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robertogreco : holocaust   3

HEWN, No. 250
"I wrote a book review this week of Brian Dear’s The Friendly Orange Glow: The Untold History of of PLATO System and the Dawn of Cyberculture. My review’s a rumination on how powerful the mythologizing is around tech, around a certain version of the history of technology – “the Silicon Valley narrative,” as I’ve called this elsewhere – so much so that we can hardly imagine that there are other stories to tell, other technologies to build, other practices to adopt, other ways of being, and so on.

I was working on the book review when I heard the news Tuesday evening that the great author Ursula K. Le Guin had passed away, I immediately thought of her essay “The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction” – her thoughts on storytelling about spears and storytelling about bags and what we might glean from a culture (and a genre) that praises the former and denigrates the latter.
If science fiction is the mythology of modern technology, then its myth is tragic. “Technology,” or “modern science” (using the words as they are usually used, in an unexamined shorthand standing for the “hard” sciences and high technology founded upon continuous economic growth), is a heroic undertaking, Herculean, Promethean, conceived as triumph, hence ultimately as tragedy. The fiction embodying this myth will be, and has been, triumphant (Man conquers earth, space, aliens, death, the future, etc.) and tragic (apocalypse, holocaust, then or now).

If, however, one avoids the linear, progressive, Time’s-(killing)-arrow mode of the Techno-Heroic, and redefines technology and science as primarily cultural carrier bag rather than weapon of domination, one pleasant side effect is that science fiction can be seen as a far less rigid, narrow field, not necessarily Promethean or apocalyptic at all, and in fact less a mythological genre than a realistic one.


The problems of technology – and the problems of the storytelling about the computing industry today, which seems to regularly turn to the worst science fiction for inspiration – is bound up in all this. There’s a strong desire to create, crown, and laud the Hero – a tendency that’s going to end pretty badly if we don’t start thinking about care and community (and carrier bags) and dial back this wretched fascination with weapons, destruction, and disruption.

(Something like this, I wonder: “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” by Ursula K. Le Guin.)

Elsewhere in the history of the future of technology: “Sorry, Alexa Is Not a Feminist,” says Ian Bogost. “The People Who Would Survive Nuclear War” by Alexis Madrigal.

There are many reasons to adore Ursula K. Le Guin. And there are many pieces of her writing, of course, one could point to and insist “you must read this. You must.” For me, the attraction was her grounding in cultural anthropology – I met Le Guin at a California Folklore Society almost 20 years ago when I was a graduate student in Folklore Studies – alongside her willingness to challenge the racism and imperialism and expropriation that the field engendered. It was her fierce criticism of capitalism and her commitment to freedom. I’m willing to fight anyone who tries to insist that Sometimes a Great Notion is the great novel of the Pacific Northwest. Really, you should pick almost any Le Guin novel in its stead – Always Coming Home, perhaps. Or The Word for the World is Forest. She was the most important anarchist of our era, I posted on Facebook when I shared the NYT obituary. It was a jab at another Oregon writer who I bet thinks that’s him. But like Kesey, his notion is all wrong.

Fewer Heroes. Better stories about people. Better worlds for people.

Yours in struggle,
~Audrey"
audreywatters  ursulaleguin  2018  anarchism  sciencefiction  scifi  technology  edtech  progress  storytelling  care  community  caring  folklore  anarchy  computing  siliconvalley  war  aggression  humanism  briandear  myth  heroes  science  modernscience  hardsciences  economics  growth  fiction  tragedy  apocalypse  holocaust  future  conquest  domination  weapons  destruction  disruption 
january 2018 by robertogreco
What the last Nuremberg prosecutor alive wants the world to know - CBS News
[via: "I’m just going to keep recommending this incredible 60 Minutes segment: https://twitter.com/60Minutes/status/861372191694344192"
https://twitter.com/yayitsrob/status/861596354208034818

"It’s 13 minutes of TV about human rights that is way better than any US-made, mass-appeal TV on the topic should be: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/what-the-last-nuremberg-prosecutor-alive-wants-the-world-to-know/"
https://twitter.com/yayitsrob/status/861597947498291200

"It reminds me of interviews with the Apollo 12—this one person’s experience is so strange, it shines through every popular storytelling tic."
https://twitter.com/yayitsrob/status/861599609809928192 ]

"At 97, Ben Ferencz is the last Nuremberg prosecutor alive and he has a far-reaching message for today’s world"



"Lesley Stahl: Did you meet a lot of people who perpetrated war crimes who would otherwise in your opinion have been just a normal, upstanding citizen?

Benjamin Ferencz: Of course, is my answer. These men would never have been murderers had it not been for the war. These were people who could quote Goethe, who loved Wagner, who were polite--

Lesley Stahl: What turns a man into a savage beast like that?

Benjamin Ferencz: He's not a savage. He's an intelligent, patriotic human being.

Lesley Stahl: He's a savage when he does the murder though.

Benjamin Ferencz: No. He's a patriotic human being acting in the interest of his country, in his mind.

Lesley Stahl: You don't think they turn into savages even for the act?

Benjamin Ferencz: Do you think the man who dropped the nuclear bomb on Hiroshima was a savage? Now I will tell you something very profound, which I have learned after many years. War makes murderers out of otherwise decent people. All wars, and all decent people.

So Ferencz has spent the rest of his life trying to deter war and war crimes by establishing an international court – like Nuremburg. He scored a victory when the international criminal court in The Hague was created in 1998. He delivered the closing argument in the court's first case."



"Lesley Stahl: Did anybody ever say that you're naive?

Benjamin Ferencz: Of course. Some people say I'm crazy.

Lesley Stahl: Are you naive here?

Benjamin Ferencz: Well, if it's naive to want peace instead of war, let 'em make sure they say I'm naive. Because I want peace instead of war. If they tell me they want war instead of peace, I don't say they're naive, I say they're stupid. Stupid to an incredible degree to send young people out to kill other young people they don't even know, who never did anybody any harm, never harmed them. That is the current system. I am naive? That's insane."
benferencz  history  nuremburgtrials  holocaust  ww2  wwii  2017  warcrimes  humanrights  humans  murder  nationalism  lesleystahl 
may 2017 by robertogreco
Kids, the Holocaust, and "inappropriate" play
"On a strong recommendation from Meg, I have been reading Peter Gray's Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life. Gray is a developmental psychologist and in Free to Learn he argues that 1) children learn primarily through self-directed play (by themselves and with other children), and 2) our current teacher-driven educational system is stifling this instinct in our kids, big-time.

I have a lot to say about Free to Learn (it's fascinating), but I wanted to share one of the most surprising and unsettling passages in the book. In a chapter on the role of play in social and emotional development, Gray discusses play that might be considered inappropriate, dangerous, or forbidden by adults: fighting, violent video games, climbing "too high", etc. As part of the discussion, he shares some of what George Eisen uncovered while writing his book, Children and Play in the Holocaust.
In the ghettos, the first stage in concentration before prisoners were sent off to labor and extermination camps, parents tried desperately to divert their children's attention from the horrors around them and to preserve some semblance of the innocent play the children had known before. They created makeshift playgrounds and tried to lead the children in traditional games. The adults themselves played in ways aimed at psychological escape from their grim situation, if they played at all. For example, one man traded a crust of bread for a chessboard, because by playing chess he could forget his hunger. But the children would have none of that. They played games designed to confront, not avoid, the horrors. They played games of war, of "blowing up bunkers," of "slaughtering," of "seizing the clothes of the dead," and games of resistance. At Vilna, Jewish children played "Jews and Gestapomen," in which the Jews would overpower their tormenters and beat them with their own rifles (sticks).

Even in the extermination camps, the children who were still healthy enough to move around played. In one camp they played a game called "tickling the corpse." At Auschwitz-Birkenau they dared one another to touch the electric fence. They played "gas chamber," a game in which they threw rocks into a pit and screamed the sounds of people dying. One game of their own devising was modeled after the camp's daily roll call and was called klepsi-klepsi, a common term for stealing. One playmate was blindfolded; then one of the others would step forward and hit him hard on the face; and then, with blindfold removed, the one who had been hit had to guess, from facial expressions or other evidence, who had hit him. To survive at Auschwitz, one had to be an expert at bluffing -- for example, about stealing bread or about knowing of someone's escape or resistance plans. Klepsi-klepsi may have been practice for that skill.

Gray goes on to explain why this sort of play is so important:
In play, whether it is the idyllic play we most like to envision or the play described by Eisen, children bring the realities of their world into a fictional context, where it is safe to confront them, to experience them, and to practice ways of dealing with them. Some people fear that violent play creates violent adults, but in reality the opposite is true. Violence in the adult world leads children, quite properly, to play at violence. How else can they prepare themselves emotionally, intellectually, and physically for reality? It is wrong to think that somehow we can reform the world for the future by controlling children's play and controlling what they learn. If we want to reform the world, we have to reform the world; children will follow suit. The children must, and will, prepare themselves for the real world to which they must adapt to survive.

Like I said, fascinating."

[Reminds me of this Umberto Eco quote about gun play: http://robertogreco.tumblr.com/post/22672508/stefano-my-boy-i-will-give-you-guns-because-a

"Stefano, my boy, I will give you guns. Because a gun isn’t a game. It is the inspiration for play. With it you will have to invent a situation, a series of relationships, a dialectic of events. You will have to shout boom, and you will discover that the game has only the value you give it, not what is built into it. As you imagine you are destroying enemies, you will be satisfying an ancestral impulse that boring civilization will never be able to extinguish, unless it turns you into a neurotic always taking Rorschach tests administered by the company psychologist. But you will find that destroying enemies is a convention of play, a game like so many others, and thus you will learn that it is outside reality, and as you play, you will be aware of the game’s limits. You will work off anger and repressions, and then be ready to receive other messages, which contemplate neither death nor destruction. Indeed, it is important that death and destruction always appear to you as elements of fantasy, like Red Riding Hood’s wolf, whom we all hated, to be sure, but without subsequently harboring an irrational hatred for Alsatians."]
children  play  simulation  petergray  2015  holocaust  wwii  ww2  learning  howwlearn  playtolearn  unschooling  deschooling  violence  umbertoeco  georgeeisen  psychology  developmentalpsychology  videogames  gaming  danger  auschwitz  practice  reality  imagination  survival  fiction  control  teaching  schools  schooling  parenting 
january 2015 by robertogreco

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