Refugees and populism

This time I’m writing on a hot topic. Not hot because of its popularity, but hot because it causes controversies, pain and even war.

People tend to classify everything they get in contact with: colors, numbers, food, things and even people. How many classifications of the human race have there ever existed? If I remember the history book on Colonial New Spain, there were quite a lot. Now, how many wars have included racial definitions, belief or other human definitions as reasons to fight for?  What is race? What is religion?

We have all been following the press reporting on the US presidential campaign, either, if we are interested or not,  A radical and racist guy, we know who, is running a campaign to be elected President of one of the most influential countries in our times. In Europe, it’s not that clear because there are usually more than two parties running for elections. However, in France a party of the extreme right has been elected and has won in many of the French regions or départements. Germany has had a history of racism that caused millions of deaths is having again a problem that may have to do with the definition of ‘race’ believed by some people, maybe too many.   There is now a new party, the AfD or ‘Alternative für Deutschland’ a right-wing populist political party founded in 2013 that has won 7.1% of the votes and 7 out of 96 German seats in the 2014 European Parliament.  Some years ago, the Green Party was the third in the country and now?

In my opinion this party supports those old views and and is even worst than the New Nazis party. The New Nazis were mostly supported by young men with little chances in society, many unemployed or with bad paid jobs, with very little education. This has changed in the past years and the new extreme right is now supported by educated people and more women have been participating actively and have even got higher positions in this new party. If we look at the traditional way of life and the way families are organized, women are the ones responsible for passing their values to their kids, that is, to the next generation. These women and men are well educated…

(If you speak German, watch the documentation: Die Anti Asyl Front , http://goo.gl/KxgogV on German TV)

We my come to the conclusion that in Europe this phenomenon may be caused by the millions of refugees that have got there last year and the thousands who have tried it by sea in the last years crossing the Mediterranean and dying in the intent. This may be the case in Europe, but where are the millions of war refugees trying to get to the US? Isn’t ‘America’ an immigrant country or better an immigrant continent? I really dislike the idea of calling the US by ‘America’.  Since the 16th century people have been arriving there. Who were at that time the refugees?

I used before the word ‘race’, how do you define it? We are in the 21st Century, haven’t they heard about genetics? About the origins of the homo sapiens? about phenotypes? I have just read an article in the German paper talking about the Neanderthal genes that we all have.  Even in the same family, one child maybe blond and another have dark hair, one can be short another tall, one can have blue eyes, the other brown. What does this have to do with race and more, what does this have to do with nationality?  I wonder…

What is now happening in Europe, more precisely in Germany, where I lived for more than 20 years, is really shocking. On the one hand the arrival of more than a million of people with nothing would collapse any country and forgetting that not all are good souls, it simply gives me the creeps. Imagine that you invite two or three friends to dinner and they arrive with their families, friends and even their neighbors…  Oh, and they would stay indefinitely. I imagine that you wouldn’t be that pleased.

Germany, well, Angela Merkel, was the one who offered to welcome the refugees and to help them and the country started receiving refugees not only from the Middle East, mostly from the bombed Syria. However, Germany is already very crowded in a small space and the land doesn’t have enough space or schools or hospitals or homes for the people already living there. I don’t want say Germans because exactly using that term is what causes so much tension. Are only Germans entitled to live there? Who are those Germans? By nationality because they live and are registered there or because of their ‘blood’?  The ones living there, working, paying taxes, with children in school, or the ones whose families were there for generations and they may look a little bit alike? Are the first ones less ‘German’?

The current situation with a rise of populists parties all around Europe is not only a result of not liking foreign or different looking people, but it has also to do with the fact that people in the middle of the society fear loosing their status and their work gained position in society. This fear is exactly what those populists do, agitate people using their fears against those who are different or foreign.

I really would like to know where all this is going, but I prefer not to think and not to imagine… The scenarios may be horrible.

To understand a little bit more, you may read the following article: https://goo.gl/s8W0he

Black and White

Is it that simple? Can we simply divide the world into black and white or good and bad? Who decides the criteria and what are the rules to do so? When educating young children we tend to tell them what they should do. We encourage them to do some things a certain way because it is good and we tell them what they shouldn’t do because it’s bad. Prohibition and rules are for many the basis of education. Religions, for example the Catholics, want their followers to be good and do no evil because if not, they will go to hell… Other religions act on the same principle, they promise marvels and beauty, if you’re good and stick to their rules, and punishment or catastrophes, if not…

Is it really that simple? After reading a couple of news in the weekend newspapers of different countries I got really depressed… What is going on with the world? It has never been a very quiet place to live in, but seriously? Right now everything seems to be on the verge of collapsing: wars, epidemics, financial crisis, politics… Just to mention some.

Some time ago I decided not to watch the news on TV anymore because I felt angry and impotent about the news. Usually the news take only 15 minutes of a whole day and they only show what they think is more important and relevant. And as any egoistic human, as we all are… almost every one of us think that doesn’t affect me directly, so… and continues on with their lives ignoring the discomfort that those distant events caused them.

I then decided to read the newspaper, but as you may know, reading only one newspaper gives you only one version of the facts… One particular way of seeing and presenting things explained according to the ideology of the newspaper or magazine… That’s why I decided to take a look at several newspapers all over the world. What did I find? Unfortunately, at the moment everywhere  the same: despair, anger, greed…

Newspapers

The press

(Image from http://www.anglaisfacile.com/exercices/exercice-anglais-2/exercice-anglais-47957.php)

Let me mention some of the articles I was reading about. The very first one about the massacre of the alleged students in Guerrero, a southern Mexican state. They still don’t know who the people were. Officially three students were murdered while 43 others have simply disappeared. They have found a mass grave, but they still don’t know who is lying quietly there.  Were they all students, were other people killed and buried in the mass grave? It’s difficult to tell, who it was and why they did it… The police? The police in combination with the drugs cartel? With or without the approval of the governor?  The military? Awful and sad… On the other hand, one of the big news in Mexican papers was the big and expensive presidential plane, one of the most exclusive and expensive planes in the world, that arrived to the Mexican capital and was handed to the same president… Yuk!

Economists and politicians were very worried because Mexico would present a bad image and the big European and foreign investors could be afraid of the country. And the families, friends and relatives of the victims? And the Mexican people?   Everyone asks me about this case, as if I would know more because I’m Mexican. People over here even try to warn me about going back. They are maybe right, but…

On the other hand living here in a safe place in Western Europe, reading the news, I got confronted with another problem. Because of the ISIS war in the southern border of Turkey with Syria, here in Germany and Europe they have started worrying a lot about all the people looking for political asylum .  It is sadly true, thousands have been arriving to Germany, many to Bavaria and for example, in Munich there is no place where to shelter them. Before school began they started putting people in school gyms. However, school has started and they had to move the people, who arrive from different regions, with different nationalities. Families are often separated from their relatives and are distributed all over the state.  The government has built some tents to shelter them, but Winter is almost here and the nights in Fall are really cold. It has been a big challenge for the German state to organize housing, medical care, food and many other things for them within a very short time. Some politicians want to limit the amount of asylum seekers, which is understandable to a certain extent. But if I imagine, these are people fleeing from war having to leave everything behind, even their dignity… So what is the best way? Where can they go or who can take them? I also read that even Uruguay has offered to take some asylum seekers, and  Uruguay and the Middle East are very far away…

Asylum seekers

Asylum seekers

Image from: https://koptisch.wordpress.com/category/koptische-asylanten/

So in this war who are the good ones and who are the bad ones? Of course, we all agree that those who kill innocent people, especially children, women, old, are bad, but in a war this distinction is kind of grey. Military forces, like Americans or European, “helping” the good ones and bombing theoretical shelters where terrorists are hiding?  This, as we all know, causes casualties or the so called “collateral damage”. What would be the way of solving the conflict? Although in this case, there are no defined two parties. Terrorism in Middle East is difficult to grasp and define so that it can be dealt with. What is the best way to deal with it?

I found a 5 minute explanation of Syria  in the Youtube channel of the “Vlogbrothers”. If you can follow the very fast and lively explanation of this young Youtuber, you may get a good grasp of why it is so complicated. By the way, the brothers are Hank and his brother John Green, a famous writer.  This made me smile a little.

You may want to take a visual guide to the crisis in Iraq and Syria by the New York Times.

To make my morning gloomier, I continued reading the news, trying to digest the next topic: Ebola. When it first started, we all thought, poor Africa, poor black continent, but it’s far. Now things have changed. Ebola is on our doorsteps. I don’t want to sound in panic or very alarmed, but the reality is that there have been more cases in Spain, England and even Texas. We know that it is difficult to get it, but…  Here is the Ebola information sheet of the World Health Organisation .  You can take a look at this very fast, 94 seconds, and clear explanation of ebola here.

Humanity has dealt with other plagues, but at that time the news travelled very slow and I imagine that they were not as “informed” as we are. What makes me nervous is exactly that, are we really “well” informed? For good or for bad?  We all know the secrecy that governments and institutions keep and the ways they can influence people propagating information… So, yes, let’s keep informed, but trying to get the most extensive panorama we can get before panicking, judging or even fighting.

Have a good and relaxing week, if you avoid the news!

Rabbit or hare?

I decided to go hunting… At the beginning I really didn’t mean to. I thought that finding an explanation to the “Easter Bunny” would be easier. However, I’ve come across the most interesting things.

Easter Bunny close to Bamberg, Germany

Easter Bunny close to Bamberg, Germany

The first thing that caught my attention is the fact that sometimes rabbits were used to symbolize “Christ” in early Christian times. This convention was continued and was even used in the decoration of some churches, e.g. the three hare window in the Roman Catholic Cathedral in Paderborn, Germany, where three rabbits or hares are united in a triangle with only one ear of each showing. They are meant to symbolize the Trinity.

http://www.american-buddha.com/cult.hieronymusbosch.plate9.htm

If you’re interested in this topic you may want to take a look at The three hares project of Chris Chapman. He shows different versions of the motive and its depiction in Medieval Europe basing its origins in Asia.

http://www.chrischapmanphotography.co.uk/hares/index.html

In the late 15th century and beginnings of the 16th some famous painters included rabbits or hares in their religious painting, such as Albrecht Dürer on his woodcut The Holy Family.

Albrecht Dürer's The Holy Family

Albrecht Dürer’s The Holy Family

He also created the most detailed painting of a hare, his famous Young Hare (German: Feldhase) in 1502 in watercolors.

A very informative page is http://steadfastlutherans.org/?p=28531 where you can read a very interesting, however personal view of Easter and its symbols.

 

Going back to the “Easter rabbit”, that by the way was a hare, like Bugs Bunny and not a sweet fluffy rabbit, it is usually seen as a symbol for fertility.  Hares and rabbits are very prolific and can give birth to several litters a year. They are very early sexually mature and can conceive the second litter while still pregnant with the first!

 

In the early 19th century, Jakob Grimm, tried to explain the myth of Easter, the eggs and the bunny. The idea of the German goddess Ostara became popular with his version. She wasn’t really well known or popular before that. Grimm based his version in some medieval writings, some from the British Isles, and word semantics from German and other northern languages. However, up to now nothing has been scientifically proven.

Another interesting fact I found in my hunt was this image:

Ixchel_Rabbit_maya

Ixchel with rabbit husband

It has been sometimes used to portrait the goddess Ostara and his mate, the rabbit or hare!  If you look very carefully, especially for those of you acquainted with Mesoamerican art, you will recognize some facial traits… Yes, indeed! This is a Mayan sculpture representing the Mayan goddess of fertility, Ix-Chel. She was the goddess of fertility, motherhood, the moon and the menstrual cycle. She was mother of all. In other representations she holds a rabbit in her hand as a symbol of fertility while sitting on the crescent moon.  On this image she is standing with the rabbit at her side to symbolize fertility.

As you now know, this image has nothing to do with Ostara, the Old German goddess!

The Aztecs, another Mezoamerican culture,  used the rabbit for the name of a day: “tochtli”. http://www.azteccalendar.com/day/Tochtli.html

 

Are there any other rabbit or bunny versions? Many for sure…

In conclusion,  the version of Easter as we know it,  with colored eggs and bunnies, is the one transmitted from German and Swedish cultures to other European countries and brought to the US of America in the 18th century mostly by German immigrants, many of them Lutherans.  This tradition has now extended to many parts of the world without really knowing what it stands for.

Does it really matter? Enjoy your chocolate eggs and rabbits… though I prefer chocolate hares as they have longer ears 😉

Happy Easter! 

red egg