Thanks a lot, Voltaire

News just in: seven out of ten Dutch people have participated in a poll about Geert Wilders.

Whatever issue Wilders addresses becomes the discussion of the day, and in such a way that Wilders himself becomes the issue once again. I’m not usually one for conspiracy theories, but I read somewhere that someone’s brother-in-law overheard a source close to a rumour … that Wilders was a Mossad agent, codenamed Mephistopheles.

Watching Wilders today contemplating the debate on dual passports that he had initiated, I found myself straining to tweak Evelyn Hall‘s famous defence of free speech, usually misattributed to Voltaire:

I do not agree with what you have to say,
but you’ll deaden the deaf with your right to say it.

On a more sombre note, another quote that is attributed to Voltaire strikes a sensitive point in recent political events in the Netherlands:

The ideal form of government is democracy tempered with assassination.

However, I’ve only found the quote in English, without reference to an original source, and without a trace of an original version in French.

Don’t believe the hype

iPad in Google trends
iPad slips from hype topspot
Now that the brouhaha is beginning to fade, maybe we can take stock of the absurdity of the latest product launch by Apple. For those unable to attend the event in person, there were live blogs galore and even a blow-by-blow retelling of what was happening inside by vloggers refused entry.

The irony is delicious: the latest most sophisticated information system being explained in Chinese whispers.

And of course, the story ends in wildly differing versions, from fan- to craptastic.

The only consensus was the high snigger factor of the name — altho’ after the 7th iTampon tweet, the joke was pretty much milked dry.

As one of the many who cannot afford an iPhone, iBook, iTouch or iPad, it seems ridiculous that so much energy is spent in discussing a new gadget. It’s not jealousy on my part, understand; owning an iPad belongs in that post-lottery-win fantasy, where I’m floating on my white leather chaise longue in an infinity pool in St Barts (hey, it’s MY fantasy). Apple has succeeded in generating so much hype about its products that it barely needs to do any promotion itself — we do it ourselves. Nice one, Steve.

And why do we get so excited by a new toy? Because of the need to be “in” with the in-crowd (baaa-aaa), to look down on the have-nots (p-tooo).

It reminds me of a quote about photographers:

Amateurs are concerned about products;
Professionals are concerned about price;
Masters are concerned about light.

It is the amateur’s doomed belief that if he just had the latest product, regularly, he would be able to rank as a pro. The point is that having a better camera is no substitute for practice and talent. Doisneau or Capa wouldn’t have taken better pictures with this year’s latest camera.

Instead of placing our faith externally in an object, we should spend more time investing on the internal.

(… but if I do win the lottery, then I’ll be wearing this Leica necklace in my fantasy …)