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Interview with Anissa Helou (Part Three)

Interviewer: Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Numbering: Issue 17.A, Idea: Outliers & Outsiders (Part Thirteen)

Place of Publication: Langley, British Columbia, Canada

Title: In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Web Domain: http://www.in-sightjournal.com

Individual Publication Date: August 8, 2018

Issue Publication Date: September 1, 2018

Name of Publisher: In-Sight Publishing

Frequency: Three Times Per Year

Words: 2,675

ISSN 2369-6885

Abstract 

Anissa Helou is a Chef, Cooking Instructor, Culinary Researcher, Food Consultant, Food Writer, Middle Eastern Cuisine, and a Writer. Her new book is entitled Feast: Food of the Islamic World. Her Instagram material can be seen here. She discusses: hand-tied flies an illustration of a trout; the Shoreditch warehouse and the Victorian house; different perspectives; items in the warehouse; responsibilities to the public with the exposure; polyglotism; knowing many languages and its help in professional life; 43 out of the “100 Most Powerful Arab Women,” according to Arabian Business, and 113 out of the 500 “most influential Arabs”; further exposure and responsibility to the public; recognitions in personal and professional life; Koshari Street; Convent Garden; planning and development of the street food shop; the dishes of Koshari street; Martha Stewart; long-term goal with street food; the change in the cuisine landscape; globalization and cuisine; general philosophy; political philosophy; social philosophy; economic philosophy; aesthetic philosophy; personal meaning; and self-expression.

Keywords: Anissa Helou, chef, cooking, culinary arts, food, Middle Eastern, writer.

Interview with Anissa Helou: Chef; Cooking Instructor; Culinary Researcher; Food Consultant; Food Writer, Middle Eastern Cuisine; Writer (Part Three)[1],[2],[3]

*Please see the footnotes, bibliography, and citation style listing after the interview.*

1. Scott Douglas Jacobsen: About (2016) continues:

An example of her acumen as a collector was the sale of a series of display panels of fishing tackle, one of which achieved a world record price. Having sold all but her books and most personal possessions, she bought with the proceeds of the sale a remarkable two-story warehouse loft in Shoreditch. This she decorated with her usual excellent taste, but this time as a severely functional, minimalist working space.[4]

What were the contents of this display panel of fishing tackle that “achieved” the “world record price”?

Anissa Helou: A selection of hand-tied flies surround an illustration of a trout, I think.

2. Jacobsen: How was the feel of the Shoreditch warehouse different than the Victorian house?

Helou: Totally different. The Victorian house was on three floors with conventional rooms and full of stuff, paintings, furniture, objects, memorabilia and so on. The loft was on two floors, with the top room completely open and double height in part and very spare. White walls with no paintings on them, only modern furniture and very light and airy with a beautiful kitchen stainless steel and lacquered wood kitchen. It was a wonderful space.

3. Jacobsen: What about its different perspective once inside it?

Helou: I worked in the big loft room looking out onto the kitchen and the buildings beyond my windows with a wonderful feeling of space whereas my study in my Victorian house, also on the top floor, was smallish with my desk against the wall and my view if I looked out of the window was over London back gardens which was very nice but a completely different feel from having a huge room all to yourself even if it didn’t have much of a view.

4. Jacobsen: What items were kept for the Shoreditch warehouse?

Helou: My Victorian wrought iron bed and a couple of early 19th century mannequins. In fact, my bedroom in the flat was the only real reminder of my previous life.

5. Jacobsen: Now, you have a deep interest in the Levant.[5] You wrote some books on the subject, among others. You speak and write for radio and television. You write for publications in the United Kingdom and the United States. What responsibilities to the public comes with this exposure?

Helou: To convey truthfully and vivdly the food culture of that region and to provide recipes that not only work, but are authentic whatever that word really means as there are so many variations on each recipe depending on the family or region. But by authentic, I mean that a person of the country will not roll his/her eyes wondering where the writer has gotten the recipe from. I am over simplifying but this is the gist of it.

6. Jacobsen: You have fluency in three languages: Arabic, English, and French. Where does this linguistic talent source itself?

Helou: I guess being brought up with two languages, French and Arabic, helps. I also happen to have a very good knack for languages picking both accent and vocabulary easily. And since I have moved to Sicily, I have become fairly fluent in Italian although my grammar is still not perfect and my vocabulary needs expanding.

7. Jacobsen: How has this assisted in professional life?

Helou: It’s very useful when I travel to speak the language of the country or a language that is very commonly spoken.

8. Jacobsen: You earned ranks 43 out of the “100 Most Powerful Arab Women,” according to Arabian Business, and 113 out of the 500 “most influential Arabs.”[6],[7] What does this recognition mean to you?

Helou: It was very flattering to be included although I don’t reckon that lists really mean much.

9. Jacobsen: Furthermore, the World Bank states the population of the MENA region remains ~355 million people.[8] In other words, you exist among some of the most accomplished and recognized individuals in the region with a population in the hundreds of millions – specific amount dependent on taking into account the Middle East, North Africa, or MENA. What responsibilities to the public, if any, come from this recognition too?

Helou: The same as that of being a published author and a public figure, setting a good example and being a good role model to inspire younger people or even older ones.

10. Jacobsen: Do recognitions like these influence personal life or professional work?

Helou: They make you more marketable!

11. Jacobsen: Your recent work incorporates some introduction to the West aspects of the culinary arts and “delights” of the East.[9] In addition to this general work, you have worked with Egyptian entrepreneurs to experiment with street food ideas such as Koshari Street. What is Koshari Street?

Helou: It is a modern take on the Egyptian hole-in-the-wall places selling street food. Koshari is the quintessential Egyptian street food and I reworked the recipe to make it easier and quicker to serve in the west and healthier. I didn’t change the taste, only added a little more texture by not overcooking the ingredients and adding doqqa to the mix. I have to say though that I am no longer involved with Koshari Street.

12. Jacobsen: Why Convent Garden in London, United Kingdom for its experimentation?

Helou: It was the decision of the Egyptian entrepreneurs but it is also a place with a huge footfall.

13. Jacobsen: In Egyptian street food arrives in London, you said:

I think it was very interesting at the beginning because people didn’t know what Koshari was and we didn’t actually have enough visuals in the shop. So, we, apart from explaining to them what it was – it was very important for us to give them, to let them try the Koshari. So, we gave tasters to almost everybody, and we still do funnily enough…but when you think about it – lentils, rice, pasta, tomato sauce – it doesn’t sound very exciting, but when you taste it and you have the different textures and the different flavours and the spiciness of it all. It becomes much more exciting…and there is a definite, definite trend towards Arab or Middle Eastern food in London.[10]

What changes would help people know about Koshari – as part of the visual advertising aspects of selling street food?

Helou: Having more beautiful photos of the koshari itself and atmospheric photos of it being sold on the streets of Cairo.

14. Jacobsen: What needs to go into the planning and development of a street food shop?

Helou: Almost as much as what goes into planning a restaurant. You need a kitchen where to prepare the food, chefs to cook it and expert staff in the shop to serve it. And of course quality control to make sure the food is consistently good and served the right way.

15. Jacobsen: Lentils, rice, pasta, and tomato sauce, what delicious dishes emerge from the Koshari street food shop with these ingredients – the ones with “different textures,” “different flavours,” and “spiciness”?

Helou: Just the koshari, as well as a few salads and dips.

16. Jacobsen: You discussed some personal history with street food on the Martha Stewart show too.[11] What is the short-term goal with street food?

Helou: I would love to start other concepts but I am now finishing a book and until that is done, I cannot take on any similar work. My new book Feast: Food of the Islamic World has just been published in the US and will be published in the UK in October.

17. Jacobsen: What is the long-term goal with street food?

Helou: See above…

18. Jacobsen: You were born on February 1, 1952. What has changed in the nature of the cuisine landscape since the personal start in it?

Helou: Not much really in Lebanon except that it is not so easy to find.

19. Jacobsen: With globalization and increased access to travel, what seems like the trajectory and future of the world of cuisine?

Helou: More and more exposure to a wider public which is a good thing.

20. Jacobsen: What general philosophy seems the most correct to you?

Helou: Enjoying life to the full without forgetting those less fortunate and doing good work that will last long after you are gone.

21. Jacobsen: What political philosophy seems the most correct to you?

Helou: Liberal or in the centre with an accent on the welfare state.

22. Jacobsen: What social philosophy seems the most correct to you?

Helou: A fair world even if it is a tall order!

23. Jacobsen: What economic philosophy seems the most correct to you?

Helou: That there should be no poverty or famine in the world, which can be achieved but there is no will to eradicate either.

24. Jacobsen: What aesthetic philosophy seems the most correct to you?

Helou: That people should strive to surround themselves with beauty but again this seems beyond reach.

25. Jacobsen: What interrelates these philosophies?

Helou: A sense of fairness and empathy although the accent on beauty or aesthetics does not actually fit in that much.

26. Jacobsen: What personal meaning comes from self-expression through culinary arts and written works?

Helou: A sense of fulfillment in recording recipes and culinary lore that might otherwise be lost.

27. Jacobsen: What other forms of self-expression provide meaning in life for you?

Helou: Cultivating friendship.

Bibliography

  1. [anissa Helou]. (2015, January 15). anissa making tabbouleh 08. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Owtn2IoT_vw.
  2. [AP Archive]. (2015, August 3). Egyptian street food arrives in London. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lKE8XOrSfGA.
  3. [Canongate Books]. (2014, September 3). Anissa Helou’s Middle Eastern Meatballs. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZFhdtbRTdCM.
  4. [Canongate Books]. (2014, March 8). Chefs who inspired Signe Johansen and Anissa Helou to cook. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pMNaSmt2Ths.
  5. [discoverspice]. (2013, March 30). Anissa Helou – art, passion and the Mediterranean!. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VTWWOfprVp8.
  6. [Firehorse Showreel]. (2012, August 6). El Chef Yaktachef – Episode 9. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZMt-xxkN2jA.
  7. [QatarUK2013]. (2013, November 26). Evenings with Aisha Al-Tamimi and Anissa Helou: Dishes from Qatar. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RdAadHJGfwg.
  8. [SallyB2]. (2013, February 20). Anissa Helou On Koshari, And The Rise Of Middle-Eastern Cuisine In London. Retrieved from http://londonist.com/2013/02/koshari.
  9. [sbsarabicvideo’s channel]. (2010, October 26). Karabij and Natif with Anissa Helou. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K8iYQWppLUA.
  10. [Sharjah Book Fair]. (2011, December 26). Anissa Helou at Sharjah Book Fair 2011.wmv. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iZMYSmzJ_58.
  11. Arabian Business. (2013). Anissa Helou. Retrieved from http://www.arabianbusiness.com/100-most-powerful-arab-women-2013-491497.html?view=profile&itemid=491348#.UVrfMasaeDk.
  12. Arabian Business. (2013). Anissa Helou. Retrieved from http://www.arabianbusiness.com/arabian-business-power-500-2013-493796.html?view=profile&itemid=493832#.VtRbRZwrKM-.
  13. Christie’s. (2016). Christie’s. Retrieved from http://www.christies.com/.
  14. Derhally, M.A. (2013, May 2). Anissa Helou interview: Accidental Cook. Retrieved from http://www.arabianbusiness.com/anissa-helou-interview-accidental-cook-499915.html.
  15. Helou, A. (2016). Anissa Helou. Retrieved from http://www.anissas.com/.
  16. Helou, A. (2014, June 8). A Taste of Syria, In Exile. Retrieved from http://www.newsweek.com/2014/06/13/taste-syria-exile-253808.html.
  17. Helou, A. (2014, May 24). MOVE OVER BROCCOLI, CAULIFLOWER IS THE NEWEST SUPERFOOD. Retrieved from http://www.newsweek.com/2014/05/30/move-over-broccoli-cauliflower-newest-superfood-251878.html.
  18. Hodeib, M. (2014, Septemer 24). Anissa Helou: the elegant chef. Retrieved from http://www.dailystar.com.lb/Life/Lubnan/2014/Sep-24/271726-anissa-helou-the-elegant-chef.ashx.
  19. Jalil, X. (2016, February 9). Women to take centre stage at LLF 2016. Retrieved from http://images.dawn.com/news/1174798.
  20. Martha Stewart. (2016). Cooking Turkish Meat Bread with Lamb. Retrieved from http://www.marthastewart.com/910372/cooking-turkish-meat-bread-lamb.
  21. Martha Stewart. (2016). Moroccan-Style Stuff Bread. Retrieved from http://www.marthastewart.com/910371/moroccan-style-stuffed-mussels.
  22. O’Sullivan, E. (2014, May 3). Anissa Helou’s Laster Supper. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/may/03/anissa-helou-last-supper-stuffed-chard-recipe.
  23. Robinson, W. (2014, October 03). Chef Anissa Helou’s Expert Tips on What to Do in Abu Dhabi. Retrieved from http://www.cntraveler.com/stories/2014-10-03/chef-anissa-helou-s-expert-tips-on-what-to-do-in-abu-dhabi.
  24. Sarfraz, E. (2016, February 21). All about freedom of expression. Retrieved from http://nation.com.pk/national/21-Feb-2016/all-about-freedom-of-expression.
  25. Shaukat, A. (2016, February 22). Garnish cooking with research, experiment. Retrieved from http://tribune.com.pk/story/1051748/garnish-cooking-with-research-experiment/.
  26. The World Bank. (2016). Middle East and North Africa. Retrieved from http://www.worldbank.org/en/region/mena.
  27. (2016). @anissahelou. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/anissahelou.
  28. Wood, S. (2013, October 15). The food writer Anissa Helou on her new cookbook, Levant. Retrieved from http://www.thenational.ae/lifestyle/food/the-food-writer-anissa-helou-on-her-new-cookbook-levant.
  29. Yang, W. (2014, July 5). First Stop: Anissa Helou’s Istanbul. Retrieved from http://www.culinarybackstreets.com/istanbul/2014/first-stop-10/.

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Chef; Cooking Instructor; Culinary Researcher; Food Consultant; Food Writer, Middle Eastern Cuisine; Writer.

[2] Individual Publication Date: July 22, 2018: www.in-sightjournal.com/helou-three; Full Issue Publication Date: September 1, 2018: https://in-sightjournal.com/insight-issues/.

[3] Photograph courtesy of Anissa Helou.

[4] Helou, A. (2016). About. Retrieved from http://www.anissas.com/about/.

[5] About (2016) states:

Anissa continues with her unique style and her ferocious energy to demonstrate to the West the range of culinary delights offered by the East. She is presently working with a group of Egyptian entrepreneurs on launching various street food concepts. Their first, Koshari Street, is opening in Covent Garden in London in early May.

Helou, A. (2016). About. Retrieved from http://www.anissas.com/about/.

[6] Arabian Business. (2013). Anissa Helou. Retrieved from http://www.arabianbusiness.com/100-most-powerful-arab-women-2013-491497.html?view=profile&itemid=491348#.UVrfMasaeDk.

[7] Arabian Business. (2013). Anissa Helou. Retrieved from http://www.arabianbusiness.com/arabian-business-power-500-2013-493796.html?view=profile&itemid=493832#.VtRbRZwrKM-.

[8] The World Bank. (2016). Middle East and North Africa. Retrieved from http://www.worldbank.org/en/region/mena.

[9] About (2016) states:

Anissa has always taken a strong interest in the food of the Levant. She has written several books about it. Lebanese Cuisine, the first comprehensive collection in the English language (1994) was her first. It was followed by Street Café Morocco, a fascinating introduction to the subtle flavours of the cuisine of that country. Both books achieved considerable acclaim. Mediterranean Street Food was published in 2002 and was equally well received. The Fifth Quarter, a pioneering book on the uses and delights of offal, followed in 2004. It is already beginning to overcome the traditional squeamishness of the British cook. Her fifth book, Modern Mezze was published in the UK in July 2007, and her sixth book, Savory Baking from the Mediterrean, was published in New York in August 2007. Levant, Recipes and Memories from the Middle East, is published in the UK this summer.

Helou, A. (2016). About. Retrieved from http://www.anissas.com/about/.

[10] [AP Archive]. (2015, August 3). Egyptian street food arrives in London. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lKE8XOrSfGA.

[11] Martha Stewart. (2016). Moroccan-Style Stuff Bread. Retrieved from http://www.marthastewart.com/910371/moroccanstyle-stuffed-mussels.

Appendix II: Citation Style Listing

American Medical Association (AMA): Jacobsen S. An Interview with Anissa Helou (Part Three) [Online].August 2018; 17(A). Available from: www.in-sightjournal.com/helou-three.

American Psychological Association (APA, 6th Edition, 2010): Jacobsen, S.D. (2018, August 8). An Interview with Anissa Helou (Part Three)Retrieved from www.in-sightjournal.com/helou-three.

Brazilian National Standards (ABNT): JACOBSEN, S. An Interview with Anissa Helou (Part Three). In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 17.A, August. 2018. <www.in-sightjournal.com/helou-three>.

Chicago/Turabian, Author-Date (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott. 2018. “An Interview with Anissa Helou (Part Three).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 17.A. www.in-sightjournal.com/helou-three.

Chicago/Turabian, Humanities (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott “An Interview with Anissa Helou (Part Three).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 17.A (August 2018). www.in-sightjournal.com/helou-three.

Harvard: Jacobsen, S. 2018, ‘An Interview with Anissa Helou (Part Three)In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 17.A. Available from: <www.in-sightjournal.com/helou-three>.

Harvard, Australian: Jacobsen, S. 2018, ‘An Interview with Anissa Helou (Part Three)In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 17.A., www.in-sightjournal.com/helou-three.

Modern Language Association (MLA, 7th Edition, 2009): Scott D. Jacobsen. “An Interview with Anissa Helou (Part Three).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 17.A (2018):August. 2018. Web. <www.in-sightjournal.com/helou-three>.

Vancouver/ICMJE: Jacobsen S. An Interview with Anissa Helou (Part Three) [Internet]. (2018, August; 17(A). Available from: www.in-sightjournal.com/helou-three.

License and Copyright

License

In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at www.in-sightjournal.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen, and In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 2012-2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen, and In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  All interviewees co-copyright their interview material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

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Interview with Anissa Helou (Part Two)

Interviewer: Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Numbering: Issue 17.A, Idea: Outliers & Outsiders (Part Thirteen)

Place of Publication: Langley, British Columbia, Canada

Title: In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Web Domain: http://www.in-sightjournal.com

Individual Publication Date: August 1, 2018

Issue Publication Date: September 1, 2018

Name of Publisher: In-Sight Publishing

Frequency: Three Times Per Year

Words: 2,615

ISSN 2369-6885

Abstract 

Anissa Helou is a Chef, Cooking Instructor, Culinary Researcher, Food Consultant, Food Writer, Middle Eastern Cuisine, and a Writer. Her new book is entitled Feast: Food of the Islamic World. Her Instagram material can be seen here. She discusses: the appointment as Sotheby’s representative for the Middle East; transition into owning and running an antique shop in Paris to sell objets d’art and furniture; personal and professional lessons from the work as Sotheby’s representative for the Middle East and owning an antique shop in Paris; the most memorable sale from running the antique store; the 1978 to 1986 period in Kuwait as an advisor for multiple members of the Kuwaiti ruling family; skills developed in the midst of work in these three domains: representative for the Middle East, ownership of a shop, and advisor to the ruling family; distinguishing Islamic art from other art; various collectors about the purchase of “Victorian paintings, European silver, jewellery and Arts and Crafts furniture”; the Kuwaiti family members worked the closest with; most touching experience; distinguishing Victorian and European art from other art; “Aladdin’s cave”; and selling the house.

Keywords: Anissa Helou, chef, cooking, culinary arts, food, Middle Eastern, writer.

Interview with Anissa Helou: Chef; Cooking Instructor; Culinary Researcher; Food Consultant; Food Writer, Middle Eastern Cuisine; Writer (Part Two)[1],[2],[3]

*Please see the footnotes, bibliography, and citation style listing after the interview.*

1. Scott Douglas Jacobsen: In About (2016), it states:

Anissa Helou was born, the daughter of a Syrian father and a Lebanese mother, in Beirut and educated there at a French convent school. Aged 21, she moved to London to escape the rigid social convention of her country and began to study interior design at Inchbald School of Design then at Sotheby’s training course, the history of art. She was soon appointed Sotheby’s representative for the Middle East. For a while thereafter, she owned and ran an antique shop in Paris, dealing in furniture and objets d’art which reflected her own sophisticated and highly individual taste. From 1978 until 1986 she was based in Kuwait and was adviser to several members of the Kuwaiti ruling family who were then forming collections of Islamic art. She also advised these and other collectors on the purchase of Victorian paintings, European silver, jewellery and Arts and Crafts furniture.

During this period she travelled extensively and she also started to build her own very personal collections. On her return to London in 1986, she housed her collections in her Victorian house transforming it into an Aladdin’s cave of beautiful and often bizarre treasures.[4]

What instigated the appointment as Sotheby’s representative for the Middle East?

Anissa Helou: The fact that I was Arab, spoke Arabic, was well connected and had successfully completed the Sotheby’s Works of Art Course which in those days was a form of training for later recruitment by the firm.

2. Jacobsen: How did this transition into owning and running an antique shop in Paris to sell objets d’art and furniture?

Helou: I have always been very independent and I didn’t particularly like to work for a corporation however prestigious. Also, I was too early. Arabs were not interested in buying art and Sotheby’s were not willing in investing to promote themselves there so I wasn’t achieving much and I preferred to go it on my own. This said my antiques shop in Paris was a total disaster and I lost almost all the money my father had given me for it. I was only 24 with no experience in business, and no taste for it really. I just loved beautiful things and thought people would just buy what I liked at any price but they didn’t. And I had opened in Les Halles thinking that the area would develop into a cool place but in fact it didn’t. Quite the opposite. So I switched to becoming a free lance consultant and I was pretty successful at that.

3. Jacobsen: What different personal and professional lessons came from the work as Sotheby’s representative for the Middle East and owning an antique shop in Paris?

Helou: So many but the most important were that experience and hard work are essential. And in those days I had neither, I was too young and I was more interested in enjoying the good life and all that Europe offered me than to hunker down and work very hard.

4. Jacobsen: What seems like the most memorable sale from running the antique store?

Helou: When I sold a pair of appliques (I think) to a decorator who was buying them for Jean Marais. It was very exciting.

5. Jacobsen: In the 1978 to 1986 period in Kuwait as an advisor for multiple members of the Kuwaiti ruling family, in their formation of collections of Islamic art, what items come to mind in reflection on the 18-year period?

Helou: Many fine Islamic art objects and some beautiful minor pre-Raphaelite paintings including one by Marie Spartali Stillman – there was a show of her work in London recently but in those days no one knew her – and starting my fishing collection because I was also collecting but obviously on a much smaller scale as I had no money to speak of.

6. Jacobsen: What skills developed in the midst of work in these three domains: representative for the Middle East, ownership of a shop, and advisor to the ruling family?

Helou: I only advised a few members of the ruling family, and as their consultant I developed a skill for advising my clients gently as to what would be good pieces for them to collect. I also developed a skill I developed for negotiations with dealers as I was looking to buy the best price possible.

7. Jacobsen: What distinguishes Islamic art from other art to you?

Helou: There is a connection to where I came from, in particular to the Islamic art that comes from Syria as well as that which comes from Egypt and Turkey.

8. Jacobsen: In addition to the Kuwaiti family art collections ongoing at the time, you worked with various collectors about the purchase of “Victorian paintings, European silver, jewellery and Arts and Crafts furniture.”[5] Where did the expertise in these various specialist collector areas come from for you?

Helou: Without sounding immodest, I had a very good eye and good taste although tending to the quirky in paintings and on the Sotheby’s Works of Art course we learned primarily to look at art to appreciate quality and this came in in very good stead when I became a consultant and a collector. I also could spot the quality in objects that seemed undesirable at the time and have since become very desirable like my treen collection, or the fishing collection. I also had friends and colleagues who were specialists and I sought their advice when I wasn’t sure of something.

9. Jacobsen: Of the Kuwaiti family members, who worked the closest with you?

Helou: Some of the daughters of the late Sheikha Badriyah who if I am not mistaken was the first business woman in Kuwait.

10. Jacobsen: What experience most touched your heart in this period of life?

Helou: My antiques shop in Paris was in the heart of Les Halles, very near la rue St Denis which in those days was still full of prostitutes. My father and my mother came to visit soon after I opened the shop. My father always wore a hat and carried worry beads and he loved walking. So they came into the shop, more or less liked it – neither were really interested in antiques – then my father decided to go for a walk. He came back absolutely shocked. He couldn’t imagine his daughter working in such an unsalubrious neighbourhood, and with his hat still on and clicking his worry beads, he would look at me, shake his head and ask: ‘how could you do this my daughter’ referring to opening a shop right next door to a prostitute street. I think he went round the block half a dozen times, and returned with the same pained expression and puzzled question. I remember that moment with amusement and tenderness on how naïve or strict my father was, but also how loving because apart from questioning my wisdom in opening my shop in this neighbourhood he didn’t scold me or tell me to close the shop and move to a better neighbourhood – in those days Arab fathers were really strict with their children and felt they could dictate to them whatever they felt was good for them but my father was strict but once we made our choices however questionable, he let us do what we wanted.

11. Jacobsen: What distinguishes Victorian and European art from other art to you?

Helou: The answer would be too long and complex and I don’t think I could really express it within the context of this interview.

12. Jacobsen: In London, 1986, you brought collections to the Victorian house. Your house became Aladdin’s cave, according to the description. What parts of the collection remain with you to this day (if any), or remain the most precious and close to your heart?

Helou: I loved both my treen collection and the fishing one. I have very few objects that remain with me but most have been sold but if I could rewind the clock I would have liked to keep the fishing cases with the display of fishing tackle but on the other hand I really like the way my space is now, totally uncluttered and serene so no regrets really. I loved my objects when I had them and enjoyed them when I remembered to look at them properly but I don’t miss them now.

13. Jacobsen: Of course, you had the spring, 1999 moment in personal (and professional) life. You sold the house and collection at Christie’s.[6] What brought about this need for dramatic change to sell the house and its associated personal collection?[7]

Helou: I hate routine and I get bored easily and am always looking for ways to make my life more interesting. Recently I thought about why I felt the need to change my life dramatically every few years, and I thought that maybe it has to do with the fact that I don’t have a family. People with children naturally go through changes as the children grow up and leave home, get married, have their own children. I guess I provoke the same changes in my own life but as a single person. It is also a way to stay curious and energetic with each new phase.

Bibliography

  1. [anissa Helou]. (2015, January 15). anissa making tabbouleh 08. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Owtn2IoT_vw.
  2. [AP Archive]. (2015, August 3). Egyptian street food arrives in London. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lKE8XOrSfGA.
  3. [Canongate Books]. (2014, September 3). Anissa Helou’s Middle Eastern Meatballs. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZFhdtbRTdCM.
  4. [Canongate Books]. (2014, March 8). Chefs who inspired Signe Johansen and Anissa Helou to cook. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pMNaSmt2Ths.
  5. [discoverspice]. (2013, March 30). Anissa Helou – art, passion and the Mediterranean!. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VTWWOfprVp8.
  6. [Firehorse Showreel]. (2012, August 6). El Chef Yaktachef – Episode 9. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZMt-xxkN2jA.
  7. [QatarUK2013]. (2013, November 26). Evenings with Aisha Al-Tamimi and Anissa Helou: Dishes from Qatar. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RdAadHJGfwg.
  8. [SallyB2]. (2013, February 20). Anissa Helou On Koshari, And The Rise Of Middle-Eastern Cuisine In London. Retrieved from http://londonist.com/2013/02/koshari.
  9. [sbsarabicvideo’s channel]. (2010, October 26). Karabij and Natif with Anissa Helou. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K8iYQWppLUA.
  10. [Sharjah Book Fair]. (2011, December 26). Anissa Helou at Sharjah Book Fair 2011.wmv. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iZMYSmzJ_58.
  11. Arabian Business. (2013). Anissa Helou. Retrieved from http://www.arabianbusiness.com/100-most-powerful-arab-women-2013-491497.html?view=profile&itemid=491348#.UVrfMasaeDk.
  12. Arabian Business. (2013). Anissa Helou. Retrieved from http://www.arabianbusiness.com/arabian-business-power-500-2013-493796.html?view=profile&itemid=493832#.VtRbRZwrKM-.
  13. Christie’s. (2016). Christie’s. Retrieved from http://www.christies.com/.
  14. Derhally, M.A. (2013, May 2). Anissa Helou interview: Accidental Cook. Retrieved from http://www.arabianbusiness.com/anissa-helou-interview-accidental-cook-499915.html.
  15. Helou, A. (2016). Anissa Helou. Retrieved from http://www.anissas.com/.
  16. Helou, A. (2014, June 8). A Taste of Syria, In Exile. Retrieved from http://www.newsweek.com/2014/06/13/taste-syria-exile-253808.html.
  17. Helou, A. (2014, May 24). MOVE OVER BROCCOLI, CAULIFLOWER IS THE NEWEST SUPERFOOD. Retrieved from http://www.newsweek.com/2014/05/30/move-over-broccoli-cauliflower-newest-superfood-251878.html.
  18. Hodeib, M. (2014, Septemer 24). Anissa Helou: the elegant chef. Retrieved from http://www.dailystar.com.lb/Life/Lubnan/2014/Sep-24/271726-anissa-helou-the-elegant-chef.ashx.
  19. Jalil, X. (2016, February 9). Women to take centre stage at LLF 2016. Retrieved from http://images.dawn.com/news/1174798.
  20. Martha Stewart. (2016). Cooking Turkish Meat Bread with Lamb. Retrieved from http://www.marthastewart.com/910372/cooking-turkish-meat-bread-lamb.
  21. Martha Stewart. (2016). Moroccan-Style Stuff Bread. Retrieved from http://www.marthastewart.com/910371/moroccan-style-stuffed-mussels.
  22. O’Sullivan, E. (2014, May 3). Anissa Helou’s Laster Supper. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/may/03/anissa-helou-last-supper-stuffed-chard-recipe.
  23. Robinson, W. (2014, October 03). Chef Anissa Helou’s Expert Tips on What to Do in Abu Dhabi. Retrieved from http://www.cntraveler.com/stories/2014-10-03/chef-anissa-helou-s-expert-tips-on-what-to-do-in-abu-dhabi.
  24. Sarfraz, E. (2016, February 21). All about freedom of expression. Retrieved from http://nation.com.pk/national/21-Feb-2016/all-about-freedom-of-expression.
  25. Shaukat, A. (2016, February 22). Garnish cooking with research, experiment. Retrieved from http://tribune.com.pk/story/1051748/garnish-cooking-with-research-experiment/.
  26. The World Bank. (2016). Middle East and North Africa. Retrieved from http://www.worldbank.org/en/region/mena.
  27. (2016). @anissahelou. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/anissahelou.
  28. Wood, S. (2013, October 15). The food writer Anissa Helou on her new cookbook, Levant. Retrieved from http://www.thenational.ae/lifestyle/food/the-food-writer-anissa-helou-on-her-new-cookbook-levant.
  29. Yang, W. (2014, July 5). First Stop: Anissa Helou’s Istanbul. Retrieved from http://www.culinarybackstreets.com/istanbul/2014/first-stop-10/.

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Chef; Cooking Instructor; Culinary Researcher; Food Consultant; Food Writer, Middle Eastern Cuisine; Writer.

[2] Individual Publication Date: July 22, 2018: www.in-sightjournal.com/helou-one; Full Issue Publication Date: September 1, 2018: https://in-sightjournal.com/insight-issues/.

[3] Photograph courtesy of Anissa Helou.

[4] Helou, A. (2016). About. Retrieved from http://www.anissas.com/about/.

[5] Helou, A. (2016). About. Retrieved from http://www.anissas.com/about/.

[6] Christie’s. (2016). Christie’s. Retrieved from http://www.christies.com/.

[7] About (2016) states:

In the spring of 1999, she decided to change the course of her life. There were no half measures. She sold her house and put her remarkable and idiosyncratic collections up for sale at Christie’s. In the introduction to the catalogue the celebrated art historian and jazz singer, George Melly, described his arrival at her house to dine and to inspect the objects for sale:?‘when the taxi drew up she heard it and through the open door she stood in silhouette instantly recognised by her totally unique ‘coiffure’, an inadequately dainty word for this explosion with its dramatic white streak; the nearest equivalent is in fact that of Elsa Lanchester in ‘The Bride of Frankenstein’. Nothing scary about Miss Helou though. Her hair is more like the personification of her amazing energy. Her smile is as friendly as you can get. She is as lithe as an athlete.

Helou, A. (2016). About. Retrieved from http://www.anissas.com/about/.

Appendix II: Citation Style Listing

American Medical Association (AMA): Jacobsen S. An Interview with Anissa Helou (Part Two) [Online].August 2018; 17(A). Available from: www.in-sightjournal.com/helou-two.

American Psychological Association (APA, 6th Edition, 2010): Jacobsen, S.D. (2018, August 1). An Interview with Anissa Helou (Part Two)Retrieved from www.in-sightjournal.com/helou-two.

Brazilian National Standards (ABNT): JACOBSEN, S. An Interview with Anissa Helou (Part Two). In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 17.A, August. 2018. <www.in-sightjournal.com/helou-two>.

Chicago/Turabian, Author-Date (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott. 2018. “An Interview with Anissa Helou (Part Two).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 17.A. www.in-sightjournal.com/helou-two.

Chicago/Turabian, Humanities (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott “An Interview with Anissa Helou (Part Two).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 17.A (August 2018). www.in-sightjournal.com/helou-two.

Harvard: Jacobsen, S. 2018, ‘An Interview with Anissa Helou (Part Two)In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 17.A. Available from: <www.in-sightjournal.com/helou-two>.

Harvard, Australian: Jacobsen, S. 2018, ‘An Interview with Anissa Helou (Part Two)In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 17.A., www.in-sightjournal.com/helou-two.

Modern Language Association (MLA, 7th Edition, 2009): Scott D. Jacobsen. “An Interview with Anissa Helou (Part Two).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 17.A (2018):August. 2018. Web. <www.in-sightjournal.com/helou-two>.

Vancouver/ICMJE: Jacobsen S. An Interview with Anissa Helou (Part Two) [Internet]. (2018, August; 17(A). Available from: www.in-sightjournal.com/helou-two.

License and Copyright

License

In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at www.in-sightjournal.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen, and In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 2012-2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen, and In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  All interviewees co-copyright their interview material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Interview with Anissa Helou (Part One)

Interviewer: Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Numbering: Issue 17.A, Idea: Outliers & Outsiders (Part Thirteen)

Place of Publication: Langley, British Columbia, Canada

Title: In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Web Domain: http://www.in-sightjournal.com

Individual Publication Date: July 22, 2018

Issue Publication Date: September 1, 2018

Name of Publisher: In-Sight Publishing

Frequency: Three Times Per Year

Words: 2,725

ISSN 2369-6885

Abstract 

Anissa Helou is a Chef, Cooking Instructor, Culinary Researcher, Food Consultant, Food Writer, Middle Eastern Cuisine, and a Writer. Her new book is entitled Feast: Food of the Islamic World. Her Instagram material can be seen here. She discusses: family background via geography, culture, and language; influence on development; pivotal moments and major cross-sections in early life; interest in the culinary artsAnissa Helou interview: Accidental Cook; a stubborn personality trait; grabbing luck or taking advantage of serendipity; resilience, perceptiveness, and taking advantage of luck in professional life; unfair and unjust conventions; mellowing with age; the empowerment of women; the domination of cooking and chef work by women; the state of empowerment of women in Lebanon; and the next steps for the empowerment of women; representations in the media. 

Keywords: Anissa Helou, chef, cooking, culinary arts, food, Middle Eastern, writer.

Interview with Anissa Helou: Chef; Cooking Instructor; Culinary Researcher; Food Consultant; Food Writer, Middle Eastern Cuisine; Writer (Part One)[1],[2],[3]

*Please see the footnotes, bibliography, and citation style listing after the interview.*

1. Scott Douglas Jacobsen: In terms of geography, culture, and language, where does your family background reside?

Anissa Helou: My mother is from Lebanon, from Beirut although both her mother and father are from mountain villages while my father is from Syria, from a mountain village called Mashta el-Helou.

2. Jacobsen: How did this influence development?

Helou: I grew up in Lebanon and lived there until I was 21, and during that time I spent my summers in my grandmother’s village in Reshmaya and parts in my father’s in Mashta el-Helou where I witnessed food being prepared, grown and preserved and I assume this fuelled my passion for food from that early age, as well as providing me naturally with a deep enough knowledge about foodways.

3. Jacobsen: What about influences and pivotal moments in major cross-sections of early life including kindergarten, elementary school, junior high school, high school, and undergraduate studies (college/university)?

Helou: I didn’t go to university but did specialized courses such as a short interior design course at Inchbald and a full course in expertise in works of art at Sotheby’s in London. Both, and especially the latter, have had a profound influence on my sense of aesthetics in relation to everything including food. Watching my paternal aunt in Syria make tannur bread, churn butter and make malban, a kind of grape leather as well as killing chickens and milking cows have given me an abiding interest in seeing how food is produced and made.

4. Jacobsen: Where did interest in culinary arts originate for you?

Helou: Within my family as briefly explained above. My father was an austere man but he appreciated good food and I am not sure that he knew about my mother’s culinary talent when he married her (he was initially taken by her amazing beauty!) but when he found out that she was an excellent cook, he would only eat her food unless he was travelling and she always cooked proper meals. Her version of fast food was grilled pork chops and home made fries, and salad of course as no Lebanese meal could be complete without at least one salad! My grandmother was also an amazing cook, and she always cooked elaborate meals for us when we visited and my Syrian aunt grew her produce on the farm, had her own animals and prepared everything at home from scratch. So not only did I grow up on excellent food but I also everything prepared at home and I was everyone’s kitchen pest, not only because I was a curious child but also a greedy one. Not to mention that both Lebanon and Syria are countries with a very strong food culture.

5. Jacobsen: In Anissa Helou interview: Accidental Cook (2013), the interview describes some of your history, as follows:

…a long winding road that began with her rebellion against convention in Lebanon where she grew up after finishing school… “After I finished school my father wouldn’t let me go,” Helou recalls. “Me being very stubborn I said to him good if you don’t let me go and study abroad I’m not going to study. So I refused to go to the American University of Beirut (AUB) which was foolish. My obsession at that time was to leave Beirut, I didn’t want to stay”… “I was trying to find ways of breaking that barrier with my father but I didn’t have money so I couldn’t go against him,” she says. “Two weeks later I realised I was a maid on those planes so I wasn’t really happy to do that job but at the same time it was a question of pride after having made such a fuss. So I stayed in the job.”… As part of her feminist outlook Helou didn’t like the idea of cooking. She refused to cook for her companions… “I was interested in food as a hobby and certainly not as a profession,” Helou says. “But once a chance presents itself then you make in a way your luck and you grab it and turn into something very positive.”[4]

How does this “stubborn” personality trait connect to the present in terms of a possible consistent characteristic?

Helou: It makes me pursue what I want regardless of the obstacles, whether from people or circumstances.

6. Jacobsen: What about the “grabbing” of “luck” or taking advantage of serendipity – not everyone sees these opportunities in life?

Helou: I have a very flexible approach to life and a lot of curiosity and do not mind changing tack at the drop if a hat (not quite as I think through whatever I wish to move onto) so if an opportunity arises that appeals to me I grab it even if it means changing things dramatically.

7. Jacobsen: How might this grit/resilience/stubbornness and perceptiveness with respect to taking advantage of luck have influenced professional life?

Helou: I guess it helps me be successful. My perceptiveness has made me spot trends ahead of others, as with my fishing collection or getting into food, or buying my loft in Shoreditch, and the grit and resilience/stubbornness have made pursue my goals despite either being dissuaded from doing so or finding obstacles in my way.

8. Jacobsen: What “convention” seemed unjust and unfair to you at the time?

Helou: I hate conventions so I probably wouldn’t consider any fair!

9. Jacobsen: What about now?

Helou: I guess I have mellowed with age but I still have my curiosity about almost everything unless it is boring or senseless and my flexibility of thinking. I may not rebel so forcefully now but I won’t give up on what I want.

10. Jacobsen: The interview delves into a feminist perspective. Akin to the interview with Mina Holland entitled Chefs who inspired Signe Johansen and Anissa Helou to cook (2014), you discussed something that seems related to this. That is, the relationship of personal female heroes/heroines and the empowerment of women.[5] In fact, in the interview with Mina Holland, you made an astute and poignant comment about the domination of cooking by men in the public and by women in the home too. You said, “It’s the men who, kind of, dominate restaurant kitchens, but at home it’s the women in both the East and West.”[6] Does this relate to the empowerment of women?

Helou: Well, actually in the home, it is somewhat a type of enslavement because even if the woman works outside and earns as much as the man, she is in general the one expected to put the food on the table as it were. On the other hand the homecook is also the guardian of food culture and if, as in traditional cultures, she passes it on to her daughter and her daughter does the same, they are then heroines because they are safekeeping a very important part of a people’s culture and heritage, so, I always encourage young girls now to learn how to cook, and not necessarily to feed their family but to acquire a very important lore that may go missing once the grandmother and mother are gone.

11. Jacobsen: If you observe this domination in the restaurant, or public, kitchens by men and the home kitchens by women across the East/West divide, what seems like the source of it – in history, in socio-cultural and economic conditions, and so on?

Helou: As for men cooks in restaurants and on the street, it is the continuation of ‘it’s still a man’s world!’

12. Jacobsen: What is the state of the empowerment of women in Lebanon now?

Helou: Much better than when I grew up there. Many more are allowed to set up home on their own even if they are not married, there is not so much pressure on them to marry and start families and almost all of them work. Mind you becoming a professional was not an issue when I was there. In fact, my father insisted that we should all have an education and be independent but within the conventional norms of marrying and setting up a family and he was quite upset when I refused to go to university but in the end I made it up to him. And there are quite a few who have now entered the food world professionally, and quite successfully, both as restaurateurs or entrepreneurs.

13. Jacobsen: What seem like the next steps for the empowerment of women in cooking, in Lebanon, in the Middle East-North Africa (MENA) region, and the world?

Helou: Encourage more of them to become independent. In fact there is a definite move towards more women in the kitchen and running their own business which is very encouraging.

14. Jacobsen: What seems like the greatest emotional struggle in personal life?

Helou: I can’t really think of any. I don’t have to struggle with much as I have no one stopping me from what I want to do and I personally have no personal conflicts with myself!

15. Jacobsen: You have numerous audio-visual representations online.[7],[8],[9],[10],[11],[12],[13],[14],[15],[16],[17] In addition to this broad range of interviews and presentations online, you have numerous written/typed productions including articles, reports, and interviews in the media too.[18],[19],[20],[21],[22],[23],[24],[25],[26],[27],[28] In fact, hundreds of articles exist in the world wide web with authorship by, or mention of, you. What responsibilities come with extensive exposure in various media?

Helou: Primarily being an inspiration and a good example to the younger generation, especially those who want to get into food, and not be an embarrassment to either myself, or friends and family, and of course to those I work with.

Bibliography

  1. [anissa Helou]. (2015, January 15). anissa making tabbouleh 08. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Owtn2IoT_vw.
  2. [AP Archive]. (2015, August 3). Egyptian street food arrives in London. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lKE8XOrSfGA.
  3. [Canongate Books]. (2014, September 3). Anissa Helou’s Middle Eastern Meatballs. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZFhdtbRTdCM.
  4. [Canongate Books]. (2014, March 8). Chefs who inspired Signe Johansen and Anissa Helou to cook. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pMNaSmt2Ths.
  5. [discoverspice]. (2013, March 30). Anissa Helou – art, passion and the Mediterranean!. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VTWWOfprVp8.
  6. [Firehorse Showreel]. (2012, August 6). El Chef Yaktachef – Episode 9. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZMt-xxkN2jA.
  7. [QatarUK2013]. (2013, November 26). Evenings with Aisha Al-Tamimi and Anissa Helou: Dishes from Qatar. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RdAadHJGfwg.
  8. [SallyB2]. (2013, February 20). Anissa Helou On Koshari, And The Rise Of Middle-Eastern Cuisine In London. Retrieved from http://londonist.com/2013/02/koshari.
  9. [sbsarabicvideo’s channel]. (2010, October 26). Karabij and Natif with Anissa Helou. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K8iYQWppLUA.
  10. [Sharjah Book Fair]. (2011, December 26). Anissa Helou at Sharjah Book Fair 2011.wmv. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iZMYSmzJ_58.
  11. Arabian Business. (2013). Anissa Helou. Retrieved from http://www.arabianbusiness.com/100-most-powerful-arab-women-2013-491497.html?view=profile&itemid=491348#.UVrfMasaeDk.
  12. Arabian Business. (2013). Anissa Helou. Retrieved from http://www.arabianbusiness.com/arabian-business-power-500-2013-493796.html?view=profile&itemid=493832#.VtRbRZwrKM-.
  13. Christie’s. (2016). Christie’s. Retrieved from http://www.christies.com/.
  14. Derhally, M.A. (2013, May 2). Anissa Helou interview: Accidental Cook. Retrieved from http://www.arabianbusiness.com/anissa-helou-interview-accidental-cook-499915.html.
  15. Helou, A. (2016). Anissa Helou. Retrieved from http://www.anissas.com/.
  16. Helou, A. (2014, June 8). A Taste of Syria, In Exile. Retrieved from http://www.newsweek.com/2014/06/13/taste-syria-exile-253808.html.
  17. Helou, A. (2014, May 24). MOVE OVER BROCCOLI, CAULIFLOWER IS THE NEWEST SUPERFOOD. Retrieved from http://www.newsweek.com/2014/05/30/move-over-broccoli-cauliflower-newest-superfood-251878.html.
  18. Hodeib, M. (2014, Septemer 24). Anissa Helou: the elegant chef. Retrieved from http://www.dailystar.com.lb/Life/Lubnan/2014/Sep-24/271726-anissa-helou-the-elegant-chef.ashx.
  19. Jalil, X. (2016, February 9). Women to take centre stage at LLF 2016. Retrieved from http://images.dawn.com/news/1174798.
  20. Martha Stewart. (2016). Cooking Turkish Meat Bread with Lamb. Retrieved from http://www.marthastewart.com/910372/cooking-turkish-meat-bread-lamb.
  21. Martha Stewart. (2016). Moroccan-Style Stuff Bread. Retrieved from http://www.marthastewart.com/910371/moroccan-style-stuffed-mussels.
  22. O’Sullivan, E. (2014, May 3). Anissa Helou’s Laster Supper. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/may/03/anissa-helou-last-supper-stuffed-chard-recipe.
  23. Robinson, W. (2014, October 03). Chef Anissa Helou’s Expert Tips on What to Do in Abu Dhabi. Retrieved from http://www.cntraveler.com/stories/2014-10-03/chef-anissa-helou-s-expert-tips-on-what-to-do-in-abu-dhabi.
  24. Sarfraz, E. (2016, February 21). All about freedom of expression. Retrieved from http://nation.com.pk/national/21-Feb-2016/all-about-freedom-of-expression.
  25. Shaukat, A. (2016, February 22). Garnish cooking with research, experiment. Retrieved from http://tribune.com.pk/story/1051748/garnish-cooking-with-research-experiment/.
  26. The World Bank. (2016). Middle East and North Africa. Retrieved from http://www.worldbank.org/en/region/mena.
  27. (2016). @anissahelou. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/anissahelou.
  28. Wood, S. (2013, October 15). The food writer Anissa Helou on her new cookbook, Levant. Retrieved from http://www.thenational.ae/lifestyle/food/the-food-writer-anissa-helou-on-her-new-cookbook-levant.
  29. Yang, W. (2014, July 5). First Stop: Anissa Helou’s Istanbul. Retrieved from http://www.culinarybackstreets.com/istanbul/2014/first-stop-10/.

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Chef; Cooking Instructor; Culinary Researcher; Food Consultant; Food Writer, Middle Eastern Cuisine; Writer.

[2] Individual Publication Date: July 22, 2018: www.in-sightjournal.com/helou-one; Full Issue Publication Date: September 1, 2018: https://in-sightjournal.com/insight-issues/.

[3] Photograph courtesy of Anissa Helou.

[4] Derhally, M.A. (2013, May 2). Anissa Helou interview: Accidental Cook. Retrieved from http://www.arabianbusiness.com/anissa-helou-interview-accidental-cook-499915.html.

[5] [Canongate Books]. (2014, March 8).  Chefs who inspired Signe Johansen and Anissa Helou to cook. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pMNaSmt2Ths.

[6] [Canongate Books]. (2014, March 8).  Chefs who inspired Signe Johansen and Anissa Helou to cook. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pMNaSmt2Ths.

[7] [anissa Helou]. (2015, January 15). anissa making tabbouleh 08. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Owtn2IoT_vw.

[8] [AP Archive]. (2015, August 3). Egyptian street food arrives in London. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lKE8XOrSfGA.

[9] [Canongate Books]. (2014, September 3). Anissa Helou’s Middle Eastern Meatballs. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZFhdtbRTdCM.

[10] [Canongate Books]. (2014, March 8).  Chefs who inspired Signe Johansen and Anissa Helou to cook. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pMNaSmt2Ths.

[11] [discoverspice]. (2013, March 30). Anissa Helou – art, passion and the Mediterranean!. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VTWWOfprVp8.

[12] [Firehorse Showreel]. (2012, August 6). El Chef Yaktachef – Episode 9. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZMt-xxkN2jA.

[13] [QatarUK2013]. (2013, November 26). Evenings with Aisha Al-Tamimi and Anissa Helou: Dishes from Qatar. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RdAadHJGfwg.

[14] [sbsarabicvideo’s channel]. (2010, October 26). Karabij and Natif with Anissa Helou. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K8iYQWppLUA.

[15] [Sharjah Book Fair]. (2011, December 26). Anissa Helou at Sharjah Book Fair 2011.wmv. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iZMYSmzJ_58.

[16] Martha Stewart. (2016). Cooking Turkish Meat Bread with Lamb. Retrieved from http://www.marthastewart.com/910372/cooking-turkishmeatbread-lamb.

[17] Martha Stewart. (2016). Moroccan-Style Stuff Bread. Retrieved from http://www.marthastewart.com/910371/moroccan-style-stuffed-mussels.

[18] [SallyB2]. (2013, February 20). Anissa Helou On Koshari, And The Rise Of Middle-Eastern Cuisine In London. Retrieved from http://londonist.com/2013/02/koshari. 

[19] Derhally, M.A. (2013, May 2). Anissa Helou interview: Accidental Cook. Retrieved from http://www.arabianbusiness.com/anissa-helou-interview-accidental-cook-499915.html.

[20] Helou, A. (2014, May 24). MOVE OVER BROCCOLI, CAULIFLOWER IS THE NEWEST SUPERFOOD. Retrieved from http://www.newsweek.com/2014/05/30/move-over-broccoli-cauliflower-newest-superfood-251878.html.

[21] Jalil, X. (2016, February 9). Women to take centre stage at LLF 2016. Retrieved from http://images.dawn.com/news/1174798.

[22] O’Sullivan, E. (2014, May 3). Anissa Helou’s Laster Supper. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/may/03/anissa-helou-last-supper-stuffed-chard-recipe.

[23] Robinson, W. (2014, October 03). Chef Anissa Helou’s Expert Tips on What to Do in Abu Dhabi. Retrieved from http://www.cntraveler.com/stories/2014-10-03/chef-anissa-helou-s-expert-tips-on-what-to-do-in-abu-dhabi.

[24] Sarfraz, E. (2016, February 21). All about freedom of expression. Retrieved from http://nation.com.pk/national/21-Feb2016/all-about-freedomof-expression.

[25] Shaukat, A. (2016, February 22). Garnish cooking with research, experiment. Retrieved from http://tribune.com.pk/story/1051748/garnish-cooking-with-research-experiment/.

[26] Tahseen, N. (2016, February 22). http://nation.com.pk/lahore/22-Feb-2016/iqbal-islam-aesthetics-and-post

colonialism. Retrieved from http://nation.com.pk/lahore/22-Feb-2016/iqbal-islam-aesthetics-and-post-colonialism.

[27] Wood, S. (2013, October 15). The food writer Anissa Helou on her new cookbook, Levant. Retrieved from http://www.thenational.ae/lifestyle/food/the-food-writer-anissa-helou-on-her-new-cookbook-levant.

[28] Yang, W. (2014, July 5). First Stop: Anissa Helou’s Istanbul. Retrieved from http://www.culinarybackstreets.com/istanbul/2014/first-stop-10/.

Appendix II: Citation Style Listing

American Medical Association (AMA): Jacobsen S. An Interview with Anissa Helou (Part One) [Online].July 2018; 17(A). Available from: www.in-sightjournal.com/helou-one.

American Psychological Association (APA, 6th Edition, 2010): Jacobsen, S.D. (2018, July 22). An Interview with Anissa Helou (Part One)Retrieved from www.in-sightjournal.com/helou-one.

Brazilian National Standards (ABNT): JACOBSEN, S. An Interview with Anissa Helou (Part One). In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 17.A, July. 2018. <www.in-sightjournal.com/helou-one>.

Chicago/Turabian, Author-Date (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott. 2018. “An Interview with Anissa Helou (Part One).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 17.A. www.in-sightjournal.com/helou-one.

Chicago/Turabian, Humanities (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott “An Interview with Anissa Helou (Part One).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 17.A (July 2018). www.in-sightjournal.com/helou-one.

Harvard: Jacobsen, S. 2018, ‘An Interview with Anissa Helou (Part One)In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 17.A. Available from: <www.in-sightjournal.com/helou-one>.

Harvard, Australian: Jacobsen, S. 2018, ‘An Interview with Anissa Helou (Part One)In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 17.A., www.in-sightjournal.com/helou-one.

Modern Language Association (MLA, 7th Edition, 2009): Scott D. Jacobsen. “An Interview with Anissa Helou (Part One).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 17.A (2018):July. 2018. Web. <www.in-sightjournal.com/helou-one>.

Vancouver/ICMJE: Jacobsen S. An Interview with Anissa Helou (Part One) [Internet]. (2018, July; 17(A). Available from: www.in-sightjournal.com/helou-one.

License and Copyright

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In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at www.in-sightjournal.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen, and In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 2012-2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen, and In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  All interviewees co-copyright their interview material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

An Interview with Cory Efram Doctorow (Part Three)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interviewer: Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Numbering: Issue 17.A, Idea: Outliers & Outsiders (Part Thirteen)

Place of Publication: Langley, British Columbia, Canada

Title: In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Web Domain: http://www.in-sightjournal.com

Individual Publication Date: July 22, 2018

Issue Publication Date: September 1, 2018

Name of Publisher: In-Sight Publishing

Frequency: Three Times Per Year

Words: 5,356

ISSN 2369-6885

Abstract 

Cory Doctorow is an Activist, Blogger, Journalist, and Science Fiction Writer. He discusses: the importance of intelligent, considerate, and ethical government; American politics; fixing American politics; new media and American political dysfunction; poliics getting potentially less awful or not; technology and politics in the determination of America’s future; changing American politics to facilitate America being a technological innovator; China and India, and the possibility of America becoming a backwater country; Donald Trump and Idiocracy; hope; upcoming collaborative projects for 2016; upcoming solo projects; recommended authors; and final feelings or thoughts.

Keywords: American politics, China, Cory Efram Doctorow, democracy, Donald Trump, India.

Interview with Cory Efram Doctorow: Blogger, Journalist, and Science Fiction Writer (Part Three)[1],[2],[3]

*Please see the footnotes, bibliography, and citation style listing after the interview. *

*This interview was conducted in two parts with the first on April 12, 2016 and the second on July 1, 2016. *

1. Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Following through with the technological changes and shifts that are happening, what remains the increased importance of intelligent, considerate, and ethical government and leadership given the state of accelerating technological change?

Cory Efram Doctorow: The thing that strikes me about all of our technology is that it is most exciting when it is lowering transaction cost. I think that’s the purpose of institutions and governments. It is to create structures that lower transaction costs that allows more people to work on projects and, therefore, to work on things that are more ambitious. The thing about transaction costs going lower and lower in monotonic ways because of technological change. On the one hand, it suggests that we need hierarchies for fewer and fewer things.

So, maybe, we do not need an Encyclopedia Britannica management structure to create an Encyclopedia Britannica. On the other hand, it suggests that our existing bureaucratic institutions can do more than they ever did before, and so, maybe, a boy scout troupe can do more than run a bake sale. They could run the power infrastructure for a whole neighborhood or a maker space that would have previously been industrial and massive like Lockheed Martin.

I think that we’ll see a bifurcation as technology lowers transaction costs. On the one hand, we’ll have fewer bureaucracies doing more and more ambitious things, or lighter-weight bureaucracies doing more and more ambitious things. On the other hand, we’ll have existing bureaucracies massively expanding the scope of their capacity and doing a lot more. If you think about the US surveillance apparatus, that’s a good example of it, getting 1 million people to surveil the whole planet earth is a significant accomplishment.

2. Jacobsen: Is American politics irretrievably broken?

Doctorow: I am reluctant to say anything is irretrievable, not least because it is not a falsifiable hypothesis. It may not be retrievable. Now, it is a mess. However, it is not unique for it. There are many political systems around the world in a lot of turmoil: Greece, the UK, and France.

3. Jacobsen: What would it take to fix American politics?

Doctorow: It is clear that there are some structural issues with the two-party system. As all good Hamilton: An American Musical watchers know the party system was back formed on what was meant to be a non-partisan system, it is neither one nor the other thing. The two-party system makes it easier for money to dominate and for influence to dominate, which has been responsible for many of the crises. If we could reduce the influence of money, it might help us reform the two-party system. If we could reform the two-party system, it could reduce the influence of money. That is, on the one hand, it is hopeful. If we could do one, we can do the other. On the other hand, it might mean we cannot do one without the other. We do not seem to be able to do either of them. That is disheartening.

There are some easy wins, which we could have such as campaign finance reform and repealing Citizen’s United would make a big difference. I am excited by what Zach Exley and his colleagues are doing. He was part of the Sanders campaign. They would not agree with this characterization, but I think they are creating a third party and a common platform that is a reformist platform similar to the Sanders platform. They are recruiting 400 or 500 people to run on that platform as Democrats and Republicans in local races, where there are contestable seats. They are using a common fundraising interface for all of those campaigns.

So, you will donate to Brand New Congress. It will go to all 400 or 500 races. The candidates will be freed from having to fundraising and the influence of fundraising. The idea is to have this bipartisan group who all enter congress in a mass and who are in substantial accord on issues that the political consensus has been deadlocked on, which has exacerbated the privilege of a small minority over the vast majority and the lack of evidence-based policy that arose from it. That’s exciting. I do not know if it will work, but it points to a path for something. Exley has pointed to a series of movies since he was the IT, technology, and community person for the Dean campaign. He has gone from strength to strength with each campaign and taken it further. Maybe, he would take it further still this time. That would be cool

4. Jacobsen: How much of a role do relatively new media – the internet, etc. – play in American political dysfunction?

Doctorow: I think a substantial one. The Astroturf has gotten simpler since the internet came along. It is one thing to have false flag operations that we have seen in previous years. You might get fliers stuck through doorways saying, “Whitey does not want you to vote! Make sure you vote on November the 5th” However, the vote was on November the 4th. So, people would stay home from the polls. Now, with Astroturf, there is a lot more of that thing. It can be automated. When H.B. Gary was breached by Anonymous, they were a military contractor and the air force had a bid out to create what they called “Persona Management Software,” which would allow one operative to control up to 20 online personas.

The Russian, so-called Russian, troll factory does this at an industrial scale on behalf of the Kremlin. In China, there is a combination of the Fifty Cent Army, who are people paid half a renminbi (about a 16th of a dollar) for a patriotic post. In addition to that, all government employees were expected to spend a certain minimum number of hours posting pro-government messages that changed the subject when people complained about corruption or derailed the discussion, or called into question the credibility of people who were posting critical material.

It turned out to be an extremely effective strategy, much more so than The Great Firewall. It is the great locus of political control over the discourse itself. The promise of digital media is that it is less, in theory, amenable to being captured by a small number of politically on-the-inside corporations and wealthy people. In practice, there has been an enormous amount of concentration and monopolization, and in the digital world too. There was an Elizabeth Warren speech too, where the extent to which the monopolization of every sector has come into the internet sector.

We have one cable company, Comcast, which serves a crazy percentage, like 80% of American households. We have effectively one search engine. We have approximately one-and-a-half phone systems. This monopolization has created huge loci of control, which has dashed the hopes of people that were hoping the internet would be used to decentralize media ownership and give more control to individual voices.

5. Jacobsen: Will politics get less awful as people become better able to resist being manipulated via new media?

Doctorow: I do not know. I do not think that politics is awful because of manipulation. I think politics is awful because of inequality. I think that when you have people scrambling for not enough, when anything that you gain is something that I lose then you have this awful tenor that plays in politics. Everyone turns on everybody else. I was thinking about it this week. I called it an iterated version of the Ultimatum Game. In the Ultimatum Game, it is this behavioral economics game. The experimenter designates two subjects. One subject is the banker. The other one is the person who takes or leaves the offer.

The banker gets, say, $10 and is asked to split that $10 any way he wants, and then the other person gets to accept the split, where they both get to keep whatever the banker has offered, or reject the split, in which case they both get nothing. The “economically rational” thing in this is to take even a penny if the banker offers it. But in practice, a, widespread finding is that people will reject anything that is materially unfair or anything that is far different from a 50/50 split. And spitefully cost the banker and themselves all of the money rather than accept an unfair bargain, I think that we’ve been in this iterative version of that game, where we have been asked to accept small fractions of the large pie that the top elites have been keeping for themselves and been told that the economically rational this is for us to accept a little and let them have more.

One of the key ways you see this reflected is if you see people discuss poverty as the same problem as it used to be. The measure of poverty is the dollar-a-day measure. The UN version of this. Sometimes, it is an inflation-adjusted dollar-a-day. That dollar-a-day, when it began, gave you a much worse quality of life than now because of technology, the Green Revolution, and cheaper food have changed what a dollar gets you. A dollar-a-day is not a death sentence in the way it was 50/60 years ago. So, we growing inequality, but the inequality does not “matter as much” because the crumbs go a lot further than they did 60 years ago. It does not matter that we’ve become unable. The Ultimatum Game suggests that it does. We are animated by a sense of the unfairness of having so much less than others who have rigged the game so they can keep more than we do, even if the fraction that we keep makes us more comfortable than ever.

I think the ugliness seen in politics today with the racial bias, the xenophobia, are versions or expressions of this conundrum. In particular, the Brexit and Trump vote, or Trump support, is about people who understand that this will be bad for them and their country, but who do not care because it is a way to punish those who got everything when they got nothing. It is not necessarily xenophobia, even though xenophobia is a motif that it returns to and motivates a lot of people. It is a combination and xenophobia and spitefulness. A willingness to do whatever it takes to get revenge on the other guy, even if it hurts you too.

6. Jacobsen: In determining America’s future, how does technology compare to politics? To put it another way, is technology more likely than politics to save America? Does America need saving?

Doctorow: If America is saved, if America has a future, it will be because politics gets better. Right now, the politics is unsustainable. There isn’t a future in which we have less technology. It follows that we are not going to have a better future unless we have a future with better technology in it. It is not the one saves the other. Rather, it is impossible to imagine that a future that the technology is much worse than its opacity, potential for control, and so on. It is like ice.

It is hard to imagine that we will get a future with politics getting better and the technology remains worse. It is probably the case that we need technological reform as a necessary, but insufficient, condition for political reform. There is this interrelation because some of the things that make technology bad are political. We need politics to fix technology and better technology to fix the politics.

7. Jacobsen: How does American politics need to change to facilitate America continuing to be a leading technological innovator?

Doctorow: Right now, American technological implementation obstacles are the regulatory capture and monopolistic practices of technology firms. There are two major exemplars of shitty America policy on technology. One is the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which is 1980s anti-hacking statute that makes it a felony to do anything that exceeds your authorization on a remote system. That’s been interpreted by prosecutors and law makers to mean that if you violate terms of service you commit a felony. A lot of what has made technology super competitive, and therefore super innovative, is the ability to do adversarial compatibility.

You want to make a service that inter-operates with another one. That other one does not want you to inter-operate. On behalf of the user of that service, you make a tool that connects to the service and odes something. Maybe, you have a printer for a company like DEC that only talks to DEC servers. A company like Sun comes along and says, “Okay, we are going to reverse engineer the protocol that DEC uses to control its printers. We are going to make a compatible stack for Sun workstation. So, you can control your legacy DEC printers with your Sun workstations, meaning that your switching costs for throwing away your DEC work station gets lower because you do not have to throw away your deck printers when you do so.”

Under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, if that printer is controlled through the cloud, which means that it is controlled on a server that you do not own or on a leased server, or some other component that requires you to click through some terms and service in order to access that machine and achieve that otherwise extreme commonplace and legitimate technological and commercial activity, then it becomes a felony. The more out software is delivered us services. The more our data is controlled through the cloud. The more this stuff happens on a machine we do not own or have a lesser relationship with, then the harder it is to achieve that compatibility.

Another showpiece of shitty American technology law is the DMCA in section 12.01, which prohibits reverse engineering and removing technological controls to a copyrighted work – even if you’re doing it for a lawful purpose.

It is common to refill an inkjet cartridge and stick it back in a printer or make compatible inkjet cartridges. If you put some software to the inkjet cartridge the interacts with the printer so that when the printer sees it, then it does some basic check so that it is talking to an original cartridge rather than a third party cartridge. Defeating that, it becomes a felony punishable by five years in prison and a $500,000 fine for first offense because that’s an access control that restricts access to a copyrighted work, which is the operating system embedded in the cartridge. You have committed a terrible crime. This allows companies to monopolize the ecosystem around the products and prevent the provision and services that gore their ox. Their business model.

It allows them to fine business models that arrogate to themselves that otherwise in law and practice would be the territory of their customers. The poster child for this is John Deere tractors. They have torque sensors on their leading wheels. They conduct soil-density surveys, which are centimeter accurate on the farmer’s fields that they are driven through. The data about your field, which is useful if you want to broadcast seeds automatically into the field. That data is locked up in the tractor. The tractor has an access control system, which limits the software that contains the data. The data is not copyrightable, but the software that contains the data is copyrightable.

You cannot get access to the data without defeating the access controls, which is a felony. John Deere sells the data back to – you the farmer. You the farmer have to buy your own soil density data that you generate by driving your tractor around your field from John Deere. John Deere does not sell it to you directly. They sell it to you as a bundle with seed from a company like Monsanto. This value that would normally be the province of the owner of the device becomes valued at respite to manufacturer. It is easy to see why manufacturers would want to do this. From an economic perspective, this is pure rent seeking. There is no rational economic story that says this is better of the economy, for innovation, for farmers, for the sector, to allow a firm to use the power of the state to expropriate value from the property of its customers and arrogate it to themselves.

They will never it as efficiently as a market could or their customers. So, this undermines real market driven innovation. It increases monopolism. When you then get into world, where the only way to go to the capital market these days – one of the only ways – is through an IPO, it is mostly driven by acquisition. The way that you become successful, that way that your investors get an exit from your company is positioning your company to be bought by one of the incumbents. So, everything is being constructed to make the incumbents as powerful as possible and the incumbents are sitting on these huge mountains of cash based on, in part, shitty tax policy and the practice of shoring all of their money offshore and then periodically repatriating it during tax holidays.

Paul Ryan and Hilary Clinton have mooted tax holidays for tax cheating companies that have stored billions offshore. They’ve said that they will let them repatriate it at 5% rather than 30%, which they would be normally expected to be pay on those profits. So, these firms are super cash rich. They use that money to snap up other firms that have themselves been constructed solely for the purpose of being acquired by them. It is this ‘lather, rinse, repeat’ of monopolization that reduces consumer choice, reduces competition, and also gives more surplus to these firms to buy policy. So, Google and Apple are both supporting TPP and TTIP, which would, in both cases, help them continue to maintain their dominance by suppressing new entrants and suppressing competition.

8. Jacobsen: With some of those things in mind, will America become a backwater country – trailing countries such as China and India in technology?

Doctorow: Both of those countries have their own problems. Neither America nor China nor India are particular paragons of competition, transparency, or evidence-based policy; although, India did good on the net neutrality front. They aren’t good on censorship. They have one of the recurring problems of an attempting to address deep social problems with quick political fixes is that oftentimes you get these hasty laws that are allegedly suppressing racial bias, but which quickly become an all-purpose tool for suppressing dissent and which are then never effective at undoing the underlying social problems that gave rise to the racial bias. So, India’s caste system is a real terrible travesty and has been used for years to suppress whole populations.

Certain kinds of racialized dialogue are prohibited on the Indian internet, which creates this whole mechanism for widespread trivial censorship with the rule of law and that has become the go-to mechanism for suppressing political dissent. Meanwhile, the problems of the scheduled castes. The people who are supposed to be protected by these hate speech laws go on unabated because the hate speech is not the cause of the problems, but the expression of their problems and suppressing the speech does not change the problem itself.

9. Jacobsen: Let’s move on to Donald Trump, does Donald Trump represent a trend – is he the first of many Idiocracy-style major candidates – or is he an anomaly?

Doctorow: He’s not even the first in international terms. He is of a piece with Marine Le Pen and the Golden Dawn leaders, and Nigel Farage (certainly) and Boris Johnson. Although, in some ways, Johnson is who Trump wants to be; he’s from old money, not new money. He’s classy and witty, not inarticulate and thuggish. There are a lot of things we can say about Boris, but we won’t call him a short-fingered vulgarian. There are a lot of politicians that look a lot like him and appeal to the same instincts. Hungary has had a Trumpian government to its great detriment. I do not know that Trump is the first, but he’s part of a trend.

10. Jacobsen: As a science fiction author, you hesitate to pitch optimistic or pessimistic projections. Rather, you propose hope. Why hope?

Doctorow: Because the alternative is paralysis. I am a great believer in hill climbing. It gets us into a decentralized view of organization and progress. Hill climbing is all about using heuristics. The first casualty of any plan of attack or of any battle always ends up being the plan of attack – spending time figuring out all of the steps that I might take ends up being wasted time because as soon as you start down the path you discover new facts that you weren’t cognitive enough that when you built that expensive exhaustive plan. And so I am a great believer of figuring out what the next step might be and then taking that step and then reassessing and seeing whether you inched your way in the right direction or if you should take a step back and try somewhere else, and though it feels like you’re backtracking. You’re still net ahead of the game as compared to spending all of your time trying to figure out in enormous detail exactly what you plan on doing.

11. Jacobsen: Any upcoming collaborative projects for 2016?

Doctorow: I am working on this giant ten-year project to try and kill all of the DRM in the world. That’s all collaborative. I am trying to build a coalition right now. Security researchers who oppose the world wide web consortia addition of DRM to web standards. As we try to build a similar coalition of technology and civil society groups from the developing world to join the W3C and work on the issue from that direction, these are all intensely collaborative projects.

12. Jacobsen: Any upcoming solo projects?

Doctorow: I have a novel and picture book coming out in 2017. The novel is called Walkaway. I called it a utopian disaster novel. It is a novel in which after disaster strikes people behave themselves well, and get on with the business of rebuilding rather than turning on one another. The conflict in the novel comes from the people who are certain that their fellow humans cannot be trusted pre-emptively. I call it “eating your seat mate before your plane crashes, in case.” The people who believe that people are generally good and will help given the chance, and I think also those worldviews are loosely correlated with at least well and privilege. Anthropologists talk about the idea of elite panic and the conviction on the part of the great and the good. That given the chance, those who have much less than them will come and take away their riches and punish them for having them.

At least some people hypothesize that because that’s what they would do in the situation if it were reversed, I also have this picture book of a kid called Poesy who on her first birthday fights monster using repurposed field expedient weapons built out of girly toys that she has lying around her room called Poesy the Monster Slayer. I am now noodling with ideas about another book for adults called Crypto Wars. It would start a minor character from the other book called Masha.

13. Jacobsen: Any recommended authors?

Doctorow: That book I mentioned called Austerity ecology, and the collapse porn addicts. There is also a debut novel coming out by Ada Palmer called Two Like the Lightning that I rate as a transformative, disruptive new science fiction. She is a historian by trade and brings a good historical perspective to the way that she thinks about the future. It is not like any novel I have ever read. It is remarkable and ambitious. I am great fan a writer named Steven Brust. He’s a fantasy writer who is also a Trotskyist. It is only the Marxist fantasy writers that ever get to write ratios of vassals to lords in their high fantasy. He plays with this idea and attacks it from a lot of different angles. He’s been writing a single series since I was about 13 years old. And he’s closing in on the end of it, and it is a remarkable literal life’s work that he’s put in there. The books keep getting better.

14. Jacobsen: Any feelings or thoughts in conclusion?

Doctorow: Hookem Horns! Go, Braves! I do not know. [Laughter] I do not have any sporting affiliation. We did not talk about the US election, but, obviously, there is something going on there. And also the rise of both left- and right-wing populist movements around the world are something I am paying close attention to – from Syriza and Golden Dawn, to Podemos, to neo-fascists, to Trump and Sanders, and Corbin, and even the leadership race with the NDP in Canada where the federal party has adopted Naomi Klein’s Leap Manifesto from scientific leaders like David Suzuki have signed on to and the provincial NDP from Alberta – which is the only one controlling a regional government – is proposing to secede from the federal NDP because they represent energy producing oil territory and the Leap manifesto is down on carbon.

15. Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Mr. Doctorow.

Bibliography

  1. Doctorow, C. (2016). Crap Hound. Retrieved from craphound.com.

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Activist; Blogger; Journalist; Science Fiction Author.

[2] Individual Publication Date: July 22, 2018: www.in-sightjournal.com/doctorow-three; Full Issue Publication Date: September 1, 2018: https://in-sightjournal.com/insight-issues/.

[3] Photograph courtesy of Cory Efram Doctorow and Jonathan Worth Creative Commons Attribution 3.0.

[4] About Cory Doctorow (2015) states:

                Cory Doctorow (craphound.com) is a science fiction author, activist, journalist and blogger — the co-editor of Boing Boing (boingboing.net) and the author of many books, most recently IN REAL LIFE, a graphic novel; INFORMATION DOES NOT WANT TO BE FREE, a book about earning a living in the Internet age, and HOMELAND, the award-winning, best-selling sequel to the 2008 YA novel LITTLE BROTHER.

            One paragraph:

                Cory Doctorow (craphound.com) is a science fiction author, activist, journalist and blogger — the co-editor of Boing Boing (boingboing.net) and the author of the YA graphic novel IN REAL LIFE, the nonfiction business book INFORMATION DOES NOT WANT TO BE FREE< and young adult novels like HOMELAND, PIRATE CINEMA and LITTLE BROTHER and novels for adults like RAPTURE OF THE NERDS and MAKERS. He works for the Electronic Frontier Foundation and co-founded the UK Open Rights Group. Born in Toronto, Canada, he now lives in Los Angeles.

            Full length:

                Cory Doctorow (craphound.com) is a science fiction novelist, blogger and technology activist. He is the co-editor of the popular weblog Boing Boing (boingboing.net), and a contributor to The Guardian, Publishers Weekly, Wired, and many other newspapers, magazines and websites. He is a special consultant to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (eff.org), a non-profit civil liberties group that defends freedom in technology law, policy, standards and treaties. He holds an honorary doctorate in computer science from the Open University (UK), where he is a Visiting Professor; in 2007, he served as the Fulbright Chair at the Annenberg Center for Public Diplomacy at the University of Southern California.

                His novels have been translated into dozens of languages and are published by Tor Books, Titan Books (UK) and HarperCollins (UK) and simultaneously released on the Internet under Creative Commons licenses that encourage their re-use and sharing, a move that increases his sales by enlisting his readers to help promote his work. He has won the Locus and Sunburst Awards, and been nominated for the Hugo, Nebula and British Science Fiction Awards.

                His two latest books are IN REAL LIFE, a young adult graphic novel created with Jen Wang (2014); and INFORMATION DOES NOT WANT TO BE FREE, a business book about creativity in the Internet age (2014).

                His latest young adult novel is HOMELAND, the bestselling sequel to 2008’s LITTLE BROTHER. His latest novel for adults is RAPTURE OF THE NERDS, written with Charles Stross and published in 2012. His New York Times Bestseller LITTLE BROTHER was published in 2008. His latest short story collection is WITH A LITTLE HELP, available in paperback, ebook, audiobook and limited edition hardcover. In 2011, Tachyon Books published a collection of his essays, called CONTEXT: FURTHER SELECTED ESSAYS ON PRODUCTIVITY, CREATIVITY, PARENTING, AND POLITICS IN THE 21ST CENTURY (with an introduction by Tim O’Reilly) and IDW published a collection of comic books inspired by his short fiction called CORY DOCTOROW’S FUTURISTIC TALES OF THE HERE AND NOW. THE GREAT BIG BEAUTIFUL TOMORROW, a PM Press Outspoken Authors chapbook, was also published in 2011.

                LITTLE BROTHER was nominated for the 2008 Hugo, Nebula, Sunburst and Locus Awards. It won the Ontario Library White Pine Award, the Prometheus Award as well as the Indienet Award for bestselling young adult novel in America’s top 1000 independent bookstores in 2008; it was the San Francisco Public Library’s One City/One Book choice for 2013. It has also been adapted for stage by Josh Costello.

                He co-founded the open source peer-to-peer software company OpenCola, and serves on the boards and advisory boards of the Participatory Culture Foundation, the Clarion Foundation, the Metabrainz Foundation and The Glenn Gould Foundation.

                On February 3, 2008, he became a father. The little girl is called Poesy Emmeline Fibonacci Nautilus Taylor Doctorow, and is a marvel that puts all the works of technology and artifice to shame.

Doctorow, C. (2015, July 30). About Cory Doctorow. Retrieved from http://craphound.com/bio/.

Appendix II: Citation Style Listing

American Medical Association (AMA): Jacobsen S. An Interview with Cory Efram Doctorow (Part Three) [Online].July 2018; 17(A). Available from: www.in-sightjournal.com/doctorow-three.

American Psychological Association (APA, 6th Edition, 2010): Jacobsen, S.D. (2018, July 22). An Interview with Cory Efram Doctorow (Part Three)Retrieved from www.in-sightjournal.com/doctorow-three.

Brazilian National Standards (ABNT): JACOBSEN, S. An Interview with Cory Efram Doctorow (Part Three). In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 17.A, July. 2018. <www.in-sightjournal.com/doctorow-three>.

Chicago/Turabian, Author-Date (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott. 2018. “An Interview with Cory Efram Doctorow (Part Three).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 17.A. www.in-sightjournal.com/doctorow-three.

Chicago/Turabian, Humanities (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott “An Interview with Cory Efram Doctorow (Part Three).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 17.A (July 2018). www.in-sightjournal.com/doctorow-three.

Harvard: Jacobsen, S. 2018, ‘An Interview with Cory Efram Doctorow (Part Three)In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 17.A. Available from: <www.in-sightjournal.com/doctorow-three>.

Harvard, Australian: Jacobsen, S. 2018, ‘An Interview with Cory Efram Doctorow (Part Three)In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 17.A., www.in-sightjournal.com/doctorow-three.

Modern Language Association (MLA, 7th Edition, 2009): Scott D. Jacobsen. “An Interview with Cory Efram Doctorow (Part Three).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 17.A (2018):July. 2018. Web. <www.in-sightjournal.com/doctorow-three>.

Vancouver/ICMJE: Jacobsen S. An Interview with Cory Efram Doctorow (Part Three) [Internet]. (2018, July; 17(A). Available from: www.in-sightjournal.com/doctorow-three.

License and Copyright

License

In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at www.in-sightjournal.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen, and In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 2012-2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen, and In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  All interviewees co-copyright their interview material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Ask A Genius (or Two): Conversation with Ivan Ivec and Rick Rosner on “The Spiritual Life”

Interviewer: Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Numbering: Issue 17.A, Idea: Outliers & Outsiders (Part Thirteen)

Place of Publication: Langley, British Columbia, Canada

Title: In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Web Domain: http://www.in-sightjournal.com

Individual Publication Date: July 22, 2018

Issue Publication Date: September 1, 2018

Name of Publisher: In-Sight Publishing

Frequency: Three Times Per Year

Words: 2,455

ISSN 2369-6885

Abstract 

Rick Rosner and I conduct a conversational series entitled Ask A Genius on a variety of subjects through In-Sight Publishing on the personal and professional website for Rick. Rick exists on the World Genius Directory listing as the world’s second highest IQ at 192 based on several ultra-high IQ tests scores developed by independent psychometricians. Ivan Ivec, earned a score at 174, on Algebrica by Mislav Predavec. Both scores on a standard deviation of 15. A sigma of ~6.13 for Rick – a general intelligence rarity of 1 in 2,314,980,850 – and 4.80 for Ivan – a general intelligence rarity of 1 in 2,470,424. Of course, if a higher general intelligence score, then the greater the variability in, and margin of error in, the general intelligence scores because of the greater rarity in the population. This amounts to a joint interview or conversation with Ivan Ivec, Rick Rosner, and myself on the “The Spiritual Life.”

Keywords: intelligence, Ivan Ivec, life, Rick Rosner, spiritual, World Genius Directory.

Ask A Genius (or Two): Conversation with Ivan Ivec and Rick Rosner on “The Spiritual Life”[1],[2]

*Interview conducted via email. Please see biographies in footnote [1].*

1. Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Ivan meet Rick. Rick meet Ivan. The topic is ‘The Spiritual Life’ for this discussion. Ivan, you are Christian. Rick, you follow Reformed Judaism. Each have respective life philosophies and practices. It seems most appropriate to have the groundwork of the life philosophies and practices provided by both of you. 

We can find textbook definitions. However, the nuances come from individual lives. To begin, what are its components and relationships – entities, ethical precepts, ideas, and practices? For Ivan, the context is Christianity. For Rick, the context is Reformed Judaism. 

Ivan Ivec: Christianity is very simple religion and pretty hard. All persons ready to follow good even when this is hard can be considered Christians, because this is the base of Christianity, and not some profound knowledge.

The main entity is of course Jesus Christ. We believe that he makes all this possible, because humans are too weak to follow this idea, no matter how simple and logical it seems sometimes.

Because of its simplicity, textbook definitions are pretty important in Christianity, but of course they should come together with experience.

Rick Rosner: I do have spiritual beliefs, but most of my hopeful beliefs of a religious type are founded on faith in future technology. I’m a science person. I haven’t been convinced by organized religions, or by most aspects of organized religion. So I would like to believe in resurrection, but there’s not enough evidence for resurrection through religion for me to believe in resurrection – except in only the tiniest, tiniest way.

So I put my hope in technology’s ability to extend our lives significantly in the near future, and in the near- to medium-future science and technology’s ability to come up with ways to replicate and extend the contents of our brains. Our thoughts and memories. Thus, we have a type of technical resurrection. I tend not to believe that there is some kind of supreme being who dispenses justice.

Though I don’t have that belief that goes with the science of the 20th century, which is a cold random universe in which nothing really matters because everything is the result of happenstance events according to the laws of physics – the universe unfolds according to the rules of Quantum Mechanics and Relativity, with nobody and nothing in charge. Whatever happens doesn’t really matter because there’s no one judging.

Instead, I tend to think that rather than randomness being in charge that information is in charge, and that the universe, at least as we experience it, is a place of increasing order, and that that can be seen as providing some structures and some values. To have order, you need protection from disorder.

2. Jacobsen: Ivan, I feel drawn to the opening sentence: “Christianity is very simple religion and pretty hard.” Does this mean the foundation of Christianity is simple and its practice is difficult? For example, as you know, we find the Golden Rule in Matthew 7:12 for a summarization of one core ethical precept within Christianity. It is simple and applicable as a general moral principle, but it is difficult to practice in every context.

As well, you mentioned the main entity, Jesus Christ. With the main entity as Jesus Christ, other entities tend to be part of the theological discourse. For example, the beings of spirit such as angels and the Devil. Do these other entities—angels and the Devil—fit within your view of Christianity as well? If so, what role do entities such as angels and the Devil play in the world today, especially in people’s spiritual lives?

Rick, in your response, I note the equivalency of “spiritual beliefs” and “hopeful beliefs of a religious type,” which makes spiritual beliefs a subset of hopeful beliefs to you. Those of a “religious type.” To clarify, was this intentional? As well, you have a faith, in future technology tied to science because you are a “science person,” which remains disconnected from “most aspects of organized religion.” You deny the resurrection, except connected to future technology through science.

Furthermore, you disbelieve in a “supreme being who dispenses justice.” Your source of justice comes from the Golden Rule, and associated principles and values, derived from information-based principles connected to increasing order. Without an ultimate authority for right and wrong, for objective (not universal) moral values and judgments, does this make ultimate ethical evaluations dependent on conscious beings? If so, what does this mean for the spiritual life?

Ivec: Christianity talks about things which cannot be understood without God’s mercy. It talks about truth (indeed simple truth), but which is beyond our current ability to understand.

That’s why many people do not have faith, and that’s way I say that Christianity is difficult. Angels, the Devil, humans – all are spiritual beings and fit in Christianity. However, Jesus Christ was talking about things mentioned above, which are beyond our understanding, but this is so because he wants to heal our understanding progressively.

Two big weapons of the Devil:

1) he tries to convince people that he does not exist;

2) if he fails in step 1), he tries to convince people that he is dangerous.

One big weakness of the Devil:

1) All his attempts are misery in comparison with God’s plans.

Rosner: Under all forms of Christianity, God is the Creator. God is the source of everything good. Under most forms of Christianity, though I don’t know how it works in full, the Devil is a very bad guy with unsurpassed power, except for the power of God. Again, I do not know that much about Christianity. Under my point of view, God and the Devil are personifications of the ways to divide the world into good and bad. In other words, God is a metaphor for order and for increasing order, for information, for safety, for persistence, for positive ethical standards, for finding the strength within yourself and within your community to make the right ethical choices. 

There is the one set of footprints on the beach because Jesus was carrying you. God is representative of what is good and right. God is representative of the strength you can find to do what is good while the Devil is pretty much the opposite. A force for bad decisions, wanton destruction, chaos and increasing chaos, danger, and death. It is a helpful way to divide the world, to group the things in the world into good and bad, which people have been trying to do for thousands of years. 

The Devil is an interesting model. In that, God is like Superman. Superman is straightforward. He pretty much always does good. There is nothing paradoxical about Superman. In TV terms, God is the game show Who Wants to be a Millionaire, where everything pulls in the same direction.  You’re cheering for the person to win as opposed to reality shows or the game show The Weakest Link, where generally on the show The Weakest Link the biggest dicks, the biggest jerks, win because they gang up on the best players and knock them out, leaving only the biggest jerks. I don’t think it’s on anymore anywhere. It’s hard to watch because it pulls in opposite directions. 

You’re pulling for the good people, but the jerks prevail. However, God is straightforward and entirely good, even if we don’t understand God’s decisions with what he does about the world. The Devil is less straightforward, is more complicated. He’s closer to Batman. Where Batman has darkness within and is more complicated, and I’m not saying Batman is the Devil, I’m saying he’s more complicated because he’s tormented. The Devil is more complicated because he can take more forms, even the apparently good, to do bad. The Devil wants everyone to fail, to embrace evil and to fail, but he has a trickier utility belt to accomplish that. 

He can take all sorts of forms including forms that look good and can trick people into doing what is ultimately bad. We see that in some of the current political debates in America. On the liberal side, liberals like to give people safety nets, which seems like doing good. It is charitable. It is helping your fellow humans. The new conservative person, not super-new but the conservatives who have been active for the past 30 years, say that there is the Devil in those welfare-type, entitlement-type, safety nets. That by attempting to do good, you are really doing bad. That you are making people soft. That you are making people unable to fend for themselves. 

That maybe you need to deny the Devil of Liberalism and safety nets and embrace the toughness of the not helpful and make people get out there and work for themselves, which is, as I see it, mostly a garbage argument for F-ing over other people. That is what today’s Republican Party tends to try to do. Regardless of how they feel in their hearts, the result of Republican policies is rich people getting richer and everyone else staying the same or falling back.

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1Ivan Ivec (From two webpage links here and here: “My name is Ivan Ivec and I come from Croatia. I’m a teacher of mathematics with a Ph.D. degree in mathematics. I’ll present here my IQ tests and other activities.”

“However, I’m not interested only in IQ tests and mathematics, which is my profession. I believe in God and try to live my faith. As I’m pretty bad theologician, under Religion link I’ll only try to help people in need. I pray God to give me enough humbleness to maintain this site in the productive way. Finally, under Steven Fell’s Art link I’ll promote one American artist, who did my portrait for this website.”

Rick G. Rosner: “According to semi-reputable sources, Rick Rosner has the world’s second-highest IQ. He earned 12 years of college credit in less than a year and graduated with the equivalent of 8 majors. He has received 8 Writer’s Guild Award and Emmy nominations, and was named 2013 North American Genius of the Year by The World Genius Registry.

He has written for Remote Control, Crank Yankers, The Man Show, The Emmy Awards, The Grammy Awards, and Jimmy Kimmel Live!. He has also worked as a stripper, a bouncer, a roller-skating waiter, and a nude model. In a TV commercial, Domino’s Pizza named him the World’s Smartest Man. He was also named Best Bouncer in the Denver Area by Westwood Magazine.

He spent the disco era as an undercover high school student. 25 years as a bar bouncer, American fake ID-catcher, 25+ years as a stripper, and nude art model, and nearly 30 years as a writer for more than 2,500 hours of network television.

He lost on Jeopardy!, sued Who Wants to Be a Millionaire over a bad question, and lost the lawsuit. He spent 35+ years on a modified version of Big Bang Theory. Now, he mostly sits around tweeting in a towel. He lives in Los Angeles, California with his wife and daughter.

You can send an email or a direct message via Twitter, or find him on LinkedIn, or see him on YouTube.”

[2] Individual Publication Date: July 22, 2018 at http://www.in-sightjournal.com/rosner-ivec; Full Issue Publication Date: September 1, 2018 at https://in-sightjournal.com/insight-issues/.

Appendix II: Citation Style Listing

American Medical Association (AMA): Jacobsen S. Ask A Genius (or Two): Conversation with Ivan Ivec and Rick Rosner on “The Spiritual Life” [Online].July 2018; 17(A). Available from: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/rosner-ivec.

American Psychological Association (APA, 6th Edition, 2010): Jacobsen, S.D. (2018, July 22). Ask A Genius (or Two): Conversation with Ivan Ivec and Rick Rosner on “The Spiritual Life”Retrieved from http://www.in-sightjournal.com/rosner-ivec.

Brazilian National Standards (ABNT): JACOBSEN, S. Ask A Genius (or Two): Conversation with Ivan Ivec and Rick Rosner on “The Spiritual Life”. In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 17.A, July. 2018. <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/rosner-ivec>.

Chicago/Turabian, Author-Date (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott. 2018. “Ask A Genius (or Two): Conversation with Ivan Ivec and Rick Rosner on “The Spiritual Life”.” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 17.A. http://www.in-sightjournal.com/rosner-ivec.

Chicago/Turabian, Humanities (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott “Ask A Genius (or Two): Conversation with Ivan Ivec and Rick Rosner on “The Spiritual Life”.” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 17.A (July 2018). http://www.in-sightjournal.com/rosner-ivec.

Harvard: Jacobsen, S. 2018, ‘Ask A Genius (or Two): Conversation with Ivan Ivec and Rick Rosner on “The Spiritual Life”In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 17.A. Available from: <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/rosner-ivec>.

Harvard, Australian: Jacobsen, S. 2018, ‘Ask A Genius (or Two): Conversation with Ivan Ivec and Rick Rosner on “The Spiritual Life”In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 17.A., http://www.in-sightjournal.com/rosner-ivec.

Modern Language Association (MLA, 7th Edition, 2009): Scott D. Jacobsen. “Ask A Genius (or Two): Conversation with Ivan Ivec and Rick Rosner on “The Spiritual Life”.” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 17.A (2018):July. 2018. Web. <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/rosner-ivec>.

Vancouver/ICMJE: Jacobsen S. Ask A Genius (or Two): Conversation with Ivan Ivec and Rick Rosner on “The Spiritual Life” [Internet]. (2018, June; 17(A). Available from: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/rosner-volko-one.

License and Copyright

License

In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at www.in-sightjournal.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen, and In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 2012-2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen, and In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  All interviewees co-copyright their interview material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

An Interview with Cory Efram Doctorow (Part Two)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interviewer: Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Numbering: Issue 17.A, Idea: Outliers & Outsiders (Part Thirteen)

Place of Publication: Langley, British Columbia, Canada

Title: In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Web Domain: http://www.in-sightjournal.com

Individual Publication Date: July 15, 2018

Issue Publication Date: September 1, 2018

Name of Publisher: In-Sight Publishing

Frequency: Three Times Per Year

Words: 4,788

ISSN 2369-6885

Abstract 

Cory Doctorow is an Activist, Blogger, Journalist, and Science Fiction Writer. He discusses: philosophies appealing to him; a good grasp of the near future or lack thereof; Participatory Culture Foundation; the Clarion Foundation; the Metabrainz Foundation; The Glenn Gould Foundation; Alice Taylor and their love story; marriage and its change for personal perspective; Poesy Emmeline Fibonacci Nautilus Taylor Doctorow; three biggest changes in the next 50 years; timeline for the modification of more than half the human population; and the potential for the levelling off the accelerating technological changes.

Keywords: activist, Cory Efram Doctorow, journalist, science fiction, writer.

Interview with Cory Efram Doctorow: Blogger, Journalist, and Science Fiction Writer (Part Two)[1],[2],[3]

*Please see the footnotes, bibliography, and citation style listing after the interview. *

*This interview was conducted in two parts with the first on April 12, 2016 and the second on July 1, 2016. *

1. Scott Douglas Jacobsen: What philosophies appeal the most to you – general, political, social, economic, aesthetic?

[Laughing] Gosh. You mean like logical positivism or utilitarianism, or whatever? I do not know. I do not know that I have a main, core general philosophy that I think is best., politically, I favor evidence-based policy, but you still have to ask yourself evidence in support of what. Is it utilitarianism? I do not know. I do not know that I have a name for it. There are elements of anarcho-syndicalism and Marxism that I find compelling.

A book that had a huge impression on me this year was a book called Austerity ecology, and the collapse-porn addicts. It was a Marxist critique of the Green Left, which squared a lot of circles for me because I am a believer in material culture, and an enjoyer of material culture. I think physical things are cool, and I like them, and they bring me pleasure, and beautiful things bring me pleasure. The Green Left has conflated anti-consumerism with anti-materialism.

Leigh Philipps’ idea is that I do not need to step back from material abundance into a material austerity in order to save the planet, who’s name I am blanking on. He talks about how high technology and its material abundance are the only way we can imagine both accommodating the human population as it is and what is will become, and the Earth. That organic farming is code for let’s kill 3 billion people, and still not have enough food for everybody. It is only through GMO and nuclear power, and the Left has historically been the movement for material abundance for all.

The Left’s critique of the wealth of the rich was not that the rich had too much, but rather everyone else had too little. The Marxist left, viewed the capitalist system for improving material efficiency in material production so that the material abundance could be realized for all. And he makes many great little easily conveyable points like: “Capitalism and markets — because they favor firms that have lower costs — have radically reduced the material and energy-inputs into our physical goods, and continue to do so with virtually no end in sight.”

The downside of something like Uber or self-driving cars in a market economy is that all of the dividends of increased productivity and automation accrue to the forces of capital, but that’s an economic phenomenon and not a technological one. The upside is that we are getting more people to more places and more comfort with less environmental consequences, and that if we can solve the labor side what you end up with is an enormous benefit to everybody. And solving the labour side is an economic question that relies or presumes that the technological side is allowed to go on. He also notes that Walmart and Amazon of how non-market forces can be used to allocate resources extremely efficiently. These are not internal market places. They are command and control market places.

That nevertheless manage to move material products from one place to another very, efficiently, and so I guess I am a post-Green leftist. And I guess my view is that technology humanity’s servant and not its master but that it takes a political world for that to be the case. I do not know if that makes sense. It is the intersection of all of these other things. I think the two-dimensional left-right diagram or chart, graph, is insufficient. I think you need a right-left, centralist-decentralist, technology-anti-technology, material-spiritual, multidimensional shape to plot political ideology or life ideology correctly.

I am a believer in self-determination, but I am also a believer in collective work and collectivism, and particularly in the same way that being gifted privileges a certain cognitive style or certain intellect without regard to any objective criteria for what is the best intellect. I think that the idea of meritocracy is a self-serving, self-delusion. That meritocracy starts from the presumption that you can get rid of all the people whose skills are possessed by lots of people and take the people whose skills are more rarely distributed in the general population and that those people can have a perfectly good life,

The reality is that it does not matter how excellent you are at being a nuclear physicist or a brain surgeon,

If you are someone cleaning the toilets, you are going to die of cholera. I am skeptical of the meritocratic story, and, again, I do not know exactly what you would call that political philosophy. Egalitarianism? Not because I think we are all different. I do not know. Humanism? I am an atheist and a materialist. I am a believer in Enlightenment methodologies. I am a believer in the scientific method. And the idea that our own cognitive processes are subject to delusion and self-delusion. That self-delusion is particularly pernicious problem for our cognitive apparatus and only by subjecting ourselves to adversarial peer review can we figure out what is true or not or whether we are kidding ourselves. I do not know what you call that philosophy.

2. Who besides you might have the best grasp of the near future?

I do not think I have any real grasp of the near future. I think science fiction writers are Texan marksman. We fire a shot out there and then draw a target around the place where the pellets hit. Science fiction makes a lot of predictions, and if none of them came true that would be remarkable, but that does not mean we are any better than a random number generator. I think that the near future – the way to find out about the present anyways, which is the moving wave front in which the past becomes the near future – is to look at all of those futuristic stories that we are telling that represents the futures that may be, and find the ones that are resonating in the popular imaginations, and that tells you about the subconscious fears and aspirations lurking in the public.

I think that the reason that Millennials who were literally not born when Terminator and The Matrix came out are still talking about the Red Pill and Skynet because the idea of transhuman, immortal life forms that treat us as inconvenient gut flora is fantastically resonant in an era when the limited liability corporation has become the dominant structure for guiding our society. In the same way that Frankenstein had its popularity in England tells you an awful lot about the aspirations and fears of technology becoming our master instead of our servitor of the people that read it and watched it on the stage at that time. I do not think anyone is good at the near future, but I think the keen observer is the one who acknowledges that and instead of predictions tends to observations about what’s popular.

3. You serve on the boards of the Participatory Culture Foundation, the Clarion Foundation, the Metabrainz Foundation, and The Glenn Gould Foundation. Let’s run the foundations in order: why the Participatory Culture Foundation? What does it do?

Participatory Culture Foundation is an umbrella under which a group of now not-so-young, but then young, activists that I, liked and continue to like and admire were doing a bunch of projects. They started off as an activists group called downhill battle. It was founded by the music industry’s attempts to regulate the internet and have gone on a wide variety of projects. And they created 501(c)3 in order to have an umbrella to do fundraising through, and to organize their projects, and asked the people who have advised them over the years to join the 501(c)3 board as a brain trust, which I was happy to do.

4. Why the Clarion Foundation? What does it do?

The Clarion Foundation overseas the Clarion writing workshop, which is the workshop I went to when I went to Michigan State. It was formative in my own writing career, and I teach it every couple of years. When the Michigan system was defunded by their state level government and Clarion lost its home at MSU, and started seeking new accommodation, it restructured as a 501(c)3 and asked me if I would join the board. I joined to be their technological know-how person. Arts organizations are a little short on technological prowess. Since then, I have filled that role and done some fundraising for them. I do teach at Clarion every couple of years. I am working out the logistics for teaching in summer 2017 with my family now.

5. Why the Metabrainz Foundation? What does it do?

Metabrainz Foundation overseas something called Metabrainz, which is a metadata system for music that’s open. It was founded in the wake of a now-forgotten scandal. There was something called CDDB or CD Database. The way that it works is that every time you stuck a CD in your computer. You would be prompted to key in the track listing for it. That would go into CDDB, which was organized as an informal project. And then a company called GraceNote took the project over, and made that database proprietary for access to it and freezing out new media players, and you may have noticed that the market for media players has all but vanished in the wake of that – in part because of other phenomena to do with lock-in and platform strategies.

But also, in part, because that metadata resource that made music sortable and playable was cut off. That the commons had been enclosed, and Metabrainz is formed to create an open repository of metadata that was user generated and crowdsourced, and to lock that open in the bylaws of the (c)3 so that it could never be enclosed, so that people would have the ability and the confidence to contribute to the project knowing that it would never be enclosed. It has been successful since and has built a database whose metadata is reliable in ways that GraceNote and other databases have never been, and can be accessed with audio fingerprinting algorithms to automatically generate trackless things and other information.

It is a good example of information politics. How political structures, and how economic structures, and how data handling practices can lock services open and make sure that you can have new entrants and new competitors as opposed to locking them closed and pulling up the ladder behind someone who was scrappy a couple years ago and has now developed as a player.

6. Why The Glenn Gould Foundation? What does it do?

That’s one of the ones that lies largely dormant. Gould died without any heirs. Glenn Gould was obviously this famous pianist, and they started an arts foundation and put on a conference that attracted some great talent, but, unfortunately, no audience. There were 80 performers and maybe 60 tickets sold. And they asked me if I would join the board, and I did. Then, they said, “If we have any secure events, we will contact you as a support member.” As far as I know, they haven’t done that.

7. You married Alice Taylor. How did this love story begin and develop into the present?

We met when I was working for Electronic Frontier Fund (EFF). I attended a meeting in Finland that was organized by Tim O’Reilly and Joe Eigo and Marko Ahtisaari (son of the former Prime Minister in Finland). It was called the Social Software Summit. I was at the time a smoker, as was Alice. I came in from San Francisco and had a carton of duty-free cigarettes with me, which we proceeded to smoke together over the course of the conference. It was mid-Summer and the Sun never set. We sat on the roof of the hotel bar. This 12-story hotel in the middle of Helsinki. It is the tallest building in Helsinki. It was KGB headquarters during the occupation.

We stayed up all night. It was romantic, and it kindled a long-distance love affair, which was less doomed than other long-distance love affairs might have been because I was already planning to take this job as European Director at the EFF, which would have me relocating to London. And about six months later, I moved to London and we took up the relationship in person and moved in together about a year later, and had a baby together in 2008, and got married later that year, and are still together to this day.

8. How does marriage change personal perspective on life and its progression?

Well, I guess it forces you to, especially coupled with parenthood, take account of the priorities of other people. When you decide that you’re going to set aside your own pleasure activity or downtime for personal development time to achieve professional goal, suddenly, that decision gets a lot harder. You have to take account of other people’s priorities. I think it makes you more empathic and better at taking other people’s point of view. I think it is required that you be more empathic about other people’s complaints about you. Of course, you have a best friend and sounding board from someone who keeps you intellectually honest who is always there, and I think that makes you more rigorous and smarter, too.

9. On February 3, 2008, Poesy Emmeline Fibonacci Nautilus Taylor Doctorow came into the world with Alice Taylor and Cory Doctorow as her new parents. How does parenting change personal perspective?

I think it makes you have more of a stake in the future. I certainly have always thought that it will be terrible for people who come after me if our worst mistakes go on unchecked, but now there is a much more personal and emotional element to it. It also makes you, I think, a lot more cognizant of the suits and nuts of cognitive development. Having lived through your own cognitive development gives you a certain amount of perspective on how people think and how other people think, and how you often thought, and how you changed, but parenthood makes you confront it on a daily basis as an actual project with consequences.

You need to figure out how to get another human being who lacks your experience, but isn’t dumb by any means to agree to do the things that are the right things to do including acquiring knowledge and experience and context and the ability to put it all together. That is a humbling thing, and that is a continuous challenge, but it is also exciting and rewarding. I also think, at least for me, it eliminated my ability to be objective or to emotionally distance myself from the peril or consequences of children who suffer. And so that is in movies and books, where I find it intolerable now, when children are used as plot devices. Not intolerable intellectually, but emotionally, and having strong emotional reaction to the plight of children who are badly off.

The refugees today. I have always worried about the refugee issues, but there is new dimension when you think of a parent in that situation at least for me. That I was not or never had before I was a parent. I am only 8 years in. There is only more to come. I am sure.

10. What seem like the three biggest changes in the next 50 years without appropriate international preparation?

With that caveat that science fiction writers suck at predicting the future, I think that climate change is on its way, and we have already released so much carbon into the atmosphere that there will be catastrophic effects felt as a result – regardless of what we do. And so our arguments now or challenge now is to see the cataclysmic consequences of that early carbon release and take motivation from it to do something about it before subsequent carbon releases some along that do even worse damage to the planet and to us, and to the living things that we care about.

I think that there is a similar thing happening in our information ecology. That we’ve had 25 or 30 years of surveillance capitalism and mass data gathering on us, and I think the leaking of all that data is more or less a foregone conclusion. Anything that you collect is likely to leak, and I think that given that breaches are cumulative in their harm. That having a little bit of information of you leaked is bad, but it can be pieced together with the next little bit of information so that it can be significantly worse, and so on and so on.

So what we are not arguing about is not whether or not all of that data is going to leak and we are all going to feel the consequences of it, but if we are going to learn from it early enough to not collect too much more information in much more detail from many more sources as computers disappear into our skin and as we put our bodies into computers more often, as our houses we live in and our hospitals have computers that we put people into and so on. So, I think both of these are related issues as they deal with long-term consequences and immediate short-term benefits.

And problems with markets and marketability of things that have long-term consequences and the force to internalize the consequences of their actions. They both have to do with regulatory barrier, and they both are related to mass wealth inequality. One of the things that has driven wealth inequality is corruption, and the ability of the elites to fend off fakes and attempts to make them internalize the costs of their bad decisions, and that corruption is also driven by mass surveillance and mass surveillance allows corrupt states to perpetuate themselves longer because surveillance can be used to find the people that are most likely to make changes to status quo and neutralize them by telling the cops who to take out or by allowing for the disruption of their organizing or activism. And so, I think those two issues are related, and I am interested in how do we decarbonize surveillance capitalism as much as the question of how we decarbonize industrial capitalism as well.

I guess the third is the line between surveillance capitalism and political surveillance. They are intimately related. On the one hand, because of the otherwise destabilizing impact of mass wealth disparity can be countered through surveillance and also because surveillance is much cheaper and easier to attain because markets have offloaded the costs of surveillance from the state to the individuals who are under surveillance. You buy the phone and pay for the subscription that gathers the data about you, and so the state does not have to bear that cost. During the Cold War, the Stasi had one snitch for every 60 people. Now, the NSA manages the to survey the whole planet at the rate of about 1 spy to about every 10,000 people.

11. How long until more than half of the human population is significantly modified, genetically, with augmented thought processing, with continuous blood monitoring and drug administration or the like?

Gosh, I have no idea. I think that my generation assuming that industrial and technological civilization does not collapse. All of my generation will have some medical implant if we live long enough. We are logging enough ear-punishing hours that we’ll all have hearing aids. The numbers on what percentage of people are legally blind by the time they die is a crazy number. It is like 89% or something. The life limit that will use some prosthesis, heads up display, or goggles as we become legally blind is high. It depends on what you count such as wheelchairs and so on. We are already cyborgs to some extent, but in terms of direct germ plasm modification. I have no idea.

That seems to me like a real wild card. Bruce Sterling has made a compelling case is an incredibly dumb idea because the chances are that we’ll come up with better germ plasm modification and you’ll be forever stuck with this year’s mod. Given how much of our metabolic and maybe even our cognitive function is regulated not by our own cells, but by our microbial nations and given how much easier it is to manipulate of a single celled organism. Maybe, what we’ll we do is manipulate our microbes rather than our germ plasms.

12. Will accelerating technological change ever level off?

I honestly have no idea. I think that things like Moore’s Law tend to be taken as laws of physics rather than observations about industrial activity. Moore’s Law is more of an observation than a prediction, and I do not know that we understand entirely what underpins it. I also think that when we look at something like Moore’s Law. We say the power of computation is doubling every couple of years or 18 months. What we mean is not only are we getting better at making faster computers, but we are also choosing the kinds of problems that computers that we know how to make faster are good at, and so it may be that as computing power becomes cheaper or cooler.

Then we can add more cores rather than faster cores, that we decide that we solve the problems that can be solved in parallel rather than serial is problem that we think of as an important one without ever consciously deciding it. That’s where all of the research is because that’s where all of the productivity gains are. We never even notice that we are not getting much better at solving problems in serial because we end up figuring how to solve problems that matter to us in parallel and pretending we do not see the problems that aren’t practical in parallel.

Bibliography

  1. Doctorow, C. (2016). Crap Hound. Retrieved from craphound.com.

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Activist; Blogger; Journalist; Science Fiction Author.

[2] Individual Publication Date: July 15, 2018: www.in-sightjournal.com/doctorow-two; Full Issue Publication Date: September 1, 2018: https://in-sightjournal.com/insight-issues/.

[3] Photograph courtesy of Cory Efram Doctorow and Jonathan Worth Creative Commons Attribution 3.0.

[4] About Cory Doctorow (2015) states:

                Cory Doctorow (craphound.com) is a science fiction author, activist, journalist and blogger — the co-editor of Boing Boing (boingboing.net) and the author of many books, most recently IN REAL LIFE, a graphic novel; INFORMATION DOES NOT WANT TO BE FREE, a book about earning a living in the Internet age, and HOMELAND, the award-winning, best-selling sequel to the 2008 YA novel LITTLE BROTHER.

            One paragraph:

                Cory Doctorow (craphound.com) is a science fiction author, activist, journalist and blogger — the co-editor of Boing Boing (boingboing.net) and the author of the YA graphic novel IN REAL LIFE, the nonfiction business book INFORMATION DOES NOT WANT TO BE FREE< and young adult novels like HOMELAND, PIRATE CINEMA and LITTLE BROTHER and novels for adults like RAPTURE OF THE NERDS and MAKERS. He works for the Electronic Frontier Foundation and co-founded the UK Open Rights Group. Born in Toronto, Canada, he now lives in Los Angeles.

            Full length:

                Cory Doctorow (craphound.com) is a science fiction novelist, blogger and technology activist. He is the co-editor of the popular weblog Boing Boing (boingboing.net), and a contributor to The Guardian, Publishers Weekly, Wired, and many other newspapers, magazines and websites. He is a special consultant to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (eff.org), a non-profit civil liberties group that defends freedom in technology law, policy, standards and treaties. He holds an honorary doctorate in computer science from the Open University (UK), where he is a Visiting Professor; in 2007, he served as the Fulbright Chair at the Annenberg Center for Public Diplomacy at the University of Southern California.

                His novels have been translated into dozens of languages and are published by Tor Books, Titan Books (UK) and HarperCollins (UK) and simultaneously released on the Internet under Creative Commons licenses that encourage their re-use and sharing, a move that increases his sales by enlisting his readers to help promote his work. He has won the Locus and Sunburst Awards, and been nominated for the Hugo, Nebula and British Science Fiction Awards.

                His two latest books are IN REAL LIFE, a young adult graphic novel created with Jen Wang (2014); and INFORMATION DOES NOT WANT TO BE FREE, a business book about creativity in the Internet age (2014).

                His latest young adult novel is HOMELAND, the bestselling sequel to 2008’s LITTLE BROTHER. His latest novel for adults is RAPTURE OF THE NERDS, written with Charles Stross and published in 2012. His New York Times Bestseller LITTLE BROTHER was published in 2008. His latest short story collection is WITH A LITTLE HELP, available in paperback, ebook, audiobook and limited edition hardcover. In 2011, Tachyon Books published a collection of his essays, called CONTEXT: FURTHER SELECTED ESSAYS ON PRODUCTIVITY, CREATIVITY, PARENTING, AND POLITICS IN THE 21ST CENTURY (with an introduction by Tim O’Reilly) and IDW published a collection of comic books inspired by his short fiction called CORY DOCTOROW’S FUTURISTIC TALES OF THE HERE AND NOW. THE GREAT BIG BEAUTIFUL TOMORROW, a PM Press Outspoken Authors chapbook, was also published in 2011.

                LITTLE BROTHER was nominated for the 2008 Hugo, Nebula, Sunburst and Locus Awards. It won the Ontario Library White Pine Award, the Prometheus Award as well as the Indienet Award for bestselling young adult novel in America’s top 1000 independent bookstores in 2008; it was the San Francisco Public Library’s One City/One Book choice for 2013. It has also been adapted for stage by Josh Costello.

                He co-founded the open source peer-to-peer software company OpenCola, and serves on the boards and advisory boards of the Participatory Culture Foundation, the Clarion Foundation, the Metabrainz Foundation and The Glenn Gould Foundation.

                On February 3, 2008, he became a father. The little girl is called Poesy Emmeline Fibonacci Nautilus Taylor Doctorow, and is a marvel that puts all the works of technology and artifice to shame.

Doctorow, C. (2015, July 30). About Cory Doctorow. Retrieved from http://craphound.com/bio/.

Appendix II: Citation Style Listing

American Medical Association (AMA): Jacobsen S. An Interview with Cory Efram Doctorow (Part Two) [Online].July 2018; 17(A). Available from: www.in-sightjournal.com/doctorow-two.

American Psychological Association (APA, 6th Edition, 2010): Jacobsen, S.D. (2018, July 15). An Interview with Cory Efram Doctorow (Part Two)Retrieved from www.in-sightjournal.com/doctorow-two.

Brazilian National Standards (ABNT): JACOBSEN, S. An Interview with Cory Efram Doctorow (Part Two). In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 17.A, July. 2018. <www.in-sightjournal.com/doctorow-two>.

Chicago/Turabian, Author-Date (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott. 2018. “An Interview with Cory Efram Doctorow (Part Two).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 17.A. www.in-sightjournal.com/doctorow-two.

Chicago/Turabian, Humanities (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott “An Interview with Cory Efram Doctorow (Part Two).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 17.A (July 2018). www.in-sightjournal.com/doctorow-two.

Harvard: Jacobsen, S. 2018, ‘An Interview with Cory Efram Doctorow (Part Two)In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 17.A. Available from: <www.in-sightjournal.com/doctorow-two>.

Harvard, Australian: Jacobsen, S. 2018, ‘An Interview with Cory Efram Doctorow (Part Two)In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 17.A., www.in-sightjournal.com/doctorow-two.

Modern Language Association (MLA, 7th Edition, 2009): Scott D. Jacobsen. “An Interview with Cory Efram Doctorow (Part Two).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 17.A (2018):July. 2018. Web. <www.in-sightjournal.com/doctorow-two>.

Vancouver/ICMJE: Jacobsen S. An Interview with Cory Efram Doctorow (Part Two) [Internet]. (2018, July; 17(A). Available from: www.in-sightjournal.com/doctorow-two.

License and Copyright

License

In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at www.in-sightjournal.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen, and In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 2012-2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen, and In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  All interviewees co-copyright their interview material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Three Administrations of Humanist Student Leaders Dialogue About Humanism: Hari Parekh, Hannah Lucy Timson, and Angelos Sofocleous

Interviewer: Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Numbering: Issue 17.A, Idea: Outliers & Outsiders (Part Thirteen)

Place of Publication: Langley, British Columbia, Canada

Title: In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Web Domain: http://www.in-sightjournal.com

Individual Publication Date: July 15, 2018

Issue Publication Date: September 1, 2018

Name of Publisher: In-Sight Publishing

Frequency: Three Times Per Year

Words: 6,674

ISSN 2369-6885

Abstract 

Hari Parekh, Hannah Lucy Timson, and Angelos Sofocleous are the President Emeritus, President, and President-Elect of Humanist Students, respectively. They discuss: becoming involved with Humanist Students; getting the word out about what Humanist Students does; the work by Sofocelous in secularism and humanism; the movement of humanism; professional accomplishments; similar faiths of the Parekh, Timson, and Sofocleous; and concluding feelings or thoughts.

Keywords:  Angelos Sofocleous, Hannah Lucy Timson, Hari Parekh, Humanist Students, President, President-Elect, and President Emeritus.

Three Administrations of Humanist Student Leaders Dialogue About Humanism: Hari Parekh, Hannah Lucy Timson, and Angelos Sofocleous[1],[2],[3]

1. Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Let us start with Hari, how did you become involved in Humanist Students, in brief?

Hari Parekh: In brief [Laughing], before Humanist Students was an entity, it used to be known as Atheist, Humanist, and Secular Students (AHS). That entity was the student sector for the British Humanist Association (BHA).

I originally started my own Atheist, Humanistic and Secular (AHS) society at the University of Northampton. It became the first society within the student sector to receive an award from its own Students Union for being the best society of the year, and for myself being the best president. During my second year at university, I was the East Midlands Regional Officer for the AHS – in which I supported the development of the society at the University of Leicester. During my final year at university, I was the New Societies Officer where I helped to start fifteen societies across the UK and Republic of Ireland, and the following year I was elected as President of the AHS during my MSc at the University of Nottingham. Thereafter, I was involved in the successful transition (with the support from the members) from the AHS to Humanist Students as it is now known, and am now President Emeritus of Humanist Students.

The AHS was taken under the wing by the BHA to support students at universities. The problem was, the way it was ran; all of it was organized and actualized by students. So, students were the cohort of the president, the treasurer, the secretary, and, as a result, with students being students having to manage an organization at the same time as managing their academic careers and everything else that they have to do, whether jobs or whatever else.

It meant the framework of the AHS at the time ran, ran pretty much on loose ends, when people had time to do it. As a result, it fractured the way students were supported. It fractured the way students were able to get involved with the student organization.

In actuality, it affected the progression. If you were a student at the time, it was less likely that you would be carrying on within the arena of humanism. It was unlikely that you would be in the arena of being an activist or being interested in what was occurring outside of the student sector.

The other thing is, it managed to last 10 years, but for those 10 years it had a steady decline. It is difficult to see those spaces form. It is difficult to see the gaps and see it sliding down. When others and myself, when I was president at the time, it was kind of about that time that the gaps were shown.

We thought that there needed to be a difference in how this was ran. We needed support from the BHA or more support for the administration and everything else. After the AGM last year in March, an independent review needed to see what the issues and qualms were.

In July, we had an AGM. The caucus passed the amendments to the organization. The changes occurred to the organization. It became Humanists Students, and was allowed to be a part of Humanists UK. Humanists UK supported Humanist Students in changing the way it operated.

It allowed for the new world of the student and youth coordinator in the office of Humanists UK to relinquish all of the advocacy that [Laughing] others and myself have to do. It balanced the load that others and I did, and Hannah and others will do in the future!

As a result, we are able to do the roles we were elected to do rather than the roles plus everything else. We had a good opportunity to re-energize the people interested in it. Those people that are not can observe from the sidelines and hopefully become a part of it later.

As president emeritus, to come back to your point, it has been to see it from a distance, to be there to support Hannah when she needed it and to play that role as an advisor.

Hannah Timson: Yes, so, from my perspective, it has been a bit more of a thing about a welcoming community. When I came to university, I didn’t really know what I believed. I called myself agnostic for a little while, but then I went with my friend, Sammy who is a physicist, to a meeting, It was an AHS meeting, where I met all of the people that I know now. I realized, “Wow, these people are speaking my language” [Laughing], but also that there was a community network that I may have missed not being part of a church group. A lot of people go to a community church group at university because they are looking for a welcoming community, there is nothing wrong with that. However, the fact that there was an alternative to that, where I could say, “It is okay that I don’t believe in this stuff.” That was what led me to the AHS. I hadn’t been that involved in the National organisation until I decided to last year and stood for president.

I think I stood because I realized the value of a community and political organization such as Humanists UK. By political, I do not mean sitting on one side or the other, but an organisation that actively pushes for changes for, in my opinion, a more liberal and better society. I realized the need for an organization that was accepting of everyone from all walks of life – regardless if they were religious or not, I think that is what led me to stand. I had a chat with Hari. I hadn’t met him, actually, at the time. We chatted [Laughing], and I thought he seemed cool and seem to think the same things as I do.

Parekh: Do you remember that chat?

Timson: I do, and it worked out! What I realized was with the role, it wasn’t about – I hate the term president to be honest, because the term “president” sounds so grand and, actually the job itself is putting yourself at the level of your fellow students and saying, “How can we work together?” – its about facilitating dialogue and bringing people together.

It is about building community with other people who may have similar values to our own, but also with the others who frankly don’t, it is highly important that we do that. This was a platform to do that sort of work, not only local but also national level. That is how I ended up where I am.

I am studying Theology and Religion, so this has always been a massive interest to me. Actually, one piece of highly untapped research that I have encountered in Religious Studies is a growing need to understand The non-religious. Even if we act in similar ways to the religious and have similar needs – whatever words you might use to describe those – there is something missing from the academic conversation.

“Who are those people in our society who are now the majority in Britain at least? Who are they? How do they act? How do they interact with other people who are religious?” That has always been a massive interest to me academically.

It has been nice to be involved in an organization that has been working to actively answer that question. Being non-religious doesn’t mean we can’t have community and can’t build important and interesting structures, even though the questions might be fluid. In some ways Humanity needs those structures in order to identify itself, develop and be progressive.

It has been really nice to be a part of an organization like that, its is nice from both the practical and academic sides.

Jacobsen: How about yourself Angelos?

Angelos Sofocleous: Firstly, a few things about myself, religious background, and how I got involved in humanism, in general. I grew up in an Orthodox Christian family and society, was a devout Christian myself, and followed religious practices. Apart from that, I also was what would someone describe an ultra right-wing nationalist, I believed in conspiracy theories, and also followed pseudoscience. At the age of 16-17, a few years before I went to university, I started a process of questioning the whole set of my beliefs, a process which lasted 1-2 years. I ended up on the opposite side of the spectrum on each of my beliefs, managing a full 180o turn. At the age of 21, when I went to university, I defined myself as an agnostic atheist. I was looking for a group to get involved in to meet people with whom we shared a similar worldview, and a place where I could develop and express myself. I found this in the AHS.

Now, on how I got involved with Humanist Students. At Durham University, I joined Durham Atheist, Secularist, and Humanist society (DASH). Mostly, the BHA supported us at the time, which is now Humanists UK. I first became an officer for DASH. The year after, I became president and became even more involved with the AHS and Humanists UK.

Through those organizations, I met many likeminded people, which, at the time, provided me a community feeling but, more importantly functioned as a think tank where ideas were exchanged and shared. I was also very glad to find out that there were other people like me, who started off as religious and then started to question their beliefs and became atheists.

In June 2017, the structure of the AHS changed and became Humanist Students. Later in the year, elections were held and I was elected by Humanist Students members as president-elect. It is not only a leadership role, I would agree with Hannah, but a community director role rather than just being a top figure in the organization.

It is about supporting all those who do not believe or who start to question things as we did at some point in our lives or still do. It is really important for non-religious people, or people who are skeptical about their religion (people who constitute the majority of the student body at UK universities) at all universities to feel that they have a community to which they belong; to feel that they have likeminded people in their universities.

Also, it really is not only about religion. We want people to start to think about freedom of speech in universities, blasphemy laws, and other things which are not directly related to religion. We want to develop a more freethinking mindset.

2. Jacobsen: If you look at the demographics of universities and university-colleges with the United Kingdom, there about 130 as of August 2017. I want to ask a question first to Hannah about the ways in which we find best to reach out to universities and the university-colleges in terms of getting the message out about humanism as well as the work that Humanist Students does.

Timson: At this stage, having changed the way that we work, we are now in about 119. We have about 800 students signed up to us, which is pretty good having only opened September time.

That is continuing to grow, we beat the target for this year [Laughing]. It is trial and error because we, obviously, do not know everything. Sean, who is the Student and Youth coordinator for Humanist Students, may know more because he knows more about how the Students Unions work.

It will be trial and error: What do people like? What is it people are interested in? How do you identify yourself? What is it that makes you want to be involved? A lot of outreach is via social media, and communication with student unions and saying, “Hey, we exist,” [Laughing], “Would you be interested in doing stuff with us? We’ll go to university Freshers weeks and run stalls etc., if there isn’t a current society and have been attending things like the National Union of Student’s Annual Conference and holding Fringe events.

We are not focusing on societies as the main affiliations of students. We are, as we say, placing the onus on the individual. We want them to feel like they are part of a bigger organization, but as individuals their opinion and the way that they want to do humanism and want to achieve and what they want to achieve is an individual process.

We have reached out, “So, we will open to all universities, whether they have a society or not. You can be a member of Humanist Students as well and get free access to Humanist UK material.” We are in about 119 universities and we have at least one student who identifies as a Humanist Student on those campuses. The question is now, how active are those students? That’s a question we are beginning to be able to understand. Then how we reach out to those members, is really just trial and error. We have our national conference coming in a month’s time. I do not know how many people we will get. I do not know if it will be a struggle. We have always struggled to kind of attract people.

This year, the focus is going to be on “Who are we? What do we want to achieve?” Whether we have 20 or more people, we can ask them because those are the people who have purported to support humanism in the UK. If we get 100 people, it means we have more voices and more independent addition to that conversation. However, obviously, the more people are involved and the more democratic you can become, so we are opening forums and looking to have ambassadors where there isn’t a society and asking, “There are 4 or 5 of you there. Would you be interested in starting a society?”

If there isn’t anybody or only a student, the idea is to say, “Okay well, would you be interested in being a representative when we have our society in Birmingham in being the ambassador for the Birmingham area?” We would give information to them in that area and then give them the contact and get them in contact with local groups and attempt to arrange local events with our help.

It would be to get the word out about humanism. We will have that set up when we have our conference set up in about three weeks time. It is a difficult one. But there are things that do work. We are setting up the foundation now. We are trying and seeing how far it can go.

We are and will continue to grow, I believe. 70%, based on the Vatican report, of young people in the UK, 116 to 29 years old, are non-religious. That’s a huge percentage, not all will be Humanists, but a large percentage will be. It is about reaching out and saying, “Hey, don’t be apathetic, let’s build community, let’s tackle this loneliness issue in young people, let’s tackle mental health by building communities that are safe and welcoming and open. Let’s look to the future and be positive and optimistic,” which is what I think humanism offers.

It is a starting place, but I think we will get there: trial and error [Laughing].

3. Jacobsen: Also, Angelos, you have a lot of editing and writing experience in the promotion of atheism, humanism, and secularism. How can other humanist university students develop those skills in order to articulate the humanist message on campus?

Angelos: One of the things that I included in my manifesto when I ran as a candidate for the election as the president-elect was to develop a magazine or blog or more generally a platform for humanist students to be able to express themselves.

We have, at the moment, over 700 members all across UK who, however, do not have a voice to express themselves through Humanist Students. We want to give them the opportunity to raise awareness about what is happening at their universities on issues relating to freedom of speech, human rights, treatment of religious societies.

We really want these issues to come out for people to know about them. Of course, in order to do this, it would be a good idea to have workshops at some of the next conferences.

But from there, it seems that students are, of course, able to express themselves. I am looking forward to giving students a platform to show what is going on at their universities.

Jacobsen: Hari, your own research at the graduate level was on the treatment of those who leave religion. In your time as the president-elect and president, and now as president emeritus, did you come across stories of individuals who had become apostates but then were living at home as students and were mistreated while in a religious home even though they themselves have renounced their religion?

Hari: I started the society back at the University of Northampton, where there was no society at the time for non-religious people. It was unheard of at the university or in the student population [Laughing].

When you get up and start a non-religious society in the campus, you turn some heads [Laughing]. You have people saying, “What are you doing? You are going against your skin color and who you are!.” Etc. I sense from that. The statement is made from within whatever household is whatever way you want to put it.

There is always going to be some sort of back question about what that person is doing and why they are doing it. When I started the society, there was a young lady had just renounced that she is not part of Islam anymore.

She said, “I told my parents at the time. You know what, they literally abandoned me and told me to leave. They told me to get out of the house and do not look back because she was not welcome anymore.” As a result of that, it let me know what else is going on and thinking, “Where else is this going?”

That is ridiculous. Evolutionarily, you have children, or as a social psychology argument, it makes no sense for going against them – they’re your children. This is where the emotionality of apostasy comes from, because it triggers a nerve with people that listen to the countless stories; working with Aliyah Saleem and Imtiaz Shams in Faith to Faithless for example, of people not being able to simply be open to the thought that their child/children could potentially think differently from yourselves – and as a result, they may not agree with you on things that you deeply care about. That should not stop you as a parent from loving, caring and looking after them. By abandoning or shunning your own child, all you are doing is facilitating the notion that the religious/cultural/traditional niche you identify as remains stringent, cold and isolative to those that think and feel differently.

As a result, the organizations highlight the emotionality and the problems that happen with it. The research shows this as well. It shows that this has not been tapped into much. It is something the academic community still struggles to identify as an issue. The reason for that is because, obviously, getting to people who have left their religious faith, that have been abused within their household, and actually getting to that community remains quite difficult.

It means that they have to be hidden. If it is not hidden, you end up losing everything that you lived for. There was a guy in Aston, in Birmingham, who said a few months ago, “I do not believe in any of the religious faith at the moment. I am a refugee. You know what, what am I left with if I renounce my religion? I am on the street and then homeless – because my family cannot process the idea or very thought of this being true. There is no reason for me to do this. There is no quality of life for me if I leave. What else can I do?”

It is for that reason to do the research, to highlight that population of people. It exists, most definitely.

4. Jacobsen: So, Angelos, when it comes to some of the movement of humanism, not only in university but outside of it, I ask because the students themselves with 2-4 years depending on the degree program the are a part of will become part of the general public.

So if that is the case, and it is, what are some healthy ways of transitioning that students could bear in mind when they are working not only within an academic environment – which is a closed environment for the most part – and learning about and developing a humanist life for the most part and also when they leave the university living that outside as well as they can?

Sofocleous: To be honest with you, most humanist groups functioning outside of university have this problem. There are not a lot of young people within those organizations. It is people in their 60s and 70s. These people are doing an amazing job, no doubt. They are educated, smart, intelligent, active. But, at the same time, we cannot continue to ignore the problem of sustainability these societies face. Younger generations need to take over.

As Humanist Students, we mostly address issues that affect young people. We realize, however, the problem that exists in the sustainability of humanist societies which function outside universities, and we try to take steps, within the broader framework of Humanists UK, to address this issue. We have, for example, the Young Humanists branch of Humanists UK, which accommodates for people aged 18 to 35. It is vital that we keep people within humanism when they are in that age group as it is during that period that people enter and leave university, get a job, and start raising a family. Thus, other priorities may act as a barrier, but there is always something that we can do.

It is important for them to receive help from us. Lots of young people are not involved in humanist groups in universities, but there is the potential for those people to get involved in humanism as, as surveys have shown, most are non-religious.

It is important to reach out and have those people who are not religious to know about us. There are people who are humanists for years and do not know about humanism as an ideology or a way of life. So, they do not publicly identify as humanists.

Jacobsen: Hari, you are farther along in your academic a career and academic completions than the three of us.

Parekh: [Laughing].

5. Jacobsen: When I reflect on some of the academic and professional accomplishments that you have, what are some issues that you might notice for those humanist youth that are further along in their studies or professional career in terms of still remaining active to some of the concerns noted by Angelos?

Parekh: [Laughing] It makes me feel a bit old. Longevity remains an issue, whether it is a student group, local group, or national. Longevity ensures that people remain encapsulated to the issues that once touched a nerve. But, as Angelos said previously, local groups have an attendance that are predominantly elderly. As a result, how can this be true with an increasing population of people identifying as non-religious?

I guess it remains important to highlight what Humanism actually is to a wider audience. The moment someone has a conversation about the actuality of humanism, the usual reply is, well that makes sense. As a result, it remains more important to engage in discourse, to make people aware of this ideological stance and to allow people to be able to ask questions without threat.

The other issue that remains is time. Working professionals, or people progressing within their studies are busy! It can be really draining to be at work throughout the day, to come home afterwards. To be fair, the best thing is rubbish television and an early night. So how does one occupy their spare time with activism or humanism when they have other priorities? The good part is that there is a good sense of transition from Humanist Students to Young Humanists for young people wanting to be involved. As a result, social media remains a great function to reach members from far afield.

It can be a long road before someone actually comes to the decision that they could be part of humanism. There remains no reason for the non-religious to attempt at converting people to being non-religious. It would be absurd. As a result, it is a decision that someone comes to on their own trail of thought. We are reliant on an individual’s ability to think differently to what they may have been brought up thinking, and this is why longevity is a factor – it is a difficult decision to come to, and as a result, we need to be more prepared to ensure that we can support people when they come to such a junction. We need to work to find ways in which young professionals and young adults can be more involved, where they can find their sense of purpose.

6. Jacobsen: Hannah, you had a background not only with the Amish, but also with the Evangelical Baptists or Evangelical Baptist communities and then transitioned into the humanist community. Same with Hari, being an apostate. Same with Angelos being a former Christian.

These are three common experiences. Two from similar faiths. One from another Abrahamic faith. These are narratives of transitioning from a religious faith, out of it, and into not only rejecting the faith in atheism but also affirming a humanist life.

What have been some similar experiences that you have noted from others as well as insight that you can bring to those who have not had religion discussed in the household and who grew up agnostics, atheists, and so on?

Timson: That is quite an interesting question. You do come across a lot of people – and this more and more the case – who simply never talked about religion. It has never been on their radar. I do not know. It is very interesting. I tend to find, and this will sound really cruel, that the people who come from religious backgrounds, who have transitioned from being religious to then being a Humanist, tend to have a hell of a lot more – this will sound really mean – empathy with people who are religious.

I think it takes time to get there because, I think, a lot of people when they first leave religion…

Parekh: [Laughing].

Timson: …are kind of mad. They are like, “Man, you have lied to me for all of this time,” [Laughing], “Like wow.” But then you realize, a lot of people did it out of love because they truly, truly believe in this religious tradition.

You can kind of empathize because you were in that position, because you did believe all of that stuff. A hell of a lot more than people perhaps who never talked about religion. It flummoxes me. I cannot empathize with people who don’t ask these questions, to be honest. My house is literally like a theology seminary. It is just non-stop conversation about the meaning of the universe and stuff. I sometimes I wish I could talk abut Jeremy Kyle.

That is the biggest difference that I have noticed. It is that there is a lot less empathy and understanding. But not everybody, obviously, this is a generalization from people who perhaps come from a less religious background. I also think there is an interesting conversation and something I am thinking about while I write my dissertation about non-religious people and how they interact with the religious people.

There seems to be a difference in language. This might have something to do with the empathy thing. Not necessarily the words that we use, but the way that we use them. I haven’t read enough studies on this, but it is quite interesting.

I will be on a panel with people who have never been religious, ever, and, obviously myself who was hugely religious – an Evangelical, proselytizing Christian [Laughing] – and I’ll be sitting beside people who think, “Wow, what idiots,” [Laughing], not everybody, but I tend to find there is more dismissiveness from people who have never been religious.

You are on this panel with somebody else who has never been religious. Perhaps, you are against the Evangelical Christian Union or whatever. There was this one time when, for example, we were discussing relatively interesting but, in my opinion, pointless questions of theological questions with some people from Oxford.

The answers from my friends, who have always been relatively non-religious; as logical and sensible as they were there was a kind of a lack of empathy, we didn’t speak the same language. When I spoke, people said, “Wow, you have got a heart. God is working in you.”

I was like, “That was not God.”

Parekh: [Laughing]…

Timson: “I am just a really soppy human being,” you know? I use very romantic language and always have. I do not know. This is not a scientific study. I have been to other debates with scientists. You have Christian scientists – not the Christian scientists who go looking for the Ark, but scientists who are Christians – and non-religious scientists.

You do see a marked difference in the way you use language in the conversations that you have. For me, actually, it has been a real – going to use the word – “blessing” [Laughing] or a real benefit to be able to use the language and understand what people say.

You can’t always, but generally to understand what people mean when they use certain words or say certain things, “God is in the space. Can you feel the Holy Spirit?” From my experiences,I can empathize, I do not say, as many do, “That is non-sense, what are they talking about?”

I think, “At this moment in time, they are expressing a feeling.” That ability to, in some ways, be bilingual is interesting. I was talking to Quakers, who tend to have a lot of non-theist Quakers – so are a mixture atheist and theist Quakers. Some will say, “This religious language is not useful in everyday life.  We do not use it in that way. We use it express ourselves, to express something that we can’t quite get out in secular terms.” That has been an interesting field of study for me because I couldn’t quite understand what people weren’t quite getting.

It was really frustrating when having conversations with other atheists. Having to say, “don’t you understand that these people aren’t stupid, that actually they are expressing their emotions and feelings in a way that perhaps people who have never been religious, there’s a dimension there that they have never ventured in to?” So therefore, there’s a whole realm of language that was never used. Maybe, you do not need to use it. But it is an interesting distinction.

Jacobsen: Any concluding statements or feelings? We are out of time.

Timson: I just think that it is very, very important to remember that humanism is an alternative. It is a community. It is growing, however, slowly it might feel. Sometimes, things take a little while to catch on, particularly among young people.

Young people are feeling disenfranchised from labels: Church of England, and this and that. People feel, I think, worried about this word “humanist.” We have a conversation about whether we call ourselves “Humanist Students” or the “AHS.”

Parekh: [Laughing]

Timson: The semantics of it all got a bit too much, but I think at the end of the day, we are trying to build a non-religious alternative and say, “You know what? You can think for yourself. You can do things for yourself, but sometimes you need some help.”

We are here to provide a community that says, “I will respect your actions. I will respect that things that you do, but I am here to catch you when you fall.” I think that is something that religion sometimes does, not always, but they have those structures in place. We need those in some ways. [Laughing] Maybe, people will probably not like to say that we can learn from religious organizations, but I think sometimes its unnecessary to reinvent the wheel [Laughing]. It is necessary as social creatures to have a support unit to catch you as you fall: no man is an island.

Quite a lot of the time, non-religious people either don’t think about it or they do think about it and are so mad about the whole organized religion thing that they reject all forms of structure and community and say, “I am better off on my own, don’t touch me.”

At the end of the day, you end up with communities that are quite lonely. Humanism is the answer to that. That’s my ending statement [Laughing].

Parekh: I think young people that are trying to understand religion better, trying to rationalize religion, trying to move away from religion – anyone of these situations is going to be difficult. There is always going to be the feeling of, if I leave my religious faith, what will make me feel secure. Religion has the ability to make people feel soothed and secure, and as a result, leaving their religious faith can be a really difficult decision for them to make.

This is the thing about religion. Religion does not happen in its own entirety. It happens in support of community, tradition, and culture. As a result, when people lose a religious faith or someone decides it is not for me and does not work, they are losing not just their religious faith, but also moving away in the eyes of others, from their culture and tradition and the system they know. By doing so, this creates the opportunity for that person to be shunned and abandoned by the people they love.

When they are at university and are isolated, and are alone, and like, “I am trying to find my feet again,” they may feel isolated and lonely. The issue: who is there to catch you before you fall? That is important. Having Humanist Student Societies on campus can help to support that person, to be their community.

This community should not be the isolated either, by supporting such students. It requires chaplaincy services at university, mental health services at university, further work from student unions to understand that there are people going through such niche transitions that need support.

There remains a need and a purpose to help students who are going through a transition of being non-religious whilst at the university. It is not the role of the non-religious society to convert them to a life of non-religion/ humanism, and it is definitely not the role of the chaplaincy service to convert them back to religion. It remains the individual’s sole decision, whether they decide to make the decision for themselves of whether they are religious or not. If you are just atheistic, that is fine. But there is a need and a purpose to have mechanisms that can support students in such a way.

Sofocleous: As a final point, I’d like to say that humanists are not obsessed with religion. Humanism is much bigger than that – it is not only for non-religious people. It is also for people who are skeptics and like to question things, question pseudoscience, people who fight for freedom of speech and human rights.

As humanists, we base our approach to issues that concern humanity and human societies on reason and rational thinking, which for most of us is a way away from religion and towards science and rationalistic ways of thinking. That is really a characteristic of humanists.

It is also the case that most of us are ex-religious – I don’t know if I would prefer to grow up as an atheist – probably I would. But, as a non-religious person, I can now see the ‘positive’ side of me growing up in a religious environment. Like most other humanists I’ve met, we are able to understand the spread of fear, irrational thinking, and discrimination, among others, that takes place in religious communities. We are able to know how religious people think, and that’s because we were, at some point in our lives, one of them.

This is not to say that we should build barriers between religious and non-religious people. Not at all. It really helps to bring both non-religious and religious people together in the way that we can communicate with them because it really is important that we speak the same language when we communicate.

7. Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, everyone.

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] President Emeritus (Hari Parekh); President (Hannah Lucy Timson); President-Elect (Angelos Sofocleous).

[2] Individual Publication Date: July 15, 2018: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/parekh-timson-sofocleous; Full Issue Publication Date: September 1, 2018: https://in-sightjournal.com/insight-issues/.

Appendix II: Citation Style Listing

American Medical Association (AMA): Jacobsen S. Three Administrations of Humanist Student Leaders Dialogue About Humanism: Hari Parekh, Hannah Lucy Timson, and Angelos Sofocleous [Online].July 2018; 17(A). Available from: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/parekh-timson-sofocleous.

American Psychological Association (APA, 6th Edition, 2010): Jacobsen, S.D. (2018, July 15). Three Administrations of Humanist Student Leaders Dialogue About Humanism: Hari Parekh, Hannah Lucy Timson, and Angelos SofocleousRetrieved from http://www.in-sightjournal.com/parekh-timson-sofocleous.

Brazilian National Standards (ABNT): JACOBSEN, S. Three Administrations of Humanist Student Leaders Dialogue About Humanism: Hari Parekh, Hannah Lucy Timson, and Angelos Sofocleous. In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 17.A, July. 2018. <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/parekh-timson-sofocleous>.

Chicago/Turabian, Author-Date (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott. 2018. “Three Administrations of Humanist Student Leaders Dialogue About Humanism: Hari Parekh, Hannah Lucy Timson, and Angelos Sofocleous.” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 17.A. http://www.in-sightjournal.com/parekh-timson-sofocleous.

Chicago/Turabian, Humanities (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott “Three Administrations of Humanist Student Leaders Dialogue About Humanism: Hari Parekh, Hannah Lucy Timson, and Angelos Sofocleous.” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 17.A (July 2018). http://www.in-sightjournal.com/parekh-timson-sofocleous.

Harvard: Jacobsen, S. 2018, ‘Three Administrations of Humanist Student Leaders Dialogue About Humanism: Hari Parekh, Hannah Lucy Timson, and Angelos SofocleousIn-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 17.A. Available from: <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/parekh-timson-sofocleous>.

Harvard, Australian: Jacobsen, S. 2018, ‘Three Administrations of Humanist Student Leaders Dialogue About Humanism: Hari Parekh, Hannah Lucy Timson, and Angelos SofocleousIn-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 17.A., http://www.in-sightjournal.com/parekh-timson-sofocleous.

Modern Language Association (MLA, 7th Edition, 2009): Scott D. Jacobsen. “Three Administrations of Humanist Student Leaders Dialogue About Humanism: Hari Parekh, Hannah Lucy Timson, and Angelos Sofocleous.” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 17.A (2018):July. 2018. Web. <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/parekh-timson-sofocleous>.

Vancouver/ICMJE: Jacobsen S. Three Administrations of Humanist Student Leaders Dialogue About Humanism: Hari Parekh, Hannah Lucy Timson, and Angelos Sofocleous [Internet]. (2018, July; 17(A). Available from: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/parekh-timson-sofocleous.

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