To paraphrase Chuck Palahniuk, on a long enough timeline the survival rate of any blog drops to zero. And since the timeline has had its way with our little art project, we reflect on the year it was.
Nothing symbolises the febrile social atmosphere that surrounds us at present more than the epidemic of ‘statue toppling’ that has attended recent protests, in particular those organised around the Black Lives Matter movement. Is this outbreak of de-memorialisation a necessary act of collective catharsis typical of any era, or does it belie a wanton historical vandalism and a rising censoriousness that threatens to define the future? In this debate, ‘Yes' argues that citizens have much more to fear from increasingly visible illiberal leftist intolerance, than they do from the recent outbreak of statue toppling. ‘No' counters that, since monuments matter for their powerful symbolism, their removal is a legitimate way to reflect the changing value systems of an evolving society. In that sense, condemning the memory of a previously valorised historical figure is a symbol of social progress, one that dramatises a determination to leave behind a flawed past from which we have all happily emigrated.
Most countries have faithfully followed the WHO playbook to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. But has the immense social and economic damage wrought by this response been greater than the true medical impact of the pandemic? And what lessons must we learn to inform our future pandemic response strategy? In this debate, ‘For' will argue that the approach deployed on the direction of the WHO has been disproportionate, when a more targeted, evidence-based response would have paid similar dividends. ‘Against’ will say that while hindsight always delivers apparent wisdom, the WHO-led response has been proportionate given its mandate, and will prove effective, given the circumstances.
Neoliberalism has proven itself to be a durable form of laissez-faire late Capitalism. The ‘free market system’ has been the dominant economic ideology in the Western world since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, informing the tacit knowledge of billions around the definition of a successful life and how to achieve it. The Coronavirus presents faces the greatest challenge to Neoliberalism’s authority since it became the dominant economic ethos. The Neoliberal rule book has been torn up in ways that would have been unthinkable 10 weeks ago. Will it survive? The ‘For’ side argues that the Coronavirus will indeed deal a mortal blow to an ethos and system of economic and social organisation that was already facing serious challenge. ‘Against’ counters that, notwithstanding the short-term global shock the virus has delivered, Neo-liberalism will prevail as the dominant system of economic organisation once the crisis has passed.
The world is scrambling to come to terms with the Coronavirus crisis. No news there. Naturally, most attention has focussed on the drastic Public Health measures designed to bring the spread of the virus under control. But what of the consequences, unintended and perhaps even intended, of these measures? The ‘For’ essay argues that the threat to Liberal Democracy posed by actions taken under cover of crisis is a real one. It urges us to be wary of the ‘black-ops’ of Disaster Capitalists who might use our natural fear of Coronavirus to institute measures that will have long-lasting, negative effects on our liberal democratic way of life. ‘Against’ argues that, when faced with a potentially existential threat, certain aspects of our freedom and privacy must temporarily be suspended. We should not be too precious about these if it means slowing, and eventually halting, the march of Coronavirus.
In this round of The Liffey Accord, each side takes a decidedly different position on how Citizens of Somewhere ought to be defined. As ever, the results demonstrate that perspective is everything and that framing can change all things.
With M&A activity in Greater Adland beckoning ever stranger bedfellows, Capitalism falling out of fashion, and Purpose set to become the fifth P, what future for the agency structure?
The ‘user image’ of Brexit, a bit like that of Trump, the AfD or, in Ireland, Sinn Fein, isn't the most attractive available on the ‘market’. Typically older, angrier and more dis-advantaged than the average citizen, the Brexit voter is regularly painted as inward-looking and even Neanderthal. Thus, the Brexit act is typically portrayed as one where hopeless nostalgia meets impotent rage. But is this portrayal even a tad simplistic? The ‘For’ side argues that Brexit is a prescient acknowledgement of an inexorable shift in the global balance of power toward the young, thriving metropolises of the East. ‘Against’ suggests that, in fact, Brexit is the wrong strategy, perfectly implemented, the inevitable result of a botched electoral process based on a false premise.
Applications of Artificial Intelligence surround our everyday lives, from the exemplary to the critical. But does the rise of AI mean the fall of humanity? In this lighthearted romp, the ‘For’ side argues (with supreme irony) that through our own choices, we are destined to enslavement by AI. While ‘Against’ asserts that this deterministic perspective is needlessly pessimistic. With any luck, the latter is proven correct.
The possibility of immortality has long occupied the human mind. The great religions of the world have been founded on a promise of eternal salvation from the ultimate reality—if only to deny it. In Homo Deus, the avowedly atheist Yuval Harari proposes a different solution: that scientific advances will delay death until well into our second century. But will extra life be extra great? Here, the ‘For’ side argues that a privileged caste would greatly enjoy an extra thirty-plus years of life, provided that the quality of that extra time was sufficiently rewarding. The ‘Against’ side suggests that we would be better served trying to come to terms with the reality of Death rather than in trying to delay its inevitable arrival.
There’s no question that the tsunami of ‘content’ is a defining theme of our époque. What is contested, however, is the impact of that tsunami. Here, ’Against’ asserts that neurosis about the proliferation of ‘content’ has affected us for centuries. ‘For’ argues that we are conducting a dangerous experiment on our lived experience and that careful regulation is required to mitigate harm.
As global migration increases, the ideal form of cultural affiliation has become a pressing issue for many nation-states. Indeed, tensions around conflicting allegiances are at the root of the rise of nationalist movements across the globe. Here, the ‘For’ essay argues that even if it is desirable, ‘multiculturalism’ is a practical impossibility, while ‘Against’ points to the success of Canada’s multicultural experiment as an example of the essential ability of people to accommodate one another’s ways of life.
Do we need to change the players in order to change the game? As the boardroom presents itself as the final frontier in the battle of the sexes, many have called for gender parity legislation and quotas to address the imbalance. But do quotas work? And, will they fundamentally change corporate culture for the better? In this debate, the For side argues interventions are essential to redressing historical discrimination, while the Against side takes the position that using the poison for the cure may not be the panacea progressives hope for.
With housing costs creeping beyond the means of most graduates, Masters degrees becoming mandatory for many entry level positions, and reports of universities imposing limits on acceptable discourse, debating the value of an arts education is an especially timely, if not worthwhile, exercise. In this installation of the The Liffey Accord, the For side argues the critical thinking skills gained from an arts eduction are essential to modern careers, while the against side argues such pursuits are mostly unaffordable and broadly impractical.
Few things inflame the passions more than challenges to identity. These days, such challenges are everywhere. Individuals and organisations—even nations face the fallout of a shifting worldview that has pit an old guard against a new establishment. Central to these challenges is language, the very foundation of our understanding. This point becomes apparent in the debate as to whether or not Ireland could be considered a vassal state. Here, the For side lays out a largely semantic argument, while Against extols the virtues of Ireland’s quiet diplomacy as evidence of the country’s prowess, if not independence. As ever, the validity of each argument is up to the reader to decide.
Shosanna Zuboff coined the term ‘Surveillance Capitalism’ in 2019 to refer to the mass commodification of hitherto private domains of our existence. The debate on this issue turns on contrasting views of the power of human agency. The ‘For’ side, argues that submission to the audacious will of Surveillance Capitalism has become one of the Terms and Conditions of modern life, and threatens our personal freedom. The ‘Against’ side adopts what might be termed a refusenik stance, positing that we can in fact choose to opt out of the services offered by the apparatus of Surveillance Capitalism.
The debate about the importance of Objective Truth and about what exactly constitutes it is becoming the defining issue of our times. These two essays make opposing cases around this topic. One argues in favour of a narrative-based approach to the creation of meaning in the post-modern world. It sees the search for fact-based truth as a rabbit-hole that is hardly worth entering; in fact, it argues that compelling story-telling, rather than slavish adherence to Fact, is the only way to make sense of our world today. The opposing essay proposes that only objective truth can save us from the consequences of extreme relativism, and that only renewed re-dedication to the search for objective truth can offer a beacon of certainty in a world that seems to have gone mad. The answer, as always, probably lies somewhere in between.
While there’s no question that Climate Change presents an existential threat, whether or not the movement’s adherents have imbued it with religiosity is a matter of debate. Here the ‘For’ side argues that the fervour, blind adherence and occasional intolerance of the Climate Change movement resembles religious practice, which threatens an unbiased application of scientific evidence. The ‘Against’ side argues global scientific consensus ought not be construed as religion, on the basis that the compelling evidence and significance of the threat should impel us to immediate, decisive action.