Movie title: The War in the Mind

the war in the mind

 

The man had been, for the whole of his life, an idealist. A dream-fighter, but also a rather conforming, obedient one. Raised in a conservative family, he had been taught that achieving Ivy League was an enormity, and therefore he had to strike hard for it.

Then came the Vietnam War. His friends had been draft dodgers and followed the life paths of hippies, but conforming to his parents’ wishes – the father of whom had been a World War II veteran before – he realized enlisting himself was a Hobson’s choice. And he thought being sent to Vietnam could raise glory for himself, save ‘those little people living in wild jungles’, and for the nation.

Reality proved him disastrously wrong. Both American and Vietnamese troops committed similar amounts of savagery against each other, maiming and killing not only themselves, but also innocent civilians. He witnessed some of his fellow soldiers persecute war prisoners and exploit the civilians; while some of them kindheartedly assisted the Vietnamese throughout the ordeal, he also saw Communist troops murdering them in vengeance. The retaliation never ceased, while his commanders prevailed giving him orders to ‘kill, kill, and kill’. He questioned his motives of life, the meaning, its existence, and everything about it. And he will soon go insane.

 

(is that so Platoon-ishly mainstream like any other Vietnam War films? Prove me right.)

Movie title: La Voglia

la voglia

 

Shortly after World War II, a medical doctor, having lost his wife, found himself falling in love with an orphan. That ‘friendship’, slowly, became a romantic – and, outspokenly, sexual – relationship. But, mysteriously, a few years afterwards, the girl disappeared. The doctor was desperate to look for her existence, and he poured out his emotion in his secret diary, oftentimes with his own imaginary scenarios.

What do you think then?

 

NB: ‘voglia’ is actually Italian word for ‘craving’, or ‘desire’.

The Ambivalent Superpower

america superpower

 

People hate America as much as they need it – albeit reluctantly – to deter their enemies and rogue states from imposing threats towards their sovereignty. And enter the 21st century, the superpower’s influence is waning. And it really weakens to the point that its reemergence – especially faced with the aggressive rise of China as a possible successor – is becoming slowly unlikely. The world despises it, but it has much more to fear of a ‘global post-American order’. It may be more chaotic, more multipolar, and obviously, more dangerous to imagine within.

Read Robert Kagan’s full essay in Politico.

 

Excerpt:

 

Over the past year, the World Economic Forum—the same folks who run the annual gathering in the Swiss resort town of Davos—organized a unique set of discussions around the world with dozens of international leaders, from Saudi bankers to Singaporean academics, African entrepreneurs to Latin American economists, seeking unvarnished opinions about the United States and its role in the world. Their ambivalence was palpable. Whether it is arrogance or incompetence, incoherence or insincerity, the critiques of the United States heard in these conversations are extensive—and often justified. There are old complaints about American “unilateralism” and hypocrisy, and new complaints about drones and eavesdropping. There are regions, like the Middle East, where U.S. policy is regarded as having produced only disasters, and others, like Latin America, where the United States is faulted for its failure to pay enough attention (except when its strategic or economic interests are threatened). American motives are often suspect and regarded cynically. Some see the United States pursuing only selfish interests. Others see confusion, an inability to explain what America wants and doesn’t, and perhaps even to understand what it wants.

Anxiety about American isolationism is once again matching anxiety about American imperialism.

Yet what’s striking is not the litany of complaint, but the lament about disengagement one also frequently hears, not the expected good riddance but the surprisingly common plea for more U.S. involvement. Africa wants more U.S. investment. Latin America wants more U.S. trade. The Middle East and Asia just want more: more diplomacy, more security, more commerce. This may come as a surprise to those Americans who are convinced the world not only hates them but also welcomes their decline. But the world, or at least much of it, has moved beyond this post-Iraq narrative, even if we haven’t. These days, many foreign governments fret less about an overbearing America and more about a disappearing America. One way or another, it seems, every region in the world feels neglected by the United States. Setting aside whatever this might say about the effectiveness of Barack Obama’s foreign policy, it says a great deal about America’s role in the world. The problem others see these days is not too much of the United States, but too little.

 

Israel-Palestine conflict: on choosing a solution

clip-art-war-403131

 

 

Tragedies can be resolved in one of two ways: there is the Shakespearean resolution and there is the Chekhovian one. At the end of a Shakespearean tragedy, the stage is strewn with dead bodies and maybe there’s some justice hovering high above. A Chekhov tragedy, on the other hand, ends with everybody disillusioned, embittered, heartbroken, disappointed, absolutely shattered, but still alive. And I want a Chekhovian resolution, not a Shakespearean one, for the Israeli-Palestinian tragedy.

Quote by Amos Oz, Israeli novelist.

 

Now, the world still sees a huge tendency for both Israelis and Palestinians to resort Shakespeare’s method. The world gets blinded as eye begets eye.

 

Picture source: Pic Gifs

Building Palestinian Democracy, One Brick At A Time

rawabi

 

The story of Rawabi, the first eco-friendly planned city in Palestine, and how Bashar al-Masri, the mastermind behind the project, is – at his own unease – struggling to promote democracy and civic participation in a country already torn by Israel’s continued repression and a fragile, unstable authority.

Read the full article – released in May 2014 – in Foreign Policy.

 

Excerpt:

 

Masri and his associates are working feverishly to attract the likes of Microsoft, Apple, Google, and other major technology companies. “We really want many of the same high-tech firms that are in Israel and Egypt and Jordan to come,” he says, his voice tinged with desperation. But convincing the tech giants that this is the right time to invest is easier said than done.

Their caution is understandable. The impasse between the Israelis and the Palestinian Authority is just one of the many complications that make Masri’s project seem utopian. Just take the problem of water. Israel controls the supply of water to the West Bank, and the Israelis have repeatedly delayed conclusion of an agreement that would enable the construction of a pipeline to supply Rawabi. That, in turn, has resulted in the repeated postponement of move-in dates for the city’s would-be residents.

Eric Liu: Why ordinary people need to understand power

citizen university

 

 

Beforehand, I’ve posted one TED talk about the uncontrolled inequities between the plutocrats and the commoners. And, here’s again another power-related one, which pretty much can explain about the previous video: ordinary people’s illiteracy, and blatant ignorance, of the importance of power. Given this rationale, it is why power – and much of the vacuum left by ignorance – is concentrated only among a handful elsewhere, not just in United States, but also across the world. Democracy, in sum, hasn’t been completely realized.

Eric Liu, a Seattle-based civics educator and also pioneer of Citizen University, wants to debunk the ongoing cycle, and provides one proof where civic engagement is possible, and thanks to globalization, can become a contagious ‘positive virus’ as well: cities. Cities, in his idea, can become great social laboratories to engineer changes for the sake of the people, particularly at a time when national governments mostly end up in deadlocks for partisan, stalled negotiations.

He offers some examples where we should learn:

1. The idea of ‘bike-friendly cities’ that kick-started in Copenhagen, Denmark, and spread to dozens of cities across the world

2. How Seattle led the initiatives of numerous major cities across the United States to set targets for reduction of carbon production; at a time when the country, overall, refused to participate in Kyoto Protocol

3. When national government in Washington, D.C., was highly paralyzed due to partisan conflicts of interests, it is instead local cities, towns, and lower-level administrative divisions that continued providing essential services for the people

4. How ‘participatory budgeting’ in Porto Alegre, Brazil, by which city dwellers decide together how much funds the city should be allocated for expenditure by sectors, spreads into numerous major cities across the planet

5. The rise of grassroots movements in China to oppose corrupt authorities at a local level, and the rate is rising

Learn more about this potential by tuning in to his TED talk below.

 

Nick Hanauer: Beware, fellow plutocrats, the pitchforks are coming

french revolution

 

 

Firstly, we all must appreciate Nick Hanauer’s willingness to admit the mistakes his fellow people – the plutocrats, those who have earned digits beyond what ordinary people can conceive – made in the last decades. Before the times of rabble-rousing deregulation, United States was once one of the world’s most stable, and equal societies. But as crisis started to hit the nation in 1970s, that title gradually gained illegitimacy. Wall Street execs and CEOs alike are making money thousands of time a median wage one is afforded, and US, as of today, ironically, has had income and wealth gaps comparable to that of a unstable, developing nation.

More people are ending up poorer than ever, and middle-class growth has highly stagnated. At the same time, plutocrats are controlling an increasingly larger share of economic growth and national wealth, further creating more bubbles – which can anytime explode. We may or may not believe it, but Hanauer draws an analogy between American society in 21st century and those in pre-Revolutionary France in three centuries earlier, with one striking, and possibly frightening, similarity: pitchforks are coming. In this matter, he offers only few options: accept short-term bitter pills – that is we must increase minimum wage and taxes, or do nothing but create a police state (one prospect America is increasingly heading towards), and in an outburst, a deadly uprising.

‘It’s not a matter of if, but of when,’ he said.

Listen to his mind-provoking TED talk below to gain more understanding about income inequality today.

 

Understanding human affliction through Donna Donna

 

An originally Yiddish song, sung by Joan Baez, about ‘a calf being led to slaughter’. Written somewhere during the onset of World War II – and also the Holocaust – it firstly analogizes the mass annihilation of Jews by NAZI Germany. Now, the song can be used to describe any kinds of tragedies befalling humanity.

‘A History of Violence’, by Steven Pinker

pinker

 

 

The ‘truth’ posited by most mass media reports – in regard to all recent forms of violence worldwide in 21st century – is that the world is becoming an increasingly dangerous place to live, where the binding assumption is that ‘people are more and more getting easily killed and wounded, and humanity is becoming more savage than ever’.

Steven Pinker proves it as fatally wrong, though. In his assertion, instead, the world is becoming an ever more peaceful civilization within these modern times. And he has a huge data set of statistics to disprove today’s conventional consensus.

Read his complete explanation in Edge.

 

Excerpt:

 

The extraordinary 65-year stretch since the end of the Second World War has been called the “Long Peace”, and has perhaps the most striking statistics of all, zero. There were zero wars between the United States and the Soviet Union (the two superpowers of the era), contrary to every expert prediction. No nuclear weapon has been used in war since Nagasaki, again, confounding everyone’s expectations. There have been no wars between any subset of the great powers since the end of the Korean War in 1953. There have been zero wars between Western European countries. The extraordinary thing about this fact is how un-extraordinary it sounds. If I say I’m going to predict that in my lifetime France and Germany will not go to war, everyone will say, “Yeah, yeah; of course they won’t go to war.” But that is an extraordinary statement when you consider that before 1945, Western European countries initiated two new wars per year for more than 600 years. That number has now stood at zero for 65 years.

And there have been zero wars between developed countries at all. We take it for granted nowadays that war is something that happens only in poor, primitive countries. That, too, is an extraordinary development; war used to be something that rich countries did, too. Europe, which traditionally has been the part of the world with the biggest military might, is no longer picking on countries in other parts of the world, or hurling artillery shells at one other with the rest of the world suffering collateral damage. This change has been extraordinary.