“Composition of Mammals”
Ghardaïa (Arabic: ولاية غرداية) is a wilaya in eastern Algeria, named after its capital Ghardaïa. The M’Zab Valley, located there, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
by Sarah Kendzior
In 1901, a 28-year-old American named Leon Czolgosz assassinated US President William McKinley. Czolgosz was born in America, but he was of Polish descent. After McKinley died, the American media blamed Polish immigrants. They were outsiders, foreigners, with a suspicious religion - Catholicism - and strange last names.
At a time when Eastern European immigrants were treated as inferior, Polish-Americans feared they would be punished as a group for the terrible actions of an individual. “We feel the pain which this sad occurrence caused, not only in America, but throughout the whole world. All people are mourning, and it is caused by a maniac who is of our nationality,” a Polish-American newspaper wrote in an anguished editorial.
It is a sentiment reminiscent of what Muslims and Chechens are writing - or Instagramming - today, after the revelation that Dzokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the suspects in the Boston Marathon bombings, are of Chechen descent. At this time, there is no evidence linking the Tsarnaev brothers to a broader movement in Chechnya, a war-torn federal republic in southern Russia. Neither of the brothers has ever lived there. The oldest, Tamerlan, was born in Russia and moved to the US when he was sixteen. The youngest, Dzokhar, was born in Kyrgyzstan, moved to the US when he was nine, and became a US citizen in 2012.
Despite the Tsarnaevs’ American upbringing, the media has presented their lives through a Chechen lens. Political strife in the North Caucasus, ignored by the press for years, has become the default rationale for a domestic crime.
“Did Boston carnage have its roots in Stalin’s ruthless displacement of Muslims from Chechnya decades ago?” asked The Daily News , a question echoed by the National Post , the Washington Post , and other publications that refuse to see the Tsarnaevs as anything but walking symbols of age-old conflicts. Blame Stalin, the pundits cry, echoing the argument made every time something bad happens in the former Soviet Union. Blame Stalin, because we can pronounce that name.
In one sense, this sentiment is not new. American Muslims have long had to deal with ignorance and prejudice in the aftermath of a terrorist attack. ” Please don’t be Muslims or Arabs “, goes the refrain, as unnecessary demands for a public apology from Muslims emerge. This week made it clear that it is Muslims who are owed the apology. After wild speculation from CNN about a “dark-skinned suspect”, on Thursday the New York Post published a cover photo falsely suggesting a Moroccan-American high school track star, Salah Barhoun , was one of the bombers. “Jogging while Arab” has become the new ” driving while black “.
Later that Thursday, the FBI released photos of two young men wearing baseball caps - men who so resembled all-American frat boys that people joked they would be the target of ” racial bro-filing “. The men were Caucasian, so the speculation turned away from foreign terror and toward the excuses routinely made for white men who kill: mental illness, anti-government grudges, frustrations at home. The men were white and Caucasian - until the next day, when they became the wrong kind of Caucasian, and suddenly they were not so “white” after all…
… Knowing nothing of the Tsarnaevs’ motives, and little about Chechens, the American media tore into Wikipedia and came back with stereotypes.
Today, with various back-to-nature movements attempting to resist the dislocations brought about by modernity & with our awareness of Earth’s precarious environmental state ever increasing, many people feel a new sympathy with the natural world on this planet.
But the gargantuan cosmos beyond remains remote.
We might understand at some level that those tiny points of light in the night sky are similar to our sun, made of atoms identical to those in our bodies, and that the cavern of outer space extends from our galaxy of stars to other galaxies of stars, to distances that would take light billions of years to traverse.
We might understand these discoveries in intellectual terms, but they are baffling abstractions, even disturbing, like the notion that each of us once was the size of a dot, without mind or thought.
Science has vastly expanded the scale of our cosmos, but our emotional reality is still limited by what we can touch with our bodies in the timespan of our lives…
Our Place in the Universe: Face to face with the infinite
One of the best places to go to the haggle here is from Sartre’s book Transcendence of the Ego & in there, he’s kind of saying: okay, there’s this situation & the situation is Peter needing to be helped.
So I’m going about my business in my daily affairs, I come upon Peter & he’s in a situation that calls for help & I can see him in this situation… And then, later in reflection, I transform that feeling consciousness, I render it to a reflexive state & I say: oh, that was my subjective [analysis], my act of valuing with regard to Peter’s situation.
At that point, we sort of sever, in our imagination, the real relations as they’re lived through in the world.
That is, the real relations as they’re lived through in the world is one where where the values “are in the landscape”, [in the context]. The beauty - it is in the landscape. The feelings that we have for others, they’re not registered as “in” us & “of” others… And we get to these sort of complex analytic orientations but, pre-reflectively, or operationally, there’s an expansive connectedness that sort of, momentarily, either covers over or dissolves the distinctions between “world” & the “self” or maybe even “self” & “other”…
Prof. Corey Anton
For those who feel this is just a bunch of word salad but are still curious, phenomenology is the place to start. I’m being brief but it’s the perspective arguing that “truth” & knowledge is not objective but always a mutual exercise, a social construction shared between individuals.
The individual never learns about an objective, external reality free of the relational influences, constraints & horizons of understanding within their context & culture/society (Gadamer). “Fixing” truth, as in calling something “common sense” for example, is not just an attempt to gain & establish knowledge but also an act of power between people & cultures (Stuart Hall).
Persuasive shit on an intuitive level if you think about it.
by Haruki Murakami
One beautiful April morning, on a narrow side street in Tokyo’s fashionable Harujuku neighborhood, I walked past the 100% perfect girl.
Tell you the truth, she’s not that good-looking. She doesn’t stand out in any way. Her clothes are nothing special. The back of her hair is still bent out of shape from sleep. She isn’t young, either - must be near thirty, not even close to a “girl,” properly speaking. But still, I know from fifty yards away: She’s the 100% perfect girl for me. The moment I see her, there’s a rumbling in my chest, and my mouth is as dry as a desert.
Maybe you have your own particular favorite type of girl - one with slim ankles, say, or big eyes, or graceful fingers, or you’re drawn for no good reason to girls who take their time with every meal. I have my own preferences, of course. Sometimes in a restaurant I’ll catch myself staring at the girl at the next table to mine because I like the shape of her nose.
But no one can insist that his 100% perfect girl correspond to some preconceived type. Much as I like noses, I can’t recall the shape of hers - or even if she had one. All I can remember for sure is that she was no great beauty. It’s weird.
“Yesterday on the street I passed the 100% girl,” I tell someone.
“Yeah?” he says. “Good-looking?”
“Your favorite type, then?”
“I don’t know. I can’t seem to remember anything about her - the shape of her eyes or the size of her breasts.”
“So anyhow,” he says, already bored, “what did you do? Talk to her? Follow her?”
“Nah. Just passed her on the street.”
She’s walking east to west, and I west to east. It’s a really nice April morning.
Wish I could talk to her. Half an hour would be plenty: just ask her about herself, tell her about myself, and - what I’d really like to do - explain to her the complexities of fate that have led to our passing each other on a side street in Harajuku on a beautiful April morning in 1981. This was something sure to be crammed full of warm secrets, like an antique clock build when peace filled the world.
After talking, we’d have lunch somewhere, maybe see a Woody Allen movie, stop by a hotel bar for cocktails. With any kind of luck, we might end up in bed.
Potentiality knocks on the door of my heart.
Now the distance between us has narrowed to fifteen yards.
How can I approach her? What should I say?
“Good morning, miss. Do you think you could spare half an hour for a little conversation?”
Ridiculous. I’d sound like an insurance salesman.
“Pardon me, but would you happen to know if there is an all-night cleaners in the neighborhood?”
No, this is just as ridiculous. I’m not carrying any laundry, for one thing. Who’s going to buy a line like that?
Maybe the simple truth would do. “Good morning. You are the 100% perfect girl for me.”
No, she wouldn’t believe it. Or even if she did, she might not want to talk to me. Sorry, she could say, I might be the 100% perfect girl for you, but you’re not the 100% boy for me. It could happen. And if I found myself in that situation, I’d probably go to pieces. I’d never recover from the shock. I’m thirty-two, and that’s what growing older is all about.
We pass in front of a flower shop. A small, warm air mass touches my skin. The asphalt is damp, and I catch the scent of roses. I can’t bring myself to speak to her. She wears a white sweater, and in her right hand she holds a crisp white envelope lacking only a stamp. So: She’s written somebody a letter, maybe spent the whole night writing, to judge from the sleepy look in her eyes. The envelope could contain every secret she’s ever had.
I take a few more strides and turn: She’s lost in the crowd.
Now, of course, I know exactly what I should have said to her. It would have been a long speech, though, far too long for me to have delivered it properly. The ideas I come up with are never very practical.
Oh, well. It would have started “Once upon a time” and ended “A sad story, don’t you think?”
Once upon a time, there lived a boy and a girl. The boy was eighteen and the girl sixteen. He was not unusually handsome, and she was not especially beautiful. They were just an ordinary lonely boy and an ordinary lonely girl, like all the others. But they believed with their whole hearts that somewhere in the world there lived the 100% perfect boy and the 100% perfect girl for them. Yes, they believed in a miracle. And that miracle actually happened.
One day the two came upon each other on the corner of a street.
“This is amazing,” he said. “I’ve been looking for you all my life. You may not believe this, but you’re the 100% perfect girl for me.”
“And you,” she said to him, “are the 100% perfect boy for me, exactly as I’d pictured you in every detail. It’s like a dream.”
They sat on a park bench, held hands, and told each other their stories hour after hour. They were not lonely anymore. They had found and been found by their 100% perfect other. What a wonderful thing it is to find and be found by your 100% perfect other. It’s a miracle, a cosmic miracle.
As they sat and talked, however, a tiny, tiny sliver of doubt took root in their hearts: Was it really all right for one’s dreams to come true so easily?
And so, when there came a momentary lull in their conversation, the boy said to the girl, “Let’s test ourselves - just once. If we really are each other’s 100% perfect lovers, then sometime, somewhere, we will meet again without fail. And when that happens, and we know that we are the 100% perfect ones, we’ll marry then and there. What do you think?”
“Yes,” she said, “that is exactly what we should do.”
And so they parted, she to the east, and he to the west.
The test they had agreed upon, however, was utterly unnecessary. They should never have undertaken it, because they really and truly were each other’s 100% perfect lovers, and it was a miracle that they had ever met. But it was impossible for them to know this, young as they were. The cold, indifferent waves of fate proceeded to toss them unmercifully.
One winter, both the boy and the girl came down with the season’s terrible inluenza, and after drifting for weeks between life and death they lost all memory of their earlier years. When they awoke, their heads were as empty as the young D. H. Lawrence’s piggy bank.
They were two bright, determined young people, however, and through their unremitting efforts they were able to acquire once again the knowledge and feeling that qualified them to return as full-fledged members of society. Heaven be praised, they became truly upstanding citizens who knew how to transfer from one subway line to another, who were fully capable of sending a special-delivery letter at the post office. Indeed, they even experienced love again, sometimes as much as 75% or even 85% love.
Time passed with shocking swiftness, and soon the boy was thirty-two, the girl thirty.
One beautiful April morning, in search of a cup of coffee to start the day, the boy was walking from west to east, while the girl, intending to send a special-delivery letter, was walking from east to west, but along the same narrow street in the Harajuku neighborhood of Tokyo. They passed each other in the very center of the street. The faintest gleam of their lost memories glimmered for the briefest moment in their hearts. Each felt a rumbling in their chest. And they knew:
She is the 100% perfect girl for me.
He is the 100% perfect boy for me.
But the glow of their memories was far too weak, and their thoughts no longer had the clarity of fouteen years earlier. Without a word, they passed each other, disappearing into the crowd. Forever.
A sad story, don’t you think?
Yes, that’s it, that is what I should have said to her.
Sketches on the Second Man
… As if my true desire were not to be the most intelligent or most generous creature on earth, but only to beat anyone I wanted, to be the stronger, in short, and in the most elementary way.
The truth is that every intelligent man, as you know, dreams of being a gangster & of ruling over society by force alone. As it is not so easy as the detective novels might lead one to believe, one generally relies on politics & joins the cruelest party.
What does it matter, after all, if by humiliating one’s mind one succeeds in dominating everyone? I discovered in myself sweet dreams of oppression…
by Andrew Grant
The universe is a little older and perhaps a bit stranger than previously thought, according to the best measurements ever taken of the radiation left over from just after the Big Bang. Presented March 21 at a press conference in Paris, the data from the Planck satellite combine to form a map of the remnant glow that largely affirms scientists’ theories about the universe’s early history. But the results also reveal a few quirks that scientists will have to explain.
“The clarity and precision of Planck’s map is stunning,” says Richard Easther, an astrophysicist at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, who is not on the Planck team. “It’s as good as anyone could have hoped for.”
Launched by the European Space Agency in 2009, the Planck satellite scans the sky for the cosmic microwave background, radiation that dates back to about 380,000 years after the Big Bang. That radiation was originally about 2,700° Celsius but has cooled to a mere 2.7 degrees above absolute zero. Planck is essentially a supersensitive thermometer that can probe the temperature of this radiation to millionths of a degree.
That extraordinary precision allowed researchers to map tiny temperature fluctuations in the radiation across the entire sky. (The red spots in the map are about 1 part in 100,000 hotter than the average temperature, while the blue spots are slightly colder.) These subtle perturbations in the early universe eventually grew into stars and galaxies.
The image, said George Efstathiou, an astrophysicist at the University of Cambridge who presented the Planck results in Paris, “might look like a dirty rugby ball … but some cosmologists would have given up their children to get a copy of this map.” Now that cosmologists do have access to the map, they can make many conclusions about how the universe has evolved.
For the most part, Planck’s results align with theoretical predictions and observations from the previous microwave background probes, COBE and WMAP. The data support the theory of inflation, which posits that, around 10-30 seconds after the Big Bang, the universe briefly expanded faster than the speed of light.
“Not only is inflation continuing to look like a superb fit to the data,” says Alan Guth, the MIT physicist who proposed inflation in 1981, “but it still looks like the simplest inflationary models are the ones that fit best.”
One doesn’t talk back to one’s father - you know the expression? In one way it is very odd. To whom should one talk back in this world if not to what one loves?
In another way, it is convincing. Somebody has to have the last word. Otherwise, every reason can be answered with another one and there would never be an end to it.
Power, on the other hand, settles everything. It took time, but we finally realized that. For instance, you must have noticed that our old Europe at last philosophizes in the right way. We no longer say as in simple times: This is the way I think. What are your objections? We have become lucid. for the dialogue we have substituted the communiqué: This is the truth, we say, you can discuss it as much as you want; we aren’t interested. But in a few years there’ll be the police who will show you we are right.