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dimanche 9 novembre 2014


Post Modernity and the Future of Communications
My sister told me that she had lunch with six adults and as many children at a nice restaurant in Cayman Islands, it was a family gathering. She enjoyed it very much but she had a small peeve.
Every single one at the table, including the children, was on some apparatus supposed to make communicating with each other easier, but on this particular occasion, communication had taken on another meaning!

When we were children, the family dinner table was an occasional to look forward to. For curious children, it was an occasion to ask questions of the elders and be taught, culturally important matters, which neither language nor education, can transmit.
You could say that communication at that time meant relationship as well. Along with the important concept of one’s identity being formed. Only with personal, intimate interaction one can build upon ones identity, since there are intangible elements involved.
When I am asked by the Indians, why don't you eat Pork, a simple answer such as, I don't eat Pork because I am Jewish, has no meaning for them. The symbolism of that particular action is further lost when there is no personal contact nor is there a relationship between the two parties concerned.
Marc Auge, the French philosopher Anthropologist argues that in such “Non-Places”, one may decipher neither identity, relation nor history of those who are present, at least physically.

 a good example of Non Place: London Heathrow Terminal 5

In one generation, we have gone from regionalism to urbanization to globalization in geographic terms, in intellectual terms from structuralism to modernity to post modernity to super modernity.
The above individuals sitting around a lunch table constitute a Non-Place, which is a good example of a Non-Place and the period that is happening: Now and in Cayman Islands, is Super Modernity.
But Now is universal but the geographical designation is becoming less and less relevant. Ten years ago, to communicate with someone from Baracoa, involved gargantuan efforts without spending a fortune. First of all you have to find someone in La Habana who has a fax machine or at least access to one, as my Cuban mother did. Then when she is at her office, she can print out the Fax Message and then call the person in Baracoa, at that time a sizable majority of people in Baracoa did not have telephones. She could then transmit the message by reading it.
That was in 2005. Just a mere 7 years later, I get daily messages or emails sent to me from the cellular phones of friends who live in Baracoa.
In the former one can decipher the relationships involved, the entire history of friendships and also the nature of the people involved. In the second instance, a space is created which does not exist in that I can send a message to just about anyone in Baracoa. I began hearing from people I have not seen in ten years!
The institutions that existed in the first type of communications have disappeared and more and more of the communications are sent and received in solitude.
I like the paradoxical arguments of Marc Auge. He says: An excess of information gives us the feeling that history is speeding up at the very moment that an excess of images and the swiftness of communications make us feel the planet’s smallness.
Going back in time, “the good old times”, is not the answer. Even in the middle ages, people complained of modernity and longed for “the good old days”.
How to preserve our identities and maintain our selves, in this age of super modernity?
The American Indian asking me the question may have provided the answer.
In conversations with American Indians, words, tones, language all have context in addition to the meaning they convey.
To them, the question, what religion do you belong to, has less of a meaning than the question: In what language do you pray?
As you can see, over the iPhones, iPads and images and voices over Internet, none of the context can be transmitted.
Taking away the iPhone is not the answer, but teaching our children and us the depth of communication, woven into a world of relationships and wrapped in our individual cultural identities is far more important.
My relationship with the Indians, as a friend, as a doctor, as an anthropologist, has direct impact on many of my interactions in every day life. Recently I was at a Museum dedicated to the Inuit or Eskimo people. While watching short moving images of them or listening to them, I realize how much my being with the Indians have added depth to my understanding of the world. Truly they have made my understanding of myself as an OTHER and also understanding of OTHER, individual and cultural, easier
As a Jew, I have to add this, pertaining to the cultural identity and history of our people.
Rashi’s commentary is also interspersed with Talmudic legends, which are our bridge to Biblical times. With all due respect to archaeologists and their attempt to open a window to life back then, they may uncover genuine artifacts, but they haven’t got a clue as to what the Jewish people were like. A Jew does not feel a connection to King David by seeing his sword in the Israel Museum. A Jew connects to King David through the stories of the Bible, and those stories come to life through the Talmudic stories cited by Rashi. (From Rashi, Rabbi Solomon ben Isaac or Rabbi Shlomo Yitzhaki, born in Troyes, France in 1060, the greater commentator on the Talmud)
This photo is from the Topkapi museum, with a very interesting historical inscription!
(The Banu Qurayza (Arabicبني قريظة; بنو قريظة‎ alternate spellings include QuraizaQurayzahQuraytha, and the archaic Koreiza) were a Jewish tribe which lived in northern Arabia, at the oasis of Yathrib (presently known as Medina), until the 7th century. Sometime after the Battle of the Trench in April or later in 627 AD their conflict with Muhammad led to a 25-day siege of Banu Qurayza ending in the tribe's surrender.There is much debate about the number executed with some estimating that between 400-900 males were beheaded, while the Sunni hadith simply state that all male members were killed, without specifying a figure, and one woman)
(I was taught as a child that Mohammed learned about the idea of Monotheism from the Banu Qurayza)