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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Bin Laden Is Dead, Obama Says – “Bin Laden’s demise is a defining moment in the American-led fight against terrorism, a symbolic stroke affirming the relentlessness of the pursuit of those who attacked New York and Washington on Sept. 11, 2001. ”  No! This may be a defining moment for America, but this defines a moment of shame and barbarianism.

I am neither courageous nor brilliant. I am not Emile Zola either. Still, I accuse, j’accuse! It was wrong, and it remains wrong to have killed a person who allegedly was Osama bin Laden. There can be no joy in this, there is nothing to celebrate, there is no success, this is no glory, there is no victory. This was a step backward in human evolution, it was cultural devolution. It was wrong. Wrong.

9/11 was wrong too. However there is no way in this world that two wrongs make a right, and much less when the facts are not clear. I really do not care how much purported, circumstantial or physical evidence there is about Al Qaeda as the author of the 9/11 attack. There is no way to justify either. However, America would do itself some good to ask itself a few serious questions about its foreign policy. Why is America so deeply hated in some parts of the world?

Actually, the Pentagon has a few ideas. At least one 2004 report (1) uses plain langugage to state what has been common knowledge in the streets of Cairo – or Islamabad, it is not freedom that the Yankees are exporting, it is hypocrisy, and that too is rather convenient to some of the autocrats in the Middle East.

“American direct intervention in the Muslim World has paradoxically elevated the stature of and support for radical Islamists, while diminishing support for the United States to single-digits in some Arab societies. Muslims do not “hate our freedom,” but rather, they hate our policies. The overwhelming majority voice their objections to what they see as one-sided support in favor of Israel and against Palestinian rights, and the longstanding, even increasing support for what Muslims collectively see as tyrannies, most notably Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Pakistan, and the Gulf states.” However the more than hundred page report does not stop there, it continues “Thus when American public diplomacy talks about bringing democracy to Islamic societies, this is seen as no more than self-serving hypocrisy. Moreover, saying that “freedom is the future of the Middle East” is seen as patronizing, suggesting that Arabs are like the enslaved peoples of the old Communist World — but Muslims do not feel this way: they feel oppressed, but not enslaved.”

That said, it could be, and there is a shred of hope that this year’s Arab Spring is starting another chapter in the politics of the region. But what happens next? Osama bin Laden was but one man, Al Qaeda was not a one man’s operation, and the Taliban is not Al Qaeda but merely shares with it an ideology of radicalism. That this radicalism is one instrumentalizing Islam as just a footnote. The Fight Goes On – By Anna Badkhen | Foreign Policy: “That anyone should consider bin Laden’s death auspicious to the course of the counterinsurgency is a surprising notion to many in northern Afghanistan, where the Taliban have been gaining rapid momentum over the past 18 months.”

America just lost the war on terrorism. I do not think that god cares all that much about the American dream; it is a nightmare.