Feb 082021
 

For various reasons, a growing number of people are beginning to wonder whether Democracy is just a fading daydream. The long-predicted effects of climate change are one by one starting to unfold and are shaking our faith in the future. Meanwhile, the spectacular cognitive contortions of many politicians and their followers have seemed beyond belief and have generated distrust in our governments. Finally, people like Bolsonaro, el-Sisi, Duterte, Trump, MBS, Netanyahu (Apartheid politician), Erdogan, Putin, and Burmese generals … to mention just a few, do not inspire hope for the human race, far less for Democracy.

But I put to you that in spite of all this, Democracy is not an illusion, not make-belief, not a silly fantasy!

There is nothing wrong with the concept of Democracy as outlined, however roughly
by the Encyclopedia Britannica:

Democracy is a system of government in which laws, policies, leadership, and major undertakings of a state or other polity are directly or indirectly decided by the “people,” a group historically constituted by only a minority of the population (e.g., all free adult males in ancient Athens or all sufficiently propertied adult males in 19th-century Britain) but generally understood since the mid-20th century to include all (or nearly all) adult citizens.

and recommended by the United Nations:

When the founders of the United Nations drafted the United Nations Charter, they did not mention the word democracy. In 1945, many of the UN Member States did not endorse democracy as a system, or didn’t practice it. Yet, the opening words of the Charter, “We the Peoples”, reflect the fundamental principle of democracy – that the will of the people is the source of legitimacy of sovereign states and, therefore, of the United Nations as a whole.

The problem we are facing these days is not that the concept Democracy is any more fantastical than it ever was, but that the word Democracy has been high-jacked by the United States – where it has been married to an economic (and governmental) system, commonly referred to by detractors as Neoliberalism – and where it has failed ignominiously to curb ubiquitous economic and racial injustice.

Since time immemorial there have been, here and there, patches of what could be called Democratic societies: A model example is that of the San [quote from Wikipedia]:

Traditionally, the San were an egalitarian society. Although they had hereditary chiefs, their authority was limited. The San made decisions among themselves by consensus, with women treated as relative equals. San economy was a gift economy, based on giving each other gifts regularly rather than on trading or purchasing goods and services.

True the San may not have exercised “separation of powers” (legislative, executive and judiciary) and a transparent system of checks and balances, without which I cannot conceive of a modern Democratic society. On the other hand, they managed something no “modern” society would: to survive in the Kalahari Desert.

With or without separation of powers, one thing is certain in the Kalahari Desert as in a post-modern society: Democracy is contingent on informed choices, and that is what has been missing in so many so-called democracies all over the world. The San People will not have known about quantum physics, but what knowledge they had, they shared and without shared knowledge, there is no Democracy.

Again I quote Encyclopedia Britannica:

The hallmark of democracy is that it permits citizens to participate in making laws and public policies by regularly choosing their leaders and by voting in assemblies or referenda. If their participation is to be meaningful and effective—if the democracy is to be real and not a sham—citizens must understand their own interests, know the relevant facts, and have the ability to critically evaluate political arguments. Each of those things presupposes education.

Education, then, is key!

But who gets to decide what goes onto the curriculum? A bellowing bull in Ankara (who is at this very moment clamping down on his countries’ universities)? Or a Christian fundamentalist? Well, that’s where the free press comes into the picture, isn’t it, because if either one or the other fiddles with the curriculum, the press pounces on them, unless…

Unless what? Well, the press isn’t entirely free, is it. The press has powerful owners and/or backers; military dictators, autocrats, Savonarolas, billionaires, cranks, Qanonites and nut cases who will apply every trick in the book to gain and retain control, including the tricks of editing curriculum and controlling the press.

So Democracy is not something that just falls into our laps and stays there. We have to work for it, and we have to defend it. Mind you, this is not new. Since time immemorial, the world has been hectored by power freaks, and has survived. But one thing has changed: change itself, or rather, the speed of change.

Like it or not, change happens and will continue to happen at a breath-taking speed.

Change brings us pandemics, but also improved vaccination technology. Change brings us affordable audio-visual communication across continents, but also the means to whip up insurrections through social media.

More than ever before, education – good education – is needed so that we all can contribute, each in our different ways and to the extent of our capacity – by asking questions, answering questions, squabbling about the answers; by conducting research and questioning results. Like the San, we must share available knowledge about what lies ahead so that we all can take part in deciding how to deal with it.

Jan 092021
 

Two days ago, I wrote of the challenge facing the Democratic Party if Georgia granted it the two seats it so sorely needed in the Senate. Georgia did just that! Georgia’s blacks and Georgia’s young had mobilised and saved the day for the Democratic Party. What a tremendous debt that party now owes Georgia!

Later in the day, after I had written “Georgia on my mind”, checking the news again, I saw that something was snapping in Washington D.C. where thousands and thousands of Trump supporters had congregated, swarming, at Trump’s instigation.

Over the past years, Trump has been using Fox News, Twitter and other outlets to foment hatred and rabid attitudes, as well as weird ideas among certain emotionally and educationally vulnerable segments of the US population. I cannot tell you – because I do not understand – what Trump-loving evangelists have in common with laid-off rust belt workers and depressed opioid addicts. Apparently, Trump whispers falsehoods in all of their and many others’ ears, such as those of the disenfranchised so-called “working middle class”.

No wonder, then, that his thugs actually stormed and vandalised the seat of the USA’s national assembly, its congress, lovingly referred to by the population as Capitol. They did so to obstruct Trump’s opponents. (Trump, of course, will have his own reasons to dread leaving the White House.) Legislators were rushed off to safety by the police and none of them were harmed, as far as I know, except by an inrush of Covid-19, which may of course yet kill some of them.

There is no doubt that Trump is directly and fully responsible for the mob’s storming and vandalising of Capitol. Many of his supporters will, however, be saddened and shocked. BUT they may nevertheless continue to idealise their hero until they can find someone to replace him. I believe it’s important to realise that Trump is seen by many as some sort of Wat Tyler, or even as God’s special envoy. Indeed, many of the people who believe in him have much in common with 14th century British peasants.

Unlike Wat Tyler, however, Trump is anything but an oppressed labourer. He and others who will turn up in his wake – super rich and callous – will continue to discombobulate the emotionally and educationally vulnerable for their own ends.

President elect Joe Biden has since held a forceful speech about the “rule of law”. He chose his words well, and his majesterial speech offered disconcerted US Americans a chance to believe once again in the greatness of their country. But I fear that the expression “rule of law” means little to the country’s more poorly educated citizens. In a land that used to boast that anybody could become president, that used to pride itself on being meritocratic, there is much undeserved poverty and hopelessness, much fear, much understandable anger, much corruption, and much untreated physical pain.

Something snapped in Washington D.C. That snap was just a warning, but there may still be time to put things right.

Jan 062021
 

Dear friends

Never before have I prayed for the Democratic Party – to be honest, I never pray at all – but now I am praying passionately for the Democratic Party. Mind you, I don’t like or trust the Democratic Party anymore than I like or trust Jeff Besos, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg or Larry Page. The Democratic Party has failed in every conceivable respect, but its voters include most of the USA’s great scientists, artists, computer experts (including hackers, and I have a penchant for hackers) and voting Blacks (though I deeply sympathise with non-voting Blacks).

Reading the News this morning, I almost choked. There is actually a glimmer of hope! If Georgia salvages the Senate for the Democratic Party, there will be no fucking excuse – none! – to fail, once again, the poor, the disenfranchised so-called “working middle class” and the Blacks. In fact, if the Democratic Party wins the Senate, their politicians will have their once-in-a-lifetime chance of showing Trump’s voters that they, not Trump, can and will improve conditions for life and work in, e.g. the Rust Belt.

At the risk of counting my chickens, if the Democratic Party wins but fails to do its duty by the 50 % of the USA’s population that owned (even before Trump!) less than 1 % of the country’s wealth and the 89 or so per cent that owned (before Trump!) only 10 % of it, there will be hell to pay not only for the Party and its long-suffering country (that is already paying a great deal), but for all of us. The rest of us will see the final disintegration of a country that claimed to be, but was so evidently far from, a bastion of “Democracy.”

I write this expecting some gruelling hours and probably even days of suspense for Georgia.

Let us all cross our fingers.

Nov 092020
 

My friends both in the USA and in my own country are ecstatically congratulating one another on the Biden/Harris victory, and I too am relieved to see the imminent end of Trump’s barbarian one-man show. But this may not be the end of his methods, and I think it is important not to be carried away by triumphalism.

The difference was, after all, only four million votes. True, we are rid of Trumpism for four years, but many poor and/or non-white prospective Democratic voters told interviewers that they intended to vote only to get rid of Trump, not because they thought Biden would “make a difference” for them. Will they come out again in four years?

Who voted for Trump and why? I agree with those who maintain that the media played a big part. But Trump, too, blamed the media. In fact, far from all the media was pro-Trump. So I must ask: What is the main difference between people who believe a headline like “chlorine kills Covid”, or who subscribe to the Pizzagate conspiracy, and those who don’t? I maintain that by substantially improving educational opportunities for all young citizens, we would substantially reduce vulnerability to false news in the course of only three or four years.

Evangelical Trump followers were loyal regardless of the press, and there were very many of them, even though they knew what sort of person he was. They believed God was using him because he had promised to continue helping Israel engulf Palestine. I’m not privy to their beliefs, but as I understand it, they are convinced that all of this will hasten the return of the Messiah. Not much you can do about that, I guess.

I have the impression that the past decades (since the 70s) have seen a downhill slide for a large part of the US population as is described, for instance, in the Guardian: Who will speak for…

The so-called “divided America” is not just about Trump. It is to a large extent about despair, humiliation and loss of dignity. It is also about anger.

Trump is angry, too. He claims to hate the elite. To many voters it seemed that because of his ostentatious and iconoclastic alleged anti-elitism, Trump was being humiliated, ridiculed and harassed by mainstream press, just like them. He told them he was on their side, and they hoped he would get rid of some of the multinational corporations that had gobbled up their livelihoods.

I believe that what Trump really hates is science, education, etc.,and anything that stands in his way. Getting rid of him does not, however, mean you get rid of his voters who want something neither Trump nor Biden can or will give them: decently paid work, education and proper health care.

From Thomas Piketty’s book (see the Harvard Gazette article How political ideas keep economic inequality going) we learn that inequality in all of the western world has been rising steadily ever since the seventies, and is now back at where it was before WWI. This trend is not due to Trump, is not limited to the USA, and is not going to stop by itself.

Meanwhile, to quote the above Guardian article, “It is one thing to be spinning your wheels stuck in the mud, but it is even more demeaning to watch as others zoom by on well-paved roads, none offering help.”

Take a look the below graph from the Fed.

May 262020
 

Usually, when people get killed in this country, the killer is a puny character. In 2019, for instance, 75% of the killers were under the influence of some intoxicant and 56% of the victims were women. In general, killers in this country are absolute losers, sick of mind and pathetic, no matter how frightening they seem from the victim’s perspective. Moreover more than 95% of the cases end up being solved.

But we also have big-time criminals, people whose minds are no doubt warped, but not to the extent that they lose control. They don’t kill, at least not here; they merely “traffic” and use minions to do the dirty work of handling the victims. The minions get caught, of course, but not the big-timers.

On 31 October 2018, the wife of one this country’s richest men vanished from their shared home. The entire country held it’s breath: We are not accustomed to high-profile disappearances around here.

At first, the case appeared to be one of kidnapping. Apparently a note had been left in the home from which the victim disappeared. The letter demanded a hefty ransom to be paid in an obscure crypto currency. Apparently the husband did try to pay, but the currency was quite simply too obscure. The kidnappers were not heard from again until nearly a year later, when they apparently made contact. The drama was of course played out in detail in the media, mainly by the aggrieved husband’s high-profile lawyer.

A few weeks ago, the police held a press conference to inform the public that they had arrested the husband on charges of murder and with the intention of locking him away for four weeks, so that they could carry out an in-depth search of his home, second home and company. They explained that they had long since reached the conclusion that the kidnapping never occurred and that it had merely been a performance staged for their (the police’s) benefit.

Meanwhile, the rest of the audience, the general public – myself included – was gaping at the spectacle. The very idea of that very rich man sitting behind bars was absolutely extraordinary. Naturally, it did not last. After a couple of days, his very high-profile lawyer had got him out of jail and the case seems to have reached a dead end.

To make a long story short, the police are convinced of his guilt. They are certain the woman has been killed by him or at his orders. There is only one small problem: No body. Moreover, there is insufficient evidence to exclude all reasonable doubt.

Point being: If you are rich and powerful enough, you can get away with murder, any number of them, in fact.

Mar 252020
 

This is definitely not the time to hold forth about my pet issues.

What’s more, I have no suggestions either to politicians or to members of the public. For once, I don’t feel I know best. The very fact that something like this could happen without the possibility of it’s doing so having occurred to me, feels very sobering.

I didn’t understand the maths of the situation. A friend of mine saw, from day 1, on the basis of the figures from Wuhan, how this “pandemic” would unfold. (The friend in question is one of those people who learnt to do calculus before he learnt to speak.)

What I have learnt from members of the public – what we are learning from each other – is to support one another, emotionally and practically.

But still, no matter how sheepish I feel, I am not ready to bury my battle axe. One pet issue demands the floor!

Covid-19 would not have been such a killer, if we had had:

  • Satisfactory health care for all regardless of income
  • Sanitary living conditions for all regardless of income
  • Quality compulsory education and higher education /professional training, regardless of income

The Devil is in our ignorance.

Mar 042020
 

It’s Super Tuesday. Today I met a friend from the United States. We had lunch together. She was worried. I was worrid too. We both worry, of course, that Donald Trump might be given a new chance to continue his mission of global wreckage. But we worry in different ways.

President Trump blatantly disregards the very bulwark of democracy: the separation of powers (i.e. the legislative, judicial and executive powers). Democracy as we know it, surely isn’t perfect, but it is a whole lot better than any alternative we know of. Donald Trump’s interference in the trial of the long-time criminal Roger Stone departs so starkly from the principles of Democracy, that I think a lot of US citizens were seriously startled. Why did the President demonstrate so clearly his total indifference to the rule of law? Surely, he must have known that many Republicans, even, would be horrified. I have absolutely no doubt as to the answer: Roger Stone has got something on Trump, something that would put Trump behind bars for life. Unless Trump protects him, Roger Stone will talk. After all, Roger Stone is a self-declared “dirty tricster”, i.e. a crook. If that is the case, US politics may be said to be “Mafioso”. I emphasise, for the record, that I have no evidence.

On the other side, the Democratic Party Establishment understandably fears Bernie Sanders. Bernie Sanders’ programme is devoted to improving the standard of living; not for the Democratic Party establishment or their arty friends. No, his agenda is the standard of living of the people that form 70% or more of the US population: those who are under-paid, badly paid or unpaid, plus women who cannot afford maternity leave, plus men who cannot afford time from work to get to know their babies; plus kids who go to lousy schools; plus bright kids who cannot afford to go to university; plus good black kids who get arrested just for being black.What happened to the US social mobility mantra “Anybody can become president”? In the US, social mobility is a lost cause; the “American Dream” is a lost cause.

The Democratic Party Establishment want Joe Biden. Trump wants Joe Biden, too. He said so, didn’t he, at the very outset of his career as president. Because Joe Biden cannot compete with Donald Trump! Really, the idea! Joe Biden may well be a very nice man. He may even be a good and honest man. But he will not rally the young. He does not have much of a grasp on the future. He will not inspire hope. He will just know about business as usual, but business as usual – surely you must know that – will not solve the problems that await us.

The Democratic Party Establishment constitutes a certain percentage of the electorate, but frankly, is its share anything near a majority? Will the single mothers, black fathers, overworked and underpaid teachers and nurses, students and street sweepers break their necks to go and vote for Joe Biden? Would I, if I were a US citizen? Trump is bad, true, but so were many presidents before him. I reckon the US is a lost case for Democracy. Unless Sanders… Yes, even I find myself “praying”, as it were, for the United States of America. I fear, however, that tomorrow morning, when I hear the results, I shall continue advocating European disassociation from the US and its military enterprise NATO.

Nov 102019
 

I should begin by making it clear that to my knowledge, Catalonia has never been a sovereign state, though until 1714, the region enjoyed a very high degree of autonomy, see the Catalan constitutions.

I am not writing this as an expression of support to Catalonian secession. With few exceptions, I find nationalism distasteful. Bullying, however, I find even more distasteful.

There are a few aspects of the conflict I would like to highlight:

  • Most importantly there is the unresolved matter of the Franco era.
  • Next there is the matter of the Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia of 2006 (2010)
  • Finally there is the issue of the methods the Spanish authorities use to this very day to bring the region to heal.

The build-up

The Spanish Civil War was triggered by a right-wing coup against the democratically established Republic. For centuries an arrogant aristocracy, supported by the clergy, had been living off the fat of the land – other people’s lands, that is – doing little if anything to develop anything in Spain other than its own wealth and status. When the Civil War broke out, there had been an attempt to develop agriculture and industry since the mid-nineteenth century, but the politically primitive state (mainly the crown and the succession of generals on which it leaned) virtually asphyxiated progress. The last of the generals before the establishment of the republic was Primo de Rivera, a dictator.

To this day, a tremendous monument, richly surrounded by flowers, is devoted to Primo de Rivera in Plaza de Arenal in Jerez. I put to you that Spain has a pending debt to its people: Confess!

The Franco era

The hate that had been seething in the population for decades if not centuries knew no limit during the civil war.

Not least in Catalonia (because Franco was determined to annul the region’s newly regained self-determination). Republicans killed a lot of people – often indiscriminately – not least members of the clergy. That was not nice of them, I admit, but you may be sure that the Spanish clergy had a lot to answer for.

Eventually, the Catalan fighters were killed, and not only during the war. By the thousands. Tens of thousands. Note that I am being purposefully vague about figures, both for Catalonia and for Spain as a whole.

Not that I haven’t often heard figures. For instance I just read that there are 33,000 unnamed graves in Valle de los Caídos, from which Franco was recently moved. The place was built by forced labour after the war. There was a great deal of forced labour after the war!

Why am I writing all this, you ask. Isn’t the war over? Franco has been dead since 1975, has he not? Spain is a democracy, is it not?

Yes. Yes and yes.

BUT … the outstanding debts

  • The war and the dictatorship left hundreds (if not thousands) of mass graves.
  • No effort has been made on the part of the state to establish the real number and location of persons killed by the deeply Catholic Franco administration.
  • Even long after Franco, people were afraid to talk. In recent years, we have seen a few ancient bereaved spouses and mothers finally admitting to their children what they remember. Each opened mass grave and DNA identification of the remains has cost years of legal battles.
  • There are no records, either with the church or with public authorities of who was killed, who died in prison, and who was tortured to death. Nobody even knows how many survived harsh and humiliating imprisonment and torture.
  • Nobody has had to face charges of crimes against humanity. Perpetrators have not even been discredited.
  • No compensation has been paid to the survivors; no treatment has been offered for PTSD.

You get an impression of how much Catalonia suffered during the dictatorship if you read fiction from Catalonia. Personally, I make no effort to seek out Catalonian fiction, but for many years, I have found, almost every time I look for a nice juicy crime novel to read, that the current best-seller recommended to me is Catalonian. (My favourite Catalonian author, however, is the long since deceased Manuel Vázquez Montalbán.) In almost all the books I have purchased, protagonists have relatives who were tortured and/or killed and/or disappeared during the regime. It’s not that long ago, you know.

Franco’s spirit

Franco’s officials and supporters seem to have continued whatever line of work they had previously engaged in. This includes police officers.

Moreover, there were a lot of people who in their heart of hearts missed the strait-laced form of life he imposed. Not being one of them, I must now use my imagination: Tradition. Values. Respect to elders and to the male provider. Courtesy of men to women, modesty of women to men. Subordination of women and children. And not least: Adoration of the Church and the Crown and a firm belief that the history of the Patria was “glorious”. Finally, an almost military loyalty to the centralised state. Devolution of any form or shape was anathema to them.

They still miss it, loud and clear. Their nostalgia is being nursed by the powerful Partido Popular and the rapidly growing far-right Vox. As I write, Spaniards are casting their votes, and the two right-wing parties may well turn out to be the winners.

The Statute of Autonomy

The majority of Spain’s population was immensely relieved when Spain ceased to be a dictatorship. Both the Spanish Parliament (Cortes) and the Catalonian Parliament accepted the blessedly liberating Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia in 2006.

Not the PP. They complained to the Constitutional Court, the members of which are in essence politically elected. For four years, the court haggled over the issue, and the decision it finally reached in 2010 (to strike down 14 articles and alter 27) was not so much based on law as on the composition of the Court.

Outraged, the Catalans took to the streets.

I believe that the PP made a truly tragic mistake in contesting the Statute of Autonomy. The situation might have been put right if the Constitution had been amended to accommodate the 2006 Statute. Instead, Catalan frustration has been ridiculed and Catalan opposition has been harshly repressed. Catalans have been treated as naughty children by the national press, and the electorate outside Catalonia is becoming more chauvinistic by the day. I am fairly convinced that until 2018, the majority of Catalans were not – I repeat: NOT – in favour of secession. Certainly trade and industry were not. Now? I don’t know.

I deliver my views on this matter without referring to scholarly deliberations. The internatonal press tends to treat Spanish sensitivities kindly. After all, Spain is an EU member, and the country’s adaptation to democracy has been very impressive! The reason I am less kind is that I hope it is not too late to adopt a very different approach to the justly recalcitrant Catalonians.

Sep 172019
 

Do you remember when you started having opinions of a political nature? I do. I was about 15 when I started taking an interest in international affairs. Let me admit that I was going to a very good international school. We were even trained to debate positions that we did not necessarily hold. We had to read up on them, naturally.

My own personal opinions mirrored those of my father, whom I considered eminently respectable. He took pride in not being “biased” so he would present his views in the following manner: On the one hand, you have… and on the other hand, there is… .

This seemed an admirable approach, so I tried to be “unbiased” too, until I discovered that he was a loyal supporter of a political party and that the views I had developed on the basis of his approach were not unbiased at all. By then, I was 16-17, and we had some pretty hefty arguments.

I am writing this much about myself because I think that for most of us, political outlook is initially based on that of our parents, then on whatever analytical training we get at school, and then…

… well, then things start to get a little fuzzy. For most of us, the guiding light will be the media, and our opinions will basically echo those voiced by the media we are attracted to, including social media. Some of us make friends from the other side or perhaps even travel to the other side, whatever side that may be. But it goes without saying that most of us will hold “mainstream” opinions, i.e. the opinions voiced by mainstream media.

Now what are mainstream media? In Norway, the main news outlets, apart from the National Broadcasting Company, are owned by the Schibsted Group. Among the newspapers it owns are the most “respectable” one (Aftenposten) and the far less respectable but bestselling VG. Both are obviously available online. So the majority of people in Norway will hold views that tend to be voiced by these two very different news outlets.

It is true that if you read either of them, you will find a range of opinions, but I would be able to list, without hesitation, a few of my own that you would only rarely find. If you ask the editorial boards of the papers in question why they do not more frequently print articles advocating that we leave NATO, they will reply: Only 10 % of the population votes for a party that wants us to leave NATO.

Now, let me remind you of the chicken and egg causality dilemma:

  • Why do people vote for parties that do or do not want the nation to be part of NATO? How are they informed?
  • Who stands to gain from our continuing to be a NATO member? How do they make sure voters continue to endorse membership?
  • Why would anybody bother to invest in a newspaper? (If I were rich, I would lay my eggs in another basket.)

Above I wrote: “Some of us make friends from the other side or perhaps even travel to the other side, whatever side that may be.” I did just that. I made friends from other sides and I travelled to other sides. One of the other sides I travelled to was Chile. I was advised that El Mercurio was THE respectable paper. I ask you to please listen to the story told on this link:

https://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/listeningpost/2019/09/talk-chile-el-mercurio-190914083123442.html

May 192019
 

You might be wondering how come a person who pretends to care passionately about human rights (in every which interpretation) hardly ever refers to the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya from Myanmar.

Very simple: I have no first-hand knowledge of the past and ongoing crimes apparently committed not only by the army and government but even by the majority population in Myanmar. I only know about it through the media.

Now the US emperor appears to hold a grudge against “the media”. However there are others, too, who distrust the media, and with good reason, if I may say so. Many of us also distrust the pharmaceutical industry, politicians, doctors, wolves, etc., again with good reason. The media and the pharmaceutical industry will engage in pretty shady practices to boost profits and satisfy share holders, and more often than not, their ruses will not be exposed. Of course, if a pharmaceutical company fails to alleviate or cure medical ills, as evidenced by statistical breakdowns, it will loose its share holders anyway. Doctors are not always as conscientious or skilled as they should be and, finally, wolves occasionally manage to kill a dog or four or even a human every few hundred years. I’ll get back to the politicians later.

But first, I would like to make a few points:

  • Without the media, we would not only have been confused, but blind kittens awash in a sea of conflicting events.
  • The pharmaceutical industry and doctors have contributed to a dramatic lengthening of our life expectancy.
  • Wolves keep the deer population within reasonable limits (just as foxes limit the rabbit population) and deer, whereas pretty to look at, nourish the ticks that infect thousands and thousands of people every year with Lyme and other serious diseases.

Yes, we are often misinformed. Yes, some media are so self-serving that they can destabilise nations, not least if their audiences lack certain necessary tools – the kind of tools delivered by decent educational systems – to assess information. There are, moreover, tens of thousands of hard-working journalists dedicated to learning and presenting what is truthful and exact. Many of them are up against serious obstacles, even oppression. Some even risk or even lose their lives. We need them! We need to defend them!

Normally, what little I write here, is about matters of which I have first-hand knowledge. First-hand knowledge may stem from various sources. Once in my youth, when I was to go on in-house duty for three consecutive weeks, I first went to the library and borrowed a large stack of books about Armenian history. I read them all, taking meticulous notes. The other day, I found the old notes and was touched by my devotion to the topic. This I did, not for school nor for work, but because I was truly interested. I cannot remember why. What I remember is only my keen interest in the topic. There are countless other people out there who want to understand and who desperately want to learn.

I do have first-hand knowledge about Palestine, for reasons I will not go into. Likewise I have first-hand knowledge about dictatorships in Latin America and in Spain. I have lived in several countries and have seen more than has been good for me. But I have not lived in Asia or Oceaniea, and I need the media. I desperately need the media. I often check what I read against other outlets, and of course, like others, I distrust some more than others, depending, of course on the issue.

One source I have been particularly fond of is “The Listening Post” on Al Jazeera . It discusses various news outlets’ take on hot topics. Take Narendra Modi’s BJP in the recent Indian elections:

Now that is a text-book example of a successful marriage between self-serving media and dishonest politicians. I know very little about India, but listening to the podcast from the Listening Post, I get the impression that in the so-called Western countries, we would do well to study the nuts and bolts of what is often referred to as the world’s largest democracy. We might learn something about ourselves.

By the way, Merriam Webster’s definition of “democracy” does not mention the role of the market, of media outlets owned by oligarchs, of powerful investor interests, of phenomena such as Breitbart and Fox News. What is Democracy, I ask you?