Another Spectrum

Personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind


2 Comments

Harvard University Commencement speech

I have a confession to make. Although I have a rather soft spot for our Prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, I have not voted for the party she represents since the 1970s, and I feel I’m unlikely to so for the foreseeable future. Our Jacinda has just about the right balance of optimism and pragmatism. She has been criticised by some for being too empathetic and kind and that leaders should be powerful and crush the opposition. But I disagree. Shouldn’t the very values we teach our children also be displayed in our leaders? I believe they should.

Earlier today (NZ time), Jacinda delivered the Harvard University Commencement speech for 2022. I have included two Youtube clips of her speech: the first being highlights selected by Guardian News (4:34), and the second being her entire speech (24:29). But first, here are the closing paragraphs of her speech as transcribed by yours truly:

You are, and will always be, surrounded by bias. You will continue to be exposed to disinformation, and over time the noise you are surrounded up by will probably only get worse. And perhaps that is why when your own constitution was adopted, benjamin franklin was asked what had been created and he replied [quote] “A republic if you can keep it”.

If you can keep it. Yes diversity of voice in mainstream media matters. The responsibility of social media matters. Teaching our kids to deal with disinformation; the role we play as leaders, it all matters. But so do you. How you choose to engage with information, deal with conflict; how you confront, debate; how you choose to address being baited or hated; it all matters. And in the overwhelming challenges that lay in front of us, and our constant efforts to reach into the systems, the structures, the power, don’t overlook the simple acts that are right in front of you: the impact that we each have as individuals to make a choice; to treat difference with empathy and with kindness – those values that exist in the space between difference and division, the very things we teach our children but then view as weakness in our leaders.

The issues we navigate as a society, after all, will only intensify. The disinformation will only increase. The pull into the comfort of our tribes will be magnified, but we have it within us to ensure that that doesn’t mean we fracture. We are richer for our difference, and poorer for our division. Through genuine debate and dialogue, through rebuilding trust in information and one another, through empathy, let us reclaim the space in between. After all, there are some things in this life that make the world feel small and connected. Let kindness be one of them.

Jacinda Ardern – Harvard University Commencement speech 2020
Jacinda Ardern receives standing ovation for Harvard speech on gun control and democracy | Guardian News
In full: Jacinda Ardern delivers Harvard University Commencement speech | nzherald.co.nz


6 Comments

Some people…

Yesterday

I had one of those pesky con artists, this time claiming to be from the Spark Security office (Spark is NZ’s largest ISP) informing me that there was a problem with my internet connection and it would need to be shut down, however if I cooperated the issue could be fixed on the spot. As usual, I let the caller lead me through the various steps of trying to gain control of my computer. As typically happens, she incorrectly assumed I was using Windows (I was asked to describe the key to the right of the left Ctrl key) and we spent a fruitless half hour trying to bring up the Run command box. However as I run a variant of Linux, that’s not an option.

Finally she attempted to get me to download and install a remote desktop application, on this occasion AnyDesk, usually it’s TeamViewer. It was at this point that let her know I wasn’t entirely stupid and needed verification that she was indeed who she said she was. We then spent another twenty-five minutes discussing or perhaps arguing about her credential. Strangely, when I told her that so far this year I’d had at least ten hoax internet related calls she tried the “not everyone is evil, so you should be more trusting”. Yeah right.

We spent another twenty or so minutes while she tried to persuade me that all I needed to do was trust her, and I insisted I wasn’t able to do that. She finally gave up after (for her) a frustrating fifty-four minutes. I despise the actions of such individuals. I’m not going to judge the person as harshly as I don’t know their circumstances, but attempting to fleece someone simply because one can is surely a marker of one’s contempt for others.

Today

The Wife and I went to our usual barber/hair stylist for haircuts plus a beard trim for me. He’s a very sociable guy who seems to be able to encourage his clients to chat about all and nothing. The Wife had her hair done first and the room filled with loud and very public conversation between her and Ihaia (the barber) including politics (NZ and the US), families (his and ours), the weather (it’s been atrocious today), and of course Covid (especially the regarding deniers and anti-vaxers). Even I am able to participate although perhaps less fluidly than other customers, and always privately. During my time in the chair, I happened to mention that yesterday was our fiftieth wedding anniversary.

Afterwards, as the Wife was about to take out her EFTPOS card Ihaia told her to put it away as the haircuts were on him. When the Wife asked why, he said it was a fiftieth anniversary gift. Obviously, she hadn’t heard my conversation with him. While the Wife almost broke his neck in a heartfelt hug, the other customer clapped and cheered. Now that’s a good feeling.

Conclusion

While I’ve been at the receiving end of abuse for much of my life, I understand why. Most people are able to empathise only with what is familiar to them. They have no way of understanding what an autistic person experiences – hell, even many so called autism experts have no clue – so they judge my behaviour in neurotypical terms. Making allowances for that, I find most (but not all) are kind and generous.

Then there are the few who have little or no interest in the well being of others, and seem to have utter contempt for them. One being the former POTUS and another being yesterday’s “Spark security officer”. Fortunately I’ve never met one in person. They either arrive in news items, by email or telephone, always from a location outside of Aotearoa. It’s only since the internet has become ubiquitous that I have had personally experienced scam attempts. I wonder if this says something about the internet, or modern society, or is it simply a reflection of the fact that I’m fortunate to have been born in the least corrupt nation on earth?