Why be forgotten-Who Wants to Remember You Anyway?

I’d never heard of Mario Costeja González, until a few days ago when I learnt that he’d suffered a personal financial set back in 1998, and having since recovered wanted that information deleted from the world wide web.
According to the Court of Justice of the European Union, individuals have a right to control their private data, especially if they are not public figures. Great news, but not very helpful or insightful after the fact of the Snowden revelations!
In the virtual world the wish to be forgotten is simply that-wishful thinking, while in the real world anything we upload or disseminate online will never, ever be deleted. It might be harder to find-but the original data will always remain-somewhere out there until it is ‘remembered’ through an online search. But, memory is a tricky concept because it
“throws up high and dry
A crowd of twisted things;
A twisted branch upon the beach
Eaten smooth, and polished
As if the world gave up
The secret of its skeleton,
Stiff and white.
A broken spring in a factory yard,
Rust that clings to the form that the strength has left
Hard and curled and ready to snap” (Eliot, 1920)

No-one is truly forgotten, but they may not be remembered unless they choose to remind us so.

Eliot, T. (1920). Prufrock and Other Observations. London: Faber & Faber.

The Myth of Free Speech & Facebook’s Tarnished Happy Social Community Image

There’s no such thing as free speech, in fact the notion or concept of Freedom is pretty flaky. We are never free from anything-there’s always a concept, an idea, an action or our own conscience which keeps us bound-up and shackled-in most cases to our own internal dialectic. Free speech is an illusory concept- especially when it comes to reporting anything as any report of anything seldom conveys the truth in any objective, rational way. Free speech has become a liberal mantra when anything which causes offense is criticized or causes outrage to others. We’ve seen the destructive nature of this illusory concept, especially when it comes to bigotry and scapegoating against others. Currently in the Western media there’s been a wave of anti-Semitism against Israel, and anti-Islamism against Muslims. This has taken the form of offensive cartoons and offensive articles which degenerate and stereotype the people of these cultures and religions. More recently there were the offensive cartoons produced by a French satirical newspaper showing the radiation effects on Japanese Sumo Wrestler. It was a very poor attempt at humor and a subtle, rather insidious dig by France at Japan’s successful bid to host the 2020 Olympic Games.
More recently Facebook has gained increased notoriety (perhaps to push up its share price?) by allowing further violent and offensive multi-media material to be uploaded and transferred through its service. Facebook is allowing decapitation videos and pictures to be freely transferred via its users. We may never, ever know how many authentic users Facebook has, or for that matter the real identity of those whom Facebook claim they can ‘authenticate’; nonetheless the idea that anyone would want to watch another person having their head brutally cut off is quite abhorrent to any well adjusted human being. Leaving aside Art imitating life and the special effects created by movie studios who glorify such violent acts; Facebook and any other service for that matter is simply promoting gratuitous violence under the guise of public interest, and that ever flaky notion of free speech. Given that Facebook allows children as young as 13 to use its service there should be a public outcry at this move. Warnings about graphic content are useless in the face of the prurient interests of the weak willed.
But perhaps what is more astonishing in this sorry saga is the claim by Melbourne University academic Dr. Suelette Dreyfus that “Facebook’s decision is a victory for freedom of Speech” She goes on to argue that bad things go on in the world and as such should not be hidden, and that Facebook through its social media site is simply “revealing truth” albeit it is an “ugly truth”. Dr. Dreyfus claims that social media are testing the boundaries of “free speech” through their “new coalfaces of digitally-based citizen journalism” Notwithstanding her conflicting mixed metaphors spanning from the industrial age to the present so-called digital age; such a claim makes no sense at all especially under the spurious claim of free speech.
Social media sites have an ethical and moral responsibility to censor offensive material and to promote ethics, morals and values which create cohesive societies not broken ones. Social media sites should exist to promote values which will create better communities and better lives. Instead they are becoming a haven for the dishonest and disaffected who plot, bully and work out ways of how offensive they may be to the ‘other’ whom for the most part they may have never met or may never know. Dr. Dreyfus’ opinion is sure to promote and provoke debate and that is a positive outcome I suppose. But her proclamation that “it’s a good thing Facebook has opted for freedom of speech on the issue” of allowing children as young as 13 years old (and adults for that matter) watch a man cut off a woman’s head is simply misguided and wrong.

Barack Obama-A Nobel Peace Laureate for our Times?

One of the key benefits of having a Nobel Peace Laureate as the leader of one of the most militaristic and aggressive countries in the West, is that he is able to hesitate, pause, reflect and think, before he orders cruise missiles to be launched into another sovereign state which is fighting a bitter insurrection and civil war.
The President of the United States of America Barrack Obama is under extraordinary political and military pressure to attack another self-governing, independent state. While to some extent this is of his own making (“the use of chemical weapons crosses a red line”) he has listened to his key allies, and to the Russians in deciding to wait before he issues the order to attack Syria. Fortunately for the rest of us Mr. Obama possesses key human qualities of rational thinking, reflection and understanding. Qualities which many of his predecessors have lacked, especially George W Bush and his administration who led the world to the point of no return following their illegal invasion of Iraq.
In his address at Cairo University in 2009 President Obama stated that “There must be a sustained effort to listen to each other; to learn from each other; to respect one another; and to seek common ground. As the Holy Koran tells us, “Be conscious of God and speak always the truth.”
These are the decent, humane values which underpin this man’s political career and aspirations, his thoughtful and decent leadership qualities, as well as the directions in which he is attempting to lead his country and the world. He went on to say that “ We will, however, relentlessly confront violent extremists who pose a grave threat to our security — because we reject the same thing that people of all faiths reject: the killing of innocent men, women, and children”. (Obama, 2009) So, it is in this context that American citizens and peoples of other countries need to situate his current stance on the Syrian Arab Republic and not in the politics of hate and disaffection which seems to taint and threaten America’s democracy in the 21st century.
Disaffected Democrat and Republican politicans and their supporters, along with war crazed peoples of the USA (and the world), caught up in their own blood lust, are calling for War and urging a catastrophic missile strike on the besieged Syrian state without any pause for reflection. They are caught up in their own narcissistic egos. They are filled with gloated pride and the faded ideas of war time glory, world domination and imperialistic grandeur. Shame on them! They have learned nothing from history or their countries covert and explicit involvement in wars outside of their immediate geo-political sphere over the past 70 years
President Obama continued “…events in Iraq have reminded America of the need to use diplomacy and build international consensus to resolve our problems whenever possible. Indeed, we can recall the words of Thomas Jefferson, who said: “I hope that our wisdom will grow with our power, and teach us that the less we use our power the greater it will be.” (Obama, 2009) This is a good and noble way of acting – to seek diplomatic solutions to world crises which may involve countries going to war. Indeed, it is the only way for a Nobel Peace Laureate to think and behave.
Those who talk of plots by the Russians and a new era of American appeasement and submission are enmeshed in their own webs of fear, trickery and deceit, and cannot see that the world is tired of war. The new age awareness of peace rather than war has never been erased from our consciousness, and we must work hard to keep it at the forefront of our critical thinking, awareness and understanding.
As one very fallible Nobel peace laureate recently said, “Too many tears have been shed. Too much blood has been shed. All of us have a responsibility to work for the day when mothers… can see their children grow up without fear; when the Holy Land of the three great faiths is the place of peace that God intended it to be; when Jerusalem is a secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims, and a place for all of the children of Abraham to mingle peacefully together as in the story of Isra, when Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed, peace be upon them, joined in prayer” (Obama, 2009).
We need to pray in our respective traditions and cultures for peace in Syria, and throughout the world, and if we don’t believe in prayer we need to think positively and hope for a world where kindness and compassion are the core values we live by, rather than anger and aggression and the fear and ever present danger of war.


Will horse meat lift the poor and impoverished of Europe out of poverty and find them a job?

The famous quip Let them eat cake by some oblique French aristocrat and once wrongly attributed to Marie Antoinette has taken on new meaning in the Federal Republic of Germany in 2013. Hartwig Fischer, a prominent member of the Christian Democratic Union has suggested that horsemeat, fraudulently labelled as beef should be fed to the poor.  Fischer, seemingly oblivious to the plight of the poor and the unemployed thinks that the horsemeat scandal currently engulfing the European Union could be the sin qua non to finding a solution to Europe’s endless recession, massive unemployment and the growing disaffection and fragmentation from within its member states.  Fischer’s ally in this radical, unworkable and stupid solution is Dirk Niebel; Germany’s development minister. He is quoted as saying “we cannot just throw away good food”.  Yet, his country is among the top ten nations in the world who waste food on a daily basis-and don’t give any of it away free to the poor and needy.

It’s difficult to comprehend the stupidity in such a throwaway line as Let them eat horse coming from a supposedly educated man (although German Ministers have had a few problems of their own in this regard recently-with at least two having had to resign for plagiarising their Doctoral theses) who is charged with developing his country.

It is evident that Herr Niebel hasn’t read Tristram Stuart’s book Waste, which describes the staggering, and shocking wastage of food which occurs daily in the developed world, especially in Germany, the Unites States and United Kingdom. For example, Stuarts writes that:   There are nearly one billion malnourished people in the world, but the approximately 40 million tonnes of food wasted by US households, retailers and food services each year would be enough to satisfy the hunger of every one of them…

The UK, US and Europe have nearly twice as much food as is required by the nutritional needs of their populations. Up to half the entire food supply is wasted between the farm and the fork. If crops wastefully fed to livestock are included, European countries have more than three times more food than they need, while the US has around four times more food than is needed, and up to three-quarters of the nutritional value is lost before it reaches people’s mouths. (Stuart, 2009)

Clearly Herr Niebel and Fischer,  it just isn’t a matter of feeding horsemeat to the hungry. Notwithstanding the dignity of the poor and impoverished, who for all we know may count among their many millions in Germany and globally, vegetarians, vegans and just ordinary folk who would find it repugnant to eat  a horse; it is simply an unworkable solution to Germany’s and the EU’s recession woes. It is also a suggestion which in its most base form is ignorant and shows a callous disregard for humanity and those who find themselves dispossessed of the right to a meaningful life and dignified employment.

But the naivety of the pronouncement from both Niebel and Fischer reveals a darker insidious message from within the crisis racked European Union. It suggests just how much the political power elite are out of touch with the suffering and plight of the poor and dispossessed who for the most part are still paying for the duplicitous actions and scams of the banking and financial sectors in Europe and the United States of America.

We live in a broken world. People are hungry and there’s plenty of food to feed them. People are homeless and there are plenty of empty buildings to house them. People are lonely and there are plenty of lonely people looking for companionship. People are poor and live in abject poverty and the wealth and riches of the world are held by a mere 1% of the total global population. “All the world’s nearly one billion hungry people could be lifted out of malnourishment on less than a quarter of the food that is wasted in the US, UK and Europe” (Stuart, 2009), and my least favourite double standard, is China, one of the last remaining vestiges of an outdated and unworkable Marxist dialectic ranks second in the world for billionaires and is only outranked by the United States of America which has an equally, unworkable outdated democratic dialectic as well as the highest poverty rates in the developed world.

Stuart, T. (2009). Waste. London: Penguin.