Reporting from the Front Line in Palestine, with Amiria Hass

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@hass_haaretzI was not familiar with Amira Hass before this lecture.  She is an Israeli Jewish reporter following events in occupied Palestine.  She spoke in Dunedin at the end of April 2015.

She opened with the statement that Palestinian resistance is neither violent, nor non-violent.  It is based on their status as victims.  It is not free to be exclusively either violent or non-violent.  That is not an option.

Israeli violence, physical and bureaucratic, is not reported.

Gazans have no freedom of movement of movement from Gaza to the West Bank for better education, or to study abroad.  There is simply no freedom of movement between the Palestinian enclaves within Israel.  The enclaves are like low lying islands in an Israeli sea, and rising sea levels will drown them.

Violence does not provide answers.  There is no hope of an ending to repression, only retaliation.  There is no hope in a third uprising.  Protest is dangerous.  The leadership is divided between Hamas and Fatah, and it is convenient for Israel to keep them entrenched in their power bases.

Those enclaves become islands of normal living, hermetically sealing the unjust world outside its doors.  And people cheat to survive and live in those tiny islands of normalcy, finding an education, renovating and planting gardens, keeping the outside world at bay.  They live in their own bantustans.

What will happen?  Change will not come from Israel.  Israel will not reverse its military achievements.  After the holocaust there is no other place for them to go.  Change could come from the Palestinians, if they can start change, if the opportunity is there.  Israel has two people and one nation, a description that most New Zealanders can understand.  The development of the two peoples remains unequal, and Israel shows no vision to accomodate and contain its internal neighbours.  Israel still benefits from the occupation.

Not a concise lecture, nor a conclusive one.  Interesting, and perhaps there is still hope before change of civilisations wipes away all alternatives.

A moving landscape of wildlife genetics – Stephen O’Brien

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A lecture from a couple of weeks ago from visiting professor Stephen O’Brien, who was visiting New Zealand as a guest of the Allan Wilson Centre. This was part of the Allan Wilson Centre’s final series of visiting speakers.

There could be more genetic diversity among zoo animals than exists in the wild, making it important for zoos to exchange animals to keep genetic diversity.  Cheetahs have no genetic diversity.  Their descent is so closely related that skin grafts are not rejected when transplanted on unrelated animals.  Sometime about 12 000 years ago an event led to the near loss of the cheetah species.  They survived by breeding among siblings, a situation that lasted for 20 generations, fixing their genetics as permanent.

The Florida Panther of the Big Cypress Swamp came close to being inbred to the point of high probability of extinction.  Eight female pumas from a closely related species were introduced to the breeding population, allowing the panther numbers to bounce back threefold.  The inbreeding was bred out, with stronger specimens.  The survival was so successful the big cats have been sighted in Floridan parking lots.

Cats have been a successful species of mammals.  They migrated across all the world’s major landmasses.  Only Australia, New Zealand, Antarctica and the Arctic do not have native species.  There are 37 cat species.  Over 10 million years new breeds of cats emerged: house cats; Asian big cats, South American big cats, lynxes and puma, North American big cats, Asian golden cats, and the great cats.  They radiated out into new species following the rise and fall of sea levels between the continents over 10 million years.  From Asia to Africa, and to North America, down into South America, and back to Asia.  The Lions went to North America, the Pumas to South America and back again.  Did leopards follow humans out of Africa, extending as far as Russia and Java.

Tiger conservation has stalled, running over the same territory of policy again and again.  Tigers were once wider in their range and could be re-introduced to the Caspian Tiger range.  Tiger reserves still survive in the Russian Far East as the Altaic Tiger.

Once mammals were represented by little insectivores that kept out of the way of dinosaur preditors.  The KT event that drove the dinosaurs extinct left the mammals to radiate into a wide number of vacant eco-niches which they did successfully as new families of species emerged: carnivores, rodents, elephants, and others.  It takes one and a half million years to establish a new species.  It ain’t over till it’s over.

Reshaping the Baton – Takashi Shogimen

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otago047190An inaugural professorial lecture I attended a couple of weeks ago as the University of Otago recognised Professor Takashi Shogimen.  As the season changes and becomes colder I fall behind in updating and reporting on my blog.  I run to catch up with myself.

Professor Shogimen started looking at William of Ockham.  His field of study was looking at the rise of the metaphor of the health of the body politic in European medieval history.  He moved on to study modern Japanese history, what happens when speech and dissent is supressed during a period of history when society is going mad.  Both these periods of history includes dissenters, political theorists who are thinking about unjust government and the legitimacy of dissent.

One must learn how to read what is written before the front cover of a monograph.

Katsumi Nakamura

History is written in context of a person’s experience in life, and education.  As the reader begins to read the reader must look between the lines and behind the words to find the historian’s context.

So my context would have to start in the anglophone Pakeha New Zealand culture in which I am embedded.  My values are based on the authority of individual conscience.

History is not about teaching skills.  It requires us to think about issues of men and women in a past different to our own time.  The academic freedom of the university is subject the struggles of economic gods and powers.  The intellectual pursuit of knowledge should be judged on academic grounds free of economic power.  The crisis of the humanities is the crisis of the univerisities.