The Lessons of Berlin

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Not far from the bunker where Hitler and his cronies, Eva Braun, Goebbbels etc. all these hideous nightmarish figures, committed suicide, not far from the German chancery, rises in the Berlin sky a wrought-iron profile of Georg Elser, the young carpenter who in 1939, foreseeing the destruction caused by the war that had just started, made an ill-fated attempt to assassinate Hitler. (Hitler didn’t die, Elser was caught and sent to Dachau where he was shot in 1945, for some reason spared until then.)

Under the avalanche of horrible news–the unconscionable tearing apart of families in the United States, the turning away on European shores of migrants fleeing impossible conditions in their own countries, the reelection of Erdogan whose unlimited new powers can truly crush the Turks and definitely do away with Ataturk’s legacy,  the resignation of Supreme Court Justice Kennedy to be replaced by who knows which Trump flunky, corrupt power-crazed strongmen coming to power in too many places we thought safe from extremism, we can only draw comfort from the “this too shall pass” thought. For me, indignant at the start of each day with the news, nothing good or consoling comes to mind as much as a recent visit to Berlin–my first, I’m ashamed to say. Read more…

#themtoo

For a woman, surely, there can’t be many life experiences as dreadful as rape. Even so- called “consensual” sex can be hard to bear when, for work-related or other reasons a woman has to give in to a man in whom she has no interest, in the best of cases, or by whom she is repulsed, in the worse. Think creepy, porcine Weinstein.
But rape, sexual harrasment, abuse, payScreen Shot 2018-05-29 at 10.30.47 inequality, when pay there is–and you can no doubt add to the list–are only some of the indignities or the appalling situations women go through. We have come a long way, I know, we truly have. In most developped countries, mainly in the last century and the present one, the revolting unfairness of many women’s lives has slowly and gradually given way to more awareness, driven the more egregious and untenable sins against women of men and the society on the whole into oblivion or, at the very least, underground. Read more…

Categories: #metoo, Feminism, Science, Society Tags:

“Fake-news” or “No-news?”

If Trump foams at the mouth and comes up with a new rant on fake-news–that aren’t so- ten times a day, Benjamin Netanyahu just won the top award for news that aren’t news.  In his dramatic unveiling of some 55,000 documents from before 2003 leaked from Iranian archives, he announced that these confirm that the Islamic Republic HAD AN ONGOING NUCLEAR PROGRAM at that date! Not only that, but in the course of other earth-shattering non-news that he outlined in a Power-Point style presentation, he added that Iran HAD LIED about its program.

As quoted in the Washington Post today (I know, I know, one of the main sources of fake news) Richard Nephew, a former senior State Department official who was part of the U.S. team that negotiated the deal implemented in January 2016, said, among other comments, that Netanyahu’s revelations were “not a new revelation […]To put it another way, it is why we negotiated the JCPOA,” or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Read more…

Categories: Iran, United States Tags: , ,

A plea for indifference

March 13, 2018 1 comment

We live in changed times, in a blurred-out world, one without a well-defined framework. The uncertainty generates a hardening and rigidity. We cling to what we believe we know to give our opinion on things that we don’t know at all. We camouflage our anxieties, our repulsion and our matter-of-factly limited judgment by claiming that we reject all dogmatism.

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Whatever our individual personal background, cultural and tribal ties or education, we’re each left to face our truths which can only clash with the truths of others. Our opinions reduce everything and its opposite to the simplest and most definitive cliches (though we do look over our shoulder to make sure we’re not offending anyone.) The pathetic talk shows where guests cover each other’s voices should by now have demonstrated that if we don’t listen, we cannot be heard, nor, therefore, be understood.  Read more…

Categories: our world, Politics, Religion

The enemy is not world opinion

February 27, 2018 3 comments

In the aftermath of the horrendous school shooting in Florida I have something to say to fellow Americans living in Europe, who not only grieve at yet another mowing down of our young, but are furious at world opinion that is judging us harshly: the enemy is not world opinion. The enemy is the National Rifle Association and its 5-million-strong membership which gives it enough cash to buy Republicans—in both Senate and Congress—several times over, making these heartless and corrupt so-called public servants complicit in the systematic murder of Americans–schoolchildren and others.

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I will remind them that the enemy is the toxic simpleton (“covfefe”,“fake news”) that the benighted and uninformed half of the country has elected leader of the free world. To be fair, I would add that, although President Obama tried, he didn’t bring much to the table in terms of gun control. But he was fighting against great odds—a black President and a liberal, he had a minority in both houses and a country divided, on his hands.  Everything he achieved, mainly restoring America’s image in the world after the catastrophic Bush-Cheney eight years, he did with little elbow room. Read more…

Merry Christmas

December 23, 2017 1 comment

So, every year, as December rolls around, the parade of gift-giving, decorating, buying, good cheer and good wishes starts, in holidays that beside Christmas are for the most part retrieved from half-forgotten lore, refurbished and pushed forward, in a burst of “metooism” which the now ubiquitous hashtag has brought into the mainstream. So Jews celebrate Hanukah, African-Americans celebrate Kwanza, Iranians celebrate Yalda, etc.  In the society at large, respect of diversity wreaks havoc and noble intentions get out of hand.

It says a lot about the limited ways our minds work if, as soon as a tribe has a holy, sacred, or cultural milestone, every other tribe considers it its right to come up with one of its own. fra-angelico-nativityThings are even more difficult when, disciplined as we have become and aware of the possible messages underlying our use of language or expressions that used to go without saying, we become wary of using anything that would smack of sectarianism or not include everyone, and that is everyone, lest we insult, offend, or leave out a meritorious member of the human race. Thus, we will bite our tongue before saying “Merry Christmas,” having repeatedly been hit on the head with the concept that Christmas is a white-only, descendent of slave holders only, knights of the crusades or oppressive colonialists only.

Read more…

Categories: Religion, Society Tags: ,

“Normal?”

November 27, 2017 4 comments

The question is, will we ever go back to what, for lack of a better word, we can call normal? “Normal” being that societies rich and poor live within certain parameters that we are accustomed to. First the poor or close-to-poor: Dictatorships and repressive regimes are the norm rather than the exception, corruption reigns supreme, freedom of speech is rare, human rights and, even more starkly, women’s rights are inexistent, natural disasters happen, extreme poverty, hunger and disease, war, genocide and massacres exist and wipe out untold numbers, while people who survive do so in such conditions that the dead may be the lucky ones. The Western world is somewhat protected, though it has its share of misery with immensely wealthy and powerful people, in their bubbles, and the rest dragging along, sustained by dreams until dreams no longer work. Those Western countries, as well as a bunch of others–Japan, Australia et al–are also given direction by governments which, to a higher or lesser degree, are driven, or say they are, by virtues and goals that have trickled down from the glory days of Rome or Athens in ancient times, getting honed, with mighty ups and catastrophic downs, in the millennia since: service, the common good, prudence, strong alliances, honor, integrity, all on a sliding scale that goes from fairly common to somewhat to nil.

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All that was yesterday. The picture is different today. Spinning out of control, the world around us has us both mesmerized and growing daily more desensitized. Every morning brings its avalanche of unbelievable pieces of news and yet we put one foot in front of the other in the fog of the new normal. Read more…

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