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Religion(s) Of Peace

January 11th, 2015 Comments off

As France deals with the suspects of the Charlie Hebdo attack I found myself reminded of a piece I wrote immediately after the bombing of The Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013 .

I considered just reposting that link and then I read Ted Landau’s two great pieces in response to that attack and some of the underlying issues.

Ted is somebody whose writing I’ve read and sporadically corresponded with since the early nineteen nineties and have enjoyed spending time with at Macworld Expo over the years. I’d like to call him a friend but that might be too presumptuous.

You should read them:

Paris shooting and “extremist groups”

Giving religion the respect it deserves

He wrote his posts with far less overt rage than the one I wrote immediately after the attack on The Boston Marathon and he did it with the skills of the professional writer that he is and I’m not.

That said, his measured and artfully expressed words got me thinking even more and actually got me angrier. Mostly angry at myself for my lack of courage.

Even in the original post, I censored myself. Not just with splat-characters in lieu of curse words but by being oblique and never using the word ‘religion’.

It’s wrong that I should be cowed into timidity about that word when I speak publicly. It’s wrong that I’m afraid my comments, angry, surely, but in no way directed or even meant as an attack on any single group would jeopardize my ability to earn a living or worse.

So, I’ll not mince words now.

If your lunatic fringe commits crime in the name of your faith, your first job is not to try to tell me “we’re not all like that.” That claim deserves no air time while the murder continues. Your first job is prove it not claim it and in the claiming make the rage about their behavior seem an injustice to your innocent belief system. Your belief system is only above reproach when you can unambiguously show your entire community has effectively condemned the actions of those who do violence in professed support of your ideals.

There is no way any of these extremist groups could get the traction (money, weapons, training etc.) they are without at least the tacit approval of the more moderate majority within their own communities.  This is true whether it’s Catholics not forcing the Vatican to bring abusive priests to justice, American Jews and Christian Fundamentalists supporting Israeli military aggression, Mormons not trying to ‘save the souls’ of others with baptism by proxy and in so doing, co-opting their memory, Muslims not organizing to present their Al-Qaeda or ISIL fringe to justice.

Every single major religion, yes, even Buddhists, have had a violent fringe claiming they’re acting on behalf of the religious cause. If you are a practitioner of a particular faith, your first job is to stop your lunatic fringe. Manage that first then we can talk about how ‘you’re religion is about peace’.

Clean your own house first.

With all that said, those quick to fly the ‘Je suis Charlie’ flag should perhaps look into the legacy of that publication as well. It’s not so simple as ‘they published satirical cartoons depicting Muhammad and suffered violence for it’. There has been a history of anti-Semitic (a term which the reader should note actually includes, among others, both Arabs and Jews), anti-Catholic and, damned near anti-every-other-damned-thing editorial cartoons from Charlie Hebdo for quite some time. None of this is to say the violence was remotely justified. None of this is to say Charlie Hebdo shouldn’t have every right to offend anyone they chose to with satire. The point goes right to the core of this update and the original post. Don’t be so quick to align yourself with a cause or a group without knowing what your flying their flag may say about you.

I’ll share a quote that does a pretty good job of summing up my feelings on the matter by way of apology for my prior lack of courage:

“Religion, a mediaeval form of unreason, when combined with modern weaponry becomes a real threat to our freedoms. This religious totalitarianism has caused a deadly mutation in the heart of Islam and we see the tragic consequences in Paris today. I stand with Charlie Hebdo, as we all must, to defend the art of satire, which has always been a force for liberty and against tyranny, dishonesty and stupidity. ‘Respect for religion’ has become a code phrase meaning ‘fear of religion.’ Religions, like all other ideas, deserve criticism, satire, and, yes, our fearless disrespect.” – Salman Rushdie

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A first and premature reaction to the Boston Marathon Bombing

April 15th, 2013 No comments

Let me say first that, mere hours after the fact, we still have no idea who was responsible for the bombings of the Boston Marathon today. It would be not only stupid but destructive to make any assumptions about motive or responsible parties. That said, I’m utterly enraged and history suggests, that whether group or individual, this was an act intended to make some political point.

There is no political point that justifies a deliberate attack intended specifically to injure and terrorize civilians.

So, knowing nothing of the agenda of the perpetuator, I’m going to express the following politically incorrect opinion in public and be held accountable for it if you disagree.

Here’s the deal. If you number yourself a member of a group, political or religious or whatever shared banner you wave , you no longer are allowed to say to me “That’s just the crazy fringe.” until you have demonstrated loud and committed effort to fix the lunatic fringe who claim your banner first.

If you’re a ‘Flamboozian’ don’t you #$%^&ing dare tell me after somebody claiming to be a Flamboozian shoots up a school, flies a plane into a building, burns a cross on somebody’s lawn, sets off bombs blowing up a Federal building, disrupts a family’s funeral or sets explosives to maim and kill civilians during a public gathering that you’re the ‘real’ Flamboozian not them.

Don’t you dare talk about your fellow Flamboozian’s years of oppression. Don’t you dare try to say that “the book we follow doesn’t say to do that” . Don’t you dare look to me for sympathy for how your reputation is tarnished until you can point to a track record of calling out the fringe among your own first.

Until you can show courageous opposition, first and foremost, to your own fellow Flamboozian’s extremism you are hereby invited to shut the %^&* up about how you’re not like them.

Until you do that, take responsibility for dealing with your own lunatic fringe, you may consider yourself part of the problem.

The moment we begin to take responsibility for the behavior of people who nominally agree with us and hold them to a higher standard because they profess to represent us, then we’ve begun to take power back from the edge and begin to be able to negotiate compromise.

 

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Macworld|iWorld thoughts and reminiscences

February 1st, 2012 No comments

Macworld|iWorld thoughts and reminiscences

There are several great articles reviewing last week’s Macworld|iWorld and I would urge you to read these two in particular:

Christopher Breen of Macworld.com’s “Macworld Expo is dead, long live Macworld | iWorld

And Ted Landau, of The MacObsserver’s “Macworld | iWorld Reinvents Itself

To those, I’d like to add this:

This year’s Macworld|iWorld was, and will be marvelous to me because it reminded me of QuickTime Live!

QuickTime Live! was managed by Paul Kent, the same person who’s been in charge of Macworld content for IDG for several years. QuickTime Live! was the drop-dead-best trade show experience I have ever had.

QuickTime Live! was a small event held, if I recall correctly, for three years before it was merged into and ultimately digested by WWWDC.

Sure, there were ‘vendor-driven’ how-to sessions (and some good ones too!) and there was an exposition hall with products and tools you could see, touch and discuss with their makers but the ‘expo’ was hardly the main thrust. The expo portion was sort of a ‘visual aid’ and a ‘chance to do some business’ but it was the sessions, the content and the social interaction that defined the show.

Sessions were great. Yes, some were WWDC-like in that they were ‘how-to’ sessions run by a tool-maker (including Apple). Sessions like those are important and happened and I think will continue to happen at Macworld|iWorld. But, and probably in part by dint of Apple’s QuickTime Team being smaller than Apple as a whole and, frankly, exceptionally kind and smart folk, there was a looseness, a comfort level in those sessions you rarely see at WWDC (except from Sal Soghoian  who always manages an epic, enlightening and endearing WWDC presentation)

WWWDC, is an Apple Developer Relations event. The conference is toeing the corporate line and has a *necessary* agenda about not just what but how. Apple isn’t typically inclined to get into matters of content and entertainment goals. They are there to teach and evangelize ways of working that advance the platform in specific ways. They are there to sell and teach at the same time. Apple’s WWDC audience is overtly the developer community and covertly the press and Wall Street. That’s not to say WWDC doesn’t have ‘fun’ but it’s always a managed sort of fun.

QuickTime Live! was special to me because the general thrust of the sessions was much more self-critical, self-effacing and, in many cases, driven by the theme of ‘project post mortem’. “Here was a project I worked on and here’s what I learned that might spare you some heartache” was the undercurrent of most of the sessions (and all of mine). People were honest about their experimentation. Presenters were keen to teach *and* learn.

QuickTime Live! (at its best) happened at The Beverly Hilton in LA and combination of Paul’s brilliant management setting the above general tone of the sessions and a quirk of architecture led to what I have called the “lobby bar phenomenon”.

The ‘lobby bar’ was just a bar with an adjacent ‘conversation pit’ where attendees used to informally convene share projects, ask advice, boast of success or admit failure. It was located in a way that, like Moscone West’s floor lobbies, all traffic had to flow past it.

The interaction in the lobby bar was social and it encouraged people to engage as peers. Yes there were parties. Yes there were Krispy Kreme Donuts in in the mornings but what happened there was an almost continuous collaborative conference session with fluid topics driven by what was just presented in a formal session moments before and what the community shared enthusiasm and interest in as it happened to just pop up. The communities and conversations formed around shared areas of interest and experience and they happened across industry, national and cultural boundaries.

QuickTime Live! was a profoundly special experience for me because it fostered meaningful community, knowledge sharing and a deep sense of camaraderie in the attendees. People I met taught me things, introduced me to people I later hired to consult on projects I was working on and, I hope, learned from the sessions I presented.

The QuickTime Developer community didn’t just go to see the latest toys and tools. We didn’t just go to take or teach a class in a technology or tool. We went to move relationships from virtual spaces (list-servs and web sites) to real face to face interaction. We went to spend time with like-minded people we liked and respected. We went to teach, learn and collaborate and have fun working. I do mean working. While there were parties at QuickTime Live!, they were hardly the main point.

We went with questions and came home with ideas.

The Macworld|iWorld I enjoyed this year embodied that spirit. You could feel it in the sessions, at the tables in each floor’s lobby at Moscone West. You could feel it at the musical performances, the art exhitions and at the sessions.

I saw people seated around tables in the lobbies really talking to each other. Saw them not just resting their pounding trade-show-feet or post Cirq Du Mac hangovers but talking, sharing, introducing each other . I ran into old friends, was introduced to new ones, connected with the faces to match the Twitter handles. I saw small companies showing their products. I was able to make designers and developers of those products smile genuinely when I told them what I loved about their products or react to what they demonstrated with feedback and ideas. I was able to ‘do some business’ on the show floor. I was able to discover new things. I wasn’t getting yelled at by Power Computing. I wasn’t getting ‘spun’ by Apple.

My session, though more sparsely attended than I liked,  had people with great questions.

I was there too briefly. I wanted more.

The way I see Macworld|iWorld evolving based on what I saw this year will move even more toward my QuickTime Live! ideal. I am really looking forward to next year!

Disclosure: I have been an attendee and usually speaker at Macworld Expo every year but one for close to twenty years. I was a speaker at all but the first QuickTime Live! and even did a ‘day keynote’. I’ve watched Macworld Expo show go from happening twice a year on the left and right coasts (and Japan and UK) to just once a year in San Francisco. I was there for the move from Boston to New York and back to Boston. I have been involved through at least two different management entities being in charge. I have had the good fortune to work pretty closely with Paul in the past and even served on his Macworld Expo Customer Advisory Board. I have ‘skin in this game’ and I care but I mean it… Macworld|iWorld was and will be something special.

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