Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Visiting Speaker

Quaker Institution

Kathy Bergen has a long history working in that area of the planet commonly associated with stories in the Bible, Koran, Torah. She's been with AFSC and now helps out with other Quaker assets in the region. The prophetic or "book" religions, as some call them, each have many denominations or branches, all of which want floorspace in this intensively trafficked region. Lots of tourists coming through, along with pilgrims, airline pilots, people with hidden agendas, as well as open ones.

We learned about Ramallah and the water situation. There's running water only a few days a week. Makes me wonder what Philadelphia Inquirer was crowing about, saying that city was doing well, but then I didn't see the article (just heard it reported on). The nearby gated community suburbs are like these Neocon flats, where people live more like squanderous Portlanders in their opulent palaces (water 24/7), shopping at New Seasons and driving around in their Priuses, feeling proud to be so green.

Not that I'm against running water 24/7 mind you. I'd like that for Ramallah too, but do engineers have the competence? Getting "smart grids" to actually be smart, requires intelligent consumers, not mindless ones. Software can't do everything.

Waste and inefficiency is a problem all over. Introducing some realistic simulations as games one might enjoy playing, is a time-tested way to develop skills.

They say religion has something to do with all this, but I'm not sure what exactly (so many conflicting stories). Those "book people" never made a whole lot of sense to me, even though I'm one of 'em. Been there done that etc.

Jesus was definitely a great Bodhisattva, I think many Asians would agree. Let's see how much "Peace on Earth" rhetoric we get this time through Santa's tunnel, how much "Good Will to all Men" that's not hollow. Or has Christianity finally gone belly up? Maybe Quakers got out just in time? Jesus was Jewish, a great rabbi.

When I was in Ramallah in the 1970s, you could still be an Arabic-speaking local with family going way back, and get permission to use dynamite from the authorities. There's lots of rock in that area and building just about anything requires blasting and pneumatic drills. The attitude was relatively laid back. By most measures, the world IQ has been plummeting since the 1970s, at least in some subcultures.

The distopian hell hole this region has become for so many does not reflect well on the programming, a point Bishop Tutu was making at the University of Portland the other day. It's hard to be proudly a Christian, and besides, there are many preachings against vanity. Wasn't it Sir Francis Bacon who wrote: "life is a tale told by an idiot?" Idiocracy R Us right? They oughta do more on South Park.

Kathy showed lots of interesting slides and the event was well attended, at least by oldsters such as myself. Younger people tend to read more manga (comics) and are maybe not as infatuated with this part of the world, hard to say.

Geographic literacy is down across the board. You'd think with Google Earth and all... but then many schools aren't using that, because it's new, and schools don't do "new" -- too busy letting adults relive their childhoods, which keeps them kinda retro.

They say the second half of life is all about nostalgia for the first half. The future is something we back into inadvertently, as we make other plans.

Some schools are maybe not as like that, teach more "listening to Abba" (however translated), i.e. "attending to Spirit" (as some Quakers say). One might hope.