We’re All Foreigners and We’re All Mad.

Author: Melina Zachara

 An Attempt to link together two quotes of two very different writers:

Jack Kerouac in a Letter to John Clellon Holmes saying,

“All of life is a foreign country”  

and

Lewis Carroll in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland saying,

“We are all mad here”

 

There are approximately 7,5 billion people in this place we call Earth and not even one of us can really claim that she or he belongs in one place or another. I mean really claim it, putting aside the proud shouts of patriotic clichés of how much of an American, French, English, Greek or German are we. We have a nationality, but what that entails no one can firmly say. A nation can be defined by many factors and “land” is the last of them. Some claim to be “citizens of the world”, well, that doesn’t explain it either. When it comes to claiming territory or declaring a nationality I side with J. Kerouac one that one, when in Letter to John Clellon Holmes he noted “All life is a foreign country”.

 

Trying to break down the meaning of this quote will only result in chasing our tails. The dead don’t answer and I have no intention to bruise my fists banging against the hard soil. The way I can personally interpret it is that one, we all come from everywhere and nowhere. There wasn’t a moment in human history that wasn’t marked by some kind of population mixing, so who is to say which are our true origins. All of life is a foreign country,  as every country is a foreign land as much as our birth land.

 

In 2016 Momondo, an online travel search engine, launched an interesting experiment that was later disseminated widely through social media. They tried to find out how diverse we, as humans are by testing our DNA, they called it “the DNA journey”. Even though the concept was commercial with purely for-profit purposes, a point was made. No one is just one thing, and in that context all life is a foreign country, for no country is our own.

 

Surely, we have things that reflect the “where” of where we come from, small indicators like our language or even our taste in music. Those however are cultural characteristics that were built with the passing of time in each territory. All those features were influenced by things like, the weather, the order between war and peace, population movements but not from a geographic position on the map. The link we feel with a specific territory is purely emotional, and that is what makes us feel as we’re home. The traditions, the way of speaking or even the way of living does differ from place to place, but this fact never stopped us from keep on mixing cultures and traditions.

 

culture-importance

 

Let us make an leap towards another direction as bizarre or even irrelevant as it may seem at first. From “no man’s land” let us to travel to Alice’s Wonderland, “We are all mad here, I am mad you’re mad” says the Cheshire cat. If there is one thing that unites us more than our common roots that might be our common inclination towards madness. Madness doesn’t discriminate in terms of colour or nationality and that is what makes it a constant as firm as gravity.

 

In the books, later transformed in many movies, Alice is afraid to walk in Wonderland as she’ll have to walk amongst mad men. The cat then gives her the naked truth by saying “We’re all mad here”. Right there, the cat sums up the truth about the one thing that no country can claim for its own, our common denominator, madness. Madness as a state of being, as a state of mind, not as a disease. One cannot but admire the timeliness of a phrase that even though taken from a children’s book, written in the 19th century, is more in tune with the reality today as ever.

 

Nowadays, all the big conversations seem to boil down to two things: What is our place of birth and second, are we mad enough to keep tearing each other apart. As if the first would be implicitly connected with the second. But are we truly content with that way of order? Alternatively, try imagine wiping the slate clean and continuing in life with that one truth: “we’re all foreigners and we’re all mad”. Now, this would be an interesting twist in the world narrative, wouldn’t it?

Melina is a writer and has a podcast on discussing ideas and challenging people to be better. You can follow her excellent blog here:

https://cosmonotes.org/ 

Frankie Boyle on Grenfell Tower, Being Offensive & The “Outrage” Media

 

 

In this riveting exchange Guardian journalist Owen Jones interviews Scottish genius and highly offensive comedian Frankie Boyle. 

Boyle who has a huge social media following is back on the BBC after it was rumoured he was permanently banned for “offensive” material on the queen and autism. Yet he recently returned with a new hit satire show “New World Order” on BBC 2.

He is a well known social commentator with an acute and always fascinating take on the public sentiment. In this interview he discusses the media, morality and political correctness:

“People can see a link between Theresa May’s desire to scrap the Human Rights Act and the inhumane disgraceful treatment of the Grenfell Tower victims; even if they don’t have a media which is willing to convey that”

He further spoke of faux public morality and how “as we live in a country which profits from selling arms to viscous regimes and launders money for financial institutions” we have to create a fake morality based on taste.

“Oh that joke was too much” or “that play should be banned” to create the illusion that we are morally pure.

Whatever you make of Boyle he offers some exciting ideas on morality, political correctness and the media here.

 

Frankie has been a long term proponent of having more female comedians on the public airwaves and his show features two of the best in Britain right now, Katherine Ryan & Sarah Pascoe – you can watch the latest episode here:

The Death of Owning

The Google generation is fascinating. Children growing up in an age with unlimited access to information at the end of their fingertips. Have a question about sex? Ask google. Forgot to do your homework? Copy and paste Wikipedia.

Its incredible to believe that only twenty years ago none of this was possible. You needed to own books, actually ask real people uncomfortable questions and unless your friend let you copy their work you were screwed if you didn’t do it.

 

In 2014 I wrote on the massive impact of streaming services such as Netflix and Spotify were having on the power of consumers and disrupting the economy through the digital world. Since then, Uber and Air BnB have further changed the game in the subscription economy, Instagram and Snapchat have become the social currency and more and more people have traded the onerous obligations of ownership for the ease of subscription and service.

The video attached above documents how this massive shift in power from industry to consumer marks the end of the ownership economy and the beginning of the subscription economy.

Young people these days don’t dream of buying a house and a car and working for a big investment bank. They dream of travelling the world, spending on experiences rather than materials and sharing the photos online for the world to see.

Where will this lead us? It has the potential to be as detrimental as it has to be phenomenal. There’s something intimate about owning a physical book or a physical Vinyl record – preserving memories of a time. A place. And a feeling. Subscription on the other hand is highly perishable, its gluttonous, and digital storage is not as familiar as a physical item.

What do you think?

Op-Ed: When Philosophy and Superheroes collide, word limit is the first collateral damage

Canary in the coalmine

My personal goal this week was to not post any blogs.

The goal was meant to be a direct, karmic, yin-yang, balancing act to last week’s attempt to post every day, 7 days in a row.

The attempt of posting and not posting, was a practice meant as a material representation of the ambivalence reflected in Byron’s “Prisoner of Chillon” which I posted almost a week ago:

“Fettered or fetterless to be,

I learned to love despair.”

I made it through Sunday. No post whims.

Easy. No pics. Therefore, nothing to write for Sunday Dinner.

Monday, well, that’s a given.

It’s 10:20 am as I type this now… no chance of posting today…

…but now…? I have failed… yet again.


This means, yes my crickets, another Debate Tuesday. I know… I’m supposed to stay around 300… *sorry*
As some of you know… I am a comic book geek.

View original post 1,295 more words

Professor Decimates US Politicians on Taxing the Poor over Billionaires

 

I’ve featured Professor Mark Blyth a number of times here. In this wonderful clip he eloquently explains why The U.S government:

“does not have a spending problem it has a revenue problem.

Blyth magnificently debunks myths around U.S debt, government spending and the reasons for exponential growth in wealth inequality.

Why when Corporate profits have never been higher, the banks have been bailed out by the workers yet their million dollar bonuses sore is providing people with healthcare when they’re sick such a controversial, extreme idea?

One startling statistic shows just how much the rich have gotten richer.  Forbes Rich list’s richest person in the US was worth $2 billion in 1982, in 2015 the richest person in the US is worth $76 billion. While over 50% of Americans (150 million people) earn less than $30,000 a year

We have seen the largest transfer of wealth from the average citizen to the top 0.1% in human history.

Homi Baba: Why We are Still Afflicted by Colonialism Everyday

Author: Anand Bose

Homi Baba is one of the foremost thinkers of Post Colonial Criticism and belongs to the school of thought known as Post Structuralism.

Homi Baba has made intrusions into the philosophy of language where texts become constructs for post colonial criticism. For Baba Colonialism has not been a straight forward clique between the oppressed and the oppressors but an evolving semantic machine marked by psychological anxiety and tension between the oppressor and the oppressor.

Here in this article I would like to articulate some ideas of Homi Baba on Post Colonial Criticism. They are hybridization, mimicry, uncanny, doubling, difference, ambivalence and anxiety. For Baba, a nation is always in the process of evolution and a nation is not a fixed entity.

Hybridization is a process through which cultures interact, mix and develop new cultural and evolutionary tendencies. A common example can be taken is that of the English language. For example Black English has evolved by fusing many dialects of the native black with the colonizer’s English. Indian English has absorbed native English words and has also adopted words borrowed from Indian Language. British English consists of many Gaelic and Latin and French words and therefore if we look at English, it is always going through a process of change or hybridization. Hybrid English is a transnational language and is always adopting new vocabularies into its lexicon. Another common example would be that of Dance and Music. Dance and Music have fused various elements of the Orient and the Occident.

Mimicry refers to the process through which the colonized mimic the language and culture of the Colonialist. Mimicry is a powerful tool, a coping mechanism of the colonized to resist the rule of the colonizer. The white other becomes the subject of my gaze and I adumbrate his or her cultural moorings into my possessive outlook. For the white, the discourse of the Orient has been a fragmented one, a one of bitter misunderstanding. According to Edward Said, the discourse of the orient has been a philosophical and intellectual construct drawn out from occidental narcissism and fantasy.

mimicry colonialism

A lexical meaning of the word uncanny would be something strange, mysterious in an unsettling way. For the white, oriental culture and religion has been marked by the strange or the uncanny. Baba also discusses the problem of migrant cultures. Migrant cultures to the Occident bring into it uncanny elements. Uncanny also represents a misunderstanding of the mass psyche of the colonized. For example let’s take the Blues. Blues a form of Black Music emerged as an uncanny one, a one to show solidarity and protest against the whites. Mahatma Gandhi’s behaviour as a political protester of the English rule was an uncanny one. The British simply could not understand and tolerate the half naked fakir. The occult aspects of the Australian aborigines were ostracised and many were made converts into Christianity.

Doubling as used by Homi Baba refers to the process in which duplicates of the Colonized were created. The colonized were trained in the language and culture of the Colonizer, mainly to suit them for administrative purposes. For example India as a British colony needed a large army of clerks to run their administrative regime. Doubling became a headache for the Colonizer as these doubles soon realized their self worth and started protesting against colonial rule.

Difference is a term taken from Derrida’s Deconstruction. The term incorporates the understanding of semantic binary divide by differing and deferring. Colonialism has marginalized the brown and the black by privileging of the white. This marginalization has been violent and autocratic. There is a conflict between the racially superior self and the racially inferior other. The White self’s Christianity is a racially superior religion than the religion of the Red Indians, Africans and Aborigines. Language has bifurcated texts into binary divides of the self and racial other. For me Colonialism is still an ongoing process. For example let’s look at Native Speakers of English being imported into South East Asian Countries to teach English. A native speaker of English is privileged over whites and browns who are adept in English.

Anxiety as a term used in postcolonial criticism referring to the tension of the colonizer when he is dealing with the colonized. We can use the example of Non Violent struggle against British rule espoused by Mahatma Gandhi. The British simply could not understand what the principle Ahimsa (non-violence) was and used ruthless force to subjugate the peace movement. Their ambivalence and complete lack of understanding of the native people, only strengthened the struggle for independence. Colonial domination was not straight forward but was clearly marked by anxiety and ambivalence.

Anand is a blogger from India who’s blog explores, philosophy, fiction and poetry. You can visit his excellent blog here: 

What Makes You A “Good” Person?

In this riveting video Robert Sapolsky examines moral failure or people’s inability to resist temptation from a neurological perspective.

Is being “good” a question of training our impulses to do the right thing? Using reason to navigate our way through life’s temptations and arriving at a morally good answer?

Maybe. However this video points to research that suggests rather than trusting reason of “oh I should never cheat in an exam because X, Y and Z reason” that being in a state of mind of “you don’t cheat. fullstop.”  is far more likely to yield success in the long term.

This is an interesting analysis of the inner processes and dialogue of the brain when presented with moral challenges and how we can achieve desired result.

 

What do you think..?

Why Robots Could Be Human

Author: Jonny Scott

 

Robots are taking over the world! Run! But where? I’m scared!

We hear a lot of crazy talk nowadays about robot dominance, endangerment of the human race and life being one big computer simulation. But is it all crazy? Or is there anything we can learn from it? Let’s pretend we’re scientists and try figure it out.

 

We’ve probably all heard of the universal simulation theory. The theory goes that we’re all players in a video game. Call that game, “life”. As players, we have gained consciousness. Every player operates within the boundaries of the game but some players are more conscious than others. Just like in video games, there are random life forms that are just there to make the environment seem more realistic. The more dominant players have the most consciousness. Consciousness is control over our actions. It’s freedom, or at least, the illusion of freedom. We can choose what to do, and develop ourselves to reach higher consciousness.

Players with higher consciousness reach higher levels in the game. Players with low consciousness are unproductive, overlooked characters, who are just there to make the game seem more realistic.
We are aware that by developing our control, or consciousness, we become more dominant players in the game and know not be low consciousness players who just go through the pre-programmed motions of life.
Is this an accurate explanation of the game of life? Even though it makes sense, and seems an interesting way to frame the world, we’ll never really know for certain.

But with this framework in mind we can relate it to the newest form of life, the form we have created. Artificial intelligence. The new form with major potential for power and intelligence which may greater than ours. But here’s the thing, will we get to the point where artificial intelligence is indistinguishable from human intelligence? The truth is, we have already surpassed that point.

You’re browsing the internet, and pop! Up comes an instant chat. Who’s on the other end? A sexy single in your area who’s dying to meet you? A service worker who is offering home repair? A phone company who promises to beat your current rate? Or, an artificially intelligent chat-bot? It’s becoming harder to tell the difference.

We are creating intelligence that is becoming a mirror of human intelligence. You might have a conversation with a more articulate Amazon Echo-like robot and not even realize until you look up and notice you’re talking to a little electronic device, not a human. Let’s take this to the next step.

 

Take a more articulate Amazon Echo, put it in a human costume, and program it with algorithms that teach it to walk and move like we do, and what do you have? Let’s see, if it walks like a human, talks like a human, looks like a human, what’s our first instinct? Smash it open and see if it spills blood or wires? See if it has organs or computers? Maybe, but more likely, we’ll just call it a human.

You see, life has cycles. Evolution takes time. But look at what we have already created, and imagine it as continuing evolution. A more evolved Siri, Amazon Echo, or humanoid robot basically is a human. Or maybe, a superhuman. An evolved human race that has potential to turn us into pets or entertainment puppets. We won’t have control. But we can fix this.

We see the potential for robotic-life integration into the world. It’s awesome. Robotics make life easier. But we have to remain in control. If dominance comes down to a battle of human vs robot intelligence, we can’t lose. With humanity’s increased reliance on computerised power we have become lazy and externalised much of our own brain power. It’s not as much of a necessity anymore. With less brain power comes less self control. If control is similar to consciousness, we can’t let robots gain more consciousness than us. If that happens, it won’t be a simple “pull the plug” situation.

 

And that’s kind of scary. But it doesn’t have to be. If we continue working alongside technology, and not depending on it for survival, we will truly thrive like never before. We have to prioritise human intelligence, brain power and see technology as an aid to our human intelligence rather than a replacement. We have to stay in control.

Or, maybe everyone is wrong, nothing matters and reality is a simulation controlled by higher power. Who can know for sure? All we can do is work within the limitations of our knowledge and try to find happiness and success within it.

Jonny Scott is a young American who writes about everything from the banes of modern society to the pressing issues of current affairs. You can follow his excellent blog here:

Why Humans Can Live 100 but not 1000 Years

 

Why is it that humans can’t live for a thousand years? Why is it that mice who are very similar to humans genetically only live two-three years?

Physicist Geoffrey West became deeply interested in the physics of mortality when he entered his fifties and people in his life began to perish. In this video he discusses metabolism, comparing it to a road that breaks down due to wear and tear.

He offers some interesting answers on slowing the ageing such as reducing caloric intake and potential drugs that keep the body cool. But whether human life will ever go beyond 110 years is a question not just of possibility but of desirability. 100 years is long enough!

How Corporations Bought Our Democracy

This riveting documentary records the birth of the post World War economic order to the financial crisis of 2008 and draws striking comparisons between the fall of the Roman Empire and our time now.

The Roman empire ended in a period of decadence, when power and money was concentrated to the few. The Four Horseman shows how our global debt-based economy, rigged financial system and private control of resources signals the end of Empire and the end of Western civilisation.

This is not a Marxist or Socialist film but features former heads of the IMF and World Bank who explain clearly the systemic and rudimentary faults of our system of money and government.

You can watch the full documentary online here: