This is just for fun. There was an off road competition today. I kepty my camera clean but I got rather muddy in order to get these shots ;)
Like the war on drugs, the war on terror against groups such as Islamic State (Daesh) simply isn’t working. Fighting these groups is trying to deal with the symptoms rather than get to the cause of why extremism has grown so rapidly this century.
There are several reasons for this, the first is religious and political ideology supported by a belief that the only way to bring change is with the use of force and revolution. History is littered with examples, the French revolution, the Bolshevik revolution, the English civil war. All happened because of deep dissatisfaction with the existing ruling classes who thought only of themselves and not of the common people. Yet in each example after the overthrow of an unjust political system, all led to further bloodshed, in France many innocent people were sent to the guillotine, after the Bolshevik revolution Stalin ruled by fear and had many thousands executed for no good reason, Oliver Cromwell increased persecution against catholics after the protestant “Rounheads” won the English civil war. So we come to today, the “Arab Spring” the revolutions to overthrow unjust and power crazy rulers in north Africa and most notably Syria have created so much bloodshed and allowed new power crazy and religious groups to enter the vacuum, which is invariably created after a revolution. The question has to be, why and how relatively small numbers of those with extremist ideology are able to gather so much support?
Take Nazi Germany as an example, Hitler was able to come to power because so many ordinary people were suffering terrible financial hardship and unemployment, here was someone who promised to rebuild their country and give them a sense of pride and identity once again. Groups such as IS (Daesh) work along similar lines. They appeal to many who feel abandoned, using very slick propaganda to create a sense of identity, somewhere they can belong. The mistake is made that this is just about religion, it is not, it is about creating a sense of being part of something bigger where they can play a part, religion is just one of the tools used. The real motivation of Daesh is power. They would also not be where they are today if they didn’t have money or if other countries didn’t find Daesh useful in the international game of geo-politics.
Then there is the fact that these groups are good for business, as they create regional wars, the arms manufactures rub their hands together in glee, war is good for business so long as it is contained to a region far away. Like the war on drugs, so the war on terror is very good for business, ethics don’t even come into the equation.
Now with the terrorist attack in France and the shooting of tourists in Tunisia we witness what is surely the beginning of a far greater threat to what we consider the western way of life. Global political malfeasance, the purely self interested interference in the middle east, the rulers of middle eastern countries who have never taken care to give opportunities for education and work to large minority groups. All together allowed the development of Daesh. Now Daesh want to spread fear around the world as payback. Finally governments are waking up to this very real threat, which is ironic as they helped create the threat in the first place by their playing of geo-political games.
So what might happen next? For a start, more intense blocking of refugees trying to escape from these troubled lands for fear that some among them could be terrorists. Tunisia is closing a large number of mosques in the wake of the shooting of tourists as these mosques are said to be a source of hate preaching, I think we will see this trend increase over time, more mosques will be closed in many countries around the world. The result of that will be many muslims including the majority who are against violence as seeing this as a direct attack on their faith, which could also have unintended consequences.
This has become a global problem and one which needs a global solution, personally I think it is too late, Pandora’s Box has been opened. If action had been taken earlier to stop injustice and inequality, if governments had cared about people rather than power then there would have been a chance and groups such as Daesh would not have the power they have today. In a way, every bomb dropped on Daesh makes them stronger, they have become like the mythical Hydra, cut off a head and two more grow in its place as young ideological muslims conditioned by slick propaganda join the group to defend their religion against attacks from the corrupt west and equally corrupt arab rulers.
The world is now entering a time of great danger, not since the end of Second World War has such an existential threat existed and to be honest our politicians have no real idea of how to deal with it. Before, wars were between countries, now we face a war against an idea which has become international. Bombing an idea out of existence once it becomes deep seating among many people in many countries is simply not possible. Politicians are going to have to come up with new ideas and think very carefully about the potential consequences of those ideas, not something at which they have ever been very good.
I was in Budapest this weekend, it is an amazingly artistic city, the light was beautiful, energy and life filled the air. Crossing a bridge across the Danube, I saw a young ballerina preparing herself, for what dance I do not know. I was just happy to capture her in a moment.
The human-race is like a car which is rolling towards the edge of a cliff and instead of hitting the brakes we seem to be hitting the gas.
The vast majority of people just want to get on with their lives, wanting to raise their families in security both financially and physically, but we now live in a time when that is becoming harder and harder for more and more people. Society is becoming very deeply divided and tribal, politics,religion race and wealth are the dividing factors.
After World War 2, there was a period when things seemed to be going reasonably well. During that time we saw nations rebuilding themselves along with the fall of colonialism, businesses were booming and the quality of life was improving for the majority, medical care was made easily available, housing was easy to find, as were jobs that paid a living wage even at the lower end of the social scale. Racism was recognized for the injustice that it is and action was taken, women were able to take their place in the workplace, no longer simply as a secretary but as lawyers and doctors etc. Of course challenges remained but the point is, improvements were being made in society which were unimaginable not so long before. Of course there was the cold war, and some terrible proxy wars were fought between the two superpowers, Korea and Vietnam, at terrible human cost but in many ways the world was more stable during the cold war than it is today.
Politics was also less partisan in the past, the different parties of many countries could often find a way to work together. Today, politics of the democratic system is polarized and tribal in a way not seen for a very long time and to be honest the wheels are starting to fall off. Then there are countries where there is a single “strong man” in power, as always the power goes to their heads. Those who desire power should never be allowed to have it. The same goes for countries which are governed or ruled by a single family or tribe. They can not imagine never being in power and so set up systems to perpetuate themselves no matter the suffering that might cause others.
Interestingly, over the course of human history, we have tried all forms of government, royal rule, emperors, feudal systems, dictators, authoritarianism, communism, democracy yet none of them can prove themselves in the long run. For sure there have been some benevolent kings and queens in the past who genuinely cared about their subjects but then they died and the situation invariably changed. It strikes me that we are not able to govern ourselves and as society becomes more divided the task will only become harder and more dangerous. As a thought experiment, maybe what is needed is a benevolent global ruler or organization that has the power to put a stop to all the chaos. Quite honestly, if things continue the way they are then the situation can only become worse. The cliff edge approaches.
Religion is a big issue too these days. Everybody is aware of radical Islam and in particular how ISIS (daesh) use it as an instrument of power and fear. The Pope recently said there could be a case for creating an international military force to take them on. This is interesting as the Vatican usually stays neutral on the use of armed force, at least publicly. It must be said that ISIS (daesh) are doing everything they can to create a clash of civilizations, the wanton destruction of historical sites is more about trying to provoke an international reaction rather than for any religious belief. That the Vatican is now weighing into the situation, with all its power and influence, could well lead to what could be seen as a christian crusade by the muslim world even if they don’t support the extremists. To be honest the entire Middle East is beyond hope. Those of you who follow this blog know of my deep interest in the region, it is like a second home to me but the political and religious situation will only become worse. Nothing short of a geo-political earthquake of a magnitude never imagined can resolve the chaos, game playing, war and death. Israel and Palestine is a crazy situation, they are family, literally related to each other but hate each other with all the fury of an erupting volcano. In fact if you could take religion out of the equation there would be no other difference between the Jews and the Palestinians, just members of the same blood line going back to the biblical Isaac and sharing the land.
Our political leaders do not have the answers to the challenges facing the human-race today, their impotence and incompetence becomes more obvious every day. They try to change things but ultimately nothing ever changes, they only add another layer to the crust of everything which has gone before. The global political system has taken on a life of its own which ultimately nobody can control, a little like Frankenstein’s monster and see how that ended for its creator!
The United Nations which was set up after World War 2 to bring about international “peace and security” is little more than a place where political games take place, where self interest is made apparent and very little good is ever done. Saying that, if the global situation continues the way it is, when we really could on the brink of destroying ourselves it could well turn out to be the organization to be given real power and oversight of the international situation, but the situation will have to develop much more for that to happen, maybe when our leaders and politicians see there is a direct threat to their own security. Can and will it happen? Yes. Will it be successful? No.
I have written this article because for all the following I do of international politics, religion and economics, whatever I write is ultimately futile, not that it will stop me, it is just that for the moment I am tired of writing about specific situations because there are so many of them and too many new things happening every day. All the atrocities of war, the political arrogance, the religious meddling, honestly it takes a lot of energy and I can see where it is all heading. It is not my intention to depress anybody with this article, simply to demonstrate that the global system as it stands (political, economic and religious) is self destructive and beyond repair. It needs to be dismantled.
Totally off my normal topics but Friday will be a confluence of solar eclipse, spring equinox and perigree moon (when the moon is closest to the earth) History suggests that there could be a major earthquake or volcano somewhere in the world in the next few weeks, due to the extra gravitational stresses on the earth’s crust. I’m curious to see what will happen while hoping there is no further suffering caused if it does happen.
It isn’t only the tides which are effected by the moon, the entire earths crust also bulges slightly with the passage of the moon, not a huge amount, millimetres. A temporary increase in the force exerted on the earth’s crust can trigger already fragile areas. My point was that, the force on the Earth was temporarily increased beyond what is normal and as a result certain points in the earth’s crust, which were already fragile, were simply pushed over the edge. The tectonic plates all influence each other to a greater or lesser degree so even increased stress in a more stable area can ripple out and act on less stable areas.
It is terrible to see all the suffering caused by the earthquake in Nepal. Seismologist had recently concluded that the danger there was high but had not expected an earthquake to be imminent. My thoughts are with all the victims, one of so many tragedies happening around the world.
There was a local Ski and Snowboard jumping competition, couldn’t resist taking my camera :) Must be a wonderful feeling to be able to jump like this. On a different note, my blog has just hit the milestone of having 4000 followers. Thank you all so much, I never imagined my blog would ever have so much interest. You all inspire me to keep this blog going. Thank you :)
Once again Vladimir Putin has outmaneuvered the West regarding Ukraine. I’m no fan of his but Putin’s emphasis on strategy rather than tactics seems to be paying off. The USA/Europe seem to only use tactical thinking rather than have a clear strategy in mind. Maybe they should start learning how to play chess.
What has struck me recently is the similarity between ex Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev and Putin. Khrushchev could be a bit of a blunt instrument at times but he was also a strategic thinker. He understood how to restrict the movement of his enemy, in this case the USA. Neither he or President Kennedy wanted war, even at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 but he understood how to keep tension at its maximum without spilling over into full blown war which would have been a disaster for everybody. If you pour water into a glass until it reaches the top, this is tension, if the water spills over the side then it becomes war. Keep the glass full so your enemy can not add his own water to the glass without it spilling over the sides and you make him powerless.
Looking at the situation in Ukraine and it would seem that Putin is using the same strategy. Determined to weaken Ukraine, Russia has been sending large amounts of weapons and soldiers to help the separatists of eastern Ukraine. What can the West do? To be honest not much, if the USA were to send weapons to support the government of Ukraine the glass would be overfilled with water and open direct conflict would surely be a result, something neither side wants, so Russia has been increasing the tension from its side, giving very little room for movement to the USA or Europe. Now with the agreed ceasefire starting on Saturday 14th of February, Putin has been able to make an agreement very much on his own terms, the separatists will keep the land they control and if the ceasefire holds it will become a frozen conflict that the West can do nothing about. But there is more to this I think than meets the eye.
Although Russia is trying to hide its involvment in Ukraine, supporting the separatists with heavy weapons and support is expensive. Sanctions and low oil and gas prices have hit the Russian economy hard and war costs a lot of money. A frozen conflict in Ukraine that gives favourable conditions to the separatists will allow Russia to use its resources elsewhere. Where could that be? Considering Russia’s very close relationship with Iran and Bashar al Assad of Syria the answer has to be the Middle East as it joins “the war on terror” against Islamic State. Why do I say this? Iran has until the summer to agree to stop its nuclear development program, if it does not then the USA will pull back in certain area of Iraq and permit Islamic State to enter Baghdad and slaughter the Shia Muslim population which Iran, being Shia, is sworn to protect. It would be a very costly exercise for Iran to defend them as the low price of oil has also hit its cash reserves hard too. It is conceivable that Russia will give support to Iran through weapons and support. It is a very strong indication that Iran is not prepared to give up its nuclear development program come the deadline and is preparing for all possible outcomes, with Russia its ally, supporting it. The other reason would be to more directly support Bashar al Assad against Islamic State in Syria and maybe more importantly against the Sunni rebels in southern Syria, who are not only receiving strong support from the USA/UK but also Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Israel. With a real possibility that southern Syria will become autonomous, like eastern Ukraine, Assad needs all the help he can get and Russia needs to maintain as much influence in the Middle East as possible.
By freezing the conflict in Ukraine on his own terms, Putin now has the resources to help his buddies in the Middle East, This time last year he could afford to support many different battle fronts, now with the low price of oil and gas, he can not.
Putin is thinking strategically, whereas it would seem the USA puts more emphasis on tactics, it reacts to situations rather than having a long term plan of what it wants to do and how to get there. 2015 is going to be a very interesting year. As always, international politics and those with a thirst for power, Islamic State included, could not care less about the lives of ordinary people. They never have enough power, one day the glass will truly be overfilled.
This article is cross-posted to DigitalJournal.com
The 70th anniversary of the liberation of the notorious Auschwitz concentration camp has recently passed. It is so important that we never forget the lessons of the past, how ordinary people can become mass murderers and others their victims simply for being of a different race, skin colour or religion.
This was the first time I visited Auschwitz, I was nervous before going because I was not sure what I would feel being in a place where there had been so much evil and so many people were murdered. The overwhelming feeling was one of sadness, it seems to permeate every brick of every building. The biggest shock for me was how small Auschwitz is considering how many people were murdered there, Jews, Gypsies, Jehovah’s Witnesses, more than 1.1 million in total. The camp was designed to be the most efficient killing machine possible.
At the main entrance there is the infamous sign “Arbeit Macht Frei”, translated it means Work Brings Freedom. Freedom through death, many who were not sent immediately to the gas chambers were literally worked to death. They were seen as a resource to be used to do hard labour until they died from hunger or cold. The records that were kept show how meticulous details were recorded of the amount of work done, food consumed, as a modern business would keep account of profit and loss, and balance. The inmates were simply units of work, each with an identifying number tattooed onto their skin. When that unit could no longer do useful work it was disposed of.
With all the horror in Auschwitz the inmates still found ways to resist and help their fellow humans. When possible, food and medicine was smuggled in as were books. All religious texts were banned but they found their way into the camp too. When you have nothing left to lose you are prepared to do anything to resist those who are oppressing you. I was moved by a quote from a former inmate, Jozef Garlinski inmate no: 121421. He wrote, “Outwardly it might seem that Auschwitz was the last ideal place to start an underground organization. All reasonable arguments and calculations spoke against any hope of successful underground work, yet as it turned out, the situation was favourable. Clandestine action is usually taken and is usually successful when all other forms of action have failed, when desperate people must seek secret ties to help each other, to fight an enemy who is too strong for open struggle. Unlimited, however, are the moral and physical powers, which man has within him.”
Today we live in a world that is becoming more unequal and divided every day. The number of working poor, that is those who have a job but still struggle to pay for rent, food and electricity is constantly growing. Not since the period before the Second World War are so many people having to rely on food banks just so they can survive These people are being pushed to the edge of society. At the same time, after Charlie Hebdo, all Muslims in the western world are being viewed with increased suspicion, fear and discrimination. Society is fracturing and at the same time the desire for national identity is increasing. After the discovery of the concentration camps the world said “Never Again” but it seems that as memories fade and society becomes more unequal the seeds are once again being sown that could allow new horrors to once again be unleashed.
The chimney of the crematorium. The only way you could leave the camp.