Winehouse, Norway, PB, and a truly Global Digital Library… What a week.

A right-winged Christian killing spree in Norway. Amy Winehouse dies. And I finished off two, count them, two, jars of Sainsbury’s Basics Crunchy Peanut Butter.

Yea, it’s been a tough one.

In better news, this guy may be the heroic answer to much recent discussion on the digital sharing/stealing of books, a stunning new project to create a global public library:

Like Google Books, it would have as its goal the eventual digitization of human culture, preserving the works of the world’s authors, scholars, artists, and entertainers and making them widely available. Unlike Google Books, however, this library would not be operated by a for-profit company. It would be accessible to any person, in any place, at any time, at no cost.

And for those who fear for the future of books in the digital age:

One thing we have learned from the new discipline known as “the history of the book” is that one means of communication does not displace another. Manuscript publishing actually expanded after the invention of printing by movable type, and it continued to flourish for three centuries after Gutenberg. Instead of lamenting “the death of the book,” I believe we should celebrate new possibilities of combining the printed codex with electronic technology . . . .The information ecology is getting richer, not thinner.

This is good news. And now on to the rest.

Regarding Miss Winehouse, we must hope that her suffering has ended, and that -should there be a rebirth- a more fortunate circumstance can come. The article linked above lists some other legends who died at 27, far, far too young. And no doubt a sign that their suffering was not alone, not simply due to some personal flaw or character defect. Instead it points to the heart of our hyper-pressurized society of success, reward, and failure.

Buddhists are taught not to cling to success, or fear failures. These are but two of the ‘worldly conditions’ we are supposed to see with a sense of equanimity and freedom:

Gain and loss, lābho ca, alābho ca,
fame and obscurity , yaso ca, ayaso ca, 

censure and praise, and nindā ca, pasaṃsā ca,
happiness and suffering: sukhañca, dukkhañca.

Yet it is all too human of us that we still do. We praise the famous and successful amongst us, and we censure those we disagree with or disapprove of.  This fact was used against me recently when I suggested that we (in the 1st world) live pretty easy lives compared to most people out there. Heart disease, cancer, stress, depression – illnesses we deem preventable and yet are widespread, and which are much rarer and at times unheard of in other societies. Add to them alcoholism and drug addictions, problems that are relatively new to the Western world and are spreading in all directions (including more deeply and broadly into our own societies)…

Hopefully now we will look more compassionately on those with illnesses such as addictions and try to help them as well as we can. The ignorant impetus is to turn away and say “it’s his/her own fault.” But a clearer perspective reveals that there is so much more to it than that.

Similarly with the killing spree in Norway. News outlets in England (and beyond no doubt) seized on the utterly unfounded notion that this may be another Islamic fundamentalist attack on a Western nation (my thanks to Dave W for the link). Apparently the killer had contacted some Muslim group – probably to threaten them from what I’ve read – but media outlets didn’t pay much attention and misled many people. Apparently he had also cited J.S. Mill and visited London regarding reestablishing the Knights Templar as well, but none of this caught the media’s attention as much as the word muslim.

Please watch the video below, and do so knowing that we all have a responsibility to counteract such ignorant and violent rhetoric. I recall that when the 9/11 attacks hit the US, many people blamed Jews, with elaborate conspiracy plots, almost always based on the Protocols of Zion. This ‘book‘ was another Ethics Bowl case I worked on way back when. It’s a long story. Check out the wiki link and the film though.

And watch this below knowing that like the ‘book’ about Jews attempting to take over the world, this piece of work is composed by xenophobic, violent racists and that all ‘facts’ or historical information should be compared with reputable sources. 
Coming back again though to the notion of our own responsibility here. How do you allow racism in your own world? How do you foster understanding and warmth between peoples? I know I’m not much good at it (when faced with xenophobia/racism I usually just ignore it or change the subject, out of respect, as it is usually from an elder), but if people like this are proliferating in the world around us, then we have an ever greater responsibility to be active in educating them about their mistaken understandings. 

  • Pete Hoge

    Yes…lots of heavy goings onwith potential to alter the world's future.I have gone through phases ofbeing a right wing/Christian/theocracy supporter…as wellas holding racist views.I admitted to myself that Ihad those views and worked withthem, knowing the wisdom thatI had learned which did notsupport racism or domination of others through ideology.I still have racist views whenit comes to "poor black people"and that comes from 22 years ofliving in Philly and seeinghow folks from the "ghetto" arefrequently causing trouble.I try and see people individuallyon a case by case basis, but ifyou experienced the "ghetto" asa resident of Philly for 22 yearsyou might have a touch of prejudice.This is a situation where I do notwork with compassionate thoughts because I simply have given up onever having universal concern forthe "poor black people" who reallydo not like me at all and some ofthem will invade my personal spaceif given the chance.Here in Philly we have a reality which is unfortunate and it meanswe are not using "skillful means"if we walk through a neighborhoodwhere we don't belong.We are not being racist; we areusing common sense by not causingourselves suffering.

  • Buddhist_philosopher

    Well… At least you recognize those views as 'racist' and you see the cause. Next, if you just see them as poor people in a ghetto, you'll see that race doesn't mean much. If they were all white and living in the same terrible conditions and giving you the same looks, you might feel just as afraid. Since you're white, you might feel that you could blend in a bit better in that situation, but you can't count on that.One of my most memorable experiences here in England was when I showed up for the first time for my ph.d. I had 2 suitcases full of my possessions and I wound up walking through a mostly black neighborhood, trying desperately to find my apartment. I was totally disoriented, but the first time I was really scared was when I turned down a quiet side street to find two big white guys with shaved heads drinking giant beers in the middle of the day.Oddly enough, I felt more like I don't belong with these guys than I had with all of the black people who had been around me… It was a good lesson for me.But there is still a common-sense factor. If you feel unsafe in any environment, find help or a way out.

  • Pete Hoge

    Yes you have a sane viewpoint…I have my fears about certainpeople but ironically I havebeen "shady" myself and notbehaved in a way that made others feel safe.haha.