A Time for Peace, A Time for War

This September the world celebrates 71 years since the end of the Second World War which summoned global solidarity to ensure such atrocities will never be repeated again. But for those born in times of peace the legacies and lessons of war are simply words and words are wind. The lack of internal conflict in some developed nations leads to the fake assumption that they are in a state of peace, whereas they may be heavily involved in military operations around the world.

The latest Global Peace Index (GPI), which can be accessed here, reveals that only 11 of 162 countries covered in the Institute for Economics and Peace’s (IEP) study were not involved in any form of conflict. Violence strongly affects the global economy costing 13.4 % of the world’s GDP. It is common sense to think this otherwise wasted capital could be used for the betterment of peoples’ lives around the world, that nature may be cruel and we don’t have to be, but the origin of violence as part of human nature is a matter of sociobiology and I will leave that for another time.

2015 Global Peace Index

The Global Peace Index for 2015.

Global security is decreasing and more people are currently displaced than at any point since the end of the Second World War. This bleak state of affairs should serve as a warning to the world’s leaders that once again inaction and individual interests pull the society back from progressing. The German philosopher Friedrich Hegel said “The only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history” and numerous voices in the past century echoed this statement. We may ask how did the world end up in such a precarious state again, didn’t it have it’s share of fire and blood? Apparently not.

Even the European Union, a once shining beacon of peace, is crumbling under its own weight as if its foundation was built from the fragile bones of all those who fought and fell for freedom. The global financial crisis and the Arab Spring have led to the displacement of millions of people and the current refugee influx into Europe has created an unprecedented chaos for the Union which showed its Member States are anything but united. To me, the EU’s response to the migrant crisis proves two things: we are far too naive for this world and we lack the self-confidence of the United States. The EU could definitely be able to process all the asylum applications it receives without that monstrous deal with Turkey, which is probably one of the worst ideas in recent history simply because it does not solve anything much and it comes at a great financial cost. Plus, it is saddening to see Europe bows down to the personal ambitions of an increasingly authoritarian leader.

It remains to be seen if the EU wakes up even though the hour is late, but what is certain is that doing nothing is no longer an option. However, most European countries would rather raise fences between themselves than talking some sense into each other and acting together towards a common goal.

The current global crisis is a child’s play compared to the ravages climate change will cause by the end of the century. Thus, I expect the global political landscape will be altered greatly on the principle of survival of the fittest and countries which will fail to deal appropriately with organized conflict will have to surrender the reins of power to a new generation of world leaders who may or not be willing to tend to the flickering flame of democracy.

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Opinions expressed in this post are solely my own.

Selected Quotes from A Clockwork Orange

  1. “Is it better for a man to have chosen evil than to have good imposed upon him?”
  2. “The important thing is moral choice. Evil has to exist along with good, in order that moral choice may operate. Life is sustained by the grinding opposition of moral entities.”
  3. “It’s funny how the colors of the real world only seem really real when you watch them on a screen.”
  4. “It is as inhuman to be totally good as it is to be totally evil.”
  5. “Great Music, it said, and Great Poetry would like quieten Modern Youth down and make Modern Youth more Civilized. Civilized my syphilised yarbles.”
  6. “We can destroy what we have written, but we cannot unwrite it.”
  7. “When a man cannot choose, he ceases to be a man.”
– Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange (1962)

A Game of Planets: Pluto the Imp

In the latest issue of the National Geographic magazine, the cover displayed a beautiful computer generated image of a dwarf planet, the mysterious Pluto, and its extremely interesting satellite, Caron. The featured article spanned several pages relating a short history of Pluto’s discovery, theories about what kind of surface and atmosphere it may have and, most importantly, details regarding NASA’s spaceship, New Horizons, that will fly by this tiny planet on 14th of July 2015, at a distance of only 12.500 kilometers away.

An illustration of the New Horizons spaceship

Several attempts were made in the past to uncover the existence of a rumored ninth planet in the Solar System, including that of the Boston aristocrat and agnostic Percival Lowell, who dedicated himself to discovering “Planet X”. Unfortunately, he died in 1916 without fulfilling his dream.

Percival Lowell (1855-1916)

Nevertheless, only fourteen years later, the long sought planet was discovered by a 24-year-old man, Clyde Tombaugh. He originated from a farm in Kansas, where he learnt how to build telescopes from car parts and other elements. Despite not having any training whatsoever in the field of astronomy, Tombaugh’s perfectionism and dedication lead to the uncovering of the frozen planet at the Lowell Observatory, where he had been hired a few years prior to his discovery. The finding was revealed on 13th of March 1930, 75 years after Percival Lowell was born.

Clyde Tombaugh (1906-1997)

Pluto was named after the suggestion of a little girl from England, whose inspiration was the Roman god of the Underworld, which matched the new planet: incredibly desolate, cold and unknown. Temperatures on Pluto can easily reach -240 degrees Celsius and it needs 248 years to orbit the Sun.

New Horizons itself needed one year of travel to reach Jupiter, where using its massive gravity, it sped up to 83.000 kilometers per hour (1.6 million kilometers in a day!) and thus managed to shorten the journey by 4 years. It needed 8 years though to travel the distance between Jupiter and Pluto. At such speed even a grain of dust can be lethal for the spaceship and scientists are trying to discover possible sources of such formations due to the proximity of comets and ice dwarfs in the Kuiper Belt, a tumultuous world beyond Neptune, where Pluto silently orbits and rotates opposite to Earth’s own rotation. Therefore, the Sun rises in the west and sets in the east.

The Solar System: Since 2006 Pluto is no longer considered a proper planet, but a dwarf planet.

Pluto is two thousand times smaller than Earth, and Caron itself, discovered in 1978, is half its size. The fascinating thing about Caron is that, compared to how our Moon was formed, it broke away from Pluto in a single, enormous piece and together they created a binary system because of the satellite’s size.

On board New Horizons, among American flags and other “souvenirs”, there is a small vial containing Clyde Tombaugh’s ash, carrying a part of him in the proximity of Pluto and further into the great unknown and vast expanse of the galaxy until fuel tanks run dry or another careless stellar traveler comes its way.

The Bliss of Not Knowing

For a long while I have been constantly updating myself with news of social or political nature such as the war in Syria, the Charlie Hebdo attack, the desperate situation of the migrants in the Mediterranean and of those in refugee camps, the Scottish independence referendum or the presidential elections in Romania. I have always believed that knowing is where the true power comes from but how can someone resist not being shaken to the core by the ravages such knowledge leaves behind?

Exactly one year ago I have written about people tending to ignore “unpleasant” news no matter how real and current they may be. Not many can control their emotions when faced with the harsh reality of our world and I’m not sure I can either. Of course, I’m still convinced today as I was back then that even if I cannot always physically help those who need it, the least I can do is learn about their pain but for my own sake I have to reduce the intake of information until I learn how to harness the feelings various situations invoke in me.

My daily ritual for quite a long time was wake up and drink a steaming cappuccino while reading the news on my laptop. Slowly I realized that this routine not only managed to agitate me first thing in the morning, but it replaced other more productive habits such as writing or reading a book (the latter is my evening ritual).

I enjoy discussing the latest news with my parents or my friends because I feel we all are responsible to be aware of the world we live in but I never asked myself whether there’s a limit to how much news a person can deal with. I often feel so guilty for not learning earlier about certain events and I certainly am uncomfortable now that I decided to reduce the amount of news I read on a daily basis. Does not knowing right away equal with not caring?

I have noticed those around me who don’t know a thing about the world outside their sphere of existence and I realized they’re so happy. I’m not sure I would like to be in their shoes because being aware of the terrible societies we live in makes me less naive, but it makes me wonder what is easier: to live happily ignorant or sadly aware?

I Watched A Spider Weave Its Web

Today I have experienced what the legendary Robert the Bruce had seen in a cave hundreds of years ago: I have watched a spider weave its web, graciously and with great determination. As in the story with King Robert of Scotland, the weather these past days has been rainy and windy, a blessing for the greenery and a curse for some creatures that live everywhere around.

The spider that appeared in my window sill this week was frail and barely visible, but it managed to build a very large web. Unfortunately, two nights ago the bad weather ruined it completely. The poor creature was hanging by a thread, holding tight in the freezing winds that never ceased for the entire day.

Today I have noticed something else. The spider began to weave again with the same grace and determination as a few days before. Unlike the spider in the legend, which only tries to cast a thread to the other side of the cave and fails six times only to succeed a seventh time, my companion started anew to build another net, more intricate and well-fixed, despite its apparent delicacy.

It’s inspiring to watch this fellow grow in size and try again when everything else falls apart. I guess it is the same for every creature on Earth. When we stop trying to move on the only thing we have left is failure and surrender sooner than later to the inevitable death. Destruction can be a chance to rebuild, to become stronger and more adaptable to surroundings that never cease to change.

Hugo Black Quotes

“A union of government and religion tends to destroy government and degrade religion.”

“It is the paradox of life that the way to miss pleasure is to seek it first. The very first condition of lasting happiness is that a life should be full of purpose, aiming at something outside self.”

“When I was 40, my doctor advised me that a man in his 40s shouldn’t play tennis. I heeded his advice carefully and could hardly wait until I reached 50 to start again.”