miércoles, 21 de mayo de 2014

Puppets / Marionetas

Not all we do we do it freely, even if we believe to act so.
(Anonymous, heard in the underground)

The Big Nose club has, as you know, the tradition that new members make a short speech somehow related to the nose of course. The Spanish expression “de narices”  meaning that something goes very well to the occasion has been used several times to introduce some topics. César, the new member knows that we don’t usually accept political related speeches but before he started to talk about puppets and noses (what he had prepared) some of the members of the club insisted in having his opinion on the actual facts happening in Ukraine as they know he is an international journalist that  has visited the country a few times. Other members insisted on hearing what he prepared on puppets. We let him go and talk about what he wanted but didn't expect such clear political opinion. His opinion of course, but I must agree, interesting to hear and not bad to have broken the rule of no political speeches in the meetings.

He started: -I was supposed to talk about puppets… and Ukraine is a good example. You ask me my opinion and it is a complex situation to comment, especially from such a large distance and lack of knowledge on the real situation. Let me first start saying that everybody in Ukraine now believe that they act freely. And this is not true. There are many reasons and interests that just play with the people and their feelings. All is done artificially. But to explain why and how I see it is a long story that starts when I was young and doing science research in oceanography. Anyhow let me center the points:

.- Should be Ukraine be within the EU?
.- Who is interested in avoiding it and why?
.- What are the movements behind?
.- How does politics move governments and let people believe they have free will.

… and let me start with the last one that brings me to my time as science researcher.

On that time I was young, smoked already pipe (and I must admit quite a lot), spoke 5 languages and was performing research on oceanography with very new ways to do it, mixing satellites, planes, ships, math and physics together. Nice cocktail that gave as result that we could predict and tell fishermen when and where to find some types of fishes.

One day I got a call in the Research Institute where I worked and I learned that I had been nominated Spanish representative at the Ocean Committee in NATO. Nice, yes, but VERY strange as Spain was on that time not member of NATO, so I asked why. Answer was “come… and you will learn it”. I went, of course! Nice, absolutely interesting the meeting with all the important people in oceanography in Europe + US. There I learned that even if Spain was not YET member of NATO, it was already agreed that the Spanish government would do it. “We just want to gain some time” was the answer. Important for me was that on that time we had big discussions in Spain to be or not members of NATO…. And here I learned that it was not something we would discuss, it was already agreed politically and a closed matter. “We just want to gain some time” and we stupidly thinking in we were deciding by ourselves.

Second point of the meeting. Imagine me with a lot of ideas in my mind in the center of the real power of science….. I talked, a lot…. On my side a young nice man was asking what I would do and how I would do it if I would have the media and what I needed to do it. I told him.  One or two months later I received a call from the US XXXX and they asked me if it was true that I said …… in a meeting at NATO. They reproduced all my conversation. I was asked if I maintained it and if I agreed to share with them the results of my findings if they would give me the instruments I needed. Of course I agreed! Like in the movie: Next day X at the place Y at hour Z a man, tall will ask you… you take the instruments and sign the agreement. I went, I got all I needed and asked…. The young nice man sitting on my left in the NATO meeting was from CIA, science branch…. So they know what is going on. Politics are in the places we do not expect and agreements are taken without the people knowing it.

Spain into NATO agreed by other countries & governments; Crimea taken by Russia without too much noise from the rest of the world. Do you think is causality or was it already agreed? We can discuss whom it serves and why, but…. We are moved as puppets and believe we act freely. What better to move people that to tell them they will earn more? Is easy to convince people that are poorer:

Crimean’s will receive wages, pensions and social benefits in accordance with Russian legislation. Today, the average salary in Russia is 25,000 rubles, Ukraine - 11 thousand rubles, Russian pensioners receive 9917 rubles, Ukrainian - about 5674 translated into rubles. Thus, the inhabitants of the peninsula will increase revenues nearly doubled. Who will resist if on top since 1992 life went worse?

Now let’s see what part of reality is behind it. US and Russia have competed since years to be THE big player in the world. We all know how poor is now the situation of the US that the CCCP was not a good idea as it was done and that it was evident in 1989 when the Wall was destroyed in Berlin. 1992 Ukraine becomes independent after the referendum of December 91 if I remember well. Everybody is happy till reality comes and shows the truth. No money, no European standard of life.  “Oh! Before 92 we were better, being part of Russia we will again be better…” So people were mislead. Now, why?

All superpowers in the world know they need an army. If you want to defend or to attack you need people and not only this, you need to be able to move people fast, by air, earth and sea. We may destroy a country but we can’t be sure till we send our troops there.  To have influence we need an army that moves. Russia depends from Europe and fears Europe. Europe imports 34% of Gas from Russia and the Mediterranean Sea is vital for all ship movements in the area. Russia does not have a natural coast that goes to the Mediterranean, hence the importance of Odessa were the agreement existed that it was the Soviet Army who would benefit of a special status in Odessa till 2016 (I believe). Odessa is the easy way to go to the Mediterranean and this makes from Odessa a strategic place not to be lost. If on top there is more …. better.

What means Crimea to Russia or to Ukraine? Lets see:
GDP of Crimea is approximately 10% of the Ukrainian GDP and 1 % of Russia. If you look at the benefits that the Russian economy will get from the annexation of the Crimea, you find first need the tourism business and the expansion of health resort infrastructure. Russian investors have already announced their intention to invest in the development of tourist resorts of the peninsula. For example, now, a businessman plans to invest 12 billion rubles in the project to build a resort.

Don’t forget also the energy resources of the peninsula (in particular gas of the Black and Azov Sea), industrial enterprises of Crimea (heavy, light, food, chemical industry), as well as agricultural lands of the republic (including wine farms). And of course is important to remember that the transfer of Crimea to Russia would help the country to save about $100 million a year they pay as lease for the military base of the Black Sea Fleet.

In summary, what are the pros and cons?
Well the pros are clear, Russia gets the strategically important naval base at Sevastopol for its fleet , remember 100 million $/year, which is not bad; but there are more things as the large recreational area with the possibility of international travel, Russia gets 3000 hectares of vineyards and the largest wineries (Inkerman Winery , Koktebel, Massandra , the New World) and very important Russia receives also the large chemical plants in the northern Crimea, having the biggest market share in the world in the production of components for fertilizers and chemicals for the oil industry.

And the cons exist but are they really that important? It is true that Crimea needs serious irrecoverable financial injections into the economy, which is two-thirds subsidized region but there is future behind it; is only a problem of liquidity not of viability. One practical problem is transport as it is necessary to go to Crimea through two Russian- Ukrainian borders, or across the Kerch Strait , where there is no bridge (and it will take 4 years to have it built); the ferry to the Crimea is also a possibility but there is always a huge queue with  people waiting 18 hours or more. An other big problem is water as they will need to urgently address the issue of fresh water (now it is taken from the Dnieper) and finally the electricity to Crimea which produces only 30 % of its total electricity consumption.

You see who is interested and why. Basically is a political-strategic situation to maintain power. Moreover now that Syria is in a bad moment and can’t help Russia if there is a revolution. Russia has also good agreements with Syria to have the fleet of the Army there, and this is what is behind of all the movement. The rest, East Ukraine, is a plus for Russia. With Crimea being 10% of the richness of Ukraine, Russia has a poor country where it is possible to sell and have cheap labor with the similar language more or less and well prepared. Is a large territory to prevent an attack, gives free way to the Mediterranean…. What can Russia want more?

Before we enter in looking who could be interested in avoiding it or not, let me consider if Ukraine should be politically pro-Europe or pro-Russia. What is clear is that Ukraine has no weight as to be able to be alone in the world. They need some friendly countries that may give stability, money, help… Historically, till the 92 they were members of the CCCP and in fact an important player within it. Was growing fast, 7.5% GDP growth yearly but the crisis of the 88 and the one of the 2008 brought the country to a bad economical situation. The country was mostly Slavic even if it is true that part of it was in the “European” part and taken by the Austro-Hungarian Empire in recent historical times. But, has Europe an interest in having Ukraine as a member? Geographically seems not to be any reason. Is far, Romania is already at the limit, and historically there are no real common things, language is different, religion is different, commerce is not an important matter, economy is poor. It is a market of 45 million people. This is the only reason to bring Ukraine to Europe. But the cost is by far too high, specially now with all the economical and political problems Europe is facing. From the point of view of Europe… no need, no interest YET to have Ukraine as a member state.

From the point of view if Ukraine… is a dream. The same dream that East Germans had to become part of Germany. To live better, have more money, with work for all and be “Europeans”. Germany is still paying the union of the former DDR. Ukrainians dream that it would be perfect without knowing that it is not true, that the crisis will be longer and harder; restructure  industries provokes unemployment. So a part of the country which is disappointed by the economical situation looks to Europe and Europe smiles but doesn't do anything really. An other part of the people remember the former CCCP and that unemployment was 0, so better to return, and finally a part believes that the country should try to do something, but really has only one option, decide if the orientation must be pro Russia or pro Europe. Too small to be a bridge between cultures. There is no real reason why Ukraine should be part of the EC. This is the point but politically helps to give hope telling that in the future all will be better. Ukraine belongs to the East of Europe to a group of countries that will find their position together, but it is too early and they are not aware.

The last point is if there is somebody that would be interested in avoiding that Russia takes Crimea and destroys Ukraine with it. The answer is no. Only in theory. Russia made a movement that was to mark positions. If expected or not by the US I don’t know, but Europe is too weak to do something, and at the end doesn't care. It is not yet the time for other countries, we have to solve our internal problems. The US doesn't care, as long as Russia lets them in peace with Israel, which is the entrance door of the US in Middle East and the Mediterranean. China is busy taking positions in Africa and will be glad to help if they can with it against the US. So, nobody cares. I fear that is goes further than this, that the real interest is to weaken the area and have two or three strong economies together in Europe (Germany, France, UK and maybe Italy) together with Benelux and Austria and create a strong Europe. The rest… weak countries, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Ireland, …. all with low income, cheap labor and a huge market for them. Ukraine would be just one more and a good door for all Slavic counties. I hope to be wrong, but I fear I’m not.

The meeting continued after the speech, it was one of the longest we ever had. But his position was clear and many agreed to it.

lunes, 12 de mayo de 2014

Love, peace, Jah

"What we believe is personal, and all is right as long we do it by heart"
Apocryphal, Nathan (called The Wise), son of Lessing.

As it is normal what happens in the World (the big one, with capital letter) has an influence on the topic we deal with in the meetings of the square circle. Sometimes we comment situations or subjects we touched before, but under a different angle. This has been the case in the last gastro-philosophical meeting we have had. We have often discussed about moral values, what is their object and actual status and also on the fact that life ends really when we loose faith in our own capacity and give up. Now the situation we live, for many, chaos and the loss of the north brings us again to have a look into other ways of thinking or at least in other values. In our western world we tend to look to oriental philosophy impressed by their understanding of nature and calm-happy appearance. We also look for other, different, less known faiths that may illuminate our way in life.

In all of them what we see is that society creates moral values to maintain the union of tribes and points out the value of good actions. We were discussing if moral values were absolute or not when Alberto started his provocative presentation on the subject:

Yes, you're right, we speak about moral values and we know that good actions wouldn’t exist without them or at least wouldn't be recognized as such. But moral values change and are changing now or, what is worse, they disappear without replacement. We take the value out and create a void that nothing replaces. Mankind, men & women, we humans have changed -are changing- slower than our power. We are able to transform matter and ignore spirit, able to build new molecules, to create subatomic accelerators, describe the multiverse but incapable to build a stable, viable and equally righted society. We can produce strange, rare, very valuable goods and die with our richness without being able or -what is terrible if we think about it- without wanting to effectively distribute it having all the possibilities in hands for it. Nineteenth century positive sociology is far away and anthropology wins; we look backwards and not into the future. Passions (and chaos) reign instead of science or global mind attitude. More we can encompass worldwide, more individual we turn out to be and less we accept "old" values. 

To every big conflict towards society is confronted, a moment of love, peace and universal brotherhood appears. We desperately look for something to balance the instability we face. Hence that we discover that our moral / ethical values are in crisis. And this is in each cycle.

The excuse is that we change and with us also society, thinking that we can manage it. But it is not so. Society is a living creature that tends to adapt herself, to resist and survive. From traditional families with father, mother and children we created the mono-parental family, children with more than one set of parents, families with two mothers or two fathers, and ping pong children as you are well aware of. In a changing ambient, values have to change. Nothing  really new as they have also changed in history. Religion was created to maintain tribes together and with it codes and laws were established.  A basic sense of justice brought them to the Talion's law: hand for hand, eye for eye, life for life.... till it was seen that it was neither practical nor productive. Society discovered that hate is good to grow, but not to create stability. So, laws, religions and traditions changed and with them the values. Here we arrive to the Bible, to the question of how many times we shall forgive: 7? 70? The answer of 70 times 70 meant many, in fact all of them. If we forgive we do a good action... that has a weight against all other evil we do. No matter if we speak about Maat, Osiris, Ib and the punishment of Ammyt we look for justice since the beginning of mankind and as we do some bad things, we need to balance them with good actions. All faiths and religions push for love, for peace and for some clear well established and structured believing.

And now without a clear objective and pointing to not defined values we are good people, we act following some "ethical" norms BUT only for fashion. Because we feel better if we do some things in benefit of the others even if they are not significant actions.  We may suffer the crisis and not have too much to eat, but our mobile phone is last generation; we drink too much, but the bottles go into the glass' container; we go to the mountain or to the beach and leave it dirty, but we are members of a NGO. We quieten so our conscience, we do our own justice by compensating the bad things we know we do with what we believe to be good actions. The question is if we do it for narcissism, selfishness or justice, hence the question on the value of what we do. Without knowing if it is right or how right it is, there is no north as we don't have the new moral values clear.

We all agree to the basic theoretical values, Love, Peace, Good Will, but I repeat again, said Alberto, it’s a fashion. Years ago killing enemies (who ever was considered as an enemy) was the good action celebrated even by the church. “Union makes strength” , hence that groups are far more violent than individuals; it is not anonymity what protects them, it is the force of the mass. “I don’t care if you recognize me, as I’m part of you”…the mass, the group. We tend to believe that only minorities are wrong; we forget that Gauss’ bell has two extremes. The same happens to moral / social values (they are not even moral anymore). Changing every 3 or 5 years, what does it matter? It changes as often as required by the evolving over protecting society. And again we are brought to ask ourselves if all the good actions have the same value or not: One life we save is half value if we save two in case both people are together? And if they are animals instead?

It doesn't matter. The important question is twofold: Are we really following our inner beliefs? Do we question ourselves often enough or are we dying already as we don’t want to participate in life anymore?

Ruben, as theologian had the first intervention after the introductory provocation. The rest of us noted mentally our points while savoring the dessert.  For Rubén it was clear, what counts is the influence we have over the rest of people, how it improves or worsens society.

But not everybody agreed to it. The debate was long.