dimanche, mai 22, 2005



Many times during her career, Eni Orlandi had had many happy insights to make challenging questions that forced progressive scholars to rethink assumptions and face their own prejudices and misconceptions. One of her recurrent questions was about the relation between the self-proclaimed Pro-Indian Whites and the Indians themselves:
Why do we assume that it is the Indians that need our help? Why couldn't the Indians think that it is us who need their help?

Many disliked such question because the answer uncovered the denied presupposition that our White Western civilisation is superior to the Indian ones and that we the Whites know the truth and they do not, etc. In brief, her question made us see our paternalism covered by an intended progressivism.

The same question could be somehow transferred to the World of the so called handicapped and the status of Sign Languages in our society, where the individuals seem themselves as normal and abnormal. There is no a priori strong reason to believe that the Deaf and the Blind are the ones who need our help and that the contrary does not happen. Blind people develop other abilities that we the Sighted often do not, just like the Deaf in comparison to the Hearer. I, for instance, cannot always tell what someone is saying just by looking at his lips, and cannot guess what physical characteristics someone possesses just by hearing his voice.

If natural endowments plainly justified the paternalist attitude described above, different groups could claim the right to practice a form of conversed paternalism. For instance, any Deaf, having developed certain abilities and knowing Sign Languages, could feel piety on the Hearers and perhaps start a philanthropic and charitable movement to help them to live without being dependent on their ears.

My hypothesis, which is shared by many others, is that the paternalism and the charitable and philanthropic characters, which had in the past been often present in movements and organisations in favour of minorities and oppressed groups, had nothing to do with the acknowledged disadvantages of such groups, but with the necessity of preserving the power structure without changes in the social hierarchy. The unconscious idea was that such groups could be somehow included in the mainstream society, have their difficulties mitigated, be accepted and even enjoy some degree of apparent equality of rights, but might not share real power, which should remain in the hands of the prevailing normal groups. The superiority of the so called normal would accordingly rest in the rule we help you, but not vice-versa.

mercredi, mai 11, 2005


The Modern Age Evolution of Primates

In the fields of Formal Linguistics, Philosophy and Logic we struggle to obtain subsidies to our projects, including grants to training researchers. Other areas seem to be taken more seriously and have easier access. Perhaps, if you read the following, you can tell me why, for I do not get it:
The Great Ape Trust is an organisation dedicated to providing sanctuary and an honourable life for great apes, studying the intelligence of great apes, advancing conservation of great apes and providing unique educational experiences about great apes. If you have not heard of it, you will hereafter be surprised about their out of the ordinary ongoing research projects.
The challenge this institution proposes to itself is bold, in the words of its Founder Ted Townsend:
Imagine Galileo with access to the Hubble space telescope. Great Ape Trust of Iowa has begun delivering on the promise to generate a new level of excellence in this fascinating field of intellectual inquiry.

The news can be found here. The article says:
Researchers at the Iowa Great Ape Trust are putting eight intelligent bonobos in a human-like living situation to study how culture may emerge.

The apes will have all facilities modern culture may provide:
The bonobos will be able to cook in their own kitchen, tap vending machines for snacks, go for walks in the woods and communicate with researchers through computer touchscreens.

The Great Ape Trust website has more related news, with a complete coverage of the latest events.

jeudi, mai 05, 2005


Athens Older than China

When children look at pictures of their parents' wedding, they usually ask Where was I?, assuming that they have always existed. Plato transfers this infantile notion to the collective ego and assumes that Athens has always existed:

Let me begin by observing first of all, that nine thousand was the sum of years which had elapsed since the war which was said to have taken place between those who dwelt outside the Pillars of Heracles and all who dwelt within them; this war I am going to describe. Of the combatants on the one side, the city of Athens was reported to have been the leader and to have fought out the war; the combatants on the other side were commanded by the kings of Atlantis, which, as was saying, was an island greater in extent than Libya and Asia, and when afterwards sunk by an earthquake, became an impassable barrier of mud to voyagers sailing from hence to any part of the ocean. The progress of the history will unfold the various nations of barbarians and families of Hellenes which then existed, as they successively appear on the scene; but I must describe first of all Athenians of that day, and their enemies who fought with them, and then the respective powers and governments of the two kingdoms. Let us give the precedence to Athens.

Plato Critias
Written 360 B.C
(Translated by Benjamin Jowett )

mercredi, mai 04, 2005

Death Penalty itself is Impure

Quote of the Day

This is the ship in which, as the Athenians say, Theseus went to Crete when he took with him the fourteen youths, and was the saviour of them and of himself. And they were said to have vowed to Apollo at the time, that if they were saved they would make an annual pilgrimage to Delos. Now this custom still continues, and the whole period of the voyage to and from Delos, beginning when the priest of Apollo crowns the stern of the ship, is a holy season, during which the city is not allowed to be polluted by public executions; and often, when the vessel is detained by adverse winds, there may be a very considerable delay. As I was saying, the ship was crowned on the day before the trial, and this was the reason why Socrates lay in prison and was not put to death until long after he was condemned.

Plato, Phaedon

mardi, mai 03, 2005

Mac Llama for Bolivians?


It seems that poverty does not only deprive us of material assets, but also makes us some form of magic or extra-terrestrial alien creatures, even to those who claim to want to assist us in our needs. So there come the very original ideas to help those who are incapacitated to help themselves.

The IFAD had launched a USD 11.30 million social project to be implemented among Camelid Producers in the Andean High Plateau, whose aim was to bring about significant increases in the income levels of herders, local artisans and small entrepreneurs. It was supposed reach a total of 15,000 families, who are among the poorest segments of the population in Bolivia. Direct project beneficiaries in theory comprised some 12,950 peasant families; the remaining 2,050 families should receive technical assistance and credit for commercial/processing activities. The natural characteristics of the Bolivian highlands were serious limitations on the design of the project, since it obviously could have a great impact on a delicate ecological system.

It started in 1996 and after 2001 the approach changed to focus mainly on marketing systems for camelid products. Thus it promoted the consumption of llama meat, especially dried meat, in the local markets.

The obstacles the UN organ met are already known by many South-Americans: first high interest rates combined with the fact that llama farmers do not own land deeds or possess assets naturally limited their access to credit. Moreover, several farmer associations were not legally constituted and so could not have access to legal credit anyway.

The funds and resources were managed by outsiders working for the IFAD, in spite of the fact that the locals insistently asked to do it themselves. Bolivians in rural and urban areas are already used to public health campaigns of vaccination and other measures, which extend to matters related to farm animals. Nevertheless, those in charge of the project wanted them to pay for the Veterinary services and buy the medicines, and got surprised at the farmers' reluctance to accept such setback in their social conquests.

The project implementers in the middle of the process decided to abandon most of the proposed initiatives and concentrated their efforts in the development of the aspects related to market economy.

Important note: Native Camelids of the Americas, including Llama, Alpaca and Vicuña, have been endangered species. Llamas have been nearly pushed into extinction and only survived in the harsh upper regions of their natural territory.