MC's Whispers

Whispering Silences

Archive for the month “August, 2012”

Once in a Blue Moon

The Buddha once said that “three things cannot be hidden: the sun, the moon and the truth”.  The first two shine over the world at different times. The third as painful as it may be, as sugarcoated as it could get, and as postponed as it is kept, will always shine in the end. It is not easy always speaking the truth. But sometimes it is indeed the only thing that will “set you free”. Speaking the truth means you don’t need to remember what lies or variations you have told to cover it up. It means not having to hide from anything and anyone. And it means having a clean conscience.

However, “the truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable” (James A. Garfield). Speaking the truth also means dealing with the consequences. The effects. The reactions. At times it means dealing with the destruction after the tornado has passed. But being true, also means being honest. And that is one of the most admirable characteristics any person can have. It is something to be cherished and commended. Being honest, nonetheless, also implies leaving yourself exposed to others. Letting them see exactly who you are. Your faults and your weaknesses. Your attributes and your strengths. It is lighting the path to your heart without fear of who will walk along it. And it is having the faith that people will accept you for exactly that, and despite it all.

And yet, once in a blue moon, you find that that actually happens. That your trust, your hope and most of all your dreams, have been at least partly realized. That things actually happen the way you would like them to, and most importantly, without you needing to change. To hide who you truly are. To mask your feelings, your thoughts, your ambitions, simply to attain your goal.

Tonight, Friday 31 August 2012, is a blue moon.  Defined as the second full moon in a calendar month, the moon may appear to be bluish – a rare event which can also be caused by smoke or dust particles in the atmosphere. The August moon in particular (let alone a blue August moon) is a summer night to celebrate. With archaeological sites and museums staying open late in order to allow visitors the opportunity to relish the beautiful sight of a full summer moon. To wish upon it. And to dream. It may not open a portal linking the Smurfs‘ medieval world to the real one. But it will certainly open up people’s hearts to the exquisite beauty of nature. To the natural romance that will spark flames of passion all around. To minds that will be set free to make plans for the future. To set ambitions, goals. And above all to dream. To resolve that life-setting changes will not only be made “once in a blue moon” – i.e. every now and then – but more often. They can happen whenever you choose them too. As long as you have the will and some support to guide you along the way. We can all be the change we want to see in the world, as Ghandi said. All it takes is a strong will, a guiding hand, ambition, and perhaps even some of the magic emitted by a blue moon.

“Shoot for the moon and if you miss you will still be among the stars.”                                                                                                                         -Les Brown

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It’s all about control

Control is one of those words which have this domineering effect over people simply by the sound of it. It brings to mind images of oppression, of authority, of rule. Defined as the ability to exercise restraint or direction over; to dominate or command, control is something that everyone wants to have. But often always comes with a price to pay. People in control aren’t usually loved or even liked. Control is so often linked to autocracy, to repression, to subordination of others, that it acquires a negative connotation.

The Evil Queen forcing her magical powers over the Enchanted Kingdom; the dictator oppressing civilians; parents suppressing their children into not being able to do anything on their own. It’s all about control. And this is what people are after. The authority to reign over others. The hierarchical structure of an army, for instance, determines who is superior to whom. Politicians fight and quarrel over who will get to be in charge of all major decisions, regardless of the fact that s/he will also be responsible for the consequences. Control has become synonymous to power. And life has become a competition of who has more of it.

The problem is, however, that most people try to demonstrate this power they have, by controlling those weaker than themselves. Often this also implies those smaller in size. Animals, for instance, are the first to suffer. Being herded, reared and slaughtered for a specific cause – for the benefit of humans – the latter species attempts to show how it dominates over the “lesser” one. Horses are saddled and bridled up to fulfill their riders every demand, by a simple kick in the sides, and a pull of the reins. Of course, animals can fight back. By biting, scratching, kicking. But in the end it is the one with the extra resources, the biggest tools and the stronger weapons that always seems to dominate. Similarly, it is the rich, the wealthy, the high-ranking in society that end-up becoming the most yearning for power. For more. For control. And these are usually the ones that become the authoritative rulers, the oppressors, the tyrants, the dictators. Ruling over citizens who lack even half of what the former have, and being deprived of so much more.

Even parents exercise control over their children. And a lot too. Raising their babies into grown-up adults, parents are responsible for so much of the decisions they take for an infant’s life. Its first and most important influences. The principles and values that will register in its mind. And most significantly, the behaviour and mentality that will become part of its upbringing. Parents control their children for most of their lives. With the latter being afraid to do anything contrary to the wishes of their parents, and even as adults, being concerned as to what their opinions might be.

Too much control, however, is harmful. In every sense. Too much control by parents means the children are incapable as adults of acting on their own. Of being independent and responsible for their own actions. Sparrows provide perhaps the best example of suitable control: they raise their young ones in the nest, taking as best care of them as possible, as long as they learn how to fly. Once their neonates learn to spread their wings, they are allowed to do so and leave the nest, free to explore the world opened out before them. That is what humans are supposed to do too. But instead so many lack this independence that growing up should come with. Once you leave the nest, you are not supposed to come back. But so many circumstances, even in the current day and age, force them to return. To seek the support and sometimes the very dependence of those that reared them in the first place. And then that same freedom desperately longed for as adults is often constrained in the very walls of that paternal nest. It’s all about control. Whether it is taken by force, or voluntarily conceded.

Nonetheless, control does not necessary mean something bad. And it shouldn’t. Control is also about proving to the world that you can manage on your own. That you can handle both the responsibilities and obligations. That you can command your own reins. And ultimately that you can take control – power – over your own life. It isn’t necessary to domineer over others to prove you have power or authority. That is something to be gained not taken. Just like respect. And that is more often earned by those worthy of it. By demonstrating your achievements, your accomplishments, your skills and capabilities. Rulers/leaders who have done more for their citizens, who have given more to them instead of demanded from, who have listened rather than imposed, are the ones who are most loved and respected. It is those who are given control voluntarily by others. Often even unknowingly.

But the most important control of all is to be able to control your own destiny, be what you want to be, and achieve all that you want to achieve. Life is to be lived, not controlled.

Η διαφορά μεταξύ του τι λες και του τι ξέρεις

Λένε ότι η ημιμάθεια είναι χειρότερη της αμάθειας. Και έχουν δίκιο. Άν όμως δεν παραδέχεσαι κιόλας την ημιμάθειά σου είναι ακόμη χειρότερο. Πόσοι άνθρωποι παινεύονται για γνώσεις και ικανότητες που στην αλήθεια δεν έχουν, απλά και μόνο για να εξασφαλίσουν μια καλύτερη δουλειά, μια ψηλότερη θέση, ή απλά να ανέβουν στην εκτίμηση κάποιου άλλου. Καταλήγουμε έτσι στο να υπάρχουν σε υψηλές θέσεις πρόσωπα που στην ουσία δε θα έπρεπε να είναι εκεί αφού δεν έχουν τις ικανότητες ή τις γνώσεις που αρμόζουν.

Ένα ιδιαίτερα εμφανές παράδειγμα σήμερα είναι η γνώση των αγγλικών και το πόσο φτωχή είναι σε μια χώρα που όχι μόνο προεδρεύει του Συμβουλίου της Ευρωπαϊκής Ένωσης αυτούς τους μήνες, αλλά και που καυχιέται τόσο για την άριστη γνώση αγγλικών των κατοίκων της. Κι όμως από απλά πληροφοριακά δημοσιεύματα, σε ανακοινώσεις, δελτία τύπου και ειδήσεις, πινακίδες στους δρόμους και αλλού, μέχρι και στον προφορικό λόγο, αποδεικνύεται όλο και πιο τρανά πως η “άριστη αυτή γνώση της αγγλικής” πολύ απλά δεν υπάρχει. Τα λάθη που παρατηρούνται στα κακογραμμένα αυτά αγγλικά κείμενα δεν είναι μόνο ορθογραφικά, συντακτικά και γλωσσικά, αποδίδονται επίσης και στο γεγονός πως τα κείμενα είναι εμφανώς μεταφρασμένα κυριολεκτικά από τα ελληνικά σε βαθμό που δεν γίνονται καν κατανοητά. Και το χειρότερο βέβαια είναι πως φαίνεται έντονα το γεγονός ότι δεν πέρασαν από διόρθωση ή έστω από μια δεύτερη ανάγνωση όπου σίγουρα θα εντοπίζονταν αμέσως.

Λάθη σαν κι αυτά χαρακτηρίζουν τα αγγλικά κείμενα και του εθνικού πρακτορείου ειδήσεων, κάτι που εκθέτει το δημοσιογραφικό σώμα γενικότερα στα μάτια ξένων δημοσιογράφων που αποτείνονται στο πρακτορείο για ειδήσεις που θα χρησιμοποιηθούν ως βάση ή ως αναφορά για τα δικά τους κείμενα. Ιδιαίτερα τώρα που ψάχνουν πληροφορίες για τις δραστηριότητες της Κυπριακής Προεδρίας. Το πρόβλημα όμως έγκειται στο ότι κανείς δεν παραδέχεται ότι όντως τα κείμενα είναι κακογραμμένα, γεμάτα λάθη, αλλά και στο ότι συγχρόνως δεν παρατηρείται καμία απολύτως βελτίωση στην ποιότητά τους. Κι αν οποιοσδήποτε προσφέρει μια συμβουλή ή παρατήρηση για το πως θα μπορούσε να βελτιωθεί το γράψιμο, η νοοτροπία του “βολεμένου” υπαλλήλου υπερισχύει με τη λογική του “ποιός είσαι εσύ που θα μου πεις τη δουλεία μου”.

Είναι κρίμα όμως μαζί με τα ξερά να καίγονται και τα χλωρά. Γιατί τέτοια κείμενα – και όχι μόνο – και η ανάλογη αντιμετώπιση τους εκθέτουν όχι μονο τους άμεσα υπεύθυνους, αλλά και ολόκληρη την κοινωνία στην οποία ανήκουν. Θα έπρεπε άρα η παραδοχή ελλέιψεων και ημιμάθειας να γίνεται η αφορμή για βελτίωση και διόρθωση του προβλήματος, έτσι ώστε η επερχόμενη πιθανή προαγωγή να οφείλεται στις πραγματικές αξίες του καθενός, και η ημιμάθεια του να μην γίνεται απλά αιτία για να διαιωνίζεται το πρόβλημα.

(25 Αυγούστου 2012)

Η Έλλειψη Αποδοτικότητας Απαιτεί Ιδιωτικοποιήσεις

Με την επέλαση της Τρόικας να ζητάει τα ελάχιστα μέτρα που πρέπει να παρθούν για να ορθοποδήσει η Κυπριακή οικονομία, η κυβέρνηση φαίνεται να αντιτίθεται σε όλα όσα πραγματικά θα βοηθούσαν να γίνει πιο λειτουργικός ο τόπος και να μπει μια τάξη σε αυτό το χαώδης σύστημα που μέρα παρά μέρα λειτουργεί όλο και λιγότερο. Οι ιδιωτικοποιήσεις είναι ένα από αυτά τα μέτρα. Και αν το συλλογιστούμε λιγάκι, είναι προς όφελος όλων.

Η Αρχή Τηλεπικοινωνιών Κύπρου (ΑΤΗΚ ή κοινώς CyTA), για παράδειγμα, είναι μια από τις εταιρίες που χρειάζεται να ιδιωτικοποιηθεί. Για να γίνει πιο αποδοτική, πιο αποτελεσματική, και πιο εξυπηρετική. Πρωτοπόρος στη παροχή διαδικτυακών υπηρεσιών στην Κύπρο, δεν είναι δυνατόν μια απ’τις μεγαλύτερες ημικρατικές εταιρίες στη χώρα να μην μπορεί να εξασφαλίσει 24ωρη σύνδεση, και προπάντων να μην μπορεί να εξηγήσει γιατί υπάρχει διακοπή και σε τι οφείλετε η βλάβη. Και όταν μετά από καιρό αποφασίζει να στείλει ένα τεχνικό, ούτε αυτός να μην μπορεί να βρει κάτι και να στηρίζονται όλοι σε ένα απλό «το πρόβλημα έχει καταγραφεί». Έ, και λοιπόν; Η καταγραφή αυτή πως λύνει το πρόβλημα; Και άμεσα; Στην Ελλάδα, που η ΑΤΗΚ λειτουργεί στα πρότυπα ιδιωτικής εταιρίας, γιατί είναι πιο λειτουργική, πιο ανταγωνιστική, και σίγουρα πιο αποτελεσματική; Στηρίζεται στην άμεση εξυπηρέτηση των πελατών για να επιβιώσει στην Ελληνική αγορά. Ακόμα και η ιστοσελίδα για εκεί είναι πιο φιλική προς τον χρήστη παρά η ντόπια. Στη Κύπρο, μαθημένη στο μονοπώλιο που κάποτε κρατούσε, λειτουργεί αντιθέτως σαν δημόσιο γραφείο – με σχεδόν μηδενική εξυπηρέτηση, γραφειοκρατία, καθυστέρηση και χαμηλή αποτελεσματικότητα. Αυτός δεν είναι λόγος για ριζική αλλαγή; Και στην ουσία τα μέτρα που προτείνει η Τρόικα σε αυτό στοχεύουν: τη ριζική αλλαγή ενός συστήματος πνιγμένο στη διαφθορά σε βαθμό που πλέον απλά δεν λειτουργεί.

Μια ραγδαία αλλαγή είναι αναγκαία όμως για να επαναφέρει την αποδοτικότητα σε βασικές υπηρεσίες. Οι Δημόσιες Εταιρίες που στηρίζονται στην κυβέρνηση για βοήθεια τόσο οικονομική όσο και για τις απαραίτητες υποδομές είναι στην πλειοψηφία τους λιγότερο παραγωγικές από τις αντίστοιχες ιδιωτικές εταιρίες. Οι ημικρατικές εταιρίες ανήκουν στην ίδια κατηγορία αφού κι αυτές κατά ένα μεγάλο ποσοστό στηρίζονται και επηρεάζονται άμεσα ή έμμεσα από κρατικά συμφέροντα. Αυτός, λοιπόν, είναι και ένας από τους λόγους που οι ιδιωτικοποιήσεις θεωρούνται επωφελές για τέτοιες εταιρίες – για να ξεφύγουν από τα πλοκάμια της κυβέρνησης και να γίνουν πιο παραγωγικές, συμβάλλοντας έτσι και στην οικονομική ανάπτυξη.

Το ρεύμα των ιδιωτικοποιήσεων έχει εξαπλωθεί πλέον σε όλο τον κόσμο. Η εξαγορά δημόσιας εταιρίας από ιδιώτες αποδεδειγμένα οδηγεί σε αυξημένη παραγωγικότητα, περισσότερη αποτελεσματικότητα, λιγότερη γραφειοκρατία και καλύτερη εξυπηρέτηση. Με την ιδιωτικοποίηση, η εταιρία παύει πλέον να εξαρτάται από τον κρατικό προϋπολογισμό και στηρίζεται πια στην αποτελεσματικότερη εξυπηρέτηση των πελατών της. Όσο πιο ευχαριστημένος είναι ο πελάτης, τόσο καλύτερα πάει και η εταιρία. Το δίχτυ ασφαλείας της κυβέρνησης σε περίπτωση οικονομικής δυσκολίας παύει επίσης να υφίσταται. Συνεπώς, τα συμφέροντα είναι οικονομικά και όχι πολιτικά ή πελατειακά και οι υπάλληλοι θα πρέπει να αποδεικνύουν την αξία τους και όχι την συγγένεια ή τη γνωριμία τους με ένα ισχυρό πολιτικό πρόσωπο. Η διαφθορά περιορίζεται αφού βασικός στόχος είναι η επιβίωση της εταιρίας σε ένα ανταγωνιστικό περιβάλλον.

Τα τελευταία 12 χρόνια, περισσότερες από 8,500 κρατικές εταιρίες σε πάνω από 80 χώρες έχουν ιδιωτικοποιηθεί. Η αξία των εταιριών αυξάνεται από τότε. Μια παγκόσμια έρευνα σε αυτό το θέμα έδειξε πως η ιδιωτικοποίηση ωφελούσε την οικονομία γενικότερα και οδηγούσε σε υψηλότερη παραγωγικότητα και γρηγορότερη ανάπτυξη. Στη Χιλή, η ιδιωτικοποίηση της εταιρίας τηλεπικοινωνιών διπλασίασε τις επιδόσεις της μόλις τέσσερα χρόνια μετά την εξαγορά, ενώ στο Μεξικό μείωσε το εργατικό κόστος. Καθώς, λοιπόν, αυξάνεται η επίδοση της εταιρίας, υπάρχουν περιθώρια για περισσότερες δουλειές που θα συμβάλλουν σε περαιτέρω αύξηση παραγωγικότητας και μεγαλύτερα κέρδη.

Η ιδιωτικοποίηση λοιπόν μιας εταιρίας που ήδη φαίνεται σταδιακά να χάνει την αξιοπιστία της στα μάτια των πελατών της, θα βοηθούσε να επαναφέρει τις επιδόσεις της στα επιθυμητά επίπεδα, να γίνει πιο ανταγωνιστική στην αγορά και να επανακτήσει τη χαμένη της αίγλη. Κρατικά και πολιτικά συμφέροντα θα πρέπει να  τεθούν στο περιθώριο, αν οι ηγέτες του τόπου πραγματικά θέλουν να διασώσουν την οικονομία και μαζί με αυτή την αξιοπρέπεια ενός ολόκληρου λαού.

(11 Αυγούστου 2012)

The Importance of Being Happy

“When I was in school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up.

I wrote down happy.

They told me I didn’t understand the assignment,

I told them they didn’t understand life”

The pursuit of happiness is often thought of as a desperate urge to find something that will fill our lives. That will light up a spark. That will make us feel alive. However, now and again it is good to simply pause that pursuit and simply be happy. Even with the consoling thought that everything could actually be worse. And whatever the situation, there is also something or someone who is worse off.  Like Aristotle himself stated “happiness depends upon ourselves”. It is up to us to decide to be happy whatever the circumstance. If we keep moving forward, happiness is bound to follow.

Happiness, defined as the quality or state of feeling pleasure or joy, can be found in the simplest of things, the smallest of objects, the most remarkable places. For some it may be wealth and money; but for others it is much more, or rather less. It can be like Linus says a thumb and a warm blanket. It can be a tight hug from a person you care about. Holding hands with the one you love. Snuggling in bed. Playing with a puppy. Listening to a kitty purr. Laughing so much your muscles ache. Falling in love. Knowing that someone cares for you and loves you back. Taking a road trip with friends. Constantly finding things in common with your partner. Feeling a sense of accomplishment. Happiness is many things. But it all starts from you alone.

Being happy is not easy. But as the saying goes, every cloud has a silver lining. And happiness can be found even in the darkest of places, if only one remembers to turn on the light. “Happiness is not something ready-made; it comes from your own actions” (Dalai Lama).  It is wanting what you get and appreciating what you have.

In fact, even studies have shown that happy people live longer and healthier lives. Happiness is the opposite of stress, and happy, positive thoughts actually induce the production of chemicals in our bodies that enhance immunity, cell repair, and building strength. In addition, happiness is linked to optimism. Optimistic people see bad things as temporary and good things as permanent. Their positive expectation of good things helps them see and act on options and opportunities faster. Happiness also improves people’s ability to learn and remember things. There is a saying: you get what you look for. Optimists look for opportunities for a good outcome and tend to see opportunity more frequently, thus they are more likely to make lemonade when life gives them lemons.

Happier people are more attractive and being happier makes you more likely to be attracted to someone else. Obviously a smiling, cheerful person is much more worthwhile to befriend and talk to than a sorrow, miserable one.

Studies have shown that happy people are more willing to share their good fortune to help others than unhappy people. Happy people make the world a better place. Moreover, studies have also shown that happy people are luckier. They are often respected for their virtue and are more likely to find good outcomes when bad things happen.

In our world today, and under the current circumstances, it is not easy finding happiness. But “people are just as happy as they make up their minds to be” (Abraham Lincoln). It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks or does. What is important is that inside you your heart beats in harmony, your soul is bright and you can feel the tranquility and peace of mind that truly being happy brings. People indeed may not remember what you say but they will certainly remember how you made them feel. And that is perhaps the most important emotion of them all.

“Rules for Happiness:

something to do,

someone to love,

something to hope for”

 ― Immanuel Kant

 

Also part of Daily Prompt: Happy Happy Joy Joy

The commercialisation of the globe

I read somewhere a phrase that sums up today perfectly: “God made the world. Everything else is made in China”. If you think about it, it’s more or less true. There are so many things nowadays that are produced in the Asian market, specifically China. Everything seems to be manufactured in mass produce that it seems to actually lose its worth, or even its value, let alone its quality. China offers cheap labour which means more revenue and thus more money. Money makes the world go round. But does it really? It actually stops the world (thanks K for this!). Everyone is so preoccupied with making money that they don’t really do much else. Money is the main aim of everyone’s life that they miss out on everything that is more important. Of course, if “money does not bring you happiness, it will at least help you be miserable in comfort” (Helen Gurley Brown). But is it really worth it? Money may definitely make life easier. But what happens when the stock markets crash or banks go bankrupt? When an economic crisis reigns over the until-then well-off nations? We are actually living the consequences. Life gets harder for those who lack it. But for those who have the money, it doesn’t seem as bad.

Our daily lives are overwhelmed with the insatiable quest for more money. Television is ruled by advertisements – their main source of revenue. Sometimes even to such an extent that advertisements dictate the time and length of TV programmes. Newspapers and print media also rely on advertisements for money, so much that they would be willing to leave out or ignore stories and important articles simply to please the whim of an advertiser.

Considering that, loads of money goes into electoral campaigns. Thousands of euros, dollars, yen, are invested into supporting a candidate whose main aim is usually to get elected in order to earn even more money and have the power to dictate how public money is spent. “A fool and his money are soon elected” as Will Rogers says, and it is true. There are very few politicians who actually deserve to speak for the people, or who actually know how to. Most of them are just there because they can afford to be.  Developed nations nowadays all depend on money. That’s how it all functions.

Money has become so important to everyone that there seems to be almost nothing that it cannot buy. Charlotte Dujardin (Equestrian Gold Olympic Medalist in Dressage) sold her Grand Prix horse in 2011 to another rider, stating that she accepted an offer she could not refuse, even though it was a tough decision. She admitted that it made financial sense and would not only allow her to buy a house but also a younger horse. But stated that it was the hardest decision she ever made, saying goodbye to her best friend after everything they had achieved together. But, if you don’t want to say goodbye, then there is simply no offer you can’t refuse. If something is more important to you than anything, then no price can ever be placed on it. That’s how it goes. But apparently, even horses that are the main reasons athletes win the equestrian distinctions and awards they do, are treated as an investment and being traded for the commodity that all want more of: money.

What is even more striking is how much every achievement, every opening, every step actually costs.  Dreams themselves may not cost anything, but making them come true does. And as Walt Disney rightly said “the biggest problem all my life…it’s money. It takes a lot of money to make these dreams come true”.

Everyone keeps lamenting that they never have enough money. The rich want more, and the poor simply want some. But it seems to be the main thought, aspiration, objective of everyone’s life. To have money. Enough to help you afford what it is you most want. How far you are willing to go to achieve that, however, is a different story…

“Too many people spend money they haven’t earned, to buy things they don’t want, to impress people they don’t like.” – Will Smith

NB. I was prompted to note that I am not a Communist and have no such affiliation 😉

The Olympics and everything else behind them

It’s been 116 years since the revival of the Olympic Games in Greece in 1896 and very much has changed since then. Not only social, political, cultural and economic developments, but also in the world of sports. Of course the athletes are still the protagonists of the Games, as they well should be. And London 2012 Olympics have provided the world with many memorable moments – including the feat of US swimmer Michael Phelps who became most celebrated Olympian with 22 medals, Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt retained the title of fastest man in the world, while South African Paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius proved that even with two artificial limbs he can still compete with the elite in the 400m. There is quite a lot to remember from these Games. And surely each country has its own moments. Greek swimmer Spyridon Gianniotis missed out on the bronze medal in the 10-kilometer open water swimming event by just five seconds. Austria laments its worse games in 50 years as its 70 athletes in 21 sports failed to bring home a medal. On the other hand, Team GB, playing on home turf, managed to gather 65 medals (of which 25 gold) – one of their best ever Olympic performances. While even Cypriot sailor Pavlos Kontides won silver at the Laser dinghy category – the island’s first ever Olympic medal. In total 79 out of the 193 nations won an Olympic medal in the London 2012 Games that just ended yesterday.

However, the Games are no longer just about sportsmanship or the glory of being an Olympian. It’s also about the business behind it all. As almost everything is nowadays, it’s all about the money. It’s about the effort that goes into organizing “the best Games in history” as each hosting nation aspires to have. It’s in investing into the infrastructure, the facilities, the courts, the Olympic village, the transport, and the organization in general. It’s the hosting city’s and nation’s chance to promote itself to the world. To advertise its culture, its history, its beauty in order to draw in tourism. The most usual and expected place to see a demonstration of culture, history and generally of what the country is about is of course during the opening and closing ceremonies. Critics globally hailed the London 2012 ceremonies as “spectacular”. I’m sorry, but I just didn’t see that. The opening ceremony was boring. Of course Londoners were trying to highlight their history, short as it may be, with the industrial revolution etc., but what did the NHS have to do with anything? And two weeks later does anyone really remember what the opening ceremony involved? To me, one of the most memorable moments was actually Mr. Bean and his one-of-a-kind facial expressions during the “Chariots of Fire” music by Vangelis. Oh, and of course, James Bond receiving the Queen and accompanying her on a parachute jump above the Olympic Stadium. Other than that, however, there was hardly anything to remember. And I am not being biased by saying this. It was too long, too loud, and too…British. As a reviewer said, “it was a ceremony by the British for the British”. And I actually wonder how much the millions of viewers around the world (who are not British) could actually understand or even relate to any of it. Similarly, the closing ceremony was equally uninteresting. It was simply a huge rock party. Nothing more and nothing less. The 10-minute performance by next hosting city Rio de Janeiro was actually more spectacular than the 4-hour show presented by London. At least they had rhythm and fancy costumes and synchronized performances that would appear as an image even to the spectator seating at the highest row of the stadium. Either way, the ceremonies were nothing impressive and had nothing much to offer. At least that’s my opinion. And for the Brits who are challenging Rio to “beat that” in what they can show, well, the Brazilians won’t really have any trouble doing that. We’re talking about the party capital of the world with the carnival and the Samba. Really? At least give them a challenge…

Well, the 16 days of the Olympic Games however did provide a lot of emotion sports-wise. The successes, the achievements, the losses, and the sorrows were all part of the most important sporting event in the world. What, unfortunately was not, was the Olympic Truce. For while the 10960 athletes were competing in London with crowds enthusiastically cheering them on, in Syria the conflict continued, with the death toll rising during ruthlessly suppressed anti-government protests.

Those who should don’t and those who needn’t do

August is the holiday month. It’s the time when everything stops working, when cities seem deserted and beaches are packed, when hotel resorts are full, when people plan their trips to exotic places, when the sun is shining brighter and you actually notice it. It’s the time when you can – or rather should – go on holiday. To relax, recharge your batteries, and plan the next season ahead. But what is very often overlooked during this time of year, is that not everyone really goes on holiday. Shocking as it may seem, some people work throughout the summer – and this not only applies to the cafés and beach restaurants you hang out at, or the hotel staff that are there to accommodate your every need. Some people simply need to work. Or may even have to. So it usually ends up that those who don’t really need a holiday are the ones who go on a prolonged vacation, whereas those who should go on a holiday to relax, clear their minds and actually get some rest, don’t.

Those who should don’t and those who needn’t do. That is what it adds up to. Royalty, who practically do nothing all year except run around from gala to event, to charity ball, to special ceremonies, are the ones taking vacations in the Bahamas or Seychelles. Diplomats and civil servants who earn thousands a month fly to exotic places to lie on the beach in the sun all day, experiencing a change from the routine of lying around in the office. Government officials even take private means of transport to other continents and use state funds to holiday, under the pretext of state business or promotion of the state. All the while, the hard-working middle class remain in the office keeping the state machinery running, the business afloat, the company producing, and dreaming of a vacation in another land. With the notice board full of pictures of sandy beaches, exotic islands, waterfalls, snowy mountains and all such places that seem unreachable, people imagine what it would be like to actually be able to go where you only dream to be. Due to a variety of reasons, ranging from no money, no time, no days of leave, people are constrained to the hot, humid city during the summer with only relief being the beach a few kilometres away – if you are lucky, that is.

It’s hard not being able to do what you want. It’s even harder watching everyone else do it. And it’s frustrating not having the time or money to do exactly what you plan, or at least wish to. It always seems that when you have the time to do something you never have the money, and when you in fact have the money, you lack the time. Life is short, as everyone keeps saying, and it is a shame not to live it out to the fullest. To enjoy every moment of it. To be with people you love and make you happy. And most importantly, to be exactly where you want to be. In every sense. Life will only have meaning, when you wake up and reality is actually better than your dreams…

What if the Mayas were right?

If the Mayas were right and the world will really come to an end in 2012, then what is the reason for all this concern? Particularly over something that (logically) cannot be averted. The whole world is overwhelmed by concern. Concern over how the economy will develop, fear as to whether the Eurozone will collapse, worry over the future of Europe, but also uncertainty for the future of the world itself. But if either way doomsday will come before the very end of this year, then why worry? Why don’t we try to improve today instead? Why is everyone so concerned with the future that they forget to live the present? Even Bob Marley had sung it: “in every life we have some trouble, but when you worry you make it double”.

Worries spread fear and fear is the worst enemy of optimism. It is this very concern that has devoured us. The fear and terror that “it never rains, but it pours”.  But as US President Franklin Roosevelt had said: “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself”. It is that very fear that hovers over society like a black cloud. Like a tornado demolishing everything in its way. Leaving behind a society helpless and unable to stand on its own. That instead of moving forward with the knowledge from its past mistakes is moving backwards. And yet – invoking the infamous excuse of the current period – this crisis is to blame for everything. For the fact that there are no jobs; that shops, firms and industries are shutting down; that prices are rising but salaries are not; that poor people are becoming even poorer and are increasing in numbers, all the while the rich are becoming even wealthier but fewer. Consequently, the middle class is vanishing, widening even further the rich-poor divide. And the society that is portrayed in Latin-American telenovelas, where the carefree rich enjoy their ‘haciendas’ while the poor struggle to make a living in their makeshift shacks, is becoming all the more true as it rapidly converges on reality.

For as science and technology progress, the society’s mentality hardly changes. And all this third and fourth generation technology that has flooded the 21st century markets, despite facilitating our lives, has made it all the more empty. Development and progress is becoming a victim of commercialism. Because we feel that all these technologically-advanced gadgets will improve our image and make us feel more important. Today’s generation of children ask for smartphones, tablets, laptops, and whatever new and technologically-advanced best-seller is in the market today and costs dearly to demonstrate its worth. While yesterday’s children felt cool simply with their new set of coloured pencils. Indeed, the future generation may never even learn to write with pencil and pen, since keyboard will probably replace ink and finger will replace stylo.

However, it is worth questioning whether all this development and dependence on it is actually a good thing. If all these unnecessary expenses could be used on something more noteworthy and constructive – on medical research, for example, where developments and advancements are necessary. If even technology is reigned by fear. Fear that if it is actually used in research, or in similar fields, then something unknown and unexplored will come of it. A new Dolly for instance. That will rejuvenate debates, reactions and controversies over human intervention on the divine gift of life. And which will also breathe life into the realistic science fiction films depicting cloned and alien life-forms pursuing the end of the world. But the world – judging from all that is happening – seems to be causing its own demise. By its own selfishness, arrogance and greed. Perhaps this is what the Maya meant by their prediction? And what if they are right?

(22 January 2012)

Τι είναι τα λεφτά;

Το ΔΝΤ, η Ευρωπαϊκή Κεντρική Τράπεζα και το οικονομικό σκέλος της Ευρωπαϊκής Επιτροπής, ασχολούνται όλο με λεφτά. Και απ’ότι φαίνεται, από τα χέρια τους περνάνε πολλά, μα πάρα πολλά λεφτά. Μιλάνε για χρέη δισεκατομμυρίων (μερικές φορές ακόμα και τρισεκατομμυρίων) και απαιτούν μέτρα και περικοπές εκατομμυρίων ευρώ από τη μια μέρα στην άλλη χωρίς καν να λαμβάνουν υπόψη τα εκατομμύρια πολίτες που θα στερούνται τα πεντάρικα, δεκάρικα και εικοσάρικα τους.

 Παράδειγμα η Ελλάδα που βρίσκεται τώρα σε ένα ασφυκτικό κλοιό πιέσεων για να επιβάλει στους πολίτες της επιπρόσθετα και ακόμα πιο επώδυνα μέτρα. Ο κατώτατος μισθός των €500 είναι πλέον «μισθός πείνας», ενώ οι περικοπές από παντού και η αύξηση της φορολογίας ρίχνουν ακόμα πιο βαθιά έναν ταλαιπωρημένο λαό στην απελπισία. Τίποτα πια δεν είναι δεδομένο. Αν έχεις δουλειά σήμερα, δεν σημαίνει πλέον ότι θα την έχεις και αύριο.

Η αβεβαιότητα πλημμυρίζει πλέον τη ζωή και την καθημερινότητα μας και μας γεμίζει με φόβο και αγωνία, στοιχειώνοντας ακόμα και τα όνειρά μας. Ακόμα και οι συντάξεις ατόμων που μια ζωή δούλευαν για να απολαύσουν τους καρπούς των κόπων τους, τώρα κινδυνεύουν να χαθούν. Αν δεν βρεθεί αντίστοιχο μέτρο που θα επιφέρει τα  €300 εκατομμύρια που ζητά η Τρόικα, οι συντάξεις θα κοπούν. Και ο ολοένα αυξανόμενος αριθμός του 27.7% των Ελλήνων που βρίσκονται στα όρια της φτώχιας και του κοινωνικού αποκλεισμού θα ανεβεί στα ύψη. Πως δηλαδή θα πληρώνει φαγητό, ενοίκιο και φόρους ένας πολίτης που δεν θα έχει δουλειά αλλά ούτε κανένα εισόδημα; Τα λεφτά δεν πέφτουν από τον ουρανό, ούτε τα βρίσκουμε στο δρόμο. Για τους περισσότερους εν καιρώ κρίσης τα λεφτά, ακόμη και για βασικές ανάγκες, είναι από δυσκολεύρετα μέχρι ακριβοθώρητα. Η δουλειά από εργασία έχει γίνει πια δουλεία. Εκεί οδηγούν τους πολίτες όλοι αυτοί οι πολιτικοί αρχηγοί που δέχονται και επιβάλλουν μέτρα για εξοικονόμηση εκατομμυρίων ευρώ «για τη σωτηρία του κράτους». Όταν όμως από ένα ξεθωριασμένο σκοινί συνέχεια κόβεις την άκρη για να μη ξεφτίσει, στο τέλος απλά δεν θα υπάρχει άλλο σκοινί. Τα έργα για την ανάπτυξη που θα βοηθήσουν την χώρα να ορθοποδήσει και να ξαναβρεί την αξιοπρέπεια και την αυτοπεποίθηση της γιατί δεν γίνονται; Γιατί δεν επενδύεται και κάτι στην ανάπτυξη, και οι μόνες εξελίξεις πια είναι οι περικοπές μισθών και συντάξεων, και το κλείσιμο και οι χρεοκοπία όλο και περισσότερων καταστημάτων και εταιριών;

Τα εκατομμύρια που ακούγονται να ζητούνται από τη μια χώρα και την άλλη, και τα Ευρωπαϊκά και Διεθνή Ταμεία που δίνουν δισεκατομμύρια για τη σωτηρία τους, γιατί δεν λαμβάνουν υπόψη και τον απλό πολίτη που πιθανόν δεν γνωρίζει αλλά ούτε και θα μπορεί να φανταστεί για τι υπέρογκα ποσά τίθεται θέμα συζήτησης; Πως μπορεί μια χώρα στα όρια της χρεοκοπίας να βρει τόσα εκατομμύρια σε τόσο σύντομο χρονικό διάστημα, τη στιγμή που χρόνια ολόκληρα το σύστημα έκλεβε τα παιδιά της και οι λίγοι καταχράζονταν τα λεφτά των πολλών; Στα μάτια των αστέγων, των ταλαιπωρημένων και των νέων που δεν βλέπουν πια μέλλον στον ορίζοντα, τα λεφτά δεν είναι πετραδάκια διαθέσιμα να μαζευτούν. Είναι κόποι και σκληρή δουλειά. Κι ας βγαίνει ο κάθε πολιτικός να λέει πως η Ευρωζώνη μπορεί και χωρίς την Ελλάδα, και να ζητούν απερίσκεπτα να χρεοκοπήσει ένας ολόκληρος λαός, μιας χώρας που έμαθε στον κόσμο τι εστί δημοκρατία. Πως μπορεί όμως αυτό όλο που βιώνουμε σήμερα να είναι δημοκρατία τι στιγμή που λίγοι κεφαλαιοκράτες – η άρχουσα ελίτ – καθορίζουν και υπαγορεύουν το μέλλον ολόκληρων χωρών, ενώ ταυτόχρονα χιλιάδες πολίτες ξεχύνονται στους δρόμους φωνάζοντας εναντίον των αποφάσεων τους; Ενάντια σε καθεστώτα που παρότι λένε έχουν το συμφέρον της χώρας πάνω από όλα, πάλι κατά κάποιο περίεργο τρόπο διασφαλίζουν και τα συμφέροντα αυτών που ήδη έχουν τα εκατομμύρια. Όχι τα πετραδάκια, αλλά τα ευρώ.

(26 Φεβρουαρίου 2012)

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