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Monday, 30 November 2015

Russia vs Turkey - part 4 - NATO

On 26 November 2015, the Guardian wrote: "the mechanisms in place to control conflict remain robust. Nato is aware that Turkey is an ally, but is not piling in to increase the tension; Russia knows that while it may have a certain moral authority in this incident, but if it turns to military pressure then Nato must back its maverick ally".

In my view, Turkey is worse than a maverick ally. Turkey is using NATO as a shield towards Russia to achieve its own goal: a restoration of the Ottoman Empire. NATO should not accept this attitude.

Aspen: Worries about Turkey’s conduct are growing rapidly among fellow NATO members. There are multiple concerns, some of which have surfaced periodically before, while others are either new or at least much more salient. All of them are now combining to make critics wonder whether Turkey is a reliable or even a tolerable ally. Seth Cropsey, a Senior Fellow at the conservative Hudson Institute in the United States, denounces what he termed “Turkey’s contempt for NATO principles.” International media mogul Conrad Black urges NATO members to “get tough with Turkey.”

Brookings: For a while, it even seemed that a more strategic partnership [LO: between Russia and Turkey] might be taking shape—especially when, in November 2013, Erdoğan complained to Putin about the EU’s treatment of Turkey. Erdoğan went so far as to tell Putin that he might even be prepared to give up on Ankara’s, long-stalled bid for EU membership if Turkey were to be included in Russia’s alternative Eurasian economic integration projects.

Brookings: In the two years since Erdoğan’s "Eurasian gambit," events have chipped away at the Turkish-Russian relationship. Russia’s annexation of Crimea, with its large Tatar minority and historic ties to Turkey, created the first fissure, which has deepened as both countries doubled-down on their support for the opposing sides in Syria. Russia’s decision to intervene militarily in Syria, to prop up Bashar Assad and to launch attacks against opposition groups that Turkey has directly armed and supplied, set the trajectory of Wednesday’s events in motion.

Aspen: Disgruntled Americans and other Westerners also view Ankara’s overall foreign policy with mounting suspicion. US supporters of Israel especially regard Turkey’s increasingly frosty treatment of that country as a manifestation of hostility toward both Western interests and Western values. Ankara’s conduct regarding ISIS has aroused additional concerns that Turkish leaders are conducting a cynical flirtation with radical Islamist forces in the Middle East. Not only did President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government drag its feet on supporting air strikes against ISIS by the United States and other NATO allies, but there were indications that Turkish leaders actively impeded measures to weaken the terrorist organization. For an agonizingly long period of time, the Erdoğan regime did little to assist besieged Kurdish defenders trying to thwart the attempt by ISIS forces to conquer the city of Kobane on the Turkish-Syrian border.

Obviously, Turkey will not be kicked out of NATO any time soon as that would result in too much embarrassment to too many parties involved. NATO members should however not allow Turkey to invoke article 5 ("collective defence") to bring down Russia and to restore its own Ottoman Empire. There is no long term benefit for NATO to take sides in this centuries old Russo-Turkish war.

Status Quo - In The Army Now (2010) - artists, lyrics, Wiki


ELO - Don't Bring Me Down (1979) - artists, lyrics, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Russia vs Turkey - part 3 - Why

Part 2 of this blog on Russia vs Turkey basically ended with this question: "If this decision was taken by rational people, what was their true aim???" I realised that I made an important assumption in that question: rational people. Yet I assumed that this assumption would be justified as it's entirely logical and rational. For a moment, I ignored Mr Eugene Lewis Fordsworthe who once said that the assumption is the mother of all mistakes (also see my 26 May 2015 blog).

My Google search (on the why question) revealed an intriguing November 26 article in the Guardian. This article brings a compelling and convincing case based upon the assumption that the decision was taken by irrational people. Actually, I am now in serious doubt as their assumption (irrational) may me more plausible than mine (rational). The consequences of that may be far reaching.

My doubt is also related to the fact that my assumption on their behaviour was ultimately based on my own behaviour. I could not imagine that people in their position could act irrationally as I would not do that myself. I projected my own logic on theirs. Also see my 16 April 2015 blog.

Worse, even my own blogs of 18 February 2015 (Victim role - politicians, bankers and corporate bosses), 14 April 2015 (Power and abuse) and 29 October 2015 (Politics versus Population), support the view that we may deal with irrational people in the case of both the Russian and Turkish leaders.

The Guardian: There are striking similarities between Erdoğan’s Turkey and Putin’s Russia, not least their ability and propensity to move conflicts into the covert arena. While Russia’s intervention in Syria may have cynical intent, the Turks are acting in support of their national interests in Syria with equal ruthlessness.

The Guardian: As the analysts Fiona Hill and Kemal Kirişci have put it, “the personalities and political styles of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Russian president Vladimir Putin seemed to complement if not mirror each other” such that these “similarities … have now come into play in a dramatic way.”

The Guardian: Analyst Pavel Felgenhauer has suggested that “further dogfights are possible during which Russian planes will attack Turkish planes in order to protect our bombers. Sea battles between the Turkish and Russian fleets are possible”. Also see my similar prediction in part 2 of this blog.

The Guardian: This is a conflict that Ankara triggered and while it is being managed it is not going to go away. Nor is it just going to become another chapter in the histories of Russo-Ottoman rivalry. Expect to see this play out in snide, deniable, but nonetheless bitter actions for months to come.

The Turkish President needs a plausible enemy to unite his own people and possibly even far beyond that. Fear is an excellent manipulator of human behaviour. The Russian President largely needs the same. This is a very risky path. Two paranoid dictators manipulating their population to achieve their dreams: the restoration of the Soviet Empire and the Ottoman Empire. Only one stands a chance.

Sparks - This Town Ain't Big Enough For Both Of Us (1974) - artists, lyrics, Wiki-1, Wiki-2


Saturday, 28 November 2015

Russia vs Turkey - part 2

Only 1 day after the fatal shooting of a Russian fighter jet by the Turkish military, Russia’s foreign minister has claimed Turkey’s shooting down of one of its jets was a “planned provocation” and “deliberate act” (source). That same day Turkish Prime Minister revealed that he personally gave the order to down the Russian Su-24 fighter jet that lead to the death of one pilot: “Despite all the warnings, we had had to destroy the aircraft,” he told a meeting of his AK party. “The Turkish Armed Forces carried out orders given by me personally.” (source) Essentially, both stories overlap.

According to my mother, her father used to say: "As long as they talk, they don't fight each other". I had to think of that expression when I remembered the once rather popular abbreviation of NATO - No Action Talk Only. Decades ago, this new abbreviation was meant to be condescending. However, today we see the Russian (eg, Crimea) and Turkish (eg, Cyprus) inverse of this saying - No Talk Action Only. Given the inverse, I now prefer NATO's second abbreviation.

In response to questions from journalists, Russia’s foreign minister assured them that Russia is “not going to wage war on Turkey”, change its attitude to its ally or seek revenge against Turkey with economic sanctions or trade cuts. (Independent)

FT 26 Nov: "Russia targeted Turkey’s economy with a range of sanctions on Thursday in a bout of angry retaliation over the shooting down of a Russian fighter jet by the Turkish air force. [ ] All agricultural and food products imported from Turkey would now be subjected to laboratory checks. [] Turkish products, including meat and fruit, from shop shelves following health safety checks.

FT 26 Nov: Moscow also moved ahead on cutting tourism ties. The foreign ministry published a travel warning on its website which recommended that Russians refrain from visiting Turkey and those visiting now return home “due to the terrorist threats that persist on the territory of Turkey”. The head of the federal tourism agency told reporters that Turkey had received revenues of about $10bn a year from Russian inbound tourism. “It’s absolutely clear that Turkey won’t be earning this money any more,” he said.

Despite the clear statement by Russia’s foreign minister, economic sanctions and trade cuts are already being undertaken. Action speaks louder than words. So what's next??

The only reason that (Christian) Russia is “not going to wage war on Turkey” is NATO as well as the impact this war would have on the former territories of the once vast (Muslim) Ottoman Empire. Russia cannot afford a war on too many fronts. Russia's future military control over the Straits would be a far better military goal. A future deliberate preplanned provocation in the Straits (eg, sinking of Russian ship in the Bosporus by Turkish military) might be set up to get the UN's approval for the removal of Turkish military control over the Straits.

I've read several arguments about why Turkey downed the Russian fighter jet but I am still looking for a convincing one. The merely intangible upside rewards seem tiny compared to the substantial tangible downside risk. If this decision was taken by rational people, what was their true aim???

All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when we are able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must appear inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near. Quote by Sun Tzu

You can't hide your lyin' eyes. And your smile is a thin disguise. I thought by now you'd realize. There ain't no way to hide you lyin' eyes. The Eagles

The Eagles - Lyin' Eyes (1977) - artists, lyrics, Wiki-1, Wiki-2


Friday, 27 November 2015

Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?

One of the most difficult questions for us humans is "Why [him/her/them/me]??" Ultimately, this question relates to Good vs Evil: why do bad things happen to good people? The answer to this question may not be welcome in four of the five stages of loss and grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. These 5 stages of normal grief were defined by Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book “On Death and Dying” and are now referred to as the Kübler-Ross model.

The answer to this question - and its implicit unfair treatment - is further complicated as we tend to overestimate our own importance. In the eyes of gods, we humans may be much like the colony of ants in our garden. When you remove a few ants, the colony is temporarily in disarray. However, within a few minutes it's business as usual again. Essentially, we humans act the same.

In my opinion, we are only able to deal with this question as of the stage of acceptance. With the knowledge of hindsight certain things can suddenly make sense. In my case it did. It took an awful lot of self analysis though and some "lucky" breakthroughs. The result is priceless.

Moreover, we tend to see them as bad things. Our first instinct is to look at it from a negative point of view. This rather generic human outlook on life usually prevents us from seeing things from another perspective. Perhaps the right question is: why do things happen to people?

The most obvious answer to that question is that things happen to people for a reason. Nowadays, I am seeing life through that lens and it actually helps me in understanding it. Seeing things as random events only provokes anger, frustration, impotence, irritation and prostration.

Acknowledging that things may happen to us for a reason also implies acknowledging that we are part of a Bigger Picture. That Bigger Picture implies the existence of a Supreme Being (eg, Allah, Buddha, God, Yahweh) - a Creator with a Master Plan.

Beyond the above question are some other hidden questions: why is there still - and so much - Evil in our world? Why hasn't Good eradicated Evil after so many thousands - or millions - of years?

Essentially, most Good and Evil are of a human nature, either directly or indirectly, conscious or unconscious, accidental or intentional, external or self-inflicted. Nevertheless, it feels differently to us. Good and Evil feel like forces that play with humans as if we are ants, puppets on a string, or two opposing soccer teams to them. And taking sides comes with benefits.

Fear and Love seem to be two crucial elements in understanding the hidden questions. Our love for God and for our fellow humans has been replaced for the love of goods, information, money, time and the victory over our opponents. Our fear of other humans is bigger than our fear of God's wrath.

The result is an absolute weakening of one of the soccer teams, and thus a relative strengthening of the other team. This soccer match is an eternal match with new players coming along all the time. So there is always Hope even when Faith - or morale - is temporarily down.

Brooklyn Funk Essentials - The Creator has a Master Plan (1995) - artists, lyrics, Wiki


Thursday, 26 November 2015

Russia vs Turkey

The angry response of the Russian President following the shooting of a Russian fighter plane by Turkey was quite revealing: he alleged that Turkey had helped bankroll Isis through oil sales. The chairman of the foreign affairs committee of Russia’s lower house, tweeted that Turkey’s economic losses as a result of the deterioration of relations with Moscow would “exceed tenfold the profits of those who have established a profitable oil business with Isis”. The Russian foreign minister warned Russians not to travel to Turkey. He said the terrorist threat in Turkey was no less than in Egypt. (FT)

It's important to realise that the former Ottoman Empire (today's Turkey) attacked the Caucasus during World War 1. The main objective of the Ottoman Empire was the recovery of its territories in the Caucasus. These regions were captured by Russia after the Russo-Turkish War (1877-78) (Wiki).

There are at least 2 other major conflicts between (Christian) Russia and (Muslim) Turkey: the 1915 Armenian genocide by the Ottoman Empire and the Turkish military control over the Straits zone (ie, the Dardanelles, the Sea of Marmora, and Bosphorus). Also see my related 2015 blogs of 6 June, 6 August, 19 October25 November

Shortly after the shooting of the Russian fighter plane, Turkey called for a special NATO meeting. This further infuriated the Russian President: “Instead of immediately getting in contact with us, the Turkish side immediately turned to their partners with Nato to discuss this incident, as if it was us who downed a Turkish jet and not vice versa”. (FT)

The NATO partners must however be quite embarrassed with this assertive Turkish military response as NATO usually shows limited to no (military) response to the increasing Russian provocations in NATO territory (CNN). FT: Diplomats said Turkey’s request for a Nato discussion on Tuesday did not formally invoke an “Article 4” emergency meeting, a more serious trigger to consider a threat to its territorial integrity or stability. The alliance said it was “monitoring the situation closely”.

Turkey is a NATO member since 1952 but its membership is more and more criticised since its invasion and occupation of the northern part of the island of Cyprus in 1974. Turkey’s stance on the Cyprus issue is an embarrassment to NATO as it's rather difficult for NATO to condemn Russia for annexing Crimea or setting up puppet states in the occupied Georgian provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia when a NATO member is guilty of similar behaviour. (source)

Russia's main problem with Turkey is yet another one. Both countries want to restore their former Empire. Russia cannot and will not allow a new Ottoman Empire emerging in their back yard.

FT 3 March 2015: "Only three years ago. Ahmet Davutoglu, then foreign minister and now prime minister, exulted in Turkey becoming the “master, leader and servant” of a new Middle East. But the country’s ties with allies and neighbours alike have been strained — whether over Mr Erdogan’s personalised style of diplomacy, Ankara’s support for Islamists elsewhere or the knock-on effects of a feud between Islamic factions inside Turkey itself".

Turkey has now given Russia a perfect excuse for revenge. The Russian warning not to travel to Turkey will have a huge impact as Russians are #2 in Turkish tourism (Wiki) with some 4 million people. An economically weakened Turkey may be more willing to accept Russian demands on control over the Bosporus (eg, 6 June blog, CarnegieGlobalSecurity). The geopolitical aftermath of the 24 November 2015 Russia-Turkey incident may last for decades. 

Carly Simon - You're so vain (1972) - artist, lyrics, Wiki-1, Wiki-2


Alanis Morissette - You Oughta Know (1995) - artist, lyrics, Wiki-1, Wiki-2


Wednesday, 25 November 2015

A 21st Century Crusade

The Crusades were military campaigns sanctioned by the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages. In 1095 Byzantine Emperor Alexios I, in Constantinople, sent an ambassador to Pope Urban II in Italy pleading for military help against the growing Turkish threat. The Pope responded promptly by calling Catholic soldiers to join the First Crusade. The immediate goal was to guarantee pilgrims access to the holy sites in the Holy Land under Muslim control. His long-range goal was to reunite the Eastern and Western branches of Christendom after their split in 1054 with the pope as head of the united Church. A complex 200-year struggle ensued. (Wiki-1)

World War 1 drew in all the world’s economic great powers, assembled in two opposing alliances: the Allies (United Kingdom/British Empire, France and the Russian Empire) and the Central Powers of Germany and Austria-Hungary. These alliances were reorganised and expanded as more nations entered the war: Italy (1915), Japan (1914) and the United States (1917) joined the Allies, and the Ottoman Empire/Turkey (1914) and Bulgaria (1915) the Central Powers. (Wiki-2)

By the end of World War 1, the German Empire, Russian Empire, Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Ottoman Empire had ceased to exist. National borders were redrawn, with several independent nations restored or created, and Germany's colonies were parceled out among the winners. During the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, the Big Four (Britain, France, the United States and Italy) imposed their terms in a series of treaties. (Wiki-2)

The defeat of the Ottoman Empire after the World War 1 led to various West European colonies: eg, Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Palestine, Sudan, Syria and Tunisia. With the exception of Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states (ie, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, United Arab Emirates) are mostly “new States” that came into existence in the 1960s and 1970s, carved out of a region that had been under British military and naval “protection” from the 1830s onward. Present Saudi Arabia dates from the 1930s. Kuwait dates from the 1950s when it emerged from under Iraqi-British tutelage. Colonisation was not important for these states because they had no resources that anyone wanted. This changed with the discovery of oil. (source). 

After World War 2, these colonies all became independent countries. This 50 year period of Christian colonisation may be one of the root causes for today's animosity in muslim countries towards Western Europe, and in particular towards France and UK.

Somehow we seem to be in a new 21st Century Crusade - some 1,000 years later - and without realising it. This Islamic - rather than Roman Catholic - Crusade coincides with the exorbitant wealth resulting from the oil industry. To some extent, the West has financed this war against itself with petrocurrency. It's interesting that the most wealthy Arab country (Arab GDP) has also been the main supplier - and banker - of terrorists (Wiki-3).

Constantinople - or Istanbul - was the main object in the four Christian Crusades at it symbolised the heart of the Ottoman Empire and Islam. It seems logical that Rome - and in particular Vatican City - will be the main object in the current Islamic Crusade. In that view, Madrid (2004), London (2005) and Paris (2015) were appetisers for the main course - and cause. While writing this blog, I hear on the radio news that the FBI has warned for a terrorist attack on Rome or Vatican City (NYT).

From 22 to 24 November, the streets of Brussels were nearly deserted because the Belgium declared the highest terror alert for its capital (CNN). France has extended its nationwide state of emergency by 3 months (NYT, Guardian). Fear has won from our way of living - or street life - at least for now.

My fear is another one. WW1 was sowing the seeds for WW2. WW2 may also have been sowing the seeds but not of Love though. (eg, Wiki-4)

Tears for Fears - Sowing the Seeds of Love (1989) - artists, lyrics, Wiki-1, Wiki-2



The Crusaders, ft. Randy Crawford - Street Life (1979) - lyrics, Wiki


Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Catch-22 - US domestic terror(ism)

Last Sunday, there was another US drama in New Orleans when 17 out of several hundred people were injured as they were stuck in the middle of a "gang related" shooting (CNN). I am puzzled by the American response (ie, do nothing) to gun related violence and the almost daily US domestic killings / murders, especially in comparison with the American response (ie, close the US borders) to the recent killings / murders in Paris. Why do American politicians fail to understand that they deal with domestic terror(ism)? Is terrorism only terrorism when it has a religious label attached to it?

The 2015 Survey of American Fear by researchers at Chapman University in California found that, on average, the things that Americans fear most fall into three of the 10 domains of fear — fear of man-made disasters (terrorist attacks and economic collapse), technology (cyberterrorism and artificial intelligence) and government (corruption and gun control). The three domains of fear that Americans are least concerned about include judgment of others (personal appearance and weight), everyday life (talking to strangers and romantic rejection) and personal anxieties (public speaking and clowns). (eg, LiveScience, Chapman)

There's an intriguing contradiction in the Top 10 of US fears which almost escaped me: the fear over terrorist attacks (2,15) ranks almost even to the fear over (governmental) gun control (2,06). This balance in two separate fears essentially represents the Catch-22 on US domestic terror(ism).

Often the words fear and terror are used in 1 sentence. The Merriam Webster dictionary defines terror as: the use of violent acts to frighten the people in an area as a way of trying to achieve a political goal. Is the (alleged) absence of a political goal enough reason to do essentially nothing about US domestic terror(ism)?? I am genuinely puzzled by this US attitude. And it's not even a bipartisan political issue in which Liberals oppose Republicans or vice versa. It's a common attitude.

Basically, the US is in a catch-22 situation: an unsolvable logic puzzle. There are so many firearms out there that more firearms appears to be the only logical solution going forward when it comes to personal protection. The alternative idea to collect all firearms and to destroy them, doesn't even occur to them. More firearms and more domestic terror is their imminent future. It is similar behaviour of a person eating himself to death, or a drug addict who is overdosing himself (gluttony).

On 1 October 2015, in the wake of the shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon, the US President made a rather unusual comparison between the number of Americans killed by terrorism and the number of Americans killed by guns: 24 versus 280,024 over the last 10 years. 

The PolitiFact truth-o-meter organisation checked this claim and concluded that it's "Mostly True" (PolitiFact). Obviously, despite this intriguing statistic, nothing was done to address the root cause (eg, bullets, guns).

“It is not often that nations learn from the past, even rarer that they draw the correct conclusions from it.” Quote by Henry Kissinger

7 Belief systems - Knowledge and/vs Power

Recently, I suddenly wondered why I didn't include Power as an 8th Belief system as several of the 7 Belief systems are very much related to Power (eg, Money, Politics, Religion, Science). The ultimate answer is that Power is worth killing for but not - and by definition - worth dying for. The ultimate goal of Power is to retain power. Given our limited lifespan, ruling dynasties will thus emerge.

In any Belief system, there are people who join that Belief system for ulterior motives - usually Power. Politics is the best example. Nowadays, many of us are so disappointed in politicians as we don't know where they really stand for - apart from Power. In my view, the success of the HBO series "House of Cards" (9,0 in IMDb) represents this fundamental shift in our view on Politics. It's merely a game of Power in which the means (eg, murder) justify the end.

With hindsight I even think that my recent blog on "Daesh vs SPECTRE" has a similar background. Somehow, I'm convinced that a criminal mastermind is using a radical religious group for his own quest for Power. The back-office is criminal while the front-office has a religious signature.

My blogs on Science as a Belief system (eg, 12 March and 3 May 2015) already mentioned that scientific ideas are often (mis)used for other purposes - and often relating to Power.

In my 26 August 2015 blog, I should have mentioned that Knowledge - rather than facts - is in the middle of the 7 Belief systems: Love, Money, Philosophy, Politics, Religion, Science and the Truth.

And I forgot something essential. Power is also in the middle of the 7 Belief systems. The reason is very simple: Knowledge = Power but both are also each other's archenemies.

Once in Power then Knowledge soon becomes a threat to the ones in Power and eradicating Knowledge justifies the end (eg, Cultural Revolution in China).

Similarly, accumulating Knowledge will bring Power - sooner or later. Yet, Power is like a drug. Once you know it, you want more.

Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a men’s character, give him power. Quote by Abraham Lincoln

The power of love. A force from above. Cleaning my soul. Flame on burn desire. Love with tongues of fire. Purge the soul. Make love your goal. Frankie Goes To Hollywood

Frankie Goes To Hollywood - The Power Of Love (1984) - artists, lyrics, Wiki 


Monday, 23 November 2015

The New Radicals

For some time, I have been wondering what's wrong with the term Radical Islam. Actually, the definition of the term salafism - an ultra-conservative orthodox or fundamentalist approach to Islam - made me realise what was missing. In Judaism, this same behaviour is called sephardism. And in Christianity it's called Christian fundamentalism. Contrary to popular thinking, religious fundamentalism relates to Christianity, Islam and Judaism. In essence, they are the New Radicals.

Wikipedia: The term Fundamentalism usually has a religious connotation indicating unwavering attachment to a set of irreducible beliefs, but fundamentalism has come to be applied to a broad tendency among certain groups, mainly, although not exclusively, in religion. This tendency is most often characterised by a markedly strict literalism as applied to certain specific scriptures, dogmas, or ideologies, and a strong sense of the importance of maintaining ingroup and outgroup distinctions, leading to an emphasis on purity and the desire to return to a previous ideal from which it is believed that members have begun to stray. Rejection of diversity of opinion as applied to these established "fundamentals" and their accepted interpretation within the group is often the result of this tendency. 

When I entered the Google search term "religious fundamentalism site:psychologytoday.com", I noticed an intriguing article: Why Are Religious People (Generally) Less Intelligent? I hadn't even considered that angle for this blog. Perhaps that omission makes me less intelligent as I'm a Believer (see August 26 blog) although within all of the 7 Belief systems - not just in one of the seven corners.

This PT article is about a 2013 meta-analysis on the negative correlation between IQ and religious beliefs. The key question is why religious people are generally less intelligent. And the authors [ ] are offering three compelling explanations: (1) Intelligent people are generally more analytical and data-driven, (2) Intelligent people are less likely to conform, and (3) Intelligence and religiosity are “functionally equivalent”, which means that they fulfil the same psychological role. (PT)

On a superficial level this all makes sense but not when you give it some more thought. I am glad that the article's writer also realised that something was missing: "However, the authors forget to consider an important possibility, which is that the relationship between IQ and religiosity could be caused by a third variable, namely personality". (PT)

PsychologyToday: "Indeed, Openness to Experience, a personality dimension that predicts an individual’s propensity to display higher levels of intellectual curiosity, aesthetic sensitivity, and be driven by counter-conformist and rebellious attitudes, is positively correlated with IQ, and, like IQ, stable from an early age. Furthermore, there is also ample evidence suggesting that higher Openness may cause IQ gains in adulthood because open individuals are more likely to invest time and resources acquiring expertise and knowledge". 

The writer fails to nail his arguments although he comes a long way. Narrow mindedness or closed mindedness are the opposite of open mindedness. Narrow mindedness or closed mindedness are the true symptoms of adhering to only 1 of the 7 Belief systems - Religion in this case.

I am a Believer - of Love, Money, Philosophy, Politics, Religion, Science, Truth - not just Religion.

The New Radicals - You Get What You Give (1998) - artists, lyrics, Wiki-1, Wiki-2


Sunday, 22 November 2015

Polyamory - part 2

I am a bit upset after reading the (Dutch language) 2007 e-book on polyamory called "I love 2 men" by Ageeth Veenemans. In her view, her story is about polyamory but to me it's about adultery, indecision, convenience, regret/remorse, and - ultimately - comparing two different kinds of love. This makes me wonder if polyamory is a hypothetical rather than a realistic concept.

Given our monogamous dogmatic society (see Simone van Saarloos in yesterday's blog), polyamory usually starts with adultery. Adultery already implies the existence of some basic flaws in the current relationship. Some of the four cornerstones of a sound relationship are missing: communication, intimacy, respect and/or trust. The new person is providing that (those) missing cornerstone(s).

If that new person isn't Mr(s) Right then we don't stop searching. Basically, it's indecision time as we cannot decide between what we had and now have. Any decision is based on a cost/benefit analysis and thus indecision implies that the actual cost of a decision is considered higher than its perceived potential benefits. All humans are (sub)consciously calculating the consequences of decisions.

After (not) taking a decision, we usually start rationalising our behaviours. Convenience is a post-decision merit. You know what you have and do not know what life would have been if that decision would have been made. In my view, such what-if questions are quite dangerous and can cause lots of regret and/or remorse.

In my view, polyamory is accepting that the four cornerstones of a sound relationship cannot be found in one person and applying a practical solution to a problem that cannot be solved - right now. If the perfect 'soulmate' would ultimately arrive then it's suddenly decision time. We "love" people for different reasons: communication (EQ and IQ) and (sexual) intimacy (love and/or lust) are the most obvious ones. When we don't find them in one person, we make a compromise - with ourself.

This compromise used to be a lasting one in case of my grand-parents and my parents. My grand-parents probably couldn't afford a divorce and moreover society back then was far from ready to accept such inappropriate behaviour. In my case, it wasn't a lasting compromise as my kids saw their parents drift apart.

Economic independence and equality (eg, gender, sexuality, skin colour) enabled men and women to make their own choices. Relationships suddenly showed new shapes and forms (eg, cohabiting, homosexual and interracial marriages). Polyamory is merely the next step in this same process. At some time in the near future, bigamy or polygamy may even be legalised in Western countries. I expect that bi and polysexuals will argue that they are being discriminated compared to heterosexuals and homosexuals. And I expect that judges will listen to them - by then.

I still believe in "less is more" and "quality over quantity" - also in relationships. I prefer to wait and find the 4 cornerstones in 1 person rather than entering another relationship based upon just 1, 2 or 3 of them. I know that it's better to be happy alone than miserable together. Don't misunderstand me: I have no opinion on what's better, I just know what's better for me.

Herman van Veen & Monique van de Ven - Uit Elkaar (1979) - IMDblyrics, Wiki


Saturday, 21 November 2015

Polyamory

Last Tuesday, Dutch public TV broadcasted a documentary on polyamory (NPO). On Thursday, a Dutch national newspaper published an interview with USA born philosopher Simone van Saarloos about her new book on polyamory, called "The monogamous drama" (Trouw). In both cases (TV + newspaper) this topic is largely female driven. The men feature as sidekicks, like Robin to Batman. Apparently, this topic is now mainstream rather than for the in-crowd.

Wikipedia: Polyamory is the practice, desire, or acceptance of intimate relationships that are not exclusive with respect to other sexual or intimate relationships, with knowledge and consent of everyone involved. It has been described as "consensual, ethical, and responsible non-monogamy", and may or may not include polysexuality (attraction towards multiple genders or sexes).

In the newspaper article, philosopher Simone van Saarloos shows little respect for the traditional institute of marriage and uses its failure rate of 33% as an argument against it. She wonders why the (eg, Dutch) State pushes people to marry by giving tax and legal benefits to married people when they have children. "Why should the State determine that a promise of eternal loyalty in love to one partner should get preferential treatment?" (Trouw)

In her view, marriage is the symbol of monogamous dogmatism. She wonders about the deeply rooted conviction that true love can ultimately only exist between two cohabiting persons with mutual exclusivity in their love and sexuality. Nowadays, these two persons can be of the same gender but that's about it when it comes to choice on the menu. (Trouw)

The TV broadcast showed a heterosexual woman in her 60s with two cohabiting male partners in their 60s, as well as some other men on the side for pleasure as her sex drive is quite high, as she put it. The other women that featured in the broadcast were in their 20s and 30s and bisexual. Apparently, age or sexuality do not explain this phenomenon. So what does??

Since that TV episode, I have been doing some soul searching in order to assess whether I would also be interested in living with 2 or more female partners in 1 house on an ongoing basis. Well the short answer is NO as I would be incapable of dividing my "love" equally. There will always be someone who feels ignored or neglected. Hence, I'm afraid that it would become like a war zone. The two men in the TV broadcast considered themselves as brothers. I think it's impossible for 2 - let alone more - women to share 1 man in 1 house without jealousy and/or fights. And I could hardly blame them.

Given my own answer, I am now quite curious how these people are able to maintain a successful multi partner relationship. I'm wondering whether it's based on love - or lust. These two do not necessarily overlap each other in a relationship. I am also considering whether the female drive for equality and the simultaneous loss of respect (eg, marriage, men) are crucial elements in polyamory. 

Frankly, I am skeptic about the true motives for polyamory. That skepticism is however not a reason for disapproval or disgust. Love and sexuality come in different shapes and forms. HuffingtonPost: "But it is much harder for people to think outside the fairy-tale notion of "the one" and imagine that it might be possible to actually romantically love more than one person simultaneously".

The confusion of marriage with morality has done more to destroy the conscience of the human race than any other single error. Quote by George Bernard Shaw from Man and Superman (1903)

Isaac Hayes - Moonlight Lovin' (Ménage à Trois) - 1977 - artist, lyrics, Wiki



New Order - Bizarre Love Triangle (1986) - artists, lyrics, Wiki-1, Wiki-2


Friday, 20 November 2015

Clothing, Colours and Sexuality

In nature unicolour (ie, having only 1 colour) is mostly for protective purposes, either as a predator (for hiding in an ambush) or as its prey (for blending into nature). This same predator-prey reasoning for unicolour may also apply to humans - apart from the genetic (changes in) melanin pigmentation (Scientist). The use of multicolours in animals has long been explained as a result of sexual selection.

A 2015 study amongst 6,000 tropical songbirds by James Dale, an evolutionary ecologist at Massey University in Auckland (NZ) revealed some serious surprises: Sexual-selection pressures drive females to evolve dull feathers more strongly than they drive males to become colourful. (Nature)

In monogamous species, however, females are more likely to be brightly coloured, perhaps because they need showy displays to compete for resources (including male mates), or because it may assist their social interactions with other females. (Nature)

In polygynous (ie, males have more than 1 mate) species, by contrast, males may be less choosy about their mates, Dale suggests, so that there is little benefit to females displaying a colourful plumage that is energetically costly for them to maintain. (Nature)

This finding gives rise to an interesting thought: Is it possible that unicolour in humans is also related to 3 million year of polygynous (tribal) behaviour? In 2014, polygamy was even legalised in Kenya and African women do not dispute that the African culture is polygamous in nature (BBC). 

Polygynous societies may well have evolved due to a continued lack of men as a result of (tribal) wars. In October 2015, a Chinese Economics professor basically proposed to introduce polygamy due to a lack of women as a result of the Chinese one-child policy since 1978 (NYT).

Globally, acceptance of polygamy occurs commonly. According to the Ethnographic Atlas, of 1,231 societies noted, 186 or 15% were monogamous; 453 or 37% had occasional polygyny; 588 or 48% had more frequent polygyny; and 4 or 0% had polyandry (Wikipedia). Clearly, monogamy and polyandry (MFM) are the exceptions despite popular thinking. Wikipedia: "There are numerous examples of polygamy in the Old Testament but it is generally not accepted by modern Christianity".

The Western Christian societies are predominantly monogamous in nature. Clothing and the use of (bright) colours clearly relate to establishing a unique identity (eg, gothic) and is definitely a feature in sexual selection. To some extent, the use of (bright) coloured clothing may even be a "substitute" for our unicoloured skin. Perhaps the use of coloured clothing even marks the transfer from a polygynous to a monogamous society in our evolution. Much later Christianity codified this.

The women in some US polygamous societies "dress in a distinctive way -- in drab, 19th century pioneer-style outfits, and with their hair up, in braids and buns. Many experts say the polygamist women's attire is restricted as much as it is because, if all the women dress the same, there's nothing individual about any of them, and they're just part of a whole. Others say polygamist women are made to adhere to dress codes to exert control over everything in their lives." (CBS News).

PsychologyToday: The sources of the link between sexual attraction and red colour are not entirely known. In the more recent historical context, it is likely that the effect is learned through conditioning, social traditions, and acquired habits. In the more distant context, most researchers believe that the source of the connection lies somewhere in our evolutionary past. After all, the colour red is commonly used in the animal kingdom to express sexual power and readiness. Among many species, the prominent, dominant male will manifest the brightest red colours.

Among our relatives the primates, red often signifies fertility and sexual readiness. Female baboon and chimpanzee, for example, make public their ovulation by displaying the redness on their genitals and chest. Among humans, sexual excitement is often associated with redness in the body’s erogenous areas, and with facial blushing. Robust physiological processes such as strong blood flow and high testosterone levels (in men) are required to produce a reddish skin appearance. Thus, the colour itself may have become over evolutionary time a proxy signal for reproductive potential. (PT)

I have stumbled on a topic that is far too broad for this A4 blog. Nevertheless, it seems worthwhile to share it with you. I'll pursue some of these angles in new blogs. To be continued.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Daesh vs SPECTRE

There are at least 2 anomalies which I failed to understand for a long time: (1) why is terrorist organisation Daesh also behaving like a commercial (eg, oil) corporation, and (2) why is it fighting on so many fronts and uniting its enemies in the process? I can't think of any logical answer to my 2nd question that would not somehow contradict the answer to my 1st question. This puzzles me.

On 22 April 2015, the BBC featured a documentary on the World's Richest Terror Army. Guardian: "The film cites officials [ ] who said that Isis has adopted a pragmatic, “tax-and-spend” approach to financing, building up a war chest of an estimated $2bn (£1.35bn) in the process. Crucial to its revenue is income derived from oil produced from large fields in eastern Syria, some of which it then sells on to its arch enemy, the Syrian government, according to an informed source on the ground and a senior US official in Washington".

One could well argue that Daesh/ISIL - to a large extent - resembles SPECTRE . SPECTRE is an acronym for Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion and is a fictional global criminal syndicate and terrorist organisation featured in the James Bond novels by Ian Fleming and led by evil genius and super villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld. SPECTRE is not aligned to any nation or political ideology (Wiki).

There are some other striking similarities between Daesh and SPECTRE
- links with international criminal/terrorist organisations;
- claiming of terrorist events;
- Paris. The physical headquarters of the SPECTRE organisation are laid in Paris, operating behind a terrorist front organisation aiding refugees named "Firco" (novels) and "International Brotherhood for the Assistance of Stateless Persons" (movies);
- organisational discipline is notoriously draconian with the penalty for disobedience or failure being death.

The main 2 differences are in its strategy and its Belief system. For latter see my 15 November 2015 blog on Daesh/ISIL, called "Belief system - the Truth - terrorism".

Wikipedia: "SPECTRE's main strategy is to instigate conflict between two powerful enemies, namely the superpowers, hoping that they will exhaust themselves and be vulnerable when it seizes power". Essentially, a Divide & Rule strategy while Daesh/ISIL seems to adopt a reciprocal strategy - Unite & Lose. That is puzzling.

Uniting your enemies would only make sense when operating from a victim role. Please also see my 18 February 2015 blog called "Victim role - politicians, bankers and corporate bosses". If the whole world is against you then perhaps that could invoke sympathy for the underdog. However, what's the use of such sympathy when their entire organisation is being eradicated? If such scattered sympathy cannot be transformed into new recruitment then all such efforts are in vain.

Somehow these terrorist acts may be like the event that took place at Belshazzar's feast (chapter 5 in the Book of Daniel), and also known as the story of the writing on the wall. (Wiki)

Sam Smith - Writing's On The Wall (SPECTRE theme song) - artist, lyrics, Wiki-1, Wiki-2


Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Equality and Respect - part 2

After I showed my draft blog on Equality to several friends for comments, I got this response: "Because of equality there is less respect especially among partners". I had to consider this reply for a moment as it came unexpected. The link between these two concepts - equality and respect - had somehow escaped me. After some consideration I acknowledged this observation.

Frankly, I had a different situation in mind - the work floor - but the outcome would still be the same: the drive for equality implies a loss of mutual respect. A hierarchy based upon merits usually creates respect towards leaders. Such leaders are likely to appreciate, respect and promote their subordinates based upon similar merits. The drive for equality gives the false sense of a lacking hierarchy. There is aways a hierarchy - whether formal or informal. Informal hierarchies are even far more dangerous as it takes time to notice them. By then it may already be too late to show respect.

In several of my blogs I have mentioned that Respect is one of the 4 cornerstones of relationships. The other 3 are Communication, Intimacy, and Trust. In work environments the Intimacy factor is usually absent. The other 3 are still relevant in an effective - and even efficient - manager/employee relationship: communication, respect and trust. A drive for equality is not.

For me respect is one of the most crucial elements in the working environment. It is genuinely hard for me to work for anyone who doesn't deserve my respect. For me it's even a deal breaker - whether in job applications or ongoing jobs. As a bare bone minimum, I need to respect his/her business accumen. His/her personality is a bonus but not a deal breaker. I have had my share of bullies but they were smart and/or shrewd and they taught me a lot. Even their negative personal behaviour taught me how to be different myself. As Confucius once stated: “Don't do unto others what you don't want others to do unto you.”

I don't think that partners in a relationship are equal. Partners are - or should be - complementary but never equal. Equality in a relationship implies that each partner can do everything with the same skills and speed. That is a ridiculous assumption. It not only defies unique talents but even the reason behind the original choice for that partner. Having a clone as a partner must be the worst idea ever.

Even in so called "partnerships" (eg, LLP) there isn't much equality. Nowadays, you have salary partners, local partners, and profit sharing international partners. There is also a further distinction between junior and senior partners, depending on tenure. As far as I know, senior profit sharing international partners partners are at the top of the hierarchy. Usually, the staff has no idea about such hierarchy. Probably out of respect. Amongst the partners this distinction is however very relevant.

The famous song Respect is basically about inequality between partners. Wikipedia: Otis Redding's version is a plea from a desperate man, who will give his woman anything she wants. He won't care if she does him wrong, as long as he gets his due respect, when he comes home ("respect" being a euphemism). However, Aretha Franklin's version is a declaration from a strong, confident woman, who knows that she has everything her man wants. She never does him wrong, and demands his "respect". Obviously, latter "respect" is another sexual euphemism.

Hey little girl, you're so sweeter than honey. And I'm about to give you all my money. But all I'm askin', hey, Is a little respect when I get home. Otis Redding

Otis Redding - Respect (1965) - artistlyricsWiki-1Wiki-2



Aretha Franklin - Respect (1967) - artist, lyrics, Wiki-1, Wiki-2


Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Equality

I believe in Equality but I do not believe in too much equality. Obviously, "too much" of anything is never ever good. By definition. Nowadays, the equality concept is however pushed and pushed to such a degree that it denies that people are different ('diversity'). The equality concept also implicitly denies that everyone has unique talents. Some of these talents may get international attention while other talents never become public. Talents - like people - are never equal.

The basic assumption in communism is that all men are equal and thus everyone should have a similar share of the entire pie. It's a mystery to me that this assumption has ever been taken seriously. If history taught us anything then it should be that reality is the exact opposite of that assumption. No man or woman is equal. Each one of us has his/her own talents. Consequently, any social experiment with communism has failed miserably thus far and will always be doomed to fail as it is incompatible with essential human psychology. (excerpt from my 7 July 2015 blog)

Raising the question what Equality stands for, makes sense at this point. In my view, Equality means that the rights and obligations of all human beings are the same. In my view, Equality should not be stretched beyond that. In practice, Equality nowadays implies non-discrimination based upon gender, religion, sexuality, or skin colour (eg, voting rights).

However, equality in income is already a sensitive issue. Income is based upon far more criteria than gender, religion, sexuality, or skin colour. It's nearly impossible to find two equally fit persons for any job. Even when the input is the same (ie, gender, religion, sexuality, or skin colour) than the output (eg, productivity) will hardly ever be the same. Essentially, (differences in) income represent(s) a reward on (differences in) output - not on input.

Nowadays, equality in jobs seems to be a one-way street. The discussion is how to get more women in the Boardroom and how to "harmonise" male/female remuneration. The discussion is not how to get more male teachers, male nurses, male (divorce) lawyers or male judges. The concept of equality is being stretched too far. The ultimate consequence is that equality will lose support and backfire. 

To some extent, the US discussion on (the reversal of) positive discrimination is an example of this loss of support for equality. Even in Europe the proposed mandatory application of positive discrimination for women in certain roles (eg, Boardroom) is criticised (link 1link 2link 3link 4). In essence, the criticism is simple: why should a company be forced to hire a woman when there are more suitable other (male) candidates? 

Essentially, positive discrimination is an example of discrimination based upon gender. However, the law exempts this discrimination, allows it, and even rewards it by calling it positive discrimination. This collision between non-discrimination rules is bound to get worse in the future.

Parts of the discussion on positive discrimination are merely based upon political correctness and no longer on merits, qualifications and suitability. And as Groucho Marx once said: “Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.”

Monday, 16 November 2015

Liberté, égalité, fraternité

Yesterday I watched the Dutch 10pm news for a change (video). It featured two guests: Belgian / Flemish investigative journalist Rudi Vranckx and Mark Singleton, director of the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism (ICCT). They both confirmed some of my more private opinions.

Some years ago, we needed to relocate from my rental house near Mechelen, and my ex gf liked moving to Brussels as she's French. Actually, Brussels makes me really uncomfortable and not only because of the French language. The Brussels area is quite expensive due to the presence of several international organisations (eg, EU, NATO). However, I did notice that the rents in an area called Molenbeek were rather low. I did some research first as low rents usually imply low demand - for whatever reason. It appeared that Molenbeek's reputation was bad, very bad. And for 30 years.

Mark Singleton confirmed one of the opinions of my ex French gf: the French Republic is notorious for its repression on its citizens. No one would voluntarily enter a French police station and ask for help. It's like asking for trouble. The French police even has a reputation for brutality. In general, French citizens "hate" the police and its similar institutions. It's probably only in Paris where fake incidents are reported to the police in order to bait, ambush, and kill French police officers.

The French repression makes Belgium a safe haven. Furthermore, Belgium is notorious for its ample sale of firearms. Moreover, this tiny country has 6 governments which puts a severe cap on any effort for effectiveness and efficiency. Lastly, the language barrier (ie, Dutch vs French) further complicates cooperation between people and institutions. Belgium is almost ideal - for bad guys.

The national motto of France is "Liberté, égalité, fraternité", or liberty, equalityfraternity (Wiki). The many immigrants in France - and especially in Paris - will not recognise any of these concepts. In fact, it's the exact opposite for them: repression, inequality and hostility. Finding a job outside Paris is really difficult. Finding a job in Paris is hard. Finding a job in Paris without a French last name, is more than difficult - almost impossible.

Even "refugees are steering clear of France in favour of Germany, Sweden and Britain because they see the country as unwelcoming and economically depressed, migrant experts and aid groups said on Monday. Red tape, unemployment rates of more than 10 per cent and a ban on working for up to nine months while asylum requests are processed are among the factors leading the vast majority of refugees to avoid France". (the Telegraph, 21 September 2015).

Other reasons migrants stay away include squalid housing for all but a lucky few and difficulties with the language. France has only 30,000 beds available for over 60,000 asylum-seekers, meaning many are forced to live with friends or family, or on the street. As a result, of the four million Syrians who have fled their country since war erupted in 2011, only 7,000 have received asylum in France. (link)

This morning, the French PM has warned for new terrorist attacks in the forthcoming days and weeks. He expects that probably more attacks are currently being prepared, not only in France but also in the rest of Europe (FT). He has suggested that the state of emergency giving sweeping new investigative powers to police forces could be extended beyond 12 days — a move that would require approval by parliament (FT). Clearly, France sees its future in more repression.

The above is relevant in understanding why events took place in Paris on Friday 13 November 2015.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Belief systems - the Truth - terrorism

It's hard to understand Friday's events in Paris - and terrorism in general - especially as we prefer to see them as lunatics. I think and feel that there is only one way to analyse their behaviour and that is through a less obvious one of the 7 Belief systems - the Truth (also see my 16 March 2015 blog). I have been struggling with that as it appeared to make more sense to use other Belief systems: Politics and especially Religion.

Their lack of political and religious support as well as their lack of basic human values, indicates that they have found their Truth. It is an absolute truth. Hence, no compromises or concessions. People who do not believe in their Truth, do not fit in their plans. And basically that is almost the entire human population. Eradication is their Goal. Submit or die.

Once you believe in your own Truth then nothing else matters (lyrics). Each time they show us that they are willing to die for their Cause. This ultimate human response is the key feature in any Belief system (also see my 14 March 2015 blog).

Yesterday, both the French President and even the Dutch PM made an intriguing remark: we are at war with Daesh / ISIL. Obviously, this deliberate choice of words must have a deeper meaning. I already read suggestions that these words may imply a future NATO military response. Possibly, the Dutch PM used these words to counter further attacks from Mr Wilders who already used these same words months ago (PVV).

Nevertheless, it would be quite useful to know who, what and where our enemy is when we go to war. Unfortunately, our enemy is in the minds of people and called Hatred. Hatred against anything including - but not limited to - our freedom and the way we live our lives.

In 1971, Marvin Gaye released his classic and superb album (and song) 'What's Going On'. This song has some famous lyrics: "Father, father. We don't need to escalate. You see, war is not the answer. For only love can conquer hate. You know we've got to find a way, To bring some lovin' here today".

A 'War on Terror' needs more than a military response as a mere military response would probably increase hatred in the minds of other people and also increase terrorist recruitment. Simultaneously, governments need to bring perspective to young people, and religious leaders to make a stand.

Rotterdam mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb made an interesting statement in yesterday's 8pm NOS news: "I'm not a military strategist but as a governor I say that it's time to eradicate these 40,000 to 50,000 people who joined IS". According to Aboutaleb, "IS members represent a symbol for something to other people in the world". Once again, Mr Aboutaleb repeated that the Islam community must make a statement. "First and foremost, these events backfire against muslims in Europe. In my opinion, all peaceful muslims in Europe must oppose this strongly". (eg, NOS, RTL)

In my opinion, many muslims think and/or feel that Daesh / IS is part of a religious war between Judaism, its 1st derivative Christianity, and its 2nd derivative Islam. This would explain the lack of a strong muslim opposition against Daesh / IS.

Essentially, this is a war against a false Truth and not against - or in favour of - a Religion.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Symbolism - Friday 13 November 2015

Yesterday a friend asked me to be careful that day. She told me it was Friday the 13th. I hadn't realised yet but replied that this was mere superstition. Yesterday evening I enjoyed a great concert in Amsterdam with my brother. On my way back home I turned on the radio and I realised immediately that something was wrong. While driving it became clear that there was panic in the streets of Paris.

The symbolism of yesterday's event is sinister. On Friday the 13th, while enjoying a concert of The Eagles of Death Metal, some 100 people were killed, either by their hostage takers or by the police while setting them free. Apparently, dozens are critically wounded. At about 5 other locations in Paris more people were killed. That night, the French President declared a 'state of emergency' (FT).

The symbolism will also be clear to the Arab refugees that fled to Europe for safety. They were basically told that "you can check-out any time you like but that you can never leave" (The Eagles - Hotel California). While back home, I briefly worried for the safety of N+Y who live near/in Paris. However, the thought that their father would never let them attend such a concert relaxed me again.

On the radio I also heard a French political scientist telling that an "incident" had been expected for two weeks, that the public had been warned, and that safety measures had been further increased. I suppose a generic warning does not really alter your behaviour. Would I have skipped the concert of Brazilian singer Ed Motta? Don't think so. In my risk analysis that location would have been labeled 'low risk'. A concert of The Eagles of Death Metal would classify as 'high risk' but I am not a fan.

I suppose the terrorists will be young people, brainwashed by elders. Young people are so eager to take sides in conflicts. I still recall how Y was taking sides in religious and political affairs while knowing so little about history and its context. It always reminds me of the famous saying by Dutch poet C. Buddingh' (1918-1985): Inspraak zonder inzicht leidt tot uitspraak zonder uitzicht. In English it would sound like "empty vessels make the most noise" or "students should be seen but not heard".

When the dust of last night's events has settled, we will hear several people proposing measures that fit in the category 'gesture politics' (NL: symboolpolitiek): any ​action by a ​person or ​organisation done for ​political ​reasons and ​intended to ​attract ​public ​attention but having little ​real ​effect (source). 

There is an effective solution though and it's called 'employment'. Unfortunately, France ranks high on youth unemployment - although fully in line with (the high) EU average (Eurostat table). Being a liberal at heart (though not in the US meaning), I have become cynical about the attitude of politics towards unemployment. Basically, left-wing politicians benefit from unemployed voters. Right-wing politicians are more likely to benefit in elections from creating jobs. Hence, (youth) unemployment and left-wing governments go hand-in-hand. 

The alleged bombing of Russian Metrojet Flight 9268 that killed all 224 people on board, will cause havoc on Egyptian tourism, similar to the destruction of Kenyan tourism by Al-Shabaab (QZ). Destabilising economies and then governments is a main goal of terrorism as unemployment is a key source for new terrorist recruitment. The ongoing refugee crisis in Europe that is already destabilising the EU, may even help the Russian President to bring Russia closer to its former allies in Eastern Europe once again (source).

There's no smoke (= symbolism) without fire. Even when it's a smoke screen.

Friday, 13 November 2015

Mind Your Own Business

Recently, I had an argument with a friend. She took sides for another woman whom she doesn't even know. Perhaps her support is based on something usually referred to as "female solidarity". I told her that she only pretends to know the facts, and gives me her opinion based on her assumptions. Then she asked for the facts. I refused as these facts are far too personal to share.

I shared this incident with the other woman who then said to me that she should mind her own business unless we call her for an intervention. Her reply to me basically is the modern version of the old saying by the French writer Francois de la Rochefoucauld (1613-1680): "In friendship as well as love, ignorance very often contributes more to our happiness than knowledge".

I don't think that my friend was just curious (see my 8 October 2015 blog). I feel that she genuinely wanted to help solving a dispute between me and another woman. Nevertheless, her prejudice (also see my 9 August 2015 blog) towards me had already taken such proportions that I was reluctant - to put it mildly - to share anything more with her. She clearly overstepped the boundaries of our friendship. Now we are a bit like two hedgehogs (NL: egel) trying to reconnect.

I think and feel that there is a thin line between helping and interfering when it comes to sensitive personal/private matters. Many years ago, I learned this the hard way. A friend once asked me for my permission to share with his wife my thoughts about how his wife criticised him in his absence. I suppose his talk with his wife went well - but not for me. I never saw her again and later him neither.

I have learned my lesson: I mind my own business now. Taking sides in couples' fights is never ever wise - unless they divorce. In that case, you better take sides else you will lose contact with both. 

I just noticed a PsychologyToday article (7 Tips for Minding My Own Business - I need to change the way I think) that features the key to the solution: be less judgmental. Expressing judgement requires perfect information: complete, correct, up-to-date, authorised and so on. By definition you will not get such information, and especially not in couples' fights. 

Professions like judges and auditors are forced to express their opinions in the absence of perfect information. Judges can partly resolve this by pushing mediation onto the parties but even they ultimately can't run away from their responsibility to be judgmental. Auditors even face a bigger dilemma: the law requires them to be independent, impartial and professional but their clients - who pay their bills - may well prefer their dependency, partiality and ignorance.

Most of us are not auditors or judges and thus cannot assess the reliability of information. The more likely it is that information will be biased, the less judgmental you should be. In personal/private matters there is a high likelihood of bias, and hence it's best to mind your own business.

PsychologyToday: "A final bit of advice. Sometimes the easiest way to navigate an ethical dilemma like this is to simply ask yourself: What would I want my friend to do if he/she were in my position? Would you want your friend to mind his/her own business, or would you want to know? Would you want your friend to talk to your partner first, or to you first? Think it through and you'll know what to do. If you follow your heart and act out of friendship, you'll do the right thing".

Todd Rundgren - Can We Still Be Friends (1978) - artist, blog, lyrics, Wiki