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Michael Lewis on "The Trouble with Wall Street"

Helen Rittelmeyer on sex and ambition at Yale

John Banville on Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet

William Deresiewicz on why he's not a novelistor a poet

How not to write about depression, philosophy, and natural disasters (and what our newspaper of record should know better than to publish, even just online)

About the Author

Matthew Boudway is an associate editor of Commonweal.



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"How not to write about depression, philosophy, and natural disasters (and what our newspaper of record should know better than to publish, even just online)"Goodness Matthew! With words like this we can groom you for the CDF. The author is describing coping mechanisms especially in conjunction to Sandy and lower Manhattan. As an Easter people we do not agree with the author's limited viewpoint; especially since it is a philosophy without a theology. Yet there are many lessons to be gleaned by the article. Americans are spoiled when it comes to disasters and find it harder to cope with 9/11 and Sandy Hook. In Mumbai and Mali untimely deaths are a daily occurrence. Philosophy will always be lacking when it comes to Lisbon, the Holocaust, 9/11 and Sandy. A trip to Paris or Puerta Plata does not relieve the trauma. For that we have to see the person who uplifted the Woman at the Well. I guess I will let others comment on whether the article should be published. Meanwhile you should get out more, Matthew and don't answer the summons from the CDF.

Bill,My main problem with that article is that it's a terrible piece of writing: overwrought, self-indulgent, full of namedropping, and, above all, incoherent. Most of what appears on "The Stone" is excellent; that the gatekeepers of that series, whoever they are, thought this piece was up to snuff is disheartening.The CDF does not have a monopoly on strongly worded criticism, and you are evidently not above it yourself. "You need to get out more"? Goodness.

its a terrible piece of writing: overwrought, self-indulgent, full of namedropping, and, above all, incoherent. Agree.

If Gerelyn and Matthew agree, who am I to insist otherwise.... Matthew, ok maybe you don't need to get out more. Maybe more of a sense of humor.

I was with the Rittelmeyer piece until she said: "Students need a positive moral vision more than they need a fresh set of prohibitions" -- which I agree with-- BUT then she said:"The single most helpful contribution that campus religious institutions could make would be to sponsor single-sex dormitories where adult supervision is a reality. The sexual culture of any group tends to adjust itself around the level of misbehavior that members can get away with fairly effortlessly. When young people lived with their parents and didnt have their own cars, that level was low. At a university where male and female rooms can be on the same floor, with no adults nearby, the level is considerably higher.Things would be much different if students rooming options included places where, for example, rules against visitors of the opposite sex after 10 p.m. were strictly enforced, or a packet of birth-control pills sitting on a girls desk raised an eyebrow. If a few more obstaclesor really any obstacles at allwere thrown up between sexual desire and sexual contact, Yalies might find it easier to turn their theoretical objections to the hook-up culture into an actual rejection of it."Aren't these two paragraphs just a list of prohibitions? I liked the end of the piece where she talked about like-minded students coming together to affirm one another's commitment to certain virtues, aka "friendship." But isn't that how we all got through college? Who's going through college doing a whole bunch of things they find morally abhorrent but cannot avoid doing because of the "misbehavior" of others? Are all college students arrested in the state of moral development that Augustine finds himself in when he steals the pears with his friends? I hope not...

The Michael Lewis piece is a great read. A thought-provoking passage:"The dystopia often imagined in the world of artificial intelligencein which computers somehow take on a life of their own and come to rule mankindhas actually happened in the world of finance. The giant Wall Street firms have taken on lives of their own, beyond human control. The people flow into and out of them but have only incidental effect on their direction and behavior. The firms may not be intent on evil; they aren't intent on anything except short-term profits: they're insensible. If anyone attempted to seize control of one of these strange machines and impose upon them a clear moral direction, the machine would hit its own button and he would be ejected."I'm not certain to what degree all this is true, but I suspect he undervalues the moral leadership potential of top executives. Over time, top executives can wield the broom and sweep the bums out the door; and there is no deeper bench in the business world than those waiting for a chance to make a bazillion dollars on Wall Street. But all this is dependent on a virtuous leadership.Certainly, too, it throws into pretty sharp relief the need for prudent regulation. I agree there is a certain amorality to how firms operate, just as there is a certain amorality to how a mouse finds its way through the maze to the piece of cheese. Regulators' job is to build a maze that, if not promoting virtuous behavior, at least makes it hard or impossible to be reprehensible.

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