At Statens Museum for Kunst
in Copenhagen there is a great painting made in 1797 by the Danish Golden Age
painter Jens Juel. It depicts one of Denmark’s richest merchants at the time – Niels Ryberg, his newlywed son Johan Christian, and the son’s bride, Engelke. Johan Christian makes a gesture as though to show off the family estate. There is a strong feeling of harmony between the people and the countryside in which they are placed. The picture reflects the new interest in nature that emerged all over Europe towards the end of the 18th century. It also demonstrates how Denmark’s new, rich bourgeois wished to carry themselves in the style of the aristocracy, a social class which dominance they were infringing. Ryberg and his son appear just as distinguished as the aristocrats that used to be portrayed by Jens Juel.
“Woke” was for a century, especially among black people in the US, an inspirational concept. However, almost overnight it turned into a pejorative. Like using the term “politically correct” as an insult, calling someone “woke” came to imply that the referred person’s views are excessively ridiculous, or even despicable. Being “anti-woke” has become an indication that you do not belong to an assumed group of “do-gooders”, who at the expense of right-minded “ordinary” citizens assert the demands of interest groups, which declare themselves to be discriminated against due to their ethnicity/race, gender, sexual preference, and/or physical or psychological disabilities.
Karl Marx’s Manifesto of the Communist Party
begins with the now worn-out phrase: “A spectre is haunting Europe – the spectre of communism. All the powers of old Europe have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this spectre”. Nowadays the word “communism” could easily be substituted by “migration”. All over Europe, politicians claim that Europe is being destroyed by migrants. In country after country, ghosts of yesterday are awakened. Parliaments include xenophobic politicians who might be considered as inheritors of demagogs who once dragged Europeans into hate and bloodbaths.
Conflicting emotions greet the outcomes of COP28. After 28 years of climate conferences, an agreement has, for the first time, proclaimed that fossil fuels are the biggest culprit behind the warming of our planet and stated that it would encourage all nations to “accelerating action in this critical decade so as to achieve net zero by 2050 in keeping with the science." The agreement calls for, among other things, a tripling of renewable energy by 2030, but also an increased pace in the work to develop technical solutions for the separation and storage of carbon dioxide, an extremely expensive and, so far, limited effort.
A dark cloud is hovering above human existence. It is a fairly illusory cloud haunting our minds and wellbeing, but also an actual, menacing, mostly invisible cloud that covers the Earth’s entire atmosphere. Saturated by greenhouse gases, this global threat increases with every year, threatening all life on Earth, causing increased flooding, extreme heat, draught, wild fires, rising sea levels, food and water scarcity, as well as diseases and mounting economic loss. This misery, caused by human greed, thoughtlessness, and self-aggrandizement, trigger human migration and armed conflicts.
This year’s UN Climate Change Conference
is taking place in Dubai from 30 November to 12 December. The so-called COP summits are organised every year and constitute a means for the global community to agree on ways to address the climate crisis, such as limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius, supporting vulnerable communities to adapt to the effects of climate change, and achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.
In 1968, the tobacco company Philip Morris
introduced a new cigarette brand called Virginia Slims
. Under the slogan “You’ve come a long way, baby” it was exclusively marketed to women. The advertising campaign exploited the civil rights movements of the 1960s, indicating that those cigarettes were enjoyed by strong, independent, and liberated women. A blatant lie – why would “independent” women choose to poison themselves with a commodity which each year causes more than 480,000 deaths in the US alone – nearly one in five deaths? Another question arising from this deceitful ad is: “How far have women come on their way to independence and liberation?”
Some time ago I watched the Indian blockbuster RRR (Rise, Roar, Revolt). It received universal praise for direction, screenwriting, cast performances, soundtrack (which won an Oscar) and thrilling action sequences. RRR is filled with gore; bodies beaten, pierced and torn apart. An overblown combination of Quentin Tarantino and Bollywood, far away from Satyajit Ray’s emotionally moving films, as well as Bollywood’s romantic comedies and mythological dramas. RRR never pauses for breath. The two male protagonists are supermen, not exposing many recognizable human traits, even if they might occasionally sing and talk about love. Hard to understand, since the few women of the story are cut-out clichés.
While climate change is relentlessly progressing, threatening life on earth, world leaders continue to meet while planning for a future where this immense menace to human existence remains a minor item on the agenda.
The war in Ukraine continues unabated; young men are sacrificed on battlefields, towns laid waste by aerial attacks, the threat of nuclear disasters is looming. People within an often formerly friendly inclined Europe are now wondering if Vladimir Putin has gone insane. The war in Ukraine is generally called “Putin’s war” and in April 2021 Putin signed a legislation providing him the right to run for two more consecutive terms, thus he could stay in power till 2036.
The World changes, though prejudices and misconceptions remain. In 1996, political scientist Samuel Huntington published The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order
, in which he predicted that people’s cultural and religious identities would become the primary source of conflict in a Post–Cold War World
. Huntington’s allegations have been contradicted by a number of critics, among them American Palestinian professor Edward Said, who lamented their extreme cultural determinism, which omitted the dynamic interdependency and interaction of cultures. Said’s own Orientalism
depicted a generalised “Western view” of Arab cultures as “static and undeveloped”, while European culture was considered to be “developed, rational, flexible, and superior.” Literature and movies have depicted Arabs as exotic men riding camels and horses through the desert, and their women as dangerously seductive objects of male desire. Eventually, the exotic men turned in to being terrorists, and/or depraved oil-rich magnates, while Muslim women were presented as veiled, enigmatic, and oppressed.
Putin’s regime recently suspended Russia’s participation in a nuclear arms agreement with Washington. After the decision Putin declared that the move was a retaliation for the US’s, France’s and Britain’s “targeting” of Russia with nuclear weapons. He was forced to take action to “preserve our country, ensure security and strategic stability”:
When the Pope Emeritus
Benedict XIV/Ratzinger died on the last day of 2022 it did not cause much of a stir in the global newsfeed. Maybe a sign that religion has ceased to play a decisive role in modern society Nevertheless, religious hierarchies are still highly influential, not least for the world’s 1, 4 billion baptized Catholics, and a pope’s policies have a bearing not only on morals, but also on political and economic issues. By contrast, there are more Muslims in the world, 1.9 billion, though adherents are not so centrally controlled and supervised as Catholics and hierarchies do not have a comparable influence on global affairs.
During November, soldiers of the March 23 Movement
(M23) have been approaching Goma in the eastern territory of the Democratic Republic of the Congo
(DRC), close to the Rwandan border. About 180.000 people are now leaving Goma, a city with a million inhabitants. Many stakeholders are involved in the conflict and there is an apparent danger that the overall carnage that affected the Congolese eastern border areas fifteen years ago will resume. At the same time, war is ranging in Ukraine, which name likely comes from the old Slavic term for borderland
Like most armed conflicts the Ukrainian war intends to establish hegemony over a certain area, in rivalry with other usurpers. Russian propaganda pinpoints the US and EU as Russia’s main adversaries, while Ukraine is portrayed as a pawn in these nations’ international yearnings. Such a scenario is not new.
In his treatise On War
, the Prussian general Carl von Clausewitz (1780–1831) stated that war is “merely a continuation of policy with other means”. With his experience from the Napoleonic Wars
von Clausewitz knew that totalitarian regimes could end up conducting huge and ruthless military campaigns. Furthermore, he assumed that to win a war it is necessary to mobilize and indoctrinate the inhabitants of an entire nation. Such an endeavour is called total war
, a term that actually can be applied to Putin’s war in Ukraine.
After President Putin had given a speech, garnered with accusations and myths, a mega-show at the Red Square
celebrated the re-entry of four Ukrainian regions to the bosom of Mother Russia
. This while a mass mobilization was preparing to throw hundreds of thousands of young men into the hell of war. Why are people trusting, supporting and even admiring a political leader like Putin? One of many reasons might be his stance as Supreme Leader, a Strongman
After general elections on the 12th September, Sweden is on the threshold of a new era. The Sweden Democrats
(SD) won almost 21 percent of the votes and thus became the largest in a bloc of right-wing parties that now have a collective majority in the parliament. A nation that for a long time prided itself of being a beacon of tolerance and openness will now experience a historical transformation. The Sweden Democrats
was once founded by Nazi sympathisers and for decades shunned by mainstream politicians. However, SD has now tipped the political scale in a country previously known for its stable and predictable politics, and some of the party’s former foes are now willing to co-rule with them.
Can a pitiless, offensive war waged against a sovereign state be justified? In my opinion the answer is an unequivocal “No!”. Ukraine has the right to defend itself against Russia’s reckless and extremely destructive invasion and EU’s support to a neighbouring country attacked by a superior enemy is definitely correct. However, several Latin American intellectuals and leaders are willing to accept Putin’s narrative, instead of Zelensky’s, namely that the war in Ukraine is actually a war between Russia and USA, which by stalling Russia’s and China’s ambitions intends to maintain its supremacy as a superpower, while using Ukraine as a pawn in its power game.
When I was a child, a friend asked me: “How would you describe a tree to someone who has never seen one?” I looked at the trees surrounding us and realised it was impossible, considering their versatility, beauty and utter strangeness. Since that time, I have often wondered about trees, as well as I have been worried by the indiscriminate destruction of trees and forests.
Many of us assume that an identification with a certain gender, race, nation or even age makes us particularly knowledgeable. When it comes to age, it is in most cultures of the world assumed that age and experience favour wisdom. I am not entirely sure about that, though I am convinced that as we grow older we tend to overestimate our own knowledge and importance. An arrogance that might burden and even marginalize the youth.