Chiharu Shiota, A Room of Memorya, 2009
This week I learned that in about 55 days we were stuck at home quarantining, people 2000 years ago had taken the same length of time to travel from London to Constantinople by donkey and civilian boats in spring by the least amount of denarii possible. It was crazy how (surprise!) capitalism and globalisation had changed the whole temporal experience, rushing us for everything and demanding every single effort, agency, and identity of ours to be commodified. And yet borders — how arbitrary and wasn’t etched in stone until in the 17th century — still remain to be revered and entitled itself to every abuse and harassment to refugees and immigrants possible.
This week I also learned about the term regardless power — which, according to The Convivial Society, was “the kind of power granted by techno-scientific knowledge and deployed with little or no regard for consequences. Such regardless power takes no account of the integrity of an ecosystem or the intangible goods inherent in existing social structures. It does not stop to consider what it might be good to do; it knows no reason why one ought not to do what one can do.” This week as I was preparing my slide deck for a webinar I am conducting to a group of IT and computing students on the importance of also paying attention to ethics, social sciences, and humanities, universities had started to cut the funding to arts, humanities, and social sciences courses. Even before that, STEM majors had failed to articulate any form of critical thinking over why there are things should not be done the way they wanted it to be done, more so than just as mere ‘aesthetics’ or ‘gimmicks’. Disregarding ethics, social sciences, and humanities are why women are paid 0.40 less for every dollar men in tech make even though they have the same skills and knowledge, why we have Facebook who misuses our data to manipulate elections, and this is why we have Amazon who pays little to minimum wage to their warehouse workers, among others. I am preparing the talk in hope that these students understand that their actions and decisions would have repercussions on someone else’s lives, especially those who are marginalised, poor, and helpless. But how do we do that when our lifeline is cut off from the very beginning? We are content with having a limitless number of coding and hacking classes, and content on having engineers and programmers who come into work thinking community building, socialising, and caring is a liability on their time. How do we do it?
There’s a saying by Paul Goodman who said, “Suppose you had the revolution you’re talking about. Suppose your side had won, and you had the kind of society you wanted. How would you live, personally, in that society? Start living that way now.” I suppose I am going to give that talk as if we have had the revolution and the society we have always envisioned for.
Reading in my tabs:
- Giphy joins Facebook’s data collection arsenal.
- “And doctors and nurses are not the only professionals to be constantly bombarded and overwhelmed with alerts; as part of our so-called “digital transformation,” nearly every industry will be dominated by such systems in the not-so-distant future. The most oppressed, contingent, and vulnerable workers are likely to have even less agency in resisting these systems, which will be used to monitor, manage, and control everything from their schedules to their rates of compensation. As such, alerts and alarms are the lingua franca of human-machine communication.” On the intrusion of algorithms in the intimate sphere.
- This enlightening thread on the absurdity of reading Rumi while divorcing his works completely from the elements of Islam. Here’s another article to accompany the thread.
- One of my favourite radical publishing companies, Verso offers a free e-book called There Is No Outside, a collection that tracks the course of COVID-19 across the circuits of global capital to New York’s prisons and emergency rooms, Los Angeles’s homeless encampments, and the migrant camps in Greece; and into the intimate spaces of our homes, our ideas of how to live, and into our bodies and cells.
- In commemorating Nakba Day, “… one day I’ll become what I want.”
- Reading: Angela Davis’s Freedom is a Constant Struggle.
- Listening: It’s very clear I am not a sourdough starter, but I have been listening to this playlist for sourdough starters by Robin Sloan, author of Sourdough.
- Viewing: I loved Emily Wilson’s translation of The Odyssey which discards the original male gaze in the earlier translations — now she’s reading it on Youtube!
- Food & Drink: Crab fried rice, and a cup of iced Milo for iftar.