Instant Opinion: ‘a closed mind is key to a happy life’

Your guide to the best columns and commentary on Thursday 3 September

Your guide to the best columns and commentary on Thursday 3 September
(Image credit: Peter Summers/Getty Images)

The Week’s daily round-up highlights the five best opinion pieces from across the British and international media, with excerpts from each.

1. James Marriott in The Times

on thinking of ourselves as open-minded

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Why a closed mind is key to a happy life

“Openness to experience is one of the “big five” traits that psychologists use to measure human personality along with conscientiousness, agreeableness, neuroticism and extraversion. It describes an inspiring-sounding cluster of associated qualities such as aesthetic sensitivity, intellectual curiosity, imagination and preference for variety over sameness... [But] In large doses it is not a good thing: conspiracy theorists love to boast that they ‘keep an open mind’ about the moon landings or 9/11. Very high levels of openness correlate with a propensity to dangerous drug use and increased risk of mental illness. This may explain why there is some truth in the idea of the tortured artist. It is possible to be so open to life that it hurts you. The vivid perceptions of the world in the poetry of Sylvia Plath and the paintings of Van Gogh seem painful as well as electrifying. But few people are strong enough to live so openly. We choose how much of life we are able to bear — how much newness and contradiction and excitement and suffering — and close our minds to the rest.”

2. Aditya Chakrabortty in The Guardian

on a country riven with injustice

The left is not dead. Britain is still crying out for a radical alternative

“To put Farage against Corbyn is to see two divergent paths for British politics. On the one hand, the culture-baiting, migrant-bashing, grifting after victimhood that now characterises the radical right; on the other, an attempt to craft a social-democratic economics that appeals to the class interests of both the precariously employed graduate and the Uber driver. The first is clearly winning, but only the second is compatible with a pluralist democracy. Some of the anti-system left will leave the Labour party, while others will work half-in, half-out. But I’d wager they’ll be back with a fresh challenge. Next time round, there may be fewer sessions at The World Transformed festival dedicated to ‘decolonising yoga’. There may be less policy and more politics ­– creating institutions that provide welfare and workplace advice, and which fight for tenants’ rights (something Momentum is only now just getting round to doing). And ultimately they’ll be animated by the same question that propelled Corbyn to the Labour leadership: this country isn’t working – what’s the alternative?”

3. Farhad Manjoo in The New York Times

on making it through election year

Can America Survive 2020?

“My wife, Helen, and I got into a quarrel the other day about how to plan for America’s bleak future. Our family needs to replace an aging car, but I’ve been hesitant, wary of making any new financial commitments as the nation accelerates into the teeth of political chaos or cataclysm. What if, after the election, we need to make a run for it? Why squander spare cash on a new car? Helen thinks I’m being alarmist — that I’m LARPing ‘The Handmaid’s Tale,’ nursing some revolutionary fantasy of escape from Gilead. But I think she — like a lot of other white, Gen X native-born Americans who’ve known mostly domestic peace and stability — is being entirely too blasé about the approaching storm. As an immigrant who escaped to America from apartheid-era South Africa, I feel that I’ve cultivated a sharper appreciation for political trouble. To me, the signs on the American horizon are flashing blood red.”

4. Barnabas Reynolds, partner at law firm Shearman & Sterling. in The Daily Telegraph

on the negotiations in Brussels

Here is the magic key to unlock the path to a win-win post-Brexit deal

“There is a ‘magic key’ that would ensure the UK leaves the transition at the end of the year with full sovereignty and a highly attractive win-win trade deal. Understanding how this key works requires an understanding of the implications of the half-built legal structure of the Eurozone and the processes that support it. The Eurozone’s structure, which artificially suppresses the euro currency value, leads to dumping of underpriced Eurozone goods on the UK market. Eurozone exporters are also subsidised through unique mechanisms, including the highly technical TARGET2 system. These represent systematic breaches of WTO law. Additionally, the Eurozone structure and associated financial regulations provide artificially cheap banking that runs itself at the expense and risk of the rest of the world, in breach of international capital standards.Dealing with these characteristics means the magic key needs to be turned three times – benefitting the UK, but also the EU.”

5. Mo Salah, footballer for Liverpool FC and Egypt, in The Independent

on schooling the planet’s poorest

The world’s displaced children risk losing out on a quality education. Coronavirus just makes it harder

“For many refugee children, the vast majority of whom live in the developing world, the coronavirus has added new challenges to lives already torn apart by conflict and persecution. Many of them may never return to school. Hard-won gains, built up slowly and patiently over decades, risk being reversed indefinitely. Young lives could be ruined forever... Children who have been uprooted from their homes need books, schools, qualified teachers and more, but they also need the digital technology that connects them to the rest of the world. That means better partnerships with the private sector, which is stepping up to create and deliver technology solutions – providing software, hardware and connectivity... As we face this pandemic together, innovation will play a crucial role if the world’s displaced children and youth are not to lose all hope of getting an accredited, quality education – and not only innovation measured in silicon chips, but bold and imaginative thinking across the board to make that education a reality. Unless everyone plays their part, generations of children – millions of them in some of the world’s poorest regions – will face a bleak future.”

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