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Archive for the tag “power”

The bold and the audacious

https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/98/ff/73/98ff73fde916d7ecdb795ed80abdd9d0.jpgAnts – yes, those little creatures we so recklessly step on so often – are acutally astounding mechanical systems, in that they can lift up to 5,000 times their own body weight. But it is not only that which makes them admirable, it is their ability to work so effectively in teams – and even if acting alone, do so for the benefit of all – a trait the human race has yet to master.

You see, humans have an intrinsic underlying weakness: selfishness. The main goal it seems for many is how to gain power, to rise up above others, to stand out from the crowd, often in any way possible. They easily become intoxicated with the supremacy of power and get caught up in a vicious circle from which there is no escape.

When you spend an entire weekend watching Frank Underwood crush anyone who interferes with his plans for power, then it is only reasonable that you’ll begin to understand how being so relentless and emotionally unattached to anyone and anything can serve your own ruthlessly selfish ambitions.

It is not only about having power, however, and the means you use to acquire it. It is mainly about knowing how to use it right. That is what makes all the difference. And it is what sets people apart, either in a positive or negative light. It is the road you choose to take that will determine the legacy you leave at your footsteps.

It is the difference between being bold and being audacious.

There is a saying that “the doors will open to those who are bold enough to knock”. It takes courage to do so. Robert Frost had said that “freedom lies in being bold”, because that is how you chase after your ambitions. But that thin line that separates this fearfulness and daring nature from being reckless and uninhibited is reflected in the words of some of the world’s most prominent figures: “fortune favours the audacious”, said Desiderius Erasmus, and Benjamin Disraeli agreed, saying “success is the child of audacity”. Even Winston Churchill prompted, “the first quality that is needed is audacity”.

It seems it’s not the bold who get what they’re after, it’s the audacious ones.

And in the societies we’re growing up in, rife with conflict and controversy, people need to develop another characteristic: the ability to observe the world around them and distinguish between those who are after something for themselves, and those who are there simply to be. Those who stand by others, no matter what, and those who are only after their own interests. Those who empathise and listen when you’re unwell, and those who only selfishly care to have a good time when you’re in the mood too. Those who would do anything to rise above others at present, and those who would work to make things better for those to come.

What matter in the end is the intelligence of knowing how to wield the power the comes with power and the audacity to do it for the right reasons, no matter if you’re a lone ant, risking to be squashed.

 

Also part of Daily Prompt: Fake

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Witch Wars

spells potions witchcraftGisella was a witch. But she didn’t know it. Not until when she was 22 years old and fell head over heels in love with a boy. A boy who, however, had another girlfriend. That is when Gisella realized the power she had.

For days she ached for his attention. She longed for the moment his eyes would meet hers, for when they would exchange a few words and he would make her laugh so easily. But then, she would show up. That dyed-blonde, tall, I’m-so-pretty-and-I-know-it type of girl who was always hanging off his arm. Gisella was jealous. Inside of her, a green-eyed monster was brewing with rage. All she wanted to do was get her out of the picture in some way, so she could be the one to enjoy the young man’s attention. But how?

She suddenly remembered that on her 18th birthday her great aunt had given her an old leather-bound notebook. She had told her that she would know when she would need it. The aunt passed away three months later. Gisella searched for it at the back of her closet and finally opened it. Inside were hand-written psalms, spells, recipes for potions and remedies for all sorts of “illnesses” – heartaches, diseases and the like, both good and bad. Obviously, her great aunt had been a witch. Or just very insane.

Jealousy had taken over Gisella’s entire being and all she could think of was how to conquer the young man. So she decided to try out a spell. After all, what was the worst that could happen?

She made a potion that seemed fairly easy and used ingredients found around the house. Plus a hair from the young man in question which she acquired with dexterity one day when she was pretending to choke and grabbed onto him, plucking out a single hair from the back of his neck. The next time she saw him, she offered him this new homemade drink her aunt had prepared. A sip was enough.

The potion was supposed to bring chaos to his relationship with the dyed-blonde. And it did. Because they soon began to quarrel and fight more often.

But a few days later, Gisella fell sick. She had constant headaches and her stomach was churning like a washing machine. She found on her windowsill a small pebble with a star painted inside a square. She flicked through the aunt’s book and found that this was a sample of black magic. It was used to make a person sick, and the more stones you used the sicker the person would become. The dyed-blonde was a witch too.

A witch war began with Gisella now focusing her power on diminishing the other witch. Spells and counter spells were fired, all the while forgetting what exactly this was over – or rather whom. The young man was perplexed, but he grew distant from his girlfriend and that pleased Gisella. She then frantically sought another plan. She made another man pursue the dyed-blonde; sooner or later she would fall for him, flattered by his passion and overwhelmed by his persistence in chasing after her. It worked. And the road was now open for Gisella to enter the young man’s heart. Another potion for that would do the trick. One that would ensure that the person who drank it would only have eyes for her.

Gisella was a witch. But she would always wonder if she could ever get her way without magic. She felt like she cheated life but justified herself by arguing that jealousy makes you someone else. Someone you never knew you were. That someone may simply just as well be an all-powerful witch. So why not use that power?

Also part of Daily Prompt: Green-Eyed Monster

The Curse

flirty coupleWhen Lorenzo was a young boy, wild at heart, he met a girl on the train on his way back home from a weekend in the country. In his early twenties then, he loved to flirt and was a true heartbreaker. All during the train ride, they exchanged meaningful glances with the girl, discussed what they were doing and where they were from, shared their views about how they hoped their lives would be, and laughed a lot. By the time they arrived at the station, they both agreed it would be great to see each other again. The girl told him she was studying in a near-by town and he should call her so that they could arrange to meet up again soon. He carefully inserted her number in his phone and hit save.

Lorenzo lived twenty minutes by car away from the station. He took a taxi to get there and arrived half an hour later due to heavy traffic. What he didn’t notice until later that night, however, was that he had dropped his phone in the taxi. He had lost his device and everything on it, including that girl’s number.

What he never realized until years later is that this incident would haunt his very existence.

Since then, every time he made plans to visit that particular near-by town – which was coincidentally one of the country’s main attractions due to its architectural elegance and natural beauty – he would end up fighting with his current girlfriend, or having something extraordinary coming up work-wise, resulting in him never getting there. Eventually, he gave up even trying. He simply settled with the fact that it was just not his destiny to visit that town.

Little did he know that the girl on the train had been very upset that Lorenzo never called her – she had really liked him, and as every love-struck young girl, had already began dreaming of a relationship with him. So, she cursed him into never being able to set foot in her town. If he didn’t go there for her, he shouldn’t go there at all, she thought.

The power of a heart in love is immense, but the force of a broken heart knows no limits.

Speaking Truth to ‘Stupid’: Reestablishing Dignity in Journalism

AB15521Journalism was once described as the Fourth Estate: a watchdog of the elites, informing and protecting the masses. People looked to it for the truth. Today, information is propelled from every direction, medium, and person. Does the power of the Fourth Estate still exist, and if not, how do we reclaim it?

More people today choose to avoid the news at all costs. Especially political news, since all they appear to do is replicate the status quo, with politicians lining up to give their own position on developments (if any), while not even staying long enough to listen to opposing positions. It almost feels like we live in a world that doesn’t want to be changed. But, it is the civil responsibility of journalists to change this by presenting hard-core facts, inspire debate and fuel a desire for improvement.

With The Newsroom Season 3 having just begun, and Kill the Messenger recently hitting the big screens, journalism seems to have returned to centre stage, not that it ever left. But right now, it seems this profession has become all the more important, especially since journalists are sacrificing their lives in order to reveal information that is critical for public safety.

The aforementioned film is based on the true story of journalist Gary Webb and takes place in the mid-1990s, when Webb uncovered the role of the CIA in arming Contra rebels in Nicaragua and importing cocaine into California. Despite enormous pressure, Webb chose to pursue the story and went public with his evidence. As a result, he became the target of a vicious smear campaign fueled by the CIA and was forced to defend his integrity, his family, and his life, even reaching the point of suicide.

Consider the recent example of Serena Shim, an American journalist of Lebanese origin who disclosed that ISIS jihadists were being smuggled into Turkey and back into Syria in the back of humanitarian aid vehicles. Just days later, she was reportedly killed in a car crash with a heavy-duty vehicle. The second car was never found, raising suspicions as to the true cause of her death. Shim is not alone. Journalists around the world are regularly threatened against publishing information that is their disposal. In 2013, approximately 100 journalists were killed, while so far 64 journalists have lost their lives this year, fighting for what they believe in.

But journalism no longer seems to really be what it used to. Journalists are often characterised as “the Fourth Estate”, a term originally used by Edmund Burke, who in 1787 said that the Reporters’ Gallery in the British House of Commons was where a Fourth Estate, which was more important than the other three, took its seat. Since then, a lot has changed in journalism. Although there are some who criticise the government, many argue that journalism has become part of the ruling estate rather than an objective observer of it.

Journalism became a vulnerable profession with the rise of digital media. However, the economic crisis struck a large blow causing salaries and media revenue to decrease. Churnalism has taken the place of investigative journalism and reporters of all stripes simply find it easier to replicate press releases, instead of researching, analysing and criticising power to provide citizens with informed explanations of current affairs. There is also “citizen journalism” which has blurred the definition of who is a journalist. Furthermore, claims blast from every direction, often without any credible evidence to support them. Yet, this is what sells and what is seemingly desired by the public. This is an age where global terrorism is real and no longer an imminent threat; where people are more interested in exchanging narcissistic selfies rather than improving social welfare; and where everyone complains but few take action. Now, more than ever, is the time for journalism to reclaim its lost vigour, grace and glamour.

People want to read the news. They no longer accept bad journalism, as they want to learn what is going on quickly, simply and clearly; to be informed, not mocked. As MacKenzie McHale (Emily Mortimer) told Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) on the first episode of The Newsroom: We need to reclaim the fourth estate; to rebrand journalism as an honourable profession; to produce news that informs and stimulates debates characterised by civility and respect; and return to what is important. It needs to end ‘bitchiness, gossip and voyeurism.’ We need “to speak the truth to stupid,” because we need to actually believe that the audience is not stupid. In reality, it is composed of intelligent people who we should address as such. If we treat people as if they were stupid, that is who they will be, but, if we refer to them as intelligent people who have a say in bringing about change, then that is who they will become. Journalism is not simply about conveying news and arousing the wrath of the masses. It is about communicating information and enabling the audience to develop a clear awareness about what is happening in the world and how things might change, for the better, and for the benefit of all of us.

 

First published on Cafébabel.com and translated into French and Italian.

Turn away and slam the door

halloween-cupcakes-e1288184827127Melody was a bit of a hippie at times. She had days were she would only listen to country, and then others when she would abruptly switch to rock – it was exactly like that song said. But mood swings are apparently fitting to every woman, so that wasn’t strange. What truly suffocated Melody though, was the fact that some days she did not feel like singing at all.

It was the days when she felt her frustration with the world mounting inside of her, like a volcano ready to erupt. And it was precisely for that reason that she loved Halloween. Because she could really let it all go.

This year she was invited at a friend’s house for a Halloween party. Costumes were mandatory, and the entire house and yard were decorated with scary face-pumpkins with little candles glowing inside, as well as cobwebs, witch brooms, skeletons and the like. People apparently really like to be scared.

So Melody put on her cowgirl shoes and a western-style hat, but added a touch of Halloween to her makeup – she painted a bullet hole on her left cheek, one that left blood dripping onto her shirt. It was something that left many people impressed at how real it looked. One person even offered to find the first aid box for her.

Melody had been fired from her job this week, finding out the truth behind the saying that even if you work perfectly for 364 days a year, the slip-up on that one day is all you will be remembered for. So tonight, Halloween marked a new beginning too. A time to stop being the good girl she had to be, and conceal her feelings. Staying frozen in one place for too long, would just allow others to strike harder, she thought. So tonight it was time to let it go, turn away and slam the door. And that is exactly what she did.

Halloween enabled her to let her hair down, wear exactly what she wanted and ignore everything that was simply not going her way. After all, tonight was about remembering all those that are no longer with us, and they certainly would not want her depressed about something she has no power over. For Melody, Halloween served as a reminder, that we should enjoy life in its fullest, because it really is too short.

So go on, treat yourself to a festive cupcake and let it all go.

Happy Halloween!

 

Also part of Daily Prompt: No Time to Waste

Gordie, the fat cat

fatcat

There was once a fat cat named Gordie,

who thought he was royal King Louis,

He would never eat out of cans,

or drink water from taps,

and would never be thought of as sloppy.

He was a picky fat cat,

and was teased by the rest of the pack,

but he cared not at all,

for he felt mighty and tall,

and believed he would rule them all shortly.

He would never look into the trash,

that was for those of a lower class,

but he would expect his plate out of brass,

to always be filled with big, fresh, sea bass.

He run around other fat cats,

to please his own rank,

for that made him more jolly and bossy.

There were days he felt he owned a bank,

and others were he simply drew a blank,

but he remained as sturdy as a tank,

as he often stated he “didn’t give a franc”.

Gordie was fat and proud of it;

He would never deny,

what was obvious to the eye,

but corruption was in oversupply,

and only proven by the private-eye.

And for this he still reigned,

as honest he so feigned,

and was considered the chief of the posse.

And as he lived a life in splendor

yapping at every slight offender,

he kept asking for more,

vowing power to never surrender.

But this potency vested greed,

and to him it was a deed,

to gain evermore,

no matter who he appalled,

for that is the very core

of why a fat cat is thus so-called!

Welcome to the Middle Ages, 2013

Need-HopeSo, what seems to be the biggest problem during this past decade?

Is it famine?

Is it poverty?

Or is it politicians?

Is it empty promises that lead to nothing? Austerity policies pushing for more cuts, lower wages, and a soaring unemployment that simply cannot be controlled?

It’s all of the above. It’s the bad handling of policies by a group of people whose only concern was to take care of their own lives. And now, leaders from all over the world are gathering every so often, in one bustling city or another, in order to, as they proclaim “find ways to combat” youth unemployment, or the recession, or the financial crisis in general.

What no one admits though is that we live in a 21st century, that all the more looks like the Middle Ages. In order to survive, you have to already have money. You have to have a financial capital behind you so that you can go out and look for a job, and afford to take on two, three, even five internships at minimal (or even absent) pay, before landing a full-time job.

You have to have the professional experience and skills for permanent employment simply in order to get an unpaid traineeship.

And what’s worse: everyone expects you to be grateful for it. For simply offering you the experience. Or simply because you have a job – no matter how badly paid that is, how many hours you work, how exploited you are.

We live in an era were only the wealthy survive. The middle class does not exist. And the lower ranks are ignored.

We live in a society where in the midst of an economic crisis and in a state on the verge of default, bankers and civil servants have the audacity to demand bonuses and higher wages, when the private sector employees are sacked without even compensation.

And then, the very people whose debauchery and later recipe of austerity led to this very situation, are the ones who declare that unemployment will be reversed if the same policies continue, with a few structural reforms for good measure. Reforms that further lower people’s living standards.

People ruling, or rather, the ruling elite, live in their own gilded towers, in a bubble. They fail to understand the concerns of the “ordinary folk”. They fail to walk in their shoes, because they have elevated themselves so far up that they have lost touch with it all. And if a politician has no contact with his/her “polis”, the people who elected him/her, then s/he loses all credibility. And all you have out there is just another selfish “official” only aspiring for more (personal) power.

The Power of Illusions

Perception-3There is a popular saying that “all that glitters is not gold”. And it is true. What appears to be one way, doesn’t necessarily mean it is truly so. A pretty house may hide inside it deserted rooms covered in cobwebs. Just like a big smile, may be masking unexpressed pain. Illusions have a huge part in our lives. But we often fail to realize how great their power actually is.

What appears to give a location or a person wealth, luxury and comfort does not completely cover up the fact that behind the expensive stores and villas, people may be found living out of makeshift homes, just like the favelas in Rio de Janeiro. Just because this is not publicized enough, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Recently, for example, with the ongoing demonstrations in Turkey, CNN Turk was avoiding any news on the matter and instead broadcasting cooking shows. Yet, just outside their door a riot was breaking out and overtaking the headlines of international news media.

The amount and type of publicity something takes, greatly impacts on your psychology too. Advertising a destination as rich, colourful and luxurious, creates the illusion that there can be no wrong there, no danger, no risk. And yet, when a tsunami hits the very shores you are bathing at, you are caught unprepared, as that crystalline illusion is washed away in a surge of a tidal wave.

In crisis-struck countries of southern Europe, such as Greece, negative publicity creates an image in tourists’ minds that streets are filled with unbridled immigrants who are waiting for the opportune moment to attack, steal and plunder. That shopping streets are closed and deserted. That nationalistic sentiment has overtaken the calm and peaceful mentality that once was. And that no one is safe in a country full of crime, corruption and offences. But that is not the case. And it is truly a shame that such negative propaganda is what wins over the reality of a country as beautiful as Greece. That despite the crisis, and the unavoidable impact it has had particularly on small businesses, it still maintains its pride and life still goes on as usual, as people try to cope with the new laws, the additional cuts, and the extra taxes. But this negativity spreading internationally does not help. For people enter the country with the illusion that they might get attacked any minute now, and fear overwhelms them, as they look at all those faces travelling alongside them in the metro, and create conspiracy theories in their head. To the point that in the end they become afraid of even their own shadow.

Illusions work both ways. Not everything publicized as bad exists without any hidden trace of good; but neither does all that is advertised as perfect not bury something bad. Just as there are two sides to each coin, there are too sides to each story. And even though looking for both may risk you being dubbed a skeptic, it is better to know the whole story, rather than half the truth.

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