• The Takeaway

    Yes, You Can Be Happy in Sad Times

    Scholars Say Happiness—Along With Connectedness and Meaning—Can Make You More Resilient When the World Gets Rough

    By Joe Mathews

    Happiness isn’t just possible when the world is in a very sad state. It’s vital in difficult times like today’s, because happier people are more resilient, and recover more quickly ...

New at Zócalo

Essay

How Concentration Camp Prisoners Found Comfort in Imaginary Feasts

From Ravensbrück to Mao's Labor Camps, Inmates Recited Family Recipes to Preserve Their Humanity

By Andrea Pitzer

    When the Soviet Union sent Dmitri Likhachev to an offshore detention camp in February 1928, the Russian scholar was crammed onto a train car with other prisoners and handed a large cake. His five-year sentence without the benefit of a trial was a gift of the government. The cake came from the university library where he had worked before his arrest. It held no hacksaw to free him, but he would remember the goodbye present for seven decades.
    Likhachev was not the only person who recalled gifts of food during detention. While researching concentration camps around the world, I learned that even the memory of food helped sustain prisoners, linking them to distant friends and family and building bonds between detainees. Through interviews, written memoirs, and even archival “recipes,” the way in which imaginary feasts created community ...

Essay

How Cesarean Births Became a ‘Global Epidemic’

Reliance on New Obstetric Technology and Lawsuit-Averse Doctors Made Traditional Birth Seem More Risky Than C-Sections

By Jacqueline H. Wolf

    Almost one in three births in the United States today is by cesarean section—a dramatic change from a century ago when physicians avoided the surgery whenever possible. Doctors remained so wary of the surgery’s effects that even in the early 1970s, fewer than one in 20 births was by cesarean section. By 1987, though, cesareans accounted for one in four births in the United States. Since then, the frequency of the surgery has surged worldwide. A recent issue of the medical journal The Lancet condemned this “global epidemic” of unnecessary cesareans.
    How did this major abdominal surgery—which poses significant risks—become mainstream in less than a generation? Many factors, including new obstetric technology, the effect of that technology on malpractice threats and costs, and changes in the way doctors are trained converged to make cesareans seem less risky ...

Connecting California Joe Mathews

Poetry