Like most of us, I rely on news media to find an explanation to tragedies I watch on TV. Neverthelss, some of my opinions about the Afghan tragedy have furthermore been influenced by talks I once had with my friend Bernth Dagerklint. We had for some years been working as teachers at a high school, though this was not Bernth’s main occupation. Most of the time, he served as an officer during international, armed campaigns supported by the Swedish government. He had been to former Yugoslavia, the West Bank and not the least in Afghanistan, where he since 2003 on several occasions worked as ”instructor” for Afghan officers.
I am in the Swedish countryside, lush and beautiful in its late summer attire, having a conversation with the son of a friend of mine. Oskar Olin runs a sheep farm, Stabbehyltan Lamm AB
, where he practises holistic management
. His three-hundred sheep graze within an area of 30 ha where Oskar every day moves his flock from one pasture to another. It takes between 45 to 90 days before the sheep are back on the same pasture where the rotation began. The animals are thus not overgrazing the area, while they at the same time trample down a protective layer of vegetation, which fertilizes the soil. Carbon is bound in the earth, soil organic matter increases, retaining humidity and accordingly deepen the root systems of wholesome plants.
By the end of April 2019, a government campaign to vaccinate more than 40 million children under five against polio in Pakistan was suspended after a series of attacks on health workers and police. On 23 April, a police officer protecting polio workers was gunned down in Bannu, the same day a polio worker was in Lahore seriously wounded by a father “protecting his child from vaccination”, these incidents were followed by the murder of another police and a health worker under his protection. Health workers were also seriously wounded in the districts of Sindh, Balochistan and Punjab. Afghanistan and Pakistan are the only countries where polio remains, in all other nations of the world vaccination campaigns have eliminated the disease. In April this year, three female polio vaccine providers were killed in Afghanistan.
Getting hard to breathe
hard to believe in anything
at all, but fear.
Peter Gabriel, Mother
Like most male Swedes of my age I had to enter obligatory military service for almost a year. In my barrack was a “born-again-Christian” who when he became angry shouted “Now you mock me, but when the Last Judgement has come I will sit in heaven and smile down at you while you burn in Hell!” Since then I have wondered about the last book of the Bible, the Book of Revelation
. It was written by a frustrated Christian man who by the end of 100 CE by Roman authorities had been deported to an isolated island where he wrote a long letter to Christian congregations in Asia Minor.
In February the killing of the Italian ambassador, Luca Attanasio, in the vicinity of the Virunga National Park in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, did for a short while put the global spotlight on this troubled area, where warfare, poverty and general insecurity generate immense human suffering.
I hear about casualties and numbers, but cannot perceive the faces, the human beings behind them. A week ago, eleven days of havoc ended after at least 243 people, including more than 100 women and children, had been killed in the Gaza Strip and 12 people, including two children, in Israel. An open, gravely infected wound which continuous to bleed, causing never ending human suffering.
is all that you can't say.
Years gone by and still
words don't come easily,
like forgive me, forgive me.
The World Press Freedom Day
on the 3rd of May is an occasion for celebrating humanity. Language enables us to transmit our thoughts in sound – a means of communication developed through our unique brain, combined with our capacity to control lips, tongue and other components of the vocal apparatus. Over time, humans have also acquired skills to commit our language to writing.
Inequality characterizes the world we live in, predisposing how we act and think. We perceive our existence as composed of dichotomies – men and women, young and old, black or white, as well as a difference between those who have and those who do not have access to wealth, health, education and influence. Dichotomies are also born out of comparisons, about how things are now and how they could have been, how they were before and how they are now.
On the morning of 22nd February a jeep from the World Food Programme
(WFP), followed by another one with the Italian ambassador, Luca Anastasio, was driving along Route Nationale 2
passing by The Virunga National Park, an UNESCO Congolese World Heritage Site
famous for its dwindling population of unique mountain gorillas.
Myanmar’s State Counsellor
was recently deposed and arrested along with other leaders of her ruling party – National League for Democracy
(NLD). The Leader of Tatmadaw
, the Military, Min Aung Hlaing, announced that elections in November last year had been fraudulent and in an “effort to save democracy” the military would now rule the nation for at least one year, until new elections could be organised. Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi is accused of “importing ten or more walkie-talkies” and of violating the nation’s “Natural Disaster Law”. Some might agree that Suu Kyi deserves to be locked up. As an admired role model and Nobel Peace Prize winner, she was globally depicted as an almost saintlike being, canonized in movies like Luc Bessons’s The Lady
. U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, watched the movie before she in 2011 visited Suu Kyi, who by then had spent altogether fifteen years in house imprisonment, deprived of the company of an ailing and eventually dying husband and two sons. In spite of her forced isolation she became an eloquent representative for her compatriots’ resistance and perseverance under almost fifty years of military dictatorship.
Occasionally some of us might suffer from a feeling of maximal overload, overwhelmed by COVID-19 and the reign of Donald Trump. It can maybe be conceived as far too euro-centric to be concerned about the disastrous situation in the U.S., with media stuffed to the brim by news about Donald Trump while the global environmental crisis is steadily getting worse and war, injustices and famine continue to agonize people in places like Darfur, Yemen, Afghanistan, and Syria.
Oh, Lord won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz.
My friends all drive Porsches, I must make amends.
Worked hard all my lifetime, no help from my friends.
So, oh Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz.
Janis Joplin, 1970
COVID-19 has made several of us aware of the frailty of our bodies, the certainty of death and how valuable health, companionship and compassion are. Such insights are not uncommon in poor societies where a person’s main and perhaps only asset is her/his body and what s/he is able to do with her/his hands. However, wealthy and privileged people are surrounded by, dependent on, and even integrated with an ever more sophisticated technology, which increasingly, for better or worse, is separating us from what human existence has been for thousands of years.
COVID-19 has in some nations been converted into a noxious, political issue. One of many worrying examples is the rhetoric of Brazil´s president. On 10 November, when Brazil´s COVID-19 death toll surpassed 162,000 victims – the numbers have continued to raise and are now 179,032 second only to USA´s 296,745 – Jair Bolsonaro minimized the effects of COVID-19 by stating: ”All of us are going to die one day. There is no point in escaping from that, in escaping from reality. We have to cease being a country of sissies.” Bolsonaro actually said maricas
, which like sissies
is slang for gay people. Both expressions originally indicated ”small girls” – marica
is a diminutive of Maria and sissy of “kid sister”. Bolsonaro thus defined homosexuality as effeminacy
by associating gay men with affectation and cowardice. By connecting disease, fear, and femininity the Brazilian president not only ignored the strength and courage women throughout history have demonstrated by enduring childbirths and caring for others, it also shows a strong disregard for gender equality and the rights of women and gay people.
On 10 December, representatives for the World Food Programme
(WFP) will in Norway receive the Nobel Peace Prize
at the Oslo City Hall. This is taking place while the COVID-19 pandemic is causing lock-downs and suffering all over world, limiting agricultural production and disrupting supply chains.
When President Luis Abinader arrived at his inauguration in an electrically driven car as a symbolic gesture of his Government’s intentions to make sustainable development one of its main objectives – he signalled the start of addressing climate change commitments in the country.
The 26th of September, the Lebanese prime minister Mustapha Adib stepped down after less than a month on his post. The president, Michael Auon, stated: ”Lebanon will be going to Hell if a new government is not formed soon.” The question is if his nation is not there already. A horrifying image of the state of the nation was provided on the 4th of August when 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate, stored in a dockside hangar, blew up in an explosion killing more than 190 people, injuring 6,500 and damaging thousands of buildings.
COVID-19 has become a scourge affecting all levels of human society – morals, behaviour, human interaction, economy and politics. The pandemic has wrecked havoc on our way of being and its impact will remain huge and all-encompassing. It is not only affecting our globally shared existence, it is also changing what has been called ”the little life”, i.e. our own way of thinking and being, our personal life situation and the one of those close to us; people we love and depend upon – our friends and family.
On Friday the 24th of June, President Trump announced he was skipping a weekend at his New Jersey golf resort to ”ensure law and order in Washington”, tweeting:
I just had the privilege of signing a very strong Executive Order protecting American Monuments, Memorials, and Statues – and combatting recent Criminal Violence. Long prison terms for these lawless acts against our Great Country!
Just as the U.S. is haunted by the 1963 murder of John F. Kennedy, Sweden is troubled by the 1986 murder of its Prime Minister Olof Palme. The American feelings were aired on Bob Dylan´s latest album, Rough and Rowdy Ways
, containing a 16 minutes long song with lines like: