Saturday, April 30, 2011

Who's to blame? The propagandistic role of our media.

What is the position of our established media, in the on-going recession in Europe and the crisis in the euro-zone? The crisis is deepening in our continent, not only on a financial but also a political level. Yet the public do not know who or what to believe anymore.

Many articles often focus on blaming the EU or different European nations, the European Central Bank (ECB), the euro and anything that the populist mind might want to indulge in.

Our media in Europe love to scapegoat and turn our focus not on the epicenter of an issue, rather sell copies by indulging us in a blame game. Though they never put any blame on where they must.

One needs to start questioning how democracy is faring in Europe and EU, yet we never read articles questioning the very political and financial system we are in. A health-check on Capitalism for example and the role of the Markets, but also our own governing elites and those of USA would do wonders.

No one has so far complained about the fact that the crisis was exported from the USA, their bad debt and irresponsible banking system being shared by Europe. Has any of our media blamed USA in the same tone they do for the EU and like to stigmatize certain nations; aka using the word "PIGS" to describe countries like Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain.

Has anyone openly questioned the role of the Markets and the Rating Agencies? We accept their operation without objection, but we don't really know who they are and who controls them. What are their criteria when "rating" a country?

The EU institutions are being heavily criticized on their handling and involvement of the crisis. But how much of the crisis handling is their fault and how much are our national governments behind the decisions taken in Europe? It is no lie that Germany being the biggest economy, is prescribing austerity for the peripheral economies of Europe for example.

But nobody dares to point the finger at the establishment of this world. The "Western" capitalist system, the Markets and of course the Banks. Instead the media focused mainly on the euro-zone and its weaknesses. The euro as an idea is not the problem, the way it was set up by our Governments is.

The euro would work just fine, if everybody played by the rules and we had established a more integrated European economy, plus we had achieved further political integration. 

When we read "Brussels has decided that," who is actually "Brussels" and "the EU"? Two thirds of the decision making bodies (EU Commission and EU Council) are controlled and appointed by our governments, so I see no foreign bodies dictating our nations. The third one is voted in power by us, the citizens (European Parliament).

It is rather the rich and powerful elites of some countries, telling the elites of the smaller ones what to do. So instead of putting the blame on "Brussels," perhaps we should learn to blame our own governments and political system first. It is also time to rethink our special relationship with America, how Capitalism works and how we are being governed.

Our media love blaming the EU as usual, but they never question the capitalist system, the international relations between USA and European elites, the role and the corruption within our national governments and of course those of the Markets. It seems to be unholy to question these establishments for any of the western media.

If we realize that the majority of all major media corporations are owned by 6 major multinational companies, then we can get an idea of what is really going on. Instead of unifying the European public opinion, they are dividing it with either slandering the nations in trouble (PIGS), or accusing EU of bullying the smaller nations.

The bullying is coming in fact from the richer nations' governments, who bow to pressure coming from the Markets and the rating Agencies, in order to keep their financial status and reputation intact.

If we keep this attitude, not only EU will fail with any chance of a political renaissance in Europe, but we will become slaves of the rich global elites and the Markets. We also run the risk of a total economic and political disaster in Europe.

By dividing the European public opinion or distracting it from questions that need to be asked, the global capitalists achieve their goal of having a conservative Europe. They turn one nation against another with populist rhetoric, but also against the idea of a united, strong Europe.

Our media are disorienting the public opinion with petty nationalist propaganda, ethnic, cultural or economic superiority and a sense that our national governments are actually working for the "nation," but not theirs and the global capitalist elites' interests.

Journalism today seems to be detached from its original cause, that is to inform and stimulate readers to think about an issue, revealing sensitive information. Our media are in the hands of few rich businessmen and any dissident voices that challenge the current status-quo are silenced. Can we start thinking for ourselves?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

France becomes the first country to ban the burka.

France is officially the first European country to ban the Islamic face cover gowns for women, the burka and the niqab.

Protests are almost sure to happen, not only in France but in many other countries, both European with a significant Muslim population and of course the Islamic nations.

Was the decision right and what is the French leadership trying to achieve? France has the largest Muslim population in Europe of about 6 million people. What are the messages that are trying to pass to its youth?

Humans are creatures that communicate with their facial expressions and eyes, so making a woman to wear those two garments is certainly dehumanizing and limiting her in every social interaction, apart from those with her fellow sisters in Islam.

Of course that is the whole purpose of it, because according to the Islamic teachings women should be modest and "liberated" in this way, from being preyed on by men. The disturbing thing is that in 2011 there are still women that feel that this is a social norm.

Europeans have liberated their women decades ago, although the fight is still on for a full equality between the two genders. We have also loosen the power of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, freeing our spirits from any moral enslavement and limitation that Christianity has tried to place upon us.

Should we allow certain conservative doctrines of Islam to spread in Europe, keeping European citizens under their archaic influence? Either you are European by birth or by the naturalization process, you are a citizen of this continent. You can be Muslim and European, but only if you share some basic values with the general population.

Turkey can be a leading example of a more secular version of Islam. Perhaps we could even encourage the various secular Islamic elements or communities in our continent, to work for a European version of Islam. One that would be compatible with the overall values that identify us as Europeans.

Of course not all Muslims support such extreme forms of their religion. We can not brush them all with the same brush. They come from many different countries, that themselves follow very different versions of Islam and have their own distinctive cultures.

The solution would be to encourage them to explore their "Europeaness" through education, intercultural dialogue and more participation to the "commons," eradicating any radical elements among them. Thus giving them a greater say and involvement in our societies.

But do they really want to integrate, or see themselves as Muslims first, then anything else?Also do we want them to do so and have them as more engaged, vocal members in our society?

No matter what, a total ban of those garments can not be part of the solution. It will harden the stance of the Muslim communities in Europe, as they will feel they are being targeted and discriminated against.

Banning any signs of any religious expression, attracts more attention to the cultural differences and in fact it feeds any radical elements. It  provides them with more arguments to turn the Islamic community more defensive of such practices and identify them as inseparable elements of their identity.

Education is a key tool to tackle the more conservative practices of Islam, but it will be also necessary for the Muslim communities to be engaged and mobilized in this effort. It is also up to them and in their interests to become integrated and an active part of European society, not limiting themselves by doing the jobs that the natives do not want to do anymore.

They can leave their mark in our continent in a more constructive way, that being just a labor force. But that will need some change in their overall mentality. In Italy they banned recently any crucifix idols from their schools. The Catholic citizens of the country did not protest or threatened anyone in such extend, that the Muslims often do.

They can't understand that if they want to live in Europe and call themselves Europeans, they will have to leave some cultural aspects of their countries of origin behind. If not, they will always be "guests" in our continent, no matter what their passport declares.

It is simply a rejection of the European values and way of thinking, to staunchly resist any kind of modernization. The fact that everyone is free to practice any religion in Europe, does not mean that it should be accompanied with practices that clash with our secular society.

On the other hand, the difficulties that European countries are having when it comes to integrating its immigrant communities offer some clues. Do we really want to integrate our immigrants into our societies, or we are just covering our labor needs with immigration?

 But then why allow a population of 6 million to enter your country, if you do not wish to integrate them and why allow an increasing flow of immigration from Muslim nations?Perhaps we should be looking elsewhere, in regions like Latin America that culturally is closer to us, to cover our labor force needs.

Can there ever be a successful multicultural model that does not segregate the various communities? One solution would be to allow everyone to practice what they want, just like in America. But then what would be our own, distinctive European identity and what will it mean to be a European?

You do not become European citizen just so you have a passport and the right to stay in the country. One of the obligations you have when holding a European passport, is to make an effort to integrate and be a constructive member to your community.

You do not have to convert to Christianity just to fit in, but you certainly need to understand and accept certain values of your host country.Blend your values and traditions of your country of origin, with those of your adopted country and you won't feel an outsider ever again.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Japan's tsunami, made me rethink European nuclear energy issues.

With the latest shocking and dramatic developments in Japan, the issue of the use of the nuclear energy comes in the spotlight again. One of the most developed and rich countries and the third largest economy of the world, is being hit by a massive earthquake. Followed by a massive tsunami, that leaves at least 25 thousand people dead or missing.

As if this humanitarian tragedy was not enough, the world is gripped by the developments of the region's nuclear power plants as their reactors' melt down. Radioactive particles are reaching Europe and many other regions of the world and we soon realize that this is not just a Japanese disaster, it is potential a global one!

How was Japan so confident that even though it lies in one of the most geologically unstable regions of the planet with earthquakes being common on a daily basis, to develop nuclear energy plants? Even the word "tsunami" is Japanese and they are so common in the region, as in the Pacific in general.

The international community showed so much trust in Japan to be a safe place, for such potentially dangerous type of energy. It's not that Japan is not worthy of it or should not have it, but perhaps we should place stricter nuclear power management regulations and an overseer global organization.

Why was Japan freely allowed to develop and explore it and not just that, but locate some of its plants on the east coast of the country that is in risk of tsunamis? Perhaps the nuclear power development ability, is being seen as a club of the powerful nations and a prestige development that Japan could not resist.

Maybe the reasons are financial because of the cheap energy, it allows more money for the economy. But then again why does the West fuss so much over Iran's uranium enrichment, claiming that it will be dangerous for us as Iran is a "rogue" nation, but not for Japan. Is it because we do not want a strong and prosperous nation in the region, that is hostile to our protected "child", Israel? We make sure we watch Iran's efforts, but we never made sure that Japan built its plants somewhere away from the sea.

Can we dictate which country can have freely nuclear power plants for energy? There must be an agreement that if a country has nuclear reactors, it must locate them in an area that is not prone to powerful earthquakes, and keep maintaining them in order to limit any Chernobyl style accidents.

In 2004 Lithuania agreed to close the power plant of Ignalina, in the city of Visaginas. Due to the plant's similarities with the Chernobyl, Lithuania closed the plant in order to enter the EU. By 2009 the plant was completely closed and plans to built another one were hindered by the economic crisis. So the EU pulled its weight and forced Lithuania to close one of its reactors.

Why the international community never intervened to make sure Japan and other rich and powerful nations also follow the rules? It seems only small and developing nations are told how to handle their nuclear ambitions. But what about Japan, America, France and Britain, does anyone keep an eye on them, making sure they are keeping their plants up to date?

Nuclear energy has its benefits, but we humans are not able to control such powerful source of energy. Our greed and arrogance make us prone to repeat the same mistakes. Can we have confidence in the future of a safer nuclear energy management? Perhaps it is time to have a greener, sustainable energy revolution in Europe.

 If we can't cope with nuclear energy and its responsibilities (nuclear waste, maintenance, location, suitability, etc) then I prefer a safer future for our children. Who knows the true extend of the nuclear disaster in Japan and for how many years will it affect the region? Ukraine still suffers from Chernobyl. Perhaps we are not ready to handle such powerful "gift".

To close this article, I would like to express my condolences for all the victims in the double disaster in Japan, and my support for the families and people affected.