Being Human

We are all familiar with the saying, ”I’m only human”, the casual statement that indicates anyone has the capability to have a moment of weakness and to make a mistake, and not to be judged or deemed unworthy, just because of that ‘one small mistake’. While it is indeed true that we all deserve a second chance, what we tend to overlook is that this statement implies ‘being human’ as being weak. What does it mean to be a human? There are, of course, a lot of answers to this question, depending on one’s perspective of humanity. As human beings, we all have limitations. After all, no one is flawless. However, on this piece of my mind expressed through writing, I want to take it a step further, to really understand what humans are capable of doing. Humans are like double edged swords. They can be both sides of extreme, good and evil. Human race is one of the most (if not the most) dangerous predators in the history of existence. We surely can find more than enough examples of this. From historical events that took millions of lives such as World War I and II, genocide, ethnic cleansing, nuclear bombing; to everyday crimes such as serial murder, rape, human trafficking, you name it, we have it. The destruction one person can bring to millions of lives is overwhelming, especially combined with great powers in the wrong hands. More often than it should be, one very powerful leader can bring devastation to the entire society. Ever since the very harsh lesson we learned from the two world wars, human race is trying hard to develop into a more civilized world. However, what does it mean to be ‘civil’ when there are still wars going on? The amount of lives fallen in Syria, Israel-Palestine, Iraq, just to mention some, is just simply mind blowing. Haven’t we learned anything from the past two world wars? Do we have to wait until there is no more life left in the world to finally stop the violence? The emergence of humanitarian societies and organizations sure spark up hope in humanity. As I have mentioned before, regardless of all the dark side of human race, there are still many good, righteous people exist in the world. As humans, we often forget that, united, we can bring change to the world. One simple act of kindness goes a long way, whether it is to lend a hand for those in need, volunteering for a good cause, raising money for the disadvantaged, the list goes on. These people that are often not named, are the true heroes who, hopefully, inspire more people to do the same. History is written today, and every day. Compilations of small, good deeds will bloom into positive actions, and positive actions have the tendency to be contagious. Heroes will create more heroes, and villains will create more villains; the future is up to us to make. Which kind of human do you want to be today? Written by: Sienny Thio, a Master’s degree student in Global Studies and Communication studies, with a background in Human Behaviour and Sociology. An active volunteer in various NGOs, involving e-journalism and social campaign.

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On Nationalism : a scientific approach

As I write to you this morning, people across the world are waking up to the news of another defeat inflicted by and large on behalf of Nationalism/Nationalistic short-sighted approaches. The Italian referendum, which did not allow PM Matteo Renzi to centralize more powers on its government hoping thus to diminish within the process the role of the Upper House/Senate proved to be another turning point on the political agenda of an already tumultuous unprecedented year. As it happened, Brexit and Donald Trump’s election in the US rallied people worldwide on the idea that the Establishment failed them or neglected them to the extent of obliteration. The notion of centre-right/left governments made famous by politicians such as Gerhard Schroeder in Germany or Tony Blair in the UK (they themselves followers of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher’s neoliberalism) did not find stable grounds on the more actual personae of David Cameron, Renzi or even Hillary Clinton in the US. The people around this countries did not budge any longer to long-preserved and protected ideas such as free-trade, globalization or freedom of movement, but rather turned inwards and tried to grasp local alternatives to external influences. I wish to provide the honourable reader in the following passages a clear and comprehensive depiction on the movement of nationalism from its inception to a more recent version of it. It is important before we start to distinguish clearly between “nation”, “nationalism” and “ethnicity”, concepts which have a significant relevance when dealing with the present subject. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a nation is “an extensive aggregate of persons, so closely associated with each other by common descent, language or history, as to form a distinct race or people, usually organized as a separate political state and occupying a definite territory”. Thus, the concept of nation hovers around three poles: Society: people living together, communicating and sharing the same socioeconomic and political conditions. Culture: people sharing the same language, social habits and historical memories. Race: people sharing the same descent and having passed on a shared culture through a filiation of generations. As you can see, the concept itself is rather slippery and elusive and I am sure it already rises eyebrows. Bear in mind, nevertheless, that the content has attracted throughout the years inscrutable forms. Let us now turn to “nationalism”. Joep Leerssen, Professor of Imagology at the University of Amsterdam, uses the word “Nationalism” on a combination of three assumptions: “That the nation is the most natural, organic collective aggregate of humans, and the most natural and organic subdivision of humanity; and that, as such, the nation’s claim to loyalty overrides all other allegiances. That the state derives its mandate and sovereignty from its incorporation of a constituent nation so that civic loyalty to the state is a natural extension of national (cultural, linguistic, ethnic) solidarity. That territorially and socio-politically, the most natural and organic division of humankind into states runs along national lines, so that ideally there is a seamless overlap between the outlines of the state and of its constituent nation.” Leerssen also considers that Nationalism emanates from the way people view and the describe the world, “that is, as a cultural phenomenon taking shape in the constant back and forth between material and political developments on the one hand, and intellectual and poetical reflection and articulation on the other”. Last but not least, the concept of “ethnicity” implies that “what matters in group’s identity is not any objective perceived similarities or differences, but rather a subjective approach of these items. That is group’s acknowledgment of a shared self-image and the willingness to consider it meaningful”. Let us remember that these terms are only hard samples of a would-be contextualized approach. Time and again, notions such as “nationalism” have become to signify so broad an area that today it is almost impossible to pinpoint or clearly identify its meaning. Allow me though to move from a technical view of the subject to a more mundane one. Nationalism and its immediate close terms were not solely the subject of hardliner dictionary and grammar geeks, butthey also belonged to vast number of literaturepoets and writers. Writing on the verge of the Second World War, George Orwell, the famous English novelist and BBC broadcaster depicted carefully and explicitly the consequences of a deep-rooted nationalism, in which he saw the incorrigible behaviour of a people unwilling to restore a contextually state of things. Books such as 1984 stand proof on that. Other writers viewed nationalism as “a condition of the mind, feeling or sentiment of a group of people living in a well-defined geographical area, speaking a common language, possessing a literature in which the aspirations of the nation have been expressed, being attached to common traditions, and in some cases, having a common religion”. Snyder. By this definition we can somehow visualise the similarities through which the concept tries to make its living. The close up marks only a general localization of the term and can be openly subject to criticism and even refute. Discoursing on the “Feeling of Nationality”, John Stuart Mill distinguishes some of the causes generated by it. “Sometimes it is the effect of identity of race and descent. Community of language, and community of religion greatly contribute to it. Geographical limits are one of its causes. But the strongest of all is identity of political antecedents; the possession of a national history, and consequent community of recollections; collective pride and humiliation; pleasure and regret connected with the same incidents in the past”. Identity of language, literature and, to a certain extent, of race and recollection have maintained the feeling of nationality in considerable strength among the different portions of the European people. Where the sentiment of nationality exists, there is a prima-facie case for uniting all the numbers of the nationality under the same government, and the government ought to be decided by its citizens alone. When examining Lord Acton’s Nationality approach, one of the main themes centred

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System change, not climate change

The issue of deforestation as presented by the Hambacher Forst conflict “My biggest interest lies within environmental preservation and education” The Hambacher Forst is a 12.000 year old forest of high ecological significance originally comprising 5.500 hectares of land. It is located in Germany, in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, between the cities of Cologne and Aachen. The forest plays an important role for biodiversity, offering habitat to no less than 142 endangered species, such as the Bechstein bat, the middle spotted woodpecker or the Natterjack toad. Since 1977, the woodland has been gradually cleared down to 1.000 hectares because of the extensive brown coal mining conducted by the giant power company RWE. It is the largest electricity provider in Germany, strictly opposed to leaving the coal mining sector and equipped with an operating license issued by the government that lasts until 2045. The annual yield of the Hambach area, together with Garzweiler and Inden, amounts to 100 million tons which makes it the most important coal mining site in Europe. A conflict is going on between the company and eco activists, whose motivations range from immediate wishes to preserve the forest and use renewable energies, to a more political criticism of structural exploitation. The activist groups have responded to the destruction of natural habitat with various forms of protest. Apart from long-term occupations, which have been taking place since 2012 and can be considered as the core element of the resistance, they include creative action camps aimed at the inclusion of a broader public, sit-in and tunnel blockades, bicycle demonstrations, on-worksite concerts and gardening, video documentaries, and more. The activists are confronted with police raids, physical injury, arrests and lawsuits, which cost individual and institutional actors a fortune. Some of the protesters live in purpose- built tree houses all year round, facing the cold of winter along with general precarity. The media play a polarizing role too, the coverage ranges from supportive, sometimes downright glorifying contributions, to negligence and defamation. The protesters cooperate with locals, some of which have been forced to relocate because their villages were torn down. Researchers join the camps to share information about the area’s abundance in flora and fauna. Solidarity movements formed between Hambacher Forst and similarly affected areas in France, Spain, and Greece. These movements draw attention to the scope of deforestation, reminding us that it is not only a struggle in the global South. They call out the destabilizing practice of forced relocation of local populations and denounce lobbyism. By that they raise fundamental questions about the ethics of power, the issue of communication, and the realism behind alternative visions of society. To exit the coal mining business for good is one of the prerequisites to end deforestation and slow down climate change. In order to achieve it, we need to raise awareness through education and promote a best practice implementation of alternative energy concepts. Written By Sara Borgioni, CB Volunteer from Luxemburg

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Why haven’t you been there yet?

  Or maybe you have. But there are so many other places to see. Romania is my home-country, is that country where “Charles bought a house in 2005. And Harry has never been photographed naked once” as a campaign stated, is that country whose capital city is often confused to our neighbor’s and whose well known personalities vary from a world-famous gymnast (Nadia Comaneci) to a tennis player (Ilie Nastase) and up to a vampire. Not to mention that Snoop Dog checked-in in one of our villages. Curious enough now? Romania offers you everything you want. You name it. You want to see signs of 21st century development? We have it. Or maybe you’d like to see reminisces of the communist era – we have a huge one in Bucharest. Urban or rural, mountains or sea, international recognized sites for their natural beauty. And also 3rd city in an international Internet speed ranking. If I made my point and the idea of organizing your next holiday in Romania started sparkling in your mind, I prepared top 5 sites I think you shouldn’t miss. Of course, they represent my personal opinion and Romania has many more places that are worth seeing, photographing and falling in love with. Sibiu One of my favorite cities in Romania is Sibiu, a charming old town with a story-like atmosphere. I love it for its calmness, for its people’s kindness, for the beautiful houses – did you know that houses here have eyes? Literally. If you go to Sibiu for one or two days, you can have a walk through the city’s Big Square, on the Liars’ Bridge, you can climb in the Tower of the Council for an amazing view. You can visit Brukenthal Museum or ASTRA Museum – a museum situated in an open space, that will give you an interesting image of Romanian past. Transfagarasan We say it and also our friends from Top Gear say it. This is one spectacular road! Transfagarasan is a 152km driveway that passes through Fagaras Mountains. Get ready for close and challenging turns and also for great views. Buckle up! Make sure that the road is open when you want to go there, as authorities don’t allow access all year long.   Viscri This is it. Our royal spot. Viscri has that je ne sais pas quoi that attracted the above-mentioned Prince. And it will also make you fall for it, as it is pitoresque, it has hundred of years old churches and efforts are being made in order to maintain the traditional air of the village. Bucharest Our capital city is intense. It might strike you with contrasts, but if you come here, I recommend you not to miss a walk in Herastrau Park, visiting the House of the Parliament, The National Museum of Art, The Romanian Athenaeum, and for a full view over the city, take a trip with the double decker. At night, you shouldn’t miss a taste of our partying renown skills – Old City center is the perfect spot. The Merry Cemetery Remember how I told you, at the begging of the article, that we have them all? Well, in Sapanta, we have a Merry Cemetery. What makes it so merry is that there are colorful tombstones with comic lyrics on them regarding the person that is buried there. The idea is that death is not something to be cried on, but a celebration as it leads the way to something better.   Romania is truly a treasure. Of course there are things that aren’t in place yet, sure, we have a lot to work on and we have so much to learn. But it is worth visiting for everything I wrote and not only that. Our traditions and our people, our food, our way of enjoying life, of working hard and achieve excellence in so many domains, all of these give an intense vibe to the country and make it unique. Lovely trip ahead!   Oana Cristiana Groza, Romania

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Reflections On Europe

”I love not to see wretchedness overcharged And duty in his service perished”. W. Shakespeare   Post written by Ionut-Andrei Manea As the European Union sinks to its knees, the vultures are gathering. Never before has this teritorry been the scene of so few conflicts in so much dense, concentrated time as it happens today. Never before have the people of France and the people of Germany enjoyed the common fruits of prosperity, opportunity and equal friendship as they do today. And never before has a Romanian commoner the chance of indulging himself in decent talk and spirit with international counterparts as it occurs today. And yet, the EU’s foundation seems to be crumbling to pieces. I appeal for clemency. In order to facilitate understanding of the plea in question, I wish to offer the honorable reader a glimpse upon history when concepts such as change, self-determination, home-rule-movement and even independence were common music to the ears of the main actors. Their responses were unarguably met with the needs and urges of a subjugated people whom, from the Kingdom of Hungary to the island of Ireland, notwithstanding the Romanian Principalities, had suffered an array of pain and delusion at the hands of some foreign expression. Naturally, human beings tend to reflect a general indisposition towards change and reform. Any derailment from our current path, any change inflicted upon our comfort zone is met with suspicion and regarded as hostile. We seem to be deeply entrenched and undivided in our responses to the world around. However, this was not usually the case. From time immemorial, concepts such as reform or change have played a considerable role in the construction of our European institutions, living-standards and identity. As one great furnace flamed, yet from those flames. No light, but rather darkness visible. Milton, Paradise Lost Back in Italy, or what was then called the Italian States, Renaissance humanism preached respect for the greatness of the human being. Ideally, the measure of things was depicted as an universal figure, l’uomo universale. Renaissance stretches and magnifies humanity diminishing in the process the role of God. ”Renaissance humanism was the Middle Ages not Plus humanity, but Minus God”. Etienne Gilson Or in the words of Friedrich Nietzsche, ”freedom of thought, mistrust of authority, the victory of intellectual education over the privilege of birth; in terms of quattrocento, the victory of humanitas over that of nobilitas; enthusiasm for science and the delivery of the individual”. With Renaissance, life recovered its value and importance. No one any longer willingly allingned himself or herself with Augustine in claiming that: ”we here below are travelers longing for death”. At the same time, no one any longer believed that this life is rather death than life, a kind of hell. It was on earth that people had to build their kingdom and this new conviction coloured the emergence of all positive forces that helped to spring up our modern culture. Thus, if Renaissance came about with the concept of humanitas or individual awareness, within the framework of this context, a powerful schism was tearing up the Western Church. On 31 October 1517, Martin Luther’s 95’s thesis were displayed on the doors of the Schlosskirche in Wittenburg. Tired and disillusioned with the Church’s longstanding method in handling with its pious congregation (e.g. the system of indulgencies), Luther advanced the notion of binding the Christian faith to the word of God alone, Sola Scriptura. The Reformation, unlike Renaissance humanism, quickly became a mass-movement and thousands of men and women, to defend their faith, had to face Civil War and violent repressions. E.g. The Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685 by Ludovic XIV. The alternative was exile, either to the New World, or to a country which tended to be more flexible towards their faith. France decayed when the Revocation of the Edict threw the Protestants out (French, huguenots), while Englad prospered when William of Orance had invited them in. All this violence died down during the 18th century. Protestantism survived it and today it colours a large part of the Western world. Moreover, there was the impact of the Industrial Revolution. There were four succesive waves: that of the steam, of electricity, of the internal combustion engine and that of nuclear energy. The very first Industrial Revolution may be said to have occured in the 12th century with the wind and water mills which had been spread throughout Europe. Pre-industry consisted of: derisory agricultural productivity, primitive transportation and inadequate markets. Only labour was super-abundant. The advent of Industrialization meant that humans were more prepared and equipped to dealing with life issues. Not only they were better fed, housed and clothed, but their surviving rate was gradually improving. As we could see, history was not losing its momentum. On the contrary, it never ceased to advance itself on new territories infiltrating thus the premises of our future understanding as modern human beings. In Europe, the transition from a declining human age to that of a resonable, satisfactory status quo was not an easy one. In an age of violent contrasts and impressive forms (implying here two world wars which ravaged the 20th century and almost brought our existence to a halt), there was a tone of passion in everyday life which helped produce an ambitious treaty with immediate effects to our lifetime. In the end, I wish to conclude with a poem attributed to St. Francis of Assisi: ”Where there is discord, may we bring harmony. Where there is error, may we bring truth. Where there is doubt, may we bring faith. And where there is despair, may we bring hope”.   Ionut-Andrei Manea, Crossing Borders Volunteer and Blogger from Romania

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Algerian administration: Find a needle in a haystack

Algerian administration: Find a needle in a haystack One bleak winter morning last year, with the sky black and beckoning heavy rainfall, nothing could have helped me leave my warm bed. I tried to leave it many times but the sleeping became a dear thing in such gloomy weather. I could not resist the sweetness of sleep on my warm pillow amid the bitter cold. However, I had no choice, and my resistance was useless, I had to get up and go to renew my passport, which was due to expire. It was compulsory, without doing so; I would be denied many opportunities in the future I arrived to the department in charge of renewing passports holding the complete file in my hand, I gave it to the concerned employee and said “ delivered the summary of my birth certificate with the file of my First passport in 2011”.  Then, he sent me to another office on the first floor in order to get this decomposed paper among hundreds of thousands of papers and accumulated archives. The papers were sprawled between numbers of iron shelves in an organizational chaos. In my country Algeria, these crowded archives are still valid. Despite being the sixteenth year in the second millennium, with all the technological advances achieved, there is no sight of this in such department. The Algerians companies are still stuck in an older era, with only their pens and papers. I had no other choice than coming to this office to finish the work I came for. I arrived and I found an old woman there for the same purpose and she with an employee going through an exploration process for it. I said in a small sentence, “I came for the same thing”. She took my passport without any word and started a new exploration process between hundreds of thousands of papers. All of this time wasted could be easily avoided by simply pressing some buttons on a computer, which is done by almost everyone and everywhere. This abandoned office has become a safe haven for those spiders with long feet to weave their homes as they pleases. Black covers the place and the atmosphere is extremely dreary.  The woman began the manual research with her colleague, returning back in time to last century, sifting through crowded files and yellow sheets in disarray. At this point, the colleague raised their white flag after a long search and said “my eyes pain, find it yourself”, and he left the office never to return. This poor woman continued the search from one rack to another and from one closet to another in an atmosphere of nervousness and stuttering with herself hating this work imposed on her. In the meantime, another colleague entered to this office and said, “Oh, you still looking for her paper, it is too much for you” then, she looked at me and she wondered nervously “perhaps, you dropped the paper with the file of ID card not the first passport?” I replied with a big smile “No, madam, I renewed my ID card just the last year, and the paper you are looking for was with my file in 2011”. She did not reply to my smile, she just looked at me in a strange way and left. This manner in treating me would be quite different if I had a relative there. After all this time, the poor employee still looking for my Birth certificate in an atmosphere filled with hatred, another employee entered this forsaken office after noticing the long time his colleague took with searching.  He joined her and they searched together until finding the file that must have contained this damn Birth certificate. The woman went through my file papers, lowercase for the search underway in full swing among yellow sheets dating back to 2011. It was a big disappointment that paper was not there. At that time, the assistant transferred me to another office. The case is big, and the paper is not extracted only once in a lifetime, and they were responsible to keep and preserve it. The second office was more organized and clean, the search was not hard for the employee in this office. She took my number and got my file and said, “We moved your birth certificate to this office last year”. I pulled the damn paper and went out of the department to make many copies of it. The law had changed this year, the department responsible of renewing the passport only took a copy of it, and we keep the original at home. I returned to the department in order to complete the reason I came this morning, and I faced a new problem. The passport costs must be paid in the taxes department south of the city I lived in, my disappointment was bitter at the time. After all what I went through from this morning I had to now go to another department to fix this problem, otherwise, my file would not be accepted. I arrived there very tired, and to my horror I saw; many people were waiting their turn to pay their taxes. I stood there waiting my turn, and the atmosphere was disgusting; employees treated people as if they were cattle waiting for water and food. Moreover, even these people did not respect the turn of each other, I asked an assistant there and he showed me where to go because what I came for was not the same. For the third time, I returned to the passport department wishing that no other thing will be demanded, but of course, without counting the two month of processes to get my new passport.  Finally, I completed what I came for that morning furious from the poor service and the recklessness of fellow citizens.   Rim Hayat Chaif, Algerian Journalist and Blogger, CB social media manager.

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Real Men

Next to the Copenhagen city centre, Vesterbro is a trendy neighbourhood in the city. Due to the proximity to CPH Central Station, streets are full of Hotels, cafes, restaurants, tourists.. and prostitution. Within those streets, two posters are recurrents: “Real men don’t buy women” and “Happy hookers only live in your imagination”. I will deal with each issue in turn. Relations between prostitution and feminism is longstanding. On one hand, many feminists have seen prostitutes as victims, working within a wild and worthless context, being enslaved. On the other hand, prostitutes felt marginalized and judged, being members of the most marginalized groups in society. What is it  we don’t like about them? It would seem that is more than the act of sex, we also don’t accept them receiving money for it money for it. It is not tolerated that the reward is openly economic, even more when the reward is not a favour by men, but something fixed in advance by the prostitute: “If you want a sexual relation, pay”. In my opinion, that “Real men don’t buy women” couldn’t be more wrong. First of all, women are not being purchased: they are being paid for a service, most of the time have mafias behind the curtains and here there is real human trafficking: no one should never trade with lives and hopes of others. Also many times the situation is elected by the woman because of their personal circumstances, like all the things that we choose in life. I don’t have enough knowledge on the matter to judge the benefits or disadvantages of prostitution, but at this point I know that, when we criminalize this job, we are criminalizing the people who execute it, and they don’t deserve to be one step behind society.  Moreover, the adjective of “real men” impinges on the male chauvinist conception of society: real men access to prostitution; real men punch; real men kill. But yes, all of them men, not monsters. Monsters don’t exist. “When we criminalize this job, we are criminalizing the people who offer it, and they don’t deserve to be one step behind society” So it seems difficult for many people to imagine that a woman working for herself autonomously, making her own decisions and the most important, being happy: “Happy hookers only live in your imagination”. It looks like we prefer them to live hidden, marginalized, with nobody to defend their rights than to live together, in equal conditions as citizens who are trying to progress in life. Letting them to be as free as they can, because like us, they are not 100% free. How free are all those married men and women who have been together for decades and who unites them not with love but debts, children and mortgages? We don’t have to make policies to open prostitution into commodification of sexuality, but to give them rights as humans, because that is what we are talking about: Human beings, being this only a tiny step to reach equality within the patriarchal society that we live in. Because a poster is not the solution. Alberto Coves, Crossing Borders volunteer and Freelance journalist from Spain.  

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