PATYT WINS THE TGS AWARD OF 2019

For the first half of 2019, I was polishing an idea for a PhD research in History and Philosophy of Technology. Thanks to a grant given to me by the University of Twente (which covered 6 months of salary), I could develop a full research proposal in which I explain the questions and methods I would use to expand our understanding of how Internet platforms are having a crucial impact on the political response to climate change.

On September, this proposal was awarded the ‘Twente Graduate School’ (TGS) Award of 2019. The award came with a bit of cash, a huge bouquet of flowers, but most importantly, it put me in a great position to actually carry out the research I dream of doing!

Instead of explaining what the research proposal is all about, I will let you check out the video and hopefully provide some more details soon! Enjoy 🙂

Here are some other links covering the news that might interest you:
TGS Award for Philosophy Student Patricia Reyes, coverage from U-Today
Patricia Reyes Benavides wins TGS Award 2019, Press release from the University of Twente

UT students plan to rebel for life

This article was first published in U-Today. You can check the original publication following this link

As a response to the latest scientific reports that warn of climate breakdown and biodiversity loss, UT students are joining the global movement of ‘Extinction Rebellion’ by forming an activist group in Enschede. Two members of this recently formed group are explaining how to bring awareness about these issues.

Extinction Rebellion is a global movement doing nonviolent protests to push for policies that prevent environmental breakdown. The movement started last year in the United Kingdom and has quickly spread to different countries around the world, including The Netherlands.

‘Extinction Rebellion Enschede’ started assembling last April, after the association Sustain organized a talk about Extinction Rebellion at the DesignLab. ‘The talk brought everyone together, at least from the UT, and that catalyzed the whole process,’ says Channah Hilhorst, a 20-year-old ATLAS student. During this talk, Hilhorst met Linda Brumme, a 22-year-old psychology student, who recalls: ‘It took some time to get started but two weeks after the talk we had our first meeting.’

The group is holding weekly meetings to plan what actions to take in the near future. ‘The first step is to have information talks, to see who’s interested and give people a network to communicate,’ explains Brumme. 

ACTING DEAD

The students are also considering doing nonviolent protests in the city, like ‘die-ins,’ where people lay down on the floor and act dead, or ‘swarmings,’ blocking the traffic for a few minutes. ‘This is to express the urgency of the situation. But what you don’t want is people thinking that you’re an irrational fanatic protester because that’s not the philosophy behind Extinction Rebellion. It’s all based on science so you have to be careful of how you come across,’ says Hilhorst. 

When asked whether the group has specific demands for the UT, Hilhorst tells that ‘part of what Extinction Rebellion wants is for universities to educate students on what’s going on in the world.’ To what Brumme adds that ‘this is aligned with Extinction Rebellion’s first demand of telling the truth about the climate crisis.’

Hilhorst mentions that although sustainability is part of the University’s vision for 2030, it’s still unclear how they’ll reach an adequate goal. ‘I think they’re trying. As a student, I feel you can learn what sustainability is, but it’s still not connected to a feeling of societal responsibility.’

‘You could choose courses that go in that direction, but it’s up to the students whether they want to learn about it and it’s easy to miss it. I think this should be taught always and from the beginning,’ reflects Brumme. 

BUILDING A STABLE NETWORK

Right now, the activist group is only constituted by UT students. However, they’re aiming to engage more citizens in the initiative. ‘It’s nice that students organize these things but students can be quite fluid. They are in the city for some five years and then leave. We want to build a stable network of people that work here and live here,’ explains Brumme.

To achieve this goal, they’re organizing a talk next Tuesday at Tankstation, which will be given by Paul Hendriksen, a member from Extinction Rebellion Deventer. ‘What Paul will do is bring together the latest insights on climate science. He gives numbers and facts, which are really important to base our decisions on. He explains in which state the world is because many people don’t know yet that there’s a climate crisis. After that, he will talk about Extinction Rebellion’s demands and what they’re doing because there’s so much going on already,’ says Brummer.

The students will organize more open talks where they will discuss where and when to take action. All their events will be published on their new Facebook page.


EPHEMERAL

The text below is one of the columns I wrote for the U-Today journal. You can check the original publication following this link

 

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Ana in de Trein

 

I’ve been trying to decipher why the bondings between students who meet on Campus feel so unique. Beyond that vibe of easygoingness, there is something else. It feels as if everybody is in a hurry to know each other better, to become closer friends. And then it hits me: sooner, rather than later, everything will disappear. Our study programs will be over. Our time in Enschede is limited.

Promises of going to visit each other at our hometowns and keeping constant contact through social media are genuine, yet ideal. This setting in which we have built our friendships is temporary. What we have right here, right now, is golden.

How could we conceive gold in such a short period of time?

It might result from a combination of the novel spaces on Campus we inhabit. Concrete, wood and glass buildings amongst forest trees, lakes, and bushes. The mostly rainy days when we gather in warm, dimly lit, wood-scented pubs at the Oude Market to click glasses full of Grolsch beer. The weird accents, habits, and stories of people which countries of origin we could hardly locate on a map before meeting them. And finding out, after all, that we have many things in common. We understand each other’s concerns. We laugh at each other’s jokes.

All of it, together, like a mysterious process of alchemy we cannot entirely comprehend, culminates in the creation of the most precious element. Good times, crazy laughs. Running together along the platform to catch a train, getting that last round of drinks before the bar closes, venting out over a cup of coffee how hard it is to adapt to this fleeting yet demanding environment. Coined, far from home, in the heart of a random small city in the middle of nowhere: friendship and companionship in its purest form.

Next thing you know, people are accepting jobs overseas. They’re flying back home, settling down in remote places. Everyone’s spread out across the world once again to live their own adventures. And what felt like an ongoing rollercoaster of intense experiences is now imprinted on our memories like a projection of photographs switching a hundred frames per second. So fast, that we are unable to appreciate a given one in that much detail anymore.

Will we be left feeling like we have missed that alchemy formula, incapable of recreating those good times, bounded to reminisce about them? Perhaps that’s why we relish our gold while we can hold it.

We stick together. We overcome our hesitations to give out free hugs, compliment our fellows, express what is in our hearts. All because we know that, after all, that precious gold is ephemeral.

Philosophy 101

Well, this week was the last lecture of what has been an amazing scholar year. So I came up with this little recount of what is like to be thrown in the pool of philosophy after lying on a dry rock under the sun for 25 years.

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Amazing illustration by Ruslan Khasanov

How do I begin to express in words how much I love philosophy? When I first signed up for this Master I was expecting to understand the stubbornness with which people around me held onto their worldview, I came here expecting to find proofs of why other people I disagreed with were wrong, I wanted to learn how to better defend my arguments of how things should be.

What I found left me speechless. I realized I was far off from being a part of any solution to the problems of society, I was infected with the disease I so badly wanted to eradicate.

Engaging with my classmates and professors, the smartest people I had ever met in my life, was like the punch in the face I needed to wake up from my delusion. Sure, my point of view was valuable, but it was useless if I couldn’t listen, if I couldn’t draw connections between our different outtakes on reality, if I couldn’t synthesize our alternative experiences in the world. I learned to be humble with my opinions, even if I’ve been reading and cultivating myself in any topic for weeks, or months, or years. That humbleness and disconcert might at first give you a sense of despair, the feeling of being completely ignorant, but the benefits end up surpassing that unfounded fear. Because there is so much more to learn once you give up on your “right” opinion.

I learned there is no such thing as universal truths, despite my previous blind loyalty to modern science as the overarching source of knowledge. I learned to consider that any story and account of facts, scientific, philosophical or historical, is impregnated with undesired influences from what is happening in its surroundings. I learned that the end results of any intellectual inquiry carry with it the watermarks of where and when it was conducted. And despite our frustrations, our attachment to this ideal of absolute facts, the best we can do is justify our beliefs as inferences to the best explanation we have at hand. There is no limit to how much one can open his or her mind, once you’ve gotten rid of all your assumptions, of all the things that you’re so sure that you know, that is when the real conversation starts.

This is all hard for me to express in a blog post, but after a year of countless lectures on great thinkers (not all of which I agreed with), after more than the compulsory amount of colloquia about the amazing research people are conducting right now in what is now my field, and after philosophising with my classmates along, let’s admit it, more than a couple of beers at the Bolwerk, my brain has completely exploded. I’m still trying to put together the pieces, and I know that when I’m finished, that shit’s gonna look and function entirely different.

If we hold a conversation in the future, just know that I am completely done taking anything for granted, and I will push you and everyone around me to do the same.

In this incessant search for the meaning of existence and its purpose, in this tenacious goal we hold on to understand what the fuck is that we are doing in this world, philosophy really brings you to your knees, it hits you with a thousand Newtons of force and makes you feel like a tiny, tiny little ant walking clueless in the immensity of the Universe.

I am completely in love, and though I have to accept sometimes it raises in me a bit of anxiety, to know that I will never ever be capable of finding the ultimate answer to explain this mess we call life makes it much more exciting to get out of bed every morning and explore it with the curiosity of a 6-year-old.

To philosophy, cheers. 🍺

Perspective

The evolution of my perspective is my favorite part of growing up. When I realize that I am able to analyze problems or situations from which yesterday I did not have that much information. My brain starts making connections and finding patterns increasingly sophisticated, and I rediscover things I didn’t know I  didn’t entirely understand.

And it is something that has no cost, it doesn’t go away, it doesn’t stay static, it just is, and it defines me. It defines how I construct my reality, it makes the world more complex and intriguing, filling it with more adventures and enigmas to solve. And it is mine, just mine, nobody can entirely get it, and nobody can see the world through it, it is all that I am and all that no one else is.

And it evolves, one day at a time, with each article I read, each interaction I have with another person, each lecture I attend to, each unexpected feeling. And then I think if this is how it is at 25, how will it be at 30? at 60? And then time stops being a burden, is my ally and is essential for the experience. And then growing up is no longer scary, and becomes utterly exciting.

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The death of a rat

Lore and I just moved in together to a new house. I don’t intend to go into all the details right now, just know that two of my best guy friends will be living with us as well, but they’re not in town yet. So for the last two days, Lore and I have been moving all of our stuff in, cleaning the dust off the floor and furniture, and discovering all the corners of the house.

We don’t have internet installed yet, so I decided to go work at the Uni’s library today. I had a coffee with Lore early in the morning and then took off. I met some of my class friends and I gladly discussed my views on Ethics (which should be turning to my first essay assignment of this term). A couple of hours went by, I felt like I was working very slowly just ’cause we had so many things to catch up with and I was feeling particularly chatty. Finally, I was left all by myself, with this huge disposition to read about Virtue Ethics while wearing my Batman t-shirt.

A minute later, my phone started ringing. It was Lore, so I picked it up. “Hey Lore, what’s up?”. I could hardly make sense of what she was babbling between all the screaming and crying. I started freaking out.

— Lore, where are you?
— In the house!
— What’s wrong?
— There’s a huge rat, it’s been wandering around in the living room. I don’t know what to do!
— Okay, so what are you doing right now?
— I’m standing on the couch!
— Okay, try to go lock yourself in your room, I will be there in 15 minutes.

There was something in her voice that made me want to fix the situation, you know? My brain switched to work-it-out mode. I quickly picked all my stuff, put my jacket on and ran to my bike. Then I thought “Wait, maybe I should call someone. Maybe there’s a guy who can help me deal with this rat so I don’t have to, right?” But then I realised I can’t keep calling boys to save my life. Not anymore, I should be self-sufficient. So my inner-dialogue continued: “No way. Lore and I will deal with this rat. We will fix this situation.” Then I cheated a little bit and called mom, because of course, she has a lot more experience with rats in houses. I think I woke her up, it was 6 AM in Mexico. “Mom, there’s a rat in the house, what am I supposed to do?” She told me to get a cat, or a dog to scare the rat off. She told me I could use a broom or call a rat exterminator. After getting some ideas, I thanked her and started biking immediately, all velocity, listening to some badass music thinking “I’m going to scare the hell out of this rat, I’m a strong independent student!”

I started to get closer and closer to the house and started realising I had no idea how I was going to react to a fucking rat. What if it wasn’t a cute rat? What if it was super aggressive, huge, black rat? “I can’t think like this, I have to be strong, I have to save the day”. I finally got home and got off my bike. Someone yelled my name from the street. I turned to look. It was Erik, Lore’s friend. I guessed she called him as well, and he rushed to the house to help her out. I felt a little bit disappointed, I wasn’t going to be saving the day after all. But I have to accept I also felt somewhat relieved and I let Erik now that.

I unlocked the front door, Lore was still standing on the couch. She was a nervous wreck. We both tried to calm her down. Erik grabbed a broom and started looking for the rat. I had no idea where the rat was, so I decided to stand on a chair. Erik found the rat and chased her with the broom, I saw her running from the living room to under the kitchen drawers. Lore wasn’t lying, she was fucking humongous. Twenty centimeters at least and really, really fat. I started screaming while standing on the chair, completely freaking out. (This is the girl who was going to save the day, right?). When the rat was cornered in the kitchen, I ran to join Lore on the couch. I thanked the Universe Erik was there. After a couple of minutes, I was able to hold my self together and help Erik from over the kitchen table, trying to spot the rat under the drawers. We waited for several minutes, we started chatting about different rat species and wondering how long she had been living there before we arrived at the new house. We started coming up with ideas to scare her off the house. 

After a while, the rat sneaked a peek from under the kitchen drawers. I caught a glimpse of her just standing there. She wasn’t a horrible rat. It was just a grey, fat rat with a cute little face and tiny hands. She was scared and being super cautious. I felt for her. I didn’t want to harm her after all. Sure, I was scared of her and it’s not proper nor responsible to live in the same house as a rat, but I didn’t want to cause her pain. I secretly named her Sandy.

Sandy went back under the drawers. Lore had been calling the rental agency, they were trying to get someone to help us get rid of her. Seems like all the professional rat exterminators were calling it a day and the agency couldn’t get any immediate help. They finally got someone from the Municipality to drop by and do something about it. Two minutes later, we saw through the window a van parking just outside our house. Lore opened the door. A tall, Dutch man in his 50s walked in. He was wearing all black and had a pair of big black boots on. He seemed really tough, the type of guy who could grab a rat by the neck and throw it five-hundred meters away and go home as if nothing had happened. He started talking to us in dutch, but since none of us know Dutch, we just stood there pointing at the hole Sandy was in.

We watched him as he put these huge rat traps in the kitchen with some substance that apparently attracts rats rather quickly. I caught a glimpse of everybody else’s face. Erik wasn’t happy, Lore and I weren’t either. We knew Sandy’s life was in danger. The guy left and we just sat there for 10 minutes talking about how we didn’t like the idea of Sandy getting hurt, but sadly, we didn’t do anything about it. I started realising how awful it would be to hear her fall in one of the traps, she wasn’t going to die immediately, she was going to be in severe pain for a few minutes before passing out. A slow, painful death. And she had done nothing wrong, she was born an innocent rat. Poor Sandy.

The sound of the trap going off stopped my thoughts. I knew that was the end of her. I closed my eyes, then I started to hear Sandy trying to escape so I covered my ears. Lore did the same. Erik kindly asked us to go around the block, take a walk, while he waited for Sandy to die and clean the mess in the kitchen. He was really supportive and I hope he knows how grateful we were by his presence.

We grabbed our coats and went walking around the new neighbourhood. (Pretty neighbourhood, by the way). Lore asked me “why do you think we feel so bad about rats being in pain?” I told her about this hedonist view I had been reading in my Ethics class, of how it’s morally wrong to inflict pain on humans, or any living being. For the record, I think most arguments on hedonism are full of shit, but they do have a good point, to cause or just be aware of someone else’s pain or suffering, and do nothing about it just feels totally wrong in the gut. It feels wrong with both humans and rats.

I’m still a bit upset about Sandy. At least we’re not freaking out over the couch anymore, and we’re still the owners of our own kitchen. I wish I could at least have a picture of her to commemorate her passing and show her to the occasional reader. All I have for now is this little rat-art memorial I put together for her. 

This goes to Sandy, the cute fat rat we superseded in the new house.

Tales From a Former Yuppie

I’ve been wanting to write about how good I feel lately, I just haven’t been that inspired. For some reason, it’s easier to write when I am sad, maybe cause it’s a desperate call for attention. And when I’m happy I’m in no need of attention, or not as much, anyway. But God, it’s a beautiful day, it’s sunny and I’m sitting next to a lake. You should see this place, everything’s still so green, ducks seem to be having a blast in the water. There was a dog a few minutes away just staring at me. I’ve come to realize how much I miss my dog Johnny. I’m pretty sure he misses me too. But he cannot tell anyone, he can only bark at the garbage truck. I hope he’s having his regular walks and bones after the Sunday’s barbecues and an overall good time at our patio.

I’ve been having a hard time focusing on my readings and my work, but I’m pretty sure I’ll catch up by the time of the exams, which is just a couple of weeks away. I don’t really feel worried, or pressured. Not today. It’s a sunny Sunday and I’m listening to The Shins.

It’s one of those “it’s all going to be alright” moments. Though I feel so sad about the news, especially about the war in Syria. It’s just so fucked up how the media outlets will just blatantly lie about the role of the U.S. and U.K. and Russia in the conflict and their intentions. It makes me really sad to witness so much suffering for the sake of money and power. I think Heidegger was right in some ways, we’re born in the world and get raised with this idea that we have to possess material stuff, that what we possess makes us better, stronger, worthy. And we take the resources of the Earth, up to the point of depleting them, we step on each other, and it all unfolds so quickly without us taking a breath and just stop and think how stupid it really is. I wonder if these huge guys in politics and world banks and military feel so compelled by nature and just so complete when they sit in front of a lake.

I don’t think it’s our fate to be in a permanent state of conflict for the sake of getting resources, though. I don’t think it’s our fate. I’m positive there’s a better way humanity can move forward. And to be here on the other side of the planet, trying to figure out how we can do it, makes me feel so happy.

I remember how frustrated I used to be… getting up to work every day, sitting at a desk, holding meetings with people who were just thinking of what they were going to do when they were off the office. To get home so tired and just lay on the couch and think of doing something different, something important, meaningful. And God, to be pushed to read philosophy and write your thoughts, this whole pushing someone to think by himself. Teachers are really amazing people, they really engage which each one of us and feel so excited when we participate. I like to believe they expect us to do something important. And I love the fact that my classmates are all so crazy to be studying a Philosophy master in the 21st century. Everything’s evolving and I’m starting to feel cozy and surrounded with great people with good intentions. To remember how much I really wanted to have this, and now I have it. I’m so grateful.

I’m completely broke. I really am, I’m counting every cent at the market, picking the cheaper bread. The fancy days of buying expensive dinner and all-inclusive hotels in Cancun are completely over. I haven’t had a fancy dinner in two months now, but I don’t really need them. Once I disposed of all luxury for the sake of being here I realized how much I don’t need it. Feeling grateful for your life in front of a lake while you write a blog post is completely free of charge.

I don’t know if I will ever be able to stop a war, to raise consciousness about anything, to save any lives, to save the planet. It sounds delusional, to be honest. But to want it so hard that you set the gears and every piece of your life towards it, just to know that you’re actively pursuing this one goal, is enough to make me feel so happy. It’s either that or the shot of Vitamin D I just got from sitting here under the sun.

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