The Other

December 2, 2019

BW photograph of a section of an old barn wall with withered vines.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

We tend to either romanticize or demonize “the Other”.  This post will address the latter perspective.

The Other, or Otherness, is a social construct.  For those viewed as being “like us”, there is a strong sense of affiliation, a sense of belonging, as sense of “we”.  For those “not like us”, there is a strong sense of exclusion, a sense of alienation, a sense of “they”.  Note how this concept applies to gender, race, ethnicity, politics, economics, etc. etc. etc.  There is often not much middle ground in this era of social and political polarization, which makes the Other a powerful concept indeed.  This type of belief (and it is important to remember that a belief is that which we hold to be true, even if there is no objective evidence to support it) creates a divide that can be quite difficult to bridge, especially when one group perceives the Other as a threat.

This past Sunday morning, the poet Richard Blanco read and discussed his work during the broadcast of  On Being.   Listen carefully as he describes the Zulu greeting.  At the end of the interview, he concludes with a strong, stirring, message about how all are “we”.

Take care.

 

Trivial

November 24, 2019

BW photograph of the snow-covered mountains outside of Livingston, Montana.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

This morning on NPR’s On Being, author Marilynne Robinson made the comment that “…human beings are a fairly trivial presence in the environment…”  This is a point that is both well-taken and one that needs to be taken in the context in which she said it:  she was describing her growing up in Idaho near the Rocky Mountains.  (The above photograph was not made in Idaho, but Montana.)  In such a setting, human beings really are relatively few and far between and physically quite small when compared to the geography and space of the place.  Physicist Marcelo Gleiser is also a guest, and that interview is well worth a listen.

As an aside, it is quite important to take quotes in the context in which they are made.  Otherwise, it is very easy to misinterpret their meaning, or to, in fact, provide meaning that was not intended by the speaker.

BW photograph of a highway system looking down from a high window.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

For example, I am going to put that quote into a different, much broader, context.  We know that, in the aggregate, the density of humans and their impact on the environment are anything but trivial.

BW photograph of left behind shoes among leaves on the ground.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

I do very much agree with what Ms. Robinson said.  There are places in the world that are vast and magical, places that dwarf the human presence, especially when one is a child.  Were they to remain so.  Think about this:  compare the scale of a human to that of Mount Everest, which at 29,029 feet is the highest point on earth.  Then, think about this.

Broadening the perspective:  according to NOAA, October 2019 is the second hottest October on record-2019 is also the second hottest year on record.  So, there is that.

Finally, the “few and far between” descriptor (which is mine) above also needs to be placed within the global context of the number of people on the planet.

None of the above is trivial.

Take care.

Fair

September 22, 2019

BW photograph of a food stand at a fair as seen through a chain link fence.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

“Fair” is one of those words with multiple meanings.  One of those has to do with large gatherings of people engaging in a celebratory event-as in a “state fair”.  Another is about equal treatment or acting without bias-to treat “fairly” or to “be fair”.  The photograph above clearly represents the former.

However, it also relates to the latter.  When I used the same photograph in a previous post, the content was about the connection between unhealthy diets and their consequences with regard to the healthcare system.  Indeed, it would be hard to argue that the food advertised at this stand was healthy.  That it would be enjoyable to those who consume those items goes without saying.  That issues connected to that enjoyment, when engaged in as a lifestyle choice, is one of the points in the earlier post.

Truth in disclosure:  I have been a vegetarian for almost three decades now.  In reality, I am practically vegan.  Initially, it was concern over the conditions under which cows, pigs, and chickens are raised by industrial farming-this includes their housing as well as the amount of antibiotics and growth hormones used-that facilitated this decision.  It has since become clear that the consumption of a meat-based diet, particularly beef, is one of the major drivers of climate change.  Were I not already there, the production of methane would have been the catalyst for the change in my diet.

Therefore, I am not unbiased in what I write or link to with regard to climate change and its related subjects.  I do use credible sources for the information presented herein.  The interconnectedness of diet, healthcare, and climate change has been established.  The synergistic risks, both for individuals and the planet, are real.

It is fair that this point-of-view be explicit.

Take care.

 

Out of the Rabbit Hole

August 19, 2019

BW photograph of a bowl of fresh peaches.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

In the previous post, I mentioned “going down the rabbit hole“.  I usually attach a negative connotation to that phrase-it is for situations over which there is little or no felt control.  One of the ways I deal with that feeling, as a means of regaining control and perspective if you will, is to take a road trip, often in search of roadside or farmer’s markets. The sensory stimulations of fresh produce are rejuvenating to the spirit.

Colour photograph of a bowl of fresh peaches.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

As with sunrises and sunsets, sometimes it is helpful to also use the colour version of the file.  The BW version, arguably, gives the viewer a bit more about which to think.

Take care.

The Power

August 14, 2019

BW photograph of Morgan Run on a foggy morning.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

As in the power to alter reality.

As I usually do each morning, I checked my phone’s weather app to see the prevailing conditions-there was a string of clouds for the remaining hours of the morning, but no rain was indicated.  As a result of that info, I went to a favoured spot to take photographic advantage of the light fog in the area.  No sooner had I settled into the composition as seen above, rain started to fall.  For a brief moment (or two), my brain said “It can’t be raining because that is not what the phone said would happen!”  The water landing on my head and camera said otherwise.

Such is the power of the digital age.  Information presented can be in direct contrast to the physical reality, but the physical reality is then what is questioned.

That is a problem.

Some of this comes from confirmation bias, which is the pattern of only paying attention to data that supports one’s preconceived beliefs or desires.  If one wants something to be, one can check sources until an agreeable one is found, or select sources that are known to support a particular position.  Denial drives another part of the delusion.  Denial can be described as a “buffer against an unacceptable reality” or a way of “finding comfort in a threatening situation”.  (Those are in quotes because a speaker at a long-forgotten workshop used them and they made sense to me.  They also frame denial as a coping skill, an ineffective one in the long run, but a form of coping nonetheless.  This view is in comparison to the more pathological perspectives often attributed to that behaviour.)  If it is not acknowledged, it is not happening or did not happen.

I really wanted it to not be raining this morning.

Climate change is, of course, a perfect example of how rhetoric, or an app, can allow one to question or form an “alternate” reality.  That, however, does not change the facts on the ground.

It really was water falling from the sky.

Take care.

1,000

July 30, 2019

BW photograph of run-off after hard rains.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

One thousand.  As in days.

At times, days seem to flow past in a blur-especially when looking to the past.  At other times, they seem to trickle by with no seeming end.  In any case, days are markers of time.  They are markers in time.

Birthdays.

Graduation days.

13 Days.

Anne of the Thousand Days.

Vietnam:  The Ten Thousand Day War.

The Talking Heads sang “Letting the days go by…”.  David Byrne finishes with “Same as it ever was”.  In between he asks “Well, how did I get here?”

Which is very much a question worth asking-and answering.  After all, each day will only occur once in a lifetime.

Take care.

BW photograph of a tree overlooking a cemetery.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.  The above photograph is not from Rwanda, as I have not been there.  It is, however, a marker of the 800,000-1,000,000 people killed there during those 100 days.

Please do listen to this report regarding the manner by which Rwanda has coped with this truly human tragedy.  I would also highly recommend reading Mr. Gourevich’s book and the articles he has written in the intervening years.  The title of the linked book is especially poignant.  There are, of course, many other available resources.

Given the rise in hate speech and nationalistic politics that have gripped much of the world, which are based in the demonization of “the other”, there is much to be learned from the Rwanda experience before, during, and after the genocide.  However, we truly seem to be incapable of learning those lessons.  This is, I think, reflected by the fact that when teaching the Rwandan genocide, by far the majority of students had no real knowledge of what happened there in 1994.  It is extremely difficult to extract any learning points from that which you do not know happened.

The United States refused to directly intervene and obfuscated the U.N. efforts there despite having finally ratified the U.N. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. For more about that history, it is useful to read this.

Know. Remember. Learn.

Take care.