Everything happens so much
Vol. 1 | Issue 4 | July 2020
Thoughts, or something like it
Things and Links
Imagining the World, Anew call for proposals
Thoughts, or something like it
The past few weeks have been particularly difficult as we now inhabit a space of some return to normal and lockdown lite. It feels as though everyone is back to work and I still don't know when I will see campus again. This, alongside the government's "hey we're doing our best here, give us an attaboy" guidance, makes planning for the upcoming academic year extremely difficult, you know with blended learning, social distancing and all. But that's not the only reason I want to return to the office. The space between first place (home) and second place (work), and the loss of any form of third place (library, cafe, etc.,) is becoming unbearable.
The city is transforming into something unrecognisable. It is now filled with men, bearing a strange reminder to the Arab world. They sit around legs spread widely in groups in public spaces, wearing leisure wear, the type of wear you should only wear at home. The new landscape is saturated with delivery drivers, on bicycles, on motorbikes, or hanging outside shuttered pubs and cinemas scrolling their phones waiting for the next order.
People pee unashamedly in public spaces. They litter without considering who picks up after them (the essential workers they were praising). The elderly and teenagers have become more visible. Big windows with views obstructed by a newly set up home office. Security, already overwhelming in London, the city that privatised itself to death and needs mall cops to protect it, is more prominent.
I've titled this edition "everything happens so much" because everything is happening so much. Armchair/Starbucks activism, endemic, I thought, of Palestinian activism, is now all around.
Social media feeds continue to demonstrate how what is deemed leftist politics is now a set of things you shouldn't do: clear instructions typeset in a trendy Google font (like Oswald) featuring the 'soft' millennial aesthetic. It reminds me of hadith (record of the traditions or sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and used for moral and guidance and upholding religious law), and how everything is haram (forbidden) because hadith says so. The strategy, the post now think later mindset, coupled with cancel and call out culture, is completely ineffective and dangerous. I am reminded of what Henry Giroux's said during a talk he gave at Brunel last year: "what happens when trigger warnings become rationale for not hearing what you don't like?" The world no longer has room for nuance, everything is black or white.
Everything happens so much.
In a previous newsletter, I mentioned how this is reflected through content overload (click here! click me!). It also applies to actions (from the comfort of your own home): sign this petition, and this one and this one. I scroll through my feed and there are at least four letters on a google doc addressing four different topics to review and sign against a university. Then a couple more directed at I don't know who, plus seven other calls to 'donate' to a cause.
My drink of choice is now Gaviscon, due to the stress, due to my inability to imagine how, being handed a chance like this, a chance to imagine the world anew, we instead flock to the shops the moment they open and all we can think about it is, "when will the lockdown be over?" simply because, God forbid, a pandemic gets in the way of holiday summer plans.
I gave the design round up on Monocle's radio show Monocle on Design. The segment is only 10 minutes but I am suspicious about a key part they chose to cut: discussing contact tracing apps, particularly Israel's approach, who use the app to check whether Palestinians have valid residence permits, tracking movements, messages and other 'security purposes'. Listen to it here.
I did my first Instagram Live with the director of the Vitra Design Museum Mateo Kries. Watch it here.
I love church music (and the smell of church incense (not that namaste shit)), so you can imagine my delight at coming across the composer Ola Gjeilo and his choral music
Enjoyed this long read about the history of World Health Organisation, approaches to healthcare, and a short profile of Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in the latest LRB
For those who thought my last newsletter ranting about surfaces was nonsense, some weight to my argument
There's something about documentaries from the late 1980s and early 1990s that just get to the point. More recent documentaries, I feel, attempt to cram too many storylines in (or rely on infographics to keep your attention). I enjoyed watching Stuart Marshall’s Over Our Dead Bodies (1991), documenting the origin of direct action AIDS activism.
Documentary on the history of the Batmobile
Imagining the world, anew
If you're interested in presenting an idea (whatever stage it may be) at the next session, reply to this newsletter. Thank you to all those who joined us for the past two sessions. A fruitful discussion and linking of ideas from previous sessions. The map from Session 5 has been added to the folder.
About Imagining the World, Anew
We are scrambling to find 20th century solutions to 21st century problems. It seems the only ‘innovation’ we have lately is gimmicks (not value creation), and we’ve lost sense of what innovation means. Key decision makers are rarely diverse, and to come up with radical ideas, innovations, and embrace different ideas in decision making, we need diversity of opinions and perspectives from multiple disciplines. This requires us to move away from specialisation.
The goal is not to replicate old patterns – we are facing wicked problems, and wicked problems are ill defined and have innumerable causes. If we continue to rely upon experience from a single domain, we end up with limited and at times disastrous solutions. The purpose of these proposed sessions is to draw sets of people with different experiences and backgrounds to think of new possibilities to wicked problems. We need, as James Flynn says, habits of mind to dance across disciplines. Now more than ever, we need to bring this breadth of experience from academics, intellectuals, cultural producers together to discuss new possibilities and imagine the world anew.