Tuesday, May 01, 2012

European crisis: A resurgence of the extreme right - history repeating?

The European Union has been agitated by economic turmoil for several years now, and the panorama does not seem to be improving greatly as time evolves. In fact, it is all the opposite: After Greece, Ireland and Portugal received generous (but insufficient) bailout packages to avoid defaulting, the European Union feared that the worse might still be coming: Italy and Spain are aching financially too, and a package to rescue either of them would be much more expensive than any other bailout conceded to a European nation before.

The social symptoms of this crisis are persistent and increasing. In Spain, for example, the unemployment rate has reached record levels, topping at 24% - higher than any other European country. In Greece, social unrest is a daily happening, and a worrying spike on the suicide rate has been detected in that country. And other traditionally-strong economies, such as Germany and the Netherlands, are considering austerity measures that could not have been foreseen a few years ago.

The immediate unhappiness and frustration showed by Europeans are issues to worry about. But perhaps even more worrisome is the potential effect that this frustration is having in the political landscape of Europe, where frustrated citizens are considering far and extreme right as options to overcome their difficulties. Old and new far and extreme right movements and parties are gaining political presence and influence in Europe.

One of the best examples of this trend is France, where the current presidential elections are dominated by two political figures: On the one hand, the current president, conservative Nicolas Sarkozy. On the other hand, socialist Francois Hollande. According to previous polls, this does not come as a surprise - it was expected that both Hollande and Sarkozy would face each other on the second round of the elections. What did come as a surprise was that the extreme-right National Front, led by Marine Le Pen, came as a sounding third political force as shown by the first-round results - gathering almost 18% of votes.

Photo by globalnetwork.com
Although Le Pen did not reach the second-round of elections, the popularity of her movement (founded by her father and notorious xenophobe Jean-Marie Le Pen) reflects that people in France are looking at regretful options to overcome the social discontent. The party represented by Le Pen, the National Front, advocates for radical ultra-nationalist measures to preserve the integrity of France. These proposed measures include, among others, to cease France's membership to the European Union, to leave the Euro and restore the Franc as the national currency, to reduce immigration to 5% of its current level, and create a new ministry of the interior, immigration and secularism. 

Le Pen's rising popularity, her strong criticism against immigrants in general, her ultra-nationalist policies and ideals, and her ties to her father's ideas (let's not forget that Jean-Marie Le Pen has actively denied the Jewish holocaust during World War II and has blamed other minorities for certain problems in France) reminds a bit the unfortunate times in the first half of the 20th century, where Germany was sunk in crisis and debt, and people were looking turning to blaming their problems to minorities. The result: A rise in popularity of the Nazi party, to the extent that they became the leading political force of Germany in the late 1930's and became the official party of the country, leading Europe into a series of atrocities against minorities (Jews, Gypsies, Slavs, homosexuals, and virtually any person not fitting an 'aryan' profile). These massacres, in turn, led to a full blown war of global proportions that left Europe and the world as a whole scarred for generations to come, in what became later known as World War II. 

It is also worrisome that these far right extremism is also gaining political support outside of France, in other regions of Europe. Countries like Netherlands, Greece, and Finland have also experiences a surge of ultra-nationalism and radical political entities who slowly but surely are conquering terrain in a continent where multiculturalism has been openly admitted to be a failure, and where unhappiness is threatening to shape a whole new mentality that, hopefully, will not fall again in the mistakes from the past.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Of spring and autumn - and past revolutions

This year, the four seasons seem to have brought with them more than just weather changes as they have traditionally done. It looks that the airs of spring and autumn this year have carried a strange scent that has grown in the youth of various countries around the world a sense of frustration against the current world order. It has brought forward a generation that feels that in the future, they will be unable to make a decent living the way we (or better said, up until the generation of the baby-boomers).

That way, this year we have experienced the Arab Spring and the American Autumn. In between, we have also witnessed demonstrations in other places - such as London, Madrid, Santiago and Tel Aviv. Some of them have had political interests - like overthrowing the governments in the pursuit of a new political system, as was the case in Tunisia and Egypt (and the NATO-backed civil war in Libya). Some others, looking to change the social system (like the case of Tel Aviv and Santiago), and some others, advocating for a different economic order (like the protests in New York). Youth protests are the trend of the year.

Despite the fact that every protest has been different, all of them seem to converge at the same point: There is a new, massive, and united generation of people who are discontent, and are not being afraid to show their unhappiness with their living conditions - past and future. Students are graduating from universities and are unable to find enough jobs. For those who do find jobs, the cost of living seems to be too overwhelming to sustain with their paycheques: Rents, mortgages, taxes, groceries, and so on, add up to create a cyclical economic burden that a lot of young people -regardless of their educational level- are barely able to cope with. To that, add the unhappiness of having a small percentage of the population controlling most of the wealth and power in societies. Income gaps are expanding.

Sounds familiar? It should. Historically, the mix of unhappy people - small rich and powerful elites - increasing income gap has led to revolution. Take the case of the French Revolution for instance, where King Louis XVI's absolute-monarchy style, a very select elite of powerful and reach people, and a great majority of unhappy French citizens led to the overthrow of the royalty of France - giving birth to the new French Republic that promised a more fair economic and social system under it's three pillars Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité
The only difference between the French Revolution and the current awakenings around the world are the global aspect of the latter. The protests don't seem to demand a change in the system of a single country or region - but it has acquired a global sense that goes according to the current economic trend - globalization.

It is undoubtable that these protests are far from done, and that they definitely are a symptom of a great problem of our times. Perhaps, as the demonstrators believe, the current world order is not effective anymore and has already served its purpose for as long as it was effective, and deeper changes are required in order to foster further progress to our civilization. Perhaps something better lies ahead... a more equal and fair future for everybody. So we hope.

Photo: Reuters / Hurriyet Daily

Monday, September 05, 2011

Nature of Love (The Golden Rule)

It is said that love is of different types: Love for a partner, love for a parent, love for a child, love for the Universe, love for ourselves. Every kind of love is unique, and all of them are of a different breed that cannot be compared to another kind of love because, at the end of the day, all of them are not the same. Isn't love just love?

The concept of love, as we know it today, is a mere bastardization created and propagated by the media and the entertainment industries. Because of such wrongful promotion and bastardization, the idea of love in the eyes of the most vulnerable minds has become synonimous of the feeling of butterflies in the stomach, sex, and dependence to a partner. Love has been degraded to a purely physical emotion that people crave to satisfy a need.

Of course, this is where the differentiation of types of love comes into play, as for instance, the love for a child is different in that neither sex nor the butterflies in the stomach are features that appear -although dependence traits still persist-. Likewise, the love for a parent, or for a relative, cannot be the same type of love as the love for a child or for a partner because of unique contexts for each.

Our ancient sages tought us that love is only of a single kind: love is love. As stated by the words of our ancient sages, "love thy neighbour as you love thyself". This well known versicle, also commonly known as 'The Golden Rule', in fact suggests that the love we have for another person not only can, but should, be of the same nature as the love we have for our own self. How is this possible?

The only way in which we can understand all types of loves as one is knowing what love is about. It is necessary to understand that love is not a physical need of our Body; as a matter of fact, love is more intimately connected to our other two levels of existence (Mind and Soul). As such, love is a capacity to which only a deep level of consciousness can grant us access: We can only love someone by bonding to them mentally and spiritually.

To love someone, then, is to connect to them in Mind and Soul. By doing that connection, it is possible for us to get closer to them and actually being able to feel them in a spiritual sense. We can feel their pains, their happiness, their frustrations, their pleasures and their desires. Likewise, we are able to understand their feelings and to connect with them in a way that we care about their lives, ideas, feelings and thoughts in the same way that we would care about our own life, ideas, feelings and thoughts. We care about them as we care about us: The very nature of The Golden Rule.

In that regard, loving a life partner is not different than loving a child, or loving a parent, or loving a neighbour, or even loving the Universe. Love is a bond, a connection that allow two separate entities to compliment and support each other, eventually resembling more a single but well reinforced entity aligned towards fulfillment.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Time as a relative element

From our perspective, the fourth physical dimension is straight forward in its strongest sense. It is a straight line that we call time, and we all travel through it in a direction that goes from past to present, from present to future, and from future - deeper into future itself. For everybody and everything in our world, time is a one way journey.

But despite the fact that time (and by consequence, our lives) seem to travel in an unavoidably straight direction, there still appears to be an intimate relation that influences present by our past, our future by our present, and even past by our future. Indeed, it is easy to understand that present and past are directly related because there cannot be a present without a past. Likewise, since present is future's past, the relation between both is akin to that of present and past. But what can we tell about the influence of our future in both in our present and our past? Is there even a influence at all of our future over our past?

In our world, and our average understanding of Universe as a whole, that is impossible. Future only happens because past and present have already happened and shaped the direction of said future. But even from a scientific point of view, we acknowledge that our perception and understanding of the Universe is very limited. For instance, Einstein explained that time and space are relative, and both can be bent and altered by each other. Likewise, quantum physics agree in that our potential understanding of the Universe is very restricted, since all we can potentially study and understand from it is whatever we can sense from our 5 physical senses only. There is so much more that surrounds us, which we can't possibly perceive - let alone understand. We are aware of our own inherent human limits, and all of our knowledge, perceptions and understanding will be limited by them in consequence.

These principles support the theory that the Universe is, in fact, multi-dimensional (as opposed to restricted to the 3 dimensions -height, width, depth- plus the 4th dimension, time, that we can perceive from our perspective). If that is true, then time is a dimension that can be modified from other dimensions beyond our capabilities of understanding, in a way that our past, present and future could be occurring simultaneously, but in different dimensions and in different spaces.

This knowledge is a wake up call to realize that every single moment in our lives counts. Despite the fact that we seem to have only control over our present, in fact we have also control over our past and future. The decisions we make every second have a repercussion in who we are, and who will we be, and potentially who we were some time before. At the end of the day, time not a straight line and sometime, somewhere, we can find ourselves coming back in it as well. Thus even if we made mistakes in our past, correcting them in the present will also correct our past and will allow for a better future, which will in turn help us fulfill our mission in the Universe.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Does the body rule the mind, or does the mind rule the body?

Ever since I heard "Still Ill" by The Smiths for the first time, I have been wondering whether the body rules the mind or the mind rules the body. Indeed, "does the body rule the mind or does the mind rule the body?" makes for an excellent line in a song, but it is nevertheless a valid dilemma (which, in my opinion, only Morrissey -one of the best, if not the best, lyricists of our time- could have posed so beautifully in a song) that goes beyond a mere timeless song.

This question has a more of a spiritual value than a musical one. It requires, first of all, a definition of what is the body and what is the mind. To put it in simple terms:

  • The body represents all of our physical existence - that is, our physical needs (eating, sleeping, etc.) plus all of the physical stimuli that we perceive through our 5 senses.
  • The mind is our connection to the Infinite, the conscience that sets us in a higher level of understanding of the Universe as compared to animals and other living beings.

Put in those terms, it would appear that the body and the mind are in fact two separate entities, completely independent one from the other. But that could not be a true statement either, since we are a single entity and both our mind and our body are part of ourselves. How, then, do they relate to each other to create a unity in our existence?

The secret lies in the heart. Our heart is the connection between the body and the mind. It is the core that keeps the body alive by pumping blood, oxygen and nutrients to the rest of our body. In turn, our body serves as a vessel to keep our mind (and hence our connection to the Universe) running in our physical world. In turn, the heart is a vessel associated to elemental parts of our consciousness, such as emotions and feelings. The heart is indeed a central piece key of our existence and the one that allow us to be connected between the physical world and the Universe.

In that spirit, the body cannot rule the mind, and the mind cannot rule the body, since they are both separate entities. Each of them have serve completely different purposes in our existence. Yet, they keep us together in mind and body as a single being by connecting one to the other one through the heart, and hence through our feelings and emotions. Then body, heart and mind are three attributes that make us rational beings capable to assimilate our existence in the physical world like the earthly animals, yet able to connect to rationality and a higher spiritual level like no other species on Earth.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Hidden beauty

Funny that we, limited beings, could spend a lifetime looking for goodness in life. We could easily spend every day and every night, every hour and every minute regretting its absence. We could pray every morning and every evening for it to come to us. We could do all that, even though we know it's here by our side, all around us. It has always been here. It has never left. But for us, limited beings, it is easier to ignore the goodness since we take it for granted.

For us, it is easier to perceive all the negativity in our life and assimilate it as our own. We get a bittersweet joy from thinking that our life is plagued with problems, even when those problems might not exist and we create an image on them in our mind: Our lives are hard, our lives are boring, our lives are lonely, our lives are empty. This or that person does not accept us as we are, this or that group does not listen to us, someone does not like us, someone rejected us, someone laughed at us and we dare caring about them. We are not smart enough, we are not pretty enough, we are not good enough. Life is full of hardship... All these ideas take precedence over all the goodness in our lives.

The truth is, goodness is all around us. We have physical goodness in staying healthy, waking up tucked into a warm bed to the light of another day, enjoying a warm shower with clean water and beautiful scents, dressing clean clothes, breathing the fresh air, and perceiving our world by seeing, touching, smelling, tasting and hearing what surrounds us. We get goodness out of the people that care for us, who listen to our thoughts, who are interested in our well being. We have to spiritual goodness in connecting to our soul and to the universe where we live. There is goodness in everything. We just choose to ignore it.

The secret is that goodness, just like anything else in life, comes in small amounts at a time. Sometimes it slaps us in our face, yet it remains unnoticed to our limited senses. We discard it thinking that there is always something better waiting for us, because goodness is not good enough for us: I deserve a better partner, I deserve a better job, I deserve a better house, I deserve better food and better clothes. If you really do, concentrate on that and when the time is due, it will come into your life. But we live in the present, we live in the here and in the now, and for all the goodness that is here and now with us, we should be grateful.

So be grateful for every little piece of goodness in your life. It is a gift to you.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

The end of Osama, the joy of a nation?

Osama Bin Laden is dead. That is the news that shook the world last Sunday, when the U.S. president, Barack Obama, made a public appearance to inform the world about the end of Osama Bin Laden. The announcement spread around the world in no time, and very soon the images of happy Americans celebrating the killing of Osama were available on the mass media.

With all that in scene, I couldn't help but to have a flashback to September 11, 2001. The image of the World Trade Center in New York falling down before the unbelieving eyes of the world, while a group of people in the Gaza Strip and West Bank rejoicing reappeared in my mind. The view of people singing, dancing, baking cakes and eating sweets to celebrate the death and destruction of civilians elsewhere was frankly disgusting. How could people cheer such a coward act?

Back to 2011. The tables are turned around. While in Gaza a spokesman of Hamas condemned the killing of the "holy warrior" (sic) Osama Bin Laden, thousands of Americans poured into the streets to show their joy and excitement about Bin Laden's death. Despite my repulsion towards Osama Bin Laden and all that he represents, I found the celebrations to be ironically resemblant to those Palestinian celebrations of 2001. Why would the death of an individual be celebrated in such a way? Does his death make up for the damage made to the families of those lost during the different terrorist attacks orchestrated by Bin Laden and his organization? Will this end the threat that terrorism has posed against the world in the last decades? Unlikely.

The elimination of Osama Bin Laden is indeed a hit against terrorism, and should be a reminder that no terror leader is untouchable. But it should not be a matter of joyful celebration: It should be tribute to those victims who lost their lives in acts of terrorism, a bit of the justice that is long due to them.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Earthquakes, shakes and thoughts

The tragic earthquake and tsunami that earlier this week shook Japan is a wake up call for us. It is a reminder that we are small and our power limited, when compared to the might of nature. It is also a reminder that we are all here to help one another, and not to fight and dominate over the others.

It is sad that only in moments like these we remember those basic concepts. Last year, it was first Haiti and then Chile who were caught in times of distress after massive earthquakes, and the world united again. A few weeks ago, th
e city of Christchurch in New Zealand went through a similar ordeal, gathering compassion and solidarity from the nations of the world. Now, it is the Japanese nation who needs from the world's solidarity to repair, wherever possible, the loss and damages caused by the massive earthquake that hit their country.

May the recovery be fast and wholesome, and may this episode unite the nations of the world and inspire us to live in peace. My heart, thoughts and sympathies are with the people of Japan.

Photo by MSNBC

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Growing up

Human relations are not easy. They are not even logical; we are meant to pursue what in essence makes no sense whatsoever. Giving it a second thought, it is clear that human relations are all about either trying to please another party or trying to get other people to please our own desires. And that's about it.

Why does all this comes to mind right now? Well aside from the long period of absence of my blog I have had lately, I have also had the opportunity to analize more in depth people's behaviours. That has proved to be crucial in order to understand why people act the way they do, and what can be done about it.

Bottom line, people have a real need to be noticed. No one, ever, enjoy being ignored and considered outside of the 'main circle' of friends within a group. The complexity of the relationships becomes more and more complex when men and women become older and (allegedly) more mature, because the definition of "good" and "desirable" starts to stand away from any sense of reality.

My theory is that, with age, people change. But despite the general idea that such changes are positive, I find that people change in order to accommodate themselves in a comfortable social status. A social status that is not too isolated, but it's not very far away either: A social status that will allow you to gain a social rank on your own; but which nevertheless will be hard enough to preserve.

And now, my dear people, go figure why men and women were programmed by the default by automatic greeting machines... I might have an idea now

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Custom made babies, a great advancement... not

An interesting article titled "Designer Babies - Like it or not, here they come" and dated on February 25, 2009, popped up as a result of a search I made on Google. There, the author debates the multiple benefits that custom-made children have, such as a lesser risk of having babies inheriting conditions from their parents. Currently, it is possible to choose the baby's gender in advance through this "technology", and not long from now, parents will even have the option of choosing the future-to-be-born's hair and eyes color, skin type, and complexion. The article claims that this "era of designer babies is officially here and there is no going back", and it might be right.

Even if this so-called technology is already available (supposedly any couple can currently go and custom-make their child's gender for only $18,400 USD), we should step back behind the hype that this could mean and really think of the consequences of having such a trend becoming mainstream. The issues that immediately come to my mind include:
  • The disproportion between the amount of boys and girls born each year. See, for instance, the case of China, where currently there is a remarkable amount of men not being able to find partners. And that is just one example. Give certain cultures the option to select beforehand the gender of their babies, and it won't take many generations until the ratio of men and women will be scary.
  • The considerable reduction of ethnicities. Let's face it, there are certain stereotypes that people tend to regard as "beautiful". Some parents would not hesitate to choose for their children certain attributes that are not proper of their race or culture. Light colored eyes, white / tanned skin, and blond hair are among other nonsense attributes that individuals would choose for their offspring. That, of course, to the expense of losing continuity on some unique, nice features that other races show too.
  • Genetic modification of the human race. We all know, Mother Nature does not spare us when we mess with her. Artificially modifying our genes won't go unnoticed. Eventually, the same modifications that will have reduced the chances of inheriting or developing certain medical conditions in future generations, might also potentially bring new conditions that we can't even imagine.
As far as I am concerned, there are already available a few technologies that allow to detect the risk of developing diseases in a baby and to take actionable steps to remedy that, if necessary. I don't really see what benefit will create having tailor-made babies, and in my own point of view, I think these practices should be heavily regulated or banned.

In my particular point of view, I find these new "developments" very far from exhilarating. To me, it looks more like our society, just like Aldous Huxley predicted, is moving towards the mass production of individuals in which people won't be people anymore. They will be more like products.

Photo: www.californiaprolife.org