It is impossible to build one’s own happiness on the unhappiness of others.

– Daisaku Ikeda

Anne-Marie Farrell based on a photo by Majdi Fathi

Dense Discovery
Dense Discovery

Welcome to Issue 275!

Feb 13 2024 | Link to this issue

Over the past few weeks, several DD readers have contacted me to express their disappointment about my failure to acknowledge and take a clear stance on the war in Gaza, pointing to the many issues of DD in which I have shown support for Ukraine. Reading about ‘PEP’ in Danah Abdulla’s guest piece today (see below) finally made me want to sit down and put my thoughts into writing.

I’ve struggled to write this – to find the right words and squeeze them into a short intro of a newsletter. Publishing condensed views online always comes with the risk that a poorly chosen word or reference derails the intended message.

That said, some things need no nuance: the killing of innocent civilians can never be justified by any political, religious or ideological rationale. Whether it’s the deliberate targeting or the indiscriminate harming of civilians, both fundamentally undermine basic principles of justice and human rights.

In my attempt to get more historical context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I discovered how much of my upbringing in Germany had shaped certain prejudices and instilled a deep fear of saying the wrong thing, to the point of paralysis.

This conversation with Emily Dische-Becker (whose grandfather was persecuted by the Nazis) was exceptionally insightful. She describes Germany’s post-Holocaust psyche in a way I had never heard verbalised before. I agree with her argument that Germans – for many obvious and some not so obvious reasons – tend to have a very monolithic view of Israel and its people. Any criticism of the Israeli government (no matter how extreme its policies) is demonised on a systemic level. Meanwhile, a recent shift to the political right in Europe has helped normalise a new kind of Islamophobia in centrist politics – or what scholar Sarah El Bulbeisi calls ‘polite hostility’ towards Muslims.

I gained a better understanding of what Dische-Becker describes as ‘contemporary memory culture’ – the way a country like Germany collectively processes its genocidal past, shaping the identity and attitudes of many generations. I recommend this conversation to all my German DD readers. To state the obvious: you don’t have to agree with her on everything to appreciate a different perspective.

I’m also grateful for the views and conversations shared by Ezra Klein, who is Jewish and who talks at length with both Jewish and Muslim guests about navigating grief, despair and solidarity from an American perspective.

Like many of you, I also consume a fair amount of mainstream media (with its inherent flaws and biases), as well as content shared on social media by various individuals, some of whom are on the ground in Gaza, documenting in gut-wrenching detail the dehumanising conditions in which Palestinians are trying to survive.

The more I learn about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the more I realise how much of it is about the influence and strategic goals of other countries, creating an asymmetry of power and competing national narratives.

And yet, after a genuine effort to land somewhere intellectually, I struggle to comprehend why the call to ‘stop the mass murder of women and children’ could in any way be a controversial statement; why any mention of Palestinians deserving to live free from oppression and violence is equated with advocating for the destruction of Israel; why the severe restrictions on movement and access to basic needs for millions of people have been accepted and supported for so long by the so-called ‘free world’; why criticism of far-right policies of one government is labelled as anti-Semitic, while voicing the same about others is praised as ‘standing up for democracy’.

I’m left with a profound sense of injustice on behalf of the Palestinian people; it is not born of opposition to any faith or ethnicity. How can we advocate for the principles of empathy, justice and peace, supporting the rights of Palestinians to live with dignity and freedom, while also respecting the existential fears that shape Jewish perspectives? The path towards an answer begins with humanising the conflict. That’s why an immediate stop to the senseless, indiscriminate killing is imperative. Ceasefire now! – Kai


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Apps & Sites

Frond →

Community platform

During my search for a possible community platform for Friends of DD, I discovered Frond, a beautifully simple medium between Discord and a FB Group. The design and feature set is straightforward, i.e. it doesn’t try to do too many things. The only gripe I have? I’m always hesitant to hitch my wagon to a venture-funded company, especially when connecting with others.

Gentler Streak →

A gentler fitness tracker

Gentler Streak is a more compassionate alternative to Apple’s Activity app. Being reminded that you haven’t closed your daily circles can be frustrating – especially if you’re unwell or recovering from an injury. “Gentler Streak stimulates a self-compassionate approach to exercise, where recovery is as important as intensity.”

Not Too Late (Add-on) →

Practical advice for climate action

Not Too Late is a hopeful collection of energising essays, poems, and dispatches from the climate movement around the world that emphasise the importance of collective action and the possibility of positive change. One of the editors, the wonderful Rebecca Solnit, just published a practical add-on (PDF) that’s available for free and tries to answer the question on everybody’s mind: what can I do about the climate emergency? (via)

Sim Daltonism →

Colour blindness simulator

With the free, open-source app Sim Daltonism (iOS and macOS) you can visualise colours as they are perceived with various types of colour blindness. The mobile app lets you use your camera to simulate the difference in real time.


Worthy Five: Danah Abdulla

Five recommendations by designer, educator and researcher Danah Abdulla

A question worth asking:

Why. I challenge my students (and people more generally) to ask themselves why. Asking why helps us reveal the causes to a problem instead of accepting it as a matter of fact. Asking why tackles our own perceptions and assumptions, helping us to engage critically with the consistencies and contradictions of our experiences.

A concept worth understanding:

Progressive Except for Palestine (PEP) refers to individuals, organisations and institutions who claim to be politically progressive, on the side of justice, for decolonisation etc., except when it comes to Palestine. We are seeing PEP in action where the individuals, institutions, and organisations who support social justice are silent on Palestine, even when a live-streamed genocide is taking place. The mainstream media frames the Palestinian struggle in a disingenuous and misleading way, and people who are calling for a Ceasefire and expressing solidarity with the Palestinians – who are subjected to ongoing occupation and settler colonialism, cut off from water, electricity, food and forced to leave their homes – are being censored or losing their jobs over their opinions.

A phrase worth knowing:

The Celtic Welsh term anam cara, which means ‘soul friend’. This was poignant during the pandemic where I longed for closeness and deeper friendships. Loneliness is a major problem, and finding an anam cara to share one’s self, mind and heart with can be a powerful reminder that people matter more than acquiring things and consuming.

A book worth reading:

Acclaimed historian Rashid Khalidi’s book The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine utilises both traditional methods and a first person perspective intercepting personal and family stories to tell the story of the Palestinian struggle. It’s a powerfully argued book and a must read for anyone interested in learning the context behind the ongoing genocide in Gaza, Palestine.

A quote worth repeating:

“You have to act as if it were possible to radically transform the world. And you have to do it all the time.” by Angela Davis. As a pessoptimist, I teeter between hope and despair, and it’s very easy to feel powerless, particularly with the state of the world as it is now. But I find solace in approaching my work in this way because it gives me hope.

(Did you know? Friends of DD can respond to and engage with guest contributors like Danah Abdulla in one click.)


Books & Accessories

Filterworld →

How algorithms flattened culture

Do the many algorithms that dictate our experiences and choices come at a cost to creativity, free will, and a certain unpredictability that makes life meaningful? In his latest book, technology writer Kyle Chayka “traces this creeping, machine-guided curation as it infiltrates the furthest reaches of our digital, physical, and psychological spaces.”

Behave →

The biology of humans at our best and worst

Neuroendocrinology researcher Robert Morris Sapolsky attempts – at ambitious depth and length – to explain the complex biology behind human behaviour. “The result is one of the most dazzling tours d'horizon of the science of human behavior ever attempted, a majestic synthesis that harvests cutting-edge research across a range of disciplines to provide a subtle and nuanced perspective on why we ultimately do the things we do...for good and for ill.”


Overheard on Mastodon

Normalize saying “I don’t know enough about the topic to be able to comment.”

@[email protected]


Food for Thought

You Don’t Need To Document Everything →


Nothing highlights the generational divide better than the incessant capturing of both the minutiae of everyday life and the most intimate, private moments for an online audience by Gen Y and Z. “My bet is we won’t look back at our hundreds of thousands of Instagram Stories and Snapchats and Boomerangs with fondness that we filmed these moments, but with aching regret that we didn’t fully feel them.”

Rebecca Solnit: Slow Change Can Be Radical Change →


Invariably, Rebecca Solnit offers hope even in the darkest of times. Here, she reminds us that progress takes time and requires steadfast commitment to see the job through. “The expectation that change will be swift and the failure to perceive it when it’s not impacts politics for the worse. A common source of uninformed despair is when a too – brief effort doesn’t bring a desired result – one round of campaigning, one protest. Or when one loss becomes the basis for someone to decide winning is impossible and quitting – as if you tossed a coin once and decided it always comes up tails. ... The short-term version gives you politicians giving us nice things. The long-term version shows you movements shifting what’s considered possible, reasonable, and necessary, setting the stage and creating the pressure for these events, offering a truer analysis of power.”

Solarpunk is the next big literary-design movement →


This is a short primer on Solarpunk, a growing cultural-aesthetic movement that challenges us to dream of a sustainable future where we live in harmony with land and each other. “Science fiction reliably provides a blueprint of what could go horribly wrong, but it (or fantasy) rarely provides a blueprint of what could go terrifically well. Where are the visions full of community picnics in exotic green fields, affordable houses grown from fungi, ultramarathons for centenarians, self-healing clothing, or beneficial relationships with powerful drugs, immersive games, exquisite food, and wild nature?”


Aesthetically Pleasing

David Nott is a talented stippling artist that recently explored a different medium: tapestry with colourful, geometric shapes.

This list of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2023 entries and winners is a beautiful and tragic reminder of how much there is still to save. (via)

Here’s a hobby you probably didn’t think it could be turned into a profession: Janel Hawkins is a professional sand sculptor who started the Sand Castle University, offering private sand castle classes.

Boucan is a superfamily that explores the relationship between type and sounds. (Boucan is French for very loud noise.) “As a variable font, it can be animated to react to sounds and music. As individual fonts, the system is a wonderful toolbox for creating striking images, posters, logos, or any place where the type needs to shout so loud it makes your eye hurt!”


Notable Numbers


Of a survey consisting of 2,590 people who had participated in a cargo bike share system in Germany, 18.1% say they’ve reduced their car ownership by at least one car, either by getting rid of one of their own cars or deciding against buying one.


Researchers at Leiden University in the Netherlands found that in 2019, 18 billion of the 75 billion (almost 1 in every 4) pigs, chickens, turkeys, cows, goats, and sheep raised for food around the world were never eaten, but were ‘wasted’ at some point in the supply chain.


Even though 77% of Americans believe crime has increased in the US since last year, preliminary public data from 177 cities indicates that the country could see at least a 12% decrease in murders from last year – one of the largest annual drops in homicides on record.



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