Book Review: "Identity and Violence" by Amartya Sen

I've recently been able to read the book Identity and Violence by Amartya Sen. It's a relatively shorter book, taking me ~3 hours to finish. The author focuses broadly on how personal identity is neither singular nor static, but is multifaceted, context-dependent, and dynamically evolving over time based on the choices people make. He further argues that a lot of sectarian strife (whatever identity the sect may encompass) occurs because people can be led to make one facet of their identity encompass their entire identity and to then act in destructive ways based on that. Additionally, he provides numerous examples of how facets that tend to be associated with individual cultures (whether ethnic, religious, linguistic, or other), with such shoehorning leading to detrimental stereotyping and unsupportable cultural fatalism, have in fact emerged over many such cultures across continents at various points in time, sometimes independently, while other times due to cultural contact and diffusion. With this, he suggests that a lot of the well-meaning efforts to integrate religious minorities into Western society, as well as efforts to reconcile religious or ethnic factions that have been at war in other countries, are misguided due to their single-minded focus on the same sorts of categorization that have led to such conflicts in the first place, and that instead, such efforts should appeal to the broad variety of identities that people hold dear to them and that make them feel whole.

Overall, I generally agree with the thrust of this book (further justifying the notion that Amartya Sen seems to capture my lay ideas about economics and society in a systematic and scholarly manner), and the numerous historical examples of cultural interaction, cultural diffusion, and the development of ideas such as democratic political participation and the protection of human rights across continents and across time periods of course jibes with things that I've learned in history classes in school and elsewhere. The book is a pretty solid read (despite a couple of minor typos that can easily be overlooked), and it brings forth many interesting ideas. I'm glad that I read it recently, given that issues of privilege, identity politics, and communal violence have been in the news lately; I would perhaps like to think that the author may have articulated ideas of privilege and "intersectionality" before those terms came into vogue in the last few years for people interested in social justice, but something the book makes clear is that these ideas of intersectionality, if not the particular jargon, are probably much older than just a few decades. Despite all of that, I do feel like there may be a few things missing in the discussion, and my question about those issues come after the jump.


Featured Comments: Week of 2016 December 11

There was one post this past week that got a few comments, so I'll post all of those here.

Review: MX Linux MX-15

An anonymous reader said, "It's simply preposterous that a distro for newer Linux users stops booting at an obscure command-line prompt and that an inexperienced user is required to know or guess or somehow find out that pressing Tab will reveal a list of commands that will enable the boot to continue one way or another (although my guess is that the less-experienced users may also need to guess or somehow find out what those commands actually do). People who are enamored of the command line shouldn't try to produce a graphical OS for newer users."
Following up on that, commenter Unknown had this to say: "that particular problem at boot of the liveUSB is with unetbootin and syslinux. the newer syslinux boot system that mx uses is not installed on all other linux platforms, and as such unetbootin doesn't always work right when using the linux version, depending on the actual host linux system. interestingly, the windows version of unetbootin works just fine. as does dd (command provided on the download site), which doesn't give you the persistence options off the live-usb but will get you a proper live environment to install it."
Reader Jerry3904 countered, "Late to the party here, since this OS is now a year old and MX-16 is being released today. For whatever reason, this diverges from all other reviews we have seen: https://www.mxlinux.org/reviews".

Thanks to all those readers for commenting on that post. In the next couple of weeks, I will have at least one more book review out, and by next month, I will probably have another Linux review of some sort out. In any case, if you like what I write, please continue subscribing and commenting!


Review: MX Linux MX-15

Originally, this review was going to be of Bodhi Linux, based on a suggestion from a comment in a recent review. However, when I tried it, while it was able to connect to the Internet, it could not connect to its package repositories for me to install any packages, and I figured that there wouldn't be much point in writing a review given that. Then, I thought of trying the latest version openSUSE on the recommendation of a friend of mine, especially given that I haven't tried openSUSE in quite a while; that turned out to only be available in the form of an installation DVD, as no live image is available yet (though I hope to try it when that does become available). After that, I saw some reviews of MX Linux, and thought it might be interesting to try. (Spoiler alert: this review exists because there's enough material for me to write about it.)

Main Screen + Xfce Whisker Menu
MX Linux is an effective merger between the former MEPIS and antiX Linux distributions. It aims to provide a desktop experience that is easy and efficient, with an emphasis on reliability. Its focus is on the Xfce desktop environment, and it uses Debian as its base, along with a lot of the code from the erstwhile antiX and MEPIS. I tried it as a live USB made with UnetBootin, which appears to be the recommended method; in fact, MX Linux discusses many different options for different levels of data persistence from one boot to another in a live USB (though that may also refer to live USB systems made with different tools). Follow the jump to see what it's like.