Sunday, August 19, 2012

Now it is the time that Europe needs "European" media!

During this crisis every European is trying to get as much information about what the future will bring for him, his finances, his job, household and children. We all read newspapers watch the news and trying to find information about how does this tragic economic crisis will affect our lives in the future.

Of course most of us trust the information that we receive. But how accurate is it? If we think that most of the World’s major media organizations are owned by 6 major multinational corporations, then one should consider their agenda. The few that escape them is owned by local governments and small groups of rich elites that have been dominating our countries for decades. Their interests lie in preserving the current status quo, the nation state with the current ruling elites. Each protects and supports the other, with only one purpose. Stay in power for as long as they can.

With all this in mind, it is no wonder that with this crisis we saw some unacceptable demeanour from our “national” media; the German (and unfortunately not just them, most rich European countries behaved similarly) media calling the Greeks lazy and corrupt, when this is far from the truth. In response the Greek media stated calling the Germans “Nazis” and started unearthing every crime that the Nazis committed in Greece. 

And the result is? Exactly what they wanted to achieve; divide the European public opinion. Because some do not like the loss of their influence over their country and the existence of the EU simply brings challenges. All they have to do is to raise nationalism among the population and keep small divided nation states and their interests intact. 

Conservatism and protectionism was always popular in European politics and some think that the European project and the euro have gone too far. Take the example of Britain. Their “national” media have been propagating against the EU since the Thatcher era, presenting everything that comes out of Europe as a threat to the British way of life. Everything that is wrong in Britain is blamed on its EU membership and not in its special relationship with USA, the City of London and its affair with the Markets and the Banks that their interests Britain is seeking to protect above everything else: even the benefit of its own citizens. 

Similarly in Norway and Iceland there are other groups that lobby against their country’s EU membership. The fishing lobby in both countries is particularly strong and a serious factor for those two remaining outside the EU. But of course they do not tell their people that by being “half way in” the ordinary citizens are the ones who lose out, in democracy. Both countries are members of EEA (The European Economic Area) and they have to follow most of EU’s legislation. But the citizens do not have a say in this legislation because as they are not EU citizens they do not have representatives in the European Parliament. 

Of course the rich Norwegian elite have little to worry since no one in Norway, an oil rich country, complains.  But how about other EU members? In Germany the political, industrial and economic elite profits and benefits hugely by this crisis that is destroying their southern “partners!” Of course it is easier to blame the “lazy” and “corrupt” Greeks, Spaniards, Portuguese and Irish for their bad economies and justify why they are imposing such harsh austerity on them. Little did the German public know that all those years while those countries were overspending, they were in fact helping the German economy. 

With higher inflation because of the euro, they were driven to over spending thus helping German exports. So there is no wonder that the German media are more than happy to portray the austerity program as something that is necessary, to teach those incompetent southerners how to run their economy. But remember that they did something similar in the past and managed to turn a whole nation into being supporters of the worse crime ever committed on our continent. 

How we could solve all this mess and reinstall unity among the European population, solidarity but also a fairer view of what is really going on in our Continent? Well how about pan-European media, like newspapers, TV channels, radios and magazines? Until now, only the European "blogosphere" offered an alternative and independent point of view. Yet Europe and the EU are only now considering exploiting it, during the Cypriot Presidency of the European Union Council. 

Besides, receiving the news with a European perspective, not only offers a more spherical point of view. It also creates a better sense of “belonging!” There is no more “us here and the others outside our borders.” Once you receive regularly the news of other countries with a more unbiased perspective, then not only you have a better judgement but you also understand what the people in another EU country are going through, how they deal with the crisis and what solutions or ideas they are putting forward.

That would be a far cry from what we have so far, having our media inciting hatred and nationalism, distorting the truth and protecting the interests of few rich elites. We can not go back to what we had before. Remember, in all the wars that our elites got us into, it was us who were dying in the battle fields. Now it is us again who are paying the price for their economic experiments and power struggles between them. What we need is more news coming from pan-European media and the exploitation of the European "blogosphere;" to break the voices of the monopolies, the propaganda and the blinded nationalism.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Redefining Racism in Europe.

On the eve of the London Olympics in 2012, a Greek athlete has been disqualified for posting allegedly racist comments on her twitter account. Voula Papachristou commenting on the widely reported appearance of Nile-virus-carrying mosquitoes in Athens, she wrote: "With so many Africans in Greece, the West Nile mosquitoes will be getting home food!!!" 

Was that comment naive and ridiculous? Yes it was. But the Greek psyche has not been through what the American, British or South African "white" psyche has been. We do not have their complexes or sensitivities. Simply because we have been a homogenous nation every since we got our independence from the Ottoman Empire. 

Only recently Greece has found itself as a destination for immigrants, from being traditionally a country of emigration. And before we managed to master it or get the balances right, the severe crisis and economic downturn hit us. So as it was expected the first to get the blame were the immigrants. Not that this is ethical, but it happened so many times before in other countries. When the economy turns bad the minorities are the first to pay the price. 

It happened in most other European countries in the past too and in fact in some cases in much worse way. In Britain, many landlords that wanted to rent their property to white protestant British natives only, they used to place a sign on their windows "No Ni**%s No Irish, No Dogs." So I do not think that anyone can criticize Greece on the way we deal with our immigration problem. It is something new and it will take time to master or deal with effectively.

But it does explain how many young Greeks found as the only option for the country's future, the doctrines of ultra-nationalism and the far right. They just wish to return to what their fathers knew best, when we were a nation state and everything apparently was "rosy." When we apparently controlled our country's future and destiny. Who will tell them that those times are long gone and times have changed and that we should adapt accordingly. 

So that is how the Golden Dawn party got access to the Greek Parliament. But our politicians are only scapegoating athletes like Voula, because if she re-posted videos of the Golden Dawn from you-tube on her twitter account (as it is claimed that she did) she should not be the one to be punished.

If someone should get punished then our leaders must be the ones. They wrecked our economy and they are the ones who left Greece with no functioning immigration policies. They are responsible for the economic woes, the immigration problem, and the rising nationalism and anger among the Greek youth. Now to cover their failures and to show Europe and the world that Greece is a "civilized" country they destroyed one talented, yet naive girl's dreams. And what about the shame they have brought to our country with their corruption and incompetence? 

I agree that her comment was silly and unacceptable. And to actually support Golden Dawn definitely puts me off her personality. But the Golden Dawn has became an elected political party in Greece's parliament because of the chronic in-activeness of our ruling elites. And yes, Greece has an immigration problem that is no lie. Like most of the rest of Europe. 

But we should not deal with it by repressing freedom of speech, or trying to bring as an example a naive girl by destroying her dreams. In fact this made her a heroine and there was a huge support for her in many social networking websites.

 Any ordinary man will chose a joke like Voula's to express his or her frustration about an issue. Should we not be able to do so, in order to present ourselves as "progressive?" But that is the exact attitude who brought us to this situation in the first place. Blind and fanatical idealism of our ruling elites that left their ideas totally detached from the needs of their people. An open debate, education, the sports and arts together with inter-community projects will prove much more effective in battling racism in Greece and Europe.

Besides, the Greeks were always joking about someone. When there were no other ethnic minorities living in our country, there were jokes about the Pontic Greeks (Greeks that originated in Anatolia, on the coast of the Black Sea) the Vlach Greeks and so on. Islanders made jokes about the inhabitants of the neighboring island, northern Greeks about the southern ones and vice versa. 

Athenians made jokes about Thessalonicans and vice versa. We had jokes about the Turks, the Germans, the French or the British. Then our borders opened and almost one million of Albanians entered Greece. They were included in the everyday slander jokes of the Greeks. Nobody made any fuss about it. But now the Anglosaxon/ European disease of political correctness caught up with us and we want to prove to them that we are good boys.

Why having jokes about Africans are any different from having jokes about the Albanians or the Pontic Greeks? Or why telling a joke about any other  European ethnic group is not considered a punishable offense? The French joke about the Belgians, the Germans about the Austrians, the English about the Irish and the Swedes about the Finnish or the Norwegians. Is the only way to stop racism in Europe to force people to stop making any jokes about colored or non European people, or to ban any comments that show discomfort for an obvious problem that all countries in Europe face: immigration.

No I do not agree with Golden Dawn's doctrines of hate or with any rise of the far right anywhere in Europe. Nor I want to see "Greece belonging to the Greeks only."   But as long as everybody respects another and do not attack verbally or physically each other then I do not see why we tend to silence any voices that object to the current immigration trends in Europe. First of all Europe DOES have an immigration problem. But our leaders are to blame, not the immigrants so we should not take our anger on them. And how can we have democracy if we do not allow people to voice their opinions, doubts or opposition freely, as long as they do not offend.

Have it any other way and we could be compared to any other totalitarian regime we are so critical of. No, racism is not to question, object or express some worries about the current immigration trends in your country. If only we need to be discussing them freely. It is when we try to suppress them that they become an avalanche and break out with much bigger force than expected. If we try to educate, explain, and inform our citizens of what is happening in our countries and how we could benefit from all this, then perhaps we will see an open debate happening and a long lasting solution than trying to silence anyone who has any reservations.

I also think that if we are talking about integration, multiculturalism in Europe or the world, we must work on it both ways. All western European countries have embraced multiculturalism and soon the eastern European countries will follow suit. But what about the immigrants themselves? Those who come in Europe and expect to be accepted, back in their home countries have often problems or shameful past of their own. 

In order to discuss about racism and multiculturalism openly we will have to address inter-community issues, not just the issue of the white native European accepting the immigrant population. Racism is not only "white on black." Otherwise we are in danger of passing the message that only white people can be racists. 

How can a Pakistani for example accuse a British man for racism when themselves have an issue with Africans and Indians. If we want to create a racism free, equal society we must not focus only on the issues deriving from the objection of the native population on immigration. 

There is racism in Trinidad and Tobago between the communities of people of African and Indian origin. There is racism in India against the descendants of African migrants that arrived in the Asian sub-continent during the British colonialism. There is racism among Europeans and between the various African tribes. 

And if a Chinese man is accusing a European for racism, how is China faring in its human rights records and how they would deal with any immigrants coming outside of Asia? China is considered to be a neo-colonialist power on the African continent. I wonder how will they deal with any possible African immigration in the future into China, if they ever allow it!

Banning any silly jokes, punishing those who post them in their social networking websites, or deterring any debate or skepticism  on multiculturalism and immigration won't actually do any good on the fight against racism. If anything else, the best results can come from openness, education, willingness to discuss and readiness from both sides, the immigrants and the natives to compromise and work together to understand each other. 

And certainly any positive developments will come with a stable and thriving economy, prosperity and stability for everybody in a society. The worse enemy of a fair and democratic society is inequality, poverty and lack of education. Not the silly jokes that a young naive girl posts on her twitter account. 

The Greeks used to be a very welcoming nation and the first immigrants who entered Greece were treated nicely and respected. How we went from this to actually have neo-Nazis in our parliament is something that can be blamed solely in the horrendous mistakes that our Greek governing elite has made, with the encouragement of our European partners. 

You see multiculturalism for some is just trendy and for others just profitable business. They make millions out of the poor immigrants that are exploited in Europe. But for the ordinary citizens that no one explains to them what is going on, or even worse asks for their opinion the immigrants just remind them that their beloved country has changed and entered a new phase in its history. When this "new phase" turns bad, they simply want to reverse everything and they turn against the most obvious manifestation of it: the immigrants.

Racism always existed and most likely will always exist in a proportion of the human kind. So I honestly do not believe that there is a permanent solution to it. But if we can achieve tolerance and equality in our societies then we need not worry. Having so many races, people of different ethnic background, cultures and religions is what makes our world richer in heritage and more interesting.  All it takes is another formula from what our ruling elites have been practicing all those years, to ensure we can allow everyone in our countries to be part of this new multicultural model of our societies, benefit, be active and even celebrate it!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Europe in Space too?

Yesterday August the 6th, NASA was celebrating its first ever rover landing to Mars. The "Curiosity" rover made a perfect landing, after a nearly 9-month voyage from Earth.  That is the first major development in space for NASA and humanity, after so many years of efforts.

So while they are celebrating in America, what happens in Europe at the same time? We are dealing with the crisis while bickering between us, with inability to reach an agreement and the return to protectionism and nationalism as our only future. What will Europe have to celebrate in the decades to come? Will we always be admiring the achievements of others and follow the lead of USA, or will we start making our first steps towards achieving something as a continent again?

Russia in the past and recently China and India have also had their moments in space. As has Europe! Europe has E.S.A. the European Space Agency, similar to NASA. Many E.U. and non E.U. members are also members of ESA, but though ESA has close ties with the EU, it is an independent intergovernmental organization. It is comprised by 19 members (soon to be 20 with the accession of Poland) plus many more associates from all over Europe and Canada.

With administrative bases in most western European countries and its spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, ESA has been launching a series of rockets to space. The Ariane, Soyuz and Vega rockets have been launched over the years, sometimes with the cooperation of third countries like Russia, the US and Japan.

So what next for Europe and its Space exploration, could we one day have the jubilant news and reactions like those of NASA? Well for the moment there is no need in even dreaming something like that. What good would it be to send people or machinery into Space while Europeans are facing tough austerity and unemployment and when they can not make ends meet, while the future of Europe's currency is in doubt?

We do not want to become like India, a country with millions under the poverty line yet spending billions in their space and nuclear ambitions. That is plain unethical. But once we sort out what is really wrong in Europe and the EU now days, the democratic deficit, the cracks in our currency, the inequality and everything else, I believe that Europe could use Space exploration for its benefit in many more ways than just rocket launching.

Space exploration should be an option for the future. It worked well for America in the past. It united the nation and gave its population something to be proud of and stand united. It also gave the US huge prestige and a head-start for any further Space explorations. Perhaps we could use the same for Europe in the future. If else we need to give something to our citizens to be proud of, to have hope and faith in the European project and perhaps renew their interest for it. If Europe manages to create something of some greatness in a collective way and with the participation of many of its states, then perhaps it will help in creating a more collective consciousness among the European populace.

Individually the European countries are too small to achieve anything like what the US, Russia, China and India have achieved so far in that field. But cooperating together, with careful planning and appropriate budgeting Europe can achieve a whole lot more. After the storm of this crisis, we should rethink the EU budget, reform and re-prioritize. Perhaps we should reduce the funds for CAP (the Common Agriculture Policy) , from our military budgets (if we ever manage to have a common military policy) and other outdated policies and invest more in research and innovation; including the field of Space exploration.

It could create new industries and with them, new jobs. We could promote new subjects in our Universities for our youth to study and specialize on. With closer cooperation and coordination we could maximize the results. We could create factories in all participating states to build the components needed for this venture. Set up research centers for our newly specialized scientists to work on. Space exploration should not just be about wasting money for a dream, or a prestige contest in the World stage of politics.

Why Europe should always watch others achieving and always lack behind them? We have opened the ways for sea explorations in the past, we were the pioneers who changed this world for good and for bad. We were leading in all major developments of the human kind once. Will we just be observers from now on? 

(You can find out more about ESA in its website: )

Thursday, August 2, 2012

How we could benefit from multiculturalism in Europe.

I am Greek and I live permanently in Dublin, Ireland. Out of curiosity and excitement I decided to travel in Europe a few years ago, but fate had its plans as they say and I decided to stay abroad permanently.

Before I decided to leave home, I always wanted to see a modernized Greece, cosmopolitan and "colorful" or multicultural as we call it. Not because it is 'fashionable' in Europe. But because I personally believe that as a country we need to come more in contact with other nationalities and learn to think as Europeans and citizens of the world, if we'd like to take advantage of globalization and its advantages.

Globalization is a fact now and all nations are preparing for the new "status quo" on our planet. It has actually started centuries ago with the European conquests and colonization but has grown to its present form after several wars and ideological conflicts.

But multiculturalism gives advantages in a society only when governments manage the changes in the society positively, fairly and always with the contribution of public opinion. When I started traveling to Europe, I noticed that most European countries had failed in many points in the consolidation of a successful multicultural society. This does not mean that the idea is multiculturalism is wrong. Just badly managed in Europe.

And this happens for decades, which only resulted in the rise of many far right groups in many countries of our continent, the alienation and isolation of immigrants and their "ghettoization", but also the recent criminal terrorist attacks in Norway.

When I visited Belgium and saw that the majority of young men of Moroccan origin were unemployed and relied on the unemployment welfare for their survival, then I started to think that this can happen in Greece and many other countries. What is the point of giving approval to a large number of immigrants to enter your country, if you treat them like second class citizens with not the same rights in employment.

I began to understand that such style of multiculturalism is nothing but a modern kind of slavery. Immigrants never become members of the society where they live, even if they gain citizenship. This makes them more vulnerable to exploitation and condemn them to make a low-paid jobs in society.

Many of them start to exploit the "system" and are then regarded as parasites from the rest of the indigenous population. And of course with any economic crisis, immigrants and their mistakes or the problems that they bring in a society are the first to be addressed. The main issue then is why a country allows a large number of migrants in the country when it has not the ability or intention to give them equal rights with the rest of the population.

Personally I think that if a country wants to take advantage of multiculturalism, it should integrate migrants in its society equally. With all the political and social rights that every citizen has and equal treatment from the start. Once someone enters a country legally, pays taxes and contributes in this way in the economy of this country, he or she should have a voice in how those taxes are used.

Besides the real benefit of immigration comes when we do not silence the immigrants and thereby exclude some possible new ideas and opinions on the society we live in, or even criticism of it. Of course I'm talking about legal immigration, not illegal. Because illegal immigration contributes to the human trafficking crime through smuggling, with the only purpose of human exploitation.

Illegal immigration should not in any case be acceptable in a society. For the simple reason that encourages events such as violent and illegal smuggling of women from third countries outside of Europe or the E.U. to exploit them in prostitution.

A society should create a fully functional and controlled immigration policy in order to attract the right people with the right skills and education. In numbers that would not allow future ghettoization and unemployment, but depending on the needs of each country for skilled or unskilled labor.

But perhaps another issue for the inability of some ethnic groups to be integrated in a society, is the country of their origin. Some nationalities face difficulties in being part in the society they live in and this may be due to factors of discrimination and racism, but also prejudices or cultural issues and differences deriving from their home country's culture and heritage.

Mainly nationals from certain Muslim countries of Asia, face difficulties when it comes to marry the culture of their home country with their adopted European culture and to become part easier and quickly of the society in which they chose to live in. The result is cultivated hatred and antipathy towards their host country.

Possible solutions are to help the democratization of the countries of their origin through various institutions and programs and the participation of the EU, its member states and the countries of their origin. Alternatively, cutting  the number of immigrants from these countries and search for more compatible workforce that is closer to European culture. For example, many South American states.

And finally, new ways for integrating those immigrants through various programs, to enable them to understand the culture of their adopted country and to bring all communities living in it more closely. The arts and sport are two suitable instruments that could be used for strengthening the relations between migrants and the native population.

My personal view is that we should have less immigration in Europe, but with full integration of immigrants into our society and with equal rights as citizens from the beginning. The immigration of mankind existed and will always exist, playing a role in creating all the great cultures of our planet, including the Greek. To believe that it will just stop one day is simply silly.

This of course does not mean that we must open all borders and let immigration in our country uncontrolled. If this ever happens, it will be in a utopian global society with all countries having the same standard of living and people migrating simply for pleasure, or to study.

At the moment this has not been achieved. And I am neither willing to "downgrade" the Greek or European culture and lifestyle as many believe. I do not want to alter, as many ultra nationalists claim,  the lifestyle and our culture with the arrival of foreigners among us. Only to enrich the Greek and European culture with that of other nationalities. But this can only be achieved with a responsible and controlled immigration policy, which at present, Greece and Europe in general have yet to create.

The root of this situation lies with the interests and the greed of people who want to exploit other human beings and the unending desire for power and money. A common European immigration policy would be an institution of great help, but like anything else on our continent is very difficult to achieve unanimously.

Especially when the interests of different countries are in conflict and in many cases still keep their colonial past flavor. Too bad because those who lose out are ourselves. The USA, Canada and Australia have built successful working immigration policies that attract workers with the qualifications they want from the countries they want. In Europe in contrast we are left with mainly unskilled workers that enter our countries, and in many cases with very little education.

Some wonder why immigration in Europe has failed. But after all, all we ask for is cheap labor and in fact slaves to do the jobs we do not want to do. How you integrate a slave in your society? What benefits can you expect from them except their tireless work? But when you do not need them anymore what happens to them? You just enroll them in unemployment benefit schemes for the foreseeable future, with the hope that they and the economic and social problems they present will just disappear as if by magic.

With such attitudes in Greece and Europe in general, I believe that not only we are not going to solve the various problems that concern us on this issue, but that we certainly have no idea what we want to do and what we could have.