Yesterday near and far

After a week fraught with new circumstances in both personal and world realms, last night I downloaded Telegram again. I do not use it, and my family tends to use another (social media) application to share moments and forward videos commenting on the ridiculous posturing of politicians in power or aspiring to power. I downloaded Telegram again because I was curious. A Russian YouTuber with a neutral or resigned stance let its “adorables”— an expression that he uses to address his audience in English in his valorous effort to learn the language — know that he would not be able to make further posts on YouTube and could be found on Telegram. 

I have mixed feelings about YouTube (YT) like I have mixed feelings about television (TV). It is a mixed blessing of dual use. Since February 21, I have been watching any news channel that I can access. What is happening to our world?

The YT algorithm dutifully put that adorable Russian on my recommendations, along with UATV English, and I am constantly reminded by the admonition pronounced by the north American comedian and political commentator Samanta Bee at the end of some her vlogs: if you would like to become radicalised, leave YT on autoplay. YT autoplay is an abyss, and the algorithm that makes recommendations based on your viewing history will also send you down a bottomless rabbit hole. That said, I still click on occasions on the recommendations, and on a few occasions, it is interesting. Whether it is useful is another topic. 

That said, from my adorable Russian vlogger, I got to downloading Telegram late last night. Not that I was going into the group chat for the adorables, but that I was curious about the application and how it works now. I had just downloaded it and created my login when I get a chat “Hi”. Name of the user in Cyrillic, and the phone number from Russia. I can make out the letters of the Cyrillic alphabet, but then my knowledge of all languages using Cyrillic ends. I have a Russian friend with that first name and with citizenship in a Western European country. Still uncertain about the identity of the person on the other side, and before I told them off, I continued the dialogue with caution and got a message “I just got to (a capital in Europe that I am not going to name) from Moscow”. Interesting, one more data point that could confirm that this is my friend. Then I asked about the family, and in specific one family member. He replied with the name of his family member and the whereabouts of that person. Relief on all sides. That person is not in Russia, and I was now fairly confident that this was indeed my friend. Then I learned that his Western phone was out of battery, so he was using the Russian one. Above all, he shared his disapproval of the actions taken by the Russian government against Ukraine. We didn’t talk about the weather or climate change.

While I was having an interesting dialogue with my Russian friend who just got out of Moscow on the last Finnair flight, I got another message: a photo from the demonstration in Bern yesterday against the war in the Ukraine. This time the identity of the sender was much easier, an Ukrainian colleague who lives in the Swiss capital and with whom I had spoken on the phone just a few hours earlier. 

It is two people whom I know, both colleagues, both people with whom I have co-authored academic papers, one Russian, one Ukrainian, and both were equally indignant over the plight of the Ukranians and nobody had any doubts as to who was the agressor and in the wrong. It is just two opinions of intelligent and normal people, but I suspect it is also the consensus worldwide. This is wrong in all possible ways. Wrong. 

As to the future, I will be writing more. 

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Good morning world!

Back to Earth, Back to the Grindstone

I have to confess that while I had the chance to be there in Rio this month, I passed it up for a whole of many reasons. I could have organized a side event, my colleague told me at group meeting after we had been notified that our institute got accreditation. Accreditation is good. Being in Rio is good. Indeed the expectations are so low that some of us are choosing to stay home and keep the nose to the grindstone. 

So, why is it that I believe that keeping my nose to the grindstone is more effective than getting on a jet bound to Rio de Janeiro and have a few heated and a few less passionate discussions about what this earth needs now?

It is a fair question that the two beings in my heart answer with loud voices. The egoistical being just tries to avoid getting on jets bound anywhere with the possible exception of Japan although that choice is not obvious and I am not inclined to justify it either. The other more reasoned being contends that what the world needs is action, not talk. Don’t get me wrong. It is not that we do not need to talk, we do. What is not clear is who should be talking to whom. It could be that the right people are already talking to each other, however there is little evidence that anybody is listening.

What I see happening is people, the so-called world leaders, are interested in getting re-elected or saving face. Global climate change, poverty eradication, social sustainability, disaster prevention does not really seem to be on their agendas. Syria is a slaughter house and the world do not take action, watches idly and perhaps the UN Security Council’s president is disappointed about the continued violence. Still, nothing is happening. This always reminds me of a painting, could be from one of the Brueghel and I have vague memories of seeing it in the Musée d’Orsay, where in what at first glance looks like an idyllic scene, on closed inspection there are all sorts of less than idyllic scenes that include a dog shitting, a corpse… and so it goes or else I made this all up. But do not let me digress, the Security Council with its veto power members just does not help much in the case of such slaughters as the one going on in Syria now. The Russians are comfortable with their energy reserves that give them plenty of leverage to play the bully. The Chinese have bigger fish to fry than the suffering of Syrians and are preoccupied with claiming a few minuscule but strategically located islands is the Pacific, and of course the US is in election fever. Frankly, nobody cares beyond their own little domestic concerns and everybody is free riding. That the free ride is going to end up in hell, nobody really cares to think about.

Do not take my words to be the source of all wisdom, here is another take on this very issue by people who might know a lot better than I do. Back to Earth : Nature : Nature Publishing Group: “In 1992, Nature warned against thinking that a single summit could eradicate poverty and redistribute wealth while setting specific limits on greenhouse gases. The expectations for Rio+20 are so low that almost any agreement or affirmation would qualify as a success. The fact is that politicians know what needs to be done, and countries committed to doing it 20 years ago; what is missing is political leadership and solutions that are cheap, scalable and politically viable. For the second time, the world has a chance to craft a workable agenda, but the elusive key to success lies in finding a way to overturn the widespread reluctance to make the necessary investments in time, money and intellect to get the job done.” (Via. Nature)

Why am I so pessimistic?

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