The Problem With Diversity

In the above diagram Kircher arranges eighteen objects in two vertical columns and then determines he number of arrangements in which they can be combined. By the same method Kircher further estimates that fifty objects may be arranged in 1,273,726,838,815,420,339,851,343,083,767,005,515,293,749,454,795,408,000,000,000,000 combinations. From this it will be evident that infinite diversity is possible, for the countless parts of the universe may be related to each other in an incalculable number of ways; and through the various combinations of these limitless subdivisions of being, infinite individuality and infinite variety must inevitably result. Thus it is further evident that life can never become monotonous or exhaust the possibilities of variety.

This drought and famine in Somalia is considered one of the worst humanitarian crisis in decades. But, the current wave of border crossings is one among a long history of refugee making by war.

A few years ago I talked with Somali Hip Hop artists living outside of Somalia. Here’s a little part:

Ilkacase and Barmudo Boyz’s Sacabka II Tuma, clap for me, is a song described to me by Somali filmmaker Abdisalam Aato, who lives in Columbus, Ohio as “just about showin’ we Somali.” This song is awesome, and inspired me to talk with Somali rappers and musicians living around the world, through MySpace and phone calls. The video posted above also visibly constructs a space where viewers discuss feelings of connection to the song, and to Somali belonging.

TaleexSweety posted a comment similar to many others on the Sacabka II Tuma page, praising the song for its enactment of Somali identity: “This song is very inspiring and is a wake call for many of us whose identity is still blurry.” Here, TaleexSweety is thanking the song for giving a Somali identity, but it is not only the song that constructs Somali identities, it is the video, and the ways it is circulated on the Internet, as well as the comments that it provokes, and the thoughts it evokes; she too, a 23 year old who lives in New Zealand, is constructing a multiply engaged Somali identity through participation, articulation and contribution to a Somali public space.

Maybe one day I’ll post the whole article, but the gist is that Somalis have been forced to move from their geographic homes… So, from their mobile locations on the Internet, Somali rappers are building a new Somalia, constructing conceptions of being Somali, and forging connections with other transnational, mobile Somalis. The Somali rap songs and the communities they engage, produce different ways of imagining, thinking about and discussing Somalia, and new ways of relating to or interacting with each other, across national places. From these spaces for commenting, connecting, imagining and remembering opened by the songs, videos and Internet forums, Somalia as both a place of ruin and possibility emerges. Longing for Somalia as a geographic or national place is evoked. But, the Somalia of the exile’s youth has changed, and continues to change, in part through the refugee rappers’ songs, traveling to and circulating through Somalia for them.

A very interesting look at a very interesting man- Dennis Hopper and the making of the Last Movie

Manly P. Hall’s Philosophical Research Society

Founded in 1934 as a place of learning for all spiritual traditions bringing together philosophy religion science. 

“To learn is to live, to study is to grow, and growth is the measurement of life. The mind must be taught to think, the heart to feel, and the hands to labor. When these have been educated to their highest point, then is the time to offer them to the service of their fellowman, not before.” Manly P. Hall

Author and Philosopher.  Best known for The Secret Teachings of All Ages written when he was 25.  33° Mason (highest degree). 

 A bust of HP Blavatsky made by Hall

Rare books library open to the public.  Many of these books were from his private collection.  The same private collection that Carl Jung borrowed from when writing Psychology and Alchemy.  This library however keeps very odd hours.  Best to check hours before visiting. 

And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.

 

“I’m glad I started here. I’m glad I started by sharing space…”

—Niki


Inside

Shining silver necklaces, and sparkling cell phone cases adorn the windows, and t-shirts hang over the door I walk through. Stalls full with different items line the narrow, long center aisle of the store, creating a hallucinatory experience, disorienting, but pleasurable. Once I become accustomed to the small, full space, I can see that everything is quite separated, but not in an isolated way. Zubair, from South India is selling calling cards to a man from Chad who works in the garment district. He stands in the booth next to New York born, Dominican college student Michelle, who sells perfume for her Pakistani boss. Niki, a former social worker and mother of two from Nigeria walks to her cosmetics stall, greeting Paul from Nepal who sells cell phones. Parag who used to work in an office in India, sells belt buckles and other metallic bling, such as gold fronts and chains next to his “brother” Samy from Guinea who sells oversized urban and “hip hop style” T-shirts. The Ghanaian woman, who would not tell me her name, pushes by, opening up a cooler with food she makes for people who work on the block. Three young West African men, who are waiting for her, pull food out of the cooler, and then stand talking for a while before heading out to the street. She also sells African fabrics “from overseas,” across from Charlie who is originally from Mumbai. Charlie sells a variety of electronics, and has been in the United States for 25 years, with his now adult children and wife. He tells me that the wholesale district is not doing so well, and that he would like to return to India, but it is difficult since his children are not from India, and only know New York as their home.

This is one storefront in the wholesale district on Broadway, with people from different places selling different things. These descriptions are not used to show the different people and their different objects. The store is not a discrete multicultural package, and the individuals in the store are not representatives of or from their countries. The individuals, the things they sell and their interactions are more complex, and not bound by predetermined categories. Parag does not sell Indian handicrafts, like Mike from Bangladesh who works in the store next door. Zubair sells international calling cards, to African customers, “most of them are from African countries, and some from my country…. They say ‘I have to call because they keep calling me and sending me messages saying to send them money.” A customer from Chad stands and talks with Zubair for much longer than is needed to fulfill a commercial transaction. Unexpected and new interactions are possible through the full and busy space. Niki is excited by all of the different people she meets on the street and in the store. “I see a lot of traffic of African people. What fascinates me, is that I’m from Africa, from Nigeria. I’ve seen people from South Africa, met people from Senegal, Mali, different places that I’m never used to.” Niki talks about speaking to people from places she had only previously learned about in geography class, “Burkina who?” She explains that especially when she’s not selling, she can learn new things. “I ask people about different things, like I ask people from Liberia how they feel about their president being a female.”

Shared Space

The interactions, conversations, movements and engagements between the vendors, customers, window shoppers, workers, products and the space itself, creates this particular site as a shared space. When asked about relationships with other vendors in the shared space, I’m told that they just work next to each other. Zubair says, “It’s not like friendship, we know each other only through this place.” But, this place occupies a large part of the vendor’s day; the space generates connections. As I stand in the small, narrow aisle of the store, I listen to ongoing conversations that are familiar. Michelle, the perfume vendor explains that they spend so much time together, “we’re all in a friendly environment and you get to see each other everyday.” Seeing each other everyday also produces a space for sharing, learning, changing. “You get to learn different things. I get to learn because I’m Catholic, and I don’t know anything about the Muslim culture or the Hindu culture, so I learn different things. There’s diversity in here. That’s a good thing. Language… I guess I understand it a little bit, but I don’t know how to speak it…. you see all the different cultures and the food, the religions are different from what you are, so you listen.”

Besides the interpersonal relationships, there are also connections that make business easier for the vendors in the space. Niki, who is three weeks new to the store explains that she would not be able to sell her products if she wasn’t in a shared space. The lower overhead costs, and higher volume of traffic is a helpful way to see if a business can survive. “Sharing space is the way to go now that the economy is slow. And if you’re trying something new. Now I’m thinking, I’m testing it, testing if it’s worth it or not…” Sharing a space allows her to be more flexible and lets her avoid the logistics of store management. “It saves me, I don’t have to pay utility bills and I don’t have to hire somebody right now. And if anyone comes, and I’m not here, they can tell whoever that this is usually my schedule, and if they’re interested they can always come back. But, if I own my own store I won’t be able to walk around…. if you have your own store to yourself you can’t afford to have it closed.” This flexibility is important, because Niki does not only sell cosmetics for black women, she is also a mother, with an active life full of engagements, appointments and interests. Niki herself is flexible, and so it is extremely useful to be a part of a space that allows for, and encourages flexibility and different kinds of work habits. Charlie, who is considered the “boss,” although he really is a vendor like the others, comes in at 6:30 am to open the store, and usually stays until late. Niki acknowledges Charlie’s help, and knows that she could not start her business without the others. “I’m not starting early, and I’m not leaving late either. And I believe my merchandise is safe. I trust. There’s trust.” She not only trusts that her products are safe, but that if she is not in, another vendor will give an interested customer a business card, and let them know when she will be back.

Time

The space transforms and is transformed by the individuals and the products, as they work, see, are understood together and in relation to each other. The space and the street are given different meanings through the commercial and personal interactions and relationships. But, this is a temporary shared space. The wholesale district is changing. Empty lots and scaffolding are evidence of the shops that have been recently forced out by new developments. Rumors and stories are circulating in the area. Niki tells me “I heard that most of the building around here by next year or two years to come they may not be renting them out for business anymore. The new owners who are purchasing these buildings now are more interested in changing them into hotels, condos, and we don’t know the future of Broadway business. I’ve seen so many businesses close down because the landlord refuse or will no longer renew the lease. So, they are out of business or they look for somewhere else. By next year we don’t know what’s going to happen. So, you’ve come at the right time.” I ask what she will do. She laughs, “that’s  why I’m glad that I’m just renting the space,” but then becomes more serious, thoughtful, “I believe before then, if people decide to move somewhere else, people probably will go together to another different location and hopefully they won’t lose their customers. Hopefully. But I don’t know yet.”