While opening a newspaper or watching a TV program we are every day made aware of the plights of irregular migrants. Some recent examples among many – on 24 October, 39 Chinese nationals were found dead in a lorry trailer in Essex. They had apparently frozen to death within a refrigerator container with temperatures as low as -25C (-13F). This while tragedies occur almost daily on the Mediterranean Sea. On 26 November, a rescue vessel found a boat almost completely sunken. It had three dead bodies aboard. Fifty-five migrants were saved. Three of them were in a critical condition, and one died after reaching Melilla in Spain, where the migrants were brought in. Three children were among the survivors, though a further ten individuals were reported missing. Nowadays, such news items pass by almost imperceptibly. Every day, thousands of unfortunate human beings are trafficked all over the world to suffer underpaid, hazardous work, or prostitution.
To be president in a country like Bolivia might be like a precarious act performed by a tightrope-dancer between “the Devil and the deep blue sea”. After 23 years as Bolivia’s President, Evo Morales finally lost his foothold and ended up as political refugee in Mexico, adding his name to a long list of previous revolutionary exiles, like Augusto Sandino, Fidel Castro, and most prominently – Leon Trotsky. The last one was murdered, though the others came back, something Evo Morales has promised to do:
On October 11, the Norwegian Nobel Prize Committee
announced that this year´s Peace Prize
is awarded to Ethiopia´s prime minister Abiy Ahmed: “For his efforts to achieve peace and international cooperation, and in particular for his decisive initiative to resolve the border conflict with neighbouring Eritrea.”1
Let us hope that Abiy remains a worthy Peace Prize
winner and that warfare and human suffering on the Horn of Africa will finally come to an end.
Politics is a dodgy game, maybe even more so if you represent political views based on a moral approach. When the charismatic Justin Trudeau, son of a cosmopolitan liberal who served as Canada´s Prime Minister for 16 years, in 2015 was elected Prime Minister it was within a global political climate different from what it is today. Barack Obama was in the White House, Angela Merkel served her third period as German Chancellor, and the UK Government had not yet announced its country's withdrawal from the EU. Nevertheless, Russia had three months before Trudeau´s election annexed Crimea, while Viktor Orbán´s Hungarian government the month before initiated the construction of a 4 metres high barrier along its nation´s eastern and southern borders to keep immigrants out.
In a 1974 article, Woody Allen poked fun at biblical stories presenting ludicrous paraphrases of The Book of Job
, Abraham´s intended sacrifice of his son Isaac, as well as The Book of Proverbs
. One of Allen´s invented proverbs was: “The wicked at heart probably know something”, thus implementing that the “pure of heart”, i.e. credulous people, know nothing. 1
A month ago I visited Jersey, one of the few European territories still welcoming refugees, though in the case of Jersey they have to be wealthy and are generally fleeing not from war and misery, but from taxes. Once Jersey and the nearby island of Guernsey harbored one of Europe´s most famous political refugees – Victor Hugo (1802-1885), who after he had been too outspoken in his criticism of the autocrat Louis Napoleon found it more convenient to live on the Channel Islands than in France. In spite of being very close to France and with a population that at the time was mainly French-speaking, these islands were nevertheless British territory.
When I in 1980 first arrived in America it was a new world to me. I went from New York to Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic and like so many visitors and migrants before me I was overwhelmed by both familiar and strange impressions. Familiar due to books I had read and movies I had seen, strange since I encountered unexpected things and new because both I and several of those I met compared themselves to the “old world”, i.e. Euroasia and parts of Africa.
Some world leaders try to prove their alpha male status by presenting attractive and submissive wives as tokens won in virile scrambles with other potent stags. A recent example of such puerile machismo was exposed in a twitter battle between the Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro and his French equivalent Emmanuel Macron. Since taking office in January, Mr Bolsonaro has railed against what he considered to be foreign meddling in Brazilian environmental politics. Wild fires raging in the Amazonian rain forest have generally been blamed on a rampant deforestation said to be endorsed by Bolsonaro´s regime. Emmanuel Macron tweeted a photo of burning Amazonian forestland with the comment: ”Our house is burning. Literally.” Bolsonaro reacted immediately and accused Macron of supporting an international alliance intending to take control over Amazonia while treating Brazil like a ”colony”. Bolsonaro twittered:
The last frontier for utilizing and maybe even exhausting Earth´s natural resources is opening up in the Arctic and some of the world´s wealthiest nations are trying to secure their piece of the cake. Some act openly, others are more secretive – recently one of the competitors entered the game in a remarkably unwieldy manner.
As I often do, I recently discussed the Syrian Civil War with a friend of Lebanese origin. He is far from supporting the Syrian regime, which occupied his country of origin between 1989-2008. My friend assumes the Syrian government was behind the assassination of Lebanon´s prime minister Bachir Gemayel, who in 1982 together with 26 others were blown to pieces by a bomb planted at the headquarters of the Lebanese Forces
. He also suspects Syria was behind the death of former prime minister Rafik Harari, who in 2005 was killed in a car bomb explosion. However, this does not make my friend an admirer of Israel or the U.S., which together with Russia, Turkey, Iran, and Saudi Arabia meddle in Syria´s bloody internal strife. It is an almost impossible task to disentangle the mess of warring fractions guided by corrupt politicians, religious fanatics, liberal politicians, bandits, Mafiosi and/or foreign commercial and strategical stakeholders.
We live in different worlds. The ones of friends, family and work colleagues. Worlds which are overshadowed by other, much bigger ones. Global spheres of international finance, politics, climate change, etc., contexts that might threaten our smaller circle of relationships; our family, our income, our general wellbeing, in short – our entire existence. However, even at those levels there exist small circles of acquaintances and associates able to make decisions that affect the entire humankind. Let me take one example – the regimes of U.S. President Donald J. Trump and Brazilian President Jair Messias Bolsonaro, which are menacing our global natural habitat.
Trying to teach and inspire youngsters is a daunting task. Many teachers tend to suffer from a harrowing, bad conscience, obliged as they are to follow routines, rules, and regulations set down by their employers while knowing that these are difficult to apply and provide with desired results. Worst is a nagging feeling of inability to reach out to the students. Most teachers want their pupils to be good learners, critically thinking individuals who feel gratified and keen to change things for the better.
Sometime in the summer of 1974, I was leaning against the gunwale of the ferry between Calais and Dover, watching the moonlight streaming dark waters. When I turned to the left I found that a Chinese lady also looked out over the calm sea. What she told me changed my world view.
If they pay for it, men tend to believe they have the right to do anything to a woman’s body. You pay for your own entertainment without a thought about who you are paying and what cause you are supporting. Money is used as an excuse for and a means to oil a machinery that generates lots of profit while keeping pimps and other perpetrators out of the reach of the law.
On 8 July, Bosco Ntaganda was by the International Criminal Court
(ICC) found guilty of crimes against humanity. The 41-year-old rebel leader, nicknamed The Terminator
, had ordered his fighters to "target and kill civilians", kidnap children to be brought up as soldiers and girls to become sex slaves, while personally partaking in the crimes. The Court had gathered evidence from 2,000 survivors from the rampage that Ntaganda and his army ran through the north-eastern Congolese region of Ituri, where beginning in 1999, 60,000 people have been murdered by warring rebel armies. Eighty witnesses testified directly during the court proceedings, thirteen were "experts" and the rest victims.
The Libyan catastrophe and the suffering of ”illegal” migrants are generally depicted as fairly recent events, though they are actually the results of a long history of greed, contempt for others and fatal shortsightedness. Like former Yugoslavia, Libya was created from a mosaic of tribal entities, subdued by colonial powers and then ruled by an iron-fisted dictator. Now, Libya is a quagmire where local and international stakeholders battle to control its natural resources. The country holds the largest oil reserves in Africa, oil and gas account for 60 percent of GDP and more than 90 percent of exports.1
This is one reason why Egypt, France, Russia, Saudi Arabia, the U.S., and many other nations are enmeshed in Libya. Furthermore, European nations try to stop mainly sub-Saharan refugees and migrants from reaching their coasts from Libya. An attempt to understand Italy´s essential role in the struggle over Libya´s oil and attempts to control unwanted immigration may help to clarify some issues related to the current situation.
Agriculture is the bedrock of sedentary human civilization, without it we would have no governments or nations. It was food surplus generated by agriculture that enabled people to live in cities and form regimes able to organize food production in such a manner that some community members could engage in other activities than direct food production and thus give rise to the ideologies, techniques and goods which now constitute and govern our existence.
Being a frequent visitor to the Dominican Republic, where I occasionally have enjoyed the high standard, security and excellent service of its resorts, I became puzzled by recent, quiet excessive media reactions to statistically insignificant cases of deaths in these resorts. The number of demises in Dominican resorts have been more or less the same over the years and do not at all differ from those of most other tourist destinations. People die in hotels all over the world. There may even be specific reasons for this and they are far from being unique to the Dominican Republic.
A friend of mine who became wealthy as an art dealer but eventually lost his fortune told me: "Money isn´t everything, but it helps." This made me think of Donald Trump, who likes to describe himself as an entrepreneur, i.e. ”owner of a business enterprise who, by risk and initiative, attempts to make profits."1
The keyword is profits
. According to Trump, success is measured through wealth. Like chess and poker, entrepreneurship is about winning and losing. Trump characterizes people he dislikes as losers
, while he considers himself to be a winner
When I recently visited the Czech Republic I noticed an increasing Czech opposition against their wealthy Prime Minister. Andrej Babiš has been endowed with the nickname Babisconi
since he, like the former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, is accused of purchasing and using various means of communication for his own propaganda purposes. Apparently, this endeavour has so far been quite successful, since according to my Czech friends Babiš is still popular among a majority of their compatriots.
There are several means to make profitable use of other human beings, an endeavour that tends to turn others into tools by depriving them of their roots and self-respect. This happened in concentration - and work camps, where individuals were reduced to mere numbers.