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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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 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
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.
The recent rise of nationalism in some western countries has been fuelled by an anti-immigration campaign based on the assumed negative influences migrants may have on the host country’s “culture”. Nationalists seem to conceive culture as a static concept. However, culture is not invariable, it develops and changes over time and as most things created by humans, it is also connected with power. Generally, when people define themselves as “cultured” they assert themselves as superior to others.
The year 2015 was a sad one for journalists around the world, with approximately 60 journalists killed, more than 200 imprisoned and more than 400 exiled.