discussion group.

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Book 5 of 2019 -- The Power of Kindness

I have listened to Brian Goldman's radio show White Coat, Black Art for many years and so when a colleague of mine posted that she was reading his latest book I had to take a look.

While the book title is about kindness the book itself is about empathy. Goldman talks about his quest to learn about empathy as he seeks to learn how empathetic he is.

In his search we learn about some biological markers of empathy that show up in an MRI. We explore some psychology around empathy, and the lack thereof. We meet people who have the ability to connect with others, often because of a shared woundedness but sometimes just because they are good at connecting. We see how roboticists are trying to program empathy. We explore a program that is trying to teach empathy, or maybe plant the seeds of empathy, in school children by bringing infants into the classroom.

Possibly my favourite story in the book was the chapter that discussed working with dementia patients. That one was a real eyeopener about the possibilities.

Like Goldman, I often wonder how empathic I am. This book did not answer that question for me. But it did give me some more insight into the question. It is one I would readily suggest to others.