robertogreco + indifference   12

Language Is Migrant - South Magazine Issue #8 [documenta 14 #3] - documenta 14
"Language is migrant. Words move from language to language, from culture to culture, from mouth to mouth. Our bodies are migrants; cells and bacteria are migrants too. Even galaxies migrate.

What is then this talk against migrants? It can only be talk against ourselves, against life itself.

Twenty years ago, I opened up the word “migrant,” seeing in it a dangerous mix of Latin and Germanic roots. I imagined “migrant” was probably composed of mei, Latin for “to change or move,” and gra, “heart” from the Germanic kerd. Thus, “migrant” became “changed heart,”
a heart in pain,
changing the heart of the earth.

The word “immigrant” says, “grant me life.”

“Grant” means “to allow, to have,” and is related to an ancient Proto-Indo-European root: dhe, the mother of “deed” and “law.” So too, sacerdos, performer of sacred rites.

What is the rite performed by millions of people displaced and seeking safe haven around the world? Letting us see our own indifference, our complicity in the ongoing wars?

Is their pain powerful enough to allow us to change our hearts? To see our part in it?

I “wounder,” said Margarita, my immigrant friend, mixing up wondering and wounding, a perfect embodiment of our true condition!

Vicente Huidobro said, “Open your mouth to receive the host of the wounded word.”

The wound is an eye. Can we look into its eyes?
my specialty is not feeling, just
looking, so I say:
(the word is a hard look.)
—Rosario Castellanos

I don’t see with my eyes: words
are my eyes.
—Octavio Paz

In l980, I was in exile in Bogotá, where I was working on my “Palabrarmas” project, a way of opening words to see what they have to say. My early life as a poet was guided by a line from Novalis: “Poetry is the original religion of mankind.” Living in the violent city of Bogotá, I wanted to see if anybody shared this view, so I set out with a camera and a team of volunteers to interview people in the street. I asked everybody I met, “What is Poetry to you?” and I got great answers from beggars, prostitutes, and policemen alike. But the best was, “Que prosiga,” “That it may go on”—how can I translate the subjunctive, the most beautiful tiempo verbal (time inside the verb) of the Spanish language? “Subjunctive” means “next to” but under the power of the unknown. It is a future potential subjected to unforeseen conditions, and that matches exactly the quantum definition of emergent properties.

If you google the subjunctive you will find it described as a “mood,” as if a verbal tense could feel: “The subjunctive mood is the verb form used to express a wish, a suggestion, a command, or a condition that is contrary to fact.” Or “the ‘present’ subjunctive is the bare form of a verb (that is, a verb with no ending).”

I loved that! A never-ending image of a naked verb! The man who passed by as a shadow in my film saying “Que prosiga” was on camera only for a second, yet he expressed in two words the utter precision of Indigenous oral culture.

People watching the film today can’t believe it was not scripted, because in thirty-six years we seem to have forgotten the art of complex conversation. In the film people in the street improvise responses on the spot, displaying an awareness of language that seems to be missing today. I wounder, how did it change? And my heart says it must be fear, the ocean of lies we live in, under a continuous stream of doublespeak by the violent powers that rule us. Living under dictatorship, the first thing that disappears is playful speech, the fun and freedom of saying what you really think. Complex public conversation goes extinct, and along with it, the many species we are causing to disappear as we speak.

The word “species” comes from the Latin speciēs, “a seeing.” Maybe we are losing species and languages, our joy, because we don’t wish to see what we are doing.

Not seeing the seeing in words, we numb our senses.

I hear a “low continuous humming sound” of “unmanned aerial vehicles,” the drones we send out into the world carrying our killing thoughts.

Drones are the ultimate expression of our disconnect with words, our ability to speak without feeling the effect or consequences of our words.

“Words are acts,” said Paz.

Our words are becoming drones, flying robots. Are we becoming desensitized by not feeling them as acts? I am thinking not just of the victims but also of the perpetrators, the drone operators. Tonje Hessen Schei, director of the film Drone, speaks of how children are being trained to kill by video games: “War is made to look fun, killing is made to look cool. ... I think this ‘militainment’ has a huge cost,” not just for the young soldiers who operate them but for society as a whole. Her trailer opens with these words by a former aide to Colin Powell in the Bush/Cheney administration:
OUR POTENTIAL COLLECTIVE FUTURE. WATCH IT AND WEEP FOR US. OR WATCH IT AND DETERMINE TO CHANGE THAT FUTURE
—Lawrence Wilkerson, Colonel U.S. Army (retired)


In Astro Noise, the exhibition by Laura Poitras at the Whitney Museum of American Art, the language of surveillance migrates into poetry and art. We lie in a collective bed watching the night sky crisscrossed by drones. The search for matching patterns, the algorithms used to liquidate humanity with drones, is turned around to reveal the workings of the system. And, we are being surveyed as we survey the show! A new kind of visual poetry connecting our bodies to the real fight for the soul of this Earth emerges, and we come out woundering: Are we going to dehumanize ourselves to the point where Earth itself will dream our end?

The fight is on everywhere, and this may be the only beauty of our times. The Quechua speakers of Peru say, “beauty is the struggle.”

Maybe darkness will become the source of light. (Life regenerates in the dark.)

I see the poet/translator as the person who goes into the dark, seeking the “other” in him/herself, what we don’t wish to see, as if this act could reveal what the world keeps hidden.

Eduardo Kohn, in his book How Forests Think: Toward an Anthropology Beyond the Human notes the creation of a new verb by the Quichua speakers of Ecuador: riparana means “darse cuenta,” “to realize or to be aware.” The verb is a Quichuan transfiguration of the Spanish reparar, “to observe, sense, and repair.” As if awareness itself, the simple act of observing, had the power to heal.

I see the invention of such verbs as true poetry, as a possible path or a way out of the destruction we are causing.

When I am asked about the role of the poet in our times, I only question: Are we a “listening post,” composing an impossible “survival guide,” as Paul Chan has said? Or are we going silent in the face of our own destruction?

Subcomandante Marcos, the Zapatista guerrilla, transcribes the words of El Viejo Antonio, an Indian sage: “The gods went looking for silence to reorient themselves, but found it nowhere.” That nowhere is our place now, that’s why we need to translate language into itself so that IT sees our awareness.

Language is the translator. Could it translate us to a place within where we cease to tolerate injustice and the destruction of life?

Life is language. “When we speak, life speaks,” says the Kaushitaki Upanishad.

Awareness creates itself looking at itself.

It is transient and eternal at the same time.

Todo migra. Let’s migrate to the “wounderment” of our lives, to poetry itself."
ceciliavicuña  language  languages  words  migration  immigration  life  subcomandantemarcos  elviejoantonio  lawrencewilkerson  octaviopaz  exile  rosariocastellanos  poetry  spanish  español  subjunctive  oral  orality  conversation  complexity  seeing  species  joy  tonjehessenschei  war  colinpowell  laurapoitras  art  visual  translation  eduoardokohn  quechua  quichua  healing  repair  verbs  invention  listening  kaushitakiupanishad  awareness  noticing  wondering  vicentehuidobro  wounds  woundering  migrants  unknown  future  potential  unpredictability  emergent  drones  morethanhuman  multispecies  paulchan  destruction  displacement  refugees  extinction  others  tolerance  injustice  justice  transience  ephemerality  ephemeral  canon  eternal  surveillance  patterns  algorithms  earth  sustainability  environment  indifference  complicity  dictatorship  documenta14  2017  classideas 
march 2019 by robertogreco
The Mystery of Carl Miller : Longreads Blog
[Great story. I've quoted here without spoiling, I think.]

"What if your last name is just the word that comes after your first name?"



"My father is so much like his mother—easygoing, pleasant to be around, completely satisfied by mild comforts and routines, modest, measured. He was a superintendent of schools for thirty years and people were often mad at him, but he was rarely mad at them. One day a woman, a total stranger, called the house and screamed at him for ten minutes. He eventually cut her off, and before he hung up, he said “Thank you for calling.” Then he came into the living room and turned on the Celtics. “People tend to get very emotional about their children,” he observed, leaning back in his rocking chair and pouring ¾ of a bottle of Molson Ale into a glass. He gave the rest to my brother and me to split."



"When I was little any time I had to fill in a family tree or talk about my grandparents I actually named my grandfather as Carl Miller and said that we didn’t know who or where he was. Since there was absolutely nothing else exciting about me I treasured this aspect of my identity. Whenever it came up I would pray to myself that they would ask me more.

“Your dad doesn’t know where his father is?”

“No.”

“Isn’t that weird?”

“I guess.”

“Has your dad ever even met him?”

“No.”

“Does he care?”

This was perhaps the best part of it all. After my grandmother died we asked my dad if he wanted to find his father. “I don’t know,” he said. “Not really.”

We asked him a million more times and a million times he seemed uninterested. As a kid with two parents I lived with and who were married and who I saw every single day, I was both astonished and impressed that my father didn’t care who his father was. Our Carl Miller conversations were free of anguish—if anything, Carl Miller was a sort of family joke. We had a long driveway people liked to use for turning around, and once in a while, if a random car paused in front of the house my brother or I might say “Maybe it’s Carl Miller,” and one of my parents might respond, “Tell him we don’t have any money.” My mother might look out the window and say, “Nope. Too ugly.”"



"I don’t mean to suggest that my father never looked for his father because my grandmother was so perfect. It’s just that she was the sort of person who was all right with what was in front of her, and my father absorbed this. In order to want to meet his father my father would have had to have some moment where he paused to think about what was missing from his life, and I don’t think my father strings together a lot of those moments. To pursue this mystery, he would have really had to believe that finding out who his father was would make an impact on his day-to-day life, or would make him, somehow, a better husband, father, school superintendent, lawn mower, fish-catcher, tidier-of-sheds, head-shaking-watcher of PBS NewsHour. He keeps long lists on yellow legal pads, and while “write NW letter re: CM” made it onto that list once, it seems that “Find out who my father is” never did.

* * *

I suppose this could sound like some paean to my father, and I don’t really mean it to be. I have very mixed, often pleasant, but decidedly unworshipful feelings about my parents. I like them best when I feel a sort of indifference. Not to them as people, not to our relationship, but to the fact that we’re related. Yes they are the people who conceived me, yes my mother gave birth to me, but they are also just the people who happened to do this. We are matter that came very close to each other in orbit. Some might think it’s kind of cold to look at your parents like this. I think it’s cold that everyone walks around with the conceit that their family is special. Imagine a world where we did not all think that those closest to us were the most worthy of attention or pardon or praise. “I’m so proud of my family,” people are always saying, and I guess that’s not a bad thing, but what if you were proud of the people who lived across the street from you? What if you were proud of every resident of your town, what if I was proud of the homeless people who manage to put together their camps and set up their coolers and stoves in the woods behind my house?

When I was a teenager I told my father I felt distant from everyone in my family. “It’s not that I don’t love you,” I said. “I just don’t feel like I’m a part of things, but I also don’t mind.”

“I think that’s ok,” he said. “I think more people feel that way than care to admit it.” The fact that he didn’t say it hurt his feelings is one of the most loving gestures anyone has ever made on my behalf."



"I have heard exactly one story about my grandmother’s parenting of my father: When he was in first grade, he got in trouble for writing with his left hand. My grandmother went to the school and told his teacher never to say a word to my father about which hand he wrote with ever again.

I never saw a moment of sentimentality between my grandmother and my father and little explicit affection. They loved each other, but they had something that is even bigger than love. It was as if each of them were both the breather and the air. I have never been around a parent and a child who had less tension between them. The last name Miller says nothing about me, but if pressed I would say I appreciate the way it evokes a beautiful neutrality, and the way it reminds me that all of us could so easily have been someone else."
via:ayjay  names  naming  ancestry  2016  families  sarahmiller  love  relationships  parenting  indifference 
july 2016 by robertogreco
Cornel West on state of race in the U.S.: "We're in bad shape" - CBS News
[via: "Showed kids 60 Minutes with Cornel West last night. ("I'm unimpressed by smartness.") http://www.cbsnews.com/news/60-minutes-cornel-west-on-race-in-the-u-s/ "
https://twitter.com/ablerism/status/711908596540379136

"+ See also West on Mandela: "a militant tenderness, subversive sweetness and radical gentleness." http://www.cornelwest.com/nelson_mandela.html "
https://twitter.com/ablerism/status/711908847695368192 ]

"Cornel West is a different kind of civil rights leader. His below-the-radar presence at racial flash points across America recently, stands in stark contrast to many of the more traditional civil rights leaders and their bright light press conferences.

Some of the new generation of African-American activists seem to be gravitating towards West, a charismatic academic scholar who doesn't lead an organization or have an entourage.

Cornel West has a message about how poor and disadvantaged Americans are being treated today and he can be searingly provocative on matters of race, never more so than when he criticizes President Obama.

Cornel West: When I call the president a black puppet of Wall Street, I was really talking about the degree to which Wall Street had a disproportionate amount of influence on his policies as opposed to poor people and working people.

James Brown: Why use such harsh language with-- showing no respect for the office of the president?

Cornel West: I tend to be one who just speaks from my soul, and so what comes out sometimes is rather harsh. In that sense I'm very much a part of the tradition of a Frederick Douglass or a Malcolm X who used hyperbolic language at times to bring attention to the state of emergency. So all of that rage and righteous indignation can lead one not to speak politely sometimes.

Eight years ago, Cornel West was a fervent supporter of candidate Barack Obama. Today, he blames the president for not doing more on issues like income inequality and racial justice. A product of the turbulent sixties, West has joined protests led by civil rights groups like Black Lives Matter. Here in Ferguson, Missouri, he was one of many arrested for civil disobedience.

James Brown: The young people who are leading the Black Lives Matter charge, you're all behind them?

Cornel West: Oh, very much so. I think that's a marvelous new militancy that has to do with courage, vision. The fundamental challenge always is will their rage be channeled through hatred and revenge or will it be channeled through love and justice. You got to push 'em toward love and justice.

James Brown: Why do you think you have that kind of currency with young people?

Cornel West: They know that I take their precious lives seriously. When I go to jail in Ferguson and say quite explicitly, "I'm old school, and I want the new school to know that some of us old folk love y'all to death" and they hear that and say, "Well, dang, you know, we might not always-- agree with this brother, but this Negro looks like a fighter for justice."

[March: This is what democracy looks like. Justice!]

Nyle Fort: I think a lot of young people really gravitate towards him not only because he's a giant of an intellectual, he is somebody that you want to be around.

Nyle Fort is a 26-year-old activist and religion PhD student at Princeton. He first saw West speak at a rally four years ago.

James Brown: The manner in which Dr. West has been criticizing the president. Your reaction?

Nyle Fort: I think it's important for us to listen to the substance of his argument. And I think that his critiques not just of President Obama, but of our current state of democracy in this country, the current state of the world, is something that we need to pay attention to.

A favorite on the lecture circuit, we were with him at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York, when the crowd of 1,500 broke into applause before he said a word.

Then, for more than an hour, an extemporaneous journey filled with biblical passages and quotes from philosophers and poets about decency and virtue. All in support of West's warning about the dangers of inequality.

Cornel West: I have nothing against rich brothers and sisters. Pray for 'em every day. But callousness and indifference, greed and avarice is something that's shot through all of us.

Cornel West has diverse influences to say the least; crediting jazz giants John Coltrane and Sarah Vaughan with helping him understand human suffering. West sees civil rights pioneer, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel as one of the great treasures of the 20th century.

Cornel West: It's never a question of skin pigmentation. It's never a question of just culture or sexual orientation or civilization. It's what kind of human being you're going to choose to be from your mama's womb to the tomb and what kind of legacy will you leave.

Cornel West was born 62 years ago in Oklahoma, but grew up in Glen Elder -- a predominantly black neighborhood near Sacramento, California. He is the second of four children. His father, Clifton was a federal administrator and his mother, Irene was a teacher. They were a close-knit, church-going family.

Cornel West: I feel as if I have been blessed to undergo a transformation from gangster to redeemed sinner with gangster proclivities.

James Brown: You actually were a thug when you were a youngster?

Cornel West: Oh absolutely, I got kicked out of school when I was seven-- seven years old.

James Brown: Doing what, Dr. West?

Cornel West: I refused to salute the flag because my great uncle had been lynched with the flag wrapped around his body. So I went back to Sacramento and said, "I'm not saluting the flag." And teacher went at me and hit me, and I hit back. And then we had a Joe Frazier/Muhammad Ali moment right there in the third grade.

Clifton West: He was the only student I ever knew that came home with all As and had to get a whipping.

Clifton West is Cornel's brother, best friend and was his role model growing up. He says behind his little brother's bad behavior, was a relentlessly curious mind.

Clifton West: We had this bookmobile. And we would come out, and check out a book, and go on back in the house and start reading it. So Corn, at one point, I don't know how long it took, he had read every book in the bookmobile.

James Brown: Excuse me?

Clifton West: I don't know it had to be 200 books, easy. And the bookmobile man, who was a white guy, went to all the neighborhoods, little chocolate neighborhoods, saying, "There's this guy in Glen Elder that read every book in here."

Anecdotes like that convinced teachers to give their troubled student an aptitude test. West's recorded IQ: 168.

Cornel West: I got a pretty high score. So they sent me over all the way on the other side of town. Mom used to drive me all the way to school and then drive back to her school where she was teaching first grade.

The new school had a gifted program that challenged his mind and changed his behavior.

James Brown: Was that when you first grabbed hold of the notion that you were smart?

Cornel West: You know, I never really thought I was that smart. Because there was so many other folk in school that I was deeply impressed by. But I'll say this, though, that I've never really been impressed by smartness."
cornelwest  barackobama  race  2016  via:ablerism  love  activism  socialjustice  blacklivesmatter  generations  inequality  values  nylefort  jamesbrown  cliftonwest  eddieglaude  decency  virtue  callousness  indifference  greed  avarice  jazz  suffering  humanism  abrahamjoshuaheschel  life  living  legacy  religion  belief  ferguson  racialjustice  racism  civildisobedience  wallstreet  intellectualism  intellect  curiosity  poverty  policy  language  malcolmx  frederickdouglass  rage  indignation  civilrights  johncoltrane  wisdom  smartness  sacrifice  conformism  sarahvaughan 
march 2016 by robertogreco
What World Are We Building? — Data & Society: Points — Medium
"It’s easy to love or hate technology, to blame it for social ills or to imagine that it will fix what people cannot. But technology is made by people. In a society. And it has a tendency to mirror and magnify the issues that affect everyday life. The good, bad, and ugly."



"1. Inequity All Over Again

While social media was being embraced, I was doing research, driving around the country talking with teenagers about how they understood technology in light of everything else taking place in their lives. I watched teens struggle to make sense of everyday life and their place in it. And I watched as privileged parents projected their anxieties onto the tools that were making visible the lives of less privileged youth.

As social media exploded, our country’s struggle with class and race got entwined with technology. I will never forget sitting in small town Massachusetts in 2007 with a 14-year-old white girl I call Kat. Kat was talking about her life when she made a passing reference to why her friends had all quickly abandoned MySpace and moved to Facebook: because it was safer, and MySpace was boring. Whatever look I gave her at that moment made her squirm. She looked down and said,
I’m not really into racism, but I think that MySpace now is more like ghetto or whatever, and…the people that have Facebook are more mature… The people who use MySpace — again, not in a racist way — but are usually more like [the] ghetto and hip-hop/rap lovers group.'


As we continued talking, Kat became more blunt and told me that black people use MySpace and white people use Facebook.

Fascinated by Kat’s explanation and discomfort, I went back to my field notes. Sure enough, numerous teens had made remarks that, with Kat’s story in mind, made it very clear that a social division had unfolded between teens using MySpace and Facebook during the 2006–2007 school year. I started asking teens about these issues and heard many more accounts of how race affected engagement. "



"The techniques we use at Crisis Text Line are the exact same techniques that are used in marketing. Or personalized learning. Or predictive policing. Predictive policing, for example, involves taking prior information about police encounters and using that to make a statistical assessment about the likelihood of crime happening in a particular place or involving a particular person. In a very controversial move, Chicago has used such analytics to make a list of people most likely to be a victim of violence. In an effort to prevent crime, police officers approached those individuals and used this information in an effort to scare them to stay out of trouble. But surveillance by powerful actors doesn’t build trust; it erodes it. Imagine that same information being given to a social worker. Even better, to a community liaison. Sometimes, it’s not the data that’s disturbing, but how it’s used and by whom.

3. The World We’re Creating

Knowing how to use data isn’t easy. One of my colleagues at Microsoft Research — Eric Horvitz — can predict with startling accuracy whether someone will be hospitalized based on what they search for. What should he do with that information? Reach out to people? That’s pretty creepy. Do nothing? Is that ethical? No matter how good our predictions are, figuring out how to use them is a complex social and cultural issue that technology doesn’t solve for us. In fact, as it stands, technology is just making it harder for us to have a reasonable conversation about agency and dignity, responsibility and ethics.

Data is power. Increasingly we’re seeing data being used to assert power over people. It doesn’t have to be this way, but one of the things that I’ve learned is that, unchecked, new tools are almost always empowering to the privileged at the expense of those who are not.

For most media activists, unfettered Internet access is at the center of the conversation, and that is critically important. Today we’re standing on a new precipice, and we need to think a few steps ahead of the current fight.

We are moving into a world of prediction. A world where more people are going to be able to make judgments about others based on data. Data analysis that can mark the value of people as worthy workers, parents, borrowers, learners, and citizens. Data analysis that has been underway for decades but is increasingly salient in decision-making across numerous sectors. Data analysis that most people don’t understand.

Many activists will be looking to fight the ecosystem of prediction — and to regulate when and where prediction can be used. This is all fine and well when we’re talking about how these technologies are designed to do harm. But more often than not, these tools will be designed to be helpful, to increase efficiency, to identify people who need help. Their positive uses will exist alongside uses that are terrifying. What do we do?

One of the most obvious issues is the limited diversity of people who are building and using these tools to imagine our future. Statistical and technical literacy isn’t even part of the curriculum in most American schools. In our society where technology jobs are high-paying and technical literacy is needed for citizenry, less than 5% of high schools offer AP computer science courses. Needless to say, black and brown youth are much less likely to have access, let alone opportunities. If people don’t understand what these systems are doing, how do we expect people to challenge them?

We must learn how to ask hard questions of technology and of those making decisions based data-driven tech. And opening the black box isn’t enough. Transparency of data, algorithms, and technology isn’t enough. We need to build assessment into any system that we roll-out. You can’t just put millions of dollars of surveillance equipment into the hands of the police in the hope of creating police accountability, yet, with police body-worn cameras, that’s exactly what we’re doing. And we’re not even trying to assess the implications. This is probably the fastest roll-out of a technology out of hope, and it won’t be the last. How do we get people to look beyond their hopes and fears and actively interrogate the trade-offs?

Technology plays a central role — more and more — in every sector, every community, every interaction. It’s easy to screech in fear or dream of a world in which every problem magically gets solved. To make the world a better place, we need to start paying attention to the different tools that are emerging and learn to frame hard questions about how they should be put to use to improve the lives of everyday people.

We need those who are thinking about social justice to understand technology and those who understand technology to commit to social justice."
danahboyd  inequality  technology  2016  facebook  myspace  race  racism  prejudice  whiteflight  bigdata  indifference  google  web  online  internet  christinaxu  bias  diversity  socialjustice 
february 2016 by robertogreco
'Care for Our Common Home': Taking Up the Moral Challenge of Pope Francis – Blog – ABC Religion & Ethics (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
"The normalisation of liberal individualism and the unsustainable form of prosperity on which the West has so long relied are, of course, the crowning achievements of what Luigino Bruni calls the "grand 'immunizing' project of modernity." But this project did not simply clear away the tyranny of inherited privilege, thereby returning individuals to themselves and their own acquisitive desires. Instead, this immunity from our obligations to others - what John Rawls more prosaically called the "mutual disinterest" constitutive of the social contract - involved the radical renunciation of the munus: that obliging gift which forms the basis of the social bond that is at the heart of communitas.

In Evangelium Vitae, John Paul II captured the essence of this gift in a simple, wondrous sentence: "God entrusts us to one another." Once this munus is renounced, what follows is a hollowed out form of social life, a debased, erstaz community in which, "Everyone else is considered an enemy from whom one has to defend oneself. Thus society becomes a mass of individuals placed side by side, but without any mutual bonds. Each one wishes to assert himself independently of the other and in fact intends to make his own interests prevail."

(It is worth pointing out in passing that Pope Francis and John Paul II find an unlikely ally in Julian Savulescu, who shares their critique of the failure of liberalism to produce the kind of citizens that are willing make decisions for the good of others, especially when doing so would run counter to self-interest and immediate benefit: "This restraint of self-interest is the very opposite of the unrestrained satisfaction of it made possible by industrialization and its profusion of material goods, which brought liberal democracy into existence. Liberal democracy has so far been a politics of prosperity, and this induces doubt whether it could turn into a politics of parsimony, voluntary restraint, and decreasing welfare." As a result, Savulescu warns, "contemporary liberal democracies are in the danger of being too liberal to last.")

The great achievement of Pope Francis's encyclical is the way it explicitly deepens and extends the scope of that which has been entrusted to us: our shared environment; the wellbeing of those near and far; the wellbeing of future generations. The language of gift and of what is in common pervades the encyclical, and at once condemns the interpersonal and political indifference that has held sway over the "climate change debate" and exposes the inadequacy of purely technocratic solutions to the problem of environmental degradation.

Implicated in the pope's critique of both interpersonal indifference and a kind of technophilic solutionism is the way that social media cultivates a feeling of concern and even ethical responsibility, all the while shielding us from any real commitment to others."



"For Francis, there is simply no substitute for the recovery of a sense of deep moral obligation - of what he calls at the end of the encyclical "generous commitment" - through which we will then joyfully constrain our behaviour and redefine those benefits to which we feel we are entitled. This is particularly clear when Francis addresses the debilitating political problem of how to galvanise public support for an intergenerational problem like climate change. As Stephen Gardiner has examined at considerable length, the problem is not only that the benefits of carbon pollution are enjoyed by the present generation while the deleterious effects (or "costs") are deferred to some future generation; the iterative nature of the problem ensures that "each new generation will face the same incentive structure as soon as it gains the power to decide whether or not to act."

This, it would seem, is the brute reality behind the myth of progress, and a powerful illustration of C.S. Lewis's extraordinarily prescient claim in his 1943 book The Abolition of Man (which is a favourite of Benedict XVI, interestingly enough). Lewis was, of course, fiercely critical of that heroic liberal narrative of the " progressive emancipation from tradition and a progressive control of natural processes resulting in a continual increase of human power.""
popefrancis  2015  laudatosi'  morality  christianity  luiginobruni  modernity  capitalism  interdependence  johnrawls  juliansavulescu  popejohnpaulii  scottstephens  normawirzba  clivehamilton  celiadeane-drummond  charlescamosy  michaelstafford  via:anne  religion  climatechange  ecology  economics  technosolutionism  anthropocene  antropocentrism  individualism  generations  internet  relationships  inequality  power  cslewis  progress  technology  stephengardner  interpersonal  indifference  empathy  responsibility  socialmedia  concern  commitment 
june 2015 by robertogreco
Be Kind
"I almost got fired once.

My friend, and CTO at the time, Dustin Moskovitz pulled me into a room one morning. He told me I would no longer be working on News Feed, which was surprising because at the time I was the only engineer keeping it running. Instead they were going to hand it off to someone else and build a team around that person. With alarm in my voice I asked if I was being fired. Dustin relented only after a telling pause: “no, but you need to find something else to do."

I believe if you looked at what I had accomplished in my two years at Facebook to that point, it would not be obvious that I should be a candidate for such a stern conversation. In addition to building the backend and ranking for News Feed I had also launched a number of other popular features on the site. I maintained our early anti-abuse efforts in my spare time. I was one of a small group of people making decisions that would shape our infrastructure for years to come. I wasn’t the best engineer at the company but I was solid, I was dedicated, and I was clearly having an impact.

So why was I being sidelined? I demanded answers. Dustin did not disappoint.

He gave me a single sheet of paper. On it, in a dull monospace font, were anonymous quotes about me from my coworkers.
“Boz is one of the better engineers at Facebook” one read, and then the next "I would have a hard time working with him."

These two statements struck me as incongruous. If I was a good engineer, why would it be hard to work with me? Of course that question was the very foundation of my problem.
“He is most interested in the truth…but more inhibited members of the team avoid any discussions with him."

The realization hit me hard. In short, I thought my job was to be right. I thought that was how I proved my worth to the company. But that was all wrong. My job was to get things done and doing anything meaningful past a certain point requires more than one person. If you are right but nobody wants to work with you, then how valuable are you really? How much can you realistically expect to accomplish on your own? I was “winning” my way out of a job one argument at a time.

I headed home early that day to think about what I had heard. My future wife April was gentle but she offered me little reprieve from the feedback: “If you want people to work with you, you need to be kind.” It turns out this wasn’t just a problem I had at work. Looking back, I’m amazed (and grateful) that my friends put up with me.

Altogether this feedback changed the course of my career and probably my life.

I don’t think I was ever outright mean to anyone. I was just callously indifferent and on a long enough timeline that is indistinguishable from being mean. In a cruel twist of irony I thought that was what it meant to be professional. In retrospect it just seems inhuman. It will take me several posts to details the many mistakes that got me to this point, but my biggest lesson was the importance of kindness.

Being kind isn’t the same as being nice. It isn’t about superficial praise. It doesn’t mean dulling your opinions. And it shouldn’t diminish the passion with which you present them.

Being kind is fundamentally about taking responsibility for your impact on the people around you. It requires you be mindful of their feelings and considerate of the way your presence affects them.

Being kind hasn’t hurt my effectiveness at all. Being thoughtful about the emotions of my colleagues hasn’t made me any less right or wrong, it has simply made me more likely to be asked to help in the first place. Being invited to more conversations has allowed me to scale my impact in a way that would have been unfathomable on my own.

I’m still not as good as I’d like to be at any of this. When I’m under stress I can sometimes fall back into my old habits. But believing deeply that I am responsible for how I make others feel has been life changing for me. Being kind turns out to be a long term strategy for maximizing impact."
kindness  andrewbosworth  advice  facebook  management  careers  social  via:kissane  2015  responsibility  howwework  truth  indifference  meanness  humanism  humans  interpersonal  socialemotional  thoughfulness  emotions  socialemotionallearning 
may 2015 by robertogreco
Insights: K-HOLE, New York — Insights: K-HOLE, New York — Channel — Walker Art Center
"K-HOLE exists in multiple states at once: it is both a publication and a collective; it is both an artistic practice and a consulting firm; it is both critical and unapologetically earnest. Its five members come from backgrounds as varied as brand strategy, fine art, web development, and fashion, and together they have released a series of fascinating PDF publications modeled upon corporate trend forecasting reports. These documents appropriate the visuals of PowerPoint, stock photography, and advertising and exploit the inherent poetry in the purposefully vague aphorisms of corporate brand-speak. Ultimately, K-HOLE aspires to utilize the language of trend forecasting to discuss sociopolitical topics in depth, exploring the capitalist landscape of advertising and marketing in a critical but un-ironic way.

In the process, the group frequently coins new terms to articulate their ideas, such as “Youth Mode”: a term used to describe the prevalent attitude of youth culture that has been emancipated from any particular generation; the “Brand Anxiety Matrix”: a tool designed to help readers understand their conflicted relationships with the numerous brands that clutter their mental space on a daily basis; and “Normcore”: a term originally used to describe the desire not to differentiate oneself, which has since been mispopularized (by New York magazine) to describe the more specific act of dressing neutrally to avoid standing out. (In 2014, “Normcore” was named a runner-up by Oxford University Press for “Neologism of the Year.”)

Since publishing K-HOLE, the collective has taken on a number of unique projects that reflect the manifold nature of their practice, from a consulting gig with a private equity firm to a collaboration with a fashion label resulting in their own line of deodorant. K-HOLE has been covered by a wide range of publications, including the New York Times, Fast Company, Wired UK, and Mousse.

Part of Insights 2015 Design Lecture Series."

[direct link to video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7GkMPN5f5cQ ]
k-hole  consumption  online  internet  communication  burnout  normcore  legibility  illegibility  simplicity  technology  mobile  phones  smartphones  trends  fashion  art  design  branding  brands  socialmedia  groupchat  texting  oversharing  absence  checkingout  aesthetics  lifestyle  airplanemode  privilege  specialness  generations  marketing  trendspotting  coping  messaging  control  socialcapital  gregfong  denayago  personalbranding  visibility  invisibility  identity  punk  prolasticity  patagonia  patience  anxietymatrix  chaos  order  anxiety  normality  abnormality  youth  millennials  individuality  box1824  hansulrichobrist  alternative  indie  culture  opposition  massindie  williamsburg  simoncastets  digitalnatives  capitalism  mainstream  semiotics  subcultures  isolation  2015  walkerartcenter  maxingout  establishment  difference  89plus  basicness  evasion  blandness  actingbasic  empathy  indifference  eccentricity  blankness  tolerance  rebellion  signalling  status  coolness  aspiration  connections  relationships  presentationofself  understanding  territorialism  sociology  ne 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Itemizing Atrocity | Jacobin
"In her book Scenes of Subjection, Saidiya Hartman writes:
Rather than try to convey the routinized violence of slavery and its aftermath through invocations of the shocking and the terrible, I have chosen to look elsewhere and consider those scenes in which terror can hardly be discerned … By defamiliarizing the familiar, I hope to illuminate the terror of the mundane and quotidian rather than exploit the shocking spectacle.

Hartman’s emphasis on “the terror of the mundane and quotidian” is her attempt to address the dilemma of black people having their suffering (un)seen and (un)heard by non-blacks — including those who purport to care:
At issue here is the precariousness of empathy … how does one give expression to these outrages without exacerbating the indifference to suffering that is the consequence to the benumbing spectacle or contend with the narcissistic identification that obliterates the other or the prurience that too often is the response to such displays? This was the challenge faced by [Frederick] Douglass and other foes of slavery…

A century and a half after Douglass fought against slavery, the police have become more militarized in terms of weapons, tanks, training, and gear. SWAT teams have been deployed at an accelerated rate and for an increased number of activities. Reports, like the one recently published by the ACLU, provide some details about these technologies of war amassed by local police departments.

Julilly Kohler-Hausmann, Radley Balko, and others have explained that the militarization of US police can be traced back to the mid-1960s. For example, in 1968, urban police forces were able to buy new equipment and technologies thanks to funding from the newly passed Safe Streets Act. The social anxiety and fear engendered by the Vietnam War and domestic urban rebellions led by black people provided license for the police to turn these new products on the marginalized populations of inner-city America.

SWAT teams, batterrams, and no-knock warrants (immortalized by Gil Scott Heron and written about by James Baldwin), all predate contemporary hyper-militarized police forces. Black people have been the overwhelming targets of these instruments of war."



"Attention is drawn to the “spectacular event” rather than to the point of origin or the mundane. Circulated are the spectacles — dead black bodies lying in the streets or a black teenager ambushed by several police officers in military gear, automatic weapons drawn.

Along with these dramatic images, numbers and statistics are the main metric for soliciting empathy and galvanizing people into action.

It is the size and power of the gun. It is the number of cops at the scene. It is the tank pointed at protestors. It is the forty-one bullets shot at a black immigrant standing in his doorway. The eight to ten times a black teenager was shot “like an animal” when walking to see his relatives or the four hours his body laid in the street while family members and neighbors watched and waited helplessly. The at least eleven times a black woman was punched by a cop straddling her on the side of a highway. The over two minutes a forty-eight-year-old black woman, half-naked, was kept in the hallway and surrounded by about a dozen cops after being dragged out of her apartment. The number of black people stopped and frisked."



"How does black suffering register when we are told that it is the militarization of the police that is the problem? Again, Hartman is instructive, writing of “the narcissistic identification that obliterates the other.” It is true that militarization is a global phenomenon. It is true that the United States and its allied countries enforce their brutal agendas throughout the world through military force, sanctions, and “the war on terror.”

It is also true that, despite the black diaspora’s effort to emphasize what happens to black people worldwide (including in the United States), references to globalization, militarization, and the war on terror are often treated as markers of non-blackness — and among some progressives, as code for “needing to go beyond black and white” or for blacks in the United States to not be so “US-centric” (read: “self-absorbed”)."



"Relatedly, the push for coalition and the use of analogies suggests a difficulty to name precisely what black people experience in the United States. Scenes of police violence against blacks in Ferguson seemingly become more legible, more readable and coherent, when put into conversation with Iraq or Gaza. And yet something gets lost in translation.

The sentiments — “I thought I was looking at pictures of Iraq but I was looking at America!” or “Ferguson=Gaza” or “now [blacks in the United States] know how the Third World feels” — circulate on social media. Such statements express a belief in American exceptionalism and a certain amount of glee and resentment towards African-Americans while professing empathy.

Amid this, we are left with the difficulty to name both the spectacle and the quotidian violence blacks in the United States experience day after day, from the police and the racially deputized. What do we call this incessant violence? How do we describe it beyond the “spectacular event”? Occupation? War? Genocide? Life? Death?

We conclude with more questions: How do we rightfully account for the increased militarization of the police as a problem without forgetting what Joy James reminds us: “the dreams and desires of a society and state will be centered on the control of the black body” — or as Jared Sexton emphasizes: blacks serve as “the prototypical targets of the panoply of police practices and the juridical infrastructure built up around them?”

How do we contend with Wilderson’s assertion that “white people are not simply ‘protected’ by the police. They are — in their very corporeality — the police?” What does all this mean when we think about hyper-militarized police forces that weaponize white supremacy against black bodies and the specter of blackness among others? How does it feel to be the prototypical target?

What do the spectacles of policing — as well as the responses to it — both reveal and camouflage in regard to the “terror of the mundane and quotidian,” a terror that is often taken for granted, even in critical commentary?"
us  2014  tamaranopper  mariamekaba  saidiva  hartman  empathy  mundane  quotidian  slow  small  race  police  atrocity  indifference  suffering  globalization  militarization  spectacle 
august 2014 by robertogreco
Wendell Berry: Letter to Wes Jackson… | UKIAH BLOG
"From WENDELL BERRY
Home Economics (1982)

[This evening, August 3rd, will be our second First Friday of Neighbors Reading at Mulligan Books downtown Ukiah, 6-7pm. We share favorite passages from favorite books around topics of community, transition, resilience, or anything else, as part of the second semester of Mendo Free Skool. We video the readings for Community TV and invite your participation. I will be reading from one of my favorite authors, Wendell Berry... passages from an essay The Family Farm, from his book Home Economics. What follows is the opening essay from that book... -DS]

Dear Wes,

I want to try to complete the thought about “randomness” that I was working on when we talked the other day.

The Hans Jenny paragraph that started me off is the last one on page twenty-one of The Soil Resource:
Raindrops that pass in random fashion through an imaginary plane above the forest canopy are intercepted by leaves and twigs and channeled into distinctive vert space patterns of through-drip, crown-drip, and stem flow. The soil surface, as receiver, transmits the “rain message” downward, but as the subsoils lack a power source to mold a flow design, the water tends to leave the ecosystem as it entered it, in randomized fashion.

My question is: Does “random” in this (or any) context describe a verifiable condition or a limit of perception?

My answer is: It describes a limit of perception. This is, of course, not a scientist’s answer, but it may be that anybody’s answer would be unscientific. My answer is based on the belief that pattern is verifiable by limited information, whereas the information required to verify randomness is unlimited. As I think you said when we talked, what is perceived as random within a given limit may be seen as part of a pattern within a wider limit.

If this is so then Dr. Jenny, for accuracy’s sake, should have said that rainwater moves from mystery through pattern back into mystery.

If “mystery” is a necessary (that is, honest) term in such a description, then the modern scientific program has not altered the ancient perception of the human condition a jot. If, in using the word “random,” scientists only mean “random so far as we can tell,” then we are back at about the Book of Job. Some truth meets the eye; some does not. We are up against mystery. To call this mystery “randomness” or “chance” or a “fluke” is to take charge of it on behalf of those who do not respect pattern. To call the unknown “random” is to plant the flag by which to colonize and exploit the known. (A result that our friend Dr. Jenny, of course, did not propose and would not condone.)

To call the unknown by its right name, “mystery,” is to suggest that we had better respect the possibility of a larger, unseen pattern that can be damaged or destroyed and, with it, the smaller patterns.

This respecting of mystery obviously has something or other to do with religion, and we moderns have defended ourselves against it by turning it over to religion specialists, who take advantage of our indifference by claiming to know a lot about it.

What impresses me about it, however is the insistent practicality implicit in it. If we are up against mystery, then we dare act only on the most modest assumptions. The modern scientific program has held that we must act on the basis of knowledge, which, because its effects are so manifestly large, we have assumed to be ample. But if we are up against mystery, then knowledge is relatively small, and the ancient program is the right one: Act on the basis of ignorance. Acting on the basis of ignorance, paradoxically, requires one to know things, remember things— for instance, that failure is possible, that error is possible, that second chances are desirable (so don’t risk everything on the first chance), and so on.

What I think you and I and a few others are working on is a definition of agriculture as up against mystery and ignorance-based. I think we think that this is its necessary definition, just as I think we think that several kinds of ruin are the necessary result of an agriculture defined as knowledge-based and up against randomness. Such an agriculture conforms exactly to what the ancient program, or programs, understood as evil or hubris. Both the Greeks and the Hebrews told us to watch out for humans who assume that they make all the patterns."

[via Charlie's newsletter 6, 5 http://tinyletter.com/vruba/letters/6-5-hills ]
wendellberry  via:vruba  1982  mystery  science  random  patterns  patternsensing  zoominginandout  religion  belief  myth  myths  information  perspective  perception  modernism  indifference  ignorance  local  global  knowledge 
march 2014 by robertogreco
Will Self: Walking is political | Books | The Guardian
"A century ago, 90% of Londoners' journeys under six miles were made on foot. Now we are alienated from the physical reality of our cities. Will Self on the importance of walking in the fight against corporate control"

"Borges's animals and beggars are those who still seek the disciplines of physical geography – we understand that to walk the city and its environs is, in a very powerful sense, to use it. The contemporary flâneur is by nature and inclination a democratising force who seeks equality of access, freedom of movement and the dissolution of corporate and state control."
humanconnection  humanconnectivity  connectivity  human  society  indifference  friedrichengels  gps  london  thomasdequincey  moritzretszch  edgarallanpoe  wandering  wanderlust  rebeccasolnit  epicurus  thecityishereforyoutouse  geography  democracy  freedomofmovement  freedom  access  movement  flaneur  borges  cities  place  space  limitedspace  psychogeography  urbanism  urban  transportation  control  corporatism  willself  2012  walking  from delicious
april 2012 by robertogreco
Stanley Kubrick - Wikiquote
"The most terrifying fact about the universe is not that it is hostile but that it is indifferent; but if we can come to terms with this indifference and accept the challenges of life within the boundaries of death — however mutable man may be able to make them — our existence as a species can have genuine meaning and fulfillment. However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light."
stanleykubrick  universe  darkeness  meaning  fulfillment  indifference  life  humanity  human  quotes  hostility  existence 
december 2009 by robertogreco

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