Saturday, April 20, 2019

Sous le Ciel de Paris


It is at this moment, when the beautiful Notre Dame is burning, that I realize how much Paris means to me. It is the city where I grew up, and with all that has happened since then, now that I am in my golden years, I still love it, almost like a lover. I wrote about Paris in a previous post: Paris Mon Amour, when I revisited the city a few years ago.

Here, I am posting a beautiful tribute to the city of love, a series of photographs taken by my mother Ata Kando. No words can equal what she was able to express through these unbelievable images. She says it all, all that I miss, admire and love about Paris. It is still as beautiful as ever. The Notre Dame fire is a tragedy, it feels like a part of history itself has burnt down, but Paris will survive this, as she has done so many times throughout history.

Here is the direct link to the video: A Paris

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Thursday, April 18, 2019

Notre Dame de Paris

The Notre Dame fire has affected me in a very personal way. I was surprised by the depth of my feelings about this incident. Clearly, it should not be compared to 9-11. Zero deaths vs. nearly 3,000. Nevertheless, many people (including me and several media pundits) compared the two events from the get-go. I suppose the two events had at least some visual resemblance - immense structures burning and collapsing, etc. But this deja-vu is superficial and meaningless.

So the question remains: Why has the Notre Dame fire captured the deepest sorrow and sympathy of millions worldwide? Why has it driven me to the verge of tears? (9-11 never did, it just made me mad as hell).

To me, the Notre Dame event is personal, and I believe that it is the same for most Frenchmen, and also for the millions of foreigners who have visited that shrine.

For one thing, I am flooded by unforgettable memories. All those times that I and members of my family visited the Grand Old Lady - “Our Lady,” literally - our beautiful experiences under the nave, on top right under the giant bells, cavorting on the roof and the balcony, trying to touch the gargoyles...My wife, my children, my grandchildren, my sisters, my parents, my friends, we all experienced Notre Dame repeatedly, often together. Read more...

Monday, April 15, 2019

Notre Dame: Nos Profondes Condoléances

A mes chers Csaba, Charlie, Paul, Rie et tous les autres Parisiens et Francais que j’ai eu l’honneur et le plaisir de connaitre, toute ma vie:

Nous sommes profondément tristes. Nous pleurons pour la plus merveilleuse cathédrale du monde, au sein de la plus belle ville sur terre.

Cette tragédie renforce l’amour éternel que le monde sent envers la France, la ville lumière, sa cathédrale, la beauté et la richesse incomparable de leur histoire. C’est à l’occasion de telles tragédies que nous réalisons nos vrais sentiments, notre amour et admiration pour ce que cette église symbolise - la beauté et la bonté, les valeurs éternelles et universelles. Sachez que des millions d’Américains sont aussi profondément touchés par ce désastre que les Parisiens. Aujourd’hui, nous sommes tous des Parisiens.

Translation: To my dear Csaba, Charlie, Paul, Rie and all the other Parisians and Frenchmen whom I have had the honor and the pleasure to know, all my life: We are profoundly sad. We cry for the most marvelous cathedral in the world, at the core of the most beautiful city on earth. This tragedy reinforces the eternal love which the world feels for France, the City of Lights, its cathedral, the beauty and the incomparable richness of their history. It is on the occasion of such tragedies that one realizes one’s true feelings, one’s love and admiration for what this church symbolizes - beauty and goodness, the eternal and universal values. Know that millions of Americans are as profoundly touched by this disaster as are the people of Paris. Today, we are all Parisians.
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Friday, April 5, 2019

Multilingualism: Is it Good or Bad?


Most people agree that speaking more than one language is good for your brain. The poor mono-linguals of the world, most of whom live in English speaking countries really miss out on the benefits of knowing more than one language. In return, they can take pride in the fact that English is slowly taking over the world, pushing out other less ‘important’ languages. Some academics call this ‘Linguistic Imperialism’ and have proposed legislation to stop what they see as an attempt to take over the world through words.

You see, there is a hierarchy in the world of languages. This is a well-established theory called the ‘Global Language System’ *, developed by Dutch sociologist Abram de Swaan in 2001.

Of the 7000 languages of the world, 98% of them are at the periphery, spoken by a few thousand people at a time and often with no written form. Then there are the central languages, a thin layer of about a hundred official languages of nation states, then a third layer of about 12 super-central languages which serve international and long-distance communication, and finally at the apex, is the one hyper central language, which today is English.

Since the primary job of language is to allow people to communicate with each other, this hierarchical structure makes sense. With just 2 languages, you could expect one speaker to learn the language of the other, but if there are 5 different languages, it makes more sense for everyone to learn a more central language, instead of everyone having to learn 4 other languages. Read more...

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Do we need to explain Bad Human Behavior?

 Let me introduce you to an idea which may seem esoteric, but which can shed light on many of the severe social problems that are plaguing us. My textbook in social psychology, Social Interaction, describes these ideas in detail.

Human beings are problem-solving creatures. When faced with a problem, we first attempt to EXPLAIN it. That is, we try to discover its CAUSE. Science tells us that to explain and to understand a phenomenon means finding out what causes it. Once we find the cause of a problem we can remove it, and thereby remove the problem - which was merely the symptom.

Sociology is about fixing SOCIAL problems, problems that are man-made, problems due to human error and misbehavior - war, racism, injustice, crime, etc.

It is not the primary responsibility of sociologists to cure cancer, or to reverse global warming. Of course, they are tangentially interested in the human BEHAVIORS that contribute to disease and environmental damage, but strictly speaking, these are PHYSICAL issues that belong to the realm of medical and physical science. Sociology is “at home” when it attempts to discover the causes of political, social and psychological misbehavior: crime, war, racism, etc