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The future: An answer to Eva's comment
by Thanos Kalamidas
2008-03-14 10:03:14
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A few weeks ago in an article I wrote about Russia, my friend Eva commented what we really expect from Russia or even the USA for the future. Apparently Eva was right, most of us judging what Putin did or we are full of opinion about what Obama should do, but most of the time we have no suggestion for what we expect of the future.

At the moment I will put aside wishful thoughts and let’s see how I would like things to turn out. Russia used to be one of the two superpowers for a long time and the truth is that they used to be one of the major powers throughout all of European history and I think this is where their future lays. Putting aside ideological differences for nearly a century, Russia is a part of Europe, it is part of European history and part of European heritage. This can be seen on many levels, from Russian art and Russian music to Russian literature, and never forget the role Moscow played during the invasion of the Ottoman Empire in Europe. Russia became the hideaway place for Christians and Jews escaping the Ottoman intrusion after the fall of the Byzantine Empire and again Russia helped the uprising countries fighting for their independence from the Ottoman Empire. Apparently this is why the strong ties between Russia and Serbia.

This power that often helped the European unity became the separator in the twentieth century, I’m not judging the communism and I think that it is naïve to judge an economic and social philosophy by the people who used this philosophy for their personal agendas. You cannot say that Stalin was the communist leader Marx dreamt of, just like you cannot say that Pinochet or Musharraf and Mugabe nowadays have anything to do with the democracy that they are supposed to represent. So leaving this part aside and thinking that this was a big time break for Russia, I strongly believe that Russia has a strong role in the future united Europe and, on many levels, from economic to cultural.

However, before getting there Russia has to become a democratic country in the European way. Our democracies in Europe might not be perfect but they work, they work in the sense that freedom of speech is protected; the rights of the individual are protected, there is a health system for everybody and education for everybody and despite the fact that the US has the reputation of equal opportunities to everybody I feel that Europe is the place that actually practises it. Of course, nothing is perfect and there is a lot to be done and a long way to go, but at least the base is here and Russia is part of this Europe and must gradually become an active part.

On the other side of the ocean, the other superpower has its own limits as well. Of course there is democracy there but then again why has it become such a big issue for a black or a woman for president? European democracies have had women prime ministers and presidents for decades, a Jew with Greek roots is the president of France this moment and how many Muslims are members of different parliaments all around Europe, yet a woman candidate for the presidency has become an issue in US - her gender, instead of her ideas and that shows that something is missing; his colour and not his ideas, that shows that thing over in Europe for decades are still an issue in the US.

There are politicians in the US who are talking about isolation, as if Europe is their enemy, yet they forget that the US is a country made from immigrants. You see that is what I’m expecting from the USA, tolerance on every level. It is so difficult for us Europeans to understand how this country survives with no welfare state, a state that will fight for every single citizen not to become homeless, where the loans, credit cards, constant consuming cannot manipulate the system, where there are no ghettos and, most of all, where a superpower doesn’t count the number of nuclear heads but the effort to help people.

But then again I feel that I haven’t answered the comment yet because my first wishful thought is the one strongest in my mind when it comes to what I want from all of them. You know a lot of science-fiction authors have a pattern when they talk about earth’s future. They talk about a global federation, that enjoys freedom, a place where there is no hunger, no poverty, actually in most of the societies they describe there isn't even money - people can have what they need to live in peace and prosper and use their creativity into something more useful like art and exploration.

I’m coming from a very small country with a limited income and I live in another with the same standards, you would say that both countries belong to the poor club of Europe, still both countries spend unbelievable amounts on defence. Imagine how different everything would have been if the same amounts were going to education and research. While all these amounts are wasted in more and more sophisticated weapons they could find a cure for cancer. Have you realized that most of the research laboratories beg, literally beg, for money every year to survive, while weapons industries receive billions of euros to create more weapons to kill us? Perhaps I’m naïve, but exploration was always something that fascinated me, since I was a kid.

Nowadays the big target is Mars, with the USA, Europe, Russia and probably China each targeting Mars individually, but what would happen if they would join forces, knowledge and effort and do it all together, united. However, we don’t need to go so far, let's stay here on Earth - amazing as it may sound - because there are parts of this Earth we don’t know yet. There are ocean depths we have to explore, just a few months ago scientists found some new animals living here on our planet. At the same time more creatures disappear from Earth, imagine if, instead of funding guns, they would fund researches to save them, research for alternative energy, researchers for HIV and cancer, imagine what would have happened if they spent a quarter of these monies on saving kids all around the world and there are 30,000 kids dying every single day.

And who else holds the major responsibility for all that than the USA and Russia. The rest of us are just satellites of one or the other, whether we like it or not, whether we admit it or not. Eva asked what was my opinion of the future of these two superpowers, I’m sorry if I was naïve in this answer but their future, in my opinion, is tied to the future of the whole globe and the United Nation of Earth.

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Emanuel Paparella2008-03-14 11:06:39
Musings on musings: 1)what does it say about the status of our humanity that having the resources and the know-how to eliminate hunger we spend a million dollar a minute on armaments while hundred of children die of starvation at the same time? That was a question posed by a poet (Octavio Paz) at a convention of Nobel Prize winners to his fellow Nobel- winner scientists some twenty years ago. I don’t think it was adequately answered then and it remains open-ended today while we go to Mars. 2) What the article hints at is that while we go on exploring outer space we have abysmally failed to explore inner space, which is to say, our own humanity. This was aptly pointed out by none other than by Einstein when he observed that the gap between science and ethics kept expanding in our brave new world. Unfortunately it is still expanding at a faster rate like the expanding universe. 3) The latest issue of Scientific America has an intriguing article titled “The End of Cosmology?” putting forth the notion that the expanding universe will eventually make it impossible for future generations of men (if indeed they are still around then) to trace the beginning of the universe to the big bang. The article ends thus: “although we are certainly fortunate to live at a time when the observational pillars of the big bang are all detectable, we can easily envisage that other fundamental aspects of the universe are unobservable today. What have we already lost? Rather than being self-satisfied, we should feel humble. Perhaps someday we will find that our current careful and apparently complete understanding of the universe is seriously wanting.” Food for thought!

Emanuel Paparella2008-03-14 17:17:43
P.S. On the comparison between the US and the EU vis a vis human rights (freedom of speech, rights of the individual, equal opportunities for everybody), what you say Thanos is indeed good news. I mean that the EU has become the real Utopia of human rights in three short years. In 2004 that seemed not to be the case. In a book titled EU Human Rights Policies: a Study in Irony (Oxford University Press, 1994) Andrew Williams has a much more ambiguous take on the issue. Here is a short description on the book’s advertisement:

From the arguably mythical basis that the EU was founded upon a general principle of respect for human rights; policies and practices have developed along two distinct paths. Internally, within the EU, human rights are contingent. Scrutiny is erratic and even casual, and enforcement is left to the courts and independent agencies. Externally, in the EU's interactions with non-members, however, the story is very different: human rights are broad in concept. Collective notions of rights are accepted and promoted. Scrutiny can be intrusive and effective, and systems of enforcement, increasingly severe in scope and strength, have been applied. (continued below)

Emanuel Paparella2008-03-14 17:19:28
This bifurcation has direct implications for the EU's constitutional structure and its future human rights activities. It suggests that, through human rights language, conditions for conflict rather than integration have arisen, and that a system of double standards has been instituted. Williams therefore argues that the EU's claims to a credible human rights policy are suspect.

This book examines the nature and scope of the bifurcation and explains its origins and development. In doing so it questions orthodox interpretations and provides a radical new reading of the EU's human rights law and practice. At its heart, the book claims that without a fundamental reappraisal of the basis upon which the EU responds to human rights, it will remain plagued by this ironical condition.

Eva2008-03-14 19:52:01
Wow, Thanos, thanks for this long answer to my wee comment :) As always you have good and insightful thoughts on the subject. And yeah, maybe we are all "satellites" to superpowers - a scary and depressing thought - but I still think that whether the superpowers like it or not, they also have to take the rest of the world into account. What I mean is that I don't think it's all black and white.
In an ever-increasing globalised world, with information being more easily accessible to every man (in rich countries anyway) I think the public opinion is getting a stronger voice. Having said that, this doesn't mean that the world is getting a better place. Unfortunately money and greed are more than ever the strongest pillars that much of humanity rest on. Not only within politics, but throughout all of society in general. That is my opinion anyway.
Now how does one change mankind...? I won't attempt to give an answer ;)
As for spending on war – this is somewhat of a side track - here in the UK they recently announced (last week I think it was) in the news that the cost of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan is expected to nearly double this year from last year. All while on the same time they talked about how the war is being downscaled? Hello?? That sounded totally crazy in my ears, and they never properly explained why this is the case, where all the extra money is going to. They interviewed various people who mumbled something blablabla... that made no sense to me. I found it quite upsetting..

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