USA

from 9/11 to MH370

“At the moment everyone is an expert on what happened to flight MH370”

these were the words that started a debate in a mostly US American frequented IRC chatroom I sometimes hang out in. I can’t shake off the feeling it ended with be having become some kind of a persona non grata. And that was not because I was told off for using the word “clusterfuck” in a chat room.

But back to the beginning. So everyone was speculating on what happened to that plane that has disappeared somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. Little surprise theories were ripe about aliens and black holes and whatnot. Some were more serious, some less. At some point I suggested it may have been the NSA since they seem to be to blame for everything these days but sure enough I got told off by the American experts. I was kindly informed that you blame the NSA when it’s something that can be done hiding cowardly behind a computer. If it involves actual dirty on the ground work you blame the CIA.
Fair enough. Point taken.

So all was fun and games until the discussion got somewhat more serious again and I suggested it did indeed look very much like an attempt on hijacking a plane gone very wrong. Now that got the US Americans all fired up. “Do you really think after nine-eleven you could still crash a plane into a major city?” As a matter of fact, yes, I do but I decided not to say as much. A wise decision but not wise enough as it turned out. Instead I put out the possibility it could have been (or rather should have been) a good old-fashioned attempt on getting ransom. It’s only been some fifteen years after all that it seemed some plane got hijacked for ransom every other month or so and there may well still be groups alive that remember the times when you could do other things with hijacked planes than crashing them into buildings.

“Completely impossible!” I was informed because “after what happened” plane hijackings were taken “very seriously” and nobody would hesitate any more before shooting down a potentially hijacked plane. Again I think that’s all – to put it the old school way since any US American readers may take offence on me swearing – a bunch of rubbish. And again I had the sense of not saying that much in front of my US American audience. “The plane hasn’t disappeared from the US though, has it?” I instead suggested. Now I opened the gates of hell. Or so it felt.

I was ‘unbelievably naive’ I was told and asked whether I knew ‘what happened on the 11th of September’ and duly informed that 3000 people were murdered. Maybe that should have been the point at which I realised that the case was lost either way and instead I should have taken to amusing myself by quizzing them about the number of Syrians that died on a monthly basis. Or the amount of their own fellow citizens that were poisoned by trash food and a pharma industry gone rogue every single day. I didn’t. Really I didn’t get the chance to either cause that’s when I used that evil word that was half the F-word of which Americans seem to be scared to hell and that was that with the discussion. And yes, I did apologise for ‘not watching my language’ in the interest of cultural sensitivity. Apparently the acknowledgement for cultural differences works only one way, though.

In all seriousness, after twelve and a half years does your random US American still think the world stopped spinning on the eleventh of September 2001? It was a terrible tragedy, don’t get me wrong, and it will be a date our kids will get to learn in school. With a little bit of bad luck they may get to learn it as a trigger for things to come much like my generation has had to learn about the murder of the Austrian crown prince. But still: the world did not stop spinning on the eleventh of September 2001. And just because the US decided to turn into one giant collective looking for revenge no matter what costs and cast aside human rights and the very freedom the terrorists had set out to destroy in the first place it does not mean that so did the rest of the world. Would the US shoot down any plane approaching a large city without a good reason? Maybe, who knows. But I doubt most other places in the world would do it. The world is not the United States of Earth yet. Not by a far shot.

Just the other day I watched a documentary on the 2011 Norwegian Utøya attacks. And as I watched and remembered the media coverage that followed and the way Norway was shown to cope I couldn’t help but think just how different the Norwegian reaction was to that of the US. One thing struck me especially: In the documentary they interviewed the Norwegian prime minister at the time, Jens Stoltenberg, a man who claimed to have himself visited the island every summer since his youth. But when asked how Utøya had changed Norway he said that people had become more considerate towards minorities, especially the Muslims Anders Behring Breivik wanted thrown out of Norway so desperately. Society, it seemed, had entered the time after in showing to the world just how democratic and open they are instead on going on a blind rampage against the potential Breivik’s of tomorrow and blaming each other forever for not having identified him earlier. Yes, mistakes had been made, especially in the time it took police to get to Utøya but society didn’t dwell on it. They grew stronger instead of breaking.

And if you’d ask me who will shake his head in disbelief on having achieved nothing and who will dance a little happy dance about having brought a global superpower to its knees I know the answer.

Migdalit

Iran, Iran

Boker Tov,

when I went through my blog roll yesterday I noticed with delight that a lot of the old sites are still going strong. The other thing I noted, however, was how all of my former Iranian links have now gone private and password-protected (not that there were ever too many in the first place).

Frankly, it sent a little bit of a shiver down my spine and acted as a reminder, much as Yana did to the Pagan community in regards to Syria early last year, that nothing is well in Iran.
Last time I was in Israel was last May and I remember it being a particularly tense time in the ongoing conflict, really almost a cold war, with Iran. I was travelling north on my own this time and I remember vividly how vulnerable I felt. It is a completely different story whether you are surrounded by well-informed Israeli friends discussing the latest at the dinner table on a daily basis or whether you have just been out of touch with everyone and everything for years and are stuck in a bed-and-breakfast led by and filled with clueless tourists in a town you don’t know. You don’t know whether the helicopters patrolling the beach are just the normal drill or whether it’s a more short interval patrol. They say knowledge is power and last May that definitely prove to be quite true for me; without the knowledge that used to shield me when I was living in Israel full time I felt very vulnerable to the situation completely out of my control.

Anyway, Iran. It’s a country that has started to fascinate me increasingly over the years, so rich in culture and history yet with such a tragic past. It seems to be, in the end, one of a long succession of states driven into ongoing chaos by US “world supremacy” diplomacy of the 20th Century and is now in what seems to be a headlock of extremism. It’s so easy to see them just as “the enemy” willing to bomb the people and places you love with nukes just because … well, because they can, I guess. It’s easy to see Ahmadinejad (who was in charge back in my day when I was following Middle East politics more closely) as some kind of Persian Adolf Hitler too. The truth, however is never quite that easy or easy to grasp.

It was around the time of the Obama elections that I had a little conversation with one of the Tehran-based bloggers now gone private blog about Ahmadinejad and how people would possibly vote for him. She made a point of comparing his charisma to that of Obama, especially to a people desperate by years of sanctions, oppression and poverty. And in doing so she opened a tiny window for me into what people in Tehran are thinking and why they are acting the way the do. Unfortunately, as much as I enjoyed our conversations, some via our blogs and some via email, she never deviated from Ahmadinejad’s line when it came to the Evil Zionists of Israel. I never found out whether that was for fear or her truly buying into it.

So what about that new guy, Hassan Rohani, people that know I keep an eye on Middle East politics keep asking me. I know for most of the folks with a strong connection to Israel the question is easy to answer and most see Rohani as not much but a new face of the same old story, more fine-lined to confuse the West this time so they can eventually duck out of their sanctions. Me, I am not always certain about it. Maybe he is, I wouldn’t rule it out. But then I think if something is to be learnt from the now nearing-its-end presidency of Barak Obama (and here again I know people will disagree with me) it is how hard it is even for a man that entered presidency with the noblest of plans to achieve anything at all if he finds himself in a nation-sized political deadlock. I cannot help but think that if Rohani was who he claims to be and if the extremist-induced political deadlock is only half that of the United States of America the situation would probably be looking exactly like what we have been seeing since he took up presidency. So yes, I think there is a chance he may be sincere and there is a chance that things may go up stream for Iran and, eventually, the relationship to Israel.

On the other hand, though, this has not diminished that lingering fear in the back of my head that one day, without much of a warning, someone in Iran will push a button and the aftermath will see places and people I love reduced to ashes, a mushroom cloud for a monument. Not just because I am all but certain about the intentions of Hassan Rohani to create a more peaceful Iran but even more for knowing that even if he is sincere there is not much stopping the ultra-religious would-be martyrs that obviously cover high political functions with lots of power from taking over over at the blink of an eye.

It really is a mess of a situation to be in for all involved parties. Even if politics weren’t as corrupted as they are, even if I had any trust whatsoever left in the doings of the United Nations it would be. How do you offer a nation that may be willing to change a hand in peace when you have to be aware of the possibility that someone else is pushing the button just as you sit and negotiate? On the other hand if you do not reach out to them now that there is willingness to talk you will inadvertently give fuel to the ultra-extremists in confirming everything they have been preaching about the West for decades. It seems like either way you can only loose. And that is if we were living in a perfect world, which we are most definitely not. In the real world there is nobody sincerely interested in the fate of Iran or Israel or any other of the Middle Eastern countries at those negotiating tables; You are lucky if their interest is limited to polishing their respective country and party’s image as peace doves rather than more personal economic intentions.

If you ever try to understand what is happening in the Middle East imagine your own country’s political parties and how they would be inconsolable on whatever is a politically charged matter in your country at the moment. Now add the temperament and the high stakes of Middle Eastern politics to that. Voilá, there is your very own home-brewed Middle Eastern mess.

– Migdalit

A note on Israeli “Settlement expansion”

Shalom everybody,

as it is a repeating topic in the media these days – since US President Obama started his obligatory piece of Middle East Peace Rally – I felt like adding a paragraph about the “expansion” of Israeli “Settlements” in the Western Jordan territories:

“Expanding” of settlements does not mean building a new settlement! Neither does it mean transfering even more (Jewish) peopleto already existing settlements in the West bank. The only thing it means, in fact, is building new housesfor people already living there. Children born to “settlers”, who have meanwhile grown up and set up families on their own, so apparently need a home on their own to host it.

Actually this is a big problems within the settlements: The Israeli government, for whom settlement politics are an issue they can only fail with, avoids “expanding” any settlements because of the international and national hullabaloo it causes due to press attendance. However settlers have always been a rather fertile species– in fact they are upon the little areas of Israel where there is a positive birth : death – ratio – and their numerous offspring has meanwhile reached the age to set up own families. Yet the impossibility to build new houses makes it pretty tough for many young “settler” families. They are forced to choose between either leaving behind their home and the support of their extended families there to go to some place in “Israel proper” where they won’t be able to afford a house anyhow, or stay in their village where they’ll have to make do with some tiny hutor staying with their families in their tiny huts. Other then the impression implicated in the media settlers don’t quite live in luxurious estates. Most of them are happy with very little, as they tend to be very passionate about living in their settlementsand in their, often irregular, ways, however there’s a limit to all passion.

So if PM Netanyahu “expands” some settlements again you can be sure as hell he just had to cause else he would have been slaughtered by a mob of raging “settlers” sick of living in overcrowded houses hosting three generations. And you can be sure as hell he’s not going to provide one more square meter of roofed space then absolutely necessary to keep that mob from ending his existence (at least the political one).

Well, actually if I think about it that way, I wouldn’t object of him undercutting that limit all too much …

yours,

Migdalit

I love quotes! A How-To on going to war

Hey folks,

yesterday, when researching quotes for my democracy-article I found another rather intriguing quote from a not-at-all political correct source. (And one I know mentioning his name will boost my stats again *hehe*): Mr Hermann Goering, minister to a long-gone “1000 years” German “Reich”:

“Naturally the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia, nor in England, nor in America, nor in Germany. That is understood. But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.”

– H. Goering

Sometimes I think I have a clue where exactly in history to look for former US-President (George W. as well as George) Bush’s inspirations and historic mentors

Oh I just love historic quotes! And somehow I guess I’m into politically incorrect sources too:

“Don’t ever trust a statistic you haven’t forged yourself!”

– H. Goebbels

I just wonder whether those people who produced them some decades ago had any idea how accurate they would be …?

shabbat shalom and a magic weekend

yours,

Migdalit

Here’s the Thing about Democracy

Hello everybody,

One of modern history’s most famous enfant terribles, Winston Churchill is quoted:

“Democracy is the worst form of government except for all those others that have been tried.”

– Winston Churchill

Or is it? I, as most European kids my generation, was raised in blind belief in democracy. Really, in retrospect it was some kind of a religion. A religion where there was only one dogma, and who ever would question it would be an outcast. A individual considered utterly insentient a waste of time to discussed with. Questioning democracy was unquestionable. And so it was to me, in a way, loving democracy and blindly defending it whenever possible was kind bred into me.

“Democracy is itself, a religious faith. For some it comes close to being the only formal religion they have.”

– E. B. White

Of course for a pretty good reason given what had happened in my country a mere half century ago. Democracy, I was made to understand, is a beautiful gift one has to cherish and take care of, for loosing it was the worst that could possibly happen and, certainly, the end to all freedom. Well, actually, the end to all the life I was used to.

Then came 9/11 and afterwards came the Patriot Act and alike bills all over the world. With it came the end of many privileges of democratic societiesand a widespread questioning of the extend to which “democratic” nations could still be considered democratic. The US for instance, where apparently elections were stolen from the elected president in order to bring another man to power. Where people were denied basic civil rights because of a crime they were merely suspected of or, even worse, just because of their skin colour or an interest group they belonged to. It came a time where zillions of people all over the world rallied for peacehowever remained unheard by their elected democratic leaders. Unthinkable things have happened during those last years and they have happened in front of all of our eyes. However for one reason or another suddenly no knight in shiny armour could be found to stand up for our all-holied democracy.

Whilst everybody who knows a little about education of children, knows that being a good rule model is the most important thing to do. Every parent knows he cannot make his kid obey rules he is seen ignoring. However no democratic leader I have seen doing the “free elections”-rally to Backwardistan your random challenged country lately could be bothered to be a good example of living democracy in his own nation. Let’s face it: People in the western world just don’t give a shit about democracy any longer. They don’t attend elections. They don’t engage in democracy or government (either because they can’t be bothered to or because their “elected” leaders can’t be bothered to). Yet all of this doesn’t prevent any of us for a split second of going of to every given “non-democratic” nation and praising democracy as if it alone was the guarantee for any given utopia you could imagine.

Might it be that it is a little daring to claim so wholeheartedly democracy was the only acceptable form of governmentfor all of the world’s nations regardless their culture? I mean … if we really do belief in democracy, why can’t we vote against it? And why don’t we grant that very right to every other given people? The only thing the 20th century’s global raid for democracy has produced, is a number of pseudo-democracies, where there are elections held with a known outcome. Where the party of possible leaders is so limited due to socialisation, ethnic structures etc. that it just doesn’t make any differencewho’s elected in the end. Is this really better for people then living with the way of government they had beforeand had possibly had working for millenia?

“The spirit of democracy cannot be imposed from without. It has to come from within.”

– M.K. Ghandi

For quite a bunch of countries democracy really seems to work pretty well. Or let’s say it provides the people with exactly that government they deserve. But where different ethnic or religious groups with different objectives and philosophies can be found sharing one nation it gets difficult. Then democracy is turned into as abstruse sets of rules as for who has to be represented in parliament through whom as can be seen in Lebanon. Positive discrimination still is discrimination, guys.

A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine.

– Th. Jefferson

Perhaps this is one of the biggest issues of modern democracy: It works well for majorities, but if you’re a minority you’re screwed. Whilst there’s all that talk about democracy guaranteeing everybody’s freedom I just don’t get it where freedom is when, as a member of a minority group, I have to step back from my rights, my way of living, because the majority group has another philosophy towards it. Just think about this: If the whole world was really democratic as a single meta-nation we would be governed by Chinesefor Chinese are the most numerous and could elect their government as world government. Is that really desirable? Do you want your country to end up like Tibet just because its smaller then China?

Even if people don’t like it: Tending for democracy, freedom, all of that parcel we call “western” means questioning it. Looking for points of friction, for issues we have to care for. In a way those challenging democracy most are, in the end, its most important supporters.

yours,

Migdalit