#08—Rights for future generations?

pleasurably pondering pointlessly

Human rights are said to be inalienable rights, but do we really have rights? I mean we are controlled by society and laws and regulations and these things change depending on where you are in the world and what gender you are.


References
Steed, E. (2018, 25 June). Philosophy Illustrated. The New Yorker.


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Compare & Contrast

I’ll be honest. I haven’t read any of the books by Jack L. Chalker, he wrote many and now he’s dead. But his genre was sci-fi and a common theme was: body swapping, being somebody else. Well, most of us fantasise about this. A little thinner, a little taller, a bit richer a bit more confident. It is common in psychology to find people who aren’t happy with who they are. So what if for a day you could be anybody? Who would you be? Let us say that this is a particularly popular wish, desire and dream nowadays. We have films like: Freaky Friday (1976) where a mum and daughter are swapped into each other’s bodies for a day to understand the issues faced by the other; Trading Places (1983) in which an upper class man and a lower class man are swapped as a sort of social experiment and, The Change-Up (2011) which is, I guess a kind of a male fantasy (I’ve seen none of them but I get the idea as I guess you do too!).

Well, in this current age most of us have Facebook, LinkedIn or a similar data gathering tool. In this era of social media obsession, what we want to be is what we post, who we are is the person in bed in a dark room thinking thoughts that we never can say out loud and can never do. There are filters on all camera apps, there’s Photoshop. It’s now possible to airbrush out what we don’t want to be and with Instagram makeup fashionistas as it is to make our noses thinner and our lips bigger. To be clear – and based on my reading of articles on psychologytoday.com – in life people who want to be somebody else lack the ability (confidence/cash) to express themselves in the way they want. Most of us I guess see aspects in others that we ourselves cannot achieve. See the food court, high heels, extended eyelashes, $1,200 dollar phones. They/we eat a salad in public, and then binge on a biryani in the bathroom. If you desire something which is impossible, you will be disappointed and frustrated each and every day. Phycologists say body swapping fantasies normally include: (1) simply wanting to be another person (2) be a different gender (3) be born to different parents (4) be born in different country (I score three from four). It’s so easy to say, “be positive” it is so easy for these Western born (male & white) Doctors and self-help gurus to say “look to the bright side.” Basically however this is true: desire what is possible and then try to achieve it because, desiring something which is impossible can only lead to sadness and disappointment. I want to say this diagnosis is designed to keep us quiet, to stop us asking “why” but honestly, wishing to be 16 again (I’m five years older) is totally pointless.

Anyway… For me, in this exercise of body swapping fantasy I’d like to experience reality not fantasy. Who exactly then would I like to be? Well, Doctor Porter of course! He is so sensitive, he has a car, he goes to the gym and he does not have any kids. The question one or two may ask is why be him? You could’ve chosen Yacoub Shaheen, or Mehmet Akif Alakurt. You could have been U.S. President Donald Trump or at least one of the astronauts on the International Space Station. The reason is this: I’m good at fantasy when confined to the compound and imprisoned in the home. Reality means being an anonymous other. I want to be a man for a day. To be, for 2,640 minutes, an ordinary normal man (there is no way I would sleep not even from one of the 158,400 seconds). Why, well to walk around the malls, visit the hotel pool and experience that. He is different. People think he is normal, but he seems not to be. My mentor Dr. Porter is so punctual and caring. No other Doctor in the Department of Philosophy’s open-plan offices, here at the University of Hussain, is always there. He is punctual and has time for old students as well as current ones. He only drinks black coffee. No girl has ever seen him eat junk food. He has a Instagram page, he’s a good horse rider, and many students follow him. His wife is Moroccan and beautiful. We all have dearly wished to be her! But no, I will be him.

Let me be clear with you my dear reader, in this life there are masculine, feminine, and in between people. This has nothing to do with sexuality. Sexuality is defined as the sexual parts that human beings are born with, and these tell us if the person is a boy or a girl (but science says 1 in 100 may be born into the wrong body, this is accepted in some cultures, in others it is not). I said I want to be a man, and I totally mean to be a real man for the whole day. In the environment that I am living in, men are everything whereas women are to be controlled and hidden. Men are allowed to do everything, and even if it is wrong, well he’s a man so he’s going to be forgiven. I am a woman and I have always been controlled. So, for one day I want to be a man. I’ll be the controller, I’ll drive my sisters (would they be my daughters now?) to the Al Ain zoo where we will take lunch and discuss how to free the imprisoned monkeys. Then we’ll go to the “Promenade” at Jumeirah beach, they’ll wear their Adidas superstars and Juicy Couture t-shirts.

That was my plan. But when I woke as Dr. Porter, the plan changed. My wife was back in Morocco (her mother was sick). In the bathroom I examined myself in the mirror, my black hair was now blonde and missing in the middle. The body was one aspect but the feeling, that was the real difference. I was about to dress for working but I decided to cancel classes, why not? I would quickly give that student who was so keen to do her homework and ask questions an A on BlackBoard (that’s me!) then go to the gym at the Intercontinental Hotel. It was a mixed gym and I was interested to know how much I could lift. I planned to run as fast as I could too. As I was about to leave the apartment I went to reach for my ‘abayah and shayla (“cloak” and “veil” in Arabic), but smiled. No need today. As I walked to the car I noticed that some women looked to the ground as I got near them, others looked at me with a kind of lust in their eyes. I wanted to visit myself, was Dr Porter in Amna’s body? I hope he didn’t have a heart attack at the shock from waking up as me. or I’d be him for ever. Part of me wished he did have a heart attack, I’d grab his/my New Zealand passport and fly first-class to Auckland.

The gym was a bit of a disappointment, it was almost empty. The only people using it were Arab and Westerner housewives (or maybe they worked only in the afternoons?). They seemed a bit bored. I noticed they looked at me. I also had to say hello because, they knew me here. One even asked me about Alia. When I spoke it was hard not to laugh. My words my thoughts but said in a man’s deep voice. I loved my accent. I kept on speaking loudly when I was in the car. The freedom was amazing. The most noticeable difference is that nobody looked at me with the eyes that said: “why aren’t you at home?” “where’s your brother?” “Who’s your father to let you come to the Mall alone?” To the mall, that is what I’ll do. I knew how to drive. The family driver had let me and my older sister drive from school to home and even I would drive a bit on the desert highway after university. But only to add to my Snapchat and Instagram accounts. I was going to drive fast. Dr. Porter had a Ford Mustang. But, no, I didn’t want him to get any radar tickets.

I drove to the capital city’s biggest Mall. Inside I walked and walked, I kept looking at ladies, they kind of looked back to me. My thoughts were mine, my body language was not. I decided to sit in a coffee shop and watch people. This is what I did as myself. But now, I did not review handbags and shoes, I was focused on how tall then men were, did they have more hair than me? Was their belly wider than their chest? I was focusing on my new gender. I was comparing myself with my gender. I felt a bit bad because Alia tried calling me many times. There was no way I could speak as him to her. She’d know I wasn’t him. But I did SMS her and I particularly focused on paying her compliments. She was shocked at first but I sent to her a selfie and then typed: I’m a changed man, I like to pretend looks aren’t important but I want to let you know you are truly beautiful, I always think it but now I’ll say it. Basically I said to her what I wanted my future husband to say to the real me. I also typed this, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder” it was from the Cambridge university dictionary but we say a similar saying in Arabic.

As the sun began to set, I realised that being in a man’s body was basically not that different. Yes I had freedoms of movement (and this was truly divine). But, I was still comparing myself to others, looking at people as objects of desire, disgust or indifference. I still wanted to be better than others. Every look was a judgment of a type. What did I learn? We are, after all, humans. I considered the thesis of Joseph Conrad, in our soul we are all wildly animalistic. Never judge a book by its cover, those sweet charming students, those sincere and sensitive teachers are basically the same. Behind the cover of their smiling faces is a dark inner self. The question this gender metamorphosis did not answer was this: must it always be like this? Will humankind ever rise above our base instincts, competitive tendencies and envies?


Inspirations and/or Recommended Readings

Chalker, J. L. (1989). The Identity Matrix. Riverdale, Canada: Baen Books.

Conrad, J. (2012 [1902]). Heart of Darkness. London: Penguin.

IMDb (2011). Body Swap Movies. Retrieved from, https://www.imdb.com/list/ls000924797/

Branded Identities

Brand and Identity

An imagined community is a concept coined by Benedict Anderson to analyse nationalism.

Anderson depicts a nation as a socially constructed community, imagined by the people who perceive themselves as part of that group.

Anderson’s book, Imagined Communities, in which he explains the concept in depth, was first published in 1983.

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#03—Is truth important?

pleasurably pondering pointlessly

Truth is as important as you value it to be. But in a practical sense (e.g., the disciplines of architecture, engineering, aviation, electronics) it is of vital and critical importance.


References
Steed, E. (2018, 25 June). Philosophy Illustrated. The New Yorker.


philosopy

Going, going gone!

[A mode of thinking is being lost*]

reading--01

A baby held, read to and talked to, undergoes an initiation into a useful life; they may also undergo an initiation into happiness.

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A child held in happy attention to books and stories has a good chance of loving reading as an adult. What about the [ipod, ipad, iphone] others?

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* Reading a paper book [I recently read, I rergret to say, online and thus via a digital LED screen…] frustrates one’s smartphone sense of being everywhere at once. The author said that suddenly, one is stuck on that page, anchored, moored, and thus, I myself now add, left out of the loop — disenfranchised from the perpetually breaking news and contemporary viral tweets.

Miming My Meme

The essence of life is statistical improbability on a colossal scale.

Meme
/miːm/ [noun]

1.

an element of a culture or system of behaviour passed from one individual to another by imitation or other non-genetic means.

2.

an image, video, piece of text, etc., typically humorous in nature, that is copied and spread rapidly by Internet users, often with slight variations.

This word originated in the 1970s and derives from the Greek word mimēma ‘that which is imitated.’ The word was coined by Richard Dawkins and can be found in the following books:

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A meme then is an idea, behaviour, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture. (Think of genes, think of viruses.) Memes aim to convey (spread) a particular phenomenon, theme, or meaning. (The meme may do this intentionally or unintentiinaly…)

A meme acts as a unit for carrying cultural ideas, symbols, or practices, that can be transmitted from one mind to another mind. This transmission process may occur e.g.,  through writing, speech, gestures, or rituals.

Those that support this notion see memes as cultural analogues to genes in that they self-replicate, mutate, and respond to selective pressures. This video may help better explain memes and/or the concept of cultural evolution:

We are what we are because of genes; we are who we are because of memes. Philosopher Daniel Dennett muses on an idea put forward by Richard Dawkins in 1976.


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p.s. “Cultural evolution” is a theory that states that human cultural change (changes in socially transmitted beliefs, knowledge, customs, skills, attitudes, languages, etc.) can be described as a Darwinian evolutionary process that is similar (but not identical) to biological and/or genetic evolution.

Biological Evolution Cultural Evolution
Traits can be transmitted to a person only from parents. Culture traits can be transmitted to a person by many unrelated people.
Transmission can only occur from one generation to the next. Transmission can be within or between generations and can be widely separated in time and space.
Occurs at a slow pace, with many generation needed to spread a trait widely through a population. Occurs at a fast pace, may involve immediate learning and does not require inheritance.
Traits acquired in a lifetime cannot be transmitted via genetic inheritance. Culture trails can be transmitted within a lifetime via teaching or imitation.
People cannot choose which genetic traits they will inherit. People can choose to accept or reject some cultural traits.
Data transmitted is encoded by genetic material (DNA). Data transmitted can assume the form of written or spoken language.

 

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