Yesterday while I was working on a jigsaw puzzle, I kept trying to remember which song they used to make into a Christmas song in Love, actually.

I didn't remember, but in the process Do they know it's Christmas came to my mind. Which got me thinking about development aid. Pondering that subject a bit, I came up with the following rant.

The problem of development aid as it is done is that it is not based on a sound theory.
It goes something like this:

Enlightened Man* discovers that there is a Rest of the World. And that this Rest of the World does not profit from all the fancy things Enlightened Man has, like electricity, cars, diet Coke and McDonalds. Even worse, nowadays, is the realisation that the Rest of the World does have stuff like pollution and global warming, still without all the benefits Enlightened Man has.
So Enlightened Man decides that his Judeo-Christian ethics require helping the Rest of the World.

And Enlightened Man gives money to the countries of the Rest of the World, and sleeps easily at night, knowing he is Good, all is well, and the scar doesn't hurt anymore.

After a while, Enlightened Man gets tired of giving money away to others, and comes up with a bunch of very good things on which to spend the money himself. So he looks at the Rest of the World sharply and tells them to get a grip on themselves. Rest of the World, ungraciously, stares back and says "How?" Ungrateful buggers. So Enlightened Man takes his money and goes sulking, then after a while looks up and sees that Rest of the World is still there and in pretty much the same condition as before. Prompted by his ethics as above, Enlightened Man decides to give in and gives them money again, knowing that he is indeed very good.

Obviously this will never get any results. Because there is a fundamental flaw, which is the lack of specific aim.
Development aid should work somewhat like the following line of thought, which is of course purely theoretical, but I am in full political opposition mode and we all know that political oppositions don't need to have feasible ideas as long as they voice their criticism of the government actions with enough sarcasm or in simple enough words for the man on the street to understand.

So, let's assume I was Enlightened Man and had just noticed Rest of the World.
I want to do something about Rest of the World, because my Christian upbringing and history makes me feel uncomfortable at the thought that people are starving. I could starve myself out of sympathy, but that doesn't really have such a great effect on the world in general, let alone on my own comfort, so the next logical step would be to feed Rest of the World.
But wait, once I feed them, what happens then?
So I start thinking: What do I want for the Rest of the World?
I want them to not starve, okay. I also want them to not stand on my doorstep, because let's face it, this whole philantropy thing is much easier if the people in question are a bit further away. Thirdly, I know I won't want to pay for them for ever and ever. I chuck out my kids when they are adults to fight for themselves, I certainly will be doing the same with whole countries.
So I need to take a good look at Rest of the World and figure out what needs to be done so they
a) won't starve
b) stay where they are
and c) won't need my money anymore in the near future

Now, there are a number of things I can find when examining Rest of the World. Maybe there is an evil religious leader who tells them that everything I do is evil and that I need to be killed. Maybe there is a megalomaniac ruler who takes the money I intend to give to his people and uses it to build a great big bomb, or gild his toilet seats
So I look at my aims and realise that to reach them, I would first have to get rid of the evil religious leader or the megalomaniac ruler. Which would mean a war, or at least a raid, which is messy and also might cost votes lives - other than those of the evil religious leader / megaomaniac ruler, whose lives obviously don't matter.
So I evaluate my aims, and reconcile them with what I am willing to invest.

If at the end of this process I come to the conclusion that all I am willing to do is give them money and let them do whatever they want with it, I cannot blame anybody afterwards if what I end up with is an evil religious leader who has a spiffy TV station to blare at his starving population that it's all my fault. I cannot blame anybody but myself if I end up with a megalomanical ruler who aims his great big bomb at my living room while sitting on his gilded toilet seat cackling evilly.

If I claim surprise at the sudden appearance of megalomaniac ruler, it only shows that I didn't do my research well. Megalomaniac rulers (and evil religious leaders) don't usually appear out of the blue. A good pointer is when somebody offers to kill his neighbouring megalomaniac ruler to do you a favour. Rule of thumb: do not trust anybody who kills his neighbours if you pay him for it. Sooner or later somebody will pay him more.

* As this is an equal opportunities rant, I don't give a damn if Englightened Man is Enlightened Woman
Even though the subtitles aren't all that good, I'm linking this video anyway because I've wanted to share it for a while now.

But that wasn't what I wanted to say.
On the 19th, eight Indians were attacked by a large crowd of Germans, 50, if the reports are to be believed. They tried to get shelter in the pizza place one of them owns, but the mob broke through the door. Racist paroles were reportedly shouted, and a large crowd looked on during what resulted in four injured Indians and two injured Germans. (Main facts and some links on Wikipedia here)

thoughts on Mügeln and other attacks )

Are we better now? Did we learn anything? Was Mügeln the same as Rostock, just on a smaller scale?

Am I guilty of playing down the incident because I claim it was not as racist as the media made it appear?

What would be the best thing to do? Is there even a foolproof way of dealing with this?

I wish I knew.
So, the Polish government thinks they should be allowed to add the deaths of the Second World War to their population when it comes to determining their influence in the European Union.
They have been stalling the process of agreeing on a European Constitution for weeks as they are pretty much the only country in the Union that doesn't like the system that has been created to make sure that neither can the big countries overrule the small ones nor vice versa. The idea basically is that it takes both a majority country-wise as and a majority population-wise to ensure that decisions made really are in the best interest of everybody.

Poland's latest idea amounts to something like this: if it hadn't been for the many deaths in WWII, the Polish population would be about twice it's size, therefore they should have a greater influence.

Many, many politicians and commentators almost fell off their chairs laughing.

Now, there were a number of comments read in the International Press Review of a major German news station, but the one that took the cake was from the French newspaper Le Progrès.

This is the original comment:
Vive la Pologne ! Si elle n'était déjà dans l'Union, il faudrait l'inviter d'urgence à Bruxelles, au Conseil. Car la Pologne assure le spectacle, avec ses jumeaux Kaczynski - Lech et Jaroslaw, têtes de poupon et entêtement de vieillard. A ce Conseil s'est déplacé Lech, qu'on dit plus conciliant, mais comme nul ne parvient à les distinguer. La Pologne nous est indispensable surtout parce qu'elle nous ressemble : dévoreuse de subventions agricoles, jalouse de la puissance allemande, très chatouilleuse sur sa fierté nationale. Mais nouvelle venue dans le club, elle fait tout avec excès, sans les formes façon Quai d'Orsay. A côté de la Pologne, la France apparaît ainsi modérée, raisonnable, coopérative, en un mot européenne. Et tout le monde oublie que si l'Europe en est là, au fond du trou, c'est à cause du « non » français. Il est vrai motivé par la peur du plombier polonais


My French isn't nearly good enough to translate this into English, but fortunately I got to listen to the German version, so I can at least give you parts of it (I am assuming that "Vive la Pologne" is pretty self-explaining):

If [Poland] wasn't already in the Union, they'd have to be invited to the summit in Brussel. Because Poland provides the spectacle, with the Kaczynski twins, Lech and Jaroslaw ...
Poland is irreplacable for is, mainly because they resemble us: eating up agricultural subventions, jealous of the German power, very sensitive where national pride is concerned. But the new arrival in the club, Poland takes everything too far, without the style of the Quai d'Orsay [the French foreign ministry]. Next to Poland, France seems moderate, reasonable, cooperative, in one word, European. And all the world forgets that Europe is in this mess because of the French "no" to the costitution...

Now, the funny thing is that this is true.
To Germany, France felt almost as isolationist as Great Britain, only less open with it. And now suddenly it's Poland that's blocking everything and France can lie back and shake their wise head with the rest of the European Union.

I got a good laugh out of this driving home from work.

Note: Nothing in this post is intended to hurt the feelings of any nationality. If you are Polish or feel pissed on the behalf of the Polish because I'm laughing my head off at the crazy ideas of the brothers Kaczinsky, sorry, but I'm entitled to have my opinion even if it means laughing like crazy about your opinion. After all, you're perfectly free to voice your own and laugh back.
So, Sri Lanka threw more than 300 Tamils out of the capital because they had been staying there for six months, had no job and no valid reason to be there.

*scratches head*

Go to any given capital of the world and find out how many of the unemployed people have a real reason for being there. If you'd send them all packing, we probably wouldn't have any really huge cities left in the world.

Back in 1990, the Tamil rebel group kicked out Muslims from an island inhabitated mostly by Tamils, so the ethnic cleansing goes around in circles.

If they keep it up, they might end up actually seperating into two different countries, but then of course they would start complaining that the greener grass on the other side of the fence always used to belong to them and besides, the others are all evil and what other logical arguments are usually provided for killing each other off.

Now, I can understand that the government wants to keep things like suicide bombings in check, they have every right to do so.
It is the choice of means that I doubt.

(Article here. And you better hope that the ss/hg exchange publishes a long story, or I'll keep on pestering you like this.)


Jun. 2nd, 2007 09:26 am
I just noticed that apparently our chancellor Angela Merkel is viewed quite favorably abroad.
It seems that politicians and journalists both in Europe and in other countries think she's doing quite a good job, and that was rather odd to notice because it surely doesn't seem as if she's appreciated in Germany.

But when I think about it more, I did notice the number of cartoons and comments making fun of her hair or looks or dialect has gone down. Which probably is as close to an appreciation of her work as people here can get.

I think they're still not quite used to having a female chancellor.
I've been recently reading several things on the news that puzzle or irritate me.
Start with the biggest thing - the killings in Virginia.
Now that the video has been unearthed, the newspapers blame all and sundry for not noticing earlier that the guy was about to blow and should have been locked up. While there certainly was evidence of that fact, it is kind of hard to put all the signs together. It isn't as if he was the only student ever to complain that everybody hates him and to profess his hatred of the world. Comparing himself to Jesus is absolutely crazy, IMNSHO. He says with his death he wants to make a point like Jesus did. Well, but Jesus didn't kill 32 other people before he died. And his message wasn't exactly "I hate the world and now you'll pay!"
Also, apparently if there were more weapons in the US, this wouldn't have happened. Because if a student starts shooting others, it is clearly the best solution for all students to have guns.
Sure, a student with a gun could have stopped the guy. A student with a gun could also kill 32 others, as has just been proven.

Also in the news, the case of Emilio Gonzales. Now that is tricky.
In Germany, it is almost impossible to make sure you are not kept alive indefinitely by machines. Even if you make a will stating you don't want doctors to keep you alive, they are not bound by that, it's their own choice.
I have an organ donor's pass and sincerely hope that the possibility to get their hands on a bunch of organs in really good condition will make the doctors switch off the machines if I'm dead.
That said, it comes as no surprise that I think the hospital is right to want to let the child die. Probably they do it because of the money. But even aside from that issue, what is supposed to happen? The child can't breathe, he can't eat, he can't communicate. If it wasn't for the machines, he would be dead.
In one newspaper, his mother was quoted as saying she wants him to die naturally. Well, how is he supposed to do that? His being alive now is not natural.
I know it's easy enough for me to say that, as Emilio is no more than a name and a picture for me, I'm not his family. But I think it would be better if they would let him go.

Yesterday I heard a report about one of the French candidates for the president's office. That guy used the coalition that is governing Germany right now as an example! His point is that instead of dividing themselves up in left and right, they should work together, like the Germans forced their two major parties to work together. "La France de toutes les forces", I believe was his slogan.
That's very interesting and a little funny. In Germany, many people see the coalition of the two largest parties as a failure and say they never wanted it. They say that nothing gets done and the government lacks a distinct profile.
It's interesting to see how others view an internal situation. It would probably be a good idea to get other's input regularly, just because we ourselves tend to be too close to see the big picture. If you're staring at a single spot of bark on the trunk, you will never notice if the tree's growing.

On a probably less serious note, Germany's finally managed to be top in something! We are officially the fattest Europeans, even beating the Brits in that. 3 out of 4 men and 50% of the women are overweight or obese. *applause*
Keep going like this and we'll beat the Americans at the game.
Also, isn't it good that we don't have kids anymore and vast areas are more or less deserted because nobody wants to live there? We might yet need the room simply to move.

Not quite as breathtaking as that: I finished moving the journals yesterday. Now my hands are raw and it seems I can't get the dust off, my face feels as if I've been scrubbing a brush over it - my skin doesn't really like prolonged contact with dust, and some of the journals hadn't been touched in years, probably decades.
I am now ready to start on cataloguing the donations. I still need to move some of the books again to use up the available space - there will be lots of free space on the shelves but then I inted to fill that with new books soon - and then we're set.
That is, if the organisation that is supposed to sell our old journals will finally get cooking and we can get our storage room back for use. We have parts of shelves, almost two bookcarts full of stuff we're going to archive (school history for future generations) and general things we need to keep to put in there.
I also need to send our server to Bonn to get repaired, and then it has to be set up in what used to be the minion's office and is now going to be another storage room.

Next week, I think I'll have to scrub the floors where there used to be shelves. There are distinct dirty marks on the floor and the cleaning person does so bad a job she usually doesn't even pick up the "normal" dirt. This is a task that requires getting down on hands and knees and doing some scrubbing, and she would never do that. It would be of no use if she tried, she moves in slow motion anyway and in the time it would take her to get down on her knees, the library would likely have evolved into a self-cleaning organism.
So, with these plans in mind, I can't help thinking of what one of the soldiers always asks me: Was it really worth it to go to Uni for this?

I'm on vacation!
That was rather tricky. The captain wasn't at work last week and the sergeant said he'd put my application for leave on his desk. But the sergeant apparently signed it himself, so when I asked the captain whether he had agreed, he had no idea what I was talking about and was thoroughly pissed that nobody had told him.
Later, the sergeant came over to tell us that the captain told him to leave everything to him in the future as he was the head of the department and all that.
Okay, but
a) the captain tends to be absent more than present
b) the sergeant is his deputy.
So what's the big deal? Are we supposed to wait for months at a time before we know if we're allowed to take a vacation because he's off skiing somewhere? Idiot!
And he's a horrible boss at that. After three months of not being here, you'd think he would make a tour around his department to see how things are going. But no such thing! I've never seen him once since he's come back. I probably see the major and our general more often than I see the captain. The major at least comes up to the library regularly to see how we're doing, and the general drops in if he's in the building. Yet my immediate superior can't find the time. What's wrong with that picture?

Anyway, I'm home to do a bit of dog- and dad-sitting. Keep them fed and happy.
I'll also take the opportunity to buy a few last things from IKEA, and I also need some summer shirts or blouses, something a bit more professional than a regular t-shirt yet light and airy so I can wear it at 35° Celsius in the library.
I watched The Mummy Returns yesterday.

It is wrong to think that the mummy is teh hawt? At least once he's got his flesh and skin back.

Honestly, even when I watched the first movie I thought that it was just Arnold Vosloo and Oded Fehr that made it worth while in the eye candy part. And John Hannah because he's funny and kinda cute and even though I watched the movies in German just knowing he has that amazing accent makes it nice to see him.

Brendan Fraser - How could a man with a face like that be considered sexy? He looks dumb all the time!
So yeah, it's Arnold Vosloo, definitely. Though he did lose in my esteem a little in the end because of this whole dying because his girlfriend doesn't want to save him thing. But once said girlfriend was killed by the bugs - yeah!
Imhotep's bugs again - see you in part III!


In other news, there was a bit of cool accent on the radio this morning when they aired a snipped of a speech of the head of Sinn Fein. Okay, so it's harder to understand than what I usually hear, but it sounds so fantastic!

What is it with me an accents, anyway?

Though, more seriously, and not about the accent as the content of the speech - conflicts like this in Northern Ireland usually sound absolutely silly for those who don't take part in it.
You just sit there and read or hear about it and go "And that's what you kill each other for? You gotta be kidding!"
We talked about the conflict in Northern Ireland in school, the historical side of it. And ever since then, when I hear of the Orangemen marching through some Catholic neighbourhood, I can't help thinking that it's totally childish.
You're celebrating a victory that was how long ago? And you go through these streets to brag about it?? Please!! How old are you, five?
Not that the Catholic side has been acting very much grown-up, either.

We'll see what happens next.

Though IIRC, Sinn Fein only represents a part of the IRA - didn't a group split of a few years ago because they didn't want to accept the ceasefire?
Googlemail was so kind to link to an AskYahoo page about the well-known phrase "The American dream".

The original text by writer and historian John Truslow Adams contains the following quote:

It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.

Just saying.

Just as the Declaration of Independence talks about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Not Mercedes, a fancy house in the suburbs and the pursuit of a great career.
I just came across this article (only in German). It has the results of a study about the political views of people in Germany.
Apparently, 26% of the 5000 people asked want one party that represents the whole national community.
35% of the people questioned in Western Germany think that foreigners only come to Germany to take advantage of our good social system. In Eastern Germany, it was even 44%.
40% of the people interviewed say there are too many foreigners.
To the statement "Jews use more dirty tricks than other people" 16% of the interviewed West Germans and 6% of the interviewed East Germans agreed.
18% of the people said that the influence of the Jews is still too big, almost 14% said Jews had something odd about them and wouldn't fit in with "us".
15% want one strong leader, 18% percent think that as in nature, there should be a "survival of the fittest".

What the ...????

And this isn't limited to people in a dire economic situation. This isn't limited to the stupid East German unemployed youth who shave off their hair and wear Lonsdale shirts because if you wear those under an open jacket people can read "nsda" on your chest which is almost "NSDAP".
People are so stupid!
Yesterday, when I left the library, I told Tobias that even though Punxsutawney* Phil said it would continue to be winter, it started feeling like spring.
Now if I say something like that, I expect a blank look as an answer. Instead, he said "then I guess it's time for somebody to kill the damn groundhog.
Me: WTF??? Don't tell me you know what I'm talking about!
Turned out he loves the movie and has watched it tons of times. Hee.

Also, this morning it was quite spring-like, even though it's drizzling a bit now.

And besides Tobias, there is another guy, Mr A. in the library right now with whom I joke around a lot. Life is good.

Got some more stuff incorporated into the text, the end is closer still. But I'm at the desk now as Katrin got this afternoon off, so no time for school history as long as there are people coming in all the time. Which is good. Back when I started working, we had times when nobody came in all day, that rarely happens these days.

Still, the library needs a real make-over before it can be as attractive as I think it should be and is possible.

Somebody sent me the pictures of the caricatures that are the grounds for the massive demonstrations, attacking of embassies and burning of flags in Arabian countries right now. And you know what - they're lame.
They aren't even funny, they're not very pointed, they're simply lame. And they are not nearly as evil as you'd expect with this sort of reaction. I mean, come on! Who cares what is in yesterday's newspaper? Nothing is as outdated as yesterday's news, and there really is no need to get so worked up about that caricature. Do we want to dig out caricatures that have been made about God, or Buddha, or any religion in the world? I am understanding, but there really is a limit to people's sensibilities.
People are effing dying because of those silly drawings. They're attacking ISAF-camps now. That's just crazy.

Anyway - let's not go into politics.
I'm having too much fun right now to let me get down because the world's gone crazy.

Mr A. just left - he's so much fun. And I swear he is slowly making his way towards asking me out. Tehee. I tell you, none of my old schoolmates would believe me if I told them that any guy would ask me out, or even talk with me for longer than absolutely necessary. But then I am not quite the person I was back in school anymore.

* I refuse to look up the spelling of that silly creature's name, but you know whom I mean.
I give up.
I've read a ton of comments to [ profile] theferrett's latest political post, and even wrote some comments myself.
Now I need to take a break and eat some ice cream. Gosh, I'll be happy when elections are over. I am getting to the point where I don't even care about who wins anymore.
In Paraguay, over 280 people were killed in a supermarket. A fire broke out and the owner, afraid of plundering , closed all entrances. (edit: not plundering, but looting. [ profile] angharad was so nice to correct me. I really appreciate that.) There weren't any fire extinguishers, apparently, so there was no way people could save themselves. The owner is imprisoned now. What kind of person is that? Did he think at all about what would become of the people locked in there? Anything people might have stolen were just things! And what is the difference in getting stuff stolen or burned, anyway? It just doesn't make sense to me.
Going into town today, I saw a car on the other side of the road. At first it looked just like any other accident, but then I saw hat the car had been burning. I wonder whether the driver got out on time. As far as I know, cars don't catch fire that easily. Not like in the action movies. So this is even more strange, as there was no other car in sight that could have been involved in the accident. The road was pretty straight there, too. Nothing special, in good condition, no heavy rain or any other kind of bad weather. It is scary to see that and not knowing what caused it.

This morning I was really upset hearing what our so dear chancellor said on his trip to Poland. He basically said that we were responsible for the war, and that all the other people were victims. OK, first, I don't agree on that question of responsibility. The way the first WW ended, it is pretty obvious from today's point of view that peace couldn't last long. Yes, the Germans did elect Hitler and yes, Hitler decided to attack Poland. But there were other things happening before that, leading to the situation. The Germans didn't just vote for Hitler becasue they didn't have anyhting else to do on a nice Sunday afternoon. They were desperate and humiliated. Hitler promised them a solution for all their problems, and such simple things as work and food. He used the basic fears of humans to reach his aim, and there are politicians today who do just the same. I'm not going to mention names, the former German minister of Justice lost her job because she did. And we don't know how many people read this. *Waving hello to everybody at the CIA*
The other thing: is a dead Polish citizen worth more than a dead German? To me, no matter what their nationality is, they are all humans. They probably had a family, they had friends and people who cared about them. Having the German chancellor say something like this is an insult to all who survived the war and have lost loved ones. The civilians who died in Dresden in 1945, was their death not that bad as that of people in Warsaw, or maybe Hiroshima and Nagasaki?
Then Schröder said he'd give up all claims of restitution of property of the Germans who have been driven out of the former East German territories at the end of the war. Who is he to do that? How nice of him to give up on rights that aren't his anyway. It's not his property he's giving away there. And don't tell me that that Polish and the Russians have put the farms to good use and it would be mean to ask them back, because they didn't. Most of the farms that have been in very good condition in 1945 are mere ruins now. And the people there just go "Oh well, it was all very nice when the Germans were here, but for some reason it all fell apart later. You German, would you like to come back?" whenever a German journalist travels that area.
Let's pretend for a moment that all the Germans living in what is now Poland and Russia were indeed big Nazis and killed every Jew, Sinti, Roma, homosexual, Russian, Polish... they could find. A convicted criminal does not lose his property. He is imprisoned and serves his sentence, and when he is set free again he can come back to his house and his land. Or if he's sentenced to death, his property falls to his heirs. So even if the landowners in East Prussia were all murderers, that still doesn't give anybody the right to take away what is theirs.
There are organizations trying to get some of the land back, land that isn't used by the current owners. But these people don't want to give it up, they are content to just own it. And politics get in the way, too.
I'm sick and tired of hearing the Germans apologize over and over again. That way, we'll never be able to start an open discussion about the war, the Nazis and what led to both. We'll just keep saying the phrases we learned, without really meaning them. And that way, we might likely end up where we've been before.
It is strange how your perception of a movie can change.
Yesterday, I watched Air Force One with Gary Oldman and Harrison Ford. I had seen it before, a few years ago when it first came out. Then I thought it to be the typical American action movie, with the certain amount of patriotism American movies seem unable to be without.
This time, in the light of the current political situation, I regarded it in a totally new light. It was downright scary to see Harrison Ford as American president talk about that they are going to fight even outside of their own borders to defend their values, that they will not wait until they are attacked. Also, there were references to Saddam Hussein in the movie. It was all so strange and somewhat scary, as if whoever wrote the story had known what would happen.
I have read that Bush likes films like Saving Private Ryan and Black Hawk Down, I wonder if he likes this movie, too.
I tried in the end to figure out how many people died, but I couldn't come up with a number.
It still is an action movie, and not a bad one either, as far as I can judge that. But it also bears more meaning than it did when I first watched it.
There are so many different things on my mind today that I couldn't even create a title for them.
For one thing, Apartheid officially ended in South Africa ten years ago.
Yeah right. Just change some laws and people won't think what they have thought for decades. So maybe there isn't a law saying that black people are not allowed to sit in the park, or ride the bus or whatever. But that doesn't mean that white South Africans stopped believing in that. It will take generations to really change. Kids have to grow up without hearing that they are more important thansomebody else just because of the color of their skin. That means that their parents and grandparents have to believe in the equality of the races, too. And that means the kids born in the last ten years most likely have to be grandparents before the end of Apartheid can be seen. And even then there will be some people who still believe that segregation is a good idea.
I can see something similar in Germany. It has been almost 50 years since the end of WWII, but there are so many people around who actually believe that Hitler was not that bad after all. That's a minority, but they still exist. Most people, though, are very careful to be politically correct. That means that in Germany, you should not say aloud that you don't like a person if that person happens to be of foreign origin. It also means that you can't critizise the politics of Israel without being called anti-Semitic.
Germans are so eager in blaming themselves for anything bad going on in the world, it would be ridiculous if it wasn't so sad. I think that habit, which also goes along with trying to be as unpatriotic as possible (some Germans are actually proud of not knowing our National Anthem), has led many young people to rebel against this way of life. Leading them closer to some old admirers of Adolf Hitler.
I guess as long as we don't start talking about Nazi times opnely and get a real discussion going, we will never be able to move on.
Maybe I just don't know about it, but I don't see a huge discussion in the USA about slavery, or in Great Britain about colonial times. So why is it that the Germans always apologize without anybody asking them to? That is no way to live in a nation. You need to develop some kind of patriotism. And German history really is much more than 1933 to 1945.

The other thing that really bothers me this morning is much less solemn.
It's a library thing again. I'm trying to search the Online Catalogue of a large public library. But I can't. Because they allow only a certain number of WWW-access at the same time. And that number is - 10.
Now how ridiculous is that? You don't allow more than 10 people to search your catalogue at the same time???
And this is the town that wanted to get the Olympic Games 2012 for Germany. Maybe it was good we lost. I guess this town would have never been able to manage that amount of people to come and visit. (Michael, I know we talked about that - now don't tell me 'Told ya so...')

I should be learning. But I don't feel like it.
I should be practicing the piece of music I want to play at my sister's wedding. But I don't feel like it.
I should do some housework. But - you might have guessed - I don't feel like it.
Oh, well, get going! Switch off the Computer and do something. Anything.
I guess I'll take my own advice for once.
I don't feel like writing anything else anyway, so it really doesn't matter.


Jun. 14th, 2004 03:23 pm
So, we had all these elections going on yesterday - and what did we learn?
Pretty much all over Europe, people voted for the parties that are currently forming the opposition in their own governments. Do they realize that there is a difference between European politics and national politics?
Stupid question to ask, I know. In my home town, we also elected the mayor. And that proved that some people are not able to differ between one man and his son. Our former mayor had resigned because of health problems. His son was running for office yesterday. Let me add that father and son do not like each other at all. The father's wife died a few days ago, and the son didn't even show up at the funeral. OK, it wasn't his mother, but it still was family!
Anyway, it is said that the son only ran to spite his father. But there were many people who just looked at the last name and voted for him, never realizing who he actually was! And my town only has something like 1700 inhabitants, you pretty much know everybody here.
OK, I admit it: the only reason why this is bugging me is that my mother ran, too. She got the most votes, but as there were three candidates, she didn't get more than 50%, and that would have been necessary to win. So we'll have another election two weeks from now, with only my Mom and the third candidate. So there still is a chance for Mom to win, but it means another two weeks of waiting.
It also means finding enough people to help out during election, handing out ballots, checking that everybody votes only once and counting in the evening. Ever since I am allowed to, I have been doing that. You get paid a little bit for it, but if you're in for the money, it isn't the right job for you. Yesterday, I had to be there at 7 o'clock and spent 5 hours standing next to ballot boxes (we had 4, as there were 4 different elections) saying 'Please fold the green and the white ballots twice, otherwise they don't fit.' and 'Please don't forget to fold all the ballots.' You should think that in 40 years of German Democratic Republic (GDR - what most Americans call East Germany, or Former East Germany - even if our geographic location has not changed...) people would have learned how to fold a ballot, as this was the only thing they had to do in GDR elections.
And at 6, we started counting all these votes. Don't get me wrong, I'm happy to see that so many people came to vote (about 860 of 1400 something registered voters), but for two of the elections, people had three votes, and that's terrible to count. And don't ask me why this is done, doesn't make much sense to me. It has something to do with voting several persons from the lists the parties set up, so you can give votes not only to the first person on the list. But it makes it very complicated, especially for elderly people. We ended up with quite a few invalid votes, where people had checked more than three circles.
Then there are two or three forms to be filled out for every election, stating all the candidates that were running, the votes they got and everything. As I had the most practice writing these protocols, I had to do it. And I still made a few mistakes, so when we went to hand in all the ballots, the forms and our counting lists (that was at 10:30 pm), I had to fill out some forms again. I think I was home at about 11:30, and I really do not look forward to doing this again two weeks from now.
But I'll have to, as we never find enough people who are willing to sacrifice their Sunday for the sake of democracy.
Which brings us back to the beginning: What did we learn?
Attendance to the election was low all over Europe. Soccer championships and Formula 1 was much more important then who is going to govern us in the next years (We also voted for city councils, you'd think people would care about politics in their own towns...)
Going to elections is not a punishment or a chore, it's an opportunity to influence what happens around us, and it's a gift. People around here should know that better then anybody else, having lived in a democracy by name only for so long. But that is 14 years ago, and people have a short memory. They even vote for the party that is the successor of the main GDR party. Some of my friends might say that it's not the same party, they don't have the same ideas. But I don't believe it. There are some of the same people who held high offices in GDR still around. And many of their voters believe that everything was better when we had the Berlin Wall. Some West Germans regret the re-unification, and many East Germans do, too.
They are angry because things didn't turn out the way they had expected. Capitalism is hard to live with, the economic situation in Germany is really bad. Unemployment rates are high, and that's not going to change any time soon. So both the left and the right wing of the political spectrum gain votes. One because everything was better before, and the other because 'all these foreigners take our jobs' (Such as picking asparagus - the farmers are unable to find Germans who ware willing to do this job) and 'the big bosses take our jobs away to Eastern Europe, because work is cheaper there. European Union is crap.' (True, work force IS cheaper in Eastern Europe, but I think the main problem is this: in Germany, being unemployed is not too bad, you can get quite a bit of money to support you, and some people prefer not to work. That doesn't keep them from complaining about how mean it is than nobody offers them a job)
Of course, there are people who would love to work but don't get the chance. But if the CEO of a company had four applicant who didn't show up for their appointments, can you expect him to invite a fifth?
I get the impression that unemployment in Germany isn't hard enough on people, the way they are still behaving...
So, from the failure to understand the benefits and demands of democracy to unemployment. It's a rather short way for me. Maybe my perspective will change when I become unemployed. Right now, even though I don't have anything to do, officially I'm a student. So perhaps it's easy for me rant like that.
Somewhere deep down inside me, I firmly believe that I will not be unemployed if I work hard enough. If there isn't a job around here, then I'll have to go elsewhere. And if I can't find a job in Germany - well, my English should be good enough to work in any English speaking country. Singapore might be interesting, too...
Today I read something in the paper about how the budget for defence (wouldn't attack be a more appropriate name for it? Or at least War, as it has been for a long time - at least that was more to the point) has been increased all over the world. Half of the world's military budget, though, is spent by the US. Russia's increased big time, too. Are we back to Cold War here?
As for war crimes like what the US troops did in Iraqi prisons, I can only quote one of my favorite songs: "There's no such thing as a winnable war" (that's Sting: The Russians) - and the US apparently try hard to lose this one. And sorry if you don't agree with me, but to me it doesn't really matter who did what in Iraq. That is, I don't care what rank these soldiers have you see on the pictures from Abu Ghoreib. And I don't think it mattered to the Iraqis on the pictures either. I just think that this way of humiliating an Arab muslim has to be the consequence of a process of thinking hard. To torture them, or even to kill them, maybe would not have created as much protest in the Arab world than undressing them and all this. So I firmly believe that somebody ordered these things to happen, with the idea of deeply injuring and humiliating the Iraqi people. Why esle should they take photos of the whole thing?
Yes, I was against this war.
I think the American president should have been truthful enough to state the real reasons for it, not inventing some stories about weapons of mass destruction.
(Here's a joke I heard a few weeks ago: Bush keeps Saddam Hussein's revolver on his desk in the Oval Office. Why? To show to his guests as proof of the WMD in Iraq...)
I'm not sure what the true reason is, though. Was it revenge for his father? Or finishing the job Bush sr. has started? Was it to take the attention away from inner problems?
Anyway, after the war started, I hoped the USA would be smart enough to have a concept of what to do with Iraq once it was "liberated". Apparently, they don't. And apparently, they never gave a thought to the difference in mentality between an American and an Iraqi soldier.
When we saw the first pictures of Iraqis on their knees, handing over their guns to some American, I knew that this had to go wrong.
I always had the impression that Arabs in general are a proud people with a strong sense of honor. Dealing with them would have demanded much more respect for their different way of thinking than the American soldiers had been prepared to have. If they have been prepared at all for anything but the fighting part of the Operation.
It will take a long time for the wounds of this war to heal. And I really don't look forward to living through this time. I was always happy to live in a time and place that makes it unlikely for me to be involved in a war. Also because my brother is an officer in the German army and I don't want to see him off to Afghanistan or Iraq or wherever else the Americans deem it necessary to introduce the one and only acceptable way of life - theirs.
I don't like our chancellor, but in keeping us out of the war in Iraq, he has done something right for once.

The problem with armed conflicts today is that they can be out of control so easily.
Some German guy, I think he is a historian, once made a movie called The Third World War. It was made up like a documentary film, starting from the point that the German reunification in 1989 didn't take place, but that the Soviets send their army to stop the protests. Then the American and British troops stationed in West Germany reacted, and within a few weeks there was a new World War going on, with more effective weapons than ever before. The film ended with the Russians dropping an atom bomb over the baltic sea. If anything like that happens, nobody can imagine the consequences. This is just too much even to think about.
Have you ever relized that most science fiction movies start after a world wide desaster? I'm not talking about stuff like Star Trek, but about movies like Waterworld or The Snake. So maybe Science Fiction is not the right term. But anyway, the descriptions of these movies in the TV guide usually start with something like "After a war/environmental desaster/terrorist attack/... the survivors have...
So while many people think about how life will be after the fact, we really don't want to imagine the thing itself. Maybe it's a way of protecting ourselves against the almost unthinkable.

There' another thing on my mind lately. And that is Genetics. Or rather, the question of changing the DNA of plants - corn in Germany right now - to keep certain insects away. Greenpeace and other organisations destroy the fields were these plants are tested. So the so called green genetics is a bad thing. But what about the red genetics - fooling around with human DNA. Isn't it kind of stupid to refuse to eat corn with manipulated genes (We have done nothing but manipulating the DNA of domesticated plants and animals ever since the Stone Age - so please try to be sensible about this!) but to accept the idea of cloning children? There are parents who decide to have a second child just to have "spare parts" for the first one. But still, the opposition against the "Gene-Corn" is much stronger than against the excesses of some biologists.
I just don't understand this, it doesn't seem to make any sense. If it does to you, leave me a note, I'd be happy to get a new look on it.
Sometimes I wonder where all this will lead. But then again, even if I live to be a hundred, hopefully I don't have to see the end of it.
I just want to live long enough to see humanity take to space, maybe to meet one or two alien people. According to Star Trek and Babylon 5, this will happen somewhere in the 2060s, so chances are I might live to see it.
If I ever manage to earn a lot of money I'll book a space flight for vacation. It must be an incredibly moving experience to see the earth from that distance.



August 2012

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