Things are happening for a reason

“Things are happening for a reason”  my auntie Eftalia was saying to soothe us when we were under pain or discomfort due to life’s unlucky circumstances. Until she died and she took her secret with her. We never found out what was this bloody reason for our occasional incidences of suffering throughout the years.

This age of austerity brings to my mind the famous auntie’s phrase, there must be a reason for all this suffering and I think, I have unlocked the secret code for the reason of the austerity.

 

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If there weren’t austerity how some anonymous would be able to buy Picasso’s “messy” painting to show off in their private drawing rooms and take immense satisfaction not so much from the view of the picture but from their glimpse in the surprised and envious faces of their visitors, in other words to satisfy his/her “Vanity Unlimited”?

If there weren’t austerity how  London would be able to be a no-no city for the middle class families-let alone the lower middle class- with an average salary?

If there weren’t austerity how could be able the global élite to exist – born rich, bankers, hi-tech internet wizard kids et al. – meet up all together at the exclusive resorts of Switzerland   and discuss about the hazards of the increasing gap between rich and poor either people or countries?

If there weren’t austerity how could be able the bankers to go from strength to strength and support the super power Merkel’s party? It’s what the Greeks say “κράτα με να σε κρατώ ν’ ανεβούμε στο βουνό – holding me tight to climb up to the mountain”.

If there weren’t austerity how then a leftist party would be able to come into power  in the most strangled by the austerity country, Greece? If there weren’t austerity maybe the Left wouldn’t never have the opportunity to reconsider its role and value  in the society and how to serve the needs of the real people. The Left has been haunted by its past, they weren’t able to see through and serve the needs of the ordinary people. It’s in the human soul the need to excel and make something better and yes, we (human beings) are not all the same and for that reason we have to give  a sort of platform to stand to those who are less fortunate in terms of intelligence, resources and cunningness.   It’s a big breakthrough what it’s happening at the moment for the role of the Left and Socialist in the society despite the huge attempt to strangle every effort of the Syriza’s leaders. The party leaders are a kind of traitors for the insiders – the well off, the cowards, the suspicious and scared Greeks – and the outsiders (the well off leaders of Europe).

The Greek Finance Minister with all his faults and weakness  with his comment “I cannot sign something that it will be disastrous for the Greeks” in the latest negotiation with the Eurogroup adds  a moral value in the human relationships and signals the importance of the innate human moral compass.

I cannot agree more with what Antonio Munoz Molina said “I have spent a great deal of my life being part of minorities. Some of the people I admire the most in the world have had the courage to defend, against wind and tide, minority viewpoints in those frightening times when any disagreement with universal conformity is identified as treason.”

 

 

The Economic Man

Who cooked Adam Smith’s Dinner?  Katrine Marcal’s rhetorical question and her book title give her the opportunity to challenge and illuminate the economics in relation to feminism and by extension to the weaker group of people and societies.

She writes that Adam Smith told us the story  of why free markets were the best way to create an efficient economy. The self-interest of one and all ensures that the whole comes together.  It’s not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their interest. You can trust self-interest. Self Interest is inexhaustible, this is  the ‘Invisible hand’ which looks after all.

With this notion the economic man was born into the new age. Just like Robinson Crusoe, economic man was a modern entrepreneur who freed himself from old, irrational oppressions. He determined his life and let others determine theirs. He was highly capable. Work has no intrinsic value, but if you’re going to get anywhere, you have to do it. He makes goals, fights to achieve them, ticks them off and moves on.  The world’s resources are limited. And he admires those who succeed.
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Emotion, altruism, thoughtfulness, solidarity are not part of his character. For economic man there’s no childhood, no dependencies and no society that affects him. Rational, selfish and divorced from his environment. Alone on an island or alone in society, it doesn’t matter. There is no society, only mass of individuals.

 Since Adam Smith’s time, the theory about economic man has hinged on someone else standing for care, thoughtfulness and dependency. Economic man stands for reason and freedom precisely because someone else stands for the opposite. The world can be said to be driven by self-interest because there’s another world that is driven by something else. And these two worlds must be kept apart. The masculinity by itself. The feminine by itself.

If you want to be part of the story of economics you have to be like economic man. You have to accept this version of masculinity. At the same time, what we call economics is always built on another story. Everything that is excluded so the economic man can be who he is.  Somebody has to be emotion , so he can be reason. Somebody has to be body, so he doesn’t have to be. Somebody has to be dependent, so he can be independent. Somebody has to be tender, so he can conquer the world. Somebody has to be self-sacrificing, so he can be selfish.

Somebody has to prepare that steak so Adam Smith can say their labour doesn’t matter.

But Adam Smith only succeeded in answering half of the fundamental question of economics and it was quite convenient  answer for the economic man of our days . He didn’t get his dinner only because the tradesmen served their own self-interest but because his mother made sure it was on the table every evening.  Today the economic is not built only with “invisible hand” but also it is built with “invisible heart”.-

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The economic man show emotions!

We cannot move on without young people

The phrase “think globally, act locally” has been used by different groups such as environmentalist and business executives to care or build something locally and move later to global growth.  But now the Millennials, the generation  born between  1982 and 2003 , around the world are giving the phrase an entirely new meaning as they pursue their efforts to change the world and most of the times putting their own life at risk. The latter is the proof of the sincerity of their actions. They are risking even their own life in order to achieve what they believe is good not only for themselves but also for the society where they belong. The examples are bold and global :

images-1Malala in Pakistan :  The  Pakistani schoolgirl who stood up to the Taliban and defended her right to an education. Malala was brave and her fight was more straightforward. She was a female in underdeveloped country and she was fighting for education against Taliban. People in the West were eager to support her and to encourage the rest by giving her the Nobel prize of peace.

cd6a04e2-7cb0-11e4-9a86-00144feabdc0Joshua Wong in Hong Kong : The most radical of Hong Kong protesters to secure democracy. He went on hunger strike to urge the government to hold talks on Beijing political reforms. He wrote.”The people of my generation want what everybody else in an advanced society seems to have : a say in our future. And on twitter : “Fanny Law : Please tell your friend, he can move to a place without the Communist party, but he cannot move to a place without young people”. His supporters say “his movement succeeded because the students now have the fire of democracy burning in their  heart which will not be quenched by the iron fist of Beijing”.

assets_LARGE_t_420_54161256Nikos Romanos  in Greece : the young boy who was only 15 years old  when his friend was murdered in cold blood by a policeman  and died in his arms  in the centre of Athens. He is labeled as an  anarchist and according to his own view and letters to the public he accepts this role.  At the moment, he is in the prison and on hunger strike demanding educational leave in order to continue his studies. Nikos Romanos has more difficult role and status. He is struggling with an unknown combatant. He cannot articulate enough his struggle  because of his youth and the tricky environment he is in. He lives in a democratic country in the West where the bankocracy,  which goes hand in hand with  kleptocracy and  corruption, is the real master. Nonetheless, he managed to move more than 10.000 people , who marched in the centre of Athens, two days ago, in order to support him and his demands.

Despite the sadness and anxiety I had and have for the life of the above kids, I cannot hide my admiration for their Courage. And I can say  for sure that our future will be much brighter than we think.

Semipalatinsk: City With A Past

Kazakhstan is not only Astana or Almaty, it’s a huge country with innumerable cities and towns. Semey  is in the northeastern province of East Kazakhstan and in the Kazakhstan part of Siberia near the border with Russian Federation. Semey, during the Soviet Union era, was called Semipalatinsk and for sure isn’t a new brand city as Astana . It’s a city with past and a complicated one.  Very close to the city centre of Semey,  there is a small town “Kurchatov” one of the dozen “closed towns” of Soviet Union. They were known only for the post boxes. Kurchatov was Semipalatinsk-21. It was site of nuclear power. The Soviets use all the nuclear weapons in this site.

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Arriving in Semipalatinsk and stepping out from the airport hall there is a big label : “We are open for our friends”

Some years ago this area was closed. Movement in and out of the cities was restricted and entry was forbidden to foreigners.

“It was Lavrenti Beria, the ruthless head of Stalin’s secret police, who chose the location in the depths of Siberia for the Soviet Union’s nuclear testing programme and ordered the town of Kurchatov to be built-using gulag labour” to house its scientists. During a test of one particular powerful bomb, in 1953, the authorities evacuated villagers and livestock.But not everyone was evacuated. The Soviet scientists left a group of 40 men behind as human guinea pigs. Infant mortality increased four times of the level of the rest of the Soviet Union. Today, residents still have a life expectancy that is several years lower that in the rest of the country” Secret cities of the steppes, Jack Farchy, Ft weekend magazine, sept 6/7,2014.

 

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The park in the city centre of Semey.

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Abay museum, the national poet of Kazakhstan.

 

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City centre.  A war memorial.

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Semey, as part of Kazakhstan Siberia, is quite cold place, the temperature is around to -48 C during Winter but probably without Astana’s winds.

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The city has a major university.

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Binar hotel in the city centre. picmonkey_image

 

Semipalatinsk was the place of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s exile for five years and it was depicted in the various books of Dostoyevsky including  “The Brothers karamazov”

Personally, I had a lovely time there with my Kazakh friends and a major event, a veritable Kazakh wedding!

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Joseph O’Neill and Me : A Common Ground

Who would have thought that Joseph O’Neill and I share common ground? When some years ago, I read his best seller book “Netherland” which I found superb – every sentence was a quote – I visualised him as an Irish  golden boy, Cambridge graduate,  high flyer lawyer in New York and the cherry on top, global bestselleristas.

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When I met him at the presentation of his new book “the Dog”  my first thought was “here we are, my cousin Kostas from Greece has changed identity”. His black hair, an Irish characteristic as well but in combination with his average height  and his gestures  were more from my own part of the world than that of Anglo Saxons.

With the combination of what he said to the audience and the small talk I had with him I realised our similarities are more than what I was expecting. His mother is from the Black Sea region (Turkey), the same with my mother’s family and both of us we had moved around the globe so much – sometimes  perhaps we had overlapped somewhere between Athens, London, Bath, Dresden, Dublin, New York, Amsterdam, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Astana…  that we feel totally displaced and we enjoy it thoroughly! His last book “the Dog” is about Dubai the land of expats- the quintessential displaced people.

And in his own words – the interview he gave at Paris Review: “I’ve moved around so much and lived in so many different places that I don’t really belong to a particular place, and so I have little option but to seek out dramatic situations that I might have a chance of understanding. Hence Dubai: Dubai is an expat center…Before Netherland, I didn’t know how to approach that sense of chronic displacement. It took me a while to realize it was a huge story, the sense of not belonging, as you put it—of pretty much never being in a position to say, These people and I are the same. You could write a thousand novels about it and it wouldn’t get old, because it’s such an essential part of what it is to be human—that idea of where, if anywhere, you fit in, in the so-called scheme of things. And how does the world work? A lot of novels might inform you about how a character gets on with his Auntie, but they won’t necessarily tell you where the characters stand in relation to the world. I’m interested in putting characters in places where the world order is changing, and changing in a particular way. The word globalization grunts into view, here, along with post-nationalism, another brute.”

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O’Neill as all the writers have an issue with publishing their books and sometimes it’s just perfect luck. He says about his book “Netherland” : “Then my luck changed. It could change again. That’s the way it is. My job is to keep writing.”

And our job is  to keep reading- isn’t it?