Monday in Seattle

While the others went home yesterday I decided to get to Seattle a few days little early. It rained when I arrived, it rained in the evening, but this morning the sun came out and I took a long walk.


Last week, while driving from Phoenix to Tucson, Jon and I talked about 80’s music. Another friend had mentioned to me that his children all love music from the 80’s. Indeed, there is something very creative about the music of that decade. Maybe it was because there were more dilettantes in pop music than at any other time. Drum machines became available in the early 80’s and step sequencers enabled not-musicians to make music. If you had something to say you could figure out a way to perform music. For Jon and me, the 70’s are the preferred music decade, but we both admire the freshness of the music from the 80’s.


I heard that Ai Weiwei lives in Lisbon now.


Finished reading “The Housekeeper and the Professor” by Yoko Ogawa and started “1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows” by Ai Weiwei


A hundred years ago many people thought that smoking wasn’t only NOT unhealthy but it was in fact good for us… we may find that the volume of data we consume today is just as dangerous as cigarettes, and not just for our health and wellbeing but also in the sense that it keeps us occupied and detracts from really pressing issues like the climate and democracy. I have more thoughts about data/information and how it relates to sugar, salt, and fat…

Speed

Speed thrills and speed kills. Feeling connected to the world, and finding out about every new event that happens anywhere right away, is certainly thrilling. It also feels overwhelming, it’s too much, too much at once as well as too rapid. It’s the speed AND the volume. I imagine a street. It’s a two lane road lined with trees and houses. If one person drives very fast, and no other car is on the road, perhaps they can negotiate all of the turns, remain in control of the vehicle, and arrive safely. But when the road is chockfull of cars, each going as fast as it possibly can, crashes WILL happen with absolute certainty.

To me it feels like that is what’s happening with our lives. Speed by definition remains shallow, because depth requires time. Driving through a landscape at 75 miles an hour is a very different experience from walking through the same landscape. We are essentially rushing through our lives.

In one of his books Neal Stephenson describes agencies that filter information for their clients. A client profile is created and, with the use of AI and human selection, the information that is delivered to the client is filtered down from an avalanche to a manageable trickle.

Scientist have looked at how quickly topics change, I read in “Stolen Focus”, by Johann Hari. At first they looked at trends on Twitter and discovered that while topics stayed in the top fifty most discussed subjects for 17.5 hours in 2013, they only lasted for 11.9 hours in 2016. Well, that’s Twitter, perhaps it was an outlier. After studying Google Books, which has scanned millions of books, and analyzing the content, they discovered that the same curve that was found on Twitter, has in fact existed for more than 130 years. For all of that time, between the 1880s and today, topics have come and gone faster.

That’s the speed part, but what about the volume? Johann Hari uses the example of reading a 85-page newspaper. In 1986 all of the information coming from TV, radio, and reading, amounted to 40 newspapers a day. By 2007 that number had increased to 174 newspapers per day. I shudder to think what that number is in 2022.

Somewhere, perhaps also in Johann Hari’s book, I learned that our speech has been accelerating, too. We apparently talk much faster than our grandparents. That makes sense to me: if the data input flows heavier and faster, so will the output.

No wonder we feel like we are being hurled through life. Speed is addictive, too, like a sugar rush, so part of our brain wants to keep going. Let’s face it, our brain doesn’t often KNOW what’s good for us. For that answer we will have to turn to our heart and gut brain – let’s call those the body-brain as opposed to the head-brain.

That reminds me, time to meditate. There will be more on this subject, I am sure. Take it easy, take it slow… :-)

It’s Tuesday

I finished reading “Americanah” by the Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Since I liked the book very much, I continued by reading her collection of short stories “The Thing Around Your Neck”, also very good.
Next was “Stolen Focus”, by Johann Hari, which I listened to before but couldn’t finish before the book became due. I highlighted so many passages! I think it is an important book for our time.
I was reading “Stolen Focus” when I came across the name Jason Hickel, who is an economic anthropologist. Hickel wrote a book called “Less Is More”, which I want to read next.
During my walk this morning, I listened to a couple of different versions of the “Concierto de Aranjuez” for an upcoming DMT post. Next came a podcast interview with Jason Hickel that I found. The podcast is by a German but is in English. Hickel also has a blog.
I have written before (for example in 2021 and in 2008) that I don’t believe in permanent economic growth. The idea is impossible in the first place, because a planet has finite resources, and now is the best time to slow that rat wheel and make the craziness stop.
Look at this loveliness! A recently aquired air plant decided to bloom today. I took this photo and then left for the airport to fly to Phoenix.
IMG 6133

Voting

Friday 29 April 2022 – The Monocle Minute | Monocle:

The case for compulsory voting:
Almost 30 per cent of the French electorate declined to vote last weekend, while a projected 90 per cent of voters will turn out for Australia’s federal elections later this year. The difference is compulsory voting.

In Australia your failure to vote results in a $55 fine. Failure to pay that fine within 28 days results in the fine going up to $120. I think compulsory voting may work but wonder whether Americans would prefer a different method. What if voters received a payment for voting, or a tax deduction?

Public Works

I was thinking about large scale public works and whether they would get off the ground in today’s political and cultural climate. The public library system, NASA, or public health initiatives like iodine in salt and fluoride in the water, or even mandatory smallpox or cholera vaccinations. Why? What has changed? If social media had been around in the Seventies, would there be a public platform now? Would social media be like public roads or a postal system?

The Rise of Bullies

It’s been very interesting to watch how people react to the pandemic in general and to mask-wearing in particular. This year has shown us a lot about people. There is the amazing and selfless care that so many nurses and doctors continue to give. Too many of them pay for that with their lives. There is also the careless and egotistical behavior of those who endanger others on purpose.

We don’t wear a mask only to protect ourselves; we also wear it to protect others, in case we are unaware of being infected. People in Asia have been doing this for decades. If you’ve ever visited Japan or Hong Kong, you will have noticed people wearing masks in public, especially on crowded trains. Most of these mask-wearers either have a cold or another infection and wear the mask so that they don’t spread their illness.

Somehow we have allowed people to hold the belief that wearing a mask is equivalent to being afraid. Wearing a mask whenever I go outside does not mean I fear the virus; it means that I want to protect you as much as myself. I also want to protect some of the people closest to me, one of whom has diabetes and another, asthma. If I myself get the virus don’t bother with ventilation…just give me morphine until I die and then throw me in a dumpster. It’s not me that I am worried about.

Experts continue to tell us that if everyone were to wear a mask in public the virus would be gone within five to eight weeks. Just imagine… the pandemic could have been over months ago if everyone had actually done this!

The other day, I was grocery shopping when I saw a young man approach the store without a mask. A person working for the store, counting the people entering the store and checking for masks, asked the guy whether he had a mask. He pulled a bandana over his mouth and nose and was let into the store. Immediately upon entering he removed the bandana and started walking up and down the aisles of the store at a fast pace, mumbling to himself. The young man appeared to be homeless. He continued to run-walk around the store mumbling threats. Eventually, I saw him escorted from the store by a security guard.

I realized that what I was witnessing was an act of bullying. This person, most likely homeless, probably feeling powerless, entered a store that required the wearing of masks and proceeded to run around without a mask, talking and spreading potentially infectious droplets of his saliva.

This pandemic is offering bullies a golden opportunity through which they can flaunt their disdain for masks and watch people shy away from them. The sense of power! I am fearless! No, perhaps you are stupid, you act like a bully, and you are endangering yourself and others… all in order to give yourself a little jolt of power.

I think bullies have always been around, but they didn’t have the massive opportunities they have right now. Yelling at people who speak a different language, beating up a Japanese musician in the subway in Manhattan because he looked Chinese, marching around with weapons, not wearing masks… it’s a golden age for bullies.

My thoughts return to the homeless man in the grocery store. Bullies tend to be people who feel powerless. One aspect of bullying is called Radfahren in German. I don’t know whether the expression is used all over the country but I have often heard it used in Köln. The word literally means bicycling. This particular meaning derives from the position of the cyclist in the saddle kicking down into the pedals. Radfahrer bend their backs to receive the kicks from people or institutions above them and in turn they kick down to someone they perceive as less powerful than themselves. And perhaps this is what we are really learning now. Too many people feel helpless, powerless, uncertain, and not in control of their lives, and some of them derive a false sense of power from bullying others.

Our world is evolving rapidly and not everyone can keep up with the changes. People feel left behind, excluded and ignored. Inclusivity also means including the bullies and, perhaps in time, they will cease to be bullies. Bullies, like racists, aren’t born; they are created by society.