Category Archives: Society

Epidemiology

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One epidemic calls forth another
and one infectious protein spawns
infectious thoughts.
Mental representations spreading like viruses.
Unchecked.

Alert! Long lines before inoculation centres.
Demand is high. Too little truth produced
to fight this lethal disease.

No medicine as yet against the fever of
conviction.

Maintain a safe distance
and epistemological hygiene.
Refrain from visiting the specters of panic.

To stop the proliferation,
avoid contact.
Stay home, in your consciousness,
and disinfect it.
Regularly.

Specious is bad
for the species.

Linguistic Research Project – Humble Request

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To my dear readers:

Hi guys, I hope everyone is doing well! I was wondering if any of you might like to help me with my new linguistic pet project. I was wondering how far the equality of the sexes has come and what it feels like to be a woman in our day-to-day interactions in the 21st century. What are women allowed to do? What are they supposed to want? What is still perceived as taboo? How do people speak about women where you live?

I am therefore collecting instances of oppressive language directed at women and used to keep them “in their place”. For now I am only interested in SPOKEN language, so expressions YOU YOURSELVES HAVE HEARD OR OVERHEARD DURING YOUR LIFETIME. Things like (but not limited to): “What kind of profession is that for a woman?”, “That’s not a girl colour/activity”, “The wife shouldn’t be smarter than her husband”, “All women want children”, “You women are so… emotional/hormonal/impossible”, “Women can’t be top managers because they lack…”, “Women can’t join the clergy because their looks will distract the congregation from God” (as if there are no distractingly handsome clergymen 🙂) or even disturbing stuff such as “She deserved what happened to her because she was too…. opinionated/provocative etc.”

If you have been confronted with this kind of prejudice or you’ve heard it in the workplace, on the street, at a friend’s house, from relatives, on TV/radio or whatever, and you’d like to contribute (anonymously), please submit your examples via the Google Form that can be found at the following link:

https://forms.gle/s51dQeqeMyBSeAk97

Multiple submissions possible.

The data I need is: the expression used; when it was said (what year, approximately); the country in which it was said; whether it was said by a man or a woman and what role/job/relationship that person was to you (boss, friend, colleague, family member, teacher, stranger in the street etc.), and the kind of tone that was used. If you also want to include how that particular utterance made you feel, please do. But please only contribute stuff that you have heard yourselves (i.e. stuff said in your presence). 🙂

I am also interested in sexist jokes that are still current and popular in your region. Things like: “If your wife can come out of the kitchen to nag you, you’ve made her leash too long.”

Eventually, if this actually turns into something interesting, I might add a section on supportive language (instances where women were encouraged to pursue their goals/ambitions/ideals and reach for the stars). It would be interesting to see how these differ in paraverbal terms (intonation, pitch etc.) and in non-verbal behavior (body language, eye contact etc.) from the dismissive comments above.

Many thanks for participating, I really appreciate it!

Quote of the day

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“In itself, every idea is neutral, or should be; but man animates ideas, projects his flames and flaws into them; impure, transformed into beliefs, ideas take their place in time, take shape as events: the trajectory is complete, from logic to epilepsy . . . whence the birth of ideologies, doctrines, deadly games.

Idolaters by instinct, we convert the objects of our dreams and our interests into the Unconditional. History is nothing but a procession of false Absolutes, a series of temples raised to pretexts, a degradation of the mind before the Improbable.”

E.M. Cioran – “Genealogy of fanaticism” in A Short History of Decay (Paris, 1949).

Inarticulate

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So little left to express.

Spleen? Acedia?

The signifiers have lost their signifieds and are straying.

Ideas, heavy as rock, sink to the bottom of rivers

waiting to be swept away by a sudden flood of effervescence

or settle, with the mud, along the banks of dam lakes

and rot.

Occasionally, some debris resurfaces – a severed head still smiling,

an arm, the fuselage of last year’s vacation… (or was it the year before last?!)

only to be whirled away with the rest of the waste.

March. Sleet.

Pout. Plans.

Hope.

Nothing.

Emptied of meaning, the words denote nothing.

Imponderable, impalpable, floating.

The slightest gale will whisk them up to the barren sky

like balloons (escaped? released?) out of the hands of children.

Never to return.

I don’t really miss them.

There is so little left to express.

Torpor.

Quote of the day

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“Understanding a people’s culture exposes their normalness without reducing their particularity. (…) It renders them accessible: setting them in the frame of their own banalities, it dissolves their opacity.”

Clifford Geertz – The Interpretation of Cultures (Basic Books Classics)

Quote of the day

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“Plato (…) also discovered the very insecure position of truth in the world, for ‘from opinions comes persuasion, and not from truth’ (Phaedrus 260). The most striking difference between ancient and modern sophists is that the ancients were satisfied with a passing victory of the argument at the expense of truth, whereas the moderns want a more lasting victory at the expense of reality.”

Hannah Arendt – The Origins of Totalitarianism (Penguin Books, 2017)

On migration and diasporas

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“To live “in diaspora” is to reside in one place but to keep in motion an emotional, cultural, or political relationship with another, whether it is the site of one’s nativity that subsequently became a point of departure or an ancestral “homeland” virtually conjured but never visited. (…)

Diasporas (…) are platforms where received notions of cultural affiliation, religious inclination, and political persuasion can come undone or become entrenched and exaggerated. (…) They can be sites of recycling as much as of reinvention. (…)

But (…) all migrants, across a wide range of social positions, nonetheless share the experience that their movement results in a certain degree of expulsion from their territorial, political, juridical, or economic status. Even if the end result of migration is a relative increase in money, power, or enjoyment, the process of migration itself almost always involves an insecurity of some kind and duration. (…) The gains of migration are always a risk, while the process itself is always some kind of loss.”

S. Illot, A.C. Mendes, L. Newns (eds.) – New Directions in Diaspora Studies (Rowman & Littlefield, London, 2018)

Quote of the day

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“To yield to the mere process of disintegration has become an irresistible temptation, not only because it has assumed the spurious grandeur of ‘historical necessity’, but also because everything outside it has begun to appear lifeless, bloodless, meaningless, and unreal. (…)

Comprehension does not mean denying the outrageous (…). It means, rather, examining and bearing consciously the burden which our century has placed on us – neither denying its existence nor submitting meekly to its weight. Comprehension, in short, means the unpremeditated, attentive facing up to, and resisting of, reality – whatever it may be.”

Hannah Arendt – The Origins of Totalitarianism (Preface to the First Edition, summer 1950).

Words that still resonate.

New Year’s Eve 2020

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You can tell by the fireworks.

To this day,

people’s hearts are set to the clocks

in their homelands,

far away.

They go off at different times,

then the smoke clears and the sky

remains mysterious and quiet until the next

full hour.

You can tell by the fireworks.

To this fateful day,

the last of 2020,

when the cheer is inaudible,

they still explode to the clocks

of faraway homelands.

Questions

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Setting: Catholic religion class at school.

Characters: New teacher – a man. A bunch of 9-year-olds.

Open discussion about covenants. (Based loosely on recollection, don’t shoot the messenger!)


Girl in my daughter’s class, with genuine curiosity: Why are all the priests men? Why are there no women priests?

Teacher, gently: Well, you see, Jesus was a man, and his apostles were men, and…

Several girls in my daughter’s class: But his mother was a woman!

Teacher, full of kindness: Yes, but she could not have brought Jesus into the world without a heavenly Father…

Red-haired girl: He couldn’t have been born without a mother, either.

Teacher, softly: Yes, you’re right… but, maybe, you know, if some priests were women, then the men in church would stop paying attention to God and stare at the pretty priest…

My daughter, mumbling to herself: But the same can be true the other way around. If the priest is handsome…

Boy seated next to my daughter, searching for a solution: Maybe men are just uglier than women!

Red-haired girl: But if the women were really ugly, could they be priests then?

My daughter, musing after class: What if all the priests were women? Then there wouldn’t be any male priests to tempt… 🙂


(Ah, the dilemmas, quandaries and predicaments that arise when children are allowed to think freely. 🙂 Which, thankfully, they are.)