Do not judge for how I write, but for what I write.

In the past years, colleagues, friends, family, girlfriends have often criticised me for being … a pessimist. Since I am tired of justifying my pessimism, I have decided to write down my story, although, fundamentally it is a story about all of us.

I have always been the curious kind. Learning more about the world usually sparks my deepest emotions regardless of the beauty or ugliness of the things I witness. Fortunately for me, during my childhood, my thirst for knowledge had been satisfied with books, documentaries, field trips and even instruments (a microscope, a telescope, various electronics, etc.)

Later, during my teenage years, I had the opportunity to travel and visit many countries, meet many people and explore many capitals. Slowly, living in or just visiting famous cities, whether they were Paris or London, became less and less exciting. People from different countries, even though they may have dressed differently or spoke differently, or were more respectful, fundamentally started to seem all the same to me. As arrogant as this may sound, the truth is that for me the world was becoming smaller and smaller.

At the same time, in magazines, on TV and in movies, the future was looking better and better. Just a few centuries ago humans have set foot on the Moon, and the fall of the Berlin Wall filled our hearts with high expectations. Overall, the future looked bright.

All of us (especially Westerners) lived under the impression that there was nothing to stop us from solving the problems related to resources, poverty, corruption, so that we may reach beyond the limits of our planet. I was convinced that my generation will be different, that we will take the first steps towards a “wonderful” future.

This conviction led me to study physics and mathematics, in hope that one day I will become an accomplished physicist who will contribute to that bright future. Those aspirations seem childish now, but for a 17 year old kid, anything is possible.

However, before I applied to college, I had a moment of lucidity in which I realised that the technological progress of our world is not determined by the dreams of enthusiastic teenagers like me, nor by the benefits that it can bring, but by the will of the political establishment. Moreover, I was aware that it would not be wise to explore space as Europeans, Russians, Americans or Chinese. Not only because it would be completely inefficient, but also because it would be ridiculous to carry with us our earthly conflicts and start arguing over what patch of Moon belongs to whom, when we should focus on exploiting its resources for everyone’s benefit.

Thus, in the last minute I changed my mind and instead of following a career in physics or engineering, I chose to follow a career in international relations at a prestigious university in the United Kingdom. I thought that by doing so, I will have the best chances to help build a “better” future.

I was thrilled, certain that by going there I will learn how to help the world, how to manage the political and economic space in such a way that the distribution of resources and investments will benefit not only us today, but also countless generations to come. I was perfectly aware that my influence on the world will be mire at best. But I was not interested in feeding my ego, participating even in the slightest towards that “wonderful” future was more than enough for me. After all, even the most insignificant contribution is better than nothing. Strange as it may seem, I also felt a sort of responsibility for the world and its people. Most likely because I was aware that the “careless” life I was enjoying at the age of 20 was mostly thanks to those that were before me. It felt natural that in return, I should be preoccupied for those that will come after me, so that they too will enjoy the same quality of life as I did.

Unfortunately, the academic environment that I discovered had nothing in common with my enthusiasm and idealism. In the academic world and among my colleagues, their concerns were completely different from mine. Excluding the false preoccupation for those around them and their ephemeral friendships, mimicked for admiration and social prestige, almost everyone seemed to care only about their own personal and financial gains, advertised at different parties or social events. Initially I thought I lacked the ability to understand this world, but after 4 years of college I was certain that my preferences and expectations were parallel with this academic world.

To evade any misunderstandings: people have all the right to think of themselves and be egoistic. This is currently the rule in our world. But I am talking about universities that should represent the world’s elite and I am not exaggerating when I say that many of their graduates will reach important positions in ten-twenty-thirty years. Maybe I am absurd, but personally I was expecting their students to be different from others. Unfortunately, in 4 years of college I only met two people who were genuinely and unselfishly preoccupied by the future of our world. Otherwise, I met a lot of folks, driven by pure egoistic reasons, who would give their best to impress others with their preoccupation for different social causes or with their outstanding revelations discovered in some book or pint of beer.

What disappointed me even further was that the university invested no effort in helping us realise that our attitudes and way of thinking will determine our collective future. Most debates and discussions revolved around tolerance and discrimination, but most commonly about what theory of some group of scholars was better than another. Applying these theories to real world scenarios was usually off-limits, which is understandable, since most of them make no predictions that can truly be tested in the real world. Therefore, we were dragged into pointless debates wrapped in a subtle certainty that all of us there, participating in them, were somehow superior. Moreover, the discussions and the promoted way of thought focused almost entirely on “trendy” problems, and when attention was moved towards future developments, we all started to suffer from some form of acute mental myopia.

Even though I graduated with honours, I reassured myself thinking that, for some reason, I just did not understand that world. But I still hoped that as technology and communication evolves, it will start to penetrate deeper into the personal space of every individual, gradually changing their general attitude. I thought that as people become better informed, so their concerns will focus more on the actual and far-reaching future problems, and that the benefits of research and technology will become self-evident.

To my surprise, it seems the opposite is happening. We are indulging ourselves more and more into a virtual personal space, as the reality behind our screens is falling apart.

I am not just throwing around words, here are a few concrete examples:

  1. We kind of abused our planet through excessive deforestations and rampant pollution, and the effects will very soon become self-evident. No, I am not talking about warmer winters and rainier summers, I am talking about hundreds of millions of people who will suffer from starvation in the next 30-40 years. And not in some forsaken place in Africa, but right here, in our very own backyard. Few seem to genuinely care about this, although on words and “Likes” we are all great self-proclaimed environmentalists. Even sadder is that most “Green” NGOs or political parties come up with completely unrealistic proposals, with little regard for economic and social realities.

  1. Our ageing and declining population raises serious social and economic concerns, but the core of the problem is usually avoided. It mostly comes down to the lack of interest of current generations for conceiving more than one child (if they conceive one at all). I am aware that when it comes to children, everyone has the right to do as they see fit and I can understand that at our standard of living, having children can sometimes seem annoying and useless. The result however, is that in about 50 years entire societies will simply die out. Our biology has rules independent of our personal desires.

I find it alarming that this subject is very rarely opened to debate or it is immediately “solved” with the “immigration” solution. In the current conditions, immigration is nothing else but the replacement of one society with another. It is not a receipt for success, it is the symptom of a society which has failed biologically.


  1. Religious fundamentalism is gaining more ground. I have no issues with anyone’s religion, but when we have a large group of people who effectively reject any form of scientific research, without which we would still be travelling with ox and carriages across Europe, I think we have a serious problem. Even more so, given that a large part of this group can be found among the “immigrants” who solve our aging and declining population problem mentioned at point 2

  1. We are experiencing an economic crisis that I think will carry on for at least another decade. Because this is not just an economic crisis, it is a social crisis, rooted in our attitudes. We all want to live fine, happy lives, but between what we want and what we do for what we want, currently there is a massive chasm. I do not want to criticise our attitudes, because this is a debate which I can hardly cover with my thoughts. But I can criticise our lack of debating this subject on TV, on the internet or even over a pint of beer with our friends. The fact that we do not ask ourselves if this crisis we are experiencing is caused by us, but we mystically attribute it to “others”, suggests some sort of social schizophrenia.

To finalise…

When we were kids, in the 80s-90s, we were promised that by now we will have outposts on the Moon, massive space stations and our feet would have left their imprint on the dust of Mars. That our leaders will be more peaceful, wiser and less corrupt. That if we will study and work hard, our value and effort will be recognised, and that those who are lazy and mischievous will be prevented from climbing the social ladder.

In exchange, we have economic stagnation, radical demographic changes, natural catastrophes and resource depletion. The world sees these things but does not feel them, because their effects do not yet have a significant impact on our lives. Somehow, everyone lives under the impression that nothing bad will happen, that the future I am talking about is just a bad dream – they criticise me and tell me to be positive.

I resign myself with the thought that as “pessimistic” as I may be, and despite all I have written above, I still hope that one day humans will fly towards the stars. But I would have been much happier if they were “us”.

Translated version below.

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Recently, the international world has began to slowly slide towards more tensioned relations:

– Terrorist bombings in the US

– Chinese and Japanese taunting each-other over some islands

– North Korea threatening everyone with nuclear weapons

– Even among EU’s member states, things seem to have gotten more tensioned in the past few years

While it’s too early to say anything for certain, to my untrained eye it would seem that the world is becoming more… “democratic”, although a much better word to describe it would be: “leaderless”. The transition from that unipolar US dominated world to the new multi-polar world is taking place and  the consequences of this may not necessarily be what some (especially those hostile to US influence) hoped for. But it’s doesn’t really matter what they or anyone else hopes to achieve or imagines to achieve in their local and international environment, because this is all part of the way our society evolves and changes over time. In the end … lessons will be learnt and our future will be shaped based on these past mistakes experiences.

North and South Korea

On the horizon
Source: italianinsight.files.wordpress.com

I cannot help to think that something is terribly wrong with our world. I cannot pin-point it, I cannot say for certain what it is, but it is there, like a splinter in my mind which gives no rest.

I know for certain that this feeling is not something which is specific to myself, but it is something shared by many people.

The difference is that for each us it manifests in a different way. We feel something is wrong and we try to blame it on something, like the stupidity of others, or the government, or the capitalist system, or inequality, or whatever else you can think of… but never ourselves.

Remarkably, all these issues we try to blame are social in nature, and far-reaching, indicating some sort of social connection between ourselves, our problems and our social world. Yet this is somewhat puzzling in a world where each of us thinks in a highly individualistic fashion. Basically, what happens to others shouldn’t affect us. Problem is, this works both ways, if we don’t care about others, then so will others not care about us.

My impression is that somehow we have lost ourselves along the way to modernity, we no longer identify with anything and we try to fill in that void with all sort of issues which, in our view are of concern for everyone. Basically we want to do something that matters and it is noticeable. We search for these issues which are social in nature because we want to be part of something larger, something that gives meaning to what we do. I am fairly certain that while this will patch up our need for social importance and consequently for identity (since our identity is constructed in relation to others) , it will not solve it. We are still making a mess of our planet, we are still trying to live on the back of others without even realising it, and we are stuck with the same social and political issues for decades. We may solve one or two minor problems with our social activism but the big issues are still there, pressing on us, while the average less-social-minded individual dreams of getting a well-paid job and a fancy car. Unfortunately, the more we dream of these material things, the less common they will become since they will not solve our real problems and not make our world better, in fact they lead to the opposite result.

Part of this problem is also because for many years the need for social identification and meaning was filled by religion, but with religion adapting or disappearing in our modern society, now there is a void that needs to be filled with something.

While I cannot give a clear argument for why our modern society has somehow stripped us of ourselves, (in short) my impression is that our modern way of life is at odds with what we are supposed to do; with our fundamental thoughts, feelings or instincts. Maybe the world we create is not compatible with the world we are made to live in. Sometimes, what we think is better, is not necessarily what is better. Maybe this is the splinter that we feel but cannot understand. In in the end, it’s easier to bury our heads in small things that give short-term pleasure, just like a chubby girl eating chocolate when she is upset because her friends told her she is fat, instead of facing the harsh reality.

Time will tell if what we do today is right or wrong. As evolution will continue to shape us both physically and socially, the social systems and personal philosophies that are inefficient will die out. If our world fails, there will be others to take its place. My only concern is that we could have achieved so much and yet we achieved so little.

The funny bit is that, we are not even certain any more who this “we” I just mentioned is. Our problems may run deeper than anyone can imagine.

Image

In world politics the past few years have been an overwhelming cascade of events. But in many ways this was a natural development. The world rarely stays still and it is foolish to think otherwise.

Nowadays information, people, goods, ideas and money travel around the world at speeds unsurpassed in any previous age which in turn makes everything happen much faster, sometimes too fast for anyone to control. And when things get out of hand it takes either a miracle or a strong and competent leader to get them back on track. Unfortunately the world does not have such leaders, not at this time at least. Without such leaders the tasks falls on pretty much everybody to get things working again. It is our responsibility at this time to recognise the problems we face, to accept them as problems (even if they contradict are deepest believes) and try to find solutions to them.

In the worst case scenario, one my think that we live in a world where socialism has failed, capitalism has betrayed us, were tyranny still looms and democracy has become a shop in which we have to buy every few years a bunch of bad, expired products which we are forced to wear until the next shopping spree. But however depressing these times may seem it is important to remember that all we do and all we have matters only in relation to one another. We need one another even if it is to show off or brag, to humiliate or to help, to build monuments or make wars. Nothing makes sense in a world where each one of us would be alone. So as long as we exist as a society, there is still hope.

An extract from a  recently released tape, which was recorded in the White House about 16 months before Nixon resigned as the president of United States:

“The emigration of Jews from the Soviet Union is not an objective of American foreign policy,” Mr. Kissinger said. “And if they put Jews into gas chambers in the Soviet Union, it is not an American concern. Maybe a humanitarian concern.”

“I know,” Nixon responded. “We can’t blow up the world because of it.”

Got to love these guys. For those that don’t know this: Henry Kissinger was also Jewish and his family (including him) ran away from Nazi Germany to the US in 1938 because of the persecutions.

In the previous post it was briefly explained that when it comes to studying and understanding society (which is largely the purpose of social sciences), the final goal should be to find models and methods for building a better social order, a better economy, a better political system etc. Explanatory theories (the classical scientific method) which focus on “why things are the way they are” may still be useful in so far as providing information, a sort of a prior experience (wisdom) to the current endeavours of society building but should never be considered the main purpose of social sciences. It shall now be further shown why “explanatory” approaches even when used as means of wisdom gathering still offer an incomplete view of the social world.

As previously explained, the way society is built is not independent of human actions. In fact humans are very capable in shaping the way they construct their political and economic systems. The myriad of economic systems and political systems that exist today and have existed throughout history lay testimony to the various ways in which humans can organize and reorganize themselves. In this maze of different ways of doing things there is supposedly some underlying explanation to why a certain social or political model was adopted at a certain point in history and geographical space. The logic is that once there is a good understanding of the mechanisms that created this economic and political model, then it should be much easier to understand its problems and if possible improve it/ change it accordingly.

While the above logic stands in theory, in practice there is a major obstacle in applying it because there is a lack of consensus on the best way to explain human social organisation. Without such a consensus any attempt to build a social organisation is the result of intuition rather than of knowledge. It is like when a cathedral starts to show cracks, but instead of having a solution which can be determined through logic and knowledge, there are tens of different plausible explanations to why the cracks appeared in the first place. Each of these explanations also point towards different solutions. As those who need to fix the cracks have no choice but to pick one solution and as it is impossible to objectively be certain which solution is the correct one, then they have no choice but to rely on personal experience and intuition (one can call this ideology) rather than knowledge. Obviously this is a problem because the chosen solution is likely to be only a temporary fix, if any fix at all. This is why, before discussing how to build society there should be at least some general consensus on the basic forces and rules that govern society building, independent of human actions. This is not necessary a theory but rather a set of universal acceptable truths about human interaction and human nature.

Continuation in part iii….pic

Georgia (“Gruzia” in the Georgian language) is a small, 70,000 square km country, barely the size of South Carolina.  Geographically it is situated in the Caucasian mountain region next to the Black Sea, close to the Middle East.
It is doubtful that many people knew about this countries’s existence, but the recent conflict with Russia has brought the country in the attention of the entire world.

Unfortunately mass media is not necessarily impartial and it is not necessarily presenting the truth, but that is a whole other story. Long story short, this small country decided to attack one of its rebel regions, killing some civilians and a couple of Russian soldiers on an UN Peace Keeping mission. The Russians got really upset because of this and decided to push out the Georgian military forces from the rebel regions while taking a long detour of about 100 km into Georgian territory. About 64 Russian and 215 Georgian soldiers died and around 1,500 civilians. Although not a major conflict the impact it had on the relations of Russia with the US and other West European countries was at least, significant.

How did we get here?

The conflict we see today is by no means new. Back when the USSR was falling apart, Georgia, the birth country of Joseph Stalin, emerged as a new state. However, when the borders of the new country were settled, it seems they were not settled properly. With the exception of Turkey, Georgia has border disputes with all the countries around it, Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. But the worse situation is in the two regions of South Osetia and Abhazia (North Osetia is part of Russia). In both of these two regions the majority of the population is not Georgian and seems to be more friendly towards Russia. As a result, back in 1991, they wanted to break away. However, Georgia was not as willing to let things go this away and between 1991 and 1992 military conflict started between Georgia and these regions. Eventually the conflict was settled and an UN Peace Keeping Mission maintained by Russian soldiers was installed in the area.
All went well until a couple of months ago, when Kosovo, a region of Serbia, declared independence on its own, independence which was quickly recognized by most major West European countries and USA. This gave an impulse to other break away regions around the globe, regions just like South Osetia, to fallow a similar path. Backed by the USA, which keeps promising NATO membership, offers military training and free weapons, Georgia decided that military force was the best solution against Osetia’s bid for independence.

Now, another important aspect of this conflict which has not been said is that until about 3 years ago, Georgia was under Russian influence. Although Georgia did not fallow directly Moscow’s agenda, it was by no means hostile to it. But in 2006 the Orange Revolutions started, some of which were successful, one in Ukraine and one in Georgia. The Orange Revolutions attempted to change regimes which were either corrupt, pro-Russian or both with ones that were pro-Western and vehemently opposed to Moscow. Some may even call these revolutions “peaceful coups” which tried to break these countries away from Moscow’s influence. The reason for which they can be called “coups” is because they tried to change a political class which won a first set of elections. This usually started by having a claim that the elections were not fair (usually these claims were not entirely groundless). Then, after building strong public support and with international pressure from Western countries, the political figures leading the “Orange Revolution” would usually ask for the cancelation of the first elections and have a rerun. The old political class would then be replaced not by manipulating the actual votes but by swiftly and efficiently manipulating public opinion so that people will change in a very short time their political support and as a result their vote in the second elections. Regardless if this was legitimate or not, this was not seen with good eyes by Russia, especially in countries like Ukraine which was historically under Russian influence and has direct and strong ties with Russia.

The new pro-Western regimes were heavily supported by the West, a good example of this is the attempt to make Ukraine and Georgia part of NATO (in Ukraine about 65% of the population opposes NATO membership).

How did it go?

Getting back to Georgia, on the 1st of August 2008, one of the sides either Georgia or South Osetia (it is still unclear who), started the fight with little apparent reason. The fighting although small at the beginning, intensified and on the 7th of August Georgian troops entered in force into South Osetia, shelling the capital of the region, Tshinvalli. Later, that is two weeks later, they justified this by saying Russians moved some troops into the area, it is hard to tell how much truth is in these claims. In the attack many civilians died under artillery shells (MRLS) but also some Russian soldiers. It does not take a brilliant mind to figure out that when you attack a regions under an UN Peace Keeping Mission things will not turn out well for you. The only rational explanation for why the Georgians attacked is that according to the status of the UN Peace Keeping Mission, the number of Russian troops in the area was not supposed to be more than 350 and only armed with machine-guns (hard to say if the Russians respected these terms). It is likely that Georgia did not consider Russia’s small Peace Keeping Missions a credible threat and with the backing of US, believed that Russians will not take military action. Russians took about a day to scramble their forces and move into South Osetia, then Abhazia and then with some smaller forces further into Georgian territory. The number of military casualties show that there was little direct confrontations but more likely skirmishes and artillery shelling, all of which the main victims were civilians. However, the scale of military mobilization, the speed at which both countries took action suggests that neither was taken unprepared which is a bit puzzling. After about a week of fighting, a peace treaty was settled and now the Russians are slowly retreating.

Another interesting part here is that in many pro-Western countries, Russia was presented as an invader, as an evil, “undemocratic” country which bullies smaller countries (Afghanistan, Iraq anyone ?). One would not expect to see Russia presented positively, after all Georgia is supported by the West, but the fact that they were presented in such a negative way points out that the relationship between Russia and USA/Western Europe is at a very low level.

What are the results?

In the past few years Russia has been distancing itself from the West (US and Western Europe) becoming a world of its own. The West has also been encroaching into Russian controlled areas like Ukraine and Georgia, directly threatening its sphere of interest and power. This spring, when US announced it wanted to push for a Georgian and Ukrainian NATO membership, Russia did not express strong disapproval but anger and made it clear that this was going too far. Taking this into consideration, for Moscow, Georgia was the perfect opportunity to show to the West that they will not be pushed around easily.

For Georgia, South Osetia is its territory and unlike Serbia which gave up on Kosovo peacefully it decided to fight for it. Now that all is over, it appears Georgia has lost its control over the region along side with Abhazia. But this may not be a complete loss, because for Georgia it was impossible to join NATO as long as it had territorial disputes and Russian troops on its territory. If South Osetia and Abhazia declare independence, then the path for Georgia’s NATO membership is opened.

As for the Russians, besides the fact that they were mostly presented as “evil” by Western media, they showed to the rest of the world that they will fight for what they believe to be their sphere of influence. Maybe in the future US will think twice before going further into the Russia’s controlled areas because Moscow will not just stand and watch.

In the end however, regardless of who won or lost, many civilian lives were lost in a conflict that was not theirs. It is sad when this happens, and we should not forget them.