Olympic Madness

As the olympics further and are now nearing their closing stages, people will slowly have to return to the rest of the world. For a brief period everyone seems to have focused solely on the importance of individuals representing their countries,
In the olympics and in big sporting competitions rivalry and conflict between countries is seen as completely normal, necessary even, and encouraged.
Individuals carry the weight of whole countries on their shoulders and are representing the pride of a nation, shouted at by onlookers, both supportive and wishing for them to lose, to get a gold medal and make the people of their countries proud.
It seems strange that for a brief period millions of people all over the world feel awakened in them a sense of something so primal, so nationalistic, without even realising that really what they're feeling are similar feelings to all the conquerors of the past, the present and even the future. It's encouraged in everyone - people sit their children down in front of the TV; so they, too, can witness this tiny fragment of history and nationalistic pride.
Yet no one draws back to the real conflicts happening in the world, instead everyone chooses to escape, which brings the question - and just think about it - is it healthy?


Infinity vs Finiteness

Talking to someone very close to me I was told that they cannot cope with the ideas of finiteness vs infinity. The fact that something is either completely closed off with a beginning and an end or the idea that it is all open - there is no end to it, it's beyond space and time, freaks them out. Not only does it freak them out but causes them to hyperventilate and shut down.
To me this idea is astonishing, not only because so many questions in life are about mortality versus afterlife and how big space is, but also because I don't find either of those ideas worrying. To me, personally, I find it comforting to know that both sides could exist.

The idea of infinity is one that is as old as the thinkers; gods, afterlife, heaven, hell and even purgatory are all ideas of an eternal afterlife or, in case of the gods, eternal life. The idea that after we die there is somewhere without all earthly issues and worries is fantastic, eternal life in a way that we cannot even begin to fathom. We guess, we assume, but none of us really have a clue as to what would really be waiting for us on the other side. Personally I like to believe in the What Dreams May Come version of heaven, I think it's very beautiful and rather fantastic. If it exists, that is how I believe it would be, something personal, where you can be how and what you wish to be.
Personally I do not think a hell would truly exist if God was one that was truly benevolent, he would not be able to put his creations through such agony, surely. I do believe that purgatory exists, no fire, no joy just never-ending numbness.

However, if neither of those exist I don't have a problem with it. The idea that when we die we are completely done, finished, worm food is also something I find comforting. It gives me a feeling of satisfaction thinking about it that way, if we die we are dead. There is nothing left to worry about and there is no more of you. There is nothingness.
Certainly, it is strange to think about in a way that you will never again know that you have lived on this earth, you are in a way completely erased except for in the memories of the people still alive, in the stories they tell. Slowly all you will be, unless you were a mover or a shaker, is a name on a family tree - a distant relative long long ago. And that is satisfying. There is no wondering whether or not you will have to go through another life for all eternity, there is just the end.

Let me know your thoughts on this, I'd love to hear what you all think. Leave a comment or e-mail Isaab@live.nl


The True Meaning of Hip Hop?

The reason I have such an extreme love for hip hop is because the message that lies in true hip hop. This message is that of equality. Not west coast versus east coast but the message before that. The message that it does not matter who you are or where you are from - everybody is equal, everyone was created equally and that is all that truly matters.

It is something which speaks to me, I am the kind of person who has big issues with unfair and unjust treatment of people. It is something which I absolutely can not stand and something that makes me truly angry and even upset. I personally can not understand that people would treat other people in such a way that they are denied their human rights. Denied the freedom. That they are denied everything that they believe in just because one person does not agree with the ideas.

That denial of personal beliefs and the pushing of someone else's ideas onto other people is disgusting. That is the only way that I can describe my emotions. I know that, in a way, I am doing exactly that which I have just describe by writing this, and yet - at the same time - I am also doing the opposite. It's a paradox.

Without those we would not be able to live our lives the way we do. I believe that there is beauty in the paradoxes of the world - they are things we should treasure. But that is for another day.

For me one of the songs which brings this message of true hip hop across is 'The Show Must Go On' by none other than Lupe Fiasco.

"So, no matter what you been through, no matter what you into, no matter what you see when you look outside your window. Brown grass or green grass, picket fence or barbed wire, never ever put them down you just lift your arms higher. Lift them 'til your arms tired, let 'em know you're here. Struggling, surviving. That you gon' persevere."

Not only does that quote from the lyrics point out the importance of equality but also shows the importance of fighting for what you believe for. Everybody should have that right, and if you don't get it you should do something about that. Live in the spirit of Hip Hop.
Equality above anything else, and if it doesn't exist for you - make it.


Conflict gold?

Well Well Well, haven't I been ignoring you. Ever so sorry, I have been in my home country and running around like a crazy person for the past couple of weeks.

Soooo... Let's treat the issue of Conflict Gold..
You may well have heard of conflict diamonds, but not of conflict gold. It's a similar principle with a different commodity.

In certain corrupted African countries, gold is being mined and the profit is used to fund their corrupt governments and conflicts.

 Hence, why it is called Conflict Gold. Now, this in principle means that it is banned from the markets. All gold has to have a registered point of origin, and if it is from these places it should not be used... However, with this come massive ethical issues. 

What are you on about?

Well... Often the gold mining is the only form of income for this remote areas, despite the workers only being paid a pittance. If you take away this income from the people, they won't have anything and they will be far worse off than if they mined the gold. 
They would not be able to afford food, clothes, school, transport etc. And thus the whole community would diminish back to a poorer state. And if you think about that, that isn't fair either, finally there is a way for these areas to flourish, at least a little bit, in developing countries.  When so much of what we do is about trying to help these developing countries, it doesn't seem right to take this away from the people living there.

And then you go back to the flipside:
The gold is funding conflicts, conflicts are bad and often have child soldiers involved in them. The governments are corrupt and totalitarian, so why on earth should we support a government that does such things? 

And that is exactly the question we face now, what matters more? Helping the people and their communities grow, or preventing the governments from funding their conflicts?


Human Nature?

So I was looking at the local newspapers from where I used to live online and I came across this. What is it? It's an article, in Dutch, about how the opposition for the remembrance day tomorrow. Why? Two Jewish groups and a bunch of locals are angry because the German soldiers who are buried there are to be remembered and honoured too.  They have declared that doing this would disrespect the memory of the Dutch people that passed and that it would blur the line between the occupying forces and the occupied during the second world war.

So they're making a gross generalisation that every single German soldier in the second world war agreed one hundred percent with the occupation and with Hitler's methods and beliefs. And have declared that the death of these people is not sacrilege but good. Something which I cannot understand and which disgusts me utterly.

Fair enough, a lot of the misdoings  that occurred are things which cannot be forgiven - however, I do not, even for a second, believe that every single soldier was doing the things that they wanted to do.

Harry Patch, a first world war survivor, who has since passed, remembered the German soldiers on the English remembrance day - he visited the German cemetery and respected the dead. I think that takes a great deal of courage and demands a huge amount of respect.

These protests, on the other hand, do not. I think they are infuriating and disgusting. The people who are buried there still had families, many of whom will not have agreed with what was happening, and deserve a little respect. They were doing what they were required to do by the law at the time.

But do not mistake what I am saying here, I am not saying that what happened during the first world war is forgiveable, a great deal of atrocities happened. I am, however, attempting to say that not everyone believed what they were told and not everyone was 100% bad just because they were forced to do the things they did. There are many psychological theories about human nature that explain why the soldiers were able to do what they did.

And also remember that a large part of the death and work camps was run by the inmates themselves, they also sorted out the weak from the strong, the men from the women, children and elderly. Why? Because they thought it might help them survive or perhaps because they felt it was better for them to do it than the Germans that were working in the camps - not many survived to explain why. And those who did die are still remembered, respected and loved by any family that survived and by the millions - perhaps even billions of people - that remember the atrocities that occurred under Hitler's rule in Germany. Just because they did those jobs does not make them inhumane.

I hope I have explained myself clearly enough, I may not have done and you may misconstrue what I am saying, and if that is the case - please do send me a message. I would love to explain myself further to try and get you to understand my point of view (no, not trying to get you to agree, just to understand).


International Aid for Self Gain?

Sooo at uni we have to do a number of articles with a variety of titles, on of the first ones I think I have already posted, which is on the Palestine-Israel conflict. They're only allowed to be 4-5 hundred words long so I know there isn't a lot of depth in them.  They are meant to spark an interest and get people to research further for themselves. Below is one I did on international aid and I might post the redraft of the other article. If you're interested in any of this and would like to know where you can find more information, drop me a line and I'll help you as much as I can.

Discuss the extent to which developed countries use international aid for their own purposes.

International Aid was developed to aid those countries in need. One of the main goals that has been set for countries is to donate a minimum of 0.7% of GNI per year to stop hunger, but only a handful out of 22 countries that pledged to do so in the UN. 6 of those who have not met their pledge have not even started a schedule to work towards, including the US.
So if these countries are so reluctant to meet this pledge what is the point of International Aid at all?

Firstly, there is a difference between developmental and humanitarian aid. Humanitarian focusses mainly on instant relief from problems caused by natural disasters and conflict; whereas Developmental aid focusses on tackling the long term roots of the problems that cause poverty and hunger by prolonged donations from developed countries.

Secondly, on a very simplified basis International Aid works in a similar manner to the way that banks loan money to people and companies. One party lends to another with an interest rate, allowing for a greater return on the money lent. However, this would only lead the countries into greater debt eventually as they are lending from one country to pay back the other. Is it ethical to continue to ‘aid‘ when in the long term it doesn’t benefit the country you’re helping?

Thirdly, if a country puts a lot of aid into a particular nation then there is the possibility of political influence and personal gain. By aiding developing countries the western world is able to  build up ties with countries that have great oil supplies or tactical positioning on the globe. Additionally, there may also be imperialistic legacies that nations wish to be upheld - if a nation continues to assert influence within these regions then part of the culture that was brought initially may sustain for longer.

One of the great issues with aid remains the countries that gain it. Often developing countries have fledgling democracies - if that - and governments are corrupt, bringing with it the ethical issue that the support is going to a corrupt, often totalitarian rulership with little or no regard for Human Rights - is that justified?

According to many countries and organisations it is - they manage to get a lot of aid to the people in need and the governments that give eventually get a return out of their investment. But it is unclear as to whether the return is greater than the good that the aid will do in the long term, begging for the question: “Does International Aid really aid at all?”


UK Education?

So at the moment there is a whole debate about the UK Education system and how the exams should be regulated and set (content wise) by reputable universities. Somehow people are pissed off with this, why? because obviously exams are going to be getting harder... boo hoo. Suck it up, it will make your grades count, it will make your grades make sense and actually mean something to employers. It will allow you to learn more AT university, so why some people are trowing a hissy fit is beyond me.

There are so many things that I disagree with within the UK education system...
Firstly, it likes to narrow itself down as quickly as it possibly can, from age 14 you start dropping subjects and by age 16 you can drop your mother tongue. Grammar is no longer thoroughly taught and maths is often not even considered as something to take for those doing a levels.

I did the IB, something which is more similar to the Dutch education system and something I agree a lot more with, but there are still core subjects missing. In holland you take economics from a young age, it helps you to understand how the world goes round.
There is more international history so that you understand your place. There are second languages, third languages sometimes fourth languages taught.
There is proper sex education, which I think is essential to allow young people to be safe in their activities - kids are having sex younger and younger, it is better for them to be educated about it and know how to prevent anything they may not want (e.g. pregnancy or S.T.I.s).

And then there is the whole fact that the school system is streamed, something which to me makes a lot more sense than the way the English system works. Kids have to repeat years and ensure that their grades are maintained, they have to work hard to get to university. In this country you can get to university with straight Us (That's UNGRADED to those unaware of the ridiculous marking system in this country)...

And I understand that people change in university, they may well get fantastic grades in certain subject but I can't help feeling that there are so many people going to university just for 'the experience'. People are getting degrees (all be they 2-2s or 3rds) left right and centre. I think it is important, and time, to make it more difficult to get degrees, exams, and to take away some of the degrees that don't mean anything. You may want to find graduate work but if you've got a degree in 'media' it really isn't going to do much for you is it?

And what my university has done is it has now alienated the possibility of taking languages for interest - a key skill within any job market is to speak foreign languages, but now I can't improve those skills because you can't be bothered to offer it anymore? What is wrong with this world?!


Death of Millions vs Death of One?

Every day a lot of people die in the world, but not often these are people that we know about. Sometimes they die of horrible diseases, other times merely of old age - but what do their deaths really mean for this world?
A lot of people criticise the current community for mourning over the death of individuals when daily millions of people die of easily resolved issues in the developing world. The most recent example of this is Whitney Houston.

Each time after one of these momentous deaths of a public figure there are memes everywhere commenting on how 1 person dies and million cry but when millions die no one cries.  Something which I think to a certain extent is quite disrespectful.

Now before you get into an angry fit of rage because of my comment, this is how I mean it:
The reason why people are more upset when a famous person dies is because they have been involved in that persons life, often for a long time, or have been massively touched by it. When the millions of people die in the developing world humanity isn't as touched by it because it is far away and they have no real personal bond with those who have passed away.

(No I'm not saying that I agree with that. Bear with me for a moment longer please!)

Moreover, we are constantly being bombarded by images of starving children on tv, in magazines, newspapers etc. What this has done, rather than make us more aware, is it has apparently made us more desensitised. People ignore the adverts or even get annoyed when they come on, they think 'whatever' when they see the images.
There are also people who have the belief of 'why would I care about those people when our own countries have so many living below the poverty line?!'

Additionally, a lot of celebrities have brough a lot of awareness to the world regarding various important issues such as sexuality, poverty, education, drugs etc.
And ultimately a celebrity is still a human being - one with a family, friends - who will be missed after their passing. To say they don't matter is what I find disrespectful.

What seems to be happening in today's western society is a conflict of interests. There are people in our own modern, developed, seemingly wealthy countries that do not have the ability to get themselves above the poverty line. There are those that are homeless, those that have no money for food and those who have terrible diseases that they'll never recover from because the cures have not been found.
And then there are the people who live thousands of miles away - millions without enough food, no homes, no money and dying of diseases that we have long eradicated in our societies.

So which side is more important?


Are Peace and True Democracy ever likely goals?

Within the whole western world we strive to have true democracy and peace all over the world. We believe that our system is a truthful one and that we have already reached true democracy... But have we really?

Is the Western world truly one of peace? We are constantly up in another part of the world trying to sort out either their issues or to use the countries that we are in for our own goals. I say 'we' in the loose meaning of the word as it is the Western World collectively that does this, not just one country.

Moreover, the Western world is one that prides itself on its democracy but is it truly democracy when the system used in some countries is one solely of a majority? And when countries do use systems such as proportional representation people are always keen to step in when someone that leans to far to the left or right gets a decent amount of votes.
 - don't get me wrong, I'm not an extremist and would not want another Hitler in power anywhere - but this is merely a point I am trying to make. More of a philosophical point than something completely concrete.

The reason that I am bringing these issues to the forefront now is due to the new peace talks that are happening in Palestine at the moment. Israel is complaining because they do not wish to cooperate with Hamas as Hamas is seen as a terrorist organisation. Which I frankly find extaordinarly ironic.
Have they looked at past presidents? And even the current one was a part of the IDF.
For instance look at Menachem Begin - Head of the Irgun who prided the Irgun and the Stern Gang (or Lehi) on their 'Splendid Act of Conquest' (see Spectacle.org) after killing hundreds of people in Deir Yassin.

Regardless of this I do hope that the new government (with Abbas as the interim prime minister until the elections) will be able to bring some peace into the region or at the very least help to start rebuild the devastated West Bank and Gaza areas.


Homophobia in life

Watching 'Gay footballers in Britain' I have come to realise yet another sad fact that in such circles it is still so stereotypical and it's so unaccepted to be who you are.

I find it astonishing that in so many circles it is so unacceptable to be gay. It angers me to such a high level. Why on earth should it matter who you're attracted to?! How does that change anything in your professional life? How does it affect YOU as a person?!!
I hope that in the near future people break through the barrier of stereotypes. It angers me as much as racism does; again, it is something that is completely unnecessary to draw into things such as professional life or personality etc. Just because you look a certain way or prefer a certain sex doesn't mean that you are any less of a person. All forms of discrimination are completely and utterly wrong be it positive or negative.

Which brings me to the 'equal opportunities' surveys you get everywhere in the uk. So you have to fill in every bit of your background so that they can give everyone an equal opportunity? Bullshit! If you want to give everyone an equal opportunity you should judge people solely based on their qualifications. Select those who are the most qualified and take their backgrounds out of the equation. Change names to numbers and offer interviews only to those who come out on top. Then and only then can you take into account their personalities and whether they would make a good part of the team.
It shouldn't matter whether you have a specific sexual preference, skin colour, religion etc. As long as you're not trying to push your ways onto anyone else what does it matter? Be yourself and let other people be THEMselves.