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Sunday, 24 August 2014

Reality bites in the most brutal way: outrageous violence, trial by media, societal acrimony and mounting tensions between East and West poison the world’s atmosphere

Stop everything, I think I hear the President
The Pied Piper of the TV screen is gonna make it simple
And he's got it all mapped out… And illustrated with cartoons

This haunting song by the wonderful British artist Joe Jackson has been written in the eighties – in 1986 to be precise, at what later proved to be the final years of the ‘first’ Cold War  – but its lyrics yet sound more topical than ever.

It was the first week after my summer holiday in Venice and Croatia and what a helluva week it has been. From the relative cocoon of the holiday resorts – which offered very few attachments to the real world, but so much more sun, sea, excursions and relaxation – and after having loads of fun with my beloved family, I returned to my work and to the real world last Monday.

It has been the week of the surreal and sickening ‘video execution’ of the poor abducted journalist James Foley and the seeming death sentence for the other journalist Steven Sotloff, abducted by IS. It has also been in a week in which numerous other people with other backgrounds and religions have been murdered in Iraq and Syria, because their faith differed from the one prescribed by IS.

These are people, who think that their truth, religion and battle are universally valid and leave no room for any doubts or self-reflection whatsoever. They are willing to murder everyone and sacrifice everything that stands in the way to their eternal, ‘holy’ goal.

What discriminates these religiously driven murderers from ‘normal’ psychopaths is that the latter at least know that what they do is a crime, for which they will be punished eventually. The former have appointed themselves as protagonists in a Holy War in search of the truth, for which the whole world must suffer.

The only difference between the disgusting decapitations of 2004 in Iraq and 2014 in Syria and Iraq is, that the videos of the latter executions are offered to you through the social media, in HD quality and directed by professionals, instead of the shaky handheld home video cameras that ‘we’ were used to ten years ago. Even evil has gone through the tech revolution: medieval thoughts and killing methods, but wrapped in a 21st Century usage of modern technology.

There was one more disturbing thing about the hideous crime against James Foley: yesterday, August 23, the international press presented the names of three suspects of this murder, driven by the assumption that the perpetrators had been from the greater London area, based on the impeccable English and apparent West-London accent of the masked executioner.

These three suspects – among whom there was one formerly quite successful rapper – were reputedly acquaintances of each other, who had all traveled to Syria earlier to take part in the Jihad.  One suspect – the rapper – has been pictured full frontal in the newspapers, without any disclosure or black beams upon his eyes.
In this ‘trial by media’, there is seemingly no ‘innocence until being proven guilty’ anymore. Even if this rapper had nothing to do with this particular dreadful execution, his picture will be etched in the minds of people, as the epitomy of evil. A life sentence without a fair trial!

It must have been darn strong evidence, which drove the editors-in-chief of the international newspapers to print this particular picture, mustn’t it?!

And for the rest all the ‘usual suspects’ continued to do what they had been doing over the last few weeks and months:
  • Hamas fired rockets and Israel subsequently bombed the Gaza strip, causing numerous casualties again;
  • The Ukrainian army and the East-Ukrainian, ethnical Russian insurgents continued their ever-bloodier and increasingly desperate and destructive civil war;
  • All the officials in this civil war spread their usual mixture of facts and sheer propaganda, making it virtually impossible to discrimate truth from lies, rumours and hear-say;
  • (Alleged) agitator Russia illegally sent a ‘humanitarian’ convoy over the Ukrainian border in order to help people in distress, but this convoy was surrounded with an strong smell of arms smuggling and opaque business;
  • The Ukrainian government, the NATO, the United States and some EU talking heads screamed blue murder about the actions of the Russians and the East-Ukrainian rebels, of course without looking to their own role in this continuing extravaganza;
  • The EU – represented by ‘smurfette’ Lady Catherine Ashton – displayed its usual dividedness, indecisiveness and powerlessness, that the inhabitants of the EU unfortunately take for granted, due to the EU’s current political structure. The same indecisiveness which drives other countries to outrage: ‘now the rest of the world may know who to call in Brussels, but they don’t even bother…’. 

Due to the fact that my family by marriage lives in Russia, I might be still a little biased in favour of this country. I learned through my visits there that there are always two sides to the recent stories, in which Russia has been involved.

Nevertheless, my sympathy for and trust in Russian president Vladimir Putin – which have never been on a very high level to start with – have rock-bottomed during the last few years and months. Especially after the terrible attack on Malaysian Airlines MH17, which claimed 298 casualties, of which 197 Dutch victims about one month ago.

Where I at least appreciated Putin’s intelligence, diplomatic experience and communicative skills in earlier years, I think that he has totally lost it lately. 

I am convinced that Vladimir Putin had stepped in virtually all the traps that absolute power, unlimited financial wealth, clientelism and uncritical adoration from his henchmen, business partners and the Russian population, can pose in a country like Russia. And thus, during the last decade, he has turned into a 'dictatorish' leader, who will seemingly do anything to maintain his current position.  

Still, I have heard so many unfounded claims and straightforward propaganda during the last weeks, that it is impossible for me to believe everything about the Ukrainian civil war, and the Russian involvement in it, that is brought to me ‘in bitesize chunks’ by the Dutch and international media.

The notion that the Ukrainians are the totally innocent and the East-Ukrainian rebels and the Russians are the 100% guilty parties in this civil war is preposterous for me and should be for anybody with a mind of its own.This is the reason that I feel torn and bothered at this moment, not knowing who to trust and believe at this very moment.

The only thing that I know is that the mounting global tensions between the East and the West dearly need de-escalation, as things could go seriously out of hand soon, with devastating results. Yet, none of the involved parties (EU, US and Russia) really seem on the road towards de-escalation of both the civil war and the global economic war, which is going on. The world should get to its senses…

The various economic and military conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle-East have an unmistakenable impact on life in The Netherlands.

Yesterday, I spoke with two people about the current conundrum: a grower of roses, who saw his exports to Russia dry out, and a salesman of TV-systems. Both were bothered by the current events, as these cost them money and gave them many concerns about their particular and our common future.

Especially the latter salesman had radicalized in his opinions about Dutch people from different descent and religion, who should ‘shut up and pledge allegiance to the Dutch society, rules and legislation or “get the funk out” to their own country’: assimilation or disappearance were his options.

The fact that normal, down-to-earth people and their opinions can radicalize so easily in the current situation – even in a relatively safe, peaceful and undivided country like The Netherlands – shows the enormous impact that the enduring economic crisis and the ubiquitously mounting tensions can have on people.

Please imagine what it can do with people who are already in much distress at this moment. A haunting and worrisome thought, isn’t it?!

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