Category Archives: Big Issues

Thought #60. On #BritishThreatLevels hashtag.

In the wake of the Manchester terror attack, British citizens stoically stick to their singular national character in an attempt to try to lift their mood. They would go to any lengths to turn a deaf ear to terrorists; in other words, if terrorists expect Brits to panic, they must be mad. Such an ingrained sense of fun and humour can only be found in the UK. And that is extremely good for them, an effective and natural antidote to a terrorist threat.
Twitter is flooded with messages showing wry humour about the #BritishThreatLevels hashtag. Just to put you in the picture, among the highlighted tweets with that hashtag you can find:

– A photo of a quirky man holding a pint of beer and asking “You want some?”.

– Another snapshot of a hedgehog typing in something on a computer keyboard with the message “Signing off an email with ‘Regards’ instead of ‘Kind Regards’ because the recipient has annoyed you”.

– A text like this “Overtaking someone while walking and having to keep up an uncomfortable pace to stay ahead of the person you overtook”.

– Or “When someone waves at you in the street and you wave back only to realise they’re waving at the person behind you”.

– This one was hilarious “Replying ‘You too’ when the waiter says ‘Enjoy your meal’.”

– And last but not least, “We’re British, you don’t scare us until you raise the threat level to: ’The only tea we have is Lipton’”.

From today onward, Manchester dwellers will never be the same; this is something blatantly obvious. The victims were mostly children, the most innocent human beings. Not only did the suicide bomber perpetrate a barbaric act of violence last Monday, but the threat of further attacks is looming on the horizon. However, the trail of destruction left by those “losers” (as Trump called them yesterday) will not undermine the way British people live their lives. At least, I do not think so.

But we cannot afford for a surge of Islamophobia to emerge on account of fear, helplessness or hatred.  Islam has little to do with terrorism. no silver bullet could have prevented the bombing. Only by upholding the principles of democracy and freedom, by integrating diversity of cultural expressions and religions, will we be able to overcome this tremendous problem and defeat those inhuman and savagely cruel behaviours.

If we turn to dividing our societies by religious beliefs, our behaviour will inadvertently come back to haunt us. Those fanatics are i n deadly earnest when they say they want to destroy all forms of democracy. What do they do to persuade people to join their crusade? The brains behind terrorist organisations such as ISIS or Daesh persistently try to brainwash people, in particular, vulnerable or ignorant individuals. And they do it by using our hate and our desire for revenge which, in this case, is our Achilles heel.

What we are seeing now should not be a country teetering on the brink of a war against Islam. I believe that the Brits’ reaction to the increase in Threat Level is a powerful example of what we must do: to lead a life filled with hope and endurance. Maybe it is high time that European citizens thought about their present and future role in this ceaselessly changing world. Brexit may not have come up trumps, but some Brits are teaching us a lesson.

Thought #57. Is torture ever justified?

 

Does the end justify the means? First and foremost, the mere fact of writing down these questions repels me. We live in a so-called developed world in which governments must uphold the principles of democracy. I would like to express my disapproval towards those countries that profit from information extracted by others under “enhanced” interrogation methods.

Unquestionable as it is that not only our country but the rest of Europe is living under an undying terrorist threat, we cannot move the goalposts at our convenience. By doing that, we would jeopardise fundamental human rights and that would be legitimately punishable by international law. As democracy should oblige, it is not enough to condemn the violation of the rights promoted by treaties such as the Geneva Conventions or the UN Declaration of Human Rights, we ought to obey the rules to the letter and without exception. That is the definition of law, isn’t it?

If a country uses military intelligence reports based on information gathered out of torture, they are backing it up; as clear as day. In face of persuading public opinion, politicians could claim that not by any means is this behaviour tantamount to condoning the violation of international law. It just so happens that, for the vast majority of us, overlooking the means borders on justifying them.

Giving terrorists a taste of their own medicine is not a solution. It is deeply cynical to try to conceal this countenance to torture. Must we applaud those who turn a blind eye? Is torture ever justified? We must respect the law and promote the principles of democracy with firmness. Only by being consistent with the treaties we signed, will we be defending civil liberties.

Thought #34. Doomed.

Imagine what things would be like if the human race were hovering on the brink of extinction. The “Voluntary Human Extinction Movement” has already done their homework. You might be thinking  “Oh Jesus, seriously? Somebody help! That bloke’s barking mad!” You may well laugh but I am in deadly earnest, this movement exists and they also have their own pun: VHEMT must be pronounced “vehement”.

According to an article published on the WWF website and entitled “How many species are we losing”, no less than 10,000 species are estimated to be dying out every year. Opportunistically, VHEMT presents an alternative to the human exploitation of nature. Only by taking part in their crusade against the human race should we restore the Earth’s biosphere to its former glory.

Seemingly, the voluntary extinction of one species, the Homo Sapiens, is all we need to amend the legacy of centuries of neglect. The plan is simple: to stop breeding. I utterly dismiss this idea which is tantamount to fundamentalism beyond rational belief. It is true that overpopulation is not sustainable in the long term, but I would not go so far as to say humankind is virtually redundant.

Back in 1961, the Daily Mirror featured a story about rhinoceros on its front-page. Under the headline “Doomed” the reporter unearthed the rinhos condition of endangered species, and as yet we have been unable to save them. “As civilisation marches on, it bulldozes wild-life”, the article said. A statement that continues to be valid nowadays.

However, conservationism has done a great job. Now, we know better than ever which are the species at risk and what we can do to reverse their critical situation. Organisations such as National Geographic, WWF  or the BBC have invested significantly in raising awareness of to this problem. For example, the production of documentaries such as Planet Earth, has awakened many of us from our blissful ignorance to an informed position.

As far as anyone knows, Earth is the only habitable planet in the universe. Our planet is rich and each species counts, humans included. Life is wonderful as it is. It does not take much brain to work out that our intellect will eventually develop the required new insights to tackle this problem. Imagine what would happen if the human race abandoned Mother Nature to her fate. Doomed.

Thought #29. The blinkered game.

A strange threesome, arranged along the picture, as if it were an unsolved puzzle, except that it is not.

A woman, dressed in blue and advanced in years, shows a scrawny physique. She tell us the story of a world marked by poverty and hunger, a world of social inequalities and gender disparities. She is not ill, she is a death-in-life symbol.

The little sign that says “tourist” indicates the presence of foreigners, probably wealthy visitors. In a global world where the plight of the poor is also a business, where only a part plays God over the rest, we cannot shut the stable door after the horse has bolted.

The blinkered animal next to the woman. It unveils another dismal reality. For want of willingness to help others, the vast majority of us are incapable of understanding the boundaries between a sense of guilt (or the lack of it) and our own ability to contribute to improving the quality of life of hundreds of human beings.

A blinkered person usually features, amongst other characteristics, bigotry, narrow-mindedness, intolerance and tunnel vision. In my humble opinion, they represent the plight of the rich. Because underneath that external display, blinkered people are just insecure and ignorant.

If only we opened our eyes. If only we were not on another planet. But, I am hopeful.

Thought #26. Be all eyes.

Look around you. Things are objects, stuff, concepts, matters, affairs, facts, features, tasks, phobias, obsessions, remarks, possessions, equipment. People are people like your husband, your wife, your son, your grandmother, your archenemy, a stranger, yourself. And then there is your thing, your cup of tea, what floats your boat. Life is all about that but, what are the unique or essential components required to live a life?

As of April 2017, we are 7.5 billion people in the world. If you could ask them all the same question, each one would give you a different answer. Maybe that is precisely one of the characteristics that make us human, our ability to think independently.

Our planet Earth is suffering, struggling, fighting a losing battle. Our planet is finite and so are its resources. We must become aware that indefinite population growth is not an option. Experts have been raising concern about overpopulation for a long time. The reason is simple: it is the main cause of environmental pollution, mass unemployment, depletion of natural resources, severe poverty…  Yes, you may want to stop reading this post right now but, by depicting a dismal future, contrary to all your expectations, I would like to convey a message of hope.

One of best ways to contribute to a better future is by thinking ahead. It could be as easy as foreseeing any long-term problem and trying and doing our utmost to achieve sustainable development, once and for all. We have enough data to figure out what are the most urgent needs.

Try to type in “sustainable development” in your preferred search engine. If you are a lazy person, you can utter “Hey Siri” or “OK Google” and that should do the trick. The question is why we have not done anything yet.

The essential components for human life are water, air, food and adequate shelter. If we fail to take careful care of them, we are in big trouble. So, it is time to go and look for solutions. Rack your brains and contribute. We need to be wide awake. We ought to look around us but also ahead of us.

Thought #23. Button it! I’m trying to think.

Beliefs, thoughts, words and silence. I would tell a downright lie if I denied that I often rack my brains. Today is not an exception. I do have beliefs. For example, I do believe in mankind. I really do.  Yesterday, I was criticised by a reader on account of my last blog post. Criticism can be defined as the expression of disapproval of someone or something on the basis of perceived faults or mistakes.

The perceptions expressed in the message can be summed up as follow: I am deeply ignorant and condescending and my writing is grandiloquent. But it turns out that it is not strictly true. I am utterly ignorant about almost everything but saying that the rise of atheism resulted in “dictatorships, hunger and genocide” shows a deep flaw in the mind of this reader.

New York 9/11, Madrid 14M, London 7/7. Terrorism, politics, fundamentalism and religion. The link is obvious to me. Luckily, people need to believe in something and I believe in people. Am I being grandiloquent? I genuinely cling to the belief that one day, humanity will be the force to be reckoned with. A powerful, creative and social force that may set humanity apart by bringing about equality.

Up until then, we will need to learn how to fight a war without weapons. Using devious tactics to level criticism at my blog is not going to stop my thoughts. In my utopian vision of the world: war-torn countries will die out, famine will become a thing of the past, crime will be fiction and equality a common sight, once and for all. The question is how to transform an utopia into something attainable. The answer is yet to be known.

Beliefs and thoughts, words and silence have a long journey ahead.

Thought #22. The elephant in the room.

Had Darwin never been born, religion would be in better shape today. Well, this statement is not necessarily true, appearances can be deceptive and neither is atheism a spin-off of modern times, nor is religion even in decline. Despite the fact that Charles Darwin is widely regarded as the father of evolutionism and thus of atheism, the rise of disbelief in the modern world has ancient roots. In other words, it is as old as the hills.

However, it is small wonder that atheism has not turned up trumps. Although there is no scientific evidence of the supernatural, mankind’s tendency to believe the unbelievable is an immemorial custom. This deeply ingrained behaviour has been, is and will be an inseparable part of human beings. Apparently, people need to believe in something, true or false.

The paradoxical nature of any kind of religion is basically incontestable, and as yet neither the Greeks nor Science have been capable of convincing believers that living in blissful ignorance could be tantamount to squandering a whole life.  Should there exist a highly controversial subject, it is without doubt the struggle between Science and religion. I understand that no one should be able to judge others on account of their beliefs, but it is no less true that religious justice has historically done a great disservice to their own devotees.

From a purely secular point of view, fervent believers have been largely belittled by their faith. By imposing arbitrary limits on the freedom of action of they followers, religions utter thinly-veiled threats of committing sins and it must be difficult to live when anything could end up weighing on your conscience.

Faith can move mountains, but it cannot avert wars or prevent capital punishment. Do I have to take this matter of misleading leaders seriously? Do I need to believe in a God that promises eternal life and yet allows brutality and savagery? I do not think so. The Spanish inquisition is only an example of religious intolerance and repression towards other beliefs. Countless deaths were caused in vain then, and countless will be caused in the future for “Their” sake.

Fortunately, I do not think the future of humanity is at risk, unless a cruel twist of fate leads us to extinction. Although creationism is still in its heyday, I firmly believe in our intellectual capacities. Science would well need more time to probe deep into the origins of life and find the missing link but the paradoxical nature of a hypothesis will eventually cease to be a paradox when factual evidence emerges and the elephant in the room vanishes once and for all.

Thought #16. One step forward, two steps back.

Life is perfect as it is, at least for people like me who seldom foresee a dismal and gloomy future. It is called having a positive attitude towards life. I called it a “Life Is Too Short” attitude. On the one hand, some individuals appear to be hardwired to love their own life whilst others seem to be prone to detest their existence. Consequently, attitude exerts a large influence on living life to the full.  There are, of course, people who occupy the middle ground and that is fine.

The crux of life is the resourcefulness of living beings to overcome all manner of hard times, tragedies and misfortunes, though this should not lead the reader to think that creatures are always hardwired to thrive. Dinosaurs died out millions of years ago and, according to the WWF, species as diverse as the Amur Leopard, the Mountain Gorilla or the Vaquita (the world’s most rare marine mammal) are on the edge of extinction.

How can we pave the way for a prosperous and enriched planet Earth? There is no easy answer to this question, at least not a definitive answer. Nevertheless, sustainable development could be an approximation to this challenge. I know full well that the moment the word “sustainable” is heard, a combination of boredom, scepticism and utopia immediately springs to any mind. Moreover, it has been thus far unable to effectively tackle global problems such as poverty or climate change.

Fortunately, a good many of lively people do believe in human brains (more than in brawn). Its phenomenal power has not been hindered by, for example, narrow-mindedness or pettiness. Seemingly, evolution continues unstoppable with the course of time. That is good news. We have not run out of time yet.

I must admit my lack of knowledge when it comes to reporting scientific advances. It is certainly not my field of expertise. So I am nowhere near understanding the origin of species, evolution, the causes of global warming or their effects on animal life. On the other hand, you do not need to be an expert to grasp the root of contemporary problems.

We are too many people: overpopulation. We overuse the natural resources: overexploitation. We do not believe in sustainable development: blissful ignorance. We do not take care of our environment: ridiculous foolishness.

After watching Planet Earth I & II, an astonishing TV series and a landmark in the history of nature documentaries, I do really love life, all sorts of life. No sooner had I started to watch the first series than my mind completely changed. For those who have an inquiring mind I strongly recommend binge-watching Planet Earth. Sir David Attenborough’s insightful comments will never disappoint a sensible and sentient person like you. Flippancy is not allowed. Only a couple of chapters and I promise you will end up watching it with rapt attention. Attenborough passion is buoying as a companionable friend.

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. One step forward, two steps back is not that bad.

Thought #15. Poverty line: a buzzword.

“The poverty line” is the official level supposedly needed to achieve a basic living standard. Updated by the World Bank in October 2015, the new figure of $1.90 was born as a more accurate approximation of the changing costs of living that people around the world need to cover.

Governments may have been forced to resort to facts and figures to explain poverty, which I personally consider completely unnecessary (if not mere misleading information), but we should expect and demand effective action from our leaders.

I would not go so far as to say that it is useless or impractical. In some way, statistics can offer some insight into the subject. And yet it is a proven fact that all the measures taken have been thus far incapable of triggering an upturn in wellness, especially in war-torn and famine-stricken countries. In my opinion, the problem arises when we eventually fall into a state of contentment.

Mainstream media abounds with opinionated journalists claiming that the international community is expected to shoulder all the responsibility for the issue. Once more, another fallacious reasoning like saying that by all accounts, little can be done either as a single person or as an individual country. It never ceases to amaze me how we dare accept these premises as facts.

The plight of the poor is our own worst enemy. Should a worthy war exist, it must be fighting poverty. And fighting poverty means going to any lengths to overcome the always unfair inequality. Because as familiarity breeds contempt, inequality breeds injustice.

As if it had not been enough for Third World people who, on a daily basis, are suffering the starving conditions of their countries, some Europe and North American leaders would still look down on their counterpart leaders (of the so-called “developing” countries) and, at the same time, the developed world looks away when thousands of people are literally in a state of extreme famine.

The moment I took the picture above, I slipped and injured the big toe of the left foot. My toe was bleeding and I was unable to control the sharp pain. Some of the men that were sitting down on the floor suddenly rose to their feet and inquired after my injury. They gave me directions to the closest pharmacy and one of them even provided me with a makeshift bandage. All politeness and hospitality. Given for free. Now, as an afterthought, I feel responsible for their lack of resources. I have more than I will ever need. They will always have much less than they deserve.

There is no need for a “poverty line”. It is understandable to everyone who has visited a poor country the fact that our upbringing has kept us in blissful ignorance. Luckily, there are many NGOs working on the ground. They do know full well how to cope with difficulties and provide people in need with basic tools to improve their life prospects. Aid in the form of money must be channelled through the entities that have the knowledge, the capacity and, most importantly, the desire to help. We can do our bit.

“To eradicate poverty we need many hands. I only have two” ― Vicente Ferrer.

If you want to make a donation or fund a specific project, please take a look at http://www.vicenteferrer.org.

Thought #14. Freedom (not of judgment)

Living is not easy. As long as you are still alive, you had better be ready to make very tough decisions every now and again. When complications arise, some individuals are prone to bury their head in the sand.

You can effortlessly draw a parallel between this behaviour and cowardice, to say the least, but then your comparison would be tantamount to the absurd. From my point of view, more often than not you will have to resort to a bit of imagination if you really want to show sound judgment. Being shrewd enough not to take a dim view of your fellow’s way of tackling problems is again not easy.

Freedom of speech and freedom of thought would have been unthinkable two generations ago. Now that we have these rights, we must be cautious and vigilant about coming to hasty conclusions when assessing whether someone has acted badly or not. That is easier said than done. Luckily, practice makes perfect.