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Yossi Gatt FAQ II Yossi Gatt FAQ II
by Joseph Gatt
2020-09-11 08:04:11
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Another round of questions I get “asked” frequently. That is I get asked directly or indirectly.

How and why do you accept your horrible working conditions?

They are not superb working conditions indeed. No paycheck. Sometimes hunting for food. And the “loneliness” or never directly working with real people, that is being in the same room with other people and talking to other people.

But, I may sound crazy for saying this, it's a necessary evil. You can not understand how different societies around the world work without fully immersing yourself in them.

writi01_400And understanding society comes with understanding the economy, understanding how social structures work, understanding how culture works, how business works, how language works and so on.

How could I have described the “global economy” without actually being a full member of the “global economy”? That is not a privileged member of the global economy, but a guy trying to make a living in rich countries and in developing countries, as an immigrant and as a local, as an ethnic minority and as the member of a privileged caste.

So when you get a gig teaching 40 hours a week (most teachers teach around 20 hours a week) and that as a teacher you are expected to get stellar results (otherwise you get fired) and that you only make 400 bucks a month, you start seeing the picture more clearly. AND you had to apply to 100 schools and that school was the only one that replied and brought you in for a job interview.  

So it's an accumulation of those small observations that led to reflections that led to papers.

That is, most economists, political scientists or anthropologists get generous grants (in the tens of thousands of dollars) to live as a privileged caste member in “developing economies” and don't always understand what the locals go through.

But I've been through it all. From pressuring my 9 year older than me ex-fiancée to marry me so I could settle my visa issues. To getting deported back to a third world country, with all the shaming and mockery that comes with it. To sending hundreds of resumes and getting no replies, or ridiculous replies. To working for companies that clearly shouldn't be companies. And, I was also a professor at one point, with all the privileges that came with being a professor, including fancy dinners at conferences and long rounds of drinks with other professors and students.  

Then there's the religious aspect. Judaism can be interesting to understand if you're the only Jew living in the community, with no parents to interact with, no family to interact with, and no Jewish friends to chat with or celebrate festivals with.

That brings a fresh perspective. One where you hear all kinds of stereotypes. One where people observe you closely to figure out what “Jewish traits” are. And one where people listen to what you have to say, and that's a lot of pressure. Because you have to be as accurate and fair as possible.

Who influences your work?

There are the literary influences. I'd say there's Alvin Toffler who was one of my main inspirations, which I would define as “an interdisciplinary approach to interdisciplinarity” something I just coined. That is merging all the academic disciplines and connecting them all together.

Then there are the human influences. I try to look at what actual human beings do in real life, as opposed to just reading books and commenting on books. So I also comment on real people's actions.

Then there's the press and the media. If I see through the press, literary sources or human sources that there's a clear demand for an “intellectual” problem or riddle to be solved, I try to solve it.

Then there's the time factor. I can't do everything all at once. Sometimes I wish I could be like in the movie Groundhog Day where time just stops and you're stuck in one single day. But I try to deliver as much as I can in timely fashion.

Why do you write about a little bit of everything? Why not narrow your focus areas?

It's a bit strange. My first real focal area was “English education in South Korea.” There was just so much to be said about the topic. So much to write about the topic.

Then South Korea started dipping into a recession of sorts, and that's when I started, out of reflex, publishing solutions to economic problems in South Korea. The Koreans did not like that. In South Korea, when someone wants to jump off a cliff, you don't try to stop them. That's the culture and mentality over there. You just watch them jump off the cliff.

Then naturally after my life was in shambles, I started looking at as many disciplines as I could. Initially, it was because I wanted to do another Ph.D. and I wanted to read a few books to see what major I should pick. Maybe sociology, or political science, or linguistics, or something else.

Eventually, when there was no calling for me to do another Ph.D. I was getting prepared to apply to Ph.D. programs but the professors I contacted were really, really rude, viciously rude to me. So I thought that was God's sign that I should not get into another Ph.D. One professor told me I “did not know what a dissertation was.” That, among many other comments, including professors warning me that the Ph.D. would be a “rough ride.” I did not want to get screwd again.

So I picked up where I left off, and read as much as I could about as many academic disciplines as I could. And then the rest was just trying to connect the dots.

Why do you often refuse to proofread your articles carefully?

Indeed my articles often contain typos and I get words mixed up in some passages.

First off, I don't have spell check. And if I spell check my articles online, and that I re-paste my article in Open Office format, the artlcle does weird things, paragraphs get detatched, punctuation disappears, some sentences and paragraphs get glued together and what not.

Second of all, of course Yossi Gatt being Yossi Gatt, there are many people who “mirror” my computer and see me type my articles in real time. So I like to put pressure on myself and write my articles in “one shot.”

I stopped writing drafts or writing shabby articles because when that happened people were still reading those drafts. So the exercise is to write the full-length article in one shot.

Do you feel Algerian? How do you feel about Algeria?

If being Algerian is a good thing and that you get respected for being Algerian, then yes, I do feel Algerian. But if I'm only Algerian when I goof up, or being Algerian is used as a form of mockery, I still do feel Algerian, but don't really appreciate those childish games.

I was naturalized Algerian 26 days after my birth, on February 29, 1984. I think the date was not a coincidence.

But I like to mix with people a great deal. I like being at a bar with Mexicans, Koreans, Bulgarians, Israelis, you name it.

But I do feel that Algerians have a sensitive ear and that they are wonderful to work with.

In the world of academia for example, Koreans tend not to read your papers (although they do read mine). But for many years, getting any form of reaction from the Koreans was really hard.

The French like to contradict you immediately. The minute you start a sentence, they are already contradicting you.

The Americans and Canadians look at academic papers from their own individual perspective. Something like “how does this economic paper fit into my interest in video game robotics?”

But the Algerians tend to be open-minded, excellent listeners. Algerians are mutli-disciplinary by nature, they love learning about anything and everything. But they have a sensitive ear, and don't like falseties, and they can be very offended by those. They also don't like people interfering with power structures, but no country really does.

One example I could give is about 4 years ago I wrote an article where I said “company CEOs are being kept at their positions despite being in bed and diapered.” The Algerians were very offeneded, as they thought I was making fun of then-President Bouteflika. Maybe I had him in mind, but I also had many Asian and Middle Eastern family businesses in mind, where the elderly founder-CEO is very ill, the company is losing a ton of money, and yet the company is in a state of anarchy because there's no CEO.

And I did tell the Algerians that President Woodrow Wilson was also brain dead for the last two years of his term, and his wife was the actual one presiding over the US.

How do you define yourself in terms of identity?

Something of an explorer. My life was and still is a journey with several stops. And each stop had its load of observations, frustrations and discoveries.

Then I came to Algiers in July 2015 and in the last 5 years I started reporting some of the observations, all that while observing other stuff and discovering a few things.

Explorers are a unique breed. They fit in no matter where they go, yet they don't belong anywhere.

Anything on your bucket list?

I really hope I can still read, observe and discover lots more.

Now is not a good time to take a break. But I do hope I can “switch off” sometimes and focus on real life, before going back to reading and writing stuff.

That is I hope I can have times where I can spend days, perhaps weeks without looking at the newspapers and picking up a book, and doing other fun activities.

And of course I look forward to catching up with family and friends, raising nephews and nieces, that kind of stuff.

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