Pride Parade, Belgrade 2015

12046675_1163833180298610_1937147492725605469_nThe successful gay parade this year in Belgrade resulted in a rather dirty aftermath among the participants.

I am pleased that this year this dangerous, always threatened event was a truly “gay” parade. People threw flowers at the participants instead of spitting on them or beating them.  I wasn’t there myself, but I saw the social media coverage, because various notable political and other stars marched along with the gay activists, attracting plenty of attention. The parade looked rather normalized, like a gay pride parade anywhere outside the Balkans.

Normalized, that is, except for the presence of Women in Black.  Women in Black were, of course, the first group in Serbia that ever supported gay rights.  They sheltered draft evaders, especially gay ones, in their own homes.  But that was then, and this is now, so when a Woman in Black delivered an activist speech during the Pride Parade, she got as much sexist and offensive reaction as the gays used to get in the bad old days.

How did Women in Black became the new gays of the present season?  It’s ironic to see modern politicians, academics and intellectual stars in Serbian contemporary life hastily seizing credit for this long, bloody, twilight struggle, while Women In Black become objects of blame.

The pioneers, those who were prematurely correct, are often attacked by the new status quo they created themselves.  They get insults instead of public credit, while the usual boring limelight seekers sweep up whatever the situation offers in the way of political correctness and lucrative gain.

This doesn’t surprise me, I’ve seen it happen everywhere.  So I said to myself: never mind it, this is the victory condition.   When you truly succeed in changing society, everybody steals your clothes. The dismal epoch of the Yugoslav 1990s is behind us.  A new generation has reached adulthood, new political styles have arisen.  It’s parochial to dwell on Yugoslav civil wars in an era when Ukraine and Syria are bleeding as badly, or worse.

These are new times, and there is a wrongness to clinging to the condition of warfare. Resolving a trauma needs the courage to accept the sad truth, to find value in the life after the suffering.

But on mature consideration, I was still angry and sad about the way Women in Black were disrespected by those they had always helped. I know that history was often written by the winners. I know that the first voices of protest are never heard.  I know that women who change history never got the public credit for the change. On the contrary: they would not be merely ignored, but harshly rejected. But this is not like that anymore.

Women who seek to serve the public good tend to choose a dignified and diffident form of activism. They don’t want fame, they want change.  I can remember Juliet Mitchell, a famous feminist activist and psychoanalyst writer, telling me how she avoided putting her name to her own writing; everyone in her group acted in public unity.

Much the same went for “Women in Black:” they were never female stars  dressed in fashionable little black dresses, they were women publicly united by the harsh reality of their grief. I know those humble, intelligent and shy faces of my friends.  They would never step out in the glare of limelight, unless to speak some unspeakable truth, or to protect those who needed help.

In 2001 I was one among those persecuted and assaulted in the streets of Belgrade for defending gays.  It was not a popular political position, so I was ostracized by the very same political factions and cynical celebrities who now so easily steal our clothes. Never satisfied with their own  fame and glory, they are driven to deny us the pioneer work we did with  insults.

Thank you, straight and fancy modern Belgrade, for not being brutally antigay anymore. It’s a modern marvel to see Belgrade as a moral exemplar compared to Damascus, Budapest and Moscow. Enjoy that, but you’d better watch your step, for the primrose path of opportunists and liars is beset with thorns. Those who dig a pit will fall in it, even when they try to rewrite history.  Beware, for women everywhere are forced to dress in black today.

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My Stolen Life

USB My Life My stolen bagMy handbag was stolen two months ago. It happened in seconds in a mall in Turin , Italy. I never saw the thief, and neither did my husband, sitting two meters from the scene of the crime a fast food Japanese restaurant.

How is such criminal skill even possible? There was almost nobody around.  Now, after two months, I do vaguely remember though a nice young woman, sitting with a child, next to my table. Was it she who grabbed my bag off the back of a chair and escaped with it?

A week later, I read that a gang of four women, convicted of serial handbag thefts in Italy, was finally put behind the bars.  Even though found guilty several times, they were always released from custody because they had either small children or were pregnant.  So maybe they relied on the handbags of other women to feed their numerous children?!

But that would be a topic for a novel, and not what I want to write about. I will focus on this accident from a different angle. Because it can only be compared to an accident, a personal disaster, as if a truck ran over me.  No use asking, was it my fault?  Should I blame myself for leaving my chair to order a second beer to go with my sushi?  And why on earth did I center my earthly life inside one rather small handbag?   Why did I visit  a shopping mall taking with me all of my traveling documents, credit cards, checkbook,  USB backup, health insurance card, iphone, address book, prescriptions, etc.

I used to carry everything in one bag during the bombings in Belgrade, Serbia , or during political demos when I might have been arrested. But in those dire-straits years, in the nineties, my home was never bombed and I was not jailed by the Serbian police. I didn’t even lose my bag.

However, in 2004, during a pleasant event in Amsterdam, in peace, my handbag was stolen in a bar.  I was traveling, so I lost pretty much lost the same set of documents, meaning all I could carry to support my life on the road.   I lost cash,  credit cards, phone, some jewelry, my diary, my address book, my passport, my visa.   But the damage I suffered 11 years ago cannot be compared to the damage I suffered a month ago.  The thieves have gotten much better.

Within half an hour, they managed to rush to ATM machines with my bank cards and, without a PIN or a credit limit, they robbed the banks of far more money than I could legally withdraw myself.  These “forchetta” hacks, which involve some kind of ATM hacking gadget, are getting pretty well known.  But of course the banks don’t want to take responsibility for these thefts.  They prefer to pretend that the ATMs are secure, and want me to absorb the loss.

Then there are travel documents.  In 2004 I could replace them without much fuss, but this is an age of terrorism.  So, far as my documents are concerned: Italian, Serbian and American: for each piece of plastic that I’ve carried for years on end, I have to go to the original country to have my biometrics redone.  I must pay all the  uncomfortable costs of travel without  any documents, while waiting for the new ones, being interrogated about my life! As if I weren’t already in their databases; as if they had never heard of me, as if I had never existed!  I was robbed, so I am the suspect.

This disaster crippled my daily life for the following two months.  I still cannot travel as I want, work, or pay .  I realize how vulnerable we are nowadays, since we’re supported by data and electronic gates and barriers. My USB key contained non encrypted backup of my computer’s hard disk. I carefully backed up all my books, essays, mail, films,  photos, music  and various secrets. Published and unpublished.  I am exposed totally, these thieves, if they bother to look, can know everything about me.  They have my email addresses, they know my friends and foes.   They even have the keys to my front door.

In some ways, losing access to your home and documents is worse than having your home and documents physically destroyed.  Because it means that someone can interfere with my life, they have stolen the power to spy on me at will.  My daily life has been hacked, and somebody else is, if not living my stolen life through fake ID, then at least surveilling it. I live in subconscious fear of blackmail, threats, violence!

The police told me theft like mine happens everyday, to many people.  And indeed, sometimes hackers steal entire databases of people’s names, addresses, credit cards — colossal leaks of a quarter of a million people at once.  Even American spies with security clearances have had their security declarations stolen by the Chinese.  How humiliating to be a SONY executive and have your business emails leaked by tools of the North Koreans.  Or to be an activist stalked by political enemies who want to aggressively “dox” you and your family.

Will I ever get my dear purse back?  Often the victims get their documents back through some weird channels, or just from the trash collectors.  But not in my case.

I am still waiting for the second shoe to drop. I have a feeling this is not the end. It depends on the fantastic skill of the thieves and my legal ability to fight them back and re-assert my existence to bankers, police and immigration bureaus. I could write a novel on a twilight struggle of this kind.

One feels that the stakes are growing and the pace of the trouble is accelerating.  Still, I will never forget that July 6th between 1.30 and 2.00 PM.  A very close friend of mine died that very day at that very hour.  It was an unlucky, scarifying moment, although no one killed me, no one struck me or bruised me,  I was stripped of my virtual identity.  The impact of  that loss is like a virtual rape, a small death in itself.

Oh yes, one small detail: during the war times I carried sleeping pills in my bag: enough to put me to sleep forever, if I had to avoid torture.  (I had read that Freud family did the same during World War II, and it seemed like a wise precaution.)   Sometimes, in conditions of real fear, it is a psychological comfort to feel that one can put a clean end to one’s self.    But what about my virtual life?  What unknown antitheft device could ever put a clean end to that?

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We are all Refugees

In English, in French11909508_1171524932864041_4877756800872856132_nOnce11892206_10153133822977643_8404134162947521449_n I was a refugee, too.  During the fall of former Yugoslavia, I visited many refugees camps all over the war-torn region.   I edited a book of  refugee stories.

Every war is different, so we should never put  wars into the same theoretical box, or placed on the same vanity shelf.   But anybody can become a refugee. Rich or poor, black or white, male or female, adult or a child.  There can never be absolute safety on Earth, and empathy is even rarer here.

Only few weeks ago, in downtown Belgrade, I saw the latest wave of refugees to cross that city.  As it happened, I’d just lost my purse to bag thieves, who carried off my legal and residency documents.  So I was distracted and rather oblivious of the world’s newly colossal refugee situation.  Wrapped in my own woes, I didn’t at first understand why these rather  decent-looking people were sleeping, eating and camping under the blasting August sun, next to the Belgrade bus and railway station.

I queued with them at the kiosk.  They were extremely polite and I must admit even dignified. They didn’t look ragged or out of their minds. They were unhappy but purposeful.

A Moroccan friend of mine later told me: the Syrian people are the best among all of us Arabs. Their culture, their language, it is something that all of us have admired for centuries. It breaks my heart to see them in that way, suffering with dignity, fighting for their lives.” She had tears in her eyes.

Only a year ago, I wrote a text for the Guardian why I didn’t think the remaining Syria state should be bombed but the USA.   I know very well what it means for people to be isolated from the outside world by sanctions, and  trapped inside their country by a criminal regime.   We had sanctions in Serbia for years on end living under the regime of Slobodan Milosevic.   His nationalist propaganda had the support of the so-called decent people, who lost more or more until uprisings finally  toppled  the regime.

In the case of Syria the uprisings have toppled nobody, the USA did not bomb the regime,  and the people are despairing and fleeing as best they can.  They flee with history and culture on their backs, with children or without, with money or without, to hit the roads and become burdensome to everyone while they struggle with their burdens.   At that point everybody has to take some piece of the responsibility for the state of the world as it is.

You cannot ignore the headlines in the papers, the deaths in refugee boats , the endless queues at the stations to nowhere…A loud cry for help, a solution, temporary and permanent. They have each other, as friends or enemies, but they are isolated from the world order.  They are nobody’ s people.  Their culture and road becomes nomadic.   They have no promise of a future of their own.   They are called displaced persons, or other euphemisms.

Young people have dreams. Kids laughed and played on that sun-blasted day without water at the Belgrade railways station. Because you can stop everything, kill everything. but not creativity and joy. Even in concentration camps.

I have no political solution to offer, I have no power, I don’t even have the standard politically-correct ideas about  refugee issues that arise all over the world nowadays.  I only know that there are more and more of them. From political refugees, civil war refugees, to refugees from climate change.   Those who run away from hunger, repression, bombs, and those who run away from fires, flood and nuclear disasters.   I’ve seen them all all over the world.

They do have something in common: they are proud, they don’t beg.  They are the vanguard,  for the dangers that overwhelmed them are coming to us ,too.  They wanted to stay alive,  they managed to escape death. What else could they do or say?  They could commit suicide like Walter Benjamin on the border with France and Spain, fleeing the Nazis and awaiting a visa that arrived a day after he killed himself.  To survive as a refugee takes nerve and patience.

It will not do to point at them them anymore, for it is about all of us. The nomad population is growing, thanks to political and ecological failure. We are wasting our own lives by neglecting planetary politics.   In the Mediterranean the nomads drown in illegal boats while the seaside swimmers find the ancient sea to be lukewarm with greenhouse heat — it’s not refreshing any more.   The glaciers are melting into torrents down the  Alps, wildfires are leaping in rich high-tech California, the refugees are landing on every shore they can physically reach.  Such is my news today. As life goes on.

Photos by Elvira Veselinovc, Berlin

Suzanne Simon Paunovic, Belgrade

J’ai été autrefois une réfugiée aussi. Pendant la chute de l’ancienne Yougoslavie, j’ai visité beaucoup de camps de réfugiés dans toute la région frappée par la guerre. J’ai édité un livre de récits de réfugiés.

Chaque guerre est différente, donc, on ne devrait jamais mettre les guerres dans la même boîte théorique, ou placée sur la même étagère d’insignifiance. Mais n’importe qui peut devenir un réfugié. Riche ou pauvre, noir ou blanc, homme ou femme, adulte ou enfant. On ne peut jamais avoir une sécurité absolue sur terre, et l’empathie est encore plus rare ici.

Il y a seulement quelques semaines, dans le centre de Belgrade, j’ai vu un flot de réfugiés traverser cette ville. Par hasard, je venais juste de perdre mon portefeuille par des voleurs de sacs- à main, qui contenaient mes documents légaux et de résidence. Donc j’étais distraite et plutôt sourde à la nouvelle situation colossale des réfugiés du monde. Emballée dans ma propre infortune. Je n’ai pas d’abord compris pourquoi ces gens à l’apparence plutôt décente dormaient, mangeait et campaient sous le souffle du soleil d’août, près de la station de bus et de trains de Belgrade.

photo Suzanne Simon Paunovic

J’ai fait la queue avec eux au guichet. Ils étaient extrêmement polis et je dois l’admettre, même  plein de dignité. Ils ne paraissaient pas en guenilles ou fous. Ils étaient malheureux mais décidés.

Une amie marocaine m’a dit plus tard : « Le peuple syrien est le meilleur parmi nous tous Arabes. Leur culture, leur langage, c’est quelque chose que nous avons tous admiré pendant des siècles. Cela me brise le cœur de les voir comme cela, souffrant avec dignité, luttant pour leurs vies. » Elle avait les larmes aux yeux.

Il n’y a qu’un an, j’ai écrit un texte pour le Guardian pourquoi je ne pensais pas que l’état restant de la Syrie devrait être bombardée, mais les US. Je sais très bien ce que cela signifie pour les gens d’être isolés du monde extérieur par des sanctions, et piégés dans leur pays par un régime criminel. Nous avons eu des sanctions en Serbie pendant des années pour finir par vivre sous le régime de Slobodan Milosevic. Sa propagande nationaliste avait le soutien des  gens considérés comme décents, qui perdait plus ou plus jusqu’à ce que des insurrections aient finalement renversé le régime.

Dans le cas de la Syrie, les insurrections n’ont renversé personne, les USA n’ont pas bombardé le régime, et les gens sont réduits au désespoir et fuient le mieux possible. Ils fuient avec de l’histoire et de la culture sur leur dos, avec des enfants ou sans, avec de l’argent ou sans, pour atteindre des routes et devenir un poids pour tout le monde tandis qu’ils luttent avec leurs fardeaux. A ce moment là, chacun doit prendre une certaine responsabilité pour l’état du monde tel qu’il est.

On ne peut pas ignorer les titres des journaux, les morts dans les bateaux de réfugiés, les queues sans fin dans des stations pour nulle part…Un cri sonore pour de l’aide, une solution temporaire et permanente. Ils ont les autres, comme amis ou comme ennemis, mais ils sont isolés de l’ordre mondial. Ce sont des gens « personne ». Leur culture et leur chemin devient nomadique. Ils n’ont pas leur propre promesse pour l’avenir. On les appelle, personnes déplacées, ou d’autres euphémismes.

Les jeunes ont des rêves. Des enfants rient et jouent en ce jour inondé de soleil sans eau à la station de la gare de Belgrade. Parce qu’on peut tout stopper, tout tuer mais pas la créativité et la joie. Même pas dans les camps de concentration.

Je n’ai pas de solution politique à offrir, je n’ai pas de pouvoir, je n’ai même pas les idées standards politiquement correctes sur la question des réfugiés qui surgissent maintenant dans le monde entier. Je sais seulement qu’il y en a de plus en plus. De réfugiés politiques, de réfugiés de guerres civiles à des réfugiés du changement climatique. Ceux qui fuient la faim, la répression, les bombes, et ceux qui fuient les incendies, les inondations et les désastres nucléaires. Je les ai vu partout dans le monde..

Ils ont quelque chose en commun : ils sont fiers, ils ne mendient pas. Ils sont l’avant-garde, car les dangers qui les accablent viennent aussi sur nous. Ils voulaient rester en vie, ils ont réussi à échapper à la mort. Que pouvaient-ils faire ou dire d’autre ? Ils auraient pu se suicider comme Walter Benjamin à la frontière entre la France et  l’Espagne,  fuyant les Nazis. attendant un visa qui est arrivé un jour après qu’il se soit tué.  Pour survivre comme réfugié il faut des nerfs et de la patience.

Je ne veux plus les mettre en évidence, parce qu’il s’agit de nous tous. La population nomade augmente grâce à l’échec politique et écologique. Nous rongeons nos propres vies en négligeant la politique planétaire. Dans la Méditerranée, les nomades noyés dans des bateaux illégaux tandis que les nageurs au bord de la mer trouvent leur ancienne mer tiède avec une chaleur de serre  – ce n’est plus rafraîchissant. Les glaciers fondent en torrents des Alpes, des feux de forêt jaillissent dans la riche Californie high-tech, les réfugiés atterrissent sur chaque côte qu’ils peuvent atteindre physiquement. Telles sont mes nouvelles aujourd’hui. Alors que la vie continue.


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Luca Rastello

Oggi è il compleanno di Luca Rastello. Ho mancato il suo funerale, era morto il 6 luglio. Il 9 /10 luglio è la data di nascita di Nikola Tesla e anche di mia figlia. Si doveva celebrare a casa sua in campagna. Ho camminato per caso oggi lungo via Rossini e mi sono fermata giusto al posto dove l’ho visto l’ultima volta alla fermata del bus. Un’ora in piedi abbiamo parlato; la gente di Torino lo fa sempre e Luca era il signor alpino di Torino par excellence. Gli dissi che assomigliava sempre di più ad un attore turco di una serie televisiva sulla mafia turca, uno che sembrava cattivo ma era buono: era molto intrigato. Poi gli dissi che in realtà è l’opposto: uno che sembra buono ma è un cattivo, Questa gli piaceva ancora di più. Come si chiama, chiese. Non lo so, dissi. Mandami la foto. Non l’ho fatto in tempo!
Adesso poi potrei dire le solite cose: per me Luca non sarà’ mai morto. Non è vero. Lo è già. Non sono andata al funerale per molte ragioni ma soprattutto per prolungare la coscienza che non è più tra i vivi.
Dato che ci siamo frequentati nelle situazioni amichevoli in allegria con vini cibi e amici adesso non ricordo più i suoi pensieri geniali ma sopratutto le cose banali della vita quotidiana, che poi non trovano parole , solo delle emozioni!
Non le ho mai segnate, ho mancato perfino di registrare i suoi interventi sui miei libri: preziosi, veri, che mi mettevano il vento nelle ali nei momenti più difficili della mia carriera pubblica. Invece mi ricordo le cose meno importanti per voi che mi leggete. La notte con amici e alpini a Torino, tutta la notte a bere camminare ridere. Poi la nostra festa piccola dopo la sua festa pubblica in occasione della presentazione del suo ultimo libro a Torino. Ballavamo tutto il ballabile senza pudore d’età o di grazia.
La sua voce, la sua gentilezza e schiettezza nel giudizio, la sua signorile formalità nei posti pubblici. Da straniera non riuscivo a capire se a volte mi prendeva in giro oppure era sempre così. Lo chiamavo il sultano del giro delle amiche balcaniche che lui coltivava come conoscitore della ex Yugoslavia. Parlava perfino la nostra lingua. Il titolo di sultano gli piaceva più di ogni altro e rispondeva sempre alle mail con questo titolo, firmate da “le tue concubine dalle repubbliche jugoslave”.
Non ho mai conosciuto le figlie di cui parlava sempre. E perche allora tutto questo dolore per una persona come me che ne ha visto di tutte, seppellito qui tutti dai suoi più intimi? Non lo so. Il giorno della sua morte sono stata derubata da tutti documenti, molti risparmi, un paio di oggetti emotivamente preziosi. Un ingiustizia terribile che può capitare a tutti perché è una violenza statistica gratuita. Eppure quando mi è successo, dopo aver fatto la denuncia inutile e aver appreso che Luca ci ha lasciati, proprio dietro l’angolo, vicino a casa mia a San Salvario, mi sono calmata. La sua mancanza fisica ha fatto colpo materiale anche su di me. Il mio sangue che letteralmente scorreva dopo il mio incidente come se fosse dedicato a lui in un rituale magico postumo e per niente religioso. Non sono morta come lui e non voglio esserlo per carità, ma il fatto di aver sofferto almeno un po’ mi ha fatto star bene di fronte alla sua enorme perdita di vita. Lui se la aspettava da anni, anche noi, ed è proprio per questa che una volta arrivata sembrava ancora più inverosimile. Ogni volta che andavo via per un viaggio lungo, mi salutava: chissà se ci sarò quando ritorni. Ed ogni volta io avevo paura che non ci sarebbe stato. Questa volta era dietro l’angolo di casa mia eppure non ho potuto far niente per trattenerlo. Né io, né altri suoi amici e familiari molto più intimi. Sono cose della vita, le cose della morte, ma pur sempre ti fanno venire la voglia di non essere più dalla parte di quelli che rimangono. Speriamo che Luca stia bene ovunque stia adesso e nel frattempo noi rimasti temporaneamente ancora da questa parte gli scriveremo dei racconti, delle canzoni, perfino un romanzo ha promesso un noto scrittore americano di fantascienza!
Nell’ ultimo incontro in piedi per caso ho menzionato Proust. Ho detto: non so se è il mio scrittore preferito, ma anche lui è nato il 10 luglio e io lo rileggo in tutte le lingue tutta la vita, poco alla volta, pagina per pagina, per calmarmi. Mi ha guardato con gioia e stupore. Ma anche io, disse. Che strano, tutti e due non sembriamo proustiani, io lo tengo quasi segreto!
Luca adesso è in quel regno per me, segreto e proustiano fatto di dettagli di memorie e odori che fanno una vita intera e per sempre!

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Women’s Tribunal Sarajevo 2015

two texts, before and after

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Internet of Women Things@CasaJasmina

10984151_10153059429047819_7555158626882704347_nDoes anything feminine ever exist as such? A history of invisibility cannot guarantee material results.

We know they existed historically, these creative women who worked with along with male artists and designers, but they rarely had their names attached to their work.  They were a special caste, the mothers sisters wives of famous, rich and publicly visible creative men.

Sometimes we dare to say about design:  now, this is a feminine touch. But what is a “feminine touch,” who can give it, who can do it, how do we even know we’ve seen it?  It is hard to see a “woman’s touch” in design, or art, or science, and even a lifelong feminist can take design entirely for granted, and drive the car without ever looking under the hood.

We do not want to be trapped in essentialism and mainstream biological determinism, so can an “Internet of Women Things” even exist?  Why not try it and find out?  It’s no use getting stuck in theoretical and philosophical issues for a system of things that has never existed before, or that nobody has yet defined, or that is defined, but badly.

So, we decided to ask women designers, women programmers, women artists, women who are interested  in collaborating with Casa Jasmina, what they would like to do there, as women.  What are their ideas, their clues?

I don’t claim to personify all women, or gay men or gay women for that matter, but I do find that when I interact with Internet-of-Things stuff, in Casa Jasmina especially, I have a  distinct  point of view, different than most male colleagues.  I don’t experiment and tinker for its own sake, in fact I am rather demanding.  I have enough demands for a small manifesto.

I demand purpose from the designed IoT object: does it really substitute in some better way for existent models, things we already have in the world?

I demand a friendly, if not beautiful, appearance.

I demand it as open source, meaning also fair in price  and clean in its origins and destinations.

I demand to be allowed a personal approach to my objects. My things, which share my space in the world, have meaning for me.  They create an emotional relationship through their shapes, their colors, the memories they inspire.

Once I put, or find, an object into its proper place,  I never want to move it:  once it is placed just right, it feels radically connected, rooted by habit to the earth.  I do know that connected objects on a network can be freer than before, that they can roam around logistically like wireless birds or random toddlers.   But I sense that things in a home can and should have an ideal place, a pedestal, a limelight, a pondered and considered quality which suits me, and those who use the space with me.   I don’t want things torn from their source in the life of the home, the core of their universe.

No users but people, no geeks but persons: and the ideal categories of our homely concern should be the elderly and children.  That first category, we ourselves are all becoming someday.  The elderly need help in our world, where youth is becoming rare and care is hard to buy.  The second category are the young in the home, the innocents entering our polluted planet with its wreck of an old economic system.  What experiences will children have in an Internet-of-Things home?

I notice, among the women with whom I talked about these things, that the goal that matters to them is the redesign of life, not the re-design of things.  Nowadays the word “design” can stand for all sorts of things, from the design of crime to design of stardom. Designers are the stars of the present uncertain societies where old categories of work have ceased to exist: we are ill-unemployed, endlessly reinventing our jobs and our means of survival, and our struggles seem mostly invisible, except for the lucky few. The stars!

Maybe it’s for the best, maybe we are all like women today, in our obscure struggles.  When I think of how, by chance, I somehow became a designer of my Casa Jasmina habitat, it’s like a Cinderella fairy tale.

In Serbia, my native country, we went though international sanctions.   The Balkan wars changed daily life drastically for women, because war and sanctions deprived us of goods, of high technology, and also of men who were drafted or in hiding.

A long, sad tale, but we women had to get by somehow, in a completely unknown alien and hard situation for most of us, spoiled city girls used to urban convenience, women had never dreamed that a modern city of  three million like Belgrade could become a war zone.   Bitter war was our grandmother’s story, and besides, these new economic wars didn’t resemble the old black and white conflicts, with clear allies and enemies, swift life and death. We felt that we were our own worst enemies, and life ground on day by day as a slow death.

We had to reinvent our daily life so as to feed the children, care for the elderly, to heat the blacked-out homes which became like caves after every sunset.  But I learned about those Maker-style design issues, and now I know about them. I learned not just to change the bulb but fix a broken fuse. I learned that the soap powder for washing machines is mostly useful for polluting rivers, that we take too many medicines too carelessly, that we waste household water and we overheat our homes.  I learned that children need affection more than they need cash. I learned that old people do not need to rest but to be useful and needed in their own way.

I learned that culture is not only from books but about writing down your own experience. In short, I learned how to hack my disordered life. And of course I lived on the Internet, my virtual life was my best guarantee of my physical life.

This is how I became an eventual fan of the Internet of Things, of all connected design. I don’t yet know how to make it happen, but I do know how it has to look.

As Donna Haraway used to say, “Women gather around affinities not identities,” and that’s how imagine an “Internet of Women Things.”   Elective affinities.

So, welcome, women, to Casa Jasmina: welcome to Casa Jasmina as your safe place for thinking different, for thinking from scratch, from wherever you are and think you wanna go, from Cinderella’s cinder ashes to the palace of Nefertiti.  We will fail and fail, often and well. But we will get somewhere: after all this historical period is a   transition to nowhere, so better have fun while traveling!

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