Rattle

In a rush they shove us into containers,
Anything they have that will hold us,
Desperate,
They like or hate what fits,
They hate or disregard what doesn’t.

If there is space around us in that shape,
They say it is our fault for not filling.
We are… deficient. Wanting.
Their expectation magically
Becomes our… abnormality.

Some fill the hollow and pass on the containers
Some do not and pretend, and pass on the containers.

And some of us rattle in the containers,
insistent, and
break them.

Beyond Colonialism.

PutinColonizationToday, Vladimir Putin made quite the statemet regarding sovereignty and colonies. The truth of the statement is without question. There is no in intermediate state: either a country is sovereign or it is a colony. He went on in a video to say (translated):

“During the war with Sweden, Peter the Great didn’t conquer anything, he took back what had always belonged to us, even though all of Europe recognised it as Sweden’s. It seems now it’s our turn to get our lands back [smiling]

The world might view that differently if it was Boris Johnson or the Queen saying the same about the former English colonies, or Macron speaking of the former French colonies.

The difference, as more than one person of pigment has told me in so many words, is that Ukrainians are not people of pigment. They’re white.  And, as has shown up more than once, while bad things are happening in other parts of the world, Ukraine seems to be sucking the air out of the room. “What about Syria? Palestine?” I heard more than once. Some were clear trolls on twitter, some not, but when it gets left hanging, it reinforces the view that the only difference between Ukraine and these other places, from the Congo to Palestine, are a matter of color.

To an extent that might be true. There’s also the issue of land mass, proximity to EU nations and the UK, it’s supply chain of wheat and lithium, and, an interesting thing that almost no one pays attention to: language. In Ukraine, while Russian and Ukrainian are spoken, the major cities have are able to speak the languages of people outside of Ukraine – like English, which we who read this have some grasp of. Nevermind the religious aspects, such as Christianity. In many ways, what isn’t a part of the EU looks a lot like a member of the EU.

Then, there are the nuclear power plants where a nuclear power that threatens using nuclear devices gets more nuclear plants.

The spokespeople from the start have been, aside from President Zelensky, well articulated Ukrainian women. That may have had an effect too; I don’t know, but it was markedly different.

Democracy, sovereignty… a nuclear power not just being dishonest from the start, but being dishonest throughout. Yes, we have seen that before, and we didn’t like it. The New York Times even apologized. Military members were prosecuted for abusing positional authority, which in some instances is a kind way of putting it. Too kind, in my opinion, but the point was that it was bad, and we know that.

What’s not talked about is the past of Ukraine beyond ‘it was once a part of the USSR’. An entire generation, has been born since the fall of the USSR, but the veil of colonialism persists beyond it’s fall, just as the colonial past haunts former colonies made independent just in the last century; 2 or 3 generations.

I’ve been biting back a post on colonialism for some time as I listened to Ukrainians speak in the Ukrainian Spaces on Twitter. It brought up some old conversations had at the first CARDICIS in St. Lucia, in 2004, where I found myself sitting beside a Carib chief at times, where the melting pot of the Caribbean met to talk about culture and ICT. I’d thought I was invited by mistake, but intrigued I went anyway and the experience changed the way I viewed the world. What I heard in the Ukrainian spaces was almost exactly what I heard at CARDICIS, only with a different accent.

CARDICIS had commonalities, and the point of the exercise was to transcend differences in whose colony left what language where, and to recognize the deep diversity of the Caribbean and what separations there were – and building bridges across them. It worked to a degree, but there’s only so much one can do against the inertia of various cultures.

Thus, it was peculiar after 18 years to sit, listening in spaces on Twitter, about the Ukrainians talk about the Russian imperialism while in the same breath wondering why there wasn’t more support for Ukraine in Africa, India, Latin America and the Caribbean. And I cannot help but wonder how the insulation may have worked both ways. In trying to communicate with some speaking out about how colonialism impacts Ukraine, I was met with silence. They are a bit busy making their case to the world, and I think the case would be made better if they made it to a broader audience who could sympathize and not just empathize. Still, it’s not my case to make.

There’s a plurality in Ukraine of people who, over hundreds of years, have not had a great relationship with the former Russian empires. Crimean Tartars, Roma, Cossacks… the list goes on. The people of Eastern Europe, it ends up, surprised the world with ‘revelations’ that they knew all too well and which we didn’t. It’s plausible that it works both ways.

There’s the recent reaffirmation of ‘regrets’ by Belgium’s King regarding the colonial past in the Congo. There’s the issues being discussed about the United States territories in the context of colonialism. Egypt had the Cairo Punch, started in 1908, had it’s satirical illustrations of nationalism and colonialism. There’s Britain’s Windrush Scandal, among many other things related to colonialism brought to the fore on the Queen’s Jubilee (Happy birthday, by the way, I forgot to send a card). The University of Texas at Austin even has a recent article about how the Legacy of Colonialism Influences Science in the Caribbean. and while I’m not familiar with the ins and outs of India and it’s complexities, this line by Amit Shah, Union Home Minister, is a powerful line to write 75 years after India’s independence:

“No one can stop us from writing the truth. We are now independent. We can write our own history,” he said.

75 years after independence from Britain, in a large nation, a nation with nuclear weapons but not falling under the definition of ‘nuclear power’ (an interesting read), has someone being quoted as saying that.

Colonialism and it’s effects are everywhere, and it’s generally omitted in it’s effects across media. What’s the cure? Well, developmental aid doesn’t seem to be working, according to this this article about development aid:

“…We should not be surprised that the aid industry keeps itself busy, year after year, without ever getting closer to what should be its goal – a world without aid. Industries and institutions seek not merely to perpetuate themselves, but to grow. The aid industry has no intention of ever packing up and going home. On the contrary: the UN announced eight development goals and 18 targets in 2000. In 2015, that grew to 17 goals and 169 targets….”

So, what is the answer?

The first step, I think, to move beyond colonialism is to find others with common issues, and one of the more common issues is the isolation from others, such as in the Caribbean even the next island over, by language, by culture, and by economic connection.

Colonialism is more of a common issue than most people think- with only a few articles linked here from the plethora on the Internet, which of course leads us to the Digital Divide, technocolonialism – other things I’ll be writing about soon.

For now, as the world becomes more aware of the voices in Ukraine speaking of the Russian empire, there are those speaking of the European Empires even as 2-3 generations later, former colonies are still recovering… maybe the best answer is to find the commonalities and build from there. As the narrative was at CARDICIS, we all cook, we all eat – but everyone’s food tastes different because of the different ingredients and balances of the ingredients.

There is much to learn from those different balances and different ingredients.

A Tribe Of One.

RFTribeOfOneIt wasn’t too long ago that I was in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, sitting in the local steakhouse at the bar next to a then friend who kept introducing me as being from Trinidad, a prop of the exotic in retrospect, but a burden. So I spoke to him about it, because it’s factually incorrect.

I’m not from Trinidad, I grew up in Trinidad and am a naturalized citizen. I’m from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, but I left there when I was 3, left Ohio when I was 9, and so on, and so on.

I left, a bit aggravated, and when he and I spoke next he said the bartender – who had a PhD in sociology – pointed out that he was encroaching on an identity that I had built over the years, which I knew but didn’t know about why I was upset. There were other things about it. Being from outside the U.S. comes with a stigma when within the U.S., just as being from the U.S. comes with a stigma when outside the U.S.

RFTaranYoungWisconsinWhat makes it more complicated is how I came about my identity. The picture on the right includes a toothy version of me at bottom, 2nd from left. These were my friends in Milwaukee. Notice anything? I didn’t. These were just my friends. I was the baby of the group, and while I do not remember them, and they likely don’t remember me, I viewed this as normal. This was, after all, my life, and I was about 3. We got into trouble together, though I suspect I got into trouble more. We were all judged about the same with the only distinction age, the tyranny of time.

RFTaranOhioBackyardFor reasons I didn’t quite comprehend, we whisked off to Dayton Ohio, where I traded a rich life of friends for a suburban backyard with a dog, not by choice, but by circumstance. My parents had the votes, I had… the results. I grew to like that life, running around, peddling a bicycle around, and then one day, I found out something.

I was brown.

Now, of course I knew I was brown. My father was browner. His parents were also browner. But up until a magical day when some kid broke an antenna off my father’s project car, an old Duster, and he lodged a complaint with the kid’s father, who happened to be a cop, I heard the term ‘Spic’. Understand, my father’s side of the family is predominantly East Indian by way of Trinidad, so that particular slur doesn’t make sense to me, and when I asked my mother about the term – my father was not in the mood to be asked, I remember that – I was told simply that it was, “a word we didn’t use.” It was 1978, I was 8, and it made no sense to me as many things didn’t, so I was quickly distracted by peanut butter cookies.

Not too long after, I was kissed by a lovely girl named Jenny in her treehouse nearby, and was informed that I was her boyfriend. She even dedicated a song to me in Music Class as she played the drums. “Don’t Bring Me Down” by Electric Light Orchestra. We went skating to Pink Floyd’s “The Wall”, singing at the top of our lungs in true 1970s fashion. Fun goofy kid stuff.

Until one day, the kid who broke my father’s antenna caught me on the way home from school with a baseball bat and told me to leave her alone before knocking me out with it. I wasn’t a tough kid then. I was a kid who laughed, who smiled, who was polite… not perfect in school. My friends got me home where I lay on the plush ‘baby turd brown’  couch (it was the 1970s) with my mother worrying over me, telling me not to go to sleep.

I felt anger. Rage. Frustration. And so I did find that kid after school one day and I lost that fight, so the next day I fought him again. I lost that one too. And the next one, and the next one, and the next one. Every busted lip and bruise was answered at home with, “fell off my bike”.  My father worked nights, my mother was easy to convince. One day, though, I won. During all of this, I don’t remember Jenny at all. It’s as if she disappeared.

This was my introduction to racism, and this was my response to it. Decades later I would note that even though I had encountered it, all but a few times they hated me for being a race that I wasn’t.

Soon after, I was sent down to Trinidad by my parents, where everything was inverted as far as the color of people. People of European descent were the minority – still are – and everyone else is a shade of brown, or of Asian descent. It meant going from being hated for one reason to another, as I still had the American accent and was not considered Indian enough by some, White enough by others, and not black enough by still others. Add to that going from a Jehovah’s Witness to my father’s side of the family practicing Hinduism, and things got really hairy about who I was, on top of everything else. My mother didn’t come down, my parents divorced, and life was at best a turmoil before and during adolescence as I constructed from the bits and pieces of everything… who I was.

It was my own gauntlet. My own forge, surrounded by tribes, alone, trying to fit in while remaining an individual with those awkward hormones not helping matters at all. I worked in the family businesses not because I was industrious – I was – but because my social life simply didn’t exist. I didn’t belong anywhere, so I occupied myself in ways that would at least gain some form of respect from my elders. Rewinding motors, offset printing, and early failures at sales for both. Give me a computer, though, and I could change the world – that’s what I thought, anyway.
I couldn’t afford weights, so I lifted bricks. I never backed down from a fight and sometimes, if I’m honest, went looking for fights because things at home were less than stellar. The kid who laughed and smiled was pretty much a facade. I had forged myself into someone tough. Into someone that people didn’t mess with. I leveraged printing from the family business into a free gym membership. I leveraged every moment with a computer to become a computer programmer. When the business was bad, I subsisted on what was available. I went one two week period rationing a jar of peanut butter that I had bought on my own.

This, you see, is a lot of identity to build. Leaving Trinidad at 16, I got my father to sign my emancipated minor status when I went to college in Irving, Texas, and from there I worked, I went to school, then I worked and didn’t go to school when I got programming gigs. Student Aid was a joke. I wasn’t black enough for this, hispanic enough for that. I fell through the cracks of the late 1980s of equal opportunity, but what I could count on was… myself.

Strangely, I only encountered a small amount of racism in Texas at the time, surrounded by friends of all shades. I melted into this world, and lost what I was trying to do somewhere along the line. I drove to Oklahoma, to New Mexico, to Louisiana, to Arkansas, to Mexico. I did what I had to do to make ends meet, and I saw an America that was not the America I thought it was when I was abroad – as happens.

And then I ended up in New York City repairing commercial dishwashers before I joined the Navy. When I signed my contract, a friend of mine who was, and I imagine still is, of African descent decided to go out drinking (underage). We hung out in CBGBs, had all sorts of fun, and the week before he headed off to bootcamp, we were out in the village when some angry biker chick shouted across the street that, “N****** and Spics ain’t allowed ’round here”. So, we got our asses kicked by bikers and rode the subway to sobriety. I mean, in retrospect, why didn’t we see bracing the biker gang was a bad idea?

And why is it that I don’t use the word in Tom Sawyer, but calling people of latin descent ‘spics’ is allowed? Why is that permitted?

My recruiter, by the way, noted that I was hispanic so I could get more points for him. ‘Equal Opportunity’ my ass.

Now, all of that said, those account for my first 20 years. The Navy wasn’t bad. In fact, once I got out of the nuclear pipeline, it was pretty good. People liked or hated me for the right reasons, which was a nice recalibration. Upon getting out, I taught medical technicians in Harlem. I had a lot of explaining to do one night with a non-stock 1985 Chrysler Laser with a hatchback, where IV needles and my Florida plates took some explaining to a white cop in Harlem, but I got through that unscathed.
I returned to Florida, where I had been stationed, and ended up being a team leader at a blood bank where I was respected and liked, then dove into programming again for Honeywell where I encountered racism only once where I was referred to by a Sand-N****r by someone who I simply ignored and outperformed and outlasted.

Now, all this time, I never lied about who I was. I refused to do that, I still do, because if a person – or as I was taught growing up, a man – betrays his word, he is nothing. And of all the things I could be, I knew I was not nothing.

I became an individual, a tribe of one, not because of some innate need to be an individual but as a survival trait. When I had forms to fill out and they asked about the artificial construct of race, I wrote ‘Other’. When asked to explain, I wrote, “None of the above.”. This may have even cost me jobs where, had I lied, I might have gotten an equal opportunity hire.

As I grew into that career, that path of software and consultation, my only enemy was bullshit, regardless of how I was seen and I developed a reputation for that. I grew as far as I could by merit, not by handouts, not by stepping stones of equal opportunity and ‘diversity’ – diversity in practice being a way to simply re-emphasize divisions to give the illusion of progress. I worked on my communications skills, and was suddenly gifted by a man from Puerto Rico, a Scottish Jew and a guy from deep Florida with the humanities, something I had lacked in my formative years. And I grew, and I liked who I became despite not liking some of the things I had been to get to where I was.

Because of this, and more, when someone tries to pin me to being a Democrat or a Republican, UNC or PNM (Trinidad politics), Indian or white, or even says if I choose otherwise that I’m only ‘helping the other side win’, there’s a 50 year old ass ready for their lips.

I don’t care about your tribes. I care about the issues.

My tribes are about issues, and I do not join easily. Where you see me is because of who I am, not because of who I’m surrounded by, not because of some accident of geography, not because of some accident of parentage.

I am a tribe of one. I know others like me. We exist. Some call us Third Culture Kids, but we’re all different, different parents, different cultures, different circumstances. We are whole, and we can think and speak for ourselves because we did not have a choice.

We simply exist.

Beyond Boxes.

flickr svklimkin publicdomain aug 8 2017Every now and then, I come across someone from India who has something crappy to say about the Indian diaspora. It makes little sense to me since my roots are only partly East Indian, and I don’t identify as Indian (or anything other than ‘Other’). In my youth, I was constantly asked about this in Trinidad and Tobago because to my father’s side of the family, I was not seen as Indian, and in Trinidad and Tobago at the time – and even now – they would ask me if I was white or Indian.

It wasn’t til I was 16 or so that I figured out I could be both and neither. I got to pick what I took from different cultures, much to the chagrin of those around me, and built my own identity as most third culture kids do. Had I been in the US, I have no doubts I would have been mistaken for some version of Latino – it happens to this day, and in Trinidad and Tobago these days, I often get mistaken for a Venezuelan.

The trouble isn’t that I don’t know who I am. I do know who I am. The trouble is that I don’t fit neatly into a slot with fuzzy borders of racism.

A few days ago, I was on Twitter, doing my thing when I encountered an Indian who, when he could not refute my comments, went ad hominem, brought up the indentured past of my father’s side of the family. I chuckled. The root problem with looking down on the East Indians who left India as indentured laborers is that there were two choices for the Indentured Laborers: Stay in India, where they believed they had no future (thus they left), or go somewhere else and maybe get some land somewhere and have a future. The British boot remained the same. Such was the British Empire. And, while telling me that I should go and ‘lick the boots of my white masters’, I laughed outright because we were tweeting at each other in…

Guess which language?

You’re right. English.

So Indians looking down on the Indian diaspora for leaving and speaking English vary by only one thing: They stayed in India. That’s it. Now, to be fair, there are tidal pools of culture that formed in the Caribbean and South America, where subcultures formed, but at the very beginning, the chief complaint of people who come after those of Indian descent in such ways is that… they left. And with such winning personalities trolling the diaspora, I can understand why they left.

Yet.

India is not made up of those people alone. I know this because I know people from India, and while we may not agree on some things, we’re respectful and even, in some cases, fairly close friends.

facebook FossbytesYesterday, I came across a post by Fossbytes on Facebook that seemed poorly timed given the issues in Ukraine, featuring imaginative (and, I might add, impractical, at least for now) ways to conduct war by a Russian inventor, so I said as much in the comments – it was poorly timed. I don’t know the Russian inventor, I don’t know his politics, and I don’t know that he supports the invasion of Ukraine so I saw no need to jump the gun, per se. So I just said it was poorly timed given the current conflict, and of course I got trolled – I knew that going in. 

Now, here’s the thing. I’m also a FOSS (Free and Open Source Software) advocate and have been since the late 1990s. For a while, I was involved with LinuxGazette.com, I spoke at conferences in the Caribbean and Latin America and got to meet some of the more famous people involved in FOSS advocacy at the time. I wasn’t unknown, I was in that nice little comfortable zone of being known without being famous.

I decided that they may not get my message and went to the Fossbytes.com website, checked the Fossbytes.com about page and… Indian. Which got me thinking something about the very first interaction with India I had since the Ukrainian Invasion started. We’ll get to that. 

I got an email address, and sent them a friendly email about it. They haven’t responded, of course, but I did my part and decided to check up on that first interaction. 

When things were just starting up in Ukraine, like many people who saw a former colony of the USSR trying to be reclaimed by it’s former colonizer, a sovereign nation being invaded, I was trying to find ways to help out and I noted the wounded, the dead, the Ukrainians leaving Ukraine en masse and I remembered something from after the South East Asian tsunami back when I was writing for WorldChanging.com but was busy with the Alert Retrieval Cache.

In the wake of that tsunami, Indians in the affected areas wrote a brilliant piece of software for finding people after a disaster and I thought, “Well, what is a war but another form of disaster?”

 So I emailed the Sahana Foundation on March 28th about using it in assisting with refugees, etc, because it is a brilliant piece of software, or was the last time I saw it in action. To date, 10 days short of 2 months, no response.

So that’s 3 interactions, or 1 interaction and 2 attempted interactions with Indian entities regarding things related to Ukraine.

Now, I know China and India are having issues along their border, I know India and Pakistan have issues along their border (Gandhi is shaking his head somewhere, he said creating Pakistan was a mistake) , and I know India imports oil and weapons from Russia (the latter will be a neat trick with global sanctions on Russia).

I also know I have good friends of India proper.

And I know that the first interaction mentioned was that of a troll who might not be Indian, but sure seemed like it, and let’s face it, being the 2nd most populous country in the world (currently 17.7% of the global population), it’s almost unavoidable to come across someone I disagree with in India.

Fossbytes comment DahirAnd I also understand that publishers like Fossbytes.com just churn content, though they did make it a point to hail out the Russian inventor in the contents and that seemed pretty much like they knew what they were doing and pushing a bit on something they knew would be controversial. The comments in that thread certainly have their stats jumping, I’m sure, and hey, as long as the stats are jumping, publishers don’t care as long as they get the views.

There’s lots of wiggle room here. I start with assuming the best and let people lead me to their worst. This is no different.

Sahana Foundation, however, was a disappointment because their system could have been useful if they chose to. Maybe they don’t check their email. Maybe they don’t care about Ukraine. Maybe the people who check email are superglued to a toilet somewhere. I don’t know.

I do know generally speaking that when you send an email requesting information, you get a response back. Sahana – epic fail. Meanwhile, the Ukrainians have shown themselves resourceful beyond measure and have developed their own stuff on the ground, which means… when this is all over… Sahana will likely be outdated instead of evolved. Software Life Cycle.

In all of these interactions, with the backdrop of India’s lack of condemnation of Russia’s atrocities in Ukraine, I have to wonder how much Indian media has to do with this. I have to wonder how much the Russian echo chambers are resonating within the walls of India’s media that was browbeat by the Indian government during Covid and simply didn’t publish things that challenged the government (per a few friends in India). Or stopping exporting wheat when the globe has a wheat issue, understandable to an extent given India accounts for 17.7% of the global population and the current heat wave in India. 

Now, here’s the thing. I wrote a lot about India here, but this isn’t an Indian issue. It’s a global issue. The Ukrainian issue is a global issue. But these 3 interactions with Indian entities gave me pause.

And then I remembered the Indians serving in the International Legion of Defense of Ukraine, and it all balanced out.

It’s easy to classify people by color, race, culture, region, religion, gender, and whether they think the boiled egg should be opened from the small or large end. It’s arguably an evolutionary thing that frees our minds to, as Douglas Adams would write, advance twig technology. Yet we need to evolve beyond these things because humanity is interconnected across the globe.

We should have had a pandemic teach us that, but instead we seem to have decided to go with isolationism. So you find the voices of coherence out there, regardless of who society thinks they are, and when you’re going in the same direction you travel together. The destinations may differ, but the same direction is the same direction.

So the next time you’re thinking of grouping people together in a lazy way because they are working against you or not with you, take a breath. Just go find the ones who are going your way.

 

 

Connecting Coherence

flickr svklimkin publicdomain aug 8 2017There are two main ways that I know of to connect things: science, and art. Science tends towards linear connections, where one question leads to another and connects them. Art is not so constrained, allowing the mixing of things that aren’t necessarily the same but have some coherence. The image on the left that is titled ‘Neurons’ but is actually a picture of dandelion seeds, disconnected unlike neurons.

Scientifically, the two are not connected, but the representation allows us to ‘fill a gap’, to intuit something that is not there. While it’s wrong here – an important thing to note, since the dandelion seeds are not connected in the same way that neurons are – there is some coherence in how we perceive a flat image.  It also does something else. It opens our minds to the possibilities.

This is sort of like being comfortable or uncomfortable around people of the same skin color, culture, religion, gender and geography, regardless of how differently they view the world. Movements, even now, clash over these ‘meta’ commonalities allows us to settle into a false sense of coherence with people. The desire to fit in clashes with the desire to be an individual, and people sometimes prefer to simply ‘go with the flow’ rather than find others who are actually more coherent to who they are.

Consider this article on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, “Inside the Battle On The Eastern Front“, by David Patrikarakos (contributing editor to Unherd). A very great article that he ties together at the very end – I won’t quote it because to get the full effect you need to read the article – is a matter of coherence, of what connects humanity in a way that makes the entire invasion of Ukraine by Russia look incoherent in a new way. Humanity disconnected where it shouldn’t be.

Yet the article itself is based in fact, in linearity, scientific to a great degree in reporting the subjective while being objective. It’s a story in that regard, from the guy toting around an image of Jesus Christ (go on, read the article) to… well, Kit Kats? Little touches of the world, however surreal, that connect in ways that we may not have seen all because the right person with the right observation skills and the right ability to describe them coherently was there. 

This is the way we connect islands of coherence in this world of chaos. These connections are important in understanding and connecting our worlds and making them less worlds, closer to one world of perception. That’s the challenge of our time.

Making sense of babel.

Islands of Coherence.

M42_3123 flickr no copyright BrandonGhanyFloating, seemingly disconnected, the cosmos we exist in is a map of multiple dimensions we know of. Yet it’s not disconnected. It’s a daisy chain of chemical reactions, inertia, gravity and time.

On a small planet, only important because we happen to be here, we have wide ranging ecosystems that we understand more slowly than we impact. Existing within that complexity, a mammalian species with overgrown nerve bundles generally closer to the sky than the rest of them developed civilizations that we pride ourselves on, and with these civilizations we have built complex systems that often seem to live by their own rules at the very limits of their influence, like planets that aren’t planets:

First, a body has to have established a stable orbit around the Sun. Thousands of bodies meet this condition. Secondly, a body has to have developed a spheroidal shape. When a body is sufficiently large and massive, gravity will mold it into a spheroid. Pluto fulfills this condition. Third, and finally, the body has to have cleared its debris field. It has to be sufficiently massive so as to incorporate all proximate objects into it. Pluto fails on this condition, as its orbit passes close to or even within the Kuiper Belt, a region from which short periods comets originate. By adopting resolution 5A, the IAU demoted Pluto, firmly established the other eight planets as planets, and disqualified all the bodies beyond Pluto, all in one fell swoop.


In our proud civilizations, we have people who are like Pluto to civilizations. Just far enough out of influence not to have ‘cleared their debris field’ of challenges. It’s even gotten to the point where we have civilizations that treat other civilizations that well, perhaps an indictment of our own methods as much as a necessary classification.

complex systemsSome of us feel this way about the human construct of race. Some of us feel like that about gender identities. Some of us feel that way about socioeconomics. Some of us feel that way about geography. Some of us feel that way in some way or the other. It’s part of being an individual, where being in an area of some influence means being of lesser influence in others. Pulled in different directions from different systems, complex systems and largely artificial systems that are influenced by complex natural systems… well, we’re a lot of small islands in a sea of chaos.

The source for the quote on the right is allegedly from, “From Being to Becoming: Time and Complexity in Physical Sciences” (1st Edition, 1981), by Ilya Prigogine. I have not found it in the text.

Who is this person? A man born in Moscow, Russia a few months before the Russian Revolution of 1917, and because his family was critical of the Soviet system, they left in 1921 for Germany, and in 1929 to Belgium where he would become a Belgium National in 1949. So before the Bolsheviks started the USSR, and because of the way the political wind was blowing, at age4 he went from Russia to Germany. At age 12, they went to Belgium – and so it’s easy to conceive that he had to forge his own identity like most Third Culture kids. How peculiar I’m quoting someone born in Moscow right now, and yet… maybe appropriate since he left at an early age.

‘Islands of coherence’. Islands that will form a whole, islands that ’emit the same waveforms and frequency’. Islands of… commonality. It’s the common things that bind us, really. Our neighbors are of the same geography, but as the world grows more granular, geography is not enough. You can have more in common with someone you have never met on the other side of the world than with the person next to you.

There are so many islands of coherence divided by so many things that it’s almost implausible that they would ever connect in a meaningful way.

What if they could?

This is meant as a reference for future things.

 

Knowprose.com, Disparate Evolution and CMS.

evolution tech smallI’ve been reflecting a bit on the future of KnowProSE.com. Part of this was because of seeing my friend’s work on Miles By Motorcycle, part of it is the root of a lot of ideas I’ve had over time, and a lot of it has come with understanding what I was trying to do, what I actually did and what I wanted to do, as well as the tools that helped me along the way.

I’ve had the domain ‘KnowProSE.com’ for decades now. I think it was since the late 1990s, but I’ll go with just calling it two decades, which translates to me being 2 decades younger, as well as Content Management System Technology being in a fledgling stage. The first sites I had were either hand built by HTML in the 1990s, some of which I still find here and there, and later I went to blogging when I started getting paid for writing – when blogging was about the blogosphere, and when voices unheard of previously defined themselves as social media to challenge more formal media. It was a fun time for most of us who were both writers and technology savvy. If you remember this period, don’t forget to schedule your colonoscopy.

Drupal was the core of KnowProSE.com for some time, and for a while it grew with Drupal in step. But then Drupal became a pain in the ass.  I’d want to log in to do one thing but ended up spending a lot of time doing updates, which was not as clean as it was when I later stopped using Drupal (to Drupal’s credit). Drupal was a contender for me at the time because I could, without a whole lot of overhead on relatively cheap hosting, do some pretty great things and I could imagine with the technology available. There was space for that. As Drupal evolved, I updated accordingly and things simply became more and more of a pain. I had grown. Drupal had grown. We grew apart. So when Bluehost.com lost my site and had no backup, and I had failed to backup recently, I just started over.

I eventually got tired of dealing with Drupal altogether – I was working with Drupal to pay the bills, Drupal broke things with every release, and my client base got a bit tired of Drupal. They weren’t wrong. On Twitter, the Drupal fans have been trying to tell me how awesome it is now, but honestly, I used to be one of the people who said that, so…

What I wanted was to simply be able to log in and write without all the Drupal chores. There are two parts of me – the technical side and the creative side, and they rarely get the chance to work together. To pay bills, you don’t get to play as much unless you’re a unicorn developer who farts rainbows. You end up doing the equivalent of, “Hello world” sort of stuff when you have enough time behind you. It gets boring, and I don’t like being bored almost as much as I don’t like having to deal with a bunch of updates when I want to focus on writing.

Is it all about me? For my websites, YES, it is all about me, because if I don’t like doing it I just ain’t going to do it. So I switched to WordPress.com, and I can now focus on the writing more for personal reasons – and RealityFragments is becoming that aspect of things for me, despite all this block nonsense they’ve hoisted on me. I just need a simple site for the writing.

But there is a part of me that wants to fiddle with those ideas that have survived the decades, and I just don’t want the Drupal overhead with all the layers of crap it comes with to be everything for the enterprise. I’m not the enterprise. I don’t want all of that.

This is what happens with technology as we grow. It either keeps pace with us and evolves with us or the disparate evolution happens, where we and the tech grow apart. With Drupal, it was also about paying the bills, but it just became too much of a pain to do that. Even now, a decade since I have looked at Drupal code, headhunters are pinging me about dealing with Drupal websites. What happened to them? Likely they hired some developers, got poor documentation, some kludgey code and when the developers left, suddenly they want someone to come in and fix the problems. That’s like paying me to stick my fingers on a door frame and slamming the door against my hand for a few bucks.

Not interested.

And so, having peeked and poked around a bit, I’m thinking of building my own CMS in Python for KnowProSE.com, which either means starting with the Django framework or not. I know Python, and this is an opportunity not just to get better at Python, but also to finally be able to get back to some of the big ideas I had behind KnowProSE.com – not necessarily good, but it’s my site and I can do what I want – and maybe keep the KnowProse.com CMS from evolving separately from what I want to do with the site.

Colonialism, Ukraine and the Caribbean Perspective

It was a quiet day in Trinidad so I opted to go have a beer, which of course lends itself to another beer. During that time I struck up a conversation with a woman who, when the invasion of Ukraine came up, she said easily that she supported Putin. Mind you, she did not say Russia, but Putin, which is interesting in how the world characterizes the conflict.

She knew I support Ukraine when she said it, and there was no animosity in how she said it, so I asked her why. She looked at me perplexed, and I said, “Well, we’re having a good adult conversation, we have different perspectives on something in another part of the world and I’m curious why you feel the way you do.” After a brief pause, she said she was tired of the United States hegemony that Putin talks about.

I nodded in agreement and said, “Yes, that is true, and the past few decades haven’t been the best for the United States and foreign policy.” Honestly, they haven’t regardless of how you feel about anything; domestic issues within the United States have echoed across the world in their conflicted ways with changes of Presidency, from George W. Bush to the present Joe Biden.

I continued, “Yet the killing of civilians, torture and rapes can’t be easy to support. Like in Bucha.” She looked down, conflicted, as I continued, “Most people I know don’t realize that the Ukrainians were colonized, and that their former colonial masters are trying to take them over again – which would be like the British showing up with warships here and pummeling civilian targets until we were a colony again.”

“Colonized?”

And that’s where the conversation becomes interesting in the Caribbean, and I imagine in Latin America and Africa. ‘Colonization’ is not an idle word, it is a loaded word filled with history, of economics, and of attempting to catch up while some maintain what is called a ‘colonial mentality’. It’s something I’ve heard in Latin America and Caribbean more than once, almost always associated with claims, real and some imagined (completely about personal biases), of racial subjugation, which is probably why Latin America and the Caribbean, and perhaps even Africa, don’t see Ukraine as a former colony of the USSR.

So I compared the Holodomor to the famines in India under British rule. Intentionality in both groupings is a matter of debate by people who like to spend time debating such things, but there is no question that they happened – and in the case of the Holodomor, roughly a decade after the Bolsheviks made a violently convincing ‘argument’ that Ukraine was ‘The Ukraine’. If you wish to irritate someone from Ukraine, call it ‘The Ukraine’. Depending on the context, you may be gently, firmly, or belligerently corrected.

Then I talked about the oil in the Donbas region, which I mentioned not too long ago, and about the messy aspects of democracy and free speech that aren’t permitted in Russia.

The conversation remained pleasant, not a discussion of who was right or wrong. There was searching the internet on mobile phones, and a sincere discussion that lasted for a few beers that morphed into China’s inroads into Trinidad and Tobago, about how economically China has been colonizing former colonies of other nations in Latin America, the Caribbean, and Africa, and how that impacts what we hear. You don’t see much in that regard, but China has sway and where China has sway, the Russian voice is heard more loudly because of China’s benign status about the invasion of Ukraine. There is no form of ‘legal’ invasion, by definition an invasion is illegal. If you want to argue, feel free to tell me when an invasion is legal.

And this leads to the echo chambers of the Global South – in this case, the echo chambers of the Caribbean, Latin America and Africa. People and nations within these regions know well what it’s like when someone else speaks for them and writes their history, yet because they are in the Global South they are most easily influenced by Russian media about fairy tale special military operations occur without the rape and torture of civilians. Yet those fairy tale special military operations where these things do not happen simply don’t exist. And without realizing it, without even questioning because the day to day issues of life keep the brain busy, they unconsciously support the attempted recolonization of those who have much in common with themselves, and in rebelling against one hegemony they support another.

Dead Squirrels.

2392076517_9356f45514_wYou pack, you leave, you go.
You arrive, you unpack, you stay.
This is the way I have known how to live for most of my life.
Most people stay where they live for the majority of their lives, watching time slowly change their environment – so slowly that most are unaware that their environment has changed, and that the world outside of their living area has changed. It is not a bad way to live; I have tried it and it is comfortable and reassuring to do the same things in the same places over and over. There’s a rhythm to it that lacks the urgency of connecting flights and the dodging through aggravatingly leisure humans in airports.

And then there are some of us who are most comfortable in motion, and even as we grow older we find a comfort in that motion – a familiarity of movement as we find ways to other parts of the planet. Sometimes we return to the same spots after periods of times and see what has changed, and sometimes we return to the same spots after periods of time and find nothing has changed. But we have changed, or should have.

When we stay still for however long and do not improve things in an area, however small, we have wasted that part of our life. There is a difference between running from things and running to things, and these are easily confused because even while different, they are the same and are subject only to how we view things.

We are odd little creatures, not unlike squirrels playing in a backyard, goofing off. We feel bad for the squirrel that lays in the road hit by a car because we assign some form of intentionality to it. In the end, the consequences are the same. It’s how they live that matters.

Like us. Life is for the living.

A Cast Of the Die.

20220407_141319A good adventure never takes you where you intend, and the one I have been on has become good. It wasn’t but days ago that I was staring out at the world, disgusted with the monsters who still live out there, the worst kinds. The human kind.

Oddly, it wasn’t long ago that someone I knew had died – an ex-girlfriend, one who for a brief and stunning period of time was a part of my life – and her husband messaged me out of the blue to tell me of her passing. Like most of us, she had her own demons and owned them as best she could. It was an awkward conversation for both her husband and myself, one that marked the passing of someone who was different and the same in our lives. She and I would roll 20 sided dice, much like the one to the left, and we would laugh and play silly games where we outsmarted and slew monsters. Amethyste is gone. The monsters remain.

Then there are the monsters we carry with us for a variety of reasons, the ones that leave us scarred, maybe even unfeeling in parts of our lives, and we must be ever so careful that we do not become monsters ourselves because of these blind spots. We are imperfect and it is only fitting we are: We are held to a tyranny of a normalcy that society teaches but does not practice, a contrast in what we are taught society should be and what society actually is. We may see ourselves as failures sometimes, hunching next to a comfortable fire in our caves that we have piled with the wealth and poverty, both, of our journeys. We will see ourselves as what we once were even as we allow ourselves to fade away, to recoil from the harsh contrasts between what is and what should be. Or we could dance in that hypocrisy and pretend it doesn’t matter, a flip on the allegory of the Cave, we can simply move our feet to the rhythm and have blind faith that the precipice we’re dancing toward has a soft landing if we step just right.

I chose the cave for a while.

And now, with a roll of the die, I am outside again, deeply disturbed by what I see. Everyone is shouting even though it’s pretty clear that almost no one actually understands why they are shouting other than being upset. We do not find comfort in each other because we do not find stability in each other. Some are not ashamed because they have no dignity, some are ashamed because they have too much. The world spins on, uncaring of dignity and shame, keeping the time of a rhythm that is longer than our lives. Our heartbeats are like the water rolling across river stones, making sharp edges into smooth edges over millenia.

We are inconsequential in the moment other than how we impact each other. On how we slowly allow the water to flow over us to smooth those edges, not in our lifetimes, but over generations.

It is time to awaken.