Friday, October 26, 2012

The Irish Left welcomes the Greek. A weekend of debate!

Last weekend I was given the excellent opportunity to work as a translator for a Greek SYRIZA MP, Mr. Yannis Stathas in his visit to Ireland. He was invited to give a series of talks in Ireland by the ULA (United Left Alliance) party, with the support and coordination of an Irish ULA MEP Mr. Paul Murphy.

The two day talks were given in Dublin and Dungloe in County Donegal, the north western tip of Ireland. Mr. Stathas was not the only speaker of course. A series of talks were given by many other ULA members and supporters, together with some guest speakers from the Irish Left.

The first discussion took place in the "Teacher's Club" in Parnell street in Dublin central. There, the speakers included Paul Murphy, Yannis Stathas himself and John Molyneux, a British Trotskyist, former senior lecturer in the University of Portsmouth and member of the Socialist Worker's Party in Ireland.

The discussion was obviously about the crisis in Greece, how it evolved and what impact it had to the Greek society. How the Greeks are dealing with it and what can Ireland learn from Greece and be prepared. Paul Murphy and Mr Molyneux mentioned the facts and the history of the Greek crisis. The audience showed interest in what is going on in Greece and many expressed their inspiration they get from the Greek "resistance."

To most of them, Greece is setting an example to the rest of Europe on how to fight, admitting that Greece is only the forefront of the battles that all European people are and will have to face in the future. They really hope that Syriza will manage to gain more votes in the next Greek elections, that many predicted will come soon, even come into power.

With Syriza forming a government in Greece, many left wing supporters hope that this will turn the tide for the Left in Europe.Only with a strong Left the European people will be able to protect themselves from this ruthless attack by the Banks, the Markets, our rich governing elites and the Capitalist system.

They also discussed why the Left is so fragmented and how this affects its success. While the Right is united, rich and strong, tactical in its attacks to the European workforce, the Left is divided and constantly squabbling with infighting.

They mentioned that the EPP (European People's Party) is the strongest party in the European Parliament and most Governments in Europe right now are Right wing and conservative. They also discussed the rise of the Far Right, the nationalism and fascism in  Europe and how we can tackle it.

Mr Paul Murphy described how it is very hard to win any fights in the EP, while the Right is so strong, organized and dominant in it. The Left is a minority. Even the Irish delegates are all business and money oriented, that is the culture of most of the EU officials.

Mr. Stathas explained how the far right has gained so much prominence in Greece and he predicted that like many times before, once the balance is restored, they will weaken and their influence will diminish. But it is important to stop the spread of nationalism by stopping the ever growing power of the capitalist system.

 "The far right is there to serve the interests of the conservatives," he said. He brought as example the fact that during Mrs Merkel's visit in Athens recently, the Golden Dawn party was the only one who did not protest, made a statement against her visit, or went down the streets to show their disapproval of the policies she promotes.

Then he explained Syriza's views and future plans once they get into power, or the party's actions to help the Greek society fight against this organized attack by the Greek and European capitalist elites. He described how they have organized patrols to stop bank and state officials, together with the Greek police to proceed with the repossession orders of houses that their owners can not pay the loan repayments. They physically block them and stop them.

Mr Stathas is also an activist of the "I Don't Pay" movement. A movement in Greece that denies to pay any money for public services, like road tolls, hospital fees, subway ticket machines etc, showing the Greek public's anger and discontent for the growing taxes and salary cuts they have to accept.

 The role and corruption of the unions and syndicates in Greece and Ireland was also discussed and their role in the weakening or loss of many worker's rights. Their compromise means a leaderless worker's movement, that needs to be addressed and solved.

One of the questions asked by a member of the audience was about the violence the Greek public has to endure while protesting for their rights. Most of them called it suppression of democracy and free speech. The Syriza party, as Mr Stathas explained, intends to remove the MAT police force and forbid it from using violence on the Greek public again. The force will be dissolved and absorbed into the rest national police and defense force.

Questioning what action will be best and bring results both in Greece and Ireland, Mr Stathas suggested that we must have extension of the strike period for at least 5 days in a row, paralyzing the country. One day of strike here and there, organized by different unions do not have much impact. We need to get all organized and unite together. "As the capitalists are uniting and working together to suppress us, likewise we need to unite, have no fear and resist all together against them," claimed Mr. Stathas.

He repeatedly encouraged the Irish audience not to have fear and revolt. He reminded them their past, when they were fighting against British colonial rule. Like then, they are now faced with another kind of oppression and they need to stand up and fight, according their own culture, mentality and beliefs.

They must find a way, their own way of resisting. Answering to a question on why the Greek youth are so active and take to the streets while the Irish remain more idle, Mr Stathas expressed his confidence that the Irish youth will rise up in their own way, once the times become too dire for Ireland.

He also announced some of the policies that Syriza will promote once and if it gets into power, like the nationalization of the Banks and the refusal to pay any debts. He brought as an example the Ancient Greek mentality of the money usage.

The ancient Greek currency was called the "talanto" and it weighted almost 2 kilos, for the reason that it would not be carried around. Money was used only to buy things. Not to make profit out of it, by usury and lending or exchanging and trading it.

So what we need right now is a euro and a kind of European Union that will promote people's interests first and safeguard them against the greed of the ruling capitalist elite. Syriza is not against the euro and the EU, rather against the type that we are being offered. 

And for all the slander that Greece went through, all for one purpose to bring the country to its knees and steal all its natural resources, the fight must still go on. All Europeans, unions, syndicates and leftists together must coordinate their efforts to offer an alternative to the citizens of Europe.

The next day we drove up to Dungloe to attend the Peadar O'Donnel Weekend, a three day leftist political ideology debate and festival. We gathered in the town's public library and the debate was again about the situation in Greece, but this time with a focus on the Irish perspective and many local issues. Who runs Ireland, the weak Irish Capitalist elite, local unemployment, emigration and if the Irish people have to pay their debt or not were the issues discussed.

Mr Stathas spoke about Germany and its debt to Greece. He explained to the Irish audience all the actions of the Nazi Germany against Greece, how they stole the country's gold and forced the country to get a loan that it would have to pay off, while Germany received the money to fund their war against the rest of Europe.

There was an agreement after the end of WW2 that once the two German states were re-united, Germany would compensate Greece for the damages, something that it failed to do so far. Many in the Greek opposition, notably Syriza are pursuing to bring the issue to the European Court of Justice in Hague. Cooperating with the Italian authorities, because the Greek have compromised already following the pressure from Germany.

The discussion then focused more on Irish issues and after the end of Mr Stathas speech we were joined by Mr Thomas Pringle TD, an independent left wing politician, Mrs Bernadette (Devlin) McAliskey, a renown Irish socialist and political activist and Mr. Tommy McKearney, a former hunger-striker and volunteer for the Provisional I.R.A. MEP Paul Murphy also joined them in the discussions.

They analyzed the state of the Irish economy and how the local community suffered the recession. Donegal they claimed never really benefited from the "Celtic Tiger" years in Ireland and the region lacks in investment. Now with the economic crisis the situation got only worse and massive emigration has hit the region.

They blamed the "weak" Irish capitalist elite. That elite that did not really do much good for the country, rather rely on foreign capitalist elites. This elite is not as creative or capable in serving the country's interests. Their reliance on foreign investment actually compromises Ireland's sovereignty, forcing the state to become a tax haven in order to play by the foreign investors rules and keep them in the country.

 But those investors do not do much good in the country, apart from the few ghost enterprises they set up in Ireland, employing a small only number of Irish workforce. "Not that we should scorn any number of jobs during these times," they added, but they do not bring ever lasting stability and long term solutions.

So who really governs Ireland? The foreign capitalist elites, that was the message that they tried to pass on to the audience. Mr Thomas Pringle in his speech, argued that paying the debt won't do much good to the country. Just like in Greece, it will only add more debt and will push Ireland the same road, deeper into a debt that will be impossible to pay.

Repudiate this debt is one solution, though not without any consequences. Generally the debate focused on trying to find the root of the problem for Ireland, that included weak unions and syndicates, weak capitalist elite and leaders, the unchanging attitude of the Irish public itself and the lack of organized protests.

That is why they are seeking inspiration from Greece and other countries that resist. They have serious interest in seeing how Greece is coping, despite everything that is going against the country, notably the absolute surrender of the Greek political and capitalist elite. And because the Irish public fears that the same will happen to them, they are hoping for a massive Europe wide surge of power of the Left.

I am so glad that I had this chance to be part of this debate, and get to know an alternative political conscience growing in Ireland, more awareness and more respect and understanding for Greece.And that is not happening only in Ireland, but in many countries all over Europe. The public opinion is mostly in favor now for the Greek people.

I am also glad that I spoke with ordinary people of Ireland, especially from the rural areas and got to know the other side of this country. The side that never progressed but it still hopes, thinks and it expresses its concerns. The side that gets active and organized, the part that speaks out. That discuss real problems of real people and comes up with real solutions.

A lady noted in the Teacher's Club the previous day, that "we hear about protests in Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy or even France and I feel ashamed sometimes that Ireland is not included in those countries, even though that we are in the same kind of trouble with the above countries." She then expressed her wish to see more action in her own country. "The Irish youth will revolt in its own way when time comes," Mr Stathas reassured her. Now I think I am confident to see this happening.

(A special Thank you to Mr. Paul Murphy MEP, Mr. Yannis Stathats MP, the members and supporters of the ULA that organized this event, as well as my friend Ioanna Dionysopoulou that suggested me as the translator for Mr. Stathas).

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The EU is awarded a Nobel Prize!

The EU has been awarded last Friday a Peace Nobel Prize by the Norwegian Nobel committee. The news have made many people angry while for others, notably the EU officials, it was a very proud and joyful moment.

In my opinion the Nobel Prize is justified and something that should have happened long time ago. Europe is indeed transformed for the better because of the EU and many people benefit from many EU funded programs. Europe will never go back to what it was before, a war torn continent because our economies are so intertwined now, that going to war would be something unthinkable! Because you would be hurting your own economy too, if you tried to harm another country.

Nevertheless I also think that the timing was very bad. If they awarded the Prize after 2004, when Europe united after 5 decades of being cut in half by the Iron Curtain it would be more appropriate. The re-unification of the Continent was a reason to present the EU with the Nobel Prize. But now, if we look at what is happening across Europe it simply looks daft!

There is a social uprising almost in every country and people are angry, especially in the countries worst affected by the recession. How you justify the award, when you are in their eyes the cause of so much poverty, inequality and injustice. When it is you who impose the austerity on them and you force them to not have enough to provide for their children. When you force many jobs to close in their countries and leave them without jobs and with an uncertain future? What prize can make you look better in their eyes?

Is it just a PR move from the European elites? Are they trying to promote this way the European project to their citizens? Well this is the stupidest way of doing it. Even though as a staunch "pro-European" I am delighted the the EU won eventually this award and it deserved it, it just does not make sense at this moment in time. If you want to promote the EU and the opportunities it offers or the achievements it has accomplished, do so by making the citizens' lives better and provide them with solutions to their problems.

Right now what we see is that the EU (apparently) creates more problems for them! It promotes more competition, open markets, it supports the Banks and their bailing out, it supports the Markets and the capitalist system! It takes away their social benefits and lowers their salaries in half. Now of course it is not the EU's fault that Europe is in crisis. The blame should be put mainly in the chronic wrong political and financial decisions that our national governments have followed. But when they need solutions, they always call the EU to come and clean their mess, thus scapegoating the EU for the problems and putting it in the front-line to find solutions.

Not that the EU has not a share of blame for this mess that we are in. It is proven that the EU officials knew about the state of many of Europe's economies, but they did nothing to change that. Could they I could ask, when Europe is being governed by the rich elites of each nation. And of course the rich elites of the richer nations have more say and power. The EU as it stands and operates at the moment in other words, represents the Aristocracy of this continent. Even though there are many great EU projects, programs, initiatives and institutions, they are all being undermined by our national governments that though are signing up for them, they never bother to implement them fully.

In other words, though the EU is giving many opportunities to the citizens, they are being hijacked by the ruling elites of each country and being used for their benefit. Is it any wonder for example that in my native country Greece, there was literally no information about our EU rights as EU citizens for the public? We joined the EU in 1981 and it was only after I moved to Ireland 8 years ago that I saw for the first time a program in our national television, discussing and explaining our EU rights to us. Why doesn't our government inform us about our rights as EU citizens? Is it perhaps because they want to safeguard those benefits and use them for their own benefit, when they want to present them as their idea or for their supporters only?

Generally I put the blame for the situation mostly on the Greek political, financial and industrial elite, then of course on the elites of our European "partners" like those of Germany, France, Holland, Finland, Austria, Britain and so on. They want their interests secured and served, so our elites simply oblige them by doing whatever they ask. Just see how Germany's Chancellor Mrs. Merkel has taken the lead of Europe and advices us all how to run our economies. Who gave her this privilege and right?

So the EU, that is run by our political elites, simply follows our elites' guidelines. But it is the EU that takes the blame for the mess, never our national governments. If the Greek politicians had any backbone, and if the politicians of some rich countries in Europe were not as greedy, we the citizens would not be the ones who would pay the price. But trying to award the EU with a prize now, simply resembles with a slap in the face to most of us! What is the point? We need to see actions and solutions to reinstall support and confidence in the European project and no award can do that.

I would happily love to see the award being given if and when the EU solved the crisis in Europe and made the lives of the citizens easier. Certainly not now! And it is funny to see that the award is actually coming from Norway, a country that chose to stay out of the club. Is this a sign of a possible Norwegian membership renegotiation, or have they simply made a secret deal with the rest of the European elite? I would love to think it is the first case. Does the award represents an approval of the EU by the Norwegian elites?

Whatever the motives were for such a decision, they certainly managed to create some controversy. While people in Greece and Spain are out on the streets protesting and being abused by the police, the EU receives a Peace Prize. Not to mention that it is one of the few times that this award is nominated to a person and not an organization. Perhaps we are seeing changing trends by the Nobel Committee, or they simply ran out of people to give the award, given the fact that in a large part of the planet there is a rise of hostility.

The decision is definitely political. But as the European Parliament's President Mr. Martin Schulz mentioned, does that decision mean that our elites decided that "more Europe" (aka a European federation of some sort) is needed and what will this mean of us? What kind of Europe are they trying to create and will Norway be a part of it? It all remains to be seen.

SOS for the Erasmus program!!

Recently it came to my attention that the EU's Erasmus program, available for all EU students is running out of funds and is in danger. The program is named after the Dutch philosopher Desiderius Erasmus, who lived and worked in many places in Europe to expand his knowledge and gain new insights. At the same time, ERASMUS stands for European Community Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students. (source Wikipedia).

Currently we read in the EU Commission website: "The European Commission is keeping in regular touch with the National Agencies to try to minimize the impact of the current shortage. In the meantime, the European Commission is working with the Budgetary Authority (the European Parliament and national Governments) to make sure it recognizes the importance of the Erasmus program and rapidly agrees to additional funding for this highly valuable and popular European student mobility program." (

They advise the public that they are doing whatever they can to safeguard the continuation of this project and they encourage the students to keep applying for it.

Well I really hope that they do not abandon this great project and allow any fund cuts to be passed on to it. In my opinion it is one of the greatest achievements that this continent managed to achieve, after the creation of the EU itself of course.  And it is not just good for education or accumulation of knowledge, or even to have some fun while studying in another country.

To me the Erasmus program is a great opportunity to create more "Newropeans" in our continent, young people with a more broad knowledge and conscience. With a more "European" mind frame. For many of the students this opportunity is perhaps the first or the only one they could get to travel and live abroad. And as with Erasmus himself, that gives them an opportunity to gain new insights and knowledge first of all, but mainly to come in contact with many other students from all over Europe. Exchange ideas, knowledge, get in touch with other cultures. Perhaps learn a new language and a new way of life.

By living in another country you get to know how the people of this country live and think. And by living together with many other students from other European nations you automatically become a cosmopolitan person. You stop having a narrow, national only and perhaps conservative way of thinking and of course you take all the experience you gain back in your own country. And if we really want to create a European community and a multicultural society, that is the best tool and way of doing it.

What better way to give this opportunity to our young generations, to be not more cosmopolitan, educated, experienced, multilingual and progressive, but also have a love for Europe as whole. If we are going to change our continent we need to start from the young generation and invest in them, they are the future. They hold the key for a new kind of society in our continent. We need to give them the tools and the stimulus to be this new generation of Europeans.

So why are we giving all our tax money to the Banks, and wasting our resources in maintaining the current economic and political status quo? While we should be investing in our young people and provide them with all the tools necessary for a new Europe. Why are we bowing to the orders of the Banks and the Markets, giving more money and power to the rich elites, while it is our youth who need our attention and they are by far a better investment for the future?

Because with an educated, creative, experienced, multilingual and with a more European frame of mind or open minded future workforce, we have a chance to gain an advantage against our competitors form other regions. That is how you conquer the global markets, not by bailing out your banks! We do not want to live in a Banker's world. We want to provide our youth the tools to spread their wings and fly, and with them, Europe will fly too!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Where is Europe going wrong on Greece?

After five years in recession and a massively shrinking economy, protests, social arrest, massive wage cuts, social benefits cuts, tax increase and massive unemployment, Greece is nowhere near the end of the tunnel.

With all the billions that the EU and the IMF are pouring into the country, surely we should have had some results by now. Why isn't this austerity plan working, apart in the imagination of Europe's ruling elites?

Is it only Greece's fault, or has Europe got it wrong altogether? Europe's leaders talk about the necessary growth needed to kick-start Greece's and Europe's economy, but until now it has remained only on papers.

Great plans have been announced but we have seen no actions for their implementation so far. "Greece must stick to the plan," many European officials and politicians state. But the only thing they are asking is never ending austerity policies. The Greek public obviously can not take it anymore.

They bring as example Bulgaria and other Eastern European countries, that had to go through such measures in the past. But most of them are still suffering from the effects of austerity. Salaries are still low in Bulgaria and recession still harms the economies of Hungary and Romania. 

Greece is forced to take massive loans, that will have to repay with great interest. It is undeniable that Greece had a corrupt governing elite that brought the country to its knees. But European officials did not do anything about it, before the Greek and the European economy reached a crisis. 

They knew about the state of the Greek and other European economies since the introduction of the euro. Also it is not just Greece that has accumulated huge debt, something that the capitalist system requires. In fact all European nations are heavily indebted.

Instead of investing in the Greek economy and save it by stimulating growth, they are forcing more debt on the Greek people. An increasing number of bail-outs mean more debt that Greece will never be able to repay and of course more austerity and lowering of the living standards of the Greeks.

The country needs growth and investments not more debt, especially when this debt is to save the German and French shares in our banking system. In that way, money of German and other rich European citizens go to the hands of the German and other European bankers', through Greece in the form of a bail out. Yet it is the Greeks that must repay these loans.

We need Greek companies to be allowed to flourish and develop with EU funds, cooperation and partnership of other companies from all over Europe. Instead of that European and other multinational companies come and buy everything at low cost, leaving very little profits for Greece and its people. This is a mass privatization and sell out of every national asset, while there is no plan to make Greece a more competitive economy.

If Greece was to become more competitive, our taxation system should be the first to be reformed and ease the restrictions when starting up a business. Instead of that taxation was raised and a large number of the Greek SMEs was forced to close. None of the reforms were growth, small business or people oriented, rather they clearly favor the big multinational companies and the banks.

Many European politicians stated that since political pressure for reforms in Greece failed, Europe needed the pressure of the Markets to push for reforms in the country. They claimed that if Europe allowed such development investments in Greece now, nothing would change, no structural reforms would take place. There would be more spending and thus we would be in a similar situation a few years down.

I agree that Greece needed reforms badly and it was about time for some of them to happen. But not in a way that the living standards of the Greek EU citizens became similar to those of a developing country. Nor turning the Greek public opinion against the EU and the European project, allowing nationalism and far right parties to enter the political scene of the country.This destabilizes the whole social coherence of Greece and it is dangerous. Similar events took place in Germany during the '30s.

The reforms should have started since we entered the EU, but they did not. The blame should fall equally on the Greek political elite and of course the European. Because every country forgets the reforming agenda after it joins. Instead they focus only on how to spend (or waste) EU funds in the case of smaller, poorer countries, or how to increase their influence and power in the case of the bigger and richer countries.

Besides, if there was any real pressure for reforms on the states by any EU body, the same rule could apply for the bigger richer nations and they wouldn't like that. Imagine Britain, France or Germany approving the EU to interfere with their internal affairs. If they do not want to be subject of closer EU inspection, then the smaller states avoid it too.

But this has as result the very slow implementation of EU law and policies on national level. Of course we can not forget the fact that even the rich EU countries are not always playing by the rules. Germany bended the euro-zone rules for its own interests and national policies in 2003.

All these harsh rules for Greece while belonging in the euro-zone with prices equal of those in Germany, France, Holland and other richer EU nations. The country has reached a point that its citizens have Polish salaries, Swedish taxes and German prices. How do this add up and how can anyone live under these conditions?

If Germany or any other European nation wanted to tell the Greeks what to do and how to do it, then they should have bothered to try to understand how everyday life is in Greece, what difficulties do the ordinary Greeks have to face on a daily basis, the country's economy, culture and way of thinking.

There are plenty of historical and political reasons why there is so much corruption and political idleness in the Greek state. The funny thing is that these reasons are actually partly due to decades of European involvement and meddling in Greece's internal affairs.

But today's dominant northern European/Anglo-Saxon realpolitik attitude in politics doesn't help in all the above. Easier said than done, when it is not the Germans that must go through 40-50% cuts of their salaries. It is the Greeks and other citizens of the "peripheral" nations that must step in and save the euro, while they are not the ones who benefited the most from it.

I understand the "much needed reforms" argument, but you can not turn all countries into Germany overnight. Besides that would mean becoming as industrial as Germany is and there is no plans for that. So where is all this austerity leading? If they gave us a clue, perhaps we would not protesting as much. Especially when in every crisis in Europe either political, ideological or economic, Greece was one of the countries that sacrificed the most.

All European nations must have equal rights and opportunities on prosperity and development. If they guarantee us that after the austerity period, Greece will become a true European economy then I am sure that the Greeks will reason, grin and bare the austerity. But the problem is that the European powers want a two tier continent, comprised by the core rich and the peripheral poor regions.

Then the problem is clearly one of inequality, national chauvinism and arrogance of the North/Western EU states. Until the rich European powers lose their colonial and imperial complexes Europe won't be fair or equal and that is the real root of the problem. 

Monday, October 8, 2012

Marriage equality? Why not?

In the recent years, a real revolutionary idea gains support all over Europe and other regions of our world: Marriage equality for all human beings, or more simply the debate for civil partnerships and gay marriages.

Until  now, marriage was considered an institution that applied only between a man and a woman. That is what our religion and traditions taught us. On that belief we formed our societies and all moral laws to make them work and be coherent. So is it any wonder that any radical change in this institution, finds so many conservatives radically opposing it!

Well it is always one corrupt establishment that is staunchly against gay marriage and anything coming from the gay community: The Church. Especially the Catholic and the Orthodox Churches in Europe are the worse offenders. The Protestant Churches are more tolerant, that is why we see in those countries more progress and acceptance.

When the priests preach about "God's will" isn't it ironic that they think that love between two men or two women is shameful, punishable and unchristian, yet the rape of boys and abuse of many children in general committed by them, especially by the Catholic Church is something that they can commit and get away with it? For centuries the priests, monks and nuns of the Catholic Church were abusing and raping children all over Europe, Africa and Latin America. What a hypocrisy!

And all this because the Church is dominated by corrupt, narrow minded bigoted males. No gay man or woman will ever find peace and equality as long as these men are allowed to pour their bile and poison Christianity's true message, that is a message of love and tolerance.

And what about other regions of the world? In a recent article published in the Economist, we read about the unhappy marriages that many women in China suffer, simply because their husbands are gay. To hide their homosexuality they marry unsuspected women. But these marriages of course are loveless, sad unions. So both men and the women they marry fall victims of the society's outdated "morality." So there goes Asia's and other conservative countries' argument that homosexuality is a "western disease".

In many regions of Africa, Japan, India, and the Arab states, they boast that homosexuals simply do not exist in their countries and only western countries "suffer" from this disease. Well in the above mentioned article we see why. Unhappy marriages, unhappy lives, forced to live together with a person that you do not love or are attracted to. And what a pity for those women too. Cultures like these just create unhappy and unproductive people, easy to manipulate and guide; human robots.

Because human sexuality is highly linked with human creativity and freedom of thought. If you can express yourself freely sexually, then you can express yourself creatively in all other spheres of your life. Suppress the first and then you control all the other. That has been and is happening in Europe and the "West" in general as we speak.

And it is why the Christian Church like most oppressive religions like Islam, Judaism Catholicism and so on, the first thing they do is to suppress human sexuality, outcast homosexuality and even ban masturbation itself!! No wonder this world has so many messed up people. It is a crime against humanity, and if I could, I would sue any religion and its leaders that promotes such barbaric ideologies for crimes against humanity.

So many "straight" people do not reach their full potential because some of them are just breeders. Their only purpose in this world is to make children. And not only raise children, but make sure they baptize them as soon as possible and initiate them into a dogma or religion. "Multiply the flock of God!" As if they have no other use or grace. But then they simply remain in their animal status and never progress as human beings intellectually or spiritually, if their only use is to procreate and the only legacy they leave behind is their children.

 You see, some people have only yin in them. Some others have only yang and they desperately are trying to find the opposite to feel whole and fulfilled. They can not exist unless they are in some union with the oposite sex only. Some people though have both yin and yang in them, so they do not need the opposite sex to feel fulfilled.

They only need another human being of any sex or orientation, that will be able to connect with them spiritually, emotionally, mentally and physically. Who would you value more; a wife beater husband, an alcoholic dad, a useless mother and bad wife, or a person with developed spirituality and intellect, no matter of what sex, age, color or sexuality he or she belongs!

Marriages should be among two human souls, not just two farm animals that procreate and produce more workers. I know I put it a bit bluntly, but that's what it is. Any two people who want to share their lives together, should be able to do so. We only find gay "marriages" weird and a threat because we are used to see only "straight" ones.

 Besides, we do not discuss of having two men, one in a dress and one in a tuxedo in a church, having the exact same ceremony as a straight couple. Rather about a legal platform, that will give both gay and straight marriages the same and equal status.

To protect two lovers that live together for years from any legal action by the family of either party, in the case of one of them passes. Or in the case of any legal action of one party against the other in the case that  the relationship ends.

Or give the same protection and rights in a case that one partner is a non-EU national, just as any straight person can have his/her rights protected when he/she marries an EU national. So in other words, marriage equality should be passed in a pan-European level and accepted, protected and promotes in all European states. There should be no divisions on this issue either.

And how about adoption? Well for the moment I do not favor such move as I believe it is too soon for a society to digest both the marriage and the adoption. Not that I believe that gay parents are any less competent in raising a child than a straight couple. If any alcoholic, drug user, violent criminal or a religious fanatic can have the right to have children, then why not a gay person?

I just think that it will take some time for our societies to fully accept a child that comes from a gay marriage. And for the child's best interests, I think that for the moment we should focus on pushing for marriage equality.

That of course should not exclude the case of one parent already having one or more children from a straight relationship, to have his/her gay partner able to adopt these children if their natural parent proves unwilling to contribute to their upbringing.

Or he/she is simply dead. Many women find themselves in gay relationships with other women after an abusive marriage to a man and in many cases they are already mothers. If their former husbands are unfitting or indifferent in the upbringing of their children, why can't the new gay partner of that mother adopt the children and provide for them?

Having said that, I find that many people in the gay community are not ready either for such progressive changes. They simply do not understand the concept of love, because nobody has taught them that during their lives. Many gay people are lost in obsessions, sexual addictions, fear, various complexes and a constant search to find themselves, to be able to commit to one person and only, or even worse have children.

 I do not blame them. They have been systematically bullied, mocked, forced to live a double secret life and it is not wonder that they seem lost. But they will only recover and act as normal human beings, when the society stops discriminating against them, slander them and mock them in every chance they get.

It is simply what I have said above: the destructive influence of religion's indoctrination and fanatic dogmas against human sexuality for many centuries, that created empty shelled people, messed up, desperately in need in finding acceptance, love and a purpose. Many gay people live their lives as "normal" straight people, only to seek the occasional sexual experience in a public space to satisfy their needs.

Sex is what identifies them as homosexuals and for them it is usually something shameful and they try to hide it, never accepting it. Others feel that homosexuality is a "culture" and they identify themselves only through the gay community and certain bars, music artists, bands, occasions, events or programs. In other words they broke out of the ghetto bars or parks that gay people used to meet in secret to satisfy their sexual needs, only to create a new ghetto, this time in their own minds!

For me being gay is only a part of who one person is, not who she/he is. And I dream that one day, people will chose their partners not according to age, sex, sexual orientation, color, race, religion or ethnic background. Rather to what they see in the other person's soul and heart, according to compatibility, common traits, values, according to chemistry, attraction and the emotions that one evoke to another. Simply two souls embracing and loving each other, not two mammals that need to procreate.

Not that I am against marriage between members of the opposite sex. On the contrary I believe that finding a person that can be your other half and spend your life with, turning the "me" into "we" is the greatest achievement that one can achieve. The ultimate challenge and goal that any human being should strive to achieve, in order to grow as a spirit and entity.

But in some cases our other half is not necessarily what we would expect it to be, of the race, sex or age that we would expect. So why waste or limit so much potential? And remember, not too many decades ago, it was unthinkable for a person of one race to marry a member of another race! I hope soon one day we will end the taboo of sex and sexual orientation too.

Should Catalonia and Scotland become independent?

On September 11th, 2012, a march in favor of self-determination was held in Catalonia, with city police estimating that up to 1.5 million people took part. And this comes not long after the announcement that Scotland will have a referendum in 2014 regarding its independence from the United Kingdom! How will Europe look like in the future and what new challenges await us all with the new change of the continent's borders?

If those two countries (or regions) achieve their goal of independence, then how many more in Europe are likely to follow suit? Wallonia, Sardinia, Corsica, Wales and perhaps many more regions will bid for independence. Are we prepared for this new reality, and what impact will all this have in our continent's future politics and economy?

Personally I am split between supporting the will and the wishes of the people of those regions and being a bit more cautious on the impact that this will have in an already troublesome European economy. I am just not sure that now is the time for such moves; in fact sadly, I believe that it is time for more unity.

Part of me thinks: what is the point of having too many new states in Europe, since we are working for European integration? A more federal Spain, United Kingdom or any other state that faces the same issues, perhaps would be a better solution. Give them more freedoms for self governance. Because I am sure when they gain their independence from Spain, they will rejoin the EU as Catalonia or Scotland. Thus still have no borders between them and still not being totally independent from them.

One of the main arguments the separatists put forward to support their bid, is that Catalonia contributes 20% of Spain’s GDP but only receive back 14%. But that is true for any country! Is it all about money again?  I was talking to a Finnish lady once, and she told me that the South Finland contributes and sustains the Northern part of the country that has very few natural resources. The Helsinki region in fact supports the north! “We send them bucket-loads of money” she said, when we compared Finland and Europe as money transfers from region to region is concerned!

She supported the idea that poorer regions in Europe should get money from richer regions of Europe, as in Finland, the south supports the north! That would be true for most countries. In Greece we have the same problem, in Italy too. Should we start breaking up all countries up? Shall we make a regional Europe, with many small regions being autonomous, while all be governed by one entity in Brussels? And if we achieve that, how easy will it be with so many smaller but more numerous voices in EU to reach to an agreement? We are having troubles now as it is!

Why don’t we create federations within a greater federation, so while Catalonia, Scotland, Corsica, Sardinia, Walloon and any other regions that wish to have more independence, remain in a more federal state formation, they will be governed in local-national, state-federal and European level? They will have their own government and parliament that will cooperate, answer and send their representatives to the Spanish one and the Spanish will do the same in its relations with the European one.

Of course that is only when the economy is concerned. There are many other issues involved, like protecting the Catalan language, culture and heritage. According to many Catalans, new laws appear from Madrid  everyday that take more and more control of Catalan culture and language.

So perhaps the change must come on a Spanish front, not just Catalonia? If the loss of language and identity is being promoted by Madrid then we are talking about potentially a full Spanish state dissolution if the Basques, the Galicians and others follow the example of Catalonia. Perhaps with the encouragement of the EU, Spain should promote more diversity of its culture and heritage. Follow the European motto: Unity in diversity!!

And of course we should be careful on how this dissolution will take place: the Yugoslavian way or the Czechoslovakian way? In most ex-Yugoslavian states, there are still supporters of Tito that remember the Yugoslavian days with a sense of longing. And they all now aspire to become EU members, thus giving up their short lived independence too soon.

Is now the best time to promote dissolution of states in Europe? How will the global markets and economy react and will this shake their confidence on the Spanish region and the euro? Possibly the Spanish region as a whole will find itself in the eye of new a storm, affecting all regions of the former Spanish state. Will such a solution be wise now, and what impact will it have in the overall Iberian and European economy? If Spain dissolves as a country, will this be the solution to the country's economic woes, or the creation of more and will the global investors be happy to invest in new emerging regions?

Perhaps this is what the global players want. To end the existence of old established European states, thus getting rid of the rigidity of the established European elites and their conservatism. So they promote, support and perhaps even fund this new surge of independence bids across Europe. Probably this is good. We need new voices and a fresh air in European politics.

But could it be possible to give the regions their autonomy in a Europe of regions? It is possible that what we need right now is a Europe of regions with their own culture, identity and governance under the umbrella of a European economic and political framework. But that means a redrawing not so much of the borders, rather the institutions and legislative powers that govern Europe so far. Are we ready for this? Should we perhaps focus on establishing a fully functioning European democracy and governance, before we move to the dissolution of the existing European states? Perhaps such moves come a bit prematurely.

Are we ready as Europeans to accept this new reality and start thinking as citizens of a region, rather a nation state? I do not wish to block any attempts for independence from any populace of Europe. Because if that was the case, then Ireland, the country I live in or Greece, the country I come from, should have never gained independence from their former colonial powers. Nevertheless, Ireland is still highly reliant in the United Kingdom or the USA economically and culturally and Greece still struggles economically as a county, relying in a great extend on Europe.

There are many reasons of course for this, that lay on the interests of people both in those countries, Europe and further abroad. But perhaps the Catalonians should be careful not to rush in any decisions and become reliant to any foreign country, group or organization, in their struggle to gain independence from Spain. What good does it make to have many small fragmented states in Europe, that are easier to manipulate? Are the Catalonians rushing to jump from the pan into the pot? Will they become what have FYROM and Montenegro become in their struggle to attract foreign investment and support, to fund their existence; another potential tax haven for big corporations!

I will respect the outcome of both referendums in Catalonia and Scotland of course and I will support the wish of the majority of the population of those nations. But I also wish that they will decide responsibly and not because a passing surge of nationalism!!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Are private owned charity agencies doing any good to the countries in need?

When I was growing up as a kid in Greece, I remember that almost every year my mother was buying notepads of UNICEF for me to use at school. Just so that we did our little bit to help their cause.

We were watching so many advertisements on our television set about the humanitarian emergency that some parts of the world were facing, so we were moved by all the images we were exposed to.

I am now a 35 year old man and one would think that nearly 30 years later, the campaigns to save the "poor kids of Africa" would be a thing of the past.

Well they aren't. After so many charity events, concerts like LIVE AID and LIVE8, high profile campaigns all over the world and many new NGOs and private charity organizations like Concern and Barnados, the continent of Africa still needs help.

Where are we going wrong? It is doubtful that it's only the African leadership's fault, that their continent is still lacking the development that other parts of the world have achieved. Though Africa is not the only region of the so called "Third World" suffering, just the worse hit. Humanity can not progress any further if we leave those regions behind. How can we tackle the situation and is charity and the provision of loans the answer to this problem?

Most of us when we think of the African continent, two main images usually come first into our minds: its wildlife and its poverty. Images of lions, elephants, giraffes and zebras, together with children barely alive from hunger in Africa's slums. These are the usual images that we are exposed to and coming out from this continent.

If you ask any African immigrant in Europe though, he/she will tell you that these images often offend them. They do not always portray the real life in Africa, apart from some poverty stricken regions. Most Africans do not identify with those images.

We rarely see anything about the lifestyle of the average African family, it simply doesn't "sell!" Nobody would give money to support a well established African family. Besides, these practices also help supporting the idea that Africa desperately needs more aid, when in reality all it needs is investments. With loans and "aid" is easier to control, corrupt and manipulate the African governing elites. With direct investments we offer permanent solutions, but with loans we can control an indebted country for decades to come.

So what is the role of private NGOs in the whole story? First of all, it is their advertisements that brainwashes us to associate Africa only with poverty, just as we relate Greece with tax evasion and corruption now. We have been doing the same on Africa for decades.

Little do we know how rich Africa is actually. Underneath its fertile soil lie vast natural resources that other nations, multinationals and corporations want to get access to. The same "trick" is used today in countries like Greece and we witnessed it happening in Latin America too. The global capitalist elites like to throw more debt on a country or region, then get its natural resources for nothing.

Most of Africa's countries were formed not too many decades ago. Creating a nation from scraps is not easy, especially when you have to deal with the legacy of colonization. The European colonizers made sure their very successful policy of divide and rule was applied all over the continent and in result, it created many inter-ethnic or religious wars and tensions. So when the African countries gained their freedom, the old hatred that the colonizers promoted remained and it kept working its corrosive way into African life.

Generally the problem is that it is good business for some to keep promoting these stereotypical images. "Charity" is profitable. And how can they keep this business alive? By advertizing the "need" and "urgency" to help a dying child. As disgusting as it may sound, dying children always sell.

Some of these charities have done a lot of good and have helped in building and restoring communities. But their actions do not offer a permanent solution. This is not the way to help a region in need with long term results. The only way to achieve this is with direct investments.

We should be helping these countries to learn how to exploit their natural resources and utilize all their potential. Imagine if Africa was as free to develop and reach its full potential, how the rest of the world would look like? If we did not have the developing countries to "offer" their cheap first materials like Africa, or the cheap work force of some Asian countries like India, things would be much different for all.

Of course recently Africa enjoys a growth rate that is much higher of that in Europe, but there are still huge economic disparities between the developed and the "third" world. And if Europe and America remain in recession for long, Africa alone won't be able to sustain its growth rates. The solution would be to promote the setting up of industries in Africa, engage in fair trade and Europe, America, as well as other countries should lower their protectionist policies.

The African nations should then be able to exploit their natural resources and trade them in the global markets for the benefit of their people first. The rest of the world should be investing in the continent not with aid and loans, but with factories and jobs, universities and hospitals.

Another worthy initiative is the promotion of local businesses. Not just in Africa, but in every other region of the world including Europe itself, to deal with the economic crisis. Encourage local businessmen to create new jobs and with them will come prosperity and stability, education, more industries and investments from abroad and withing the region.

To conclude, if you agree that the three decade saga of "aid" to Africa and the rest of the "third" world has gone too far, then it is time to change attitudes. Besides, Europe as the biggest donor on our planet, can not keep up with this. Most of our continent is gripped by a recession. And above all, it is not ethical to portray a whole continent as we have been so far, forcing them to seek jobs elsewhere and then blaming them for coming into our countries.