Guilt and responsibility, or: on travelling through foreign places

Four, five, six, no, seven children are crouching under that tree, jostling for a slither of shade. Do they belong to the same family, or are they friends from across the tracks, just visiting to pass the time? Or, perhaps, are they only here to elicit empathy from the many travellers — men, women and children, with their brightly coloured, overflowing suitcases — standing at the edge of the platform? Behind the children, unprotected from the glaring afternoon sun, I can see three women, all bent over a small pot from which steam is escaping. A few metres to the left, fastened between two trunks and a shopping cart filled with clothes, a ragged tarpaulin hangs above a few thin mattresses. A baby is sprawled in the middle, suckling on an item I cannot make out. Two chickens are there, too, bouncing through the yellow grass, dodging bits of glass and plastic. This is their home. Exposed to the dirt, the heat, the insects and the noise; dependent on the magnanimity of strangers. But even here, confronted with the plight of these poor people, I do not go over to them. I do not give them the last samosa wrapped up in my bag, nor the few coins jingling in my pocket as I shuffle uncomfortably from one foot to the next. I do not even glance back as I step out of the shade. After all, my train is about to leave. I, the tourist, am not condemned to stay.

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Counterproductive radicalism

In the following I want to outline some examples epitomising what I will call a ‘radical’ mindset.

Across American colleges, large-scale protests have been taking place in recent months with the aim of protecting students from potentially wounding or controversial remarks. Asking a Latino American “Where are you from?” is considered a ‘microaggression’, as it could be seen to imply doubt in their American heritage. To combat such microaggressions, students are seeking the implementation of ‘trigger warnings’; alerting consumers to content which may result in a strong emotional response. For example, Kant’s ‘Critique of Pure Reason’ is said to contain discriminating views towards minorities, and thus professors are required to forewarn their students prior to reading.

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For a United States of Europe!

Since the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union at the end of June, a discussion has been unfolding regarding the direction which this project should take. Regardless that such change only ever occurs after the fact — in this case, the belief that the EU needs reform was only publicly acknowledged by those in power after the UK referendum, although this has surely been apparent for a long time — the content of these discussions is both interesting and promising. And despite the divide which is slowly etching its way through public and private spheres alike, severing the propagators of an ‘ever closer union’ from those who wish to regress, politically speaking, to the smallest functional (national) unit, there is something distinctly opportunistic about the current societal ethos.

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Days of Independance

From the Series: “Days of Independence”

http://viktorsommerfeld.com/gallery-category/standbild/#days-of-independence

From a collection of photographs taken on the weekend after the british EU-Referendum in Berlin and London.

Short-sighted politics

As the weather continues to improve and another summer is almost upon us, the number of migrants dying in the Mediterranean Sea in a desperate attempt to reach the western world is on the rise once more. In just one week alone, reports claim more than a thousand drowned, their lifeless bodies now washing up on the sandy beaches of Libya, Greece and Italy. As this mass influx of migrants into Europe, from Africa and the Middle East in particular, is slowly ebbing into the second year, we can, once again, witness an underlying problem suffocating modern-day politics: the short-sightedness taking hold of decision-making.

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The origin of morality in light of self-determination and its impact upon legislation

Underlying the thoughts and considerations that are to follow are two main emotions. For one, unease; a feeling which stems from a failure to understand how it is possible to support two contradictory ideologies, and still believe them capable of coexisting peacefully: libertarianism on the one side; socialism on the other. For another, anger; a feeling which stems from the lack of consistency with which current rules and conventions, which we are all expected to follow, are being made.

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Immigration utopia

Finally some space. With two quick steps she shuffles forward onto the ramp, her right foot leading the way restlessly, knocking into the trailing leg of the tall man just ahead. He turns his shiny head ever so slightly, an indication, surely, that he wishes not to be kicked again. Head bowed, she moves her focus elsewhere, onto the red and white plastic stripes aligned at regular intervals along the wooden planks. It is an established tactic of hers, trying to supress the waves of overwhelming impatience, rising rapidly from her toes upward like the water in a clogged sink. The wind slaps her across the face as soon as solid ground reappears beneath her. Hastily she swings a leather pouch across her right shoulder and settles into her walking pace, fast enough to distance herself from the fellow passengers. She despises walking behind people, forced to adapt to their constantly changing speeds. But this afternoon is especially bad. Ever since the news broke out everything has been chaos, and all she desires now is the comfort of her small flat, a sage tea and a cigarette. Give it time, Marie. These things always blow over in the end.

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The hypocrisy in modern politics

The word ‘idealistic’ is becoming increasingly linked to dogmatism, to extremes that few wish to identify themselves with. In this sense it is becoming dirty, foul, insulting; the hidden, or perhaps no longer hidden connotations associated with it suggesting a mindset of being undemocratic and irresponsible. Yet idealism may also be used in a very contrasting way, in the sense of political consistency: a fight against double standards and unjust, situational treatment of citizens. Idealism in this sense is a worthwile pursuit, because it allows not just the determination of underlying principles reflected in certain value-based needs, but far more the homogenous installation and application of these principles in a system that represents all citizens, and not just those who happen to find themselves in a specific jurisdiction at a particular moment in time.

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‘Hey Cabral, where’s Amarildo?’

BY MARIANA TORRES

Versão em português  (English version below)

Ei, Cabral, cadê o Amarildo?

Essa foi a pergunta gritada por dezenas de pessoas nas ruas do Brasil durante alguns meses em 2013.

Amarildo Dias de Souza é um ajudante de pedreiro brasileiro que ficou conhecido nacionalmente por conta de seu desaparecimento, no dia 14 de julho de 2013, após ter sido detido por policiais militares, na Favela da Rocinha, em direção a sede da Unidade de Polícia Pacificadora do bairro, ironia que essa mesma polícia que foi elaborada com os princípios da polícia de proximidade, um conceito que vai além da polícia comunitária e tem sua estratégia fundamentada na parceria entre a população e as instituições da área de Segurança Pública. Atualmente quem está no comando das Unidades de Polícia Pacificadoras é o ex-comandante do Batalhão de Operações Especiais (Bope) da Polícia Militar (conhecida sua pela maneira “efusiva” de atuação).

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