And I Know It Worries You

The recent comments of a Polish politician on women’s rights has been spread far and wide on the internet today. My favorite format, however, is this video which includes a direct response from a Spanish MEP.

 

I like this video because her response is the thing that you have to keep in mind when confronting someone who is so brazenly, unabashedly misogynistic. It is very similar to those who are brazenly, unabashedly xenophobic. They are the ones that feel small, weak and inadequate. They are the ones that, deep down inside, know that they will not make the cut if they are subjected to fair and open competition with women or immigrants. People who are confident in their abilities and their strengths do not bother arguing against opening up the workplace and giving others opportunities to compete, because they do not fear being out-competed. But people, especially men, who deep down know that they don’t match up reject this feeling, lash out, and reassure themselves that at least the virtue of their body parts from birth puts them above other people, and that they will always be superior to someone.

I say especially men not because I think that men are more likely to be assholes, but because men are also victims of a patriarchal society in this case. There is a lot more pressure put on boys to be strong, to show no fear, to become breadwinners. It is for this reason that I think that men are more likely to lash out in the face of their inner feelings of inadequacy. Luckily fewer and fewer boys are being raised in this antiquated mentality, and hopefully people like this will become an old relic of the past. I simply bring it up because it needs to be repeated: men are hurt by patriarchal societies too, just in different ways. Let’s do away with it then, shall we? And those who bleat be damned.

A Pleasant Reminder

After recent global political events, it is easy to lose heart at the direction the world is going in. Sometimes, it is important to remember that, while we do experience temporary setbacks, the overall trend of our global society is a positive one. This video summarizes this sentiment.

 

There is one slight mistake in the video. Unfortunately measles, thanks to the dangerous anti-vaxx movement, has actually made a comeback in the United States. This is discouraging and needs to be fought tooth and nail, but it still does not negate the entirety of the video’s message.

I often think of society’s upward progressive trend as one of those graphs that plot global surface temperatures over the decades. It is not a straight line up, but rather a jagged one with many small, localized peaks and valleys, as other factors play a role in global temperatures on a small scale. If you focus in on any one of those, you might think that the trend is spiking downward, but it is important to pull back and view the graph as a whole in order to understand the real trend.

It is quite ironic that I use a climate change graph as an analogy, as the upward trend of global temperatures is deeply troubling, while the upward trend of social progress is very encouraging, and climate change is perhaps the only major reason why 2017 is a worse year to live in than previous ones. I will however take a few moments to appreciate the positive message of this video before refocusing on the things we need to fix, change and fight for.

Being encouraged by our society’s successes is not a bad thing to keep in mind when you’re preparing for your next fight, after all.

How Far We’ve Come

A couple of days ago, there was a terrorist attack in Israel, during which a man drove a truck straight through a group of Israeli soldiers waiting to get on a bus, killing four and injuring over a dozen more. In the wake of this tragedy Germany made a gesture of solidarity towards Israel, resulting in one of the most powerful images I have seen in a while has cropped up on the internet.

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The top panel is the Bradenburg Gate in Berlin 80 years ago. The bottom panel is the Bradenburg Gate yesterday.

80 years. Not thousands, not hundreds, but a meager 80 years have passed between those two pictures. It puts into perspective how far Germany has come, and how much change a single person can witness in their lifetime.

This is not about agreeing or disagreeing with Israel’s policy with regards to Palestine. Germany itself often disagrees with the far-right position of the current Israeli Government, as do I for that matter. But when innocent people are mowed down by either terrorism or state violence, we can stand in solidarity with the murdered and their families. We can feel for them, regardless of which side they were on, or what their personal political opinions were.

That picture gives me hope and reminds me that, even in the midst of terrible things to which you cannot see a way out, dramatic change is possible, it has happened, and I can believe it will happen again.

When Is It Going To End

The lighthearted tone I was trying to adopt here has fallen marvelously flat in light of recent events.

Last night, in Berlin, someone drove a truck at speed through a Christmas market, killing 12 and injuring 48. This is horribly reminiscent of the attack in France on Bastille Day, and I think it’s most likely that the culprit in this case was inspired by that horrible act of violence. My best friend was there at the time, and I was so glad to hear she was OK, while at the same time I am devastated for those who were killed.

At the moment, an investigation needs to take place to see if this was a planned terrorist attack, a crazy person taking it upon himself to do something horrific in the name of Isis, or someone with a different political motivation or purpose. This time, the culprit seems to have been apprehended alive, so we will probably find out in the next few days.

Given that the Russian ambassador to Turkey was also murdered in retaliation for Russian’s involvement in Syria on the same night, we can say that the escalation is here. It’s arrived. And I have no idea how we’re going to fix it. I can honestly say that I cannot imagine where, when and how this is going to end.


 

Edited to add: Same day, in Zurich, someone burst into an Islamic Center for worship and shot three people. Monday 20th of December 2016 found itself to be a focal point of deranged killers in Europe. As I said, the escalation is here. Please, enough.

Feeling Helpless

If you follow the news, you know that the situation in Aleppo has gotten far worse in the past few days. Syrians still in Eastern Aleppo are putting out what they believe might be their final messages, some with a last desperate plea for help, some with goodbyes, some with pure frustration.

 

Some, like the Professor in this video, express their disillusionment with the UN and the International community, and describe in more detail the despair and terror that they are currently facing.

 

His frustration is perfectly justified. I know that the political situation in Syria is a complicated clusterfuck of epic proportions. I know that there is no easy or obvious solution on how help those people. I know that the International community is not sitting on a perfectly logical and organized effort simply because they enjoy watching people die. But when you see those people suffer this way, when you feel for an instant a fraction of the terror that they must be facing every minute of every day, you can’t help but want to scream in frustration. Dammit there has to be something we can do! Women are committing suicide to avoid being raped, people are being executed in the streets, lit on fire and bombed into oblivion, how can we sit here and watch and do nothing to help these people!

This is why I would make a terrible world leader. I can’t be cold and pragmatic in the face of these stories, and I am sure I am not privy to a fraction of the situation in Syria that they are.

Upworthy has posted a list of 7 real things you can do to help the people of Aleppo. It is a predictable list: support Doctors without Borders and a variety of other charities that are helping, organize a protest, support refugees. These are all important things that everyone should do regardless, but it wont change the continuous bombing, the people trapped under the rubble, the mass executions in the streets. I hate this helplessness.

What more can we do as individuals other than donate what we can where we can, and try to keep talking about this enough so that the people who do have the power to do something about it are pressured into taking some kind of action. Whether it is taking in more refugees (depending on which country you live in, some countries are already taking in as many as they can possibly sustain), or coordinating with other world leaders and coming to a consensus as to what to do on a military level. But this hodge podge free-for-all bombs away and let’s see what happens has got to stop.

Forgiveness and Respect

I have mentioned before that I am a TYT member, and as such I had heard that Wes Clark Jr. was bringing a group of veterans to stand with Standing Rock. Cenk referred to it as “the cavalry has arrived”, indicating the power of the support and the hope that the police, who have been routinely brutalizing the peaceful protesters of Standing Rock, might think twice before doing so to veterans, as they might even lose the support of Fox News if they did so.

I was excited about the strong message and curious about the outcome, but I’m embarrassed to admit that I had not considered what kind of message that would send to the Native Americans themselves.

Just like many people forget that not everyone sees Thanksgiving as a fun family holiday, I completely overlooked the horrible history that Native Americans have towards the US military, and how badly they have been brutalized by them in the past. While the presence of veterans at Standing Rock might help to keep the police brutality in check, the irony of veterans coming to help a Native American cause was surely not lost on many there.

I am so glad to say, though, that Wes Clark Jr. and the veterans did not overlook this history in the slightest, and made a gesture that both surprised and moved me.

Jon Eagle Sr., Tribal Historic Preservation Officer at Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has reported something wholly unexpected happened at the Standing Rock Reservation today. The veterans gathered to join the Dakota Pipeline protest stunned the gathered tribal members when they took a knee and asked for forgiveness

They report that there was not a dry eye in the house, and I believe them. While asking for forgiveness does not right the past wrongs, this humble gesture and mutual respect was moving to say the least.

While President Obama has finally blocked the DAPL for now, the fight is far from over given the upcoming Trump Administration. Now, more than ever, it is critical to not let the media forget about this issue, and to stand with Standing Rock.

Italy Just Threw Its Hat In The Ring

2016, you’re just all-round sucking. First, we had Brexit. Then, we had Trump being elected. Now, Italy has just voted No for a constitutional referendum, causing Matteo Renzi to step down.

While I am not surprised, I am incredibly pissed.

Usually, the Italian people are quite politically savvy. When I say that, I don’t mean that they make the right choices (never forget our own brand of Trump: Silvio Berlusconi), but rather I mean that many more people are politically informed, and vote, than you will find in many countries. While, for instance, you will find many more Americans being somewhat informed and/or invested in the stock market than you would find in other countries, you will also find the average Italian engaged in political debates not just about their own country, but having a rudimentary knowledge about the political processes of others as well.

Not this time. This time, the misinformation reeked.

[Read more…]

Love This

You have noticed, by now, that I am a fan of clever inventions which tackle one of the many problems we face. This one is no exception.

 

Please, no comments of the “give a man a fish he eats for a day, teach a man to fish he eats for a lifetime” variety. Of course distributing coats like these will not solve the terrible problem of homelessness. However, while we tackle the problem of homelessness, giving people a way to be warmer for this terribly cold winter is wonderful. Not to mention the fact that the company which produces them itself hires people who used to be homeless, giving them opportunity and jobs.

I’m going to look up this company now. I wonder if you can order these coats online and distribute them yourself. I’ve seen quite a few people shivering in their light plastic sleeping bags at the train station who could really use this product.

Farewell Leonard Cohen

I have only just found out that Leonard Cohen has died at the age of 82. I seem to be the only person in my immediate vicinity who has any idea as to who he was, so I am grieving for the loss in silence.

“It is with profound sorrow we report that legendary poet, songwriter and artist, Leonard Cohen has passed away. We have lost one of music’s most revered and prolific visionaries,”

What more can I really add to that? Anything that comes to mind just seems banal.

Instead, I’ll be listening to Hallelujah on repeat, for a while.

 

 

Let’s Play the Blame Game

America’s been shot through the heart. And who’s to blame?

OK enough of that.

Yesterday, I posted about how the people of various nationalities reacted to the news that Donald Trump is now the President. As of yesterday the sheer magnitude of that fact had not sunken in yet, as I proclaimed 2016 to be the most bizarre year of my lifetime, thus far. Today, as I take to Facebook and see how my American friends who live in the States are reacting, I can’t help but get slightly annoyed at the whole lot of them.

After the initial and completely understandable cries of shock, there immediately followed a squabbling of the sort barely fit for a second grade schoolyard.

Deport the Bernie Sanders supporters! It’s all their fault that people don’t like Hillary!

Those of you who voted third party are no longer my friends! Fuck you this is all your fault!

No, it’s the people who didn’t vote! It’s their fault! How could you not vote in such an important election!

It’s all old people’s fault! Young people voted Blue! Fuck old people!

No, it’s young people’s fault, for not having voted more!

How dare you care about principles? Being principled is being privileged! It’s the hipsters’ fault!

Stop talking about Bernie Sanders! Us moderate Republicans who never wanted Trump in the first place are going to rally to him now if all you talk about is a Commie who promises free stuff for everyone!

People. Enough.

Yes, Trump being President is a scary reality that few people anywhere thought could ever have been possible. But now it is a reality, and this squabbling will get us nowhere. Do you know what else is a reality? There is a giant portion of the country which is outraged, and wants to make sure that Trump is not able to enact his vile, hateful policies and campaign promises, destroying the world economy in the process. That is also a reality, and squabbling over whose fault it is, raising hackles and alienating every single person who shares your goal of opposing Trump, but did not decide to vote exactly the way that you did, will get you precisely dick.

There are a million reasons why Trump won. For decades, the US has had one of the lowest voter turnout of the developed world, due in large part to the fact that it is an incredibly complicated voting system, as well as intentional measures to suppress voter turnout, exacerbated by the repeal of key parts of the Civil Rights Voting Act. Meekly letting that skate by, and accepting it as a fact of life, does not then give you the right to turn around and scream at people who didn’t vote in this particular election. Maybe, instead, acknowledge that the voting system is at best flawed and at worst designed to have as few people as possible voting, and make fixing it a cornerstone of your platform going forward.

Do not condescend to progressives who didn’t like Hillary Clinton. Some voted for her, some voted third party, and some didn’t vote at all, but they are adults who made their own adult decision. The American political system allows for third parties and for people to decide whether to vote their conscience, or vote for the lesser of two evils. Do not pretend to love democracy, and then scream at adults who choose to not employ their democratic vote the way you see fit. Maybe, instead, acknowledge that the United States was founded to get away from monarchies and aristocracies, and that in this election people finally had enough of it. Enough Bushs, Clintons and Kennedys. Enough telling us that it is this person’s “turn”, as if anyone has a fundamental right to the Presidency. Acknowledge that it is time to return to actual representatives, who represent the people, and listen to those people when they have concerns, instead of telling them to shut up, heel, be a good dog and vote no matter how poorly represented, or how ignored you feel.

I do not think that the majority of the country actually wants Trump to be President. I think that Trump (accidentally) capitalized on this fragmentation, and bickering, and squabbling, and rode a wave of extreme right wingers who came out to vote for the very first time and tipped him straight into the White House. If you actually want to prevent him from enacting his loathsome policies, continuing the very squabbling that won him the Presidency is most likely not going to do it.

Putting aside left vs right policies for one second. Can we all agree that it should be easy for every eligible voter to vote, across the entire country? Can we agree that it should be no more difficult than buying a cup of coffee? If my pathetically organized home country of Italy can make it that easy, the US certainly can, if they have a mind to.

Can we all agree that allowing giant corporations to buy elections is the antithesis of democracy?

Can we all agree that people actually want to be heard, and represented, rather than insulted, and condescended to?

There is a unique opportunity here to unite rather than to fragment further. Regardless of how differently you would have acted if you were in another’s shoes, I beg you to not let that stand in the way of uniting with those people under a common goal. This has happened, there is no going back, so maybe you can use this as a lesson and an inspiration to fix a broken system. You can find so many allies and together, stronger, you can fight for a political system in which people participate, and feel included, and feel represented. United, you can put enormous pressure on your representatives, whether they have an R or a D next to their name, to not allow Trump to run roughshod over the country.

Or you can keep pointing fingers at each other and bitching until you’re blue in the face, while Trump skips along unawares doing whatever he wants in the face of a fragmented thus nonexistent opposition. There’s that too.