Sunday, August 16, 2009

Lightning isn't Zeus' Weapon Smiting down his Enemies on Earth, Really

Days pass, and I grow more amazed with how the debate over health care is "growing" (or rather devolving) in the US.
  • Death Panels.
  • Tribunals which decide which old person gets care, which baby gets to live...
  • Obama's plan equated to placing the US under communist rule.
  • "Socialism" flung all around and spat out (with all the necessary dribbles of saliva and glazed over eyes) at every occasion by poor morons who don't even know what the word means.
  • Obama's plan equated with Nazi plans.

I don't know, I'm just floored.

Floored by the impossible naivete, the TOTAL IGNORANCE of a majority among the American people. Their gullibility for the most blatant, and outrageous lies uttered by mopstly maverick people they KNOW aren't trustworthy (Sarah Palin being number 1).

This stinks so much of unreasoned paranoia of people who cling to a romanced image of Founding Fathers who've been dust for CENTURIES now... People who think their governments is their enemy, and believe the greedy pharmaceutical and insurance industry are there to save them. People who believe their individual freedoms are better defended by private groups and assets they HAVE NO CONTROL over (and are at the mercy of) than by a government THEY ELECT.

I waver between outright stupidity, complete lack of maturity, and utter nuttiness.

People rave, foaming at the mouth, against government programs while benefiting from such programs (MEDICARE, anyone ?), without which they could just die out a nice, uncared for slow death (unless they believe private insurances would reach out to them and help them out of the natural goodness of their little hearts).

I can't help wondering at the incredibly immature prejudices displayed by a majority of American people. You'd think they're bunches of 4 years old who still believe thunder is a god's hammer falling upon the earth...

Watching all this as it enfolds from abroad, it frightens me to think that these USA would be the model of the world. With such obscurantism and ignorance ruling the day, the world wouldn't get far.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Veiled Reflections

The veil/niqab controversy won't die in France. It may seem weird to countries like the US or the UK, where just about all the forms of religious extremism or communautarism are openly tolerated, and where communities live among themselves, in ghetto-like quarters where people from different cultures don't mix.Usually people from those two countries look down on what's happening in France or in latin countries with a sort of kind superiority, claiming they're more tolerant, and we're all backward, stuck-up people who won't see the error of their ways.

Still, at least here we wonder, we question. We do not automatically validate everything that gets thrown our way. We try (and often fail) to promote the mix of cultures, to ban ghetto-like suburbs or quarters (but here our nice and gentle and well-educated bourgeoisie doesn't help much). And this latest controversy concerning women (not many) who flaunt the use of the niqab (complete veil which doesn't even let you see the eyes of the person) as some twisted revendication of ethnic roots is one well worth having.

Yes, the use of the niqab in the public spaces (streets, public transports, cinemas, restaurants, cafes, etc.) must be forbidden. Yes, we should not even try to argue with all the false defenders of "freedom" (which, here, is nothing more than another word for "oppression plan deployment"), and simply fall back on the obligation for everyone to be garbed in a manner that will allow them to be identified if a police officer requests it. Still, for the sake of being clear about it, here's my view on why things such as the niqab should be forbidden in all western countries, and all countries which claim they grant women a true status of equality with men :

The niqab acts like a tool of isolation and exclusion of all "others", no matter who or what those "others" may be, no matter what their nature or gender. It's a very simple, direct and primal effect: it's visual and physical both. Anyone who passes by a person wearing the niqab (ou can't tell whether it's a man or a woman) cannot help but respond, on a reflexive level, the same way you'll stare when you notice something out of place close to you, whether you want to, or not.

Beyond the obvious denial of self wearing a niqab represents (denial of one's image to others, and thus denial of self), this garb is the perfect symbol of the denial of the feminine identity, and of the rejection of a woman as a "woman", female human being and equal (even if different) to the male human being, a.k.a. "man".

The "inner beauty" fantasy or the "beyond apparences" rationale cannot resist analysis: we're human beings. As such, we cannot help responding to all external sitmuli: we react to appearances. Our gender is part of our identity and our image. To deny that is to deny oneself or worse, it's to drape oneself in hypocrisy.

And beyond all this, the niqab is as fundamentally disturbing in a western society as a woman wearing shorts and a sleeveless blouse strolling in an Arab country would be: what isn't accepted there because it doesn't respect the country's customs has its equivalent here; and what doesn't shock there (having to adhere to the customs of the country in which you are) shouldn't shock here either (*).

When extremists from all the sides of the spectrum, the false defenders of a so-called freedom which is nothing more than a pretext to establish oppression, or those who seek after roots where they have no chance of finding them will understand this, we'll have taken a great step toward brighter days.

(*) cultural relativism has ery clear limits, which are drawn around oh-so insignificant things such as the universal declaration of human rights (which, incidentally, applies to women as well...)

Something else entirely:
A small, tiger-grey cat came to say hello in Koroni. A smile and a thought from our little one, a bit of light in the blue heavens. And memories, and feelings, and this crazy mixture of warmth, sadness and beautiful memories that nothing can shake. Our beloved little guardian still watches over us. And we remember him. We think about him. We love him.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

When a Tiny Drop of Flu Eclipses the World's Misery...

..You know there's something very wrong with the realm of Denmark. Not that this is new, but it's worth underlining in this case.

Day after day after day, the TV news, the newspaper headlines are all the same: the H1N1/Mexican/Swine Flu is threatening the world! SOS! The WHO is rising its danger level to 5 on a scale of 6! Wow, you'd think a tsunami is about to wipe out hundreds of thousands of people. You'd think the Spanish Flu is about to kill millions in the world like it did in the early 1900s--except of course, the Spanish Flu happened a century ago, not now.

As a matter of fact, our very modest H1N1/Mexican/Swine Flu can only boast about less than 20 deaths and some pitiful hundred sick people all over the world. And this is what has the news obsessing? This is what has the governments meeting and worrying?

Please, give me a break.

Our regular, familiar yearly flu outbreak kills tens of thousands of people every winter. It makes hundreds of people sick each winter. And we're going "global quarantine" over less than 20 deaths and some pitiful hundred sick people?

Errrm, would anyone be so kind as to reassure me and explain that we're all on Candid Camera? No? Ah, my bad.

While governments spend billions to buy anti-viral medication which may, or may not be efficient (or simply be outdated)--regardless of the costs, when they're so worried about costs for our health care systems--thus making the huge global pharmaceutical companies happy, while we're all being brainwashed by TV, newspaper, radio and all the communication means available, the world keeps sinking.

Workers keep being laid off. Rightwing governments use the global crisis to justify cutting on expenses, slicing into worker rights, and furthering their objectives to serve the wealthy and the mighty. The powers-that-be reinforce their brutal reign, the financial sharks regain their wealth, their incomes and bonuses which would allow a family to live a whole life on a single year of a Wall Street "Wizard"'s salary.

No regulation measure is decided. No list of tax evasion countries has been drawn--well, no credible one anyway, but if you want to take the insulting joke flung at the world population's face by the G20, well, you're welcome to that. In essence, the whole financial world which dumped us in this mess and is making us pay for their swindling and thieving ways is saying "go on, people, move, nothing to see here, it's business as usual. Have faith, trust us, we're taking good care of everything."

And so, all is set for a repetition of the crisis we're going through. Except of course, the next one will be way worse, as is the way of capitalism's inner workings.

But then, fortunately, we don't need to think about all those depressing things: we have an oh-my-god-wow-it's-like-a-Hollywood-thriller potential flu pandemic on our hands, and the media won't let us forget about it.

I feel so much safer.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Meanwhile, in the World…

Very precise memos on US torture^H^H^H^H^H^H^H excuse me, fine interrogation techniques were released to the public by the Obama Administration. A stunning example of exquisite detail, they explain how, when, where how long (plus all the questions you could ever imagine--some which you would never think of) you should apply those fine torture^H^H^H^H^H^H^H interrogation methods on the prisoners.

As in the famous experiment on submission to authority and estrangement from responsibility and accountability demonstrated, these memos were designed to reassure the tormentors that what they were doing was sanctioned by a higher power. That they were on the side of good, that it was all right. Well, I’ve got news for you, ladies and gentlemen of the US torture battalion: torturers are evil. No matter where, when, how or why, torture is evil. And you who have willingly and knowingly tormented other human beings aren’t heroes. You’re not good citizens. You’re not faithful servants of your country. You defiled its name, you shamed it in an irremediable fashion.

And you must be brought to justice. You must face those you harmed so grievously, those you humiliated, those fellow human beings you reduced to a status far below that of animals.

The economical and financial crisis is going well, thank you very much. Lay-offs are growing exponentially. In Europe, big company CEOs are advancing their agendas to cut down on worker and social rights. Those nice CEOs and their financial tycoon masters cannot give enough thanks for the opportunities this crisis has offered them to reach goals which would otherwise have remained out of their reach. Strangled workers and unions are backed to the wall by powers-that-be who have no morals, no ethics, and for whom balance means being lords over hordes of slaves they can hire, lay off and treat however they want to, because they know what’s best [for them and the stakeholders].

The grand promises of change, of a revolution in the way things are “managed” in the global economy, the promises of regulation, control and sanction that will ensure that such a crisis never happens again…well, they’re here somewhere, I’m sure. There, in the vacuum of space, yeah. In the nothingness of the interstellar void, where all lies and false promises end up. It was to be expected: the powers do not want to be limited. They do not want to face those they’ve harmed, are harming and will continue harming for the sole benefit of less than 5% of the global population, while telling u s that this society we live in, this society they forged, is freedom’s realm—theirs, not ours.

Liars, all of them: Barack Obama, Nicolas Sarkozy, Angela Merkel, Gordon Brown, Hu Jin Tao, Manuel Barroso, Silvio Berlusconi—the list is long. They told us they would change it, and make it better. Make it safer. They said they’d give us back the world the finance tycoons snatched from us. They lied. The one power that would represent us, the State, the union of all States in the world, is a myth, and the men at the wheels are all sold to the powers of finance and international corporations.

In the shadows of the UN building, great enlightened minds of the West are conspiring with the forces of obscurantism to reinstate the crime of blasphemy. They are gathering forces to send us back to the dark ages of the world, when dissent was whipped back with the words of a god or other. Religion, the cancer of civilization and freedom, the form of authority that would dictate every aspect of a person’s life, claiming that some higher power(s) wrote down all those laws, is tiptoeing its way back into a position to dictate what our lives should be. I have nothing against people who choose freely to adopt some rules or others (as long as they don’t impose them on others, be they of their own family), but I draw the line when those people would have me follow their philosophy and laws.

When will religions learn to mind their own business and stay out of ours?

I’ll take care of my soul myself, thank you very much (if I have one, that remains to be scientifically proven).

I don’t believe in any god, goddess, or otherworldly entity. In fact, I believe in one thing: I don’t know what’s out there. Get it through your heads that blasphemy makes no sense when you try to apply it blindly. How can a person who’s not of faith X commit a blasphemy since s/he doesn’t believe in that faith? There can be no general blasphemy crime, because that would mean that the right to not believe, the right to doubt, would no longer exist. You would institute a dictatorship of belief, where you’d go back to burning, torturing, drowning (not necessarily in that order, of course) all those who dare affirm that they bow to nobody, be they mortal, or otherwise.

There, the cat’s out of the bag. Religion is submission to a higher order of things. What it cannot abide is rebellion, doubts, questions. Well, I’ve got news for you, mullahs, priests and all your ilk: bow down all you want. Those of us who refuse to will keep on refusing to amend the errors of our ways.

We won’t bow down. Ever.

Now, get over it, tend to your flocks, and leave us and this world the fuck alone!

And then, last but not least, I have set flowers on a small tombstone in the back of my garden. Time passes, but the feeling of loss lingers. Sometimes it’s so acute it hurts and brings tears to my eyes. I guess it’s the price you pay when you lose one that you loved and love still. In spite of the pain, I’m glad for it. And memories are full of smiles and happy moments.

So here, some thoughts to hover in the limbo of cyberspace. Memories. May they spark light where the sky is grey.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Good Journey

Today your soul was lifted up and drawn by the rising sun.
A gentle, kind spirit. A little furry soul.
You’re gone.
During eighteen years we've shared a path, a house, a garden...
and the same spot on the sofa !
Oh, so precious tidbits of time and companionship.
Of joy.
I've loved you so.
I love you so.
However the Wheel has turned, it can only have turned in a good direction.
Sending you on your journey onward.
I grieve, even though I know it was time.
Even though I know you lived a good, long life.
Perhaps it is selfish of me.
No, it probably is.
You brought us all so much happiness.
Thank you.
My little one.
I love you, and so I could let you go.
It hurts, but it will get better.
I will remember you, so full of life and games.
So agile.
The terror of mice.
Climbing up trees.
Stealing chicken and turkey meaty bones you enjoyed eating under the table.
Lover of sardines and rabbit.
Talkative and so good at making yourself understood.
Your eyes sparkling with life.
Stealing up to the first floor of the house, which you knew you weren’t supposed to do.
Following us down the cellar because we weren’t quick enough to get your meal.
The long cat, stretching from floor to worktop in the kitchen.
Chasing after me in the garden for play.
Galloping and zooming past me before climbing up the pine trees and staring at me, your wide round eyes shining with mischief.
Waiting for me to scare your enemies away.
Always there.
Always close.
Your fur softer than a hatchling’s feathers.
A myriad memories hover in the air.
And them, I will not let go.
You’re here, woven to my heart.
Sleep well.
Rest before embarking on the new road waiting for you.
Good journey, my beloved Socrate.
My little one.
Good journey.
I love you.

Death reaps the beauty of the world
Bundles old crops to hasten new
Be still heart, hold peace.
Growing is better than decay.
I hear the blade which severs life from life.
Be still peace, hold heart.
Death is passing on,
The making way of life and time for life.
Hate dying and killing, not death.
Be still, heart, make no expostulation.
Hold peace, and grief, and be still.

(Poem by Stephen Donaldson - The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant)