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A Box Of Stories





Martin Luther King on the Quest for Peace and Justice

"We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers. (…)

Mankind’s survival is dependent upon man’s ability to solve the problems of racial injustice, poverty, and war; the solution of these problems is in turn dependent upon man squaring his moral progress with his scientific progress, and learning the practical art of living in harmony. Some years ago a famous novelist died. Among his papers was found a list of suggested story plots for future stories, the most prominently underscored being this one: "A widely separated family inherits a house in which they have to live together."

This is the great new problem of mankind. We have inherited a big house, a great “world house” in which we have to live together - black and white, Easterners and Westerners, Gentiles and Jews, Catholics and Protestants, Moslem and Hindu, a family unduly separated in ideas, culture, and interests who, because we can never again live without each other, must learn, somehow, in this one big world, to live with each other. (…)

We must now give an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in our individual societies. (…)”

Martin Luther King Jr., American clergyman, activist, and prominent leader in the African-American Civil Rights Movement, Nobel Peace Prize laureate, (1929-1968), Nobel Lecture, December 11, 1964
Zygmunt Bauman: Europe’s task consists of passing on to all the art of everyone learning from everyone

“Europe’s exceptional virtues, it is diversity, the wealth of variety, that he places above all others. Abundance of diversity is deemed by him as the most precious treasure which Europe managed to save from the conflagrations of the past, to offer to the world today.

To live with Another, live as Another for Another, is the fundamental task of man - both on the highest and the lowest level… therein perhaps dwells that specific advantage of Europe, which could and had to learn the art of living with others. (…) It is impossible to underestimate the weight of this task, or the determination with which Europe should undertake it, if (to echo Gadamer once more) the condition sine qua non, necessary for the solution of life problems of the contemporary world, is friendship and “cheerful solidarity”. (…) 

For the ancient Greeks, the word “friend”, according to Gadamer, described the ”totality of social life”. Friends are people capable and desirous of an amiable mutual relationship unconcerned by the differences between them, and keen to help one another on account of those differences; capable and willing to act with kindliness and generosity without letting go of their distinctness - at the same time taking care that that distinctness should not create a distance between them, or turn them against one another. (…)

All of us Europeans (…) are perfectly suited to become friends in the sense given to friendship by Ancient Greeks, the fore-fathers of Europe: not by sacrificing that which is dear to our hearts, but by offering it to neighbours near and far, just as they offer us, as generously, that which is dear to their hearts.

Gadamer pointed out that the path to understanding leads through a “fusion of horizons”. If that which each human agglomeration regards as truth, is the basis of their collective experience, then the horizons surrounding their field of vision are also the boundaries of collective truths. (…)

So much inaccessible human wisdom hides in the experiences written in foreign dialect. One of the most significant, though by no means the only component of this hidden wisdom. (…) How much wisdom we would have all gained, how would our co-existence have benefited, had part of Union’s funds been devoted to the translation of members’ writings… Personally I am convinced that it would have been perhaps the best investment into the future of Europe and the success of its mission.”
Zygmunt Bauman, Polish sociologist, Professor of sociology at the University of Leeds, Culture in Modern Liquid Times, 2011 (Translated by Lydia Bauman). More in ☞ Lapidarium notes
" "Every aspect of almost every culture, from musing to music, from dining to dance and everything else you can think of, has been shaped by trade in goods, ideas, technologies, and - more than anything else - by the simple fact of people moving around the planet and interacting.

A healthy culture is like a healthy person: it is constantly changing, growing, and evolving, yet something persists through these changes, a ballast that keeps it upright and recognizable no matter how much it is buffeted by the transformative winds of trade.

We can even expand the analogy a bit, and think of a culture as something akin to a society’s immune system — it works best when it is exposed to as many foreign bodies as possible. Like kids raised in too-clean environments, cultures that are isolated from the world are beautiful but extremely fragile.

That is why, when it comes to protecting the particular cultures of the world, “authenticity” of the sort that natives engage in for tourists is probably the last thing we should be concerned with. (…) As a Pacific Island dancer replied when asked about his culture: “Culture? That’s what we do for tourists.”” “
Andrew Potter, Canadian philosopher, author, and magazine columnist, Cultural immersion or imitation?, The New Zealand Herald, May 4, 2010
“If one man can show this much hate, think how much love we can show together” — young survivor cited by Stine Renate Håheim who was interviewed by CNN

“I don’t think security can solve problems. We need to teach greater respect.” — Oslo Mayor Fabian Stang asked whether Oslo needs greater security

“Norway’s Prime Minister is a liberal atheist, they have one of the best economies in the world, they have universal health care, and subsidized education, it has had the highest Human Development Index 7 years in a row, and it’s never started a pointless war, given tax breaks to the richest, and created Jersey Shore — yet it’s America that knows best.” Matthew Trevithick, responding to this story: Former Bush Official Places Blame For Oslo Attack On Norwegians For Not Being ‘Serious’ About Terrorism
“Tomorrow we will show the world that Norway’s democracy grows stronger when it is challenged. (…) We must never cease to stand up for our values. We have to show that our open society can pass this test, too, and that the answer to violence is even more democracy, even more humanity, but never naïveté.
Speech by Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg in Oslo Cathedral after deadly attacks by a Norwegian on a self-styled mission to save European “Christendom” from Islam, July 23, 2011

Timothy Leary on cybernetics and a new global culture

M. C. Escher, Peeled faces

Cyber" means "pilot."

A “cyberperson" is one who pilots his/her own life. By definition, the cyberperson is fascinated by navigational information - especially maps, charts, labels, guides, manuals that help pilot one through life. The cyberperson continually searches for theories, models, paradigms, metaphors, images, icons that help chart and define the realities that we inhabit.

Cybertech" refers to the tools, appliances, and methodologies of knowing and communicating. Linguistics. Philosophy. Semantics. Semiotics. Practical epistemologies. The ontologies of daily life. Words, icons, pencils, printing presses, screens, keyboards, computers, disks.

Cyberpolitics" introduces the Foucault notions of the use of language and linguistic-tech by the ruling classes in feudal and industrial societies to control children, the uneducated, and the under classes. The words “governor” or “steersman” or “G-man” are used to describe those who manipulate words and communication devices in order to control, to bolster authority-feudal, management, government-and to discourage innovative thought and free exchange. (…)

Cyberpunks use all available data-input to think for themselves. (…) The classical Olde Westworld model for the cyberpunk is Prometheus, a technological genius who “stole” fire from the Gods and gave it to humanity. Prometheus also taught his gene pool many useful arts and sciences. (…)

The cyberpunk person, the pilot who thinks clearly and creatively, using quantum-electronic appliances and brain know-how, is the newest, updated, top-of-the-line model of the 21st Century: Homo sapiens sapiens cyberneticus. (p. 62-64.) (…)

The term “cybernetics" comes from the Greek word kubernetes, “pilot”. The Hellenic origin of this word is important in that it reflects the Socratic-Platonic traditions of independence and individual self-reliance which, we are told, derived from geography. The proud little Greek city-states were perched on peninsular fingers wiggling down into the fertile Mediterranean Sea, protected by mountains from the land-mass armies of Asia.

Mariners of those ancient days had to be bold and resourceful. Sailing the seven seas without maps or navigational equipment, they were forced to develop independence of thought. The self-reliance that these Hellenic pilots developed in their voyages probably carried over to the democratic, inquiring, questioning nature of their land life.

The Athenian cyberpunks, the pilots, made their own navigational decisions. (p. 64.) (…)

Cyber: The Greek word kubernetes, when translated to Latin, comes out as gubernetes. This basic verb gubernare means to control the actions or behavior, to direct, to exercise sovereign authority, to regulate, to keep under, to restrain, to steer. This Roman concept is obviously very different from the Hellenic notion of “pilot” (making their own navigational decisions) (…) the meaning of “Cyber” has been corrupted. The Greek word “pilot” becomes “governor” or “director”; the term “to steer” becomes “to control”. The terms “cybernetic person” or “cybernaut” return us to the original meaning of “pilot” and puts the self-reliant person back in the loop. (p. 66.) (…)

These words (and the more pop term “cyberpunk”) refer to the personalization (and thus the popularization) of knowledge-information technology, to innovative thinking on the part of the individual.

According to McLuhan and Foucault, if you change the language, you change the society. Following their lead, we suggest that the therm “cybernetic person, cybernaut” may describe a new species model of human being and a new social order. (p. 67.) (…)

The postpolitical information society, which we are now developing, does not operate on the basis of obedience and conformity to dogma. It is based on individual thinking, scientific know-how, quick exchange of facts around feedback networks, high-tech ingenuity, and practical, front-line creativity. The society of the future no longer grudgingly tolerates a few open-minded innovators. The cybernetic society is totally dependent on a large pool of such people, communicating at light speed with each other across state lines and national boundaries.

Electrified thoughts invite fast feedback, creating new global societies that require a higher level of electronic know-how, psychological sophistication, and open-minded intelligence.

This cybercommunication process is accelerating so rapidly that to compete on the world information market of the 21st Century, nations, companies, even families must be composed of change-oriented, innovative individuals who are adepts in communicating via the new cyberelectronic technologies.

The new breeds are simply much smarter than the old guard. They inhale new information the way they breathe oxygen. They stimulate each other to continually upgrade and reformat their minds. People who use cybertechnology to make fast decisions on their jobs are not going to go home and passively let aging, closed-minded white, male politicians make decidions about their lives.

The emergence of this new open-minded caste in different countries around the world is the central historical issue of the last forty years.
(p. 73-75.)

(…) The social and political implications of this democratization of the screen are enormous. In the past to local geography or occasional visits. Now you can play electronic tennis with a pro in Tokyo, interact with classroom in Paris, cyberflirt with cute guys in any four cities of your choice. A global fast-feedback language of icons and memes, facilitated by instant translation devices, will smoothly eliminate the barriers of language that have been responsible for most of the war and conflict of the last centuries. (p. 76.) (…)

Most young people in the liberated lands want to depoliticize, demilitarize, decentralize, secularize, and globalize.

The new breed is jumping the gene pools, forming postindustrial, global meme-pools. They are the informates. From their earliest years, most of their defining memes have come flashing at light speed across borders in digital-electronic form, light signals received by screens and radios and record players. Their habitat is the electron-sphere, the environment of digital signals that is called the info-world. The global village.

The are the first generation of our species to discover and explore Cyberia. The are migrating not to a new place, but to a wide-open new time. The new breed will fashion, conceive, and design the realities they inhabit.
(p.77.) (…)

The Information age (1950-2010)

In the information age, evolution is defined in terms of brain power.

- The ability to operate the brain: activate, boot up, turn on, access neurochannels.
- The ability to reformat and re-edit mind-files.
- The ability to communicate in the multimedia mode; to invent audiographic dictionaries and audiographic grammars. (…)

The 21st Century will witness a new global culture, peopled by new breeds who honour human individuality, human complexity, and human potential, enlightened immortals who communicate at light speed and design the technologies for their scientific re-animation. (p. 80-82.) (…)

Our survival asset is not hive inteliigence, as in the social insects, but individual intelligence. Our species is classified as Homo sapiens sapiens. Victorian scholars apparently decided that we are the creatures who “think about thinking.” Our growth as a species centers on our ability to think and communicate. Predictions about our future would focus on improvements in the way we think.

Our young, rookie species has recently passed through several stages of intelligence:

1. Tribal: For at least 22,000 years (approximately 25,000 to 3000 B.C.) the technologies for sapient thinking-communicating were those of a five-year-old child: bodily, i.e., oral-gestural.

2. Feudal: During an exciting period of approximately 3, 350 years (3000 B.C. to A.D. 350) humans living north of the 35th-parallel latitute developed organized feudal-agricultural societies. The technologies for thinking-communicating were hand-tooled statues, temples, monuments. Their philosophy was enforced by emperors, caliphs, and kings.

3. It took approximately 1,250 years (A.D. 350 to 1600) to coopt the feudal kings and to establish the mechanical assembly-line managerial society. In this age, the technologies of thought-communication were mechanical printing presses, type-writers, telephones, produced by efficient workers in highly organized factories, run by centralized bureaucracies. (…)
By now (…) we have migrated from the “real worlds” of voice, hand, machine into the digitized info-worlds variously called hyperspace, cyberspace, or digital physics.

This migration across the screen into the digital info-world marks the first phase of the postindustrial society. (…)
In twenty years we will spend seven hours a day actively navigating, exploring, colonizing, exploiting the oceans and continents of digital data. Interscreening - creating mutual digitalrealities - will be the most popular and growthful form of human communication. (p. 83.) (…)

The level of intelligence has been tremendously increased, because people are thinking and communicating in terms of screens, and not in lettered books. Much of the real action is taking place in what is called cyberspace. People have learned how to boot up, activate, and transmit their brains.

Essentially, there’s a universe inside your brain. The number of connections possible inside your brain is limitless. And as people have learned to have more managerial and direct creative access to their brains, they have also developed matrices or networks of people that communicate electronically. There are direct brain/computer link-ups. You can just jack yourself in and pilot your brain around in cyberspace-electronic space.”
(p. 248.)
Spencer Wells on the unforeseen cost of civilization

“We have now evolved culturally to the point where the entire world is connected in a way it has never been before. Not only is it possible to jet off to Mumbai for a lecture over the course of a weekend, as I did in the aftermath of the 2008 attacks, but we use telecommunications technology to talk, email, SMS, instant message, videoconference and otherwise connect with each other in ways that were inconceivable only a century ago. Recall that when Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone, the New York World (then a major US newspaper) famously asked ‘of what use is such an invention?’ In the past century our world has become ever more connected, to the extent that today what happens in Kansas or Calcutta is immediately transmitted via streams of electrons to people around the world.

The effect of this connectivity has been the globalization of culture, and as the West is the in the hegemony at the moment, this means that more and more people are becoming ever more western. While to those of us in living in the West there are many good aspects to this, to many others our way of life is not all it’s meant to be. For secular rationality, read loss of faith and certainty. For improving living standards, read increased consumption. For increased social mobility, read loss of traditional roles and threats to vested interests. The rise of fundamentalism in the latter half of the 20th century reflects the very real loss of the traditions that guided much of humanity over the past several thousand years. What to replace those traditions with, especially for those not privy to the largesse of the modern world, is a difficult question. If you believe that you have a stake in the future, you are likely to embrace it; if you feel left out, this is much less likely.” “
Spencer Wells (geneticist and anthropologist, an Explorer-in-Residence at the National Geographic Society. He leads The Genographic Project), Pandora’s Seed, The Unforeseen cost of civilization, SEED, Jun 7, 2010 (via chrbutler)

On living in a foreign country

“Even so, all other things being equal, foreignness is intrinsically stimulating. Like a good game of bridge, the condition of being foreign engages the mind constantly without ever tiring it. John Lechte, an Australian professor of social theory, characterises foreignness as “an escape from the boredom and banality of the everyday”. The mundane becomes “super-real”, and experienced “with an intensity evocative of the events of a true biography”.

An American child psychologist, Alison Gopnik, when reaching for an analogy to illuminate the world as experienced by a baby, compared it to Paris as experienced for the first time by an adult American: a pageant of novelty, colour, excitement. Reverse the analogy and you see that living in a foreign country can evoke many of the emotions of childhood: novelty, surprise, anxiety, relief, powerlessness, frustration, irresponsibility. (…)

Nowadays, you might rather say that the more you know of other countries, the more inclusive of all humanity your values will become. You educate yourself, beginning with anthropology.”

Comments on The others. Being foreign:

cosmpolitan: “(…) Throughout my 26 years of my life, I’ve lived in seven countries (Brazil, Italy, Bolivia, Russia, China, Uruguay, and USA); thus, I’ve never felt a sense of belonging to a particular place or society. I’ve been a foreigner my entire life.

I agree. The conditions of being foreign engages the mind constantly without ever tiring it; it evokes many of the emotions of childhood; novelty, surprise, anxiety, relief, powerlessness, frustration, irresponsibility but ONLY during the first few years.

Foreigners can be hard to satisfy is some regards but, at the same time, foreigners are more comprehensible in multiple circumstances because they developed eclectic personalities. Quite a few foreigners can intrinsically understand a cultural/social behavior or thought of process, so they are more flexible in their conversations and decisions.

Personally, I found as test of endurance the amount of time and level of difficulty that it takes to become part of a society in a legal manner.”

Alec Weil: As a “professional foreigner” who has spent 50% of his life in other countries (now in Japan, #4) (…) As a foreigner, there is a sense of competitive advantage, particularly in Japan as the writer points out. Should I return to my birth land, as I left in the early 1980’s, I would be at a huge disadvantage — it is, after all, the only place where people expect me to act as a native, and I am now incapable of it.

Perhaps because the world is now so much smaller than when I started this journey (…) It’s still a great adventure.”
The others. Being foreign, The Economist Dec 17th 2009 
See also: 
Living Outside the Box. Living abroad boosts creativity, Kellogg research, Apr 2009.
☞ W. W. Maddux, A. D. Galinsky, Cultural borders and mental barriers: The relationship between living abroad and creativity (pdf), Northwestern University
☞ Angela Ka-yee Leung, William W. Maddux, Adam D. Galinsky, Chi-yue Chiu, Multicultural Experience Enhances Creativity (pdf)
It’s easier to start wars than to end them. It’s easier to blame others than to look inward. It’s easier to see what is different about someone than to find the things we share. But we should choose the right path, not just the easy path. There’s one rule that lies at the heart of every religion — that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. This truth transcends nations and peoples — a belief that isn’t new; that isn’t black or white or brown; that isn’t Christian or Muslim or Jew. It’s a belief that pulsed in the cradle of civilization, and that still beats in the hearts of billions around the world. It’s a faith in other people, and it’s what brought me here today.
Barack Obama, Speech at Cairo University, Egypt, June 4, 2009