The lifesaving power of gratitude (or, why you should write that thank you note)

File 20180727 106496 6ge8b2.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
An attitude of gratitude may relieve stress, which in turn may lead to better health.
michaelhelm/Shutterstock.com

By Richard Gunderman, Indiana University

Gratitude may be more beneficial than we commonly suppose. One recent study asked subjects to write a note of thanks to someone and then estimate how surprised and happy the recipient would feel – an impact that they consistently underestimated. Another study assessed the health benefits of writing thank you notes. The researchers found that writing as few as three weekly thank you notes over the course of three weeks improved life satisfaction, increased happy feelings and reduced symptoms of depression.

While this research into gratitude is relatively new, the principles involved are anything but. Students of mine in a political philosophy course at Indiana University are reading Daniel Defoe’s 300-year-old “Robinson Crusoe,” often regarded as the first novel published in English. Marooned alone on an unknown island with no apparent prospect of rescue or escape, Crusoe has much to lament. But instead of giving in to despair, he makes a list of things for which he is grateful, including the fact that he is the shipwreck’s sole survivor and has been able to salvage many useful items from the wreckage.

Defoe’s masterpiece, which is often ranked as one of the world’s greatest novels, provides a portrait of gratitude in action that is as timely and relevant today as it has ever been. It is also one with which contemporary psychology and medicine are just beginning to catch up. Simply put, for most of us, it is far more helpful to focus on the things in life for which we can express gratitude than those that incline us toward resentment and lamentation.

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Music: Avishai Cohen — ‘Variations In G Minor’

 

The Kremlin vs Telegram

Enrique Dans writes:

After a hearing lasting just 18 minutes, on April 4, Russia’s Federal Service for the Supervision of Telecommunications, known as Roskomnadzor, ordered the immediate blocking of instant messaging application Telegram, created by the controversial Russian entrepreneur Pavel Durov, along with its removal from Apple and Googles app stores.

Aware that growing numbers of people were evading the blockade through proxies or VPNs, the government agency has begun to stifle all ways of connecting to Telegram, wiping out more than 17 million IP addresses from Google and Amazon’s servers (you can see the number grow in real time here), in the process, while disrupting all types of services from online games to mobile apps or cryptocurrency exchange pages. Roskomnadzor’s attempts to block Telegram amount to a denial of service attack on the Russian internet: many sites and services unrelated to Telegram are now blocked as part of this Soviet-style exercise in censorship. Nevertheless, says Durov, Telegram continues to operate with relative normality and the company has not detected a significant drop in user activity in Russia. A relatively small company has left the Kremlin with egg on its face and highlighting concerns for the future of the internet in Russia.

Why is the Kremlin putting all these resources into blocking Telegram? The official version is that Telegram refused to provide a backdoor to decipher conversations on the service. Why would Telegram do that, knowing what was at stake? Aside from its commitment to user privacy, the simple fact is that no such backdoor exists. Every Telegram conversation is encrypted by means of a randomly generated code, and the company doesn’t have them. WhatsApp faced a similar situation in Brazil last year, although that was largely due to ignorance and stubbornness of a judge. In Putin’s Russia, the policy is to block any means of communication that escapes government control. [Continue reading…]

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How white American terrorists are radicalized

David M Perry writes:

When Mark Conditt was a teenager, he participated in a club called Righteous Invasion of Truth. RIOT kids were homeschooled and religious, and spent their club time playing war games, practicing weapons skills, and reading the Bible. As a community college student in 2012, he wrote blogs against homosexuality and abortion. In 2018, he planted bombs in Austin, Texas, appearing to target African-American communities, then blew himself up as police closed in. The question isn’t whether Conditt was a terrorist, but where was this terrorist radicalized? More important, who else is being radicalized in the same way, and what can we do about it?

It’s easy to connect the dots after an attack. A radicalized white man commits murders. Investigators dive into his past. The dots emerge in the clarity of hindsight. In the interests of preventing future attacks, though, we need a clear understanding of how white terrorism works in this country. While not organized by some kind of hierarchical conspiracy or secret cabal, these discrete acts of violence are part of a systematic campaign to terrorize and divide Americans. What’s worse, it’s working.

We know where Elliot Rodger, the 2014 Isla Vista shooter, was radicalized. When the Southern Poverty Law Center published its report last month on “alt-right” violence, focusing on the many incidents in 2017, the SPLC began its account with the 2014 killings by Rodger, a student at the University of California–Santa Barbara. Based on Rodger’s experiences in specific online fora, the SPLC has dubbed Rodger America’s first “alt-right” killer. In his writings and videos, Rodger used misogynistic and racist tropes common in the worlds of “gamergate,” a forum called PUAhate (Pick Up Artist Hate), and other online spaces where he could connect with like-minded men. No one ordered Rodger to kill people, but the valorization of targeted violence permeates those communities. He ultimately murdered seven people and wounded an additional 14. According to the SPLC, Rodger’s violent acts were celebrated in various online communities, including by people who went on to kill in turn. The SPLC cites other misogynist killers, but also people like Dylann Roof, who murdered nine black citizens in a Charleston church. Roof’s racism appears to have intensified as he spent more and more time on the Council of Conservative Citizens’ website. More recently, a pro-Trump white supremacist killed two people at his school in New Mexico, after spending five years glorifying school shooters on alt-right websites. [Continue reading…]

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