Vikshepa Blog

Mental Distractions

02 Dec 2022

Our truth and our persona

Are we just who we think we are, or do we always represent something - some group; some nation; some identity? There are things we would like to say, but then we remember that as a "privileged white male" or as a citizen of a former colonial power, or something else, it is probably better to keep our mouths shut. That's what I'm reflecting on now, with regard to that Israeli film director who raised a furor at the Goa film festival (see my previous post). What he said, regarding the "vulgarity" of the film ("The Kashmir Files") may (or may not) be true. On the other hand, if one is a foreigner and, on top of that, speaking about a highly sensitive issue - well, maybe there are places you might not want to go.

But besides even those aspects, there is a question of one's own identity. The director, I assume, sees his podium to be that of a filmmaker, given the honor to chair a prestigious panel of judges. His professional credentials are the source of his courage in speaking out. However, those who hear him are no doubt aware of other aspects of his identity - perhaps more aware than he?

Being an Israeli Jew carries a certain excess baggage in the world, that is added to the baggage of just being a foreigner. Among its sources are, on the one hand, the history of persecution against the Jewish people, including the Holocaust of the last century; modern-day antisemitism, and, on the other hand, the perpetration of terrible injustice towards Palestinians today. These heavy bags cannot easily be left behind.

No matter which group we belong to, even when we are eager to rid ourselves of this group identity, we can't, because this does not depend on us. We will always represent more than ourselves to the other. If we disavow, say, imperialism, or chauvinism or Zionism or whatever identity we want to disassociate with, we cannot shake off the attibution. So we had better be aware of it in our speech and our behaviour, and do our best to compensate.

Our sense of identity has to include both what we see in ourselves and what other people are likely to see too. This is only fitting. We are speaking about persona, whose original meaning was "mask" (the mask that was worn by actors), yet we cannot function in this world without one. It's a Greek tragedy, but still just a play. The error, and the source of our confusion, is in taking the play, or our role in it, too seriously.

The Kashmir Files: Israeli director sparks outrage in India over ‘vulgar movie’ remarks | Kashmir | The Guardian

Israel condemns Netflix film showing murder of Palestinian family in 1948 war | Israel | The Guardian

Israel strips Palestinian-French rights lawyer of Jerusalem residency | Palestinian territories | The Guardian

Tags: thoughts
29 Nov 2022

A film, thoughts about Epicyon and federation, links

Cinema Sabaya

sabaya.jpg

Went with Y and D to see Cinema Sabaya, which is amazing. I didn't feel like making the effort to see it and D almost had to drag me along - it would have been insulting as Y had already bought us the tickets. But I was immediately caught up in the film, because it's simply so well done. A mixed group of Arab and Jewish women take part in a video-photography course. From class to class and exercise to exercise they learn about each other and themselves; where they can relate to one another as sisters and where they cannot agree; where they can support one another and where they shouldn't press too hard. There are layers on layers of complexity. The film is utterly engaging and unfailingly authentic.

Epicyon

I decided to support Epicyon with a modest monthly donation on Patreon, because I like how this software is developing - and developers, especially those who do not have a big support base, deserve to be supported.

I still find lots of problems there, which will need to be ironed out; however, it's working for me, and I do enjoy its simplicity. The UI looks better on the phone than on the computer.

That said, there seems to be a worse problem with federation itself. I don't think this is unique to Epicyon, but may be more prevalent the further you move outside the Mastodon scene. I noticed also with Hubzilla that some posts do not seem to federate well, and I'm seeing it now with Epicyon, because I have duplicated my follow lists from fe.disroot to my epicyon instance. When I examine the timeline I see that my posts on Epicyon rarely reach my account on fe.disroot. I also see that not all of the posts from the people I follow on fe.disroot reach my instance on Epicyon. In other words, I cannot depend upon Epicyon (and probably not on fe.disroot) to see everything that someone has posted.

That's a problem that does not exist in RSS, for example, which works mostly flawlessly.

My interim conclusion is that (a.) If I really want to know what someone is saying, I need either to subscribe to their RSS feed, or to look directly at their instance. (b.) My instance on Epicyon is still a valuable source - I find many interesting posts there. It's just that I cannot depend upon it as a single news source.

I have yet to try using RSS feeds on Epicyon itself (which seems to be one of its features). That will be my next experiment.

Israelis in Qatar

It's funny that Israeli journalists are shocked by the way they are being shunned by the people they try to interview during the World Cup in Doha. And it's good to see that Palestine still finds lots of support in the Arab world. If not from the leaders, then from the man in the street.

I don't think that these journalists should be shunned: it would be better to use the opportunity to speak directly to Israelis. A message like "Please tell the people in your country that I will be happy to speak to you once Palestinians can enjoy freedom and dignity in their own country. We Arabs are waiting for you to stop the oppression, the apartheid and the occupation of Palestinian lands. When Israelis learn to treat Palestinians as equals, we will welcome you in our countries as brothers." Something like that. You can't just boycott people - you have to adopt a carrot and a stick approach and state the conditions under which the boycott can one day be lifted.

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Links

‘Extinction is on the table’: Jaron Lanier warns of tech’s existential threat to humanity | Technology | The Guardian

“If you make a dismal prediction and it comes true, it means you’ve failed to have utility. I don’t claim to have all the answers but I do believe that our survival depends on modifying the internet – to create a structure that is friendlier to human cognition and to the ways people really are.”

‘Publishing is not a crime’: media groups urge US to drop Julian Assange charges | Julian Assange | The Guardian

Israeli Filmmaker’s Critique of ‘The Kashmir Files’ Draws Fierce Backlash - The New York Times

This is marvelous. One guy had the courage to tell the truth*, unlike all the fawning diplomats who were left trying to clean up the mess.

  • (I haven't seen the film so I should say his truth.)
Tags: film epicyon current affairs
26 Nov 2022

Diary

Epicyon

I made a new fedi personal instance using epicyon. It took hours, and wasn't even my first choice. I rented the new server under the assumption I'd be using Streams. See the post I wrote on epicyon itself here. It's actually a temptation to continue using epicyon's blogging feature. But org-static-blog gives me better possibilities for presentation.

I love this system, though I do not know yet how well it works. I've used a couple of former instances I made in the fediverse, to follow the new instance, and see how well it managing to send and receive posts, and it seems to be performing all right, though with mixed results. From one connection, I was unable to send a connection request; another said that a connection had yet to be confirmed. But these particular instances exist on the periphery of the fediverse.

There are differences between the presentation of the the different fediverse flavors. Mastodon most closely resembles Twitter and is similarly suitable for fast-paced ongoing conversations. Those become annoying on software with a more spacious presentation, like Epicyon, and tend to result in slightly disjointed conversations: it's easier to follow those by following their link back to Mastodon. I've unfollowed some of the chattiest people, even though they have something interesting to say. I'll catch up with them elsewhere. And, as with Twitter, I often find an easier way to follow people is to browser-bookmark them and go directly to their personal profiles, checking in just occasionally.

In my timeline I like to see more substantive posts - either directly or through links - and that is what I try to post too. After unfollowing, my timeline is closer to what I want to see.

Shantaram

I rewatched the first episode with D, and since then we managed another couple of episodes. It captures well the spirit of the book - I think Roberts will be very happy with it. One thing that comes across very much is the writer's emotional warmth and humanism. The characters are all 3-dimensional; even the minor parts.

Delivery heroes

I ordered 2 new computers last week for Einat at the spiritual center and all this week the delivery company has been calling to say they will be arriving. On Thursday they called to say that they would deliver by 8 PM. But nada. Today, I was skeptical that anything would come because Fridays here are a bit like Saturdays elsewhere; it's a day when fewer people are at work and you don't expect much to happen: out here in the boondocks, even the post doesn't come.

But at around 6 PM I got a call to say the delivery man was on his way. I met him outside and all my annoyance with the company dissipated. As often happens in Israel, the delivery van was his ordinary car - with packages crammed into the back seats, the front passenger seat and the trunk. It took him several minutes to locate the package in the dark, with the flashlight of his phone.

He told me the story of why he happened to be arriving at dinner time on a Friday: the previous guy in charge of deliveries to our area had quit earlier in the week, and he was the new guy - just 2 days on the job and struggling to deal with a backlog that was especially big due to Black Friday sales. Looking at the number of remaining packages in his car, he obviously had another couple of hours work, and had been at it since the morning.

How can you give a delivery company a poor rating when the guys themselves are working so hard? - being sent out in their own cars, missing dinner with their families in order to bring well-to-do scumbags their new toys. It's the same as with other forms of exploitation.

I unloaded the computers at the spiritual center and met Einat there. She was super-happy with the new laptop, a feather-weight Asus Zen Book with a reversible oled touch-screen. She too was pretty busy: a group coming to rent the halls at 8 PM, and tomorrow a special program for the UN's day for the elimination of violence against women.

TROM

I really like the TROM people.

TROM is a project that aims to showcase in detail the root cause of most of today’s problems and proposes realistic solutions to solve those problems. But it is also about challenging people’s values, explaining in simple language how the world works, and providing free and good quality educational materials/tools for everyone.

I haven't got into TROM as such yet, but I think there's lots of potential there. They have a really cool peertube channel. And the people involved are really interesting - Tio, Sasha and Aaron are the ones I've encountered. Sasha has a great website of her own, "Big World Small Sasha".

Potato nose

My cold has lasted over a week, and it's run through 3 packs of tissues + hankies. The span of time is in excess of my usual winter colds and I think this is partly due to a potato. I was spooning a vegetable soup a few days ago when the onset of a sneeze caused me somehow to inhale. I immediately had a burning sensation at the top of the nose and a slightly painful feeling there for the rest of the evening, but then it passed. Two or three days later I started to develop a bad smell in my nose - a smell similar to that of a potato that is rotting at the bottom of a basket of vegies.

An altered sense of smell sometimes result from nasal infections. But I discovered today that this one was for real, when a sneeze suddenly ejected a large piece of potato skin. It had probably been irritating my nose all the while, and keeping my cold alive in the process.

Reactions to political realities

When G was here a week ago, back from Mumbai, I was asking him how he found the worsening political reality there - which seems almost as bad in India as here, and in quite a similar way. He said that one thing he found is that it changes the way people behave. I asked him if he could give an example. He said that there is a Muslim tailor who has a shop in the apartment building of his wife's family's Mumbai home. A Muslim tailor in a building with no other Muslims, in a political climate that is worsening for Muslims. Nowadays, whenever he is there he makes a point of consciously going to sit and spend time with him, because he knows that nobody else will. So what might be a normal human response becomes a political act. That's how bad it's getting there.

Here in our village the connections between the different identities are much more normal. The conscious act is to keep alive connections with Palestinians in the West Bank.

Links

Netanyahu to Agree to 'Soft Annexation' of West Bank, In Breach of 'Abraham Accords' - Palestine Chronicle

It ain't lookin' good around here. A "soft" annexation. Also Yuval Noah Harari is saying that Israelis are replacing the vision of the "two state solution" with the vision of a land with three classes of people: Jews with all the rights; Palestinian citizens of Israel with some rights; and other Palestinians with very few rights. Full-on apartheid, in other words. My wife thinks maybe that's not a bad thing, as eventually it will force change. Unlike the current stasis, which leads nowhere, a civil rights struggle. But 21st century realities are unlike those that preceded them. States are much savvier about quelling or subverting phenomena like nonviolent activism, and Israel is extremely sophisticated about managing reactions in the international press.

Germany Forces a Microsoft 365 Ban Due to Privacy Concerns – Best of Privacy

Europe may yet keep the world sane, at least they have a healthier understanding of the dangers of tech imperialism. They are pushing back in a similar way to which Americans push back against China.

Tags: fediverse TV current-affairs
21 Nov 2022

The tathatā of time-wasting

Usually when we choose the title of an article, or a network, or a domain name, we want something that will express the essence, the spirit, the suchness or tathatā of the thing we are naming. Or we are being humorous. There's a new instance on the Fediverse called the "godpod", whose owner has chosen a god-avatar for himself and makes bold declarations, such as that it was a mistake of his not to include mastodons in the ark. Well, "godpod" has a certain ring to it. Whereas Mike McGirvin - the author of several social networks and social networking protocols and of attempts to bridge between them and others, was expressing the suchness of his despair when naming his instance "unfediverse".

When I chose the name for my own domain it was also with a certain irony. Vikshepa is usually a negative trait in Brahmanism and Buddhism. It implies mental confusion and the tendency of the mind to run towards distraction. We sit down for meditation and instantly the mind rebels and runs all over the place: anywhere but where we are attempting to focus it.

It seemed to me when choosing that name that it is much the same with the internet. We sit down at our keyboard intending to write something, or read one thing, and instantly we are swept on the current of some new developing news story. It's especially true when we look at microblogs. It's like willful distraction. Or, if we personally get involved in the discussion, it can be much worse. It's not for nothing that people call Twitter the "hellsite" - though it's psychologically interesting that we keep going back to it for more.

So, when thinking for a name for a subdomain for a new personal social networking instance, I am thinking along the lines of "antisocial.vikshepa.com". I know that usually people are choosing something benign like "social.mastodon.org". But maybe another ironic name to match the vikshepa is better suited? I wouldn't be the first to use such a title. Maciej Ceglowski called his Pinboard.in site a place for "antisocial bookmarking", when his main competitors like Delicious, were calling their sites "social bookmarking sites" - with the idea that people would share their bookmarks for a certain subject.

But why a name like "antisocial" for a personal fediverse instance? Because there is something vaguely antisocial about doing one's own personal microblog server, rather than choosing a mass-user instance with a few hundred thousand soles. The instance's public timeline, for one thing would be decidedly dull.

Unless one is a celebrity or an authority with something interesting to say on a certain subject, there is also something vaguely antisocial about blogging itself, or at least thrusting one's blog before the eyeballs of others. Even bestselling authors of novels, for example, can be tedious writers of superfluous essays. I was recently listening to a podcast of an interview with Kim Stanley Robinson, who spoke about this. He said that although sometimes novelists bring out an anthology of their essays, he was not planning to do so, because he didn't believe that essay writing was his forte. Indeed, I remember being disappointed by the weekly Guardian column of the Italian novelist Elena Ferente. It continued for a year or so, before she or the Guardian had had enough. It was, I think, a wise decision to stop, because however good a novelist she proved herself to be a poor columnist. At least, that was my impression.

In any case, as I was saying, there is something impertinent about offering to occupy a reader's time with matters that are often quite inconsequential - to them. To me it might be important to write, even at length. But there's no guarantee that others will find it the same. So it's at least as impertinent as trolling someone on Twitter or its alternatives, or not trolling - just being a bore, an asshole, a time waster.

For me, writing is an exercise in trying to see the world in a new way. It comes across, maybe, in some of the posts, but certainly not in all of them. And even when the exercise works for me, it may not for others.

Changes in perception occur sometimes in a split second. The best composers of tweets are occasionally able to summon up such a change deftly, in one witty line. Twitter, with its original 128 characters was really an art form, like Haiku. Not everyone could tweet well. But some were great at it. There should be a book titled "Tweets that shook the world".

Mastodon, and Twitter itself, have become such a mess due to their wider range of word limits and long and short utterances, but especially those interminable threads. How many jokes can we hear about Elon Musk, or ironic statements about his shocking behaviour, before they cease to be entertaining? We got the message long ago. It's turning a medium intended for short, pithy expressions of thought, into the opposite. Reading through the thread is as bad as reading a book of memorable quotes from cover to cover. We were hoping to remember a few of them - but eventually they merge together into a kind of wise-ass drone and we remember nothing. I used to have a book of Hallmark Haiku. It was better to read two or three poems, and then put the book down.

Books, and essays, don't always achieve their effect within a few syllables. Sometimes a novel requires its thousand pages, and sometimes an essay requires its thousand lines. A friend, on reading Rohinton Mistry's A Fine Balance said that it was good but that the writer could have achieved the same effect with a much shorter book. Maybe. But for me that book is ingrained in my memory due to its length, and the gradual unfolding of its events. Mistry has written shorter books, and short stories, but nothing quite compares to Balance in its effect, which is cumulative, building from chapter to chapter.

There are master-essayists like the 19th century writer Ruskin, who were wonderful thanks to the richness and colour of their prose. It isn't so much what he says, but the way that he says it, that gives value to the essay, and becomes the reason we continue to read those essays today.

Anyway, time to go back to bed. I've wasted some time. Hopefully only my own time.

Tags: blogging microblogging
19 Nov 2022

Diary

I'm still suffering from my by cold. We had a couple of guests over the weekend. C H, a Canadian citizen, who is associated with the Thich Nhat Hanh sanghas - a former "boat person" who escaped from Vietnam just after the war. She is a member of a Buddhist practice centre in Ontario, and on her way back to Canada, was about to visit another practice centre in Italy.

Our other visitors were G with his son. G is an Italian married to a Parsi woman from Bombay. They met years ago when on a bus to volunteer at the Freedom Theatre of the late Juliano Mir Khamees, in Jenin. G has been participating in a Feldenkreis course for the last four years, because he finds the therapy helpful for their son, who suffers from CP. They have been living partly in India and partly in Hongkong, but will be moving to the UK in the summer, as his wife has accepted an academic position there. When he was visiting the UK with his son, to find out about schools, he was amazed by the rough treatment they received at the airport - basically they were shut in a room and interrogated. That was because he had made the mistake of not purchasing onward tickets. A warm welcome to post-Brexit Britain.

The situation has been a bit tense in the Palestinian village Hares that we often visit, after a young person from the village went on a rampage in the settlement of Ariel and killed three Israelis, before eventually being shot dead by the army. One immediate result was that other members of the village were denied entry permits to their jobs at the nearby large Israeli industrial park there - where the culprit, Muhammad Souf, had been working. Our friend in Hares, Issa, happens to be a distant relative, with the same family name - and he also has a son called Muhammad. Issa is in a wheel chair for the last 20 years after being shot by an Israeli soldier's bullet on his doorstep, during the second intifada. He is paralyzed from the waste down. But he was and has continued to be a peace activist. Like-minded Israelis are always welcome in his home and C.H., the Canadian Buddhist mentioned above, had just a few days prior to the current events, facilitated a day of mindfulness for Israelis and Palestinians there.

Hares is for the most part a peaceful village, but no one should be surprised that the desperation felt by the vast majority of Palestinians under military occupation results in occasional desperate acts of violence. In many cases it is simply an "honourable" way to commit suicide - though at terrible cost because the perpetrator knows that punishment will be visited on his entire family; all his loved ones, who in many cases have no idea of his intentions. As of Wednesday, the army was preparing to demolish the family home.

The way in which the violence of the occupation poisons the futures of Palestinian young people can be understood from the video Arna's Children, a heartbreaking feature-length movie that can be watched on YouTube (I could not get it to load in Invidious). The movie was made by Juliano, mentioned above, about the work of his mother, a Jewish Israeli married to a Palestinian, with young people in Jenin. Juliano himself was assassinated some time afterwards by an unknown assailant.

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COP 27

I haven't been keeping up so well with COP 27, which has been running for two weeks and is being extended due to a deadlock. In the news from today the "good news" is that

  • Annual electric car sales are on track to exceed 10m in 2022, up more than 60% year on year and more than triple the 3.1m sold in 2020.
  • More than 13% of new cars sold globally in the first half of 2022 were electric, up from 8.7% in 2021, and 4.3% in 2020.
  • Electric vehicle use in 2022 will avoid the burning of 1.7m barrels of oil per day - more than the total oil consumption of France or Mexico, both G20 economies.

I think that is good news only if the electricity itself is not coming from fossil fuels. This isn't happening here.

The article also points out that electric vehicles are cheaper to maintain; and yesterday I read that they require less labour to produce (because less moving parts). So this will mean eventually that buying and owning them will be cheaper. That's not necessarily good news for the environment though. I think that governments should be prioritizing and subsidizing public transportation.

Looking further down the Guardian's live-blog for the conference there's this:

Surprisingly large number of gas deals struck at Egyptian summit.

The announced deals include an agreement between Tanzania and Shell for an LNG export facility, a move by the French oil and gas giant Total to drill in Lebanon, a partnership between Saudi Arabia and Indonesia on oil and gas extraction and a deal spearheaded by the US to provide new renewable energy investment to Egypt, in return for gas exports to Europe.

It seems that over "600 fossil fuel lobbyists have attended, a record…" have attended the conference.

There have similarly been more than a doubling of representatives of Big Agriculture from the previous conference.

Meat, dairy and pesticide producers were all present at the climate conference, which this year had a focus on biodiversity.

Many have complained that there has been little discussion of how meat and dairy production is responsible for a large portion of both emissions and biodiversity degradation.

…the number of delegates linked to such businesses rose from 76 in 2021 to at least 160 this year – double the presence at COP26 in Glasgow. The world’s top five pesticide producers sent 27 representatives, according to the research, which is more than some country delegations.

There were 35 delegates linked to the biggest meat and dairy companies and associated industry lobby groups, which DeSmog worked out is greater than the combined delegations of the Philippines and Haiti, which are among the countries most affected by climate breakdown.

So it's really amazing: the COPs have become annual opportunities for lobbyists from the oil companies and agrobusiness to do business and make deals that instead of mitigating climate change, help to accelerate it instead.

Tags: climate-change Palestine
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