Geneva Diaries #35*

Le Magicien d’Oz, Universities and Cyber Nation States

2/23/11

Dear Roger,

It was wonderful to catch up with you earlier today, I’m afraid I rambled on incessantly pouring out every bit of my heart and mind as though there was to be no tomorrow. But, as you know tomorrow has been a long wait!

Did you try the Yucky Yucky salad at Globus, are you ready to enter the portal? Well, here goes the much promised marathon!

In order to spice up my French lessons (after what felt like endless hours of grammar), I suggested to my French teacher that we practice conversational skills through a story. Since my  fabulous French teacher had gifted me some cheese (Gruyere) from her hometown, I suggested that I would prepare in advance and this time tell her MY story about my visit to Gruyeres in French, une Fabuleux (not the same as fabulous I discovered but closer to fantastic/fantasy) ville. See below Gruyeres, Switzerland by drone:

As Gruyeres stretched out with its magnificent Montagne (mountain), incomparable Campagne (countryside) and Majestueux (majestic)views, tout le vert( all completely green), the glistening green vistas spun me into a tornado of childhood memories. I was in Emerald City, La Terre D’Oz, the land of Oz. I was in le livre ecrit par un ecrivain Americain Frank Baum (I was in the book written by the American writer Frank Baum), The Wizard of Oz!

I saw Dorothy (Tara – ma fille) in the distance with her petite chien Toto (Leonardo our puppy), far away from home, not Kansas but Kalifornia, qui chercher pour sa maison(who was searching for her home). So Dorothy walked the yellow brick road( la rue aux briques jaunes) all the way to Emerald City as she was told it was a place où les rêves deviennent réalité (where dreams become reality) and it would take her back home. She was joined by le Epouvantail (scarecrow, moi) qui chercher la tete(who was searching for his head, could not be more apt for me), who followed Dorothy as he also believed that in that magical place he would find his mind. The Lion (le lion– mon mari) qui chercher son courage(who was searching for his courage), also joined the entourage. Finally they were joined by le jeune homme en etain (the Tin Man – mon fils) qui chercher son coeur(who was searching for his heart – in reality he has the gentlest kindest softest heart). So the whole family with Dorothy, toto, le lion, le epouvantail, le jeune homme en etain, all headed out through the glistening green countryside, along the yellow brick road all the way to the chateau sur the montagne, the grand castle on the mountain of the Wizard of Oz. See Dorothy following the Yellow Brick Road from the movie The Wizard of Oz:

This as you pointed out was all a fantasy, maya. The wizard was a humbug (and I really searched that word and came around to the French word equivalent of “charlatan”, a quack and the Hindustani equivalent of “dhokhebaaz”). The wizard merely promised to fulfill what already existed, he was just very clever about it leading the characters to believe some magic mystery had unravelled and they have acquired the attributes they were searching for. Eventually, ils avaient les qualites qui ils cherchaient.  Do check out the photos, unfortunately the Epouvantail was the designated photographer so I was out of the snaps.

Gruyere – The Emerald City

Gruyeres, Switzerlasnd

Tara as Dorothy with Toto on the Yellow Brick Road (Switzerland):

Moving from my childhood to my kids demanding preteen years, I found I was being bombarded by questions/definitions that as usual required immediate answers. “What is Ethnic” (upon hearing the repeated usage of the term ethnic cleansing on TV), “what does it mean, who or what does it refer to?” Of course, I am the only one that goes on to refer to the dictionary (the kids think they have a portable one), and I gasp as i unravel this fantastic mystery. Ethnic (derived from the Greek Ethikos, from ethnos, refers to peoples, nations) refers not only to  the characteristics of a group and classifications into groups based on a common culture, linguistic basis, religion (those other than Christians, Jews and Muslims are referred to as heathens…ooouch!),race but also nations. 

Of course many questions come to mind: What among the above characteristics constitutes an ethnic group, what combination of the above and in which order of precedence? Which characteristic is the pre-determinant, dominating one? I have always believed the ethnic identity to be based on culture, ideology, but can it be completely devoid of race? This takes me to the baboon on my bedside (yes, I got rid of the last one but these were more endearing) Baboon Metaphysics by Dorothy Cheney and Robert Seyfarth. I discovered that contrary to what most people believe, some animals express an innate predisposition, a genetically determined inborn bias, its not all a blank slate, a tabula rasa. Citing the example of sparrows, the authors describe how there is an innate disposition to learn ones own species communication. The song and the swamp swallow raised with both the species bird songs each selects and sings his own tune. Where the song swallow may be persuaded to incorporate the others notes, the swamp swallow always sings its own song. This does raise the question that certain qualities are innate and perhaps species and race cannot be completely ignored. However, we humans have evolved a complex social and cultural structure that distinguishes us from our aviary relatives which I believe further distinguishes us not by race but by idea and ideology. 

Which brings me back to the above-mentioned definition and the meaning of “nation“. I mulled over what this “nation” referred to, (and was so keen to run this by you, but was bulldozed by my own ramblings), was this a group of people that despite their diverse linguistic, cultural, religious and racial roots come together because they ascribe to a common ideology thus forming a nation and owing allegiance to it, that idea (does turf play any role, is it to be understood as a group existing within prescribed physical boundaries?). And talking about ethnic groups, what “ethnic group” would Americans fit into, my children fit into? America is a fast changing nation with multitude races, languages and cultures many of whom are still in various phases of integration, both assimilating the popular culture and more importantly with the individuals/new waves contributing their indigenous culture to the melting pot. I come back to the fact that the definition has to be based on the underlying idea/ideology which makes one a part of an ethnic identity.

Roger, in any debate how can I leave out the impact and its expressions in my land of fantasy, in the cyber realm! How is “nation” and “ethnic identity” reflected in the virtual world? If we imagine the cyber realm comprising of a half billion facades (profiles/personas/identities), what is this community and what is the universe that governs it?What moves it, what makes it tick? Whom do these facades and netizens belong to and do they/should they, have any parallel to the groups, nations and ideologies of the real world? What are the portals (apart from yucky yucky salad), borders and boundaries and where are the hubs, the core, generating the stars and extending the universe as we know it? As i see it, the hubs the core, the virtual nations of the future lie where the ideas and ideology is being generated: The educational institutions, the universities!

The universities are to be the nations of the future, the hubs and the core of the cyber realm around which would revolve the various star systems, the netizens, the ones that subscribe to the idea, the ones that have been generated from these ideas and those that would in return generate new pathways and disseminate those core ideas thereby expanding the spheres of influence. These stars and black holes are being fervently searched, claimed, fought over and acquired ( I am certain by all means fair and foul). La guerre des universites (the war of the universities) has begun, its wild its vicious. The biggest and the best have already laid out their tentacles across the web securing their space, their future their identity and the identity that most netizens would subscribe to in lieu of the nations of today.

As I was mentioning earlier today, many of the large universities (in Europe and some in Asia) have existed many hundreds of years prior to the nations that claim them today. Cambridge I was told is over 800 years old and Oxford almost a thousand, Stanford is over 120 (but more importantly the US universities are so unbelievably wealthy and powerful that many nations would cower in front of them), my own university, St. Stephens College is 130 years old, existing much before the formation of the Republic (of India)… and the list continues and the list is mind boggling (do check it out below) in the sense that these universities, centers of learning have been through numerous identities as in being physically situated in the fluctuating political maps of nations and boundaries, yet retaining their core, their identity over the hundreds of years, being the constant around which the nations fluctuate. And, projecting into the future, I see that they will retain that identity and perhaps become the new nations around which the facades fluctuate.

List of the Oldest Universities in continuous operation

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_oldest_universities_in_continuous_operation

However, the picture is not quite so rosy, because the institutions and organizations that have the power and the influence (not forgetting the insight) of establishing a presence/dominance in the cyber realm do not necessarily represent what I believe to be the underlying culture of the web, a genuinely free forum for all, but choose to utilize this universe to replicate the control and influence that they already wield (and which we have run to the cyber realm to escape from) in the real world… the establishment is here and upto the same old tricks! Do check me out as Snow White outside the UN headquarters in Geneva invoking all my forest friends (the “other world organization: The Uni-Teen Nations” to invade and penetrate and unravel all the secrets, dark chambers, handcuffs, chains and boxes that the establishment has contrived for the control, containment, manipulation and surveillance of this New Cyber Realm) :

Snow White and Led Zeppelin: 

Let me leave you with a single image from The Uncanny Valley exhibit at The De Young Museum in SF showcasing brilliantly through Art the challenges of being human and asserting ones humanity in the age of AI:

De Young Museum San Francisco-Uncanny Valley Exhibit

After all these journeys to various realms, I find I am home alone once again, absolutely alone! So I visit a sunny place, a happy place, my very own teen years where “anything was possible” and bring home a movie, a favorite from my time: Dirty Dancing. 

Do check me out as “baby” in the video below, back home everyone still calls me baby!

Good night, of course I will be waiting for Patrick Swayze but this time around with a different hairdo.

Ok so now with with my new found 2020 vision, I see that all my 80’s heartthrobs are gone…Patrick Swayze is dead, George Michael is dead, Simon le Bon looks dead, and I’m still called Baby!


Dear Roger,

No news from you, are you already on your way to KL? An update from my end: the court session which was scheduled for this morning (and not Thursday) was uneventful, the judge refused to proceed because there was no interpreter. However, we progressed in our discussions and have decided to modify this from a separation to a divorce. I just can’t wait to be free, to be able to breathe again! Did you see the movie 127 hours, fantabulous! In case your heart is pounding for him (the chap who was trapped for those 127 hours and broke free by severing his hand from the rock with his blunt penknife), in my case it has been over 166,000 hours and still counting…

However, unlike the cutie in the movie, I never leave home without mon couteau suisse!

Back to brighter things, I sensed my last email Le Magicien D’Oz was incomplete, it needed a corresponding Hindustani title (and since I have seen the plight of the vernacular dictionaries not providing for the new world language of technology and cyberspace, I’ve decided to include a little Hindustani/Urdu): Oz ka (da) Jadoo-gar

“Jadoo or Jadu ” a word which beams at me everyday from my TV remote control here in Geneva, is a Hindustani/Urdu(Persian) word meaning magic, and Jaado-gar means magician. I suspect, Jadu has a similar meaning in Arabic because its a (pet) name for my friend’s son in Morocco. She being of Indian origin with Hindustani as her basis and her husband being Moroccan with Arabic as his basis miraculously found a meeting ground, came together in Jaado with its Hindustani/Urdu/Persian/Arabic(?) references. And here in Geneva as I spend another lazy afternoon by the TV, I wait for Jaadoo to turn my world around, finally putting it right side up !

Hope to hear from you soon!

Hugs,

Purnima


Dear Purnima,

It was lovely, as always, to see you on Weds. AND to get another semi-marathon email yesterday.  And, no we don’t leave for KL until the 20th.  I thought you looked absolutely stunning and your colors, both dress and makeup, were really dazzling.

It sounds like your day in court was less than satisfying.  Don’t they have judges in Geneva who speak English, or isn’t the court supposed to be on top of things to the extent that they arrange for translators and interpreters (that reminds me of the time we were arrested in Sarajevo by the local Sarajevo police because I took a picture of the US Embassy (A had lived next to and worked in the same building when she was in Sarajevo with the UN during the siege, and I thought it would make a neat souvenir to have a picture of the place).  We were held in the police station for over five hours while we first waited for two UN interpreters (our interrogator only spoke Serbo-Croatian) and also while waiting for same interrogator to return from another investigation).  The interpreters were great and really facilitated our case, but the long and short of it all is that they realized that we weren’t terrorists planning to blow up the embassy and they simply slapped our wrists, confiscated the roll of film in the camera (it was before the ubiquitous digital camera) and unceremoniously turned us out into the by then dark streets at an hour when most of the restaurants had already closed. 

And I haven’t seen 127 hours, but your imagery is more than poignant.  A more fitting image would be to find some way of extricating yourself without all that self-mutilation, like blowing the rock/blob to smithereens so you would be freed intact.  It would be such a shame to so harm even the slightest square inch of yourself.

Speaking of self-mutilation, have you seen Black Swan yet ?  You absolutely have to see the film, if only for the magnificent acting by Nathalie Portman and also by Vincent Cassells – a great French actor, but the story line is indeed fascinating.

Do I take it that you didn’t return to Chamonix ?  I thought of going skiing this weekend, but I have too much to do and also want to take advantage of tomorrows promised sunshine and warm temperatures to go for a nice, long bike ride.  Sunday, we are invited to lunch at our Japanese/French friends and they are having a Japanese woman from Annecy come and do the cooking for the meal.  We are going early enough to watch the entire process, but my mouth is already watering.  It sounds like a wonderful experience.

I’m still toying with your thesis about the rich and powerful universities becoming the arbiters of democracy in the future, and I am trying to figure out how that might come about and what kind of founding documents (you know, like a world constitution that would apply to all citizens of the world) would emerge and how would such an amalgam eventually result in the dissolution of nation-state borders so that there would be no more nationalism, thus no more wars arguing over who owns what and which people/culture/ are best suited to rule the rest of the planet and exploit the planets natural resources for the benefit of all and not just of the ruling elite/dictators/multinationals, and how would an association of universities reign in the groveling avarice of those same octopus-like multi-national entities, and what would the various military organizations the world over do if they had nothing to prove their virility and male pride over ?  It would also, of course, entail the dissolution of the United Nations, since there would theoretically not be any more nation-states.

Do have a wonderful weekend and keep me posted about your next day in court.  Maybe that is the place where the two of you need to go in order to talk to each other and to discuss things ?????

Lots of hugs and bisous,

Roger

11/15/20

Dear Roger,

Here is a snapshot of your Black Swan!

Geneva, Switzerland 2011

Hugs

Purnima

PURNIMA VISWANATHAN

Disclaimer : P

All persons, places, events are fictitious; all imputed relationships purely aspirational. There were no men harmed during the penning of the Feminist Manifesto

Published by Purrnima

Travel Writer - Art Blogger - CyberSmurf

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