End of a Year

Hasn’t it been a strange year? It has for me. Started at a low, but ended well. Lots of ups and downs along the way. In a broader perspective I don’t know what to think! Obama is totally unpopular because he’s turned out to be only human and to constantly work for the consensus he’s always said he’d work for. This should be really strange, but isn’t, at least not in politics. Here’s a clip where he ads his five cents to the It Gets Better campaign. In the UK we got out in the nick of time – Oh me, can’t believe how Nick Clegg can sleep at night? Am told from people who move in the upper echelons of the British society that the only people NOT suffering from this deep crisis are exactly them, the VERY rich. The middle class is also feeling the pain, but it’s the working poor and the undeserving (that’s people who don’t work, no matter why) who are really feeling the axe. In Harrods, it’s business as usual.

In Denmark we have a conservative/nationalist government, which is luckily worn very thin. An election next year will bring some form of change, but I will not try to guess what it’ll be like. Hard, however, to imagine anything worse than what we’re experiencing now. The concept of “undeserving” as mentioned above is also very prominent here in Denmark. A very clever and passionate charity worker calls Denmark a “post-solidary society“. He’s right, but isn’t it sad?   I work for the Danish Refugee Council occasionally and that’s just so depressing. To get into the country is almost impossible with the Dublin regulation firmly in place and rigorously enforced, even though for instance Greece is totally incapable of receiving all these refugees and process their applications. Many countries in Europe have stopped returning refugees to Greece, but not Denmark. Obviously. Then to have your application granted is even harder. It’s like the bl**dy camel in the bible.

At my dad’s nursing home I regularly hear the old people abuse the immigrants who work there. And the management says that they can only admonish the staff, not the inhabitants. Imagine going to work every day, at the lowest possible pay, wiping people’s bottoms and then ON TOP listening to abuse for your skin colour and/or your (perceived) religion. I want to slap some of them. But you can’t, can you?

And then there are the wars. Everywhere there’s a war and in many places people who actually work actively to start one. Here, in my little segment of the privileged world it is totally and utterly incomprehensible. People get killed for no apparent reason and the dead are either totally innocent civilians or soldiers, recruited from the lower rungs of their society, more often than not without a clue what they’re getting into. That is clear from the books and stories we hear from soldiers coming home with their bodies but not their minds in one piece.

Our civil rights are threatened everywhere. And most people seem not to worry or care at all! Read here how the democracy United States of America is treating the 22 year old private Bradley Manning (allegedly behind the latest batch of  Wikileaks leaks). He has not yet been convicted of or even charged with a crime – nevertheless he’s treated like a convicted serial killer.

In many European countries you can now have your phone tapped or other measures taken against you without a court order. A great thing, however, is that the Danish court recently said NO, you cannot detain people because you THINK they are going to behave violently at a demonstration. Several hundred people were “administratively detained” before the COP15 summit in Copenhagen last year. But this is perhaps the only cheerful story among all the sad ones about how the “war against terrorism” is undermining the very society it’s supposed to protect.

In the midst of all the misery, there are still people who come up with amazing ideas and who are incredibly creative. I went to the TedXCph, which was a great event and there I heard some great speakers. The one that sat with me the longest was the most crazy and unlikely of them all. Had I been a smoker I might have missed it because the blurb was like “we want to build a mountain in Copenhagen”. You WHAT? Seriously. But I’m not a smoker and I did hear it. I suggest you hear it too. You must hang on till the second guy starts talking. He’s the kind of person who could sell sand in Sahara!

***

Christmas is the time of year where absent friends and family are most prominently on our minds. The ones I miss the most are the ones who are still alive, but who choose to not be around. On that account, I wish for a better 2011 and hope to understand my failings better.

I wish you all and our dear Earth a peaceful 2011.

Share

Voices of reason

There might be more than good cause for hand-wringing, exaggerations and “loud” statements over the state of things in Palestine. But I believe that the mellow and calm voice of reason is the one that will get us places. Listen to this woman, Syria’s first lady (read about her here first):

She says the most important things within the first 2-3 minutes if you’re too busy to watch the whole interview.

Ezra Klein points to another voice of reason, Anthony Cordesman. He ends the article published through Centre for Strategic and International Studies like this:

As we have seen all too clearly from US mistakes, any leader can take a tough stand and claim that tactical gains are a meaningful victory. If this is all that Olmert, Livni, and Barak have for an answer, then they have disgraced themselves and damaged their country and their friends. If there is more, it is time to make such goals public and demonstrate how they can be achieved. The question is not whether the IDF learned the tactical lessons of the fighting in 2006. It is whether Israel’s top political leadership has even minimal competence to lead them.

We should also listen to what intelligent people on “the other side” have to say. Here is an interview with Bernard-Henri Levy and here’s one with Israeli soldier and history scholar Michael Oren. With all respect for these two scholars, I think they both grossly underestimate how much Hamas and therefore all the militants in the Middle East gain from this and how much this will harm Israel and then the rest of us in the long run and, no less, how much harm it does to the remaining moderate Arab countries, just as Mrs. Al-Assad says in the interview at the top of this page.

Share

Books

My Dad has lost a good deal of his eye-sight and can now only read books with large print (Magna Print) and only under a 100W light bulb. Now my Dad is lucky enough to live in Denmark, which has a fantastic public library service, where he can order a seemingly endless number of Magna Print books and even have them delivered, if he is not up for the walk to the library. But if it hadn’t been so, he’d be in a situation that I truly dread. Finally having the time to read all the books I’ve always wanted to read, but not the ability!

I’m lucky – although I more and more often find myself fiddling with my glasses and taking them off to read magazine- and newspaper articles, I can still read. But I’m always moaning that there’s not enough time. But – even if I don’t watch TV that much, I can still cut down on TV-time and read more. I always read before I sleep. Always. I don’t think I can fall asleep without a page or 50! Right now I’m reading Malcolm Gladwell‘s latest epos, Outliers. Highly recommended.

On my blogroll I ran into this post about the benefits of reading and about how to find more time to do so.

I guess I could write about Palestine every day at the moment and today I’ve been reading in The Times about the atrocities that the Israeli army has committed. Can one say, without sounding horribly cynical, that maybe these people didn’t sacrifice their lives in vain? Because by now it seems that even very conservative and traditionally Israel-friendly media have now stopped going on about Hamas’ bombing raids, which – honestly – are dwarfed by now, and have teary-eyed middle-aged men reporting from Gaza. About time too!

Share

No exit strategy (why does that sound so familiar?)

The very serious and high-brow American magazine Foreign Policy has a middle-east blog. I didn’t know that, but now I do and I’ll keep an eye on it, because from what I’ve briefly read, it’s very good. And – my God – do the Americans need to see reason here!

In this post Marc Lynch has been to a round table conversation with the Israeli ambassador Sallai Meridor. Here’s the last couple of lines from the post:

In short, Meridor quite literally offered no strategy beyond hitting Gaza hard and hoping for the best. “In terms of creating damage we are certainly on the right path,” noted the Ambassador. Few would disagree with that assessment, at least. But some might hope that the bloody, battered path might actually be leading somewhere.

In the latest post, he tells about the reactions from a person called Ayman al-Zawahiri on behalf of  Al-Qaeda to the bombing of Gaza:

He sounds about as happy as I can remember hearing him of late. He probably can’t believe his luck.

That is of course not at all surprising. Why is it that apparently the American, the British, the Israeli, the <fill in the blank> government can’t see that they are playing right into the hands of this world’s religious fanatics, left, right and eh, hopefully not centre, with this so-called War on Terror?

It’s late and I’m heading for bed – just stumbled over this and had to share it with you.

Share