Yesterday near and far

After a week fraught with new circumstances in both personal and world realms, last night I downloaded Telegram again. I do not use it, and my family tends to use another (social media) application to share moments and forward videos commenting on the ridiculous posturing of politicians in power or aspiring to power. I downloaded Telegram again because I was curious. A Russian YouTuber with a neutral or resigned stance let its “adorables”— an expression that he uses to address his audience in English in his valorous effort to learn the language — know that he would not be able to make further posts on YouTube and could be found on Telegram. 

I have mixed feelings about YouTube (YT) like I have mixed feelings about television (TV). It is a mixed blessing of dual use. Since February 21, I have been watching any news channel that I can access. What is happening to our world?

The YT algorithm dutifully put that adorable Russian on my recommendations, along with UATV English, and I am constantly reminded by the admonition pronounced by the north American comedian and political commentator Samanta Bee at the end of some her vlogs: if you would like to become radicalised, leave YT on autoplay. YT autoplay is an abyss, and the algorithm that makes recommendations based on your viewing history will also send you down a bottomless rabbit hole. That said, I still click on occasions on the recommendations, and on a few occasions, it is interesting. Whether it is useful is another topic. 

That said, from my adorable Russian vlogger, I got to downloading Telegram late last night. Not that I was going into the group chat for the adorables, but that I was curious about the application and how it works now. I had just downloaded it and created my login when I get a chat “Hi”. Name of the user in Cyrillic, and the phone number from Russia. I can make out the letters of the Cyrillic alphabet, but then my knowledge of all languages using Cyrillic ends. I have a Russian friend with that first name and with citizenship in a Western European country. Still uncertain about the identity of the person on the other side, and before I told them off, I continued the dialogue with caution and got a message “I just got to (a capital in Europe that I am not going to name) from Moscow”. Interesting, one more data point that could confirm that this is my friend. Then I asked about the family, and in specific one family member. He replied with the name of his family member and the whereabouts of that person. Relief on all sides. That person is not in Russia, and I was now fairly confident that this was indeed my friend. Then I learned that his Western phone was out of battery, so he was using the Russian one. Above all, he shared his disapproval of the actions taken by the Russian government against Ukraine. We didn’t talk about the weather or climate change.

While I was having an interesting dialogue with my Russian friend who just got out of Moscow on the last Finnair flight, I got another message: a photo from the demonstration in Bern yesterday against the war in the Ukraine. This time the identity of the sender was much easier, an Ukrainian colleague who lives in the Swiss capital and with whom I had spoken on the phone just a few hours earlier. 

It is two people whom I know, both colleagues, both people with whom I have co-authored academic papers, one Russian, one Ukrainian, and both were equally indignant over the plight of the Ukranians and nobody had any doubts as to who was the agressor and in the wrong. It is just two opinions of intelligent and normal people, but I suspect it is also the consensus worldwide. This is wrong in all possible ways. Wrong. 

As to the future, I will be writing more. 

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November 8, 2016

First thing this morning when I woke up in Bern, I checked on the election results. I was glad that I had gotten some sleep. The day has not been easy. Today I feel sorry for all of my Americans.

I feel sorry for those who voted Trump, he will not make America great again. He will not even make America better. You are still in the losers lot, you will become further disenfranchised and the class struggle will continue. It just isn’t the class struggle that Marx talked about.  

November 9, 2016 //

I feel sorry for those who voted Clinton, she may represent all the ugly things that the establishment represents, but she is miles ahead of the pack, and she could have been a good president, given a chance. Frankly, I don’t give a hoot that she is a woman, but I could trust her to make it work for all of us. I feel sorry for all of those of you libertarian and higher ground intellectuals who wasted your vote on a candidate with no chance; you can’t distinguish your idealism from real politics and you don’t have a clue on how to be pragmatic. It’s not a good day to have US citizenship. It is a day to reflect. 

 That is, I say yes to the rainy days, I say yes to the rainbow, and I still don’t like umbrellas. Don’t let the crises go to waste. Start rebuilding humanity.


Exercises in Arrogance: I

This is not an exercise for beginners. It is an exercise in advancing the exploration of arrogance. it started as a banality. On the way to the Rathaus on Thursday I went to the hairdresser and was in a chatty mood. Here I am telling my hairdresser about the fact that I have two main professional occupations, and he volunteers that he knew that one is politics, but did not know the other. This was the funny thing, I was not even thinking of politics. Politics is something that I do in my spare time, it is not a profession. Politics is also a civic duty. After all, if you are not willing to govern, you are damned to be governed.

Thursday’s triple – in fact quadruple – dose of the Bern city parliament had something for everybody. There were big items on the agenda and we did not get through half of those items. Still, some of the meatier subjects were debated. The annual report 2013, or a great opportunity for the left to say that they also know about finance, and the right to point out the errors, or vice-verse. Thursday night was no exception and we got it approved, but not without a vote of protest from our fraction. The best was yet to come. The details are theatrical. At one point it really got out of hand and people were shouting at each other (and yes, the local newspaper reported on that). Civilised I say, in comparison with some parliament squabbles elsewhere, but unusual for typically slow and anaesthetised Bernese. The protocol of Thursday’ sessions is going to be a doozy! 

The epitome of ridicule was reached as the clock was about to strike 23:30. At that point one member of the parliament gets up to make yet another motion of order and argued that we were wasting taxpayer’s money by going into overtime, thus we should break up and resume the debate at another time. Parliamentarians in this city get paid in 3 hour blocks, and since we had been debating since 20:30, we had been at it for three hours and were no where close to conclusion. We voted, and this motion did not get a majority, thus it was rejected. This rejected motion prompted yet another one by another parliamentarian asking that our honorary for the overtime be cancelled. This caused a commotion because such a motion of order is not permitted according to the statutes. However it is possible to ask that we voluntarily forfeit of the honorary. This was put to a vote, and roughly speaking those who had wanted to debate the damned business to its bitter end, forfeited, and those that wanted to go home didn’t. 

In view of all these antics, one must be curious as to what it was that we were debating. You guessed it, about spending money. This time about a public transportation project that has captured the fancy of mostly left politicians, but which is meeting considerable opposition from the residents, the extreme right, and the liberals. When one looks at the project in detail, there are major flaws with it. Surely Bern should update and modernise its public transportation, but this project is ridiculously poorly conceived. A lot of arguments for it are about serving two suburban communities (Köniz and Ostermundig)  with trams. Both Köniz and Ostermundig have train stations. Needless to say that S-bahn (trains) are a whole lot faster than trams and do not cause congestion on the streets or hinder bike riders. But that is not all. Actually, I get bored listing all that is wrong with this concept. The debate in the Stadtrat is however a bit more interesting, but just as poorly informed. Lies, and more lies, and who gives a damn? Damn lies!

Still, the substance seems almost besides the point; marginalised. The basics of the exercise are about power. The majority block wants this project’s credit to be approved, and the minority doesn’t. The strategy on the pro-project side is to get it through as fast as possible, and that on the minority side is to delay it. It is the way it is. Anyhow the fellow with the motion that we forfeit our honorary is now poking fun at the fellow who wanted to interrupt the debate because he did not forfeit. This is pathetic! Kindergarden silliness. 

Indeed the arguments against going into overtime were not very sound. We will debate this damned tram project as long as it takes, this is what a parliament is for. This is not a business meeting to be run efficiently. Democracy, for better or worse,  is not very efficient. First people are irrational, and if anything, politics is irrational. Fortunately the whole project will be put up for a vote in September, and then the residents can have their say.