accepting the way things are
is freedom from delusion. it is power.
so long as you do not accept
that things must always be this way.
Last week, a colleague arranged a big lunch order from Sadat’s, a local restaurant recently hit by a costly scam. Along with eating delicious food, it was a chance for a bunch of cool people and me to eat lunch together. I’m usually socially awkward af, but this was pretty nice!
We wound up telling stories of embarrassing times we fell down in front of other people. It was kind of lovely. Everybody falls down.
I’m mentioning this because I usually fall (uuugh sorry) into the pattern of asking boring questions – “what department are you in? What classes are you teaching?” and that’s not actually a very good way of getting to know someone. Telling stories is much better.
Problem is, I’m not very good at telling stories. If you have suggestions, I’d love to hear them. As long as they don’t involve listening to self-promoting white men on youtube.
What even is thanks?
A transient moment of honor? an obligatory feint of humility? a recitation of blessusohlordforthesethygifts so that we can feast on turkey, or just deserts?
Or a recognition of the fact that we are largely products of circumstance, of the gifts that have afforded us the place we are now – the efforts of family, community, support systems. The structure of a system that considers us its beneficiaries (from tax cuts to access to loans to “free” land “given” to your ancestors). And of the things our historical revisionism will call “gifts” but were never given, were taken. Are being taken. Land. Dignity. Lives.
Because thanks, sincere thanks, not the kind you say when someone holds the door for you unnecessarily, places you in an ethical relation with someone else. In my philosophy, morality is not one of obligation but one of care. So… acknowledging the gifts the system has bestowed on you, what are you going to do about it?
This post was written from my home on traditional, unceded Mi’kmaq territory. The First Nations Leadership/Councils on PEI are embarking on a project called L’Nuey, which as I understand it, is a negotiation with the governments of PEI and Canada, to come to a common understanding of what the existing treaties mean in terms of Mi’kmaq rights and title. That’s cool! Also the Government of PEI’s website says that 12%(!) of the province’s land is “publically-owned and managed by the government for the good of all Islanders.” You know, uh, we could probably make a start by returning some or all of that land back.
[Correction: An earlier version implied that the First Nations Leadership/Councils only applied to the two First Nations. The L’Nuey website is clear that this project is for all Mi’kmaq on Epekwitk, not just those who are defined as Band Members by Canada’s Indian Act.]
Are you sitting down?
Things happened in October. I had a birthday. I got older. I took a vacation. I learned things for which there aren’t words. And I let my blog sit.
What does it mean to sit? One facet of sitting is to be left alone, in the state of not receiving regular tending or care; the way that something sitting gathers dust from the swirling air around it, or moss from the creeping ground life, or plugin updates from the code faeries. To sit is to let the world happen. As the dust gathers, as messiness ensues, we call it disorder, entropy, chaos. The word disorder comes with a philosophical sense of wrongness, provoking impulses to tidy, to organize, to heal. We fear the consequences of sitting. Sitting is just letting be. Also, to sit with is to be present with. It can mean being present with something uncomfortable or something we fear. Accepting, bearing witness, supporting. Sitting can be a form of care.
What does it mean to stir? To break stasis and start to move. To feel a swirling of emotion, to let that feeling move you. To disturb. To stir a pot, rather than let it sit. A vision of witches and cauldrons, stirring is a kind of magic. Stirring a soup is an act to sustain you and your kin. An act of tending and an act of care. Stirring speeds the generation of entropy, as it disperses heat from high-temperature areas to low-temperature ones1https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/earth-and-planetary-sciences/entropy. Stirring is, in the thermodynamic sense, doing work in the service of chaos. How many devices does capitalism offer us to avoid stirring? Instant Pot, Crockpot, Kitchenaid, Oster, Betty Crocker, Anova, Cuisinart. Praxis suggestion of the day? Go stir something.
I have been stirring over the last month, and this blog (and author) will not be the same.
I gave a very short talk today. I was invited to be part of a panel, that was one of the (many interesting) events in the Applied Geospatial Research in Public Policy (AGRiPP) workshop. Our topic was Digital Literacy / Digital Humanities. Each of my co-panelists and I had 5 minutes, so I said something kind of like this.
I’m Rosie Le Faive, and I’m a librarian, so my exposure to digital literacy is usually in the context of “information literacy” – delivering 50-minute lectures to first-year university students on how to use the library. And most of what I cover is how to use our databases to find peer-reviewed research, but every year when I get these classes, I like to think about how I can take it deeper. What does information literacy mean?
I’m going to go on a sidebar… forgive me, it will spoil a movie from 18 months ago… but it will tie back in. [CW: abuse, murder].
In Avengers: Infinity War, the character Gamora is murdered by her abusive father, and in the film it’s framed as proving his love for her [ick face]. Some scenes later, in the middle of a battle, Gamora’s boyfriend realizes she didn’t return and demands “Where… is… Gamora?”. Iron Man, (who’d never met them till this movie) counters with “I’ll do you one better… Who’s Gamora?” and Drax, who usually misses emotional tones of things, says “I’ll do you one better… why is Gamora?” The audience laughs, Drax is stupid, the question is silly.
But I really like his question. Why is Gamora? In this movie, her entire story arc exists so that she can die, and spur a man into action (or mis-action). This is a trope in media that’s known as fridging, after a brutal scene in a Green Lantern comic. Women characters biting the dust in order to further a man’s storyline is so popular that feminists have given it a name and are aware of it. Fridging doesn’t happen by accident. There were thousands of people involved in the making of this film. Why did this get through the layers of decision-making? Were there no women in the right rooms?
Why does this information exist? That’s the question that interests me. Why was it made, and what was its path from creation to distribution to wherever I encounter it? What structures and institutions were part of the story of this information, and what does it say about them?
A digital humanities project that I just became aware of, and deeply admire for its work in this, is Lily Cho’s Mass Capture project. It digitizes a collection of certificates – known as C.I. 9‘s, which Canada used to keep track of and control people from China. This was in the days of the Chinese “Head Tax”, and if someone from China living in Canada wanted to return to their home country and be able to return (without re-paying the head tax) they had to fill out a C.I. 9. It contained a lot of personal information – name, birthdate, where they’re from, identifying features, and photographs. This was particularly exciting [edit: that is the wrong word, maybe interesting or fascinating; left for accountability] because it was the first mass photography project implemented by the Canadian State. But Cho’s work explores how this bureaucracy creates and constructs people as “non-citizens,” a special kind of subject (in the Foucauldian sense) as defined by government policies founded in racism and white supremacy.
So I like to think about information literacy as knowing where to look for information (e.g. libraries!), and understanding who created that information – the direct provenance and responsibility, but also why is this information – what systems and structures and institutions brought it to me, and why did they consider it valuable?
Understanding these structures won’t let us be free of them. After all, “We live in a society.” But I find that awareness gives us context, and with the ability to reframe, more agency in how we construct stories.
Like others coping with adult ADHD (see also Leigh’s post and this article) I find it exceptionally hard to manage time. I’ve tried so many systems, and I have piles of lists and bullet journals that I’ve abandoned. But one thing I keep coming back to is “the pomodoro method“.
Super simply, it goes like this: Set a time for 25 minutes. During which, do the thing. When the timer dings, stop.
There’s a super-system where you take 5-minute breaks between repeated sessions and a longer break after four or something, but who has that kind of time?
I think there are a few reasons that this works for me. One – at any given time, I’m usually stressed about 3-7 large-scale items that need deep, creative attention, which could each eat up as much time as I can give them, all must get done but not super urgently, and are most likely to get pushed to the side in favour of answering random emails. I get stuck, because no matter what I choose, I can argue that I’m making the wrong choice. But 20 minutes won’t hurt anyone, so I can take that time and focus on something that I want to give my full attention to, stress-free.
Second – It’s long enough that I can actually focus and do the thing. And it seems to be about the right time where after the 25 minutes, a break actually helps because it lets me step back right before I get stuck down a rabbit hole, see the big picture, and often reframe my goals.
Third – and this is the most important, it does not require constant compliance. So many systems promise to organize your life – but you have to stick with them religiously. Some day I’ll write about my relationship with my bullet journal (and how it became abusive). I could go into how productivity methods echo Foucauldian disciplinary penal structures, with regimes that require you to always be producing! Highly structured! Schedules! But the pomodoro doesn’t care. You can come back to the pomodoro whenever you want, without punishment. It’s a good friend like that. It’s also indifferent to whether you actually “finished the thing” or how many things got finished. Who does the cult of productivity really serve? (Our capitalist masters is who.) And regardless, it gives a reasonably attainable feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction.
Speaking of capitalism (and hah I am in no way sponsored by this but)… I want to voice my appreciation for OXO Good Grips and their accessible design. I have a few of their kitchen gadgets, and they’re easy on the hands. I’m not sure if their “Triple Timer” was intended for physical ease of use, or for the time-blind like me, but having three pre-set countdowns, plus a desk clock is a huge help. Sometimes it’s worth having a dedicated device, because I can never find the beeping tab among my 48 open, and I can’t start a timer on my phone without answering 3 different messages and checking social apps.
1. A quip from Dominic Pettman on Twitter that almost became a tattoo: “Approximately half of media studies is just reminding people – over and over – that a screen is not a window.” (tweet embedded below).
Approximately half of media studies is just reminding people – over and over – that a screen is not a window.
— Dominic Pettman (@DominicPettman) April 10, 2019
2. When I was looking for that, came across his tweet of Kate Tempest’s Tunnel Vision. Including the line “staring at the screen so we don’t have to see the planet die.” (0:55)
Watch to the end, she gets to the concept of Kinship.
3. Chelsea Vowel gifted us with this thread. It’s a presentation, formatted for twitter. “Law for the Apocalypse: Kinship out of Fracture.” Long read, worth it.
I've been giving a talk lately that I'm going to go ahead and share with you here, because we need to have these discussions. I call it "Law For the Apocalypse: Kinship out of Fracture."
The alternative subtitle I've rejected is "Order out of Chaos". pic.twitter.com/qHzOs2jbse
— âpihtawikosisân (@apihtawikosisan) September 23, 2019
4. Which all tied into this morning’s meditation from Richard Wagamese’s Embers:
Me: Why am I alive?
Old Woman: Because everything else is.
Me: No. I mean the purpose.
Old Woman: That is the purpose. To learn about your relatives.
Me: My family?
Old Woman: Yes. The moon, stars, rocks, trees, plants, water, insects, birds, mammals. Your whole family. Learn about that relationship. How you’re moving through time and space together. That is why you’re alive.
5. A recommendation to look at things off the screen. The way the trees rustled today as the rain started to fall.
Every single post on my facebook feed right now is about Trudeau in blackface and brownface. I am appalled, it is disgusting.
I came across this passage, while reading something else, and want to discuss and challenge it:
Understanding people in the past by their own standards means that we need to contextualize the information and try to shift perspectives. 1Thomas Nygren, “Teaching and Learning the Mindset of the Digital Historian and More: Scaffolding Students’ Critical Skills in the Digital Humanities.” 2017. DHN 2017.
There is a challenge to understand the past as a “foreign country,” a place where language and concepts as well as context differ in fundamental ways from our contemporary world.2Nygren, citing Lowenthal.
I’ve heard folks use the phrase “it was 2001.” Meaning, the past is a foreign country. Meaning, you know, what happens in The Past, stays in The Past. Or, c’mon man, we had a different culture, we did some things then that wouldn’t fly now.
You’re only halfway there.
I’ve heard “woke” culture described as: it’s no longer silencing the voices of the less-powerful. It’s listening when people say “no, it’s not okay”. They’ve been saying this all along. These things have never been okay. We’ve just not been listening, and creating spaces where there are no consequences, so that we can continue to not listen.
But what happened in the past has lasting consequences. It can’t just “stay in the past.” If the consequences haven’t been apparent to you, that’s the problem. To say it “was okay at the time” is missing the point. It was not okay then, but you were able to ignore anyone who said it wasn’t.
If you really think “it was okay back then” and “I guess it’s not okay now,” can you see the shape formed by these two facets?
Did you really think it was okay at the time? Why? Whose opinions were you listening to? Whose views didn’t factor in? Why? What have you internalized? Whose admiration were you after? Why was that important to you? How were certain acts enabled by white supremacy? How did you enable white supremacy? What does complicity feel like?
FUN! (no, actually, it’s painful and fucking hurts, and explains to me why so many folks are conservative. It’s less painful to perpetuate a delusion.)
We Live In A Society!
[This post has been removed because it was a shit-show of “fuck you got mine” with some “super fucking hard for me” vibes and a hefty dose of whiteness. If you’ll excuse me, I think I’m going to go actually try to help people now.]