Saturday, January 4, 2020

Call Of The Wild / The Last Day Of Hanukkah

Image result for Chanaka jewish

- I'm going to tell you a story, I know I've told you many stories like it, but I have a observation to make. 
- Go on.
- I'd been to the temple a few days before for the morning service, where it was announced that the next service would be today, the last day of Hanukkah, followed by a breakfast.
- Which temple was this?
- Sinai Temple. 

Bike locked to the traffic sign at the corner, I appear at the guard station in my cold weather biking clothes, set my leather shoulder bag on the desk. The guard, a tall young black man, stands, orders:
- Empty your pockets.
- All of them? I have a dozen, or more.
- Everything. 
I describe each object as I lay it down on the desk: 
- Sunglasses. Wallet. Keys. Telephone. Reading glasses.
- That's all?
- No.
- No?
He waves his metal detecting wand over my body. 
- Empty all your pockets. 
I announce:
- Sample size bottle of perfume, half empty. Earphones: two pair. Comb, broken. Another comb, broken. Seen enough?
The guard picks up one object after another, holds it close to his eyes.
- What are you doing?
- If you don't stop talking I'll get the rabbi to ban you from here.
- I don't think you can do that. I think it's more likely you'll lose your job. And there's no chance you're going to control my language.
- There's a camera recording everything you say.
- So what?
- I'm calling my boss for back up.
He speaks into his communicator: 
- I need special search here at the door.
- A young man with shaved head arrives wearing a combat thickness bulletproof vest loaded with extra ammunition cartridges and a pistol at his hip. I greet him:
- Just in time. Your employee is going crazy. He keeps threatening me.
- How is he threatening you?
- With getting me banned from the temple.
- Why?
- He's trying and failing to bully me and he doesn't like it. He shouldn't be working here. Obviously he's not Jewish. He doesn't know a Jew when he sees one. You know I'm Jewish, don't you?
He doesn't answer. I continue:
- Ever hear of a Jewish terrorist?
- This is all routine.
- Not true. I've been here eight or nine times before and the guard never did anything more than take a glance inside my bag.
- Was he here then?
- No. Someone else.
The big subordinate guard keeps breaking in with accusations of me as committing the crime of being uncooperative, this met with his boss's 'Stand back. I'm handling this now.' But the big guard doesn't want to stand back, he goes on interrupting, he's seen me smiling at his discomfort at being reprimanded by his boss right in front of me, his intended victim. Instead of him standing back I theatrically take two long steps backwards, declaring:
- I'm standing back the better to watch this comedy. 
Finally the subordinate guard quiets down. Boss guard orders me:
- Take your jacket off. 
The removed jacket (I still have on my inner, leather jacket) is held at arm's length by the bulletproof guard with one hand while with the other it is closely rubbed with the metal detecting wand which goes off continuously. The bulletproof guard then moves the wand over my body, with it again going off continuously, especially stridently at my knees for some reason. He hand-searches my chest and back, looking for a suicide vest. He asks,
-Anything else in your pockets?
- Sure. I told you. A lot.
Once more I announce each item as it is set down on the desk: 
- Pens and pencils. Five count. Paper glue. Super glue. Foam ear plugs for bike riding. Eight or ten pair. 
The glue stick and eighth of an ounce sample bottle of perfume receive fascinated examinations.
- Alright? What about my bag?
- Set it down on the desk. Is there anything metal inside?
- Almost everything inside is metal. Computer. Computer charging cable. Telephone charging cable. Memory sticks. An old book, non-metal. Some papers, also non-metal.
The boss guard slips his hands in the bag's compartments, unzips the cloth sleeve my computer came with, looks carefully at what he sees inside, a book in a clear plastic envelope: a 117 year old first edition of Jack London's Call Of The Wild. Call of the wild? a revolutionary manifesto? 
-Ok. You can go in. Leave the bag here at security.
- No way I'm leaving anything valuable with that maniac. You can keep the bag inside at your office.
- It will be alright out here. There's a camera.
- I know all about your camera. Your employee was threatening me with it. Later when I ask to see the recording you'll tell me there was a malfunction or I need a court order.
- Fine. Go in.
- Did you get your breakfast?
- I did. Finishing off my second bagel with lox and cream cheese, the boss guard with the combat vest twice patrols the hallway past me, a third time he stops and sits down beside me. He apologizes, hopes my day hasn't been ruined by my experience there.
- So they tried to get you banned by the rabbi and he refused, instead ordered them to apologize.
- I guess.
- You're right, you're always getting yourself into these situations. You said you were going to say why you wanted to tell me the story? 
- Yes. First I want you to read this paragraph about a French historian of technology's debunking the Chinese claim to having technology superior to the West until the modern era:
In the case of printing, Gille denies that it originated in East Asia. He declares that the movable types that were invented by Pi Cheng  (990–1051), along with related technological elements, had some defects, such as insufficient hardness, low paper quality, the absence of a press, and the unsuitability of Chinese ink. Because there were no other suitable technological elements to match Pi’s movable types, it is difficult to regard the invention as a successful technical complex. The invention does not seem to have been absorbed into the technical system, and it was quickly forgotten after Pi’s death. And then, Gille declares, “true printing was really invented in Europe around the middle of the 15th century”. (Gille, 1986a, p. 397) The invention should be attributed to Gutenberg, and the Far East does not seem to have had any influence whatsoever on it... It is only in a system that a tool or machine can become a technical element and obtain its own value as something technical.* 
- Hans Jacob described modern science as a continuous cycling from model making, hypothesis forming, experiment, new technology, new experience with technology, new model making. What Gille refers to as systems could also be described as the beginnings of science cycling in the pre-modern period. Observe a leaf's impress in the mud, come up with the idea of movable type. But paper unsuitable? Examine different kinds of paper, experiment with different ways of making paper.
- Ok. Obviously you remember our previous discussion. We talked about our democracy being a kind of social technology. To be practiced it also must cycle from model, which is a description of how the parts of something relate to each other and to the world, to experiment, to technological practice. This can only be done through the constant test of disconfirmation which is dialog. And do you want to know when you can be sure there will be no practice of dialog, therefore no social technology?
- Tell me.
- When people act on the basis of statistics, probability, rules of thumb. I'm selected by the guards for special treatment because I am in many ways statistically aberrant as a visitor to the temple: arriving by bike a little too energetic for that time of the morning, not rich enough, not old enough. Yet if instead of statistics-based rules the guards were working within the cycle of technology, I would be immediately identified as conforming to the model of American Jewish Intellectual, a life-form with its own natural habitat, a classification strangers put me in all the time. Unlike statistics which offer nothing to perception, when you work with models, you can investigate each component, you can talk it through. The guard has some doubts about me being Jewish? All he has to do is ask for proof. I had in my wallet an Israeli residency passport from a few years back. Statistics, rules of thumb, cannot be disconfirmed in dialog. They are the enemy of social technology and democracy.

Further Reading:
Whole Foods
Birthday & The Man
Beverly Hills Jews
*Transforming the Narrative of the History of Chinese Technology: East and West in Bertrand Gille’s Histoire des Techniques, Dazhi Yao & Per Hogselius, 2015