Two, or is it three, days later, I am still shell-shocked, refusing to let it leave me, trying to hold on to this feeling before it becomes a regular part of everyday life.
I cannot find any silver lining, refuse to be humored, I know where this is going, I have seen it all before.
The liberal left-of-center that was in Israel 20-30 years ago has all but disappeared. The ones that stayed true to their core values are either bitter and beaten or relentless to the point of being a parody of themselves. For everyone else the red lines just kept being pushed back. Not one of these people would have anticipated that 25 years later they’ll be living in the same local border dispute led by the same leaders that time and again were accused and proven to be involved in very shady business, that are either egomaniacal personalities or married to one or both, and there they are year after year. A circus of ministers that hold ignorance as a value, an unnerved population that all suffers from either Stockholm syndrome or denial or worse. All the people that said I will leave the county when/if…. (mostly as an expression of exasperation and not necessarily with the intention of leaving) and all the Whens/ifs came and went endless times, until they don’t even say it anymore.
So what are we going to do? For now, I cannot even think to plan ahead. I feel like after an earthquake, I am standing around surveying the land and assessing damages. I am thinking ahead to all the calamities that are coming, in the Supreme Court, in the regulatory process, in things I personally care about , and more to my field, I am thinking of all those executive orders and directive that promote Open Access and data dissemination , and I worry about some of our flagship information programs such as the Census Bureau’s or the FDLP. And are libraries building local digital collections in case this all goes away? My colleagues and I projected that cuts in the Dept. of Ed. budget could affect us directly within a matter on months, whether through elimination of funds for diversity hiring for universities, or a shakeup/elimination/privatization of the entire accreditation system. Who knows.
I admire the courage and strength and warmth expressed by my colleague and am inspired by it and by words of students. I hope to pull myself together soon and answer some call to arms and in the meantime I will focus on my role in the classroom and work with students to understand how to respond to this as librarians on campuses or in public libraries, how to address the information failure and our role in it, and more, we have much more work to do.
Students in my Information Policies and Politics course are preparing for their #infoshow16 presentation next week
We had a dress rehearsal during the last class, and as you can see from the photos, we were indeed dressed for the roles
We are divided into three groups:
Five students act as judge, jury and court recorders and they are also putting together the trial website.
We also have the Prosecution and Defense teams and of course Edward Snowden
The dress rehearsal ended in a hung jury and the judge declared a mistrial. During the #inforshow16 the audience acts as jury and will decide the outcome.
Is Edward Snowden guilty of
1.Theft of Government Property,
2.Unauthorized Communication of National Defense Information
3.Willful Communication of Classified Communications Intelligence Information to an Unauthorized Person
Have a sneak peek at the Prosecution questioning Snowden from here
Tu. May 17, 5pm room 609
Photo/video credits: Samantha Levin
The March 18 print issue of the book reviews from the Israeli paper Ha’aretz, includes a few columns on the value, insights and lessons to be gleaned from what we tend to think of as ephemeral publications.
Ariana Melamed writes about telephone directories. In the young state of Israel (est. 1948) the wait for a telephone was 10-15 years and the directories of the first decade read like the social registry of Israeli society. It included the old guard and the names listed were those of judges, members of Knesset, physicians and others of the well-connected elite. Up until the mid 1960’s it served as a who’s who of Israeli society and could be used to track social mobility, gentrification and changes in family structure.
Yuval Albashan writes about public records, specifically foreclosure cases. He deconstructs the tedious legalize of these documents down to their essence: Mr. S and his family were evicted from their house for a debt of about $2100, which includes fines and eviction charges. Everything is by the book, all the paperwork accurate, everything follows the letter of the law. The legal fees to the state for this eviction are close to $7000. You do the math.
Udi Orman begins by reminiscing on Ernest Hemingway who (allegedly?) wrote a six-word story on a napkin in the Algonquin hotel (For sale: baby shoes, never worn) and then goes on to write in praise of notes in the pre-twitter age. The kind we used to leave parents (dad, wake me up at 5:30, I need to study for a math test) or roommates (I paid the phone bill, you owe me half). Some notes were more elaborate, like the micro writing on the crib sheets for the world history exam.
The strongest social statement is made by Vered Lee who describes the business cards to be found all over Tel-Aviv advertising the services of call-girls, massage parlors and similar businesses. She quotes Henri Bergson (who quote Un modéré par habitude, un libéral par instinct is part of my signature file) who said that chaos is order we can’t see. Lee sees in these business cards proof to the silent institutionalizing of these services and protests the sharp contrast between illusion and reality. The prevailing color is pink, the images fairy-tale like, the language suggestive, and the solicitation indirect. And what is missing? No word on abuse, violence, depression, stigma, addiction, fatigue, malaise, and shorter than average life expectancy. Small pink business cards scattered all over the sidewalks, concealing the lives of the women who are really the ones out on the street.
As someone who teaches reference, I am well aware of the value of these publications, especially for future research. We regularly receive requests for high school yearbooks, business and telephone directories, old newspaper ads and more. We librarians struggle to capture, preserve, digitize and make these drafts of history available to future generations.
With a trip to South Africa planned for the end of 2015, books about Africa, and South Africa in particular, dominated this year’s reading list.
The best of the lot was Rian Malan’s My Traitor Heart. Malan, a South African journalist writes and observes, documents and reflects on Apartheid from the vantage point of someone who carries the weight of the sins of his fathers. He does not for a minute take any undo credit for his anti-apartheid stand, no pats on the back, and is completely honest about his own struggles with biases and conflicts and his place of privilege. It reminded me in some ways of My Promised Land, only 10 times better and much more honest.
Richard Dowden’s Africa: Altered states, ordinary miracles covers the continent as a whole, with each chapter devoted to a country or issue. Dowden, a British journalist, has been coverings Africa since the 1960s and offers both access and insight. There were not that many miracles and the overall sense is rather depressing and hopeless. Everyone got it wrong about Africa, from the colonists, through the super-powers, the aid organizations and the national governments. It’s a hot mess where no-one is spared responsibility (except maybe some missionaries) and good intentions can not redeem.
African fiction complemented the non-fiction readings and mostly demonstrated that real people live in these countries and while they are never really removed from politics, the everyday activities that dominate their lives are very much those of young people elsewhere.
S.J. Naudé, The alphabet of birds is a series of interconnected stories about mostly young South Africans, moving between countries and struggling with national, personal and sexual identity and their place in the world.
NoViolet Bulawayo’s We Need New Names is a story of a young girl growing up in Zimbabwe in a shantytown with no indoor plumbing and singing Lady Gaga. It enforces some of Dowden’s thoughts on the role of NGO’s in African countries and like all the other books on Africa, turned upside-down my notions on good-bad, home, desired outcomes, personal and national responsibility, and what one can do to help.
While each book was excellent, I was left feeling despondent and ashamed of my pathetic attempts to help by buying books from Better World Books. It turns out that sending our discarded books to African libraries may not be such a good idea after all. First, it fills the shelves with, at best, children’s books that have nothing to do with the African experience, and at worse, with useless 2004 Excel manuals that local libraries are loathe to discard since the book as an object is given high status and weeding the collection is not common practice. In addition, it turns out the donating books to local libraries undermines the local publishing industry that are producing high quality books that are more relevant to the local population.
Africa aside, I read a total of 30 books in 2015, 20 in print, 10 on the kindle, 16 from the library, many many good ones. In addition to the ones described above, the best literary fiction: Rachel Cusk, Outline. The funniest (humor is really hard to achieve and when done right it’s so wonderful) was Julie Schumacher, Dear committee members. Deserving of the credit it received is Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the world and me and the classic that I missed and glad I caught up on is Eugen Herrigel, Zen in the art of archery as well as Death in Venice.