Editor: Giovanni Stanga Co-editor: Gaia Lisi Journalists: Fazilet Merve Çağlayan
Nicolas Gaté Ella Goemans Emils Dombrovskis Leonie Friedrich
Julia Hönnecke Michael Keith Gaia Lisi Gaby Muhlberg Steff Nagel Leander Nielbock Simon Pompé David Reuter Samantha Scarpa Leonardo Sena Giovanni Stanga Wiebke Stimming
Cover: Steff Nagel Layout and design: Steff Nagel Summer Edtion Copyrighted 2018
THE SUMMER EDITION
Korenveld met Kraaien - Vincent van Gogh This being Van Gogh’s last finished painting, it calls for a certain serenity. Perhaps, after his hard life (Van Gogh rarely sold paintings), this final piece stood for the peace he had found in himself. We may not be certain, yet, when viewing this massive canvas in real life, it feels as if it was Vincent’s goodbye. With the crows leaving into the distance, so do we at the end of this year.
Summer Hangouts: five amazing places to visit this summer.
Peace & Quiet: Forests go silent, bird populations are dwindling.
European Union 11
The GDPR Shitshow: The new EU privacy laws screw everyone over.
Iran and the European Chapter: The EU may help further the Iran Nuclear Deal.
NOTE FROM THE EDITOR
Sexual Harassment: How Maastricht deals with rising harassment.
Pax Europaea: 73 years of peace and what it means for us.
16 The History of Peace: Through the centuries, peace has changed.
Taming the Giants?: How nuns deal with gun corporations.
The Middle East 19
Points of Interest
Zen and the Art of Padeling Squares: A way of unplugging from our Net-lives.
Kodachrome: Why we need to capture our lives.
United Nations 30
Defender of Peace: A critical analysis of the UNSC.
They say that what matters is not the destination but the journey. I speak on behalf of my whole Team when I say that this was an amazing and intense journey. Every Printed Edition this year, just like our year in The Diplomat, has been a journey. And, dear reader, it has been your journey too. The journey of flipping through the pages of the Winter Edition, the Spring Edition, and the Summer Edition and reading different, but all valuable, perspectives. We have explored the worlds of disunity and revolution during this year of journalistic experience. For you, reader, exploring this journal will not bring you to a specific destination (maybe it will even make you lose thirty minutes of studying) but will make you reflect, critically think and find new questions to answer. In this Edition, we dug ourselves into peace and security, two universal values which seem to be complementary with each other but can also be mutually exclusive. We, as journalists, need to analyse through our lens the very meaning of absolute concepts such as peace and security, to internalise them. Thanks to each contribution, and due to the overarching nature of these two themes, we managed to present well-balanced and diverse contents. How are peace and security related? What does it means to ‘have’ peace? Do we live in a peaceful world and society? Is Maastricht safe, especially for women? How can peace truly be achieved? Is peace even desired by states? How can we reach inner peace within ourselves? These are some of the questions which guided in the thinking and writing process. And if you came this far, it means you’re ready to embark on this journey with us. Enjoy these articles with their unique design, it’s going to be a rollercoaster!
tanga S i n n a v o i G
POINTS OF INTEREST
Maastricht’s Best Places to Hang Out: Summer Edition
eeling like the Sahara, these days Maastricht could not make you crave summer more. No more tutorials, enough of those floppy sandwiches at the ICL, and the MECC as a distant memory, there is nothing that stops you from visiting Maastricht without the doom of exams and deadlines coming your way. It is the perfect time for you, dear reader, to switch off your Mac (or any other laptop for that matter), get out of the library and abandon the monotony of your life. In this article, The Diplomat will present the best places in Maastricht to do exactly that: get out, explore and live the best summer life.
To Cast Away the Sea Nostalgia - Fun Valley The closest you will get to a beach in Maastricht, Fun Valley will not be the French Riviera, but it will certainly cool you in the hottest days of summer. Here you will have the chance to sunbathe and go for a swim in the Maas River for the price of €8,50 per day. But what makes Fun Valley one of the places you need to visit at least once is the variety of activities that you can do with your friends: from paintball and laser tag to rafting and canoeing. So please bring your Ross, Chandler, Monica, Rachel, Phoebe and Joey and make sure to enjoy the best of your summer life!
For the Great Panoramas - SintPietersberg The Netherlands is the only place where this hill of less than 200 meters could be called ‘mount’. With splendid views of Maastricht and beyond, SintPietersberg, slash the only hill in the Netherlands, could not be a lovelier picnic spot. Bring a tablecloth, some food and a music stereo and be prepared to enjoy one of the most beautiful sunset views in Maastricht, guaranteed! And for those who have the courage to get up early enough to see the sun rising above the city, you will not be disappointed!
For the Summer-Haters - Maastricht Underground Escape the heat of the summer days with a visit to the caves below Sint-Pietersberg. It is the time to bring out the Indiana Jones inside of you and explore more than 20,000 passageways dug into the marble under the streets of Maastricht. You have the possibility to choose between the stunning North Caves, open every day, and the Zonneberg Caves for the more adventurous, available to visit only in the weekend. As a person that avoids toured guides, this one is a must do. Walking 70 meters in pitch black is something I will remember. But do not forget to bring a light jacket!
For Those Living the Simple Life - Stadspark Everyone knows and has at least once been to Stadspark. I could not, not include it in the list for the simple reason that if it is hot and you do not want to leave the city centre, this is the place to be. No warm day goes by without sitting by the pond enjoying a fresh beer, a glass of wine or an Italian homemade ice cream cone from the new ice cream parlour Gelateria Candiero, located in the cozy Koestraat, recommended by all my Italian friends. However, the Stadspark remains the Stadspark as we all know it. Even if it has chill vibes, it does not beat the view from Sint-Pietersberg.
For the Nice Vibes - ‘t Bassin Get those shades out and enjoy the sun in one of the terraces at ‘t Bassin marina. This place really comes to life in the summer when the restaurants, shops, and bars located in the old Wharf cellars move their terraces outside and open their doors. Think of a pleasant place to stop for a drink or some food with some passing boats stopping to visit Maastricht in the background and it’s all alright. One of my favourite spots is Lumière, where you can indulge yourself with a glass of wine or a good movie in case of rainy days.
Peace & Quiet ELLA GOEMANS
An Asian Songbird Crisis
Imagine that you’re standing in the middle of the woods. The fresh air fills your lungs, scattered sunlight just manages to reach your skin, and the only human sound is that of you breathing. Now imagine closing your eyes. Take a moment to listen. Hear the rustle of the leaves in the wind, the scurrying of small animals in the undergrowth, and a cacophony of caws, chirps, and song. It would be the kind of place to go to for some peace and quiet. To be far away from the noises produced by man; forests are peacefully loud. But imagine the same scene without the bird call. There would still be sound, but it would be swallowed up between the ancient tree trunks, leaving everything sounding hollow, surreal, and vaguely dead. This silence is unnatural; the only place it should be experienced is on a movie screen. Sadly, this type of quiet is becoming more prominent in the forests of Indonesia as people bring the musicality of the woods into their own homes. Scattered across the archipelago, and in other parts of Asia, there are countless markets dedicated to the buying and selling of songbirds. Market corridors lined with walls of cages, flashes of colour darting around within them, and an almost deafening symphony composed of every avian-made sound imaginable. If you were to look closely, you’d notice that there aren’t just small, colourful birds, but owls, parrots, eagles, and even monkeys too. Though chances are that those are kept further to the back, only to be shown to the most avid collectors. Of the birds displayed at those markets, quite a lot of them are commercially bred, posing very little threat to the emptying forests. Another option would be to buy domesticated species, such as a canary, as they’d be useless in the wild, and besides they are the most on offer anyway. However, there are still many species that have been illegally acquired. The birds are either caught in surrounding forests or imported from abroad. Species that were already considered rare or endangered, are often targeted by bird catchers to exploit their rarity. This gives potential buyers their last chance to see and listen to such a magnificent creature in person. Although domesticated and commercially bred birds are the larger part of the market, the mere fact that hundreds of thousands of birds are caught in the wild per year, shows that there are massive conservation issues. While not the only thing effecting biodiversity int Indonesia (deforestation also being a rather prominent factor), the practise of selling such songbirds is unsustainable. Because most of the birds being sold are males, needing their voices and their eccentric colours to attract a mate, the duller females are left with fewer opportunities to produce offspring. While the faint flutter of wings may still be heard among the leaves, the birds that are still around are painfully quiet. A slow, but sure, depletion of numerous species is well under way. Two more elements make the trade in wild songbirds unsustainable. One has to do with the Indonesian roads. As need for more and better infrastructure rises, roads are being constructed in close proximity to the forests, making them more accessible to bird catchers. Their job has been made easier, and as new roads are being built, there will
Sadly, this type of quiet is becoming more prominent in the forests of Indonesia as people bring the musicality of the woods into their own homes.
INFO GRA PHIC Did you know that: besides owning them as pets, songbirds are being used for competition? A money prize is given to the owner of the bird that can sing the longest, loudest, and most beautifully. These competitions last for around half an hour, and, to the normal ear, the difference between the birdsong is almost indistinguishable.
be access to the more remote parts of the woods. The second element has to do with how long these birds live in captivity. Some barely last a week, meaning that they need to be replaced frequently. A single household could, theoretically, go through 52 songbirds a year, and thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s assuming they only want to own one at a time. The question then becomes: why do people want to own these songbirds if they are both unsustainable and die quickly? Bird owning in Indonesia is not a new thing, rather, it has been a part of their rich culture for centuries. Songbirds were, and still are, a sign of status, wealth, and power. The difference between now and then, lies in how many people can effectively afford them. The short answer is that practically anyone can. In practise, about 21% of Indonesian households have at least one bird. It is mostly the well-educated and richer people who buy the rarer and illegal songbirds, while those less educated more often go for domesticated birds, or those specially bred for commercial use. This implies that people with a lower education are better for biodiversity all over the islands. However, restricting schooling is obviously not an option. For most of us here in Maastricht, it might seem backwards; educated people knowingly jeopardising the biodiversity in their country. It only goes to show how important cultural traditions are.
When someone purchases a wild songbird, more often than not, the buyer knows that what they are doing is in fact illegal. The problem is that the measures in place to counteract this type of trade are barely ever acted upon. It is not uncommon for policemen to be bribed with an especially beautiful songbird, or for them to be customers themselves. The government also does not actively apprehend illegal bird trade. Pressure to do something about the silencing of the forests, mostly comes from nongovernmental organisations (NGOs), both within Indonesia, ProFauna for example, and from abroad. Petitions, protests, and direct contact with governments, these organisations are trying to make a difference. One NGO, Plant Indonesia, founded by American Adam Miller, works to counter two of the biggest threats to Indonesian wildlife: illegal bird trade and deforestation, to preserve and boost biodiversity. For his work he received the Future for Nature Award earlier this year. Although there are people involved in projects designed to refill the forests with birdsong, they are not enough when faced with an ancient tradition of birdkeeping, and a government that will not take action. A shift is needed. One away from status and rarity, towards humility and sustainability. Before that happens, the peace and quiet of the Indonesian forests, will diminish, until all there is left, is the quiet.
Sexual Harassment Is Maastricht a Safe Place for Women?
Maastricht is associated with peace, integration, international thought, and open-minded communities. It is a city that many students from all around the world and from different cultures call home. However, this article shows that Maastricht may not be as safe as first thought. Multiple incidents have been published on the Facebook page ‘Sharing is caring’. Especially in the past months, women have repeatedly described their experience with sexual harassment in Maastricht. The high amount of these posts shows how current the issue is. The Weinstein affair, #MeToo, or attacks on dozens of women in Cologne on New Year’s Eve, are seen as an exception throughout Europe. However, these events raised a big discussion on what should be considered as sexual harassment and what not. In 2011 the Istanbul Convention in Article 40 stated that: “any form of unwanted verbal, nonverbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature with the purpose or effect of violating the dignity of a person (…) is subject to criminal or other legal sanction.”
With this, European countries wanted to, not only make laws regarding the issue of sexual attacks, but also to strive towards establishing an environment in which people can speak up and report it. The Netherlands ratified the convention in 2016. Sexual harassment comes in different forms, such as an unwanted arm around a waist, your boss giving you a neck massage, or a person following you on the streets. Interestingly, a study shows that the tolerance towards sexual assault varies highly across Europe, between women and men, countries and cultures. “A man telling a woman a sex joke”, “starring at a woman’s breast”, and “putting an arm around a woman’s waist” is considered sexual harassment in the UK, France and Finland, while the majority of participating women in Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands do not recognize it as such. The study shows that citizens in Northern European countries are more willingly speaking about harassment than in Eastern or Southern European countries. Every second women in the European Union, and 73% of women in the
Sexual harassment comes in different forms. 9
It is important to be aware of what can happen on the streets in Maastricht.
Netherlands stated they have been sexually harassed at least once since the age of 15. While all European countries recognize “grabbing a person or taking a photo of intimate areas” as sexual harassment, some ‘lighter’ or more regular incidents are seen as compliments in other countries. This would explain why Sweden, the UK, and Belgium have the highest percentage of reported sexual harassments in Europe. This can also be seen in Maastricht. A high majority of people living here would not consider it as unsafe in any way. Nevertheless, dozens of people have reported sexual harassment in Maastricht in the past months and most political parties have started to publically oppose and fight against it. This is possibly caused by citizens of Maastricht being more willing to share these events publically and to discuss the issue. Many people living here believe that Maastricht is less affected by sexual harassment against women than most other countries or cities in the world or in Europe. While both men and women are victims of sexual harassment, the victims who shared their experience on ‘Sharing is caring’ in the past year were all women. A study of the National Sexual Violence Resource Center shows that 99% of perpetrators worldwide are men, and 8 out of 10 victims are women or girls. Most of the published posts on Facebook end with questions on
how to deal with the issue and many students have described how unsure the police were about how to tackle the problem and prevent any future harassment. While most victims want to encourage others to speak up and find a solution collectively, other readers do not like seeing “a gathering of negative energy”. The current situation caused Maastricht University to define sexual harassment on its website as “including unwanted sexual approaches, requests for sexual favors or other verbal/non-verbal or physical behavior of a sexual nature”. Students at University College Maastricht collected records in a ‘story box’ where they encouraged people to share their experience with sexual harassment. They came to the conclusion that there is a rise of sexual assault and harassment in Maastricht since 2017. The stories recorded are dealing with sexual intimidation, assault, stalking, groping, being drugged and raped. Many recorded incidents were located at the club The Alla, which closed after a police raid found 3040 bags of cocaine. Unsurprisingly, multiple people reported being drugged there. Amsterdam and Rotterdam have made sexual harassment on the street a punishable offence. Rotterdam made cat calling and asking for sex illegal this year and perpetrators can now be fined up to 4100 Euros or get three months in jail. Many students have raised their
voice, addressing political parties in Maastricht to establish the same. This seems to be working, since a study concerning the collection of sexual harassment data was published by Gemeente Maastricht. The victims who share their experiences do so to find others who experienced anything similar and to spread awareness of the issue. However, it is true that the spreading of awareness leads to a gathering of negativity which should not be underestimated. It is important to be aware of what can happen on the streets in Maastricht, such as everywhere else. However, this should not lead to citizens living here, or new students moving here, to think Maastricht is generally dangerous. Maastricht’s openness, atmosphere and street life gives it the flair it has and that should be maintained. The number of posts regarding the issue increased in the past months which leads to political parties, the police and other organizations focusing on it. This should be seen as a success. Now it is important to also spread a message of safety, not only by the police, but also by us students. The slogan of the international day for the elimination of violence against women in 2017 was ‘leave no one behind’. We in Maastricht should take steps towards becoming an example of working together against all kinds of sexual harassment, to protect all of us citizens and make Maastricht a safe spot for everyone.
consumer, so that we can determine who can collect how much of our personal data. Again, sounds pretty nice. But if the GDPR has such good intentions, why does it make people upset? The big point is: all these benefits don’t come for free. While consumers profit from the increased security, it is a pain in the ass for everyone who directly or indirectly works with the personal information of others. And everyone means everyone! You’re a sports association and have a member-list, well sucks to be you; maybe you’re part of a religious volunteering organization with a number of helpers, not even your god can help you now; you own a small business that does market research, oh god, you’re so screwed. note from the designer: it should have said “fucked” This increased effort to deal with data in conformity with the GDPR has already proven to be too much for a number of small businesses, bloggers, associations etc. who have gone out of business in fear of the possible fines (up to €20 million – 4% of the company’s global turnover). While this fear is understandable, it is also misled, as authorities are advised to refrain from issuing fines throughout the transitioning period and rather give information and advice. This leads us to the main reason why the GDPR is so highly debated. Due to misinformation and uncertainties, many fear that they are, unknowingly, affected by the new regulations in any way, shape or form, and could have to face brutal fines. This is, however, not the case. Mostly this means that, once again, misinformed panic transforms the public debate about something that, at its core, is a necessary step, into the shitshow that it is now. Long story short: The GDPR is aimed at improving the rights of consumers and, from what we’ve seen so far; it is actually quite potent in that regard. This benefit for the consumer is, however, burdened by the producers who have the immediate consequence of having to update various procedures and, even in the long run, have a harder time dealing with personal data. This being said, the GDPR was long overdue and once companies and others who are affected have settled on the new standards, the benefit for every single one of us will outgrow the initial panic and struggle.
The shitshow that is the public debate on the EU General Data Protection Regulation
remember the first time I told my granddad about starting my studies in Maastricht last year. He’s a sweet old guy, my granddad. He is far from senile, but nearly deaf, so he mostly stays quiet, absorbed in his own thoughts. He is also very old; ninety-seven. He was born in 1920 in Western Germany. “Opa, I’ll be studying in the Netherlands next year!”, I shouted in his hear so he could hear me. He smiles and nods slowly. “That’s very good. Very good.” I tell him a bit about it, and he nods, and smiles, and asks some questions about my housing, finances and such. We finish talking and I start reading next to him on the sofa. After a long while, my grandad asks in his silent voice “How old are you again? 20?” “Yes!”,I shout. “It’s good you study”. Silence. “When I was nineteen, I was already in Ukraine. But not to study. For fighting.” Holy hell. I remember being dumbfounded. I enjoy my life in Maastricht. It’s nice, slightly stressful, but mostly calm. But when my Opa was my age, he shot at people he did not know or would ever met. He he did not quite get to finish one year of university before being drafted into the Wehrmacht. I just finished my first year. I think it is somewhat unlikely I will be drafted into anything anytime soon, also my dad never had to fight anyone. Continental
Europe has lived in peace for 73 years now; the longest peaceful period in Europe ever. There was a forty-year-stretch in the nineteenth century, when the Vienna Congress 1815 fixed most of Europe’s post-Napoleon borders, until the Russians started the Crimean war with the English in 1855, followed by the German unification wars which bettered Europe in the 1860s’. We have already beaten that record, if, and only if, certain regional wars are not considered. After the Second World War, Greece experienced three years of brutal civil war. Georgia underwent a civil war in 1992, and a conflict with Russia in 2008. Cyprus also underwent internal and external violence. The contingent Yugoslavian break-up wars in the 1990s demanded
thousands of deaths. Currently, we see an ongoing border conflict in Eastern Ukraine. However, while horrendous and tragic, all these wars stayed somewhat regionalised and did not plunge other, densely populated societies into chaos like the World Wars did. That even the bloodiest fighting of some regions did not spread to other European countries, is thanks to Cold War logic.
Is Peace always good? The Cold War kept Europe at peace, as the Soviet Union and United States were careful not to disrupt the careful nuclear balance they had erected. European political integration further sought to make future war impossible, primarily between Germany and France. But arguably, it was the Cold War that kept European East-West conflict at bay. So, if the peace in the twentieth century was of a military nature, what does this say about its quality? On the western side of the Iron Curtain, the political institutions matured over time. The European Community evolved, and member states deepened their cooperation. But not all was well; France fought the decolonisation wars with Northern Africa and Indochina, leading to the collapse of the Fourth French Republic. In the eighties, Britain fought the Falkland Wars.
The United Nations and NATO saw multiple European nations deploy military troops into numerous conflicts. However, all these examples were fought on foreign soil, not continental Europe. That does not diminish their significance, but it prevented Western societies from experiencing them directly. Instead, they were more shaped by domestic conflicts, such as union strikes, the 1968 student revolts, and economic turmoil. All in all, it is fair to say that over time, peace in the West grew to be a moral one, as political institutions became more ethical, more accountable as colonisation passed and the Cold War faded. The story is different in the east. There, peace was not protected by a military alliance, but rather was characterised by occupation. The Soviet Union kept a tight grip on its nominally independent, but factually invaded, satellite republics. There, peace was far from peaceful. Brutal secret police frightened the Polish, Eastern-German and Hungarian populations. The entire Eastern bloc revolted against oppression multiple times, and each time Soviet tanks crushed the protests, violently and lethally. Human Rights? Not a thing. The absence of international fighting did not pacify Eastern societies, as it was based on tyranny and foreign control. Academics call this
a negative peace; one based on tranquilisation, not consolidation. Eventually, the Cold War ended and with it, Europe’s paranoid stability. The European Union, founded in 1992, stepped in to take over the job of keeping peace, this time by integration and democratic participation. So far, it’s doing okay in that regard.
Politics in Peace Maybe it is safe to say that in some Eastern European countries, the post-world international peace did not bring relaxation to their societies. Instead, peace brought prolonged a perception of insult and suffering. It is still fresh in people’s memory and object of many populists’ rhetoric. Even now, Eastern states are wary of foreign influence, including the EU’s, and, also, some in the West see it as quasi-Imperialism. Some political actors in the region, like Viktor Orbàn of Hungary or the PiS-party in Poland, pursue strict policies to elongate this perception of nationalist victimhood for political gain. It is hard to imagine that these illiberal developments may endanger European continental peace, but they erode the concept of open, democratic societies, that the EU was founded on. If these tenets become sufficiently damaged, peace may be on the line again in the very long run.
But all is not quiet on the Western front, either. We do not need to be reminded of the Eurosceptic resurgence in many member states. If we conceptualise the European Union as a peace project, then political disintegration bears consequences in this regard as well. Western societies all show symptoms: Radicalisation of the political spectrum, hateful speech of political actors, trade wars, violations of international law, and proxy wars. Propaganda is one of the politiciansâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; main concerns. Historically, all this has been seen before, and were usually early signs of a returning illness; war. We need to be wary of these developments and brace our political immune systems for the challenges of modern times.
much stuff as possible to as many people as possible and succeeds in that. Thus, people lead a good life, saturated with goods and entertainment. What need is there for the normal citizen to care about peace and war, if they can relax with Netflix after a long day of work? This is the point where pacification becomes tranquilisation, and where a comfortable life becomes decadence. European society has achieved the historically impossible: It rid itself of the chronic disease of war, and instead is taking the medicine of the economics and politics of peace. But medication always bears sideeffects, and once we become indifferent towards growing evils at home or even abroad, then it is time to switch doctors.
Society in Peace
This articleâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s point is that we must not let the enormous achievement of lasting peace become the reason for its decay. In the West especially, constantly preaching that the system works generally fine only inflames those populist voices seeking to disintegrate Europe and thus endangering its peace-keeping function. Similarly, by perpetuating our economic philosophy of producing more, being entertained more and consuming more, we steer towards an overload that must collapse the same way the world economy crashed in 1929, kickstarting the
What does the historical anomaly that is peace do to civil societies? What side effects does the medicine of European peace bring? Indifference is one. Within the European peace bubble, it is easy to ignore out the injustices and conflicts going on elsewhere in the world, but just as importantly, within Europe as well. European politics, especially in the West, tell society constantly that all is more or less well. Crucially, the economy backs up these claims. The Internal Market is based upon selling as
virus of fascism that brought the Second World War. It is time to change Europeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s approach to politics and economics if we want to preserve peace in the long run. Political and economic actors must acknowledge the deficiencies of the current system and change them fundamentally. My granddad talks a lot about war. He hates the memory of it and only started voicing his thoughts at a very old age. I consider myself lucky to have him as a reminder of how precious our times are. I was nineteen when I finished school and went to Poland for a gap year. He was nineteen when finished his military training. Now, I am finishing my first year at university, a privilege he did not have. As I go on vacation in Ukraine, my grandfather fought on the coasts of Crimea, came under fire, and watched countless people die. He was the same age then as I am now. And just 160 kilometres from where I study, my grandfather was captured by Americans in the French Ardennes. He was 22 at that point when this ended the war for him. Today, he describes it as the best moment of his adolescence. I wonder what my best moment will be. Probably graduating.
The Securitisation of Politics
the nonGovernance of Peace
HISTORY The 17th century: The birth of the state and its entrenched security
et’s try to reflect upon the relationship between peace and security through a journey into history. I ask you, reader, to jump back in the past, almost 400 years, precisely to 1648, the year when the Peace of Westphalia was signed by the European powers. There, the foundations of the modern state were laid. But how did these empires and kingdoms come to agree on establishing peace? And in which way? Due to the Protestant Reform and the religious divisions it caused, a great portion of the European countries fought with each other in the Thirty Years War. However, the driving force of the inevitable peace, was not so much about the common will to establish peace and to live in harmony. Rather, the then Spanish, German, Dutch, French, Swedish, Polish, and Turkish rulers pushed to define borders, increase politicoeconomic control and essentially monopolise violence by guaranteeing security. In light of this, the analysis of the relationship between state and security elaborated by the American political scientist Charles Tilly is quite enlightening: “Governments’ provision of protection, by this standard, often qualifies as racketeering. To the extent that the threats against which a given government protects its citizens are imaginary or are consequences of its own activities, the government has organized a protection racket. Along these theoretical lines, he essentially classified the state as a form of “organised crime”. It can be observed that states, from 1648 onwards, have indeed increased their powers by claiming to guarantee people living within their borders a certain standard of security and protection from threats, being external or internal, real or fabricated. From this, it follows that the issue of national security is intrinsically connected with the political legitimisation. It can be seen as the state telling its citizens: “If you support me and give me money, I will protect you”. The balance of power, according to which states had to intervene in case one would become
too powerful compared to the others, is based on both the internal and external recognition of the state and its borders. This political agreement, however, did not entail that European powers would cease to fight wars nor prevent them from enhancing their strength at the expense of others, as long as balanced inter-state relations would be restored. Despite being seemingly similar, peace and security prove not to go hand in hand. Living in a peaceful world would presumably means that no state is feared or fears another, whereas being “safe” means that the state protects its people from a danger, and enemy, or a threat’. Is it in interests of the state to give up his powers and allow the people to embrace true individual freedom, the core essence of peace? National security interests often clash with peace, which can only be achieved by establishing friendly, trusting and cooperative relations between states. But could even the dream of peace be the universal uniting factor which brings all the states together? In the case of the Peace of Westphalia, peace simply represented the necessity of each state to protect itself from future military aggression. Balance of power, therefore, was quickly disrupted.
The 18th century: “War makes states and states make War” From the end of the 17th century and during the 18th century, the statebuilding process of European political systems quickened, due the Military Revolution. This historical process brought about the rise of standing armies composed of professional troops, more developed technologies employed in combat, innovative defensive tactics and more deadly instruments. These are all crucial factors which contributed to the gradual emergence of more centralised administrative apparatuses and government institutions. “War makes states and states make War” Tilly would argue, and this statement could not be more true. As war expenses increased, each European polity was compelled to collect revenues from its own people to finance its military missions and to defend its own territories from foreign invasions.
In the aftermath of Napoleon’s defeat, the 1815 Congress of Vienna took on the challenging task of organising peaceful coexistence. The balance of power referred to Concert of Europe’, proved weak as the agreement was once again founded solely upon a territorial equal repartitioning, rather than an inter-state cooperative system. Bear with me a little longer: the journey is not over yet!
The 19th century: the rise of the nation-state and the nationalisation of War In assessing the conditions in creating peace between the states, Hegel argued that: “Kant had the idea of securing ‘perpetual peace’ by a league of nations that would adjust every dispute. This idea presupposes an accord between states which would rest on moral or religious or other grounds or considerations, but in any case would always depend ultimately on a particular sovereign will and for that reason would remain infected with contingency”. Accordingly, wars between states cannot simply be considered as armed conflicts, but clashes between the people’s universal moral will. From then on, wars would not be only between states, but between nations. In the 19th century, nationalism emerged on the scene. Indeed, European rulers managed to incorporate the nation, the people’s feeling of belonging to an ethnic, cultural and religious community, into the state. Thus, millions of people were motivated to protect their homeland at any cost, even by sacrificing themselves, and going to war and making wars, therefore, forged national identity even more. Moreover, the geopolitical rivalry over the control of key strategic and economic regions was more vivid than ever. This competition for hard power brought about the security dilemma, leading European powers to engage in an arms race with each other.
The “War to End All Wars”? Eventually, the Europe ‘stumbled’ into First World War. The ‘Great War’,
or the ‘War to End All Wars’ was fought in the trenches along fronts and involved civilians to an unprecedented degree. The Treaty of Versailles resulted to be a frail peace, founded upon states’ ruthless demands for territories. The main reason behind its inefficacy was that Germany, excluded from the peace negotiations, was considered solely responsible for the outbreak of war in 1914. Moreover, under the mandates of the League Nations, France and Great Britain were able to economically colonise the Middle East countries, denying them the right to self-determination’ advocated by Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points.
The 20th century: The inter-war period and World War Two After ‘peace’, however, the residual social violence left after WWI was about to explode. In the 1920s and 1930s, the entirety of Europe, with the exception of France and the UK, witnessed the vicious rise of fascisms, starting with Mussolini’s Italy and followed by Hitler’s Germany afterwards. The UK, just like France, in the inter-war period pursued appeasement, essentially accommodating Hitler’s outrageous demands to avoid another war of similar proportions. The outcome was, as we all know, WWII, a war on an unprecedented scale of intensity. In its aftermath, European states realised that they could not and would not engage in direct face-to-face confrontations anymore. From then until 1989, a bipolar system emerged, with the United States and the USSR struggling for global dominance. The balance of power was ensured by the principle of mutual assured destruction, as they both had at their disposal nuclear weapons. This led the two global hegemons two world superpowers to get involved in proxy wars, fighting side by side with their allies against each other.
Peace and Security up to Today The question is: Could peace over history proved to be compatible with social and political security, framed solely at the nation-state level? All in all, wars are conducive to a massive system of production and making wars sustains heavy industry, a key sector of each state’s economy. Moreover, since the beginning of the 20th century, we have been living in a multi-polar, chaotic and anarchic world. The threats to states’ integrity, i.e. the “enemies of the state”, are said to be many more, comprising immigrants and terrorists as well. Turkey has the Kurds, the United States the Muslims, Russia Putin’s political dissidents. Why is it that the world’s leaders keep mentioning their national security, but no one refers to peace? It is no coincidence that the “security” is most likely the most abused world in speeches addressed to citizens. Security is not as universal peace, since it has been narrowed down at the state-level to pursue national interests. Indeed, states are paradoxically too large to guarantee protection to all its citizens, and too small to pursue global peace. Semantically, can peace only be considered as “non-war”, or “non-violence”? Can peace be associated only with political stability, rather than sociopolitical harmony? As long as it is the state who guarantees peace, this will instead focus on (creating) the need of protecting their security. We as citizens of the world, and the political institutions that represent us, should all rediscussing the very meaning of living in peace with each other. Then, maybe we won’t bring bombs with us, but we will come in peace.
European states realised that they could not and would not engage in direct face-to-face confrontations anymore.
Iran: “the hour of Europe” A New Episode
ollowing the decision of Trump’s USA to opt out of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, on May 8th, the European Union has pledge to preserve the deal’s application despite economic pressure from Washington. Facing a decisive choice, the EU experiences the full weight of its autonomy and the full reach of emancipating itself from the US diktat. The US’ default on the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or “Iran Nuclear Deal”), allowed for the return of an aggressive American policy towards the Islamic Republic of Iran, early in May. The Washington administration detailed far-reaching demands that de facto require a declaration of economic warfare, the surrender of Iranian means of defense and of its forward proto-military operations, and which, in turn, threaten to force regime change. This vision of dealing with Iranian belligerence with threats and force largely owes to the newly-appointed secretary of state, Mike Pompeo. This advocate of a regime overturn knows how to please Saudi Arabia. Riyadh promised to sign a
multibillion weaponry contract with the US in response. Israel has seized the opportunity of a US alignment to its position to massively strike the Iranian troops in Syria, less than two days after President Trump’s declaration. The Israeli Operation “House of Cards” has resulted, according to Russian army officials, in 70 missiles putting down “most” of Iranian infrastructures. On the contrary, the US’ position is met with dismay by America’s Western allies. The E3 (France, Germany and the UK) and the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy were the main designers of the deal and defended a ‘critical dialogue’ approach that would channel Iran towards compliance with its
If we look for a helping hand, we will find one at the end of our arm. non-proliferation commitment. The leaders of the EU are eager to prove the EU’s diplomatic autonomy. National heads of governments or state and the representatives of the communitarian institutions alike have vowed « to do everything » to preserve the JCPOA. To prove its good will in applying the deal despite US threats, President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, did not hesitate to overtly express his thoughts: “Looking at the latest decisions of President Trump, someone could even think: with friends like that, who needs enemies? But frankly
speaking, Europe should be grateful to President Trump, because thanks to him we have got rid of all illusions.” Donald Tusk, later that same day, at the EU summit in Sofia, on May 17th, explained that if “we look for a helping hand, we will find one at the end of our arm.” Brussels intends to take the lead in the diplomatic resolution of the Iranian case and many concrete measures are considered to protect European companies from the effect of the US embargo. The sanctions indeed also coerce third-country companies that trade with Iran and that make use of US-made items
THE MIDDLE EAST
in their production line or of American financial systems. European companies may, in this case, be banned from the US market. The US ultimatum to European firms also threatens to prevent the use of dollars by non-complying entities. This embargo might have extensive consequences, and BNP had thus suffered a $8.9 billon fine because it was deemed to be in violation of US embargo in 2014. Many in Brussels consider the European sovereignty to be at stake. The Europeans are the first-line victims of the US’ decision: EU-Iran trade is 100 times larger than that of the US with Iran, and it amounts to an economic relationship worth 21 billion euros in 2017. President of the Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, announced that a « blocking statute » unused since 1996 will be reactivated to circumvent the embargo on May 18th. This statute prohibits European businesses to comply with American extra-territorial legislation. Intensely reacting to US moves, the French have put forward the idea of creating new financial tools enabling all transactions with Iran to be made in euros, rather than in dollars. The Europeans also intend to make use of their diplomacy to preserve the deal despite the US withdrawal. The EU invited all other signing parties to a new meeting in Vienna. This meeting is still expected to omit Washington. Sergueï Riabkov, the Russian vice-minister for foreign affairs showed enthusiasm in backing the project. The Europeans intend to add the question of the Iranian ballistic missiles to the agenda. This, along with the Islamic Republic’s involvement in Syria, Yemen and Lebanon are not, however, pre-requisites for the talks on the JCPOA.
New European assertiveness
The EU demonstrates that it has resolved to step away from its normative discourse that does not reach any gullible ear anymore. Indeed, the EU’s pragmatic approach abandons the normative conditioning that could have been attached to the signing of a deal with Iran. To separate the matter of nuclear proliferation from that of Iranian regional belligerency bridges what scholar Christopher Hill called the EU’s “capability-expectation gap”: valuebased demands undermined by the lack of means to enforce compliance. In line with its 2016 Global Strategy, the EU applies a policy of “principled pragmatis m”. This entails pushing for the EU’s values whilst accepting a realist bargain where trade-offs must be made in order for it to be successful. It is indeed argued that for the international community to secure Iran’s compliance with the 1968 Non-Proliferation-Treaty, it requires cautious bargaining so that Iran still perceives it beneficial to remain a ratifying country. This requires an accurate understanding of Iran’s geopolitical behavior. Far from the US-alleged hegemonic ambitions of Bush’s ‘axis of evil’ view of Iranian foreign policy (or, more recently, that
of Secretary of Defense Mattis’ ‘expansion of its malign influence’), the EU’s realism judges the latter as being a hardheaded calculation of national interest thanks to the fact that the Islamic Republic is outgunned, encircled and surrounded by chaos. It is deemed to be ‘prudent pragmatism’ to arm itself and to make use of ‘forward defense’ (supporting insurgent militias across the Middle-East) given that US invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq laid hundreds of thousands of US troops along Iran’s borders, that the newly-US-allied Pakistan possesses nuclear capability- just as the rival Israel does. Iran spends three percent of its GDP on its military and this is outnumbered by its regional opponents: Israel (six percent), Iraq (five), Jordan (four) and Saudi Arabia GDP expenditure of ten percent leaves it with five times more funds that its Persian counterpart ($63.7 compared to $12.7 billion), according to a report by the SIPRI. Terrorism makes this armsrace imminently dangerous. This SIPRI report thus argues for stabilizing the region by restoring the balance upheld by the recent conflicts and to do so in a nuanced and open approach towards Iran because confronting it may lead to a surge in forward defense risking that the region stumbles. The EU’s pragmatic dialogue with Iran, therefore, stems from the realist acknowledgement that Iran is an ‘indispensable component of any sustainable order in the Middle-East’.
“The hour of Europe”
European companies were already well-implanted soon after the signing of the JCPOA (exports to Iran increased by 28% and imports from Iran by 347%). The oil company Total, has committed to a billion-euro project in Iran. However, Total is now obliged to lose its investment as it has announced its withdrawal from the Iranian market following the US threats. Peugeot PSA is another example: the car manufacturer held a third of the car market in the country and Iran represented 13% of its world activity. Airbus had signed a contract for providing 100 A320neo aircrafts to Iran Air Tour and Zagros Airlines, for a value of about $10 billion. Airbus however uses many of US-made components and therefore falls under the US sanctions. There are many other examples alike. European interests now rely on its own ability to emancipate itself from the US foreign policy. The upcoming decisions are thus expected to be decisive for the EU’s actorness. In the context of the implosion of Yugoslavia in the 1990s and of the ethnoreligious mass murder in the Balkans, Luxembourg’s Foreign Minister, Jacques Poos, famously explained that the Europeans had a responsibility to act to resolve a crisis that endangers European stability. “This is the hour of Europe,” he said. “It is not the hour of the Americans.” The Iran nuclear deal may the new opportunity for the EU to finally prove its ability to act.
Taming the Giants? How shareholder activism by nuns provides a new way of dealing with gun corporations
or a minute, pause to immerse yourself in the following situation: imagine you are in school, tiredly looking at the board, where your teacher tries to infer properties of geometric forms. Suddenly, you hear gunshots. You see fear surfacing on everybody’s faces, even your teacher’s. After a few seconds of dead silence, the class tries to barricade the classroom, blocking doors with tables, and you are hiding on the ground while holding a terrified friend’s hand. One of your fellow students calls the police, others send text messages to their families saying that they love them. Knowing that your life could be over in the next second, what thoughts would start rushing through your head?
While school shootings have taken place in Europe, like in Dunblane, United Kingdom, in 1996, or more recently in Winnenden, Germany, in 2009, they do occur more frequently in the United States. The school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas on May 17th, 2018, marked the 10th deadly school shooting in the US this year. While the psychological fragility of
certain individuals undeniably triggers deadly intent, a lax institutional framework regarding gun usage just as undeniably elevates the deadliness of these shootings. The American propensity to be armed can be traced back to historical origins. Early English settlers viewed the right to bear arms as a means to further certain purposes, most notably to safeguard themselves against tyrannical government and to organize a civilian militia. In the pre-independence-war period, two groups within the civilian militia emerged: Loyalists, who were loyal to British imperial rule, and Patriots, who favored independence from the British rule. As distrust in Loyalists spread among Patriots, the latter created an independent militia and sought to stock independent armories. In response, the British parliament established an embargo of firearms, parts, and ammunition in American colonies. After Americans achieved independence, the right to bear arms has been incorporated into
the constitution amendment:
“A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed” Put simply, American society has diverged into two groups: those, who want to protect their fundamental right to protect themselves, their families, and other loved ones from external threats with the force of weaponry, and those, who believe that the term “well-regulated” has not been properly transferred into the contemporary regulatory framework, and that the right to bear arms has infringed the security of American people more than it has enhanced it. This deep divide brings the dilemma in US gun policy to light: how do legislators satisfy the demands of the latter group, while not assailing the historically-ingrained right of self-defense for the individual? The answer to this question certainly is not to arm teachers, to accept millions of campaign donations by the National Rifle Association
(NRA), or to denounce protestors who demand more gun regulation as “whiny liberals” who do not worship the second amendment, the constitution of the United States, the achievements of the War of Independence and the promotion of individual liberties ever since. And while a Republican-controlled congress and White House are doubtlessly keen on protecting the current state of affairs, Democraticcontrolled branches of government found themselves unable to act due to organizational inertia and regulatory decentralization (gun regulation is, for the most part, a matter of individual stat e legislation). If federal and state legislation don’t move forward, what can the individual citizen do to voice her concern? Perhaps one answer is to make congressional representatives’ office phone ring constantly, or to organize protests to promote gun legislation, just as in the “March For Our Lives” in response to a shooting in Florida earlier this year. Another, more unconventional type of activism in the gun regulation domain is
shareholder activism. Literally anyone with sufficient financial means can acquire shares of a company. In general, except for special types of shares, one share entitles its holder to one vote during proposals put forward by other shareholders during a company’s general assembly. If a proposal is supported by a majority of shareholders, it becomes binding to company management. A group of investors that includes the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary order of nuns and Catholic Health Initiatives has bought stock in Ruger, and other gunmakers such as Smith & Wesson’s, in recent years in a bid to combat deadly gun usage. In the case of Ruger, a nunled resolution forced management to provide an assessment on the violence its products create and how it hurts the country’s stability, successfully passed against the wild resistance of management and despite management’s plea to other shareholders to not support the proposal (by the way, BlackRock, the largest institutional investor by number of shares, voted in favor
of the proposal). As a side effect, it uncovered Ruger management’s ignorant pursuit of profitability without regard for their consequences. But more importantly, it shows hat change can not only come from the top (as in the form of regulation) but also from the bottom (as in shareholder activism). The initiative proved that shareholders are in a special position to influence the debate surrounding gun, not by forcing gun companies to cease business operations, but by pressuring for more awareness, responsibility, and accountability.
Kodachrome A peaceful pastime
apture that Kodak moment in rich Kodachrome colours. For the times of your life! – A simple yet effective commercial Kodak made to sell their most beloved slide film. A film used by families and professionals alike. Yet, if you were to search for Kodachrome today, you’d come back empty handed. Kodachrome hasn’t been in production since 2009. The only way to find it is by searching through attic closet corners, or putting Paul Simon’s Kodachrome on. With its discontinuation, the grave was fully dug; its death already published in the newspapers. With everything that dies we have a ‘why’ question. For Kodachrome, the why was simple: digital photography had caught up. The end of an era. However, today we won’t look at stats or payment balances to see how Kodachrome ended, but rather what it stood for: a peaceful pastime.
We like photography. Everybody does. Whether it’s selfies or photojournalism, everyone can understand and appreciate photography. Yet, not everyone can be a Steve McCurry (the photographer that shot the famous Afgan Girl photo for National Geographic). We may need to settle for less. And that’s exactly why photography is a peaceful pastime. There is only you, a fleeting moment, and a camera or phone to capture it with. No deadlines, no one to disappoint. Photography is an art without appearing to be one. It’s history, creativity, family, beauty and so much more. We travel the globe trying to impress not only our friends but also ourselves. When we look at our old images, we see a slice of life that won’t come back. It’s satisfying to see the world and its actors once again. There is something meaningful in looking at yourself with a mind that knows more. How troubles and worries can be put into
The beauty of photography: it’s an expedient experience with meaningful implications. perspective by swiping through memories long gone. How far we’ve come, how much we done, how long our winding roads are. Kodachrome has an archival life of at least a hundred years. The pictures your grandparents took can still be looked at to this day. Kodachrome is a peaceful pastime because it tells the whole story and more. It shows us where we came from. And even if Kodachrome isn’t here anymore, it doesn’t mean we cannot expand the story of our lives ourselves. Print the pictures you take, hang them on your wall or put them in creamy yellow pages of a photo album. Capture today to preserve yesterday. If Kodachrome’s death tells us anything, it should be that we need to capture our lives before it’s over. All things will end somewhere down the road. Photography may help us to preserve some things before it’s too late. Our friends, parents or grandparents. Our homes. Our days. Photography’s beauty lies in its dichotomous nature: it’s an expedient experience yet with meaningful implications.
It’s instant gratification of seeing the results almost immediately combined with the long term project of preserving the past. So go through the effortless act of shooting a photo or two of the days. Youth is a finite resource, yet its preservation lies at the tip of our fingers. With our phones, our DSLRs or old film cameras; we have the tools necessary. Sometimes we blast through life as if the days are a blur, yet to untangle those days in just our minds is almost impossible. So start capturing the moments that matter; that feel important; that feel right. Do not worry about the technicalities now, appreciate the fact that you took pictures later. Only when the dust settles and peace returns do we miss that what has been long gone. Maastricht University offers the unique opportunity to meet people from all over the world. From all walks of life. Yet, time cannot be captured, and so, we’ll leave someday. Our friends, our crushes and classmates. What remains, is up to ourselves. Perhaps the best defence against losing it all completely, is to preserve our moments. Maybe
not in rich Kodachrome as our parents could. Yet, that doesn’t stop us from capturing it in some way. In a world that constantly moves forward; demands us to work for a future, we have little time to look back and appreciate what we have achieved so far. But there will be a day, far from now, where we’ll sit down and wonder what we did. It would be a shame to find that it lives only just in memory. With all our tools, we should take advantage to capture of them that which is dear to us. Summer is almost here. You may leave Maastricht, you may go abroad, you may stay a while longer. Whatever it will be, take a look at the pictures of yesterday. Cherish the moments that were. Hold them dear. They are part of the story of our lives. They tell us where we came from, they give us a sense of time. They expand history and by doing so preserve our tale. Because, in the end, a Kodak moment, will last forever.
Zen and of Pedalin
t is a fast paced world that we live in. The fact that we are inundated, saturated, overstimulated by information is no secret; this is the Information Age after all. The sheer vastness of the quantity of knowledge at our fingertips, quite literally, boggles the mind. The advent of the internet, and with it the technology that allows us access in a myriad of different ways from smartphones to laptops to
locales that necessitate the question “what’s the wifi?”, is not an actuality that we can escape. Not only can and do we access an unprecedented amount of information on the world around us, but that world is now slowly becoming shaped by this onset of the technological era in turn. What do I mean by this? Well, have a look at Facebook events. As a student in 2018, I very often hear that my peers
are only on Facebook because “it’s an easy way to know what’s going on, y’know, Facebook events”. This social media platform has so easily created an online schedule that we can all participate in, or not. Instagram has a similar effect; Instagram Walks, a commonplace event in major metropoles all over the globe, are a perfect example.
the Art ng Squares MICHAEL KEITH
Of course, not a single one of us is required to participate in these events. But, if you are plugged into the social media world, there is no running away from the fact that these events will happen, are happening, or have happened. Pictures are shared, statuses are updated, comments are posted, references are made; if you werenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t there, then you are less informed than those that were. With
the wealth of knowledge in our hands, so easily accessed by so many, we have no choice but to be informed in one way or another, otherwise you could easily be left behind. There is a fear of missing out in this day and age purely because we are more aware of what is going on. We are more aware of how many situations we might be missing. And so we chase. We do our best to keep up with and plugged into
this system, a system of technology and information. Many have said that we have become slaves to the system and it is something that I would have to say that I am in agreeance with. I say this with sincerity rather than as a lofty judgement, because I am as guilty as anyone of opening up the â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Gram first thing in the morning over my cup of coffee. When I plan my weekly schedule, I check my
Facebook events calendar so I know what to write, with a pen, on my physical calendar hanging at home. I try to keep up with what is happening in Maastricht through social media, probably more than I need to. I am plugged into the system, through a perceived necessity that has turned into a habit. And I will be the first to admit that it is absolutely exhausting; this is not a peaceful life. But what is the solution? Well, perhaps it is too simple to say that we need to unplug. Unplug from the virtual reality and walk away. If we are constantly judging ourselves and our lives in comparison to the idealised versions presented online, then the ensuing result is most likely going to be a negative one. Validation through external factors gives more weight to the opinions from elsewhere than through the internal. But by the end of it all, the (well-worn) adage that it is our own life that we must live, as no one is going to live it for us, may have some sense after all. This is where the ‘solution’ of unplugging becomes a little more complicated. By walking away, we inherently leave a void that needs filling. But in order to find success in this exercise, the replacement is required to be fulfilling. However, what is fulfilling to me may not be fulfilling to you. What can you do that gives you that healthy internal validation? Well, some of my friends play music. They keep on ‘keeping on’, in search of the secrets to their string instruments. Some other friends put the music on and lose themselves in paint. When you paint for yourself, only your own judgement
of your work is important because only you truly understand what went into each brushstroke. Myself? I ride my bicycle. Over the past two decades, I have come to learn that the bicycle, for me, is the perfect combination of purpose and purposelessness that puts a smile on my face. Let it be clear, I am not talking about a classic upright Dutch bicycle here, or taking a little spin around town. I am talking about climbing onto my lightweight carbon fibre racing bike, clad in lycra and all, and going for a ride. It could be raining, it could be snowing, it could be a wonderful day without a cloud in the sky. Sure, I’m also a commuter, for which I have a different bicycle altogether, but this is different. This is going for a ride. I will be spending a significant time in the saddle and there is a purpose. I always make sure that I have eaten enough and that I have food in my pockets and water in my bottle. Time is allocated and my day is planned. An event is created by myself, for myself. This is my me-time, a pocket of stillness in my life.
MUSING Discovering a past-time, one that is not a distraction, that gives you a sense of self-fulfilment is no small task. The world around us is distracting. We constantly move from screen, to print, to the promise of a better life if we all just did something a little differently. And it works - we are distracted. Alan Watts, a British Zen philosopher, once said that the root of our frustration is that we live for the future, and the future is an abstraction. We are inherently unable to live in the future, because the future, as a concept, is unattainable. Social media, with all its beautiful promises of a better version of reality that is happening elsewhere, only serves to reinforce this way of living, of striving for the future. If this is the root of our frustration, then perhaps we should not be quite so immersed in the future but rather be
a little more mindful of the present. We live in a clockwork world, but we are not all clockwork ourselves. The championing of progress for progressâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; sake has left the majority of us scrambling to make up ground, a race we cannot win. Society has lost sight of the fact that without humans, society cannot exist. And we, the humans, are frantically running towards exhaustion. Annie Dillard famously articulated that how we live our days is how we live our lives, and when I look around me our lives are ruled by the phone, the laptop, the internet, a craving for social attention. In reality, these distractions can be switched off. Switching off from the online world forces us to switch on to the physical world around us. And what a fulfilling world it can
be. Real-time conversations, led by more than just the spoken word, are literally in front of us at all times. The reading of a book in the sunshine is a possibility, if you get up and do it. The pictures are there, if you choose to paint them. Real world experiences can be had daily, if we are looking out for them. Sure, social media and the online world may help facilitate these, but they should be viewed merely as a means to an end rather than an end in and of itself. We are all protagonists in our own stories and this should not be forgotten. We are all as free as we choose to be, but the choice is ours. Me, I choose to ride my bicycle. I choose to switch off and rise up to meet the road ahead of me. See you in the saddle.
We live in a clockwork world, but we are not all clockwork ourselves. 29
ver the past 70 years, there has not been a Third World War and many attribute this to the existence of the UN and itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Security Council (UNSC). The UNSC does indeed facilitate multilateral communication. Moreover, the UN has established some rules nations should follow as well as general human rights.
However, taking a closer look, one cannot help but notice multiple flaws. First, the workings of the UNSC is not only highly undemocratic but also extremely unrepresentative. In effect, the five permanent members (France, United Kingdom, USA, Russia, and China) have the final say due to their ability to veto. These five members do not include any states from South-America, Africa or Oceania, which means that these regions have very little say. Additionally, most decisions are taken behind closed doors, making the process in-transparent and inaccessible to the public. Secondly, even though the UN has established international law, it has very little means of enforcing it. One example, probably the most prominent one, is the invasion of Iraq under President Bush. The invasion was illegal, however, the UNSC could and would not take action against the US. This goes hand in hand with the third point of criticism: the UNSC is ineffective. It takes a long time to reach consensus and to take a decision. Because no majority voting system is used, very little decisive action is taken due to the big differences between the Member States. For instance, after the Republic of Yugoslavia fell apart and large-scale ethnic cleansing commenced in the 1990â&#x20AC;&#x2122;s, the UNSC failed to take action and prevent or stop the killing and displacement of so many ethnic Serbians and ethnic Albanians. While the UN was never meant to be a military organisation, but a platform of exchange to solve conflicts on an intergovernmental level, there are ways to prevent violent conflicts without necessarily using force. However, the UN does possess peacekeeping units known as Blue Helmets. The role of these units was initially to be present in conflict regions and to perform the task of a neutral mediator. These forces were not used in the Yugoslav conflicts before large-scale ethnic
The United Nations Human rights advocate, defender of peace?
UNITED NATIONS cleansing started simply because the members were unable to take a decision in a timely manner, which led to the killing of a large number of different ethnicities. The conflict was ultimately resolved by force through the multilateral NATO organisation. The use of force is costly and should therefore only be a measure of last resort. In the case of Kosovo, it was not the measure of last resort. Rather it was the only measure taken. A grave mistake, as there still is a need for peacekeeping forces from multilateral organisations such as the EU or the UN in Kosovo which prevent a new outbreak of bloody conflicts. The example of the former Republic of Yugoslavia shows that the UN has significant problems preventing bloody conflict, first because of the lengthy process which is needed to take decisive action but also because there are significant limits to the power of the UN’s peacekeeping forces. Lastly, for an organisation which aims to promote human rights, it is questionable how much the UNSC actually achieved. In 1995, 50 years after the UN charter was signed, women’s rights were finally recognised as human rights. It is very discouraging to see that a human rights advocate takes 5 decades to recognise the importance and legitimacy of women’s
rights as human rights. Even though the UN is very active in decreasing discrimination against women as well as protecting women and girls from gender-based violence, there has never been a female SecretaryGeneral (SG). As a consequence, women have been unable to get the top job at the UN and the most important job in the area of peace and security on a global multilateral level. It is no secret that in politics there is an underrepresentation of women all over the world, and even though the SG only holds limited powers it still is important to have a woman in the top job. In particular, during the last election of the SG, there were several highly qualified women candidates and multiple voices demanding a female SG. In the end, Antonio Guterres won, and women have to wait another decade to see more female representation in the UN. This does not send a positive or encouraging signal to women and girls as the organisation that is supposed to fight gender-based discrimination continues to internally limit female representation. Furthermore, the UN has no way to enforce human rights. In case of gender-based discrimination, no consequences can be taken in a UNSC framework as states who do not place great emphasis on human rights are not forced to enforce or adopt resolutions. Because of the nature of
If the UN didn’t exist, we would have to invent it. Tony Blair
the UN which is rather advisory, resolutions are toned down significantly like the UNSCR 1325 which only uses gentle language to increase female involvement in peacebuilding efforts. The use of gentle language prevents effective results on a global level, as only states whose policy goals are in line with the resolutions are going to take action to implement the resolutions. Despite the points of criticisms raised here, it is true that the UN did play some part in keeping peace, even if this peace was not global. As it has been said by Tony Blair: If the UN didn’t exist, we would have to invent it. Therefore, there is a necessity to reform the UN in order to strengthen it and to be able to tackle the emerging security threats of our time.