La Detente – a short animation

 

In a Baz Luhrmann typical story, the opening always commences with a happy-go-merry atmosphere. Couples in love, people around infatuated enough to give support, and life seems as though things were destined to be -needless to say – ‘happier and merrier’ each day. Then things start to not work out well. And it ends with either tragedy, or devastation.

Okay, Baz Luhrmann is an overstatement, or even an imprecise comparison, but looking at this award-winning short film by Pierre Ducos and Francois Bey, which has been well-prepared for over 4 years, and released on the centenary commemoration of World War I, this is surely going beyond the way of that Australian filmmaker, and of course, with more intensity.

It all starts with ‘imagine’. When the world is on its nadir, and desperation looms elsewhere, particularly amid a battlefield, a soldier, whoever he or she is, will eventually find his or her own inner child again. Imagine, a world where humans don’t need to fight a bloody, merciless war. Imagine, a world where only plastic toys go to war, and humans look at the amusement of this scene. Imagine, a world where plastic toys fight not with sharp objects, but with candies and lollipops. It all comes with ‘imagine’, and when reality penetrates like a shockwave, it’s ready to haunt you for a lifetime.

It’s both entertaining (well, plastic toy animation shooting lollipops and candies, isn’t that funny?), but also scary in the end (spoiler alert: some ‘graphic’ sceneries, intense music, and violence).

Infographics: United Against Islamic State

strange bedfellows

 

They are enemies, they are archrivals, and they have conflicting ideologies against each other. The web as you see above looks particularly very intricate, given each country’s animosity towards each other. Nonetheless, one thing has put everything aside for a while: the rise of Islamic State (ISIS), a ‘pseudo, outdated, and rather anarchic Islamic hegemony’ which seeks a 7th-century-style governance amid the times of 21st century (a biting impediment towards Type 1 civilization). These countries all have one thing in common: its establishment is a dangerous precedent, and it should be eliminated. Indeed, it is just a start. Strange bedfellows will soon find themselves working together, uneasily united in an unexpected vantage point of history.

Check the graphics in Wall Street Journal to find out more about each of the links (with different colors) above.

 

Rethinking war

tug of war

 

Contemplating all the wars having taken place throughout human history, and most recently, the ongoing, seemingly forever war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza Strip. This quote in particular strikes our thoughts:

 

I am tired and sick of war. Its glory is all moonshine. It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, for vengeance, for desolation. War is hell. – William Tecumseh Sherman 

Sebastian Junger: Why veterans miss war

war

 

Nobody loves war; that is obvious. Who can ever think about someone cherishing in the middle of ruins, amid the loss of lives, among dismembered bodies, shattered buildings, firefight, constant dangers from our circumstances, or sounds of continuous bombardments everywhere? Civilians loathe it, children do not want their future obliterated with it, mothers do not want to see their children live with it, wives not wanting their husbands to engage in it, and clearly, almost nobody wants a war.

But, despite all such furor, wars still take place. Throughout the lifetime of human civilization, countless battles have taken place, with innumerable losses held accountable for. Still, this is one of the most befuddling questions ever: we all hate war, but why can’t we stop it? What’s the underlying causa prima for such continual, patterned occurrences? What’s inside the minds of these leaders, and even these soldiers, for such belligerent causes they keep playing upon?

Journalist Sebastian Junger attempts to debunk, in this thought-provoking and emotionally charged TED talk, the ‘unexplained mysteries’ that these soldiers, in particular the veterans, keep inside their minds about combat experiences, and also as a start for us to rethink how to end a war in better ways.

Listen to it, and think deeper.

 

The changing face of Kabul

kabul

 

What comes to your mind whenever the word ‘Kabul’ appears? If you know enough about the ongoing war in Afghanistan, your perception – as having been molded by mainstream media – most likely suggests that you end up associating that country’s capital with continuous gun battles, suicide bombs, and a constant battlefield. Of refugees sprawling across the city like mushroom, of one where lawlessness is the fundamental tenet of life, and of one in unceasing strains of fear, uncertainties, and savagery.

While on some aspects, these remain the misfortunes Kabul dwellers still have to face, it turns out that the capital is, by today’s standards, no more an intense battlefield. What you might imagine of a land of mines, of shattered buildings, of brutality beyond human morale is now nearly non-existent within a short span of time. The Kabul you – and I – perceive was the Kabul we saw one decade ago; today, thanks to Business Insider, it is now a booming metropolis, one comparable to any you can see in emerging markets, or developing countries.

Yes, some things remain unsolved, though: corruption remains endemic, battles occasionally take place, administration overhauled by numerous technical problems, and poverty, and all social problems associated with it, is heartfelt nearly everywhere. But that doesn’t mean hope will soon be gone from this city, which now enjoys a rapid post-war economic transformation; maintain the optimism, and work hard to solve all the problems, and it is not impossible that sometime later, Kabul will flourish again.

View the complete photographs of this changing city in Business Insider.

Art, Truth, and Politics

art, truth, and politics

 

Harold Pinter (1930-2008) presented what, arguably, could be the most controversial Nobel Lecture upon winning his literature prize in 2005.

 

Excerpt:

 

Political language, as used by politicians, does not venture into any of this territory since the majority of politicians, on the evidence available to us, are interested not in truth but in power and in the maintenance of that power. To maintain that power it is essential that people remain in ignorance, that they live in ignorance of the truth, even the truth of their own lives. What surrounds us therefore is a vast tapestry of lies, upon which we feed.

As every single person here knows, the justification for the invasion of Iraq was that Saddam Hussein possessed a highly dangerous body of weapons of mass destruction, some of which could be fired in 45 minutes, bringing about appalling devastation. We were assured that was true. It was not true. We were told that Iraq had a relationship with Al Qaeda and shared responsibility for the atrocity in New York of September 11th 2001. We were assured that this was true. It was not true. We were told that Iraq threatened the security of the world. We were assured it was true. It was not true.

The truth is something entirely different. The truth is to do with how the United States understands its role in the world and how it chooses to embody it.

But before I come back to the present I would like to look at the recent past, by which I mean United States foreign policy since the end of the Second World War. I believe it is obligatory upon us to subject this period to at least some kind of even limited scrutiny, which is all that time will allow here.

Everyone knows what happened in the Soviet Union and throughout Eastern Europe during the post-war period: the systematic brutality, the widespread atrocities, the ruthless suppression of independent thought. All this has been fully documented and verified.

But my contention here is that the US crimes in the same period have only been superficially recorded, let alone documented, let alone acknowledged, let alone recognised as crimes at all. I believe this must be addressed and that the truth has considerable bearing on where the world stands now. Although constrained, to a certain extent, by the existence of the Soviet Union, the United States’ actions throughout the world made it clear that it had concluded it had carte blanche to do what it liked.

Study case: inside the minds of Mexican drug cartels

 

Any business-school student should carefully watch this mind-blowing video.

Whatever the mass media have shaped our minds regarding the ongoing drug war in Mexico, which has claimed in between 60,000 and 100,000 lives since the army deployment began on 2006, our perception regarding the drug cartels – the so-called ‘bad guys’ as our minds are molded to believe – is utterly limited.

Rodrigo Canales, an associate professor of organizational behavior at the Yale School of Management, wants to debunk our limited mindsets in perceiving these cartels. At least there are three ‘business strategies’ everyone is going to learn from this utterly deadly genius TED talk:

1. A drug cartel can instill a high sense of control by pursuing a brand of fear. (take for instance Los Zetas, a drug cartel composed of former paratroopers previously recruited, and later dismissed, by Gulf Cartel, another influential Mexican drug-trading organization )

2. Or, in a softer approach, a drug cartel, in the absence of government’s effectual policies, endorses social enterprise and civic engagement. (Knights’ Templar, the successor of previous La Familia Michoacana, is an epitome for this case. They often label themselves as ‘protectors of the oppressed’, as shown by how they kill people, particularly petty criminals, perceived as threats to the social stability of the societies they control)

3. Or, in a more sophisticated manner, a drug cartel functions as normally as a multinational corporation does. (Sinaloa Federation is a role model fit for this method. They have developed their own tunnels, operated their own submarines, and even engaged public-relations firms to give a positive trajectory of how local societies perceive of their organization)

At the same time, Canales also challenges us to readjust our mindsets regarding our perception, and how this can help the policymakers in pursuing a radically brand-new problem-solving approach to solve this age-old trouble, one that has taken over tens of thousands of lives in the Central America’s largest country.