On Answering the Female Question

The decision on whether to write this article or not has not been easy. Why would one want jump in hot water headfirst, is what I have been asking myself for some time now. In the light of the recent scandals in the United States and conversations with my friends here in Aberdeen, I think there are things that need to be said, for better or worse.

There are many issues swirling around the female gender and its relationship with other genders. From such a simple thing as equal pay to much more complex topics as abortion. We like to think that we believe in equality among genders, races and all sexual orientations, but not in one place on the planet are women treated equally with men. There are places that have come pretty close, but no country has yet achieved full equality even on the simplest of these issues as equal pay. I am not going to point fingers at those whose fault it is, but we can all agree that our world is far from equal.

To put it bluntly, I am absolutely convinced that men have no say in what a woman should or should not do with her body or, in fact, what any other gender should or should not do. If we ever want to even hope to create the equal world of our dreams, it must be accepted as a simple fact that a person’s body is under full sovereignty of the person alone. Let’s apply this concept to the issue of abortion. I have had friends tell me that getting an abortion is not just the woman’s decision, but the man should have say in the matter as well. Well, I have been thinking on this for a while, but I still cannot wrap my head around the enormous arrogance of claiming that right. You might want to say that man’s genetic material is an important part of what is being put together here, but to that I can only say that at the moment of intercourse, men are simply handing that over and from that point on, it is a matter for the woman. Just as if you got a kidney transplant, you would consider the kidney to be yours and you would not let the donor make decisions about your body.

The rights of the potential fetus are another difficult aspect of this debate. Some may see it as fully fledged life and others do not, but the question is: who gets to decide its fate? Although it might not be the right question to ask. Who will be responsible for the well-being of the fetus for the months following conception? Who will be there to suffer through all that birth entails? Who bears all the risks to one’s health that go hand in hand with pregnancy? Who will be the most important person in the child’s life for months, if not years, after birth? The person who fits the above-mentioned criteria is the person who should have a say in what a woman should or should not do with her body.

I do see the irony of me saying this, as I am a man myself, but as a man I do not want to have others tell me what I should do with my body, whom I should love and how I should live my life. Should we not then afford women the same liberties that we give to ourselves? Quite simply, women’s issues belong to women to deal with. If we cannot understand that simple fact, we will never live in an equal world.

 

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Should history be rewritten in line with modern day views of human rights?

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All of history is an interpretation of chronology. Only the most simple of all chronologic charts provide us with an objective account of what happened. Any attempt at explanation of those facts is essentially changing them and that is part of our human nature in a way that accepting cold facts is not. Sometimes history is rewritten with evil intent and the other times it was simply necessary. History should not be rewritten, but it is simply impossible not to do so. In order to retain the stature of the great men of old, we give them a face-lift and forget about the details. People like Thomas Jefferson and George Washington are the marble columns supporting our ideals and without their image; the house would crumble.

From the very dawn of time of the western civilization, we have not shied away from manipulating history for our purposes. The glorious verses of Homer and Hesiod were considered factual for quite some time and did the fictitious Aeschylus not complain that his opponent Euripides debauched the hearts of men by writing lousy characters in “The Frogs” by Aristophanes? The Poets wrote history precisely to serve reasons that they considered noble and they were not alone. In “The Republic”, Plato paints a picture of an ideal city where so-called bad stories displaying the vices of gods should be left out in order to build a perfect character in the city’s guardians. Those men laid the foundation of our civilization and it could be said that other civilizations might not have developed in the same way, but sadly there is enough evidence to say that they did.

Several millennia ago in China, it was a stroke of genius and a fatal self-inflicted wound when the Zhou dynasty usurped the mandate to rule from their predecessors and rewrote all of history in their image. They won the battle, but lost the war, because just a few hundred years later they were the ones to be written out of history. The power stemming from being in control of history, however, demonstrates itself even in less advanced societies. The Aboriginal tribes of Australia live with a profound connection with their land. They possess no literature of the kind we know and yet they live surrounded by the stories of their past, written in the landscape of their land and soul. We have been told very little about their past, because in their world such knowledge is reserved for the oldest and wisest and we are nothing but infants in their eyes. What they tell us is not what they tell themselves. In a way, they are writing their history for us the way they wish us to see it.

All regimes, cultures and peoples write, change and reshape their history. They have various reasons for doing so. Some were doing it to influence the actions of the men of the future. Others did it to justify their right to rule. We do it to hide the uncomfortable truth. Some of the great men were despicable slave-owners who never relinquished their vice, nevertheless, our house of virtue will not stand without their support, therefore we chose not to look too closely. How is that different from the Nazi book burnings, Soviet purges or even the work of the inquisition? Morality aside, it is not different at all. We should never rewrite our history, but we do it regardless.

A New Reality in the Land of Milk and Honey

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The status quo is dead and long live the new reality. The Czech republic has gone through elections again and it is now time to assess the result. I did expect an apocalypse either way, but as elections go, I ended up being surprised anyway. If central European politics is not your strong suit (I cannot blame you, really), I should probably catch you up on what has happened thus far.

The Czech republic has undergone nearly five years under an equally unholy and incompetent alliance between the Social-democrats and the Populists led by Andrej Babiš, the food tycoon and a millionaire who served as the finance minister until recently. The embarrassing results of the socialist-populist rule are probably best illustrated by the election performance of the Social-democrats. They have gone from nearly 20.45% and control over the position of the Prime Minister in the government in the previous elections to barely 7.27%. In addition, in the months leading up to the elections, Mr. Babiš, the leader and the embodiment of populism, has been under attack for a myriad of highly suspicious corruption affairs.

In this congenial, back-stabbing atmosphere, the Czech voters went to cast their votes and gave nearly 29.64% to the Populists. That is not surprising, but fortunately it is just short of the number needed for creating a stable, one-party government. The Populists will need to build a coalition, but unfortunately for them, their leader is widely despised among the other parties. I think it is quite telling when even the far right and the anarchist parties refuse to collaborate. Each of which have received 10.64% and 7.76% respectively (which is shocking in itself).

Mr. Babiš has very few options left, but his world is not entirely bleak. The crybaby he is, his best choice would be to complain about the unfairness of the other boys and girls at the playground until new elections may be declared. As my kind words may betray, I am in fact a member of the conservative ODS party that has had a surprisingly good result as well. In the past we made some mistakes and we rightfully lost the mandate, but after years of reflection and restructuring the Czech voters have finally decided that it is time for us to come back.

I would not imagine in my wildest dreams that the Conservative party would receive 11.32% and thus become the second strongest party in the parliament. As Mr. Babiš has professed, he would just love to join forces with the Conservatives and rule in a happy coalition, but such an abhorrent alliance is definitely out of the question from our point of view.

The path is clear. Mr. Babiš will not be able to compose a government in the 30 days allocated to him by the president. If that is the case, then the next in line for a shot at creating a government is the Conservative party, as the party with the second strongest result. It will be difficult, because a coalition with the far-right or the Communists is out of the question. That would leave a some kind of a broad coalition between the Conservatives, Anarchists, Christian-democrats and a few other small right-leaning parties.

The Populists have won this battle, but they may yet lose the war. The right should do its best to ostracize them out of ruling for the good of the nation. As the universal hatred of Mr. Babiš among all parties suggests, all actors are painfully aware of what horror would his rule be. That might just make the impossible possible and facilitate a broad and stable coalition. The future of the country is at stake. Mr. Babiš, you say you want a “better country”. Well, we want it too, but it is a country without you.

U.S. Elections : The consequences and why should Europe and the World care

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The United States of America, supposedly one of the most powerful states in the world today, is undergoing a change in leadership this year and to great deal of ordinary people around the globe it doesn’t mean much. Especially in Europe where we tend to be blinded by our own current issues American politics can feel a world away. It may be that even the Americans themselves would have trouble understanding why should the world care or even dare to have an opinion on the matter. After all it is their own country and they can do as they please. Despite such assumption we should be interested and we should have an opinion since on so many occasions in the past it was the U.S. Administration that had the most profound effect on our lives.

 

The starkest example of what a political change can do to foreign policy was the period of late Clinton administration and the subsequent shift to George W. Bush administration and the Congress controlled by the Republican Party. Speaking broadly and as will be demonstrated on examples the Clinton administration could be characterized as preferring compromise. It was sometimes also called the “doctrine of enlargement”

 

[i] , which means “…based on the idea of expanding the community of market democracies around the world, embraced free trade, multilateral peacekeeping efforts and international alliances, and a commitment to intervene in world crisis situations when practical … and morally defendable.”[ii] On the other hand the post 9/11 situation forced George W. Bush to assume a role of rather a

Commander-in-chief than a president through taking on immense emergency powers and therefore it required employment of rather assertive foreign policy.

One of the clearest examples of how such shift it policy-making can destabilize the situation was the Agreed Framework between the United States and North Korea. President Clinton stated in 1994 that through this agreement “North Korea has agreed to freeze its existing nuclear program and to accept international inspection of all existing facilities”[iii] Furthermore, North Korean regime agreed to switching to less dangerous light-water reactors in exchange for significant financial and political concessions from the United States. Unfortunately shortly after signing the treaty the power in the Congress switched to the Republican Party, which, over time, diminished its importance and did not uphold its part of the deal by reducing financial backing that was ratified by the treaty. In the end, North Korea withdrew from the Agreement Framework and in January 2003 also withdrew from the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, during Bush administration, and kept escalating its nuclear program to the point it is today, when North Korea is claiming to have detonated an alleged hydrogen bomb.

Another, possibly even more important, apple of discord between Clinton and Bush administrations was the relation with Iran. For years under presidents Carter and Reagan the policy towards Iran could be considered as ambiguous. President Clinton inherited the past issues and enacted a policy of discouragement from terrorism, as it happened in 1996 after the attack on US barracks in Khobar in Saudi Arabia, where “The White House refrained from military retaliation but signalled that additional terrorism could lead to conflict”[iv] and policy of rapprochement of civilizations, as through the famed wrestling match in 1998, when official government-to-government contact was not possible due to Iran’s internal disunity. Despite a positive start Bush administration decided not to take the process further because it understood Iran’s President Mohammad Khatami’s “ lack of a sustained positive response”[v] as “evidence that he was either unable or unwilling to deliver.”[vi] The two governments were still trying to cooperate on issues concerning Afghanistan and Iraq, but Iran’s undeniable involvement in supporting terrorism was making the dialog significantly more complicated. From Iran’s point of view as a great blow to diplomatic relations came the State of the Union speech from 2002 where President Bush described Iran as one of the members of “Axis of Evil”. In spite of the setbacks and criticism the Bush administration did try to make a progress on the nuclear issue with Iran. The United States actively engaged in talks between Iran, International Atomic Energy Agency and several European countries (Germany, France, United Kingdom). The process eventually led to signing the Paris Agreement in 2004. Unfortunately even this effort proved vain when Iran disregarded the treaty in 2006 and resumed its nuclear program. Overall the Bush administration can be attributed with creating an international framework for dealing with support of terrorism and countries like Iran, but in the end made no real progress with pushing Iran to agreements.

The real issue that arose in indirect interactions of Clinton and Bush administrations was the war in Iraq. In aftermath of 9/11 attacks the political, diplomatic and public discourse in the United States was greatly overheated. It probably is understandable that the Bush administration felt like it needed to take a firm stance. Even more so when this administration and many people in it were connected to the previous republican administration led by George H.W. Bush, father of George W. Bush and legacy of Persian Gulf War of 1990-1991. Iraq, especially in the light of in the least inflated reports of Iraq’s possession of weapons of mass destruction, surely felt like an imminent threat. Saddam Hussein’s own track record involving aggression towards Iran, Kuwait and abysmal human rights record did not help. The United States invaded Iraq in 2003, but the question is whether it invaded in the right way or at least if it was the only way it could be done. If we assume for a moment that the war was inadvertent and necessary would the Clinton administration perform differently had it been in power? The leadership in Iran was more than willing to provide intelligence and cooperate with the U.S.-led coalition as it did in 2001 during operations in Afghanistan. “Let’s repeat the Afghanistan experience in Iraq”[vii] were the exact words of Iran’s President Khatami, but the proposal ended up being sidelined when the White House decided to singlehandedly (albeit leading the western coalition including UK’s Tony Blair) get rid of Iraq’s dictator. When considering the surrounding situation and common history of Iran and Iraq one must come across a thought that the subsequent occupation might have gone better if Iran and other neighbouring nations were allowed to actively participate. After all the two countries in majority adhere to Shia type of Islam and great deal of history. Looking back at Clinton’s politics of compromise and regional cooperation I must state a conviction that had his administration been in power the political vacuum and general state of disarray that currently controls the region could have been prevented or at least lessened.

To not think that changes in political views and discords between administrations apply only to the United States one must also briefly look at one of the prevalent issues within the European Union itself. As presented by The Economist in an article called “Stop the Music”[viii] European system of countries acting as presidents with each country reigning only 6 months has grown grossly impractical. When the Union had but just a few members the rotating presidency might have made sense, but currently it only contributes to the general confusion when countries use their terms to uproot each other policies as in the Spanish case (Spain allegedly caused delays in discussions on banking supervision to avoid exposing flaws in its own banking system)[ix]

 

After examining progress, setbacks and influences that the Clinton and Bush administrations underwent, a clear connection between “us” and “them” remains to be made. As the famous Edward Lorenz’s butterfly effect, the idea that a butterfly flapping its wings can change the weather on the other side of the world, the war in Iraq may still have a profound influence even on things so seemingly unrelated as possible toppling of Angela Merkel in Germany or the thoughts United Kingdom has had about exiting the European Union. The destabilization of Iraq has likely caused the destabilization of the whole region and subsequently ignited the wave of refugees fleeting from the region towards better pastures in Europe from not just war-related, but also economic reasons. In just few months this wave sparked ferocious debates about the very foundation of the Union and other systems like the Schengen system. In 2003 when reading the news about the inauguration of George W. Bush Angela Merkel surely did not think that it might be something that could threaten her own political existence. Not only the citizens of the United States of America, but we, the citizens of Europe, and the globe should care and have an opinion on who sits in the Oval Office, because it matters who is in charge.

[i]Bill Clinton: Foreign Affairs’, Miller Center of Public Affairs, University of Virginia. [website] (Accessed 4 February 2016), http://millercenter.org/president/biography/clinton-foreign-affairs

[ii]Bill Clinton: Foreign Affairs’, Miller Center of Public Affairs, University of Virginia. [website] (Accessed 4 February 2016), http://millercenter.org/president/biography/clinton-foreign-affairs

[iii] William J. Clinton, ‘Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States’, Bk.2, 1994, p. 1795

[iv] Bruce O. Riedel, ‘The Clinton Administration’, The Iran Primer, United States Institute of Peace [website], http://iranprimer.usip.org/resource/clinton-administration (accessed 4 February 2016)

[v] Stephen J. Hadley, ‘The George W. Bush Administration’, The Iran Primer, United States Institute of Peace [website], http://iranprimer.usip.org/resource/george-w-bush-administration (accessed on 4 February 2016)

[vi] Stephen J. Hadley, ‘The George W. Bush Administration’, The Iran Primer, United States Institute of Peace [website], http://iranprimer.usip.org/resource/george-w-bush-administration (accessed on 4 February 2016)

[vii] ‘Iran and the West, The Man who Changed the World’, Part 3, [online video], 2009, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Afv4-gd7Cjc (accessed on 4 February 2016)

[viii] ‘Stop the Music’, The Economist 9 January 2016, Available from http://www.economist.com [website] (accessed 4 February 2016)

[ix] ‘Stop the Music’, The Economist 9 January 2016, Available from http://www.economist.com [website], (accessed 4 February 2016)

 

The Hip Father Francis

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Hi everyone,

Pope Francis has been moving the world and although I, myself, am not Christian, the Catholic Church is a force to be reckoned with, so I thought I would look into what have these guys (literally) been up to.

The Pope has published a new teaching and since it is over 250 pages it is probably safe to call it a book (though not THE book). It is called “The Joy of Love” and it has a lot to say about sex, marriage and divorce (surely speaking from personal experience). Some of the main points include acceptance of divorcees to the Church, acknowledgment of alternate lifestyles and I dare to say a call for moderate modernisation of the Church. That all sounds great, however, it also clearly rejects the institution of same-sex institutional marriage and condemnation of the notion “safe sex”. Some of it seems quite contradictory, so for heaven’s sakes (pun intended) what is happening in the Catholic Church right now.

In my humble opinion the Pope has much more radical personal views than what he can reasonably say out loud. There has been an incident during his visit to the US that is illustrating that well. While there he met with his former student who happens to be gay and his partner. The private meeting was requested by the student and the Pope seemed more than happy to accept (there was some hugging involved I hear). At the same time during the same visit, one of the Catholic cardinals set up a meeting with Kim Davis (i.e. radical anti-gay public servant) which the Pope was not so happy about and soon after the cardinal was transferred.

To draw an analogy from this incident to the Church, it looks like the Pope would like to push for a more substantial change in the structure, but also must concede too the old school clergy that is very much in power of the administration. It is like a marriage of reason. The administration needs to improve their image and boost decaying Christianity around the world and the Pope wants to make a real change. Given enough time and opportunity he even might achieve that.

Lastly let’s also note that while the Pope is famous and popular, his voice doesn’t hold much sway in Protestant communities and various sects around the world that amount to roughly 40% of all Christians. Most importantly it is mainly those sects that perpetuate the hatred produced by people like Kim Davis.

Michael

APOSTOLIC EXHORTATION PUBLICATION

Other articles you might be interested in :

The American problem with NATO https://thinknewsblog.wordpress.com/2016/04/18/the-american-problem-with-nato/

The Chinese distrust of Xi-topia https://thinknewsblog.wordpress.com/2016/04/10/the-chinese-distrust-of-xi-topia/