In one of my ever more frequent moments of self-adulation, I gave in to ScientistMother’s apparently harmless interview offer. Why not, I thought — it is an easy way to produce a post. After all, what kind of questions could possibly be coming my way… “What is your favorite ice cream flavor ?”… “Do you think the name of the soccer player belongs on the back of his jersey ?”… “emacs or vi ?”…
Alas, the interviewer (a shrewd, career-minded reporter, eyeing a spot on some prime time investigative TV show) decided to go on the offensive, doubtless trying to land her big scoop by exposing to the public some yet unknown trait of my multi-faceted personality… I know these people, nothing is ever off limits when dealing with a celebrity…
Now I have to answer really sticky questions, each one fraught with danger; only my experience of consumed bullsh… I mean, blogger, can save me… Well, I say bring it on, young lady — my weapons will be my wit, my cowardice and my legendary lameness.
Interviewer: Thank you for finally agreeing to be interviewed
Oh, you know how reserved I am… I am just doing this for my readers.
Interviewer: What made you choose Canada to immigrate to ?
I left my country of birth almost twenty-two (ouch) years ago, and moved to the United States to be a physics graduate student. I suppose I could have been one at home as well, but, hey, we are only given one life to live, and I thought, what the hell…
Initially I thought I would stay for a few years only — enough time to get my PhD and then I would head back home. But, one thing led to another, opportunities abounded on this side of the ocean, whereas back home things are chronically stagnant. Meanwhile, I found myself liking living in the US a lot, made friends, met my wife… So, after fifteen years, I figured that I would never live anywhere else, and Canada was not even on the radar screen…
But then, almost out of the blue, came a much better professional opportunity for me. I would do exactly the kind of work that I had always wanted to do, in the setting that I preferred (something that I would probably not have achieved in the US… I think), and that opportunity was in Canada. I considered it very seriously, I was lucky enough to enjoy the full support of my wife (we lived in a very desirable location back then), and once again I thought “What the hell…”.
Over the past seven years I have grown to like Canada. I became a citizen one year ago. It is different than the US, for some things I like it better, for others I miss being south of the border. At this point, this place is what I call home.
Interviewer: What is your favorite season ?
Spring, hands down — especially early Spring. Early Fall comes close second. Summer is not even a runner-up. As for Winter… well, this is a family oriented blog, I try to avoid foul language.
Interviewer: What is your idea of a perfect date ?
Any date with my wife. They are all perfect.
Interviewer: Haha.. no, but, seriously, what is it ?
That is the only answer to that question that you are going to get from me.
Interviewer: OK… do you even begin to understand how lame it is ?
Interviewer: I think I am gonna puke
Puke away, ma’am…
Interviewer: You are so full of it
I am flattered.
(Interview stops for a few moment… interviewer comes back from the restroom)
Interviewer: You are pretty far left leaning, would you consider yourself a communist?
What ?? Are you out of your mind ? Did you just call me a commie ? Me, one of those child-hating, bible-burning, tree-hugging, garbage-recycling, terrorist-loving, gayness-advocating, pot-smoking, tofu-eating, latte-drinking, hemp-wearing, nudity-encouraging, property-trespassing, flag-disrespecting, military-ridiculing, hybrid-driving girly men, as my one and only hero would call them ?
Interviewer: I did not call you anything, I have just asked you whether you would consider yourself…
Well, I have a high consideration of myself, indeed !
Interviewer (sighing): OK, listen, shall I write “yes” ?
Maybe… it depends.
It’s a loaded word, for sure, with many different meanings. This day and age, in the mind of most people “communism” is inextricably entangled with the experience of the former Soviet Union — a brutal tyranny, which terrorized its own citizens, suppressed basic freedoms and engaged in foreign military expansionism. And, it did all that while largely failing to achieve the goals of the ideology from which it claimed to take inspiration. In that sense, I cannot ever call myself a “communist”.
Although I do not believe that the experience of the former Eastern bloc countries is only and entirely negative, for the most part it is — I do not see how any realistic, viable future political movement can be built upon such a foundation. If anything, it should serve as a constant reminder to all progressives, of the difficulty and dangers of any road to radical societal transformation. At the same time…
Interviewer: yes… ?
At the same time, I cannot imagine capitalism, in its current form, being viable for much longer. I am not even talking about the current financial crisis that the world is experiencing, which may be just part of the normal business cycle.
Each time I try to envision what the world will look like a hundred, or even fifty years from now, a world whose population is still growing (albeit at a slowing pace) on a planet whose resources are limited, and for which competition will be increasingly harsher (especially as standards of living in the third world go up), I cannot think of anything other than a much higher level of societal organization, cooperation beyond national borders, equitable distribution of goods, greatly reduced militarism, and (I suspect) much less individualism (at least of the type that is celebrated in a society like the United States — I think that that kind of individualism only thrives for a short time, when the density of population is as low as it has been in the US until now). All of this seems to go in the direction of socialism, not capitalism.
Now, if you ask me what path the world should take, in order to get to that point, my answer would have to be “I do not know”. But I like to think about that journey, and I also think that it would be a useful debate for society to entertain, even (and in fact especially) within our very different opinions.
Interviewer: This is my favorite question, so everyone is getting asked…
What do you mean ? Is this not a special list of questions made just for me ?
Interviewer: You do have a high consideration of yourself, don’t you…
And you think you are soooo smart…
Interviewer: Anyway, if you could invite any person (living or dead) for dinner, who would you invite?
I don’t need to invite her, I can have dinner with her every evening…
Interviewer (rolling eyes): Oh, stop it…
All right, fine…. that was my first answer, though… Let’s see… living or dead.. that’s a good question… am I paying, or are they ?
OK, OK… I would have to go with Enrico Fermi.
Interviewer: Why ?
I am fascinated with his character. I often try to imagine what he would have been like, as a person, something that I can do more easily for other scientists based on what has been written about them. Very little is known about Enrico Fermi the man, while of course, the accomplishments of the scientist are well known.
If I could invite more than one, Italo Calvino, Henri Laborit, Malcolm X and Marilyn Monroe would receive invitations too.