Book Notes: Johan Hari’s Stolen Focus

This is a good book but, unfortunately, the author hasn’t fully conquered his problems with focus. The book suffers from being quite unfocused. For instance, Hari mentions climate change every 10-15 pages, which – important as the subject is – doesn’t have a whole lot to do with focus. Stolen Focus flits around between such unrelated topics as Jair Bolsonaro, a 4-day workweek, UBI, Trump, Rosa Parks, and many others. It gets quite dizzying to observe Hari lose his battle with attention pulverization right there in the pages of his book.

Still, the book is good and necessary. Yes, Hari is very left-wing. But we are not primitive organisms who can’t find a boundary between an author and his work. The point Hari makes in Stolen Focus is that we can and should make efforts as individuals to improve our focus but it’s an uphill battle because poor focus isn’t an issue only of individual failings. It partly is but there are other things at play. Surveillance capitalism, overmedication, poor eating and sleeping habits, moronic schooling traditions, parental inattention – all this destroys the capacity to focus. It doesn’t matter if the person saying it is left- or right-wing. It’s still true.

Hari is so severely addicted to his devices that he had to buy a box to lock them in there because he can’t abstain from using without a physical barrier. I’m not nearly as addicted but I understand and feel the deepest compassion. I respect Hari for not pretending that he managed to solve all his problems. The book is honest and it doesn’t promise easy solutions for what is an endemic, debilitating issue.


One thought on “Book Notes: Johan Hari’s Stolen Focus

  1. Clever title allusion: have a listen to Oliver Nelson’s “Stolen Moments” sometime.

    Surprised Hari got this far, he always had a knack for throwing his favourite cause celebre at his readers, if he could even limit it to just one.

    Go find his infamous piece on the “helicopter toilet” sometime, you might get the visceral part a bit more directly that way.

    Hospital’s lovely, you would not believe the chaos … and yes, in the US.

    Not the Rona: this is a physical injury and I hope to avoid any iatrogenic entanglements.

    Story another time, don’t have my BT keyboard with me, so this is poke-and-peck.


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