Issue #43: A message from Robert Wright

Hi, remember me? The guy who, in collaboration with some other people, was bringing you the Mindful Resistance Newsletter each week until we decided to take an inexcusably long summer break? Well, we’re still on the inexcusable break. But we’re gearing up for a return of the newsletter sometime in September, and I wanted to bring you up to date on our plans. I also wanted to give you the option of weighing in on a quasi-important question.

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THE QUESTION

The quasi-important question is whether we should keep calling this the Mindful Resistance Newsletter—and, if not, what should we call it? The place where you can weigh in on the question is here—but before weighing in, you may want to first hear why we’re considering a name change, and what our plans for the new newsletter are.

For starters, various readers had suggested that the name was suboptimal. They raised reasonable questions such as: Isn’t “resistance” kind of, um, negative? Does “mindful” send a message that the newsletter is only for meditators? And so on.

Also, we hope the newsletter will live beyond the end of Trump’s presidency, and “resistance” is a term now deeply associated with Trump.

Of course, the term can be construed more broadly: We’re not just resisting Trump, and not just resisting Trumpism; we’re resisting the forces underlying Trumpism—fearmongering, demagoguery, xenophobia, and, indeed the entire “psychology of tribalism” that they both energize and draw energy from. And all of these things will need resisting long after Trump is gone. This is part of the argument for keeping the name as it is, and it’s one reason we may well do that.

Still, we figured that, as long as we’re doing a whole newsletter relaunch, we’d take the opportunity to consider changes of various kinds, including in its name.

As for the other changes—ways the new newsletter, whatever its name, will be different from the old one—here’s our current thinking on that:

 THE PLANS

First, the newsletter will be less Trump-o-centric. Over the summer I’ve become only more convinced that an obsession with Trump’s day-to-day antics and outrages is a bad thing. It’s bad for the mental health of the obsessors, it often plays into Trump’s hands, and it distracts us from important issues that have no direct connection to Trump.

Of course, the newsletter has always tried to be, um, mindful of these perils. The opening section of the newsletter, The Week in Trump, had a more dispassionate voice than much media coverage of Trump, and tried to confine its focus to truly important Trump-related developments. Still, the section did sometimes become captive to its name; it neglected important developments in the non-Trump world and occasionally got too deeply into the weeds of Trumpworld.

The new opening section of the newsletter will: (1) be less confined to Trump-related news, and more discerning in which Trump-related news to note; (2) be more concise, spending one sentence, conceivably two, on each news item, and then linking to a good source for those who want to learn more; (3) be called something other than “The Week in Trump”.

As for the rest of the newsletter: Here our plans are hazier, and they may stay that way even after the relaunch, as we experiment with various elements. But some of our current aspirations are:

  1. Pay more consistent attention to the way the psychology of tribalism influences politics and culture, including behavior on social media.
  2. Have more discussion of what to do about that psychology, both at the personal and the social level.
  3. Pay more attention to the damage done by a particular psychological tendency that can be part of tribal psychology but arises in other contexts as well: the failure to exercise cognitive empathy (that is, failure at perspective taking, failure to understand how another person or group looks at the world).
  4. Pay more attention to issues that, whether or not they have a direct link to Trump, bear on the political evolution of our species from a loose system of sometimes conflicting nation-states to a cohesive global community with sound global governance.
  5. Maintain more consistency (in some as yet undefined sense of ‘consistency’) in my own signed contributions to the newsletter, which will continue to appear in the number two slot, immediately after the section formerly known as The Week in Trump.
  6. Pay more explicit attention to the subject of mindfulness—and to how mindfulness can be usefully deployed in the current political environment.
  7. Create more opportunities for readers to converse with one another.

We may not manage to do all of these things. In fact, it’s hard to imagine doing all of them without making the newsletter longer than a newsletter should be. But they’re on our list.

In thinking this through, we’ve been aided hugely by reader feedback. (Thanks again to the 400-plus of you who took our survey in the spring.) But we’re always in the market for more feedback, so:

1) Feel free to do the aforementioned weighing in on the name-change issue by taking our exceedingly short survey.

2) If you have feedback on anything newsletter-related (certainly including the question of how the newsletter might evolve in the future), you can email us at feedback@mindfulresistance.net.

3) If you want to discuss things with other readers, try leaving a post on our little corner of Reddit.

See you in September—not before mid-September (we honor the great American tradition of avoiding labor on Labor Day), but certainly by the end of the month. Thanks for your patience.

 

—Robert Wright

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