Tag Archives: Morgnanesi

Is Democracy Sick?

14 Oct

 

With the Russians continuing to mess with us, it might be time to consider an alternative system of government. Perhaps Plato can guide us.

 

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Watching the human condition from an airport waiting room: the toll of fate and time.

29 Jun

iraqi-refugeesHumanity struggles.

A good place to observe this is the international gate at Newark Liberty Airport. It is not a struggle for life and death, just life, and the simple routine of getting to where one must be.

Almost no one here resembles the highborn. Save for a few Japanese, all are dressed casually. They seem vulnerable, dependent on unseen forces disinclined to treat them well; at the mercy of an uncaring system.

Pale complexions are few. Most of those must be off somewhere else; perhaps in a special room that requires a card to enter. Out here, little English is heard, although most speak it. As bilinguals, this actually puts them above the cloistered monolinguals.

While there is struggle, there is no real suffering. Indeed, some smile. But the smiles cannot mask anxiety, impatience, fear of the unknown, crying babies that need to be fed, heavy belongs that need to be carried awkwardly from one place to another like a ball and chain.

Many are traveling for pleasure, but this doesn’t resemble pleasure.

But let me clarify.

The transit experience at Newark Liberty Airport is really not all that bad. While I have reported accurately and expressed true feelings, I was greatly influenced by what I was reading.

Such as: a story about 3 million Afghan refugees; a story about 1 million Syria refugees; the review of a book by R.M. Douglas called, “Orderly and Humane: The Expulsion of the Germans after the Second World War.”

Book cover -- Orderly and HumaneWith respect to the latter, as you might suspect, the forced relocation of 13 million German civilians from Central and Southern Europe was neither orderly nor humane. According to Douglas and history, it was much like the relocation of the Jews during the Holocaust – only this time the atrocities were committed by Americans. The Germans were transported in locked rail cars, kept in concentration camps and rarely fed.  Most were women and children. About 500,000 died.

So as I read I also watched. I saw people moving about uncomfortably, sullen, waiting, waiting and waiting. I thought of all those who risk everything – mostly life — trying desperately to get somewhere that is not worth going to. All in all, the United Nations estimated that in 2012 the world contained about 10.5 million refugees.

Then, in my boredom, I recalled an elderly Chinese woman I once knew. After World War II, she moved to America with her husband-scientist. Late in life, they bought a suburban house that was as large as some small hotels. It had a finished basement so grand that the couple used it as a ballroom.

At a dinner party, this woman casually told me how she left Shanghai on foot – with masses of others – after the Japanese invaded in the 1930s. She was headed many hundreds of miles away, toward Central China, where there were no Japanese. Along the way, it was not uncommon for the migrants to be bombed.

This woman, on the most treacherous journey of her life, may have retained some hope. But amidst war, hunger and death, she most certainly was not thinking how nice it would be to one day live in a $2.5 million house and invite people over to dance.

How powerful the effects of fate and time!

The people at Newark Liberty Airport, at least for now, aren’t going to die, or starve or be forced to live in tented refugee camps (although a few may already have done that). Even so, some, maybe even me, could experience it in the future. It takes only an atrocious natural disaster, an attack on critical infrastructure or a few super microbes that destroy either food or people.

We will all go a running.

How powerful the effects of fate and time.

I somehow see this, or fear this, as I observe a relatively small mass wend its way through a limited but wholly sufficient transportation network. Suppose that network was not sufficient?

Chinese city-ShenjenIn the very near future, over more than a decade, the world will witness a planned event that will be either a migratory miracle or a disaster of incredible proportions. It probably will be both. The Chinese, perhaps recalling other great shifts, plan to relocate 250 million people from the countryside into cities, many newly built for this purpose. This number exceeds the combined populations of all large cities in America. It is the equivalent of moving almost 80 percent of every person in the U.S.

The Chinese are accustomed to solving big problems with big solutions. The purpose of this one is to spur economic growth. Living in rural poverty, as so many Chinese do, adds little to the economic engine. In cities, these same people are expected to be better producers and consumers.

It’s a very bold plan.

Will it break hearts, souls and spirits?

Will it strip people of their heritage, culture, routines and roots?

Might it possibly create contentment, an unthought-of elevation in living standards?

Perhaps even an increase in ballroom dancing?

What it will do for sure it put people where they never expected to be.

How powerful the effects of fate and time.

Should I be in China during this epochal migration, I will try to keep off the main roads and certainly stay out of airports. They are simply too depressing.

By Lanny Morgnanesi

They only stone you if you confess

14 Nov

One of the worst qualities of the human species is its dastardly view of competing tribes.

For some reason, there is comfort in thinking that those outside the circle are monstrous barbarians capable of and responsible for numerous and unspeakable atrocities.

Get in close with these devils, however, and you generally find they are just like you; decent, with families and a respect for routine, calmness and peace.

To see things clearly, it helps to remember there are monstrous barbarians among all groups, but they are misfits who do not represent the norm.

A foreigner reading history may learn about the epidemic of lynching in America, but if he visited my town he would find no one there was involved in such things, or even capable of them.

Would he be surprised?

Recently I read an article that a group in Egypt is clamoring for sharia law. In random thought I wondered how many who advocate this form of Islamic governance really want to cut off someone’s hand for stealing bread. Most Americans, I’m sure, will think everyone who wants sharia supports cutting off the hands of thieves, as well as death by stoning for women who have committed adultery.

Perhaps I am both ignorant and naïve, but I would guess they don’t.

My guess is sharia brings comfort, predictability and harmony to the lives of devout Muslims; just as the 10 Commandments and Biblical law do for reverent Christians. I do know that in secular countries, Muslims use sharia on their own to settle family and business matters – without hurting anyone.

From what I now understand, sharia – like our own laws – is open to interpretation. In other words, there are ways around stoning and dismemberment.

And even if there is to be stoning and dismemberment, they cannot be administered on a whim.  There are rules and conditions.

For example, a Muslim woman can only be stoned for adultery if she either confesses or there are four male witnesses who saw the act being committed.

Is either likely?

The hand of a thief cannot be cut off if public property was taken, or if he stole because he was hungry or under duress. The stolen items cannot belong to his or her family, must be over a minimum value, and cannot have been taken from a public place. Also there must be reliable witnesses.

In short, there are fudge factors here.

I believe in secular law. Still, I’d like to understand how Islamic culture works among civilized people. I don’t understand sharia but am open to learning more.

Aside from the rare man willing to kill or maim his wife on any given day – and we have plenty of them in the U.S. – I don’t think Muslims routinely seek blood for justice.

Does anyone agree?

–By Lanny Morgnanesi

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