Category Archives: Literature

Literature

txt msg litt

While I was in Manchester, I was surprised at how stunted and illegible the local students’ mobile phone text messages usually were. Every text message is limited to 160 characters or spaces, and if you exceed that, the phone company will charge you for two messages. Since the students are really cheap (except for when it comes to buying beer or clothes), they tend to compress their messages as much as possible. And this becomes such a habit that they do it, even when they don’t have to. So an typical text message would read:

“Soz4takn so long2getbak2u. un4tun8ly I dnt tink ill b abl2make it 2nyt”

Or: “Sorry for taking so long to get back to you. Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ll be able to make it tonight.”

Apparently, people paid to be appreciative of the finer points of the English language are rather concerned with this steady deterioration of the language. And now, they’ll have even more to worry about, with an initiative by an English student telecommunications provider. They have introduced the concept of text education – the teaching of immortal English literature through the medium of text messages.

As their press announcement says, the service will start in January 2006 and will offer an easy way for students to learn or remember the classics.

Of course, in order to fit significant quotes from, or the central plot elements of such works as “Jane Eyre”, “Pride and Prejudice” or “Catcher in the Rye” into a single text message of a 160 characters, some cramming is needed.
I’m pretty sure that these messages will only help people who’ve read the books already, otherwise, any attempts to decipher the following might be severely impeded.

Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice:

5SistrsWntngHsbnds.NwMenIn Twn-Bingly&Darcy Fit&Loadd. BigSisJaneFals4B,2ndSisLizH8s DCozHesProud.SlimySoljrWikam SysDHsShadyPast.TrnsOutHes ActulyARlyNysGuy&RlyFancysLiz.SheDecydsSheLyksHim.Evry1GtsMaryd.

Translation: Five sisters wanting husbands. There are two new men in town – Bingley and Darcy. They are handsome and wealthy. Big sister Jane falls for Bingley, but second sister Elizabeth hates Darcy because he is proud. Slimy soldier Wickham says Darcy has a shady past. It turns out that he’s actually a really nice guy and really fancies Elizabeth. She decides that she likes him. Everyone gets married.

John Milton, Paradise Lost

devl kikd outa hevn coz jelus of jesus&strts war. pd’off wiv god so corupts man(md by god) wiv apel. devl stays serpnt 4hole life&man ruind. Woe un2mnkind.

Translation: The devil is kicked out of heaven because he is jealous of Jesus and starts a war. He is angry with God and so corrupts man (who is made by God) with an apple. The devil remains as a serpent for the whole of his life and man is ruined. Woe unto mankind.

William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet
FeudTween2hses–Montague&Capulet. RomeoM falls_Translation: A Feud between two houses ?? Montague and Capulet. Romeo Montague falls in love with Juliet Capulet and they marry secretly but Romeo kills Juliet’s cousin and is banished. Juliet fakes her own death. As part of the plan to be with Romeo she writes him a letter but it never reaches him. Everyone is confused and both lovers kills themselves.

The poetic value of sentences like “Evry1confuzd—bothLuvrs kil Emselves” should not be underestimated, and the service is being supported by John Sutherland, a professor emeritus of English literature at University College London, who states “Take the dot mobile ending to Jane Eyre for example – MadwyfSetsFyr2Haus – Was ever a climax better compressed?”

Indeed.

or in just-so-few-letters:

txtmsglitt cr8s nw ptry 4 the msd-up Brit-Yth&ofrs nsyt on tek-cult 2! chk-it!

Lies and Damn Lies

Today, I chanced upon an alternative American history text book with the rather provocative title “Lies My Teacher Told Me.”
Based on 10 years of research partly spent comparing 12 different common US high school history textbooks with the more or less accepted historical “truth” as it is decided in academic circles, the author, James Loewen paints a dark picture of what kind of history is being taught in American high schools.

He finds that in many cases, such as the story of Columbus’ discovery of America, the political leanings of Helen Keller and the policies of Woodrow Wilson, integral facts are being overlooked or transformed to fit with an image of the USA as overcoming all challenges and supporting the American way of life and liberty.

Clearly, Columbus’ rampant genocide on Haiti, Keller’s socialist sentiments and Wilson’s racist, colonialist and anti-communist policies do not fit well with these images of true American ideals.

Loewen argues that not only does this white-washing of history present American youth with blatant un-truths, but it also makes them lose all interest in learning history. The scrubbed text-books are good for multiple choice tests, but not for inspired learning as all the American heroes appear to white and unblemished, and all the drama that history is full of, becomes boring melodrama as everybody knows that there can only be one outcome: “Despite these setbacks, the United States were triumphant in its endeavors.” [sic]

Loewen not only tries to rectify some of the worst historical lies (which still seem like such a strong word, but appear to be justified), but seek to the roots of the matter of why such obvious wrongs can continue to be taught.

He finds that in the case of the textbooks themselves, it is because the publishers all seek to produce the end-all win-all history textbook. Therefore, they all attempt to appease the interests of all 50 states to ensure good sales in all states. Woe is the textbook being marketed in Vermont that doesn’t give good mention to Chester A. Arthur and equally shame on the Texan textbook that doesn’t give in-depth detail on the Alamo.

Accordingly, history text books are crammed with factoids, “main ideas” and figures to be remembered for testing, and the 12 books in Loewen’s analysis have a average length of 888 pages and weight of 4,5 pounds!

Combine that with the mildly boring blandness of these facts, it is little wonder that American students consider history the least interesting subject of all. And since 5/6ths of those high school student who do go on to get a college education won’t bother with history classes ever again (not to mention all those high-school students and drop-outs that never make it that far), the level of ignorance of foreign politics and the world outside North America among Americans should hardly be surprising.

But as Loewen also does well to point out, the history a society teaches its young is quite telling for that structure of that society. Unlike the Soviet Union, it is not a case of the State version is the only proper version, rather, it is a case of the version that the people will feel comfortable with. And as it seems, most American (white middle-class) parents, seem to prefer that the US of A is presented as a cleanly and untroublesome as possible. Just possibly to save themselves from answering to many difficult questions.

Loewen’s book is written directly to high school history teachers, not only to take them to school, but also in hope to affect the way American school children learn about history.

It is an important book, even for non-Americans, for often, the version of American history that we receive are filtered through American entertainment and information media. In that vein, I want to not just recommend this book, but also Eric Wolf’s classic anthropological history book Europe and the People Without History – a paradigmatical and very detailed break with eurocentric historiography.

Both of these authors have obvious (or ill-concealed) left-leanings, which may not be for everyone to enjoy or appreciate, but even so, their academic ability should still make their arguments worthwhile for a debate, even if you don’t agree with their political convictions.

Finally, I’ve found this alternative history textbook on America that I’m about to start reading. Looks interesting anyway.

Paul Ricoeur RIP

The French literary theorist and philosopher Paul Ricoeur died this Friday, aged 92.

Ricoeur worked dialectically, drawing upon hermeneutics, phenomenology, existentialism, as well as historical and literary theory, not so much to create theoretical synthesis, but rather to juxtapose the differences of the various ideas. He combined these ideas through what he called a hermeneutic arc – drawn between two antithetical positions, to show how they could go together by linking them together in a way that marks the place of one position in the context of the other.

This unique method of non-synthetic mediation is central to Ricoeur’s thinking, and very enlightening, though sometimes frustrating to read. The way he respects the plurality of voices and questions of others while still searching for his own answers is a surprisingly humble and balanced method of enquiry. Someone out there likens Ricoeur’s mediation of philosophical debates to a good referee calling a game: he doesn??t get in the way of the play and he usually makes the right call.

His work was definitely some of the most interesting and compelling theoretical stuff I’ve read during my time studying Comparative Literature. And the humility and honesty with which he wrote indicates a thoughtful and considerate man whose voice will be sorely missed.

Young egos hurting

Despite all of my exam induced disciplinary reading of only the most relevant of materials, I still managed to find to read Tom Wolfe‘s latest book I am Charlotte Simmons which was recommended to me by my stepfather.

It’s a novel telling the story of one young ms. Charlotte Simmons, arriving from her outback North Carolina village at the prestigious Dupont college on her ambitious way to the stars of modern academia, and finding that college life isn’t quite what she had expected. With promiscuous sex, drinking, drugs, massive ambitions and weekly worship ceremonies of the local sports teams, Tom Wolfe, now 74, describes American college life based on extensive research through numerous American campuses.

It’s funny how a man that old finds college life, even though he does his best to tell his story through the perspective of his characters in the style indirect libre, his ironic amusement with the complete self-absorbed hedonism of these young people seems evident.

The book has received very mixed reviews, some praising its sharp criticism of how the colleges with their heavy focus on sports teams, often more so than any actual research, others have slated it for being too focused on the sex and alcohol, unfocused and overly long. I think both groups of reviewers miss the mark by a certain length and that Wolfe most of all seeks to make a subtle statement about “young people” today, rather well wrapped in apparently shocking sex and drugs.

I had good fun reading the book and comparing it to Madame Bovary which seems to be Wolfe’s main stylistic inspiration. Just like Flaubert, Wolfe never actually judges the moral actions of the characters but rather hides behind the individual perspectives of the characters to describe one another. And these American teenagers are immensely cruel.

As Charlotte’s rich, intolerable Paris Hilton-lookalike roommate explains it, there’s a system of sarcasm meant to keep people in their place. Wit and coolness are as important as anything in this system. The system breaks down like this:

“Sarc One is when I look at you, and I say, ‘Ohmygod, a cerise shirt. Cerise is such an in color this year.’ That’s just ordinary intentionally obvious sarcasm.”

“… in Sarc Two you say the same thing, only in a sympathetic voice that sounds like totally sincere. ‘Oh, wow, Bev, I love that color. Cerise. That’s like so-o-o-o-o cool. Unnhhh…no wonder it’s so like…in this year.’ By the time you get to the ‘so in this year,’ your voice is dripping with so much syrup and like… sincerity, it finally dawns on the other person that she’s getting fucked over. What you’ve really been saying is that you don’t love the color, you don’t think it’s cool, and it’s not ‘in’ this year. It’s the delay in it dawning on her that makes it hurt. Okay?”

“Okay. In Sarc Three you make the delay even longer, so it really hurts when she finally gets it. We’ve got the same situation. The girl’s getting ready to go out, and she has on this cerise shirt. She thinks it’s really sexy, a real turn-on, a she’s gonna score big-time. You start off sounding straight – you know, flattering, but not like laying it on too thick. You’re like, ‘Wow, Bev, I love that shirt. Where’d you get it? How perfect is that? It’s so versatile. It’ll be perfect for job interviews and it’ll be perfect for community service.'”
(pp. 133-134)

Sarc 4 is only hinted at, but I think Tom Wolfe would like to think that his book is operating on this level, enveloping the bigger sarcastic remark in a smaller one. By focusing on the extremes of American college life, the Jocks and the geeks, the Fraternity and Sorority crowds and innocent freshmen shocked and fascinated with it all, he creates easily recognizable stereotypes that it’s easy to relate to and make fun of. Yet, by accepting these stereotypes and that fun, we as readers at the same time have to accept more and more of other elements as the novel progresses, slowly peeling away at the egotistical and vain onion that is young people today, whether they want to save the world or not.

Charlotte is the obvious main character, with her complete faith in her own abilities and her impending success (at any time she suffers a setback of some sort, she steels herself to the words: I am Charlotte Simmons, and no wrong can harm her. She will succeed). In this way, the book attempts to put poor young Charlotte into a role much like that of Emma Bovary: Innocent, yet tempted by all the wonders she sees, she slowly grows bolder until her teenage passions and fascination with the cool crowd make her vulnerable to the inevitable sarcasm, plunging her into deep depression.

But also her three suitors – the popular basketball player Jojo, frat dude and coolness incarnate Hoyt, and the ‘millenial mutant’, geek and would-be intellectual Adam – are all just as self-centered as Charlotte, driven by uninhibited social ambition to rise up beyond their sad lower middleclass or working class backgrounds. They all attempt to play by the different sets of rules offered them in their various arenas of interest (ghetto-attitudes and disinterest in learning, cool-factor and disinterest in learning, political and social consciousness and interest in learning, respectively). While, at the same time either giving into or abstaining from their sexual drives as might fit them.

Wolfe has a field day combining young cool and ambition with the inherent insecurities and unfazed self-centeredness of that age. And it does work quite well. Through Charlotte’s Nobel-prize winning Neuroscience lecturer discussing the extent to which our genetic code decides our actions, Wolfe indirectly introduces a lovely metaphor for the social and cultural inheritance nested in the hopes and ambitions that all of these young people bring with them from their parents:

“If anyone should ask me why we’re spending so much time on Darwin,” he was saying at one point, “I would consider that a perfectly logical question. Darwin was not a neuroscientist. His knowledge of the human brain, if any, was primitive. He knew nothing about genes, even though they were discovered by a contemporary of his, an Austrian monk named Gregor Johann Mendel – whose work strengthens the case for evolution tremendously. But Darwin did something more fundamental. He obliterated the cardinal distinction between man and the beasts of the fields and the wilds. It had always been a truism that man is a rational being and animals live by ‘instinct.’ But what is instinct? It’s what we now know to be the genetic code an animal is born with. In the second half of the last century, neuroscientists began to pursue the question, ‘If man is an animal, to what extent does his genetic code, unbeknownst to him, control his life?’ Enormously, according to Edward O. Wilson, a man some speak of as Darwin the Second. We will get to Wilson’s work soon. But there’s a big difference between ‘enormously’ and ‘entirely’. ‘Enormously’ leaves some wiggle room for your free will to steer your genetically coded ‘instincts’ in any direction you want – i there is such a thing as ‘you’. I say ‘if’, because the new generation of neuroscientists – and I enjoy staying in communication with them – believe Wilson is a very cautious man. They laugh at the notion of free will. They yawn at your belief – my belief – that each of us has capital-letter I, as in ‘I believe’, a ‘self’, inside our head that makes ‘you’, makes ‘me’ distinct from every other member of the species Homo Sapiens, no matter how many ways we might like them. The new generation are absolutists. They – I’ll just tell you what one very interesting young neuroscientist emailed me last week. She said, ‘Let’s say you pick up a rock and throw it. And in midflight you give that rock consciousness and a rational mind. That little rock will think it has free will and will give you a highly rational account of why it has decided to take the route it’s taking.’ So later on we will get to the ‘conscious little rock,’ and you will be able to decide for yourself: ‘Am I really… merely…a conscious little rock?’ The answer, incidentally, has implications of incalculable importance for the Homo Sapiens’ conception of itself and for the history of the twenty-first century. We may have to change the name of our species to Homo Lapis Deiciecta Conscia – Man, the Conscious Thrown Stone – or, to make it simpler, as my correspondent did, ‘Man, the Conscious Little Rock.'”
(p. 283)

Apart from showing the immense verbosity of Wolfe’s prose (which stretches for more than 650 pages. It’s an easy read, but it is far too much. Though he will probably claim that it is necessary to bring the direct language, the ‘Fuck Patois‘, of the American youth to full effect and drive the drifting perspective based narrative on, it is still too much. He has some good ideas and interesting points but any good editor could easily have chopped two or three hundred pages off it without losing any of them), this passage touches upon the ever-interesting theme of social ambition, as well as the more obvious theme that Charlotte herself also recognizes: The hormonal and instinctual rollercoaster that we all board and ride through puberty, accelerating into adult life to the point where we get better at controlling it, though not at slowing it.

Both themes are central in both “Madame Bovary” and “I am Charlotte Simmons”, though I would hardly say that the latter comes anywhere near matching the former.

Just too bad I’m not writing an essay comparing Charlotte Simmons with Madame Bovary, the continuity in petty bourgeois self-centeredness, social ambition and sexual freedom between mid-19th century France and 21st century America – sounds like Wolfe’s point could well be that some things never change…

For completeness’ sake I should probably note that as I publish this on my blog, the virtual shrine for the celebration of all things me, that I do appreciate the irony. 😉

Latin American overtures..

Yesterday, I saw Wim Wenders’ documentary about the Buena Vista Social Club, the record made by a rag tag collection of old Cuban musicians and singers under the gentle supervision of travelling musician and producer, Ry Cooder.

The film contains concert and studio footage, interviews with the musicians and atmospheric footage from the streets of Havana, all mixed together in a rather discordant whole. I actively disliked the cinematography with its constant panning, moving around in a way that almost make the viewer nauseous, and I found the footage unspectacular in general. The film works well in spite of this, due to an extremely worthwhile subject matter. All of the Cuban musicians are charming old men who really enjoy their music, and their life and it shows. And, of course, the music is brilliant.

What the film does convey with great success is a sort of magical Latin American ambience that is hard to explain. A lot of people familiar with the works of Gabriel García Márquez will recognize that light, almost otherworldly human touch.

I often, unsuccessfully recommend the Uruguayan author Eduardo Galeano‘s book Memory of Fire to people interested in Latin America. Galeano’s book is a wonderfully poetic three volume work on the history of the New World, divided into hundreds of small stories chronologically ordered and intricately interconnected through the wonders of history itself.

I suppose the sheer size of the work is enough to scare most people away, which is a shame as it is a very light and enjoyable read. Galeano has also written a most wonderful book about football which any football fan (IMNSHO) ought to read.

Finally, to give a small example of Galeano’s style, I’ve picked a piece from his latest book, Upside Down. I hope you’ll excuse the rather heavyhanded translation from the Danish..

“The human refuse: Street urchins, hobos, beggars, prostitutes, transvestites, homosexuals, pickpockets and other petty criminals, drug addicts, drunks, cigarette butt collectors. In 1993, the human refuse of Columbia suddenly appeared from their hiding places beneath the rocks and gathered in protest. The demonstration started at the revelation that the police groups of social purging were killing beggars and selling the corpses to students at the Universidad Libre in Barranquilla for dissection exercises. On that occasion, the storyteller Nicolás Buenaventura told the real story of creation.
Nicolás told the dreck of the system that when God created the world, he continually wound up with bits and pieces left over. While the sun and the moon, time, the land, the seas and the forests were born from the hands of God, he constantly brushed the remaining scraps into the abyss. But God, being fairly preoccupied, forgot to create man and woman, leaving the two no choice but to create themselves. Thus, in depths of the abyss, in the scrap heap of God, woman and man created themselves from the remains of God.
We humans are born from refuse, and that is why we all have a bit of the day, and a bit of the night, and we’re all time and earth and water and air.”

Out of sorts

Yesterday, I finished reading “Nonfiction” by the American author Chuck Palahniuk.
Palahniuk is probably best known for his book “Fight Club”, a violently nihilistic and entertaining novel about young men fighting to find a meaning in their lives. It didn’t really sell well until it was made into a film starring Brad Pitt and Edward Norton.

Since then he’s written several other novels and various articles in between. Nonfiction is collection of these articles. Some are interesting, some are rather boring. Palahniuk’s style of writing works well with short pieces like “My life as a dog” where he describes a day of walking around Seattle dressed as a Dalmatian (complete with big Papier Mache head), being fondled, beaten, abused and suspected by the people he meets. One of the essays even describes his minimalist ideal of writing by referring to his favourite writer, Amy Hempel. He says that after reading her short story “The Harvest”, ” almost every other book you ever read will suck.”

I’ll let you judge for yourselves (don’t worry – being minimalist, it’s not very long).

This exact ideal of minimalist, compact writing makes most of his longer articles lose a lot of their punch, which is unfortunate as he does have some good stories to tell. He writes about how he’s always taking notes, constantly adding to his catalogue of stories until he has to vent some of it by writing the stories into a book.
This constantly awareness and notetaking (mentally or on paper) is also a defining element of the anthropological fieldwork. But where the professional fieldworker tend to focus her awareness on a specific scientific object, an author like Palahniuk just look for things that interests him, that might contain a story worth telling.

Most people do this from time to time, though it’s difficult enough to find and write down these interesting things to make it a job in it’s own right. I know some anthropologists who jokingly call this focus on the unconsidered strangeness of everyday life for “out of sorts anthropology”. I’ve tried to do it from time to time, most interestingly by trying to figure out why girls wear make-up.

When you leave behind the obvious anthropological conclusion of “It’s much more complex than you’d think at first”, and just go for that tempting first thought – where it’s more your own fiction than other people’s truth – that’s where you create “out of sorts anthropology” and that’s the kind of nonfiction Palahniuk writes.

A Scanner Darkly

Yesterday, I had time to finish reading A Scanner Darkly, a novel by the american Science Fiction writer Philip K. Dick. I’ve read some of his stories and books many of which have been made into films. A few weeks ago, I read that there was coming yet another film based on one of Dick’s stories, so I decided to read it.

The book isn’t really all that sci-fi – it’s much more focused on drug misuse and how this can deteriorate the brain dramatically. The only real sci-fi element is the so-called “scramble suits” which the under-cover narcotics agent, Fred, wears to conceal his identity. Without delving too deeply into the plot, I can say that the identity question is central to the story, as Fred is assigned to surveillance duty on Bob Arctor – who just so happens to be Fred’s secret alter ego.

I found the book very intense and full of interesting observations, and definitely a major work on drugs and their effects. So therefore, I’m now more interested than ever in the upcoming film. Especially when I heard that Charlie Kaufman had written a script based on the book. Kaufman has written the scripts for the brilliant Being John Malkovich and the fascinating Adaption, so I would be quite interested to see what he could make of such a schizophrenic book.

That won’t happen, unfortunately. Instead of Kaufman’s script, the indie director Richard Linklater who is in charge of the project, has written a new script of his own.
That doesn’t necessarily make it a bad film, but I would rather have liked to have seen Kaufman’s take on the book.

The film will be using the same animation technique that Linklater used in Waking Life. It’s a concept where the entire film is shot like ordinary film, and then is treated extensively in post/production to animate the already moving pictures. It gives a wonderful effect and some quite interesting possibilities. In Waking Life, Linklater used the technique to give the impression of lucid dreaming – a dream where the dreamer is aware that he is dreaming, yet cannot wake up. I could imagine that this technique would work to great effect in A Scanner Darkly as well.

So far, only a few frames of animation have been released, but they look quite convincing. Check them out here.

.. oh, and by the way. The technique is also used in the cartoon-segment of Lars von Trier and Joergen Leth’s The Five Obstructions:

Writing cultures

I’ve been packing away my Science Fiction books before leaving for England. I have a not-so-secret passion for Science Fiction, and I especially like the sub-genre called “social science fiction”. Instead of focusing on the technological aspects of science, the genre mostly focuses on the social, politic and cultural implications that the future may bring. Mainly writing, constructing, creating fictive cultures and describing the social relations within. SF-writers have done this long before anybody had ever heard of “social constructivism” or “post-modernistic lack of self-confidence” or any such thing. Quite a few anthropologists have written SF trying to clear their minds of some of the heavier issues and relieving the need to tell some of all those “irrelevant” stories they have heard through the years.

Or maybe not just the irrelevant stuff. Before “Writing Culture” was published in 1986 and sparked much of the debate of how ethnography should be written, some anthropologists were already looking to SF for inspiration for different ways of dealing with representation of other. Unencumbered by any actual informants to be true to, SF-writing anthropologists found a new and fascinating creative and speculative freedom.

Looking around the net, I found several anthropologists praising the insights and narrative style of the SF stories. One is Geoffrey Samuel who wrote an article called Inventing Real Cultures (1978) Another is this one from 1976. Both of them explores the relations between anthropology and SF.

And even earlier, in 1968, an anthropologist and SF writer edited an anthology of anthropological SF – Apeman, Spaceman with the intent to use it as a text book to inspire students to see the width of the field of anthropology. Back then, of course, it was very wide, as one half the book relates to physical anthropology, and the other to cultural anthropology. Still, it’s a very good read, and it contains some excellent short stories. I especially like “The Nine Billion Names of God” by Arthur C. Clarke and Chad Oliver’s “Of Course”.

I realize now that my definition of the genre is slightly off the mark as it really doesn’t have to involve the future. I find that books like Jonathan Swift’s “Gulliver’s Travels”, J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” and some of the short stories of Jorge Luis Borges all still fit the category in some way. Before I heard of “social science fiction”, I labelled this kind of writing “creative anthropology” – inspired by “creative accounting”. Both disciplines are meant to be all factual and clear, but inherent in both is the luring possibility of rearranging, reconstructing all the numbers, all the stories and ideas to your own unfactual pleasing.

meaning of life – revisited

Having read “The God of Small Things”, I decided to give some of Arundhati Roy’s essays a try. I found a neat little book called The Cost of Living containing two essays: One on the massive dam-building projects in India, and one on the nuclear bombs that both India and Pakistan now have in their arsenals.

Both projects are tinted with immense nationalism as India tries to establish itself as an up-and-coming superpower, yet Roy approaches the two issues quite differently. The first essay is a heavily researched discussion of the politics of dam-building and indirectly, the World Bank funding of such projects and the ever-growing debt that countries such as India commit themselves to.
The second essay is much more passionate in its rejection of any pride and reasoning supporting the nuclear weapons that so dramatically have changed the way we perceive war.

With the risk of total annihilation, we must to an even greater degree make it clear to ourselves what kind of world we want to live in. Roy finds that the only dream worth having is this:

To love. To be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and the vulgar disparity of life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all, to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never to forget.

Trying to write that sort of thing is unforgiving business. Most of these words have been worn out, having been misused so often, their meaning appear useless and limitless. But even if the words are dying, the feeling of defiant optimism being felt and expressed through them is still alive in all its obstinate humanity. With all our faults of hope and forgiveness.

and yes, that was another two very weary words to end with. I find that I’m becoming more and more sympathetic to Martin Heidegger’s decision to simply stop using certain words that invariably carries with them (too many) limiting assumptions and ontologies. Often, there is simply too much baggage that tie down and muddle the issues.

Therefore, my new favourite word is Ubuntu which has been popularized by Desmond Tutu. It can’t quite be translated into English, though many have tried.
In this way, it still remains relatively true to its original meaning.