Wednesday, December 23, 2015

"On Spain, Greece, Italy and our plans for a European movement to democratise the EU" – Interviewwith Yanis Varoufakis in L’Espresso

"The plan is simple: To launch, in early February, a pan-European movement with a single, radical objective: To democratise the EU! 

To form a movement that seeks to harness the energy of pro-European radical critics of Brussels and Frankfurt in order to prevent the disintegration of the EU. 

In short, to show that there is a third alternative to the calamitous ‘choice’ between: (a) those who want to return to the cocoon of the nation-state, and (b) those who accept the authoritarian, ineffective policies of the deeply anti-democratic EU institutions."

Read more here.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Immigrants and The Vote in Spain

Young people at a demonstration
With the Spanish election tomorrow these words are particularly relevant...

"An article about how the foreigners living in Spain (better than four million of us) are ignored by the politicians. It's not just that we don't have the vote (and thus, some influence), it's that the politicians are frightened about giving us any attention as it could cost them domestic votes. A quote from an immigrant association in Madrid: "This campaign has not mentioned the foreigners (4.4 million of us live in Spain). There has been nothing, neither good nor bad, said about us. We simply do not exist. Could we generate votes? Not from Immigrants. If someone speaks up for us, then Society disagrees. In our association we have already received several 'threats' and we have been left messages on the door showing that immigrants are to blame for all ills, even for the corruption of the parties."

Translated from an article in El Diario, courtesy of the highly informative Business Over Tapas.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

"Hungary Adds a Flashy Website and a Lawsuit to Its Anti-Refugee Arsenal"

"Image by hvg.hu. The text reads: “The compulsory resettlement quota INCREASES THE RISK OF TERRORISM! On average one illegal immigrant arrives to Europe every 12 seconds. We don’t know who they are or what their intentions are. We don’t know how many are undercover terrorists.”

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"Throughout 2015, unprecedented numbers of refugees have flowed into Europe. Relying on informal channels and sheer luck, those fleeing war and persecution are finding either helping hands and warm welcomes or barbed wire fences and insurmountable bureaucratic obstacles upon arrival.
 
The European Union has shown itself to be largely unprepared to adequately deal with influx, and proposed solutions have come up against leaders who prefer to do nothing or drum up fear and xenophobia in their own countries to gain political leverage. 

Hungary has been particularly vocal about its anti-refugee stance, misleading the public with a national consultation that equated migration with terrorism and a nationwide fear-mongering billboard campaign.
 
But Hungarian authorities aren't done yet. 

The government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his Fidesz party have announced plans for its next billboard campaign, this time specifically against the EU-proposed plan to resettle refugees in so-called frontline countries like Italy and Greece across the continent. 

The first billboards of the campaign, which will cost around 380 million forint (around 1.2 million euros) of taxpayers’ money, are up, and full-page adverts pushing the government's arguments have already run in large national dailies.
 
On December 3, 2015, Hungary also launched a legal challenge to the EU’s refugee relocation plan. Last month, it debuted an aggressive petition against the EU's proposed measures as well. Stands have popped up on the streets, run by ill-prepared activists promoting fabricated numbers and racists opinions (video in Hungarian). 

According to official sources, around 900,000 to 1 million signatures have been collected so far.
 
The petition can also be signed online via an official government website rife with factual inaccuracies.

Read more at source: Global Voices, here.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

"Conversus interruptus" - My latest opinion column for Catalonia Today magazine

Selective semi-listening. Fading in and out of the conversation. Attention-divided syndrome. Texting while talking. Missing the point. Ignorance-bliss. Even not paying attention to your own words when you are the one speaking them.

"Is that my mobile ringing?"
“Were you just saying saying something about something?”

I propose a new verb: keywording. = to only notice a few key words in someone’s spoken sentence. Eg.”Are you keywording me?” [ie. Are you only half-hearing me?]
Politicians and PR people have been doing a similar thing (but intentionally) in the media for years: answering the question that they want to answer rather than the one that has actually been asked.
It is becoming just as common in daily life to go about keywording eachother. The best laid ideas can just float away unheeded.

When we stop paying genuine attention to each we stop paying attention to the words used by those who govern us. So when we hear the word "austerity" we accept it instead of realising what it really means: our elected representatives selling parts of public hospitals to private comapnies so they can profit from our illness. We hear the words "budgetary responsibility" and we don't stop to think that it means continuing to allow tax evasion for the richest and their businesses while public servants salaries are slashed.

As George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) the Irish playwright and essayist once wrote, ""The problem with communication is the illusion that it has occurred."

Re-reading the great Primo Levi’s “The Reawakening” a while ago I was reminded like a glass of ice water in the face that we have this human need to be understood. And when I say ‘understood’ I don’t just mean comprehended through language. I mean in an empathetic sense of the word: to be heard, to be understood well, and to be recognized as speaking important truths – important because they are human experiences that must be felt and genuinely identified with, by fellow humans.

My own struggles with communicating in a second language are tiny compared to Levi’s fear that his accounts of his year in Auschwitz’s Nazi concentration camp would be ignored or not believed.

But I want to live my life (and hope others will too) with Terentius’ maxim of: Homo sum: humani nil a me alienum puto. In…

English: I am a human being, so nothing human is strange to me.
Catalan: Sóc un ésser humà; això fa que rés humà em sigui aliè.
Castilian Spanish: Hombre soy, nada humano me es ajeno .

In other words, a great variety of human experience always has at least something that we can relate to. Live as a good listener and a verbaliser because that is the ideal for full and best communication, I try to regularly tell myself. I know this has been one of the strongest mutual reasons for my relationship with my partner (wife) enduring and thriving for more than twenty years.


[This article was first published in Catalonia Today magazine, December 2015.]