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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LIFT06: my moment

Thomas Madsen-Mygdal gave one of those presentations that is very much to my taste. He asked the audience, he asked us, to close our laptops and do some thinking with him. Then when he was through guiding us through the elements of understanding context, he took feedback and he listened, just listened. If you could not be present for such a magnificent moment when someone just listens to you, you missed something.

The LIFT organizers billed him as someone from whom entrepreneur types would get some inspiration from. Now, I do have one hell of a time identifying myself with the entrepreneur crowd, but when you boil down what I do, it is anyhow one hell of an enterprise: writing.  You end up taking all sorts of risks, and working for months or years on end without seeing a penny or getting any praise for your labour. Not that I have much to complain about, but really, that thing called a paycheck at the end of the month can also look attractive in moments of desperation when nothing seems to make sense. I have had lots of those moments in my life, and that paycheck has seduced me enough times, only to have me give it up a few years later in a state of complete physical and emotional exhaustion.

Then, there comes this guy wearing his reboot t-shirt and a jacket over it, the picture perfect geek, and the room fills to the brim, there were people standing against the wall. He had me. Few speakers ever get my undivided attention, he did.

Augmentation, freedom, education, nature, computer, connected, individual, creation… and then he asks what human thoughts have we been having after we all laughed at his casual remark that Europe has been more connected by EasyJet than by the European Union.

All I could come up with was that it felt like walking on a tight rope without a safety net. That is what it feels like to live my life, the real one, not the one that would be expected of me. So if you do not have a passion for what you are doing, why are you doing it? Why would you want to go and work on anybody else’s passion?

Damn good question.

Somebody else’s passion has a safety net, it is called a paycheck at the end of the month.

Money covers food and shelter…