Protecting Identity is Bullshit

I feel a bit sick to my stomach. No, it has nothing to do with the stuff I ate, but rather with the weird stuff on the Internet.

I just watched a few videos by white nationalists / conspiracy theorists / whatever. The happiness with which they present their racism is amazing. Of course, they would not call it racism or even fascism and that is precisely the point. In the videos I was watching the different people all seemed to agree that “oh it is good to meet other cultures, but gosh, you really need to protect your own identity”. This is precisely the BS you can hear from politicians and rights wing activists here in Germany as well.

Identity. Sure, we should protect our identity. That sounds reasonable. Just, what exactly is identity?

I had to laugh out loud, when two young women from the US took Thanksgiving as something worth protecting. They consider celebrating Thanksgiving as a very fundamental thing that defines their Americanness. But Thanksgiving is a perfect example for the way different cultures mix and the way it evolves over time. Everything here is an amalgamation. Even the food that is being eaten. And many of the changes are quite recent. If you go to the US now during the weeks before Thanksgiving, everything is commercialized in a unique fashion, that is relatively new. And so is pumpkin-spice-latte.

Thanksgiving isn’t such a big deal here in Germany. There is the original pagan festival, that slipped into Christian liturgy, but that is very different and only regionally important. The example that is being used here, when people try to argue about the loss of identity, would be Christmas of course. It is the same set of issues people seem to have. Yet, Christmas, just like American Thanksgiving, has always evolved. And it did so in every generation. My nieces and nephews celebrate a different thing that what I celebrated when I was their age. Long gone are the days, when oranges where the present of choice for children.

Yet, the Nazis from the AFD and the enablers from the CSU and CDU in Germany, call for the protection of these fundamental traditions. These are traditions merely in a sense, that 200 years ago, people did something special on the same day of the year. Most of the stuff they did has changed since then.

All these people always sound as if different cultured would mix, there would be no room left for identity. Instantly everyone would act precisely the same way.

Maybe, when talking about the wonders of meeting other cultures, they actually think of something that has more resemblance to the “Völkerschau” (or human zoo) idea of the late 19th and early 20th century. Where different cultures were presented in zoos. In cages.

I doubt that most of these people have a historical knowledge that dates back that far and most of them might not be aware of these terrible displays. What they are asking for, and that is my argument, is not for cultures to meet, but for them to experience once in a while a safe (zoo-like) experience with another culture. Please, as little direct interaction as possible.

I have no doubt, that most of the AFD politicians enjoy a nice trip to Italy, Turkey or, God forbid, maybe even Egypt.

Identity is a construct and in our consumerist society, much of the construction is done by others with financial interests. Japanese society has happily adopted their version of Christmas. Makes sense, if your culture lacks a festival with nice lights, fancy trees and massive amounts of gifts.

I am not saying, that we should go back to the original spirit of Christmas. No one knows what that might be. And in general, it feels dangerous to go too far back in time. Especially, if you might end up with pyres for witches that might, in the past, have represented the “true spirit” of the festival you are trying to revive.

We could easily overlook stupid videos like these, if they did not just prove the danger the pose. From the positions these people take, it is merely an incremental step to call for some cultures to be “special”. I have heard hints of that in some of these videos. Some made references to sports “clearly, in sports we can agree on the fact, that someone wins, and someone is better than others.”. The steps towards open racism and fascism are always incremental ones. And I guess that in these videos many of the presenters hide the fact that they have already made these incremental steps.

It makes me so angry, when these idiots come out and pretend they merely wanted to protect people like me. Yes, I am a white heterosexual male that was born and raised Christian. But fuck me, I don’t need protection. My culture has changed daily or weekly or monthly from the moment of my birth. There is nothing in it that needs protection. If it is influenced by outside forces to the point that it changes. Well good. It means that I have adopted to the world I live in. Am I always going to be happy the way things are going? No. Of course not. But that has very little to do with the way other people forcibly are trying to alter my identity.

I am far more afraid for other people, that are getting in touch with me and my culture. I come from a position of power. I did not choose this position and I did not fight to reach this position. It has to do with the society I was born in and the power structure that surrounds me. I think it is quite easy to me to hurt people, whose position is weaker than mine. I try to be careful, but to be honest, I guess I have failed on some occasions in that respect. I have never done something that was criminal, or even a clear violation of moral norms. But still I have hurt people out of a position, where my role was more secure than theirs.

MOAB – or the Mother of All Bullshit

Since 2002, the United States have pretty much constantly fighting a bombing campaign against different groups in Afghanistan. Normally this seems to be little cause for news outlets to report on. It almost seems as if this is a secretive operation, but in fact this notion stems from the lack of reporting by news outlets rather than from the clandestine nature. Living on the ground and suffering through this constant threat, I guess that there is little what could be classified as “hidden”. OK, it does not bare much resemblance of the carpet bombings of World War Two or the War in Vietnam, but that does not mean that we are that more civilized now, rather it means that technology has evolved and it is just cheaper to drop one bomb on the target than to drop hundreds and hope for the best.

Why does the media all the sudden care about a bomb that is been dropped in Afghanistan? And why does almost every news outlet mention it? It certainly has a lot to do with the PR department of the US military. Someone told everyone that it was an amazingly big bomb that had been used and someone even coined a fancy name for it. If this bombing was meant as a propaganda stunt to distract from the shit Donald Trump is involved in, or as a propaganda stunt towards North Korea, well then it certainly did work.

Whoever came up with the idea of telling the press that the bomb used should be addressed as “Mother of All Bombs”, should certainly get the George-Orwell-Award for successful Newspeak. And the journalists who use it constantly in their “articles” should get a beating for sheepishly copying press releases by the US military. If the press is that easily impressed by the size of bombs used, well the next step would actually be to use nuclear weapons. Maybe start with the teeny tiny little ones and then work your way up. What could go wrong?

Artificial Intelligence and Orange Jump Suits

I was searching online for the site, where I found a certain ISIS execution image, since I can not remember – and I forgot to write the link down. It is this one:AI and the Iconic1

 

Sure, the results were what I have expected and looked like this:AI and the Iconic2

It goes on like this for quite some time. Execution upon execution. But if you look closely, it gets quite interesting and somewhat complex. It does not show the same execution over and over again, rather it shows different, very similar stills. This tells me different things. First of all, whoever shot these videos for ISIS, has been very careful setting them up, so to create an iconic image of the scene. The one still seems enough to tell the whole story. This gets so far, that some media outlets use these images and completely forget to tell the name of the victim. These videos – and the stills from them – have become archetypal. They illustrate “terror” and the details seem almost unimportant.

But then there is the fact that these videos all show “western” victims (I use quotes, since Haruna Yukawa and Kenji Goto were Japanese). Maybe they show “our” victims. What I mean with that is the fact that I have seen so many videos with men in orange jump suits kneeling on the ground, before being executed, and most of them use a similar composition.

I think there is a feedback loop at play here. Since western media mostly report on western victims, the image search algorithm values these images higher than others. But is it OK? Mmmhhh, I think one could definitely argue against it and call it media bias. Then again, of course members of what we consider our own society are more deeply connected to us, than “strangers”. It is biased, but maybe understandably so. And ISIS gets this as well. This is exactly, why Iraqis, Kurds, Syrians or Libyans are often executed “by the dozen” whereas the execution of a westerner becomes its own feature film. Some of these films that show the execution of westerners, also show the execution of groups of other prisoners – but this happens as a byproduct. I don’t think it should come as a surprise when we realize that ISIS – among many other things – seems to be racist.

But back to the image search. One thing the results do not show is this:

Camp_x-ray_detainees

This is an image from the early 2000s that was taken at Guantanamo prison. We almost forget that this is actually what ISIS is referring to, when using these orange jump suits. But maybe they overdid, what they did. OK, I am writing from my own, western, perspective, but to me it seems as if the orange jump suit does not so much represent the atrocities by the West. Rather perception has shifted towards associating this iconic piece of clothing with the atrocities committed by ISIS and Co. I wonder if they realize this. The more they use it, the more they are the ones associated with this icon of injustice.

The same seems to be true, when searching for the term “orange jump suit”.AI and the Iconic4

On the first page, there is almost no mentioning of Guantanamo – there is one image of an Iraqi prisoner threatened by a dog though. “Orange Jump Suit” mostly seems to be connected to the american prison system and – oddly – sexy ladies wearing them. That might have something to do with the TV series “Orange is the New Black”. But there is a link to a further search in relationship to ISIS at the top of the page.

Another somewhat strange example I encountered was a video from 2013, that shows rapper and actor Mos Def (or Yasiin Bey – the name he uses now). In this video he undergoes the routine of force feeding that was used at the time in Guantanamo (maybe it still is) and caused quite some media outrage. It is interesting that to fully undergo this treatment he apparently also had to wear an orange jump suit. Maybe this gives the whole procedure more authenticity, but I find such details quite often slightly absurd.mos defI wonder if it is more or less painful, if you are wearing orange. OK, that is cynical. But I would get the fact, that this is torture, even without him wearing this symbolic piece of clothing.

While thinking about this, I was wondering how clever the algorithm actually is and if it manages to understand the icon in its most basic form. Jihadi

This is what I came up with very briefly. But unfortunately neither Google, nor any other image search site I tried came up with any result.  So maybe AI has still some way to go.