History repeats itself

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– Is the post 1945 order imposed on the world by the US and their allies unraveling?
– The post-1945 “order” has been irretrievably unraveled with the fall of the Berlin Wall. Since then, the US tried repeatedly to replace it with a new order of pax americana. It failed abominably. At the moment, we all live on a multi-centered globe with no forces in sight that are alone or together capable or earnestly trying to “order” it. As Ulrich Beck, one of greatest thinkers of the past century prominent for his unique insight into the shape of things to come put it, we are already cast in a cosmopolitan condition but thus far we have not yet started to develop a cosmopolitan awareness (not to mention, as I would add, the institutions adequate to dealing with that cosmopolitan condition).
(…)
It is human, all too human, habit to blame and punish the messengers for the hateful contents of the message they carry from those baffling, inscrutable, frightening and rightly resented global forces which we (for a sound reason) suspect to bear responsibility for the agonizing and humiliating sense of existential uncertainty, which wrecks and grinds down our confidence as well as plays havoc with our ambitions, dreams and life plans. And while we can do next to nothing to bridle the elusive and faraway forces of globalization, we can at least divert the anger they caused us and which they go on causing, and unload our anger, vicariously, on their close to hand and within reach products. This won’t, of course, reach anywhere near the roots of the problems, but might relieve at least for some time the humiliation of our haplessness and our incapacity to resist the disabling precariousness of our own place in the world.
That twisted logic, the mindset it generates and the emotions it lets lose, provide highly fertile and nourishing meadows tempting many a political vote-gatherer to graze on. This is a chance, which a growing number of politicians would loathe to miss. Capitalizing on the anxiety caused by the influx of strangers, who are feared to push further down the wages and the salaries already refusing to grow and to lengthen yet more the already abominably long queues of people lining up (to no effect) for the stubbornly scarce jobs, is a temptation to which very few politicians already in office or aspiring to an office would be able to resist.
»

Zygmunt Bauman, interviewed by Helena Celestino. “Bauman: History repeats itself. We are coming back to the small, tribal states.” In Eutopia Institute: http://www.eutopiainstitute.org/2018/01/bauman-history-repeats-itself-we-are-coming-back-to-the-small-tribal-states/

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Uma mistura de leveza e gravidade

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Já em Lisboa, para além de “gostar de andar de forma descontraída, sem destino, olhar em volta, perder-me e sentar-me no parque”, revê-se nas pessoas que foi conhecendo. E tenta explicar. “Sei que é um lugar-comum mas aqui sinto que existe uma ligação com uma série de dimensões emocionais que partilho. Por exemplo, a melancolia. Aqui percebem que a melancolia não é sinónimo de tristeza, mas sim de contacto com as nossas emoções no sentido mais profundo. Acho os portugueses emocionalmente inteligentes e satisfaz-me que possam transmitir-me que a minha música tem qualquer coisa dessa melancolia. Uma melancolia, digamos assim, feliz.”
»

Mike Milosh (Rhye), entrevista por Vítor Belanciano. In Ípsilon: https://www.publico.pt/2018/01/26/culturaipsilon/entrevista/rhye-acho-os-portugueses-emocionalmente-inteligentes-1800579

What happens when social comparison becomes a drug?

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The idea of a facebook induces social comparison. And social comparison is a powerful drug, because it promises superiority. Perhaps that was not its original intent — but that is its effect. And that lets us answers the question: why do people compulsively use a thing, like Facebook, that makes them miserable? Well, because social comparison stretched too far is something like a drug. And so just as with a drug, people have grown addicted. The fix that once produced a shimmering, glorious high now only produces a sense of dull relief, and even that barely lasts a few seconds — after which there is deflation and despair.
(…)
In this way, we are becoming prisoners of our social appetites — slaves to me versus you interactions, through which we perform free, futile emotional labour that profits capitalism, but can only make us unhappier. Because everybody is trying to compare themselves to everyone else, which is to say rise to the top, no one is able to relate, and the paradoxical outcome is that no one’s need for belonging can be satisfied at all. It is a mass Prisoners’ Dilemma of human sociality. What is the opportunity cost? Well, when we are trapped performing social comparison, building hierarchies, and evaluating people adversarially, we cannot really do precisely the opposite of these three things: open ourselves, appreciate others, and be intimate with them. But that is what it takes to form genuine relationships.
»

Umair Haque, “Can Facebook Redeem Itself? (Part 2) Or, What Happens When Social Comparison Becomes a Drug?”. In Medium: https://eand.co/can-facebook-redeem-itself-part-2-3b5624c81ead

I refuse to be part of the problem

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And so the cycle of provocation continues. It is hardwired into the network. We customise our news feeds to partisan taste, digging information trenches along the contours of our bias. Then we hurl pointless barrages of disbelief at the enemy trench. This has become part of the media business model, what has been called the “outrage economy”.
Extremes of opinion cause spikes in web traffic, which suits publishers and platforms.
(…)
Anger is useful in politics as a spur to action against injustice, corruption, misrule. But as a gateway to raw hatred, stoking an appetite for retribution, it is toxic. The distinction between those modes is lost in the riotous rhetoric of online dispute, which increasingly permeates the world offline. Switching off devices isn’t a solution. But it is a way to avoid – if just for a few days – being part of the problem; to avoid the call of the dark side.
»

Rafael Behr, “You can log off, sure. But you can’t stop the outrage economy”. In The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/dec/27/log-off-stop-outrage-economy-media-dark-side

Choreographic Objects

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There were no hesitations, no missteps; no point at which one limb converged onto another, when one cut of cloth got caught up in another. A pair of machines, whose materials were listed obliquely, solely, as “readymade industrial robots,” rest promenade-style, side by side, oriented toward the entrance—toward me—before the flailing rods’ algorithm-determined chassé started up again. Each figure is a slab of steel on the ground, plane extending several square meters, and anchoring an eight-ton robotic arm at its center, grasping a 13-meter-high carbon fiber flagpole from which hangs an enormous raven nylon flag. The entire display is murdered out, from the seven heavy rotating joints to the high-voltage cables bundled together, snaking to the obscured generators powering the 28-minute-long duet.
»

Jennifer Piejko, “William Forsythe’s ‘Choreographic Objects'”. In art-agenda: http://www.art-agenda.com/reviews/william-forsythes-choreographic-objects/
Also, see the artist himself talking about the works on display at Gagosian, Paris: https://www.gagosian.com/exhibitions/william-forsythe–october-15-2017

A sopa envenenada

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Nada disto é incomum, é até muito vulgar, e consideravelmente consentido quando dentro de portas, e quando ou se esconde bem a mão, ou quando se distribui alguma coisa do bodo colectivo e “comem todos”. Até um dia. Nesse dia vai lá tudo deitar pedras, como se não se soubesse de nada, ou, um pouco por todo o lado, como se comportamentos deste género não fossem o retrato de uma sociedade onde há uma escassa ética colectiva, em parte porque somos ainda uma sociedade muito pobre, ou em que parte das pessoas saiu ainda há pouco tempo da pobreza, onde nunca na burocracia imperaram critérios de mérito, mas a cunha ou o patrocinato, onde esquemas de todo o tipo são tão comuns, no Estado, na política, nas empresas, nos bombeiros, nas casas paroquiais, nas escolas, nos quartéis, nos centros de saúde, um pouco por todo o lado. Talvez com menos gravidade, nem sendo muitas vezes crimes mas apenas abusos, mas com tanta trivialidade que não os vemos como culposos.
Significa isso que os portugueses não são honrados? Não, significa que são pobres, ou ainda que têm uma memória viva da pobreza, não sentem a coisa pública como sendo de todos, e sabem que, para empregar um filho, obter um papel na câmara, evitar pagar o IVA, passar à frente de uma fila, há um sistema de favores implantado que vive da complacência de quem se aproveita e da inveja de quem ficou de fora. E isto é de uma ponta à outra da sociedade. Desde os offshores “legais” ao planeamento fiscal, às compras para as cantinas, das empresas que fazem brindes para as campanhas eleitorais, até aos amigos e as empresas que arranjam sempre ser contratados sem concurso público, até ao autarca que “rouba mas faz” e a quem os mesmos que exorcizam a corrupção em cada palavra que dizem, afinal, votam.
Isto é corrupção, mas não só. É o retrato de uma sociedade disfuncional, muito desigual, onde quem tem acesso ao poder de gerir, ou de comprar, ou de vender, o faz quase sempre numa rede de amizades e cumplicidades, com proveito mútuo, e tão habitual que não merece condenação social. Até um dia, em que a complacência se substitui pela inveja. Nesse dia entra em cena aquilo a que chamei “a sopa envenenada”.
»

José Pacheco Pereira, “A sopa envenenada”. In Público: https://www.publico.pt/2017/12/16/sociedade/opiniao/a-sopa-envenenada-1796184

‘We are indeed at war’

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– How do you explain the rise of antiscientific thinking and “alternative facts”?
– To have common facts, you need a common reality. This needs to be instituted in church, classes, decent journalism, peer review. … It is not about posttruth, it is about the fact that large groups of people are living in a different world with different realities, where the climate is not changing.
The second science war has at least freed us of the idea that science and technology can be separated from policy. I have always argued that they can’t be. Science has never been immune to political bias. On issues with huge policy implications, you cannot produce unbiased data. That does not mean you cannot produce good science, but scientists should explicitly state their interests, their values, and what sort of proof will make them change their mind.

– How should scientists wage this new war?
– We will have to regain some of the authority of science. That is the complete opposite from where we started doing science studies. Now, scientists have to win back respect. But the solution is the same: You need to present science as science in action. I agree that’s risky, because we make the uncertainties and controversies explicit.
The Australian public ethics professor Clive Hamilton has proposed another line of defense named “strategic essentialism”—stating that the science is indisputable for strategic reasons. This sounds reasonable, but in the long run we need a more realistic image of scientific knowledge. Also, given the state of the dispute and the current lack of confidence, we can’t just go back and state that climate change is “just a fact.”

– Isn’t it?
– No, science is more complex and messy than to understand how the climate works. It is an illusion of certainty to state that we fully understand it, a remnant of the ideal of science.

– But climate change doubters use the uncertainty strategically, too.
– That is true. But the uncertainty is no legitimate reason to block or postpone policy. And certainly, it is no reason to defund the research. That is the real crime: defunding research which might produce unwelcome results. By the way, calling it “skepticism” is an abuse of the term.
»

Bruno Latour, interviewed by Jop de Vrieze. In Science: http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/10/bruno-latour-veteran-science-wars-has-new-mission

On leaving

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For most of you, (assuming of course that “most of you” fall within the category which i’m addressing) it isn’t hard to see that social media of all kinds is absolutely entrenched into our daily lives. It is rooted so deeply, that it defines entire conversations, relationships, opportunities and much more. While i promise to make this not a “damn the technology!” sort of speech, i can’t promise that i don’t utter those words at some point or another during my week.
i left Instagram, and while i won’t bore you with the numbers of it all, i do know the numbers by which i was defined for the past few years, and it topped out at 605,000. Followers, a number of people, robots and businesses that “follow” me along on my journeys through sponsored posts, travel experiences, and personal relationships. In my head, i humbled myself as often as i could – not often enough truth told – but still, i drudged on through the cyclical process of, go, photograph, edit, post, observe. i could have a conversation with massive design firms and hear “We love your instagram” and a piece of me felt missing. i’d have random (and nearly always delightful) strangers come up to me to talk of how they loved my work, and a piece of me felt missing. i’d go home to my family where they would ask about my recent expeditions, and where Instagram had taken me, what i was working on, what, what, what, your, your your…
i was missing.
Though i could never have admitted it before, all the “success” drained me of my own ability to deal with the ever-growing problem: self-awareness, or the lack thereof rather. i believe ferociously that my intentions with social media has always been, well, let’s say about 60% good.
i’d write these longwinded, poorly reviewed words of hope and ‘off-the-cuff’ emotions that i was dealing with and slap it underneath a photograph i’d semi liked. This isn’t some cut at the crowds of kind people who followed and heard and really saw themselves in the truth of my work, it’s more an honest review of the darker side of what was going on while so many were clicking “like” and “follow”. While i was showcasing the tip-top, best moments of my life, i was tip-toeing around the shattered remains of my relationships (of all kinds) and pointing the blame at all of them, ever-fearful of stepping on something that may hurt me; honesty.
We have a word for honesty now, it isn’t really honesty, it’s just rebranded. We call it authenticity, or genuineness, and now these are words you can buy on tee-shirts, they come attached to people like me with glazed-over eyes to the reality of their definitions.
(…)
Authentic. If i had to honestly describe myself during the past few years, it would be: self obsessive, delusional, manipulative, cowardly, and oh does that list go on. And just before you reach into your pocket for change to throw at the beggar in the street i seem to sound like, let me tell you, these are not words of self-hate, just honest. They are not reflective of me now, thank God, all the same, we have our growth to go through.
It’s a lesson and i learned.
(…)
Now, 25, and Myspace, Tumblr and Instagram behind me, all things society would think i was ‘good’ at defined me for about 10 years. Some will tell you it’s not about the numbers, but really in this day of first world society, thats what it becomes. Actually, i’ll counter my own statement and say that social media is more about self-glorification. Ouch. Hard thing to hear, really though think about why you do it, why you Snapchat, or Instagram, or Tumblr, or Tinder, or Facebook.
I’d tell people it was about “sharing” and “i like to see what others have to think” and “well it’s fun to…” this and that and every other thing you can think of that would take me away from facing the hard truth of calling it like it is: self-glorification. Now of course, you can have a business from it, but if you’re not on there simply to make money, you’re on there to buy into it or yourself. There’s no other realistic explanation (well there might be, but i don’t know it) for why you would get on and write about or photograph yourself, it’s to see how others react. If you were doing it just for you, then you’d have no earthly reason to share it anywhere.
»

Christian Watson, “On leaving, Part I”. In 1924.US: https://www.1924.us/journal/onleaving

Sur l’essence de la photographie

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Peu à peu, çà et là, quelques taches apparaissent, pareilles à un balbutiement d’être qui se réveille. Ces fragments se multiplient, se soudent, se complètent, et l’on ne peut s’empêcher de songer devant cette formation, d’abord discontinue, qui procède par bonds et éléments insignifiants, mais qui converge vers une composition reconnaissable, à bien des précipitations qui s’observent dans l’esprit; à des souvenirs qui se précisent; à des certitudes qui tout à coup se cristallisent; à la production de certains vers privilégiés, qui s’établissent, se dégageant brusquement du désordre du langage intérieur.
»

Paul  Valéry. In Mouna Mekouar, “La photographie trompe et montre qu’elle trompe”. artpress 449, 2017, p. VII-VIII.

Black Fridays

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Every Friday is a Black Friday, every Christmas a more garish festival of destruction.
(…)
The ancillary promise is that, through green consumerism, we can reconcile perpetual growth with planetary survival. But a series of research papers reveal there is no significant difference between the ecological footprints of people who care and people who don’t. One recent article, published in the journal Environment and Behaviour, says those who identify themselves as conscious consumers use more energy and carbon than those who do not.
Why? Because environmental awareness tends to be higher among wealthy people. It is not attitudes that govern our impact on the planet but income. The richer we are, the bigger our footprint, regardless of our good intentions. Those who see themselves as green consumers, the research found, mainly focused on behaviours that had “relatively small benefits”.
I know people who recycle meticulously, save their plastic bags, carefully measure the water in their kettles, then take their holidays in the Caribbean, cancelling any environmental savings a hundredfold. I’ve come to believe that the recycling licences their long-haul flights. It persuades people they’ve gone green, enabling them to overlook their greater impacts.
None of this means that we should not try to reduce our footprint, but we should be aware of the limits of the exercise. Our behaviour within the system cannot change the outcomes of the system. It is the system itself that needs to change.
(…)
When you hear that something makes economic sense, this means it makes the opposite of common sense. Those sensible men and women who run the world’s treasuries and central banks, who see an indefinite rise in consumption as normal and necessary, are beserkers: smashing through the wonders of the living world, destroying the prosperity of future generations to sustain a set of figures that bear ever less relation to general welfare.
Green consumerism, material decoupling, sustainable growth: all are illusions, designed to justify an economic model that is driving us to catastrophe. The current system, based on private luxury and public squalor, will immiserate us all: under this model, luxury and deprivation are one beast with two heads.
We need a different system, rooted not in economic abstractions but in physical realities, that establish the parameters by which we judge its health. We need to build a world in which growth is unnecessary, a world of private sufficiency and public luxury. And we must do it before catastrophe forces our hand.
»

George Monbiot, “Too right it’s Black Friday: our relentless consumption is trashing the planet”. In The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/nov/22/black-friday-consumption-killing-planet-growth?CMP=fb_gu