quinta-feira, 19 de julho de 2018

O perigo do pensamento único

The act of ‘joining up’ to an absolute ideology involves a kind of winnowing. It happens when someone begins to see the world through the lens of a single story. Friction with a teacher at school, or a struggle to find work, or a neighbourhood becoming more culturally mixed, or casual racism begin to seem like facets of one simple problem. And simple problems offer the alluring prospect of simple, radical solutions.  
 (...)  
When Arendt argued that loneliness was the common ground of terror, she was not thinking of individual acts of terrorism perpetrated by those on the margins – but of the terror of authoritarian ideologies and governments being slowly embraced by society’s dominant majority. The ideal subject of these governments, she argued, was not a convinced extremist but simply an isolated individual, too insecure in himself to truly think: someone for whom the distinction between true and false was beginning to blur, and the promise of a movement was beginning to beckon.
Pais, professores, educadores, lede Nabellah Jaffer, In extremis.

quarta-feira, 18 de julho de 2018

A forma da vida antes dos dinossauros


Last spring, the geobiologist Dominic Papineau and colleagues reported that fossilised microorganisms were identified in 3.77-4.28-billion-year-old iron-rich rock in Quebec: hematite tubes and filaments whose appearance is similar to microorganisms that today live in hydrothermal vents. Others dismissed their findings as ‘dubiofossils’, a term the geologist Hans Hofmann coined in 1972 to describe controversial fossils. ‘Fossils,’ Hofmann wrote, were proven biological; ‘pseudofossils’ resembled life but were inorganic; ‘dubiofossils’ (also known as Problematica or Miscellanea) were equivocal. No one is sure whether either of these findings has discovered ancient petrified organisms or not. 
For centuries, long before ‘biology’ coalesced as a discipline in the early 19th century, scientists struggled to understand what constitutes ‘life’. Millennia ago, Aristotle’s Scala Naturae (ladder of being) described arrayed nature on a continuum that advanced in perfection from rocks to humans (the Catholic Church crowned that ladder with God and the angels; Carl Linnaeus quietly removed them from his own taxonomy). The 17th-century naturalist Athanasius Kircher believed that vitalism was impressed in different substances, with mineral forces forming some fossils in an attenuated process similar to the growth of plants and animals. German Romantics of the 19th century such as Novalis and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe were captivated by caves, and thought the same individuating forces (Triebkraft) generating crystals climaxed in humans. ‘Life itself’ did not exist. All was organic. 
Today’s textbooks teach high-school students that life is marked by specific capacities – reproduction, metabolism, adaptation, self-organisation, growth. But biologists and other scientists are less resolute about what makes life unique. In 1943, Erwin Schrödinger answered the query ‘What is Life?’ as a physicist – it is a negative entropic system, like any other. Such thinking influenced mid-century molecular biologists, who borrowed cybernetic theory to think of life as signalling servomechanisms and homeostats made up of molecular ‘information’. DNA is still called a ‘code’ for a reason. At the close of the 20th century, different scientists also defined life according to chaos theory, thermodynamics and other physical processes. Computer scientists believed that they could generate artificial life on a computer. 
Geologists examining fossils in rocks help us to gain purchase on the conundrum of what constitutes life by identifying its remains. For relatively recent fossils – think dinosaurs – the answer is straightforward. Though extinct, their bodies look much like extant organisms: bilaterally symmetrical, bearing notable features such as skeletons, teeth and tails. But life was altogether different before the Cambrian Explosion 539-541 million years ago when, in an evolutionary paroxysm, most of the animal body forms we recognise today suddenly appeared. What, then, of the remains of first life-forms, those that lived and died on an Earth almost entirely unlike our own, at a time before continents accreted, when sulphurous seas stretched across a young planet beneath a pale Sun in an atmosphere devoid of oxygen, when tides surged and months lasted a mere 20 days? How would one recognise fossils that are 2.5 to 3.9 billion years old? 
This is one of the questions driving geobiology, a discipline that originated in the mid-20th century with precursors in older fields of palaeontology, geology and the life sciences. The big presumption of geobiology is the notion that Earth and life are mutually informing forces, and that our planet has changed in concert with the evolution of life. Searching for fossils on early Earth, a planet in many ways profoundly different from Earth today, resembles efforts to figure out what life might look like on Mars, icy moons and exoplanets. Such problems are not new. In the mid-19th century, naturalists debated whether a strange entity named Eozoön might be the first lifeform; mid-century geobiologists setting the guidelines for research in their new field hotly debated how to sort ‘real’ fossils from lifelike imprints in stone. Today, geobiologists’ work also helps us to think over how life on other planets might be identified. 
Though little known, a series of geological discoveries in the mid-19th century first suggested that there might be a longer history of palaeontology, one that reached deep into Earth’s antiquity, even to the origins of life itself. In 1858, the rock beneath the Cambrian stratum was not called pre-Cambrian; it was simply ‘Azoic’, because no one believed that life could be found there. Yet that same year, a collector for the Geological Survey of Canada found something curiously lifelike in Azoic limestone in the Laurentian stratum: ‘peculiar laminated forms, consisting of alternate layers of carbonate of lime and serpentine, or of carbonate of lime and white pyroxene’. William Dawson, a former student of Charles Lyell and then principal of McGill University in Montreal, examined the rocks. In On the Origin of Species (1859), Charles Darwin noted (in what is now known as ‘Darwin’s Dilemma’) that, if his theory of natural selection were correct, the fossil record should show organisms ‘before the lowest Silurian stratum was deposited’. Following Origin’s publication, scientific debate over the existence of originary fossils was volatile. Yet finding them proved difficult – if Darwin was right, then where were they? 
Dawson was an anti-Darwinist, but he recognised the patterns he saw as undoubtedly organic – he believed them to be the skeletal remains of giant foraminifera (single-celled organisms that grow hard external shells). In arguing that this rock was truly of organic origin, Dawson focused on what he termed the fossil’s ‘beauty and complexity’, noting a series of microtubules he was certain could not have been formed by purely physico-chemical means. In a patriotic flourish, standing before the Natural History Society of Montreal in 1865, he named the organism, which he believed to be the progenitor of all life on Earth, the ‘Dawn Animal of Canada’, or Eozoön canadense.
Vale a pena continuar a ler aqui

quarta-feira, 13 de junho de 2018

A correr


“Deus nas alturas disse: Eu sou o que o meu servidor pensar de mim, e estou com ele quando ele se lembra de mim. Se se lembrar de mim na sua alma lembro-me dele na minha, se se lembrar de mim numa assembleia lembro-me dele numa assembleia maior do que essa, se se achegar a mim um palmo achego-me a ele um cúbito, se se achegar a mim um cúbito achego-me a ele uma braça, e se vier até mim a caminhar eu vou até ele a correr.”

Hadith sagrada (al-Bukhari, Kitab al-Tawhid, 15), tradução de Miguel Monteiro.

"يَقُولُ اللَّهُ تَعَالَى: أَنَا عِنْدَ ظَنِّ عَبْدِي بِي، وَأَنَا مَعَهُ إِذَا ذَكَرَنِي، فَإِنْ ذَكَرَنِي فِي نَفْسِهِ، ذَكَرْتُهُ فِي نَفْسِي، وَإِنْ ذَكَرَنِي فِي مَلَإٍ، ذَكَرْتُهُ فِي مَلَإٍ خَيْرٍ مِنْهُمْ، وَإِنْ تَقَرَّبَ إِلَيَّ بِشِبْرٍ، تَقَرَّبْتُ إِلَيْهِ ذِرَاعًا، وَإِنْ تَقَرَّبَ إِلَيَّ ذِرَاعًا، تَقَرَّبْتُ إِلَيْهِ بَاعًا وَإِنْ أَتَانِي يَمْشِي، أَتَيْتُهُ هَرْوَلَةً"

segunda-feira, 4 de junho de 2018

And yet... complicitity.

Desde pelo menos o ano passado, tenho andado a pensar nisto. A objectificação entra sempre à força na vida das mulheres, pois é de violência, e sobretudo de mulheres, que se trata. Violência disfarçada de amizade, dever, favor..., violência indisfarçada: desafio, provocação, desrespeito. Redunda sempre em repulsa, e como quase sempre acontece às mulheres, uma repulsa que não tem nunca um sentido único, que das questões de agenciamento e empoderamento o eu, claramente, nunca pode excluir-se. Não sei de quanto tempo precisamos, não faço a mais pequena ideia como mudar o olhar, mas Anne Valente pretende contribuir para isso, e só o ensejo é de valor. 
My first-ever semester of teaching a college fiction workshop eight years ago, a male student wrote a short story where a male protagonist brutalized women for pages, for the sake of brutalization. In workshop discussion, I raised my question carefully: What work can violence do in fiction? And if it’s not doing necessary work, when does violence become sensationalism? I did not use the word gaze but the student watched me regardless. After class, when every other student had filtered out of the room, he walked to the front of the class while I was erasing the board and said as close as he could to my face, I want you to know that wasn’t just a story. I want you to know that I hate women. My breath stopped but I finished erasing the board and moved to leave the classroom as quickly as possible but he beat me to it. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go walk the dog. He smirked. Do you even know what that means? He meant masturbation. He meant humiliation. And he meant fear, both mine and his, that I had challenged his work and that I’d tried to teach him anything at all. That I had stepped outside of his narrative of me, that for a moment I had transcended the camera’s scope. 
Three years ago my husband was a groomsman in the wedding of a friend we’d both known since college. This friend was more my husband’s friend, and at various points had quibbled with the facts in my short stories, had suggested that his PhD in mathematics would gain him more job offers than mine in creative writing ever could, had once cornered me in a bar to tell me in explicit detail how he’d cheated on his girlfriend, and had told my husband when he was still my college boyfriend that he should fuck other women while I was abroad for six months. Nonetheless, my husband and I drove nine hours from Ohio to North Carolina for his wedding. During the reception, as he was making the rounds from table to table and my husband was in the restroom, he leaned down and whispered in my ear, You may think your last name is Valente but this is my wedding so tonight you're just Mrs. Finnell to me. My husband’s last name, what I hadn’t taken four years before when we got married. You may think. This is my wedding. You’re just. To me. The face-slap of this whisper at a wedding, people clinking silverware and toasting all around us. Celluloid. A shot out of focus. I was breathless with anger but I smiled because it was his wedding and even still my anger couldn’t keep me from being sized down to the fact of my body in a cocktail dress, from being shoved back into a camera’s lens, from being every object he intended me to be. 
And yet I am complicit. I grew up on film, which is to say, I grew up acculturated to viewing the world as object, my sense of myself and the world around me sieved through a director’s lens. I knew myself as subject, another kind of spectator beyond the male perspective I was meant comply with, but I also absorbed the inclination to view myself through a haze of projection. We learn to hate ourselves for what is objectified and punished, for what the dominant gaze tells us doesn’t belong. We learn to disavow what hurts. Three weeks after this wedding, I still invited this asshole to my first book’s launch party where he asked from the back of the room during the Q&A to explain the use of the word mathematics in my chapbook’s title, a chapbook that had already come out the year before and that I hadn’t even read from, and what could possibly be elegiac about a system of integers and objects.   
A little voice inside me: Should I delete the word asshole? Am I only making someone who has objectified me an object in turn? Is this complicity—no better? Or is the complicity the little voice itself, the voice of disavowal, the internalized self-hatred that says I was born to be nice, that I shouldn’t push beyond the allotment of my flattened screen?
O texto de Anne Valente na íntegra, aqui.