Stories written by Jan Lundius

Birds of Passage: An Instant Classic

The Academy Awards, i.e. The Oscars, may occasionly award a worthy movie as Best Picture, though it is far from sure they select films with a unique artistic vision, enduring cultural influence and/or innovative qualities. Take for example the plain family drama Kramer vs. Kramer, which in 1979 won Best Picture and Best Director, while Francis Ford Coppola´s by now classical epic Apocalypse Now was awarded for best sound.

Kathasaritsagara, The Ocean of Tales.

Some memories stay with us forever. From my childhood I remember above all a few extraordinary moments – when I suddenly, after many failed attempts, found that I could swim and the same happened when I could ride a bicycle on my own. Since then, these skills have stayed with me throughout life, becoming part of my existence. However, towering above these instances of bliss is the moment when I realised that I had read an entire novel, one without pictures. One of those books that grown-ups were reading. From that moment the gates of paradise on earth were flung wide open. Friedrich Nietzsche once wrote that without music life would have been a mistake. He was probably right, but for my part I assume that without reading, my life would have been much more difficult, empty and boring. I cannot imagine a life without books. As a teacher my wish has always been to convey to my pupils the happiness and wealth books may bring to you.

What’s in a Name? Everything.

On March 19, 78 years old Nursultan Äbisjuly Nazarbayev unexpectedly announced his resignation as President of Kazakhstan, referring to the need for “a new generation of leaders”. The same day the speaker of the nation´s parliament was appointed as interim president, awaiting presidential elections scheduled for 2020.

Words Matter: Trump and the Massacres in Christchurch

These lyrics are from Fire, the only hit by The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, which in 1968 sold over one million singles. Brenton Tarrant played it in his car while he triumphantly left the Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand. He had just gunned down around 100 unarmed worshippers and was on his way to another mosque to continue the slaughter before Friday prayers ended on 15 March. His murderous rampage finished by the Linwood Islamic Centre, where he could not find the entrance. He shut a man and his wife, whom he encountered outside the building and then shattered a window with a hail of bullets, killing five more inside, while he shouted that everyone had to leave the mosque. A courageous shop keeper rushed out and throw a credit card reader at Tarrant, who rushed back to his car followed by the shop keeper, who shattered the windshield with a handgun he had picked up from the ground. Tarrant run away, but was almost immediately restrained by police who had been able to trace him.

Europe under Siege: Collusions, Dugin and Bannon

EU Parliament elections take place every fifth year and votes have steadily been decreasing. In the last 2014 election, the overall turnout was 42.54 percent of those entitled to vote, in some nations it was just around fifteen percent. Nevertheless, results will not only be eagerly awaited by pro- and anti-EU activists, but also by ideologist from non-member countries. Particularily vociferous among such people are Steve Bannon, who wants to “Make America Great Again” and Aleksandr Dugin who wants to “Make Russia Great Again”.

Birds of a Feather: Kim Jong-un and Donald J Trump

After his first meeting with Kim Jong-un Donald Trump declared: "And then we fell in love, okay? No, really – he wrote me beautiful letters, and they're great letters." Maybe it was a joke, maybe not. At least Trump indicated that he and Kim Jong-un were friends. In his book De Amicitia, written 44 BCE, Marcus Tullius Cicero wrote "A friend is, as it were, a second self." Are Trump and Kim Jong-un really friends? At least they seem to have many personal traits in common.

Criminality, School Dropout and Gender Equality

I assume it was the Swedish author Stieg Larsson´s Millenium trilogy (2005-2007) that generated the popularity of Scandinavian Crime Fiction, as well numerous movies and TV-series that followed in its wake. A typical Nordic Noir novel takes place within a gloomy landscape of dreary towns, or a semi-deserted countryside, where under the thin surface of an apparently well-ordered society, murder, misogyny, rape, racism and international crime syndicates are thriving.

The Wall: Thirty Years Ago European Walls Were Destroyed, but Others Are Being Built

On January 25, 2017, the Trump administration signed Executive Order 13767, instructing the Government to begin new constructions and replacements of walls between the US and Mexico. From December 22, 2018 to January 25, 2019, the federal government was partially shut down due to President Trump's declared intention to veto any spending bill that did not include $5 billion in funding for a border wall. It was with good reason the Congress withheld such an enormous sum of money. As the European experience indicates, building walls between countries has proven to be both obsolete and disastrous.

Roma the Movie: The Hidden Drama of Domestic Workers

Roma, a 2018 Mexican film written and directed by Alfonso Cuarón, is currently on a triumphal journey through the world. It won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, the best director and best foreign language film at the Golden Globe Awards, best director and best picture at the Critics´ Choice Awards, best film, best direction and best cinematography at the British Academy Film Awards. Furthermore, Roma has a record high ten nominations for the upcoming Academy Awards (The Oscars). Not at all bad for a black-and-white movie, which appears to have been directed by a sophisticated cineaste and custom-made for an art-house audience. Moreover, Roma deals with a highly controversial and seldom treated theme – the plight of poor, women domestic workers.

Seas of Death and Hope

The Mediterranean Sea is currently a sea of death. On the 20th of June every year, i.e. The World Refugee Day, an organization called UNITED for Intercultural Action publishes a “List of Deaths”, summarising information on where, when and under which circumstances a named individual has died due to the “fatal policies of fortress Europa”. The data are collected through information received from 550 network organisations in 48 countries and from local experts, journalists and researchers in the field of migration. The list issued in 2018 accounted for 27 000 deaths by drowning since 1993, often hundreds at a time when large embarkations capsize. These deaths account for 80 per cent of all the entries,1 there are probably thousands more dead, corpses that were never found and/or not accounted for.

Sex Education and Women´s Health

Is there a connection between sex education, gender equality and promiscuity? On this website, Fabiana Fraysinnet recently denounced a Brazilian crusade against sex education conducted by conservative and religious sectors. Such initiatives are common in several other countries, where politicians and religious leaders accuse sexual education of blurring boundaries between male and female and thus foment homosexuality and transsexualism, as well as a moral relativism undermining family structures and adherence to religious guidance and dogma.

Back to the Future: Vietnam Now and Then

In 1989 I watched Back to the Future, Part II by Robert Zemickis, a complicated story about a youngster who from 1985 time travelled to 2015. Within the movie I spotted a poster from the imaginary 2015: US AIR Surf Vietnam. Back in 1989 I associated Vietnam with the war that lasted from 1955 to the fall of Saigon in 1975 and by different media was brought into the homes of millions, radicalizing and engaging youngsters, not the least me.

Strangers in the Land: A Congolese Murder Case

I thought about this song by Paul Simon while I in 2011 spent a few weeks in Kinshasa. I was a foreign man in a strange world, surrounded by sights and sounds, completely dependent on my new-found Congolese friends. When our taxi got stuck in a traffic jam and we had to walk to our destination I was stopped by a group of heavily armed youngsters, lead by a man who claimed to be a policeman, charging me with an exaggerated high fine for taking photos within a restricted area.

Is Love an Embarrassment?

I do not understand a word of Persian and cannot determine whether these lines, taken from a German translation, are a correct interpretation of Muhammad Hāfez-e-Shīrāzī´s original poem. Nevertheless, Hāfez, who lived 1315-1390 CE, was apparently one of those great writers able to provide bemused couples with points of reference after being struck by the tumultuous sensation of passionate love.

One Hundred Years of Solitude: Memories and Genocide

Denis Villeneuve´s film Blade Runner 2049 depicts a future where “bioengineered replicants” are used as slaves and killed if they misbehave. Replicants are manufactured and individualized as if they were real humans. They are even implanted with artificial memories, a measure intended to make them more “mental stable”, able to cope with their wretch existence as slave labourers. Dr. Ana Stelline, a character in the movie, explains how she manufactures memories:

From Mali: A Lesson in Tolerance

We all adhere to generalizations. For example, while reading and speaking about Muslims and Christians, sweeping opinions might easily become prejudices, particularily if we do not know any individual behind the labels. When I some years ago was working for a Malian NGO, I met a marabout and a Christian who proved that devotees to different religions might find mutual support in their individual beliefs.

The Dark Shadows of Christmas

Christmas is expected to be a peaceful celebration of the birth of Jesus. A time to express love and care for one another. Jesus preached love and compassion, but also told us to be suspicious of imposters: “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep´s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves”. Wolves are predators who disregard the suffering of their victims. A human wolf is an egomaniac ready to maim and murder, either to please himself or his master, often deluding himself by imagining he serves a higher purpose.

“No One Listened to Us!” The Ixiles of Guatemala

According to the Mexican Interior Ministry more than 7,000 Central American migrants have during the last month arrived at the US-Mexico border. Despite warnings by officials that they will face arrests, prosecution and deportation if they enter US territory, migrants state they intend to do so anyway, since they are fleeing persecution, poverty and violence. This is not new, in 1995 I visited Ixil and Ixcan, two Guatemalan areas mainly inhabited by Ixiles. My task was to analyse the impact of a regional development programme aimed at supporting post-conflict indigenous communities. United Nations has estimated that between 1960 and 1996 more than 245,000 people (mostly civilians) had been killed, or "disappeared" during Guatemalan internal conflicts, the vast majority of the killings were attributed to the army, or paramilitary groups.

Power and Sexual Abuse: The Danger of Doubling

Several celebrities use their power to insult or take advantage of women. We read about sexual abuse from men like Harvey Weinsten, Bill O´Reilly, Leslie Moonves, Jeffrey Epstein, Bill Cosby, R. Kelly, Dennis Hastert, Robert Packwood, Roger Ailes, James Levine, Hans Hermann Groër, Marcial Maciel, Justin Forsyth, Ruud Lubbers, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Bill Clinton, Silvio Berlusconi and Donald Trump. The list is just a sample of an extensive catalogue of Western men accused of abusing women, using their fame, fortune and power to exploit and humiliate them. Unfortunately, misogyny, contempt of and prejudice against women and girls, may even be characterized as a cultural universal, an element, pattern, trait, or institution that is common to all human cultures worldwide.

Why Bother about World War I

Why do we still need to be concerned about a war that ended a hundred years ago? Sure, it caused the death of at least 37 million people, but why bother about that now? Anyhow France´s president Emmanuel Macron believed it was worthwhile to commemorate the end of World War I and seventy world leaders were invited to attend the centennial ceremony by Paris´s Arc de Triomphe.

Ignoring the Murder of a Journalist in the Name of National Interest

A foreign citizen – well-known journalist, author, university lecturer and regime critic – with residence in the US is abducted by a group of professionals employed by a foreign Government – depicted as a stout US ally – and subsequently tortured and killed. In spite of the case being thoroughly investigated by both the CIA and the FBI, which verified that a crime had been committed, the US Government did not take any steps to rebuke the rulers of the allied country.

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