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Meandering between Darwin & Spinoza

Wondering about

essences and

essential forces

Infant(ile) Euthanasia

english Posted on 2014-02-18 12:14:00

In Belgium, the term “infant(ile)
euthanasia” is to be taken at face value these days. With a speed unseen in
peacetime, and with an urgency that implies that the country has no other
pressing problems to deal with, the Belgian parliament has legalized euthanasia
for children. Apparently, these children are not wise enough to vote, but smart
enough to say, without any influence or input from parents, professionals or
friends, “I want to die, now”.

The political promoters spin their support
by stating that euthanasia is a human right that must be free for all ages”.
Although, or perhaps because, euthanasia is still quite rare in what most
westerners consider “the civilized world”, these self-acclaimed visionaries see
themselves as crusaders, showing the right way to all the backward peoples of
the world by advancing universal ethics for all of humanity.

Rather than looking at the details of the
legislation, which will describe a comprehensive set of precautions,
conditions, safeguards and procedures, I have been wondering about all the
“why’s” of this legislation, which is quite provocative when measured against
global cultures and morals. Why now? Why first in Belgium? Why in such haste?
Why at all?

As always, political expediency plays a
role. In three months time we will have (the mother of all) elections and
political parties want to look for votes wherever they can find them. By the
same token, in those months before elections day, they choose to avoid the really
important problems of society (socio-economic, constitutional, migration,
budget), and advance topics that do not directly impact voters in an adverse
way. Some undoubtedly must have thought that, after the almost festive, champagne-sprinkled
and broadly tele-reported “pre-euthanasia” gathering for a 95-year old athlete
a few weeks ago in Flanders, it was time to open the gate at the opposite end
of life. Surely, it is all spun in the spirit of moral progress and with an absolute
promise of banning unnecessary suffering.

While it is clear that political tactics cannot
be ruled out, the ultimate cause of this initiative by self-anointed
trailblazers more likely lies buried deep within our contemporary society, founded
on the cradle-to-grave welfare state philosophy.

Belgium is among the richest countries in
the world. It enjoys a very high per capita income, while ten million Belgians
hold 250 billion Euros in their savings accounts (averaging €25000 per head).
Belgium is also one of the world leaders in providing relatively cheap and high
quality health care, as well as extensive social benefits to its citizens. Consequently,
today the majority of inhabitants of this country are totally disconnected from
what life was like, say, forty years ago and what life feels like in most other
regions of Europe, let alone on the rest of the planet. We are bathing in so
much unquestioned luxury, entitled to so many gratuitous services by the state
and protected against most imaginable dangers by the same state, that we have
become the forerunner of the species “homo sapiens egens”: the helpless man, the
junkie of ubiquitous welfare, expecting deliverance from all discomfort,
including deliverance from suffering, both personal and by association.

This addictive dependency on easy comfort has,
amongst other behavioral changes, left its marks on how we handle pain and
suffering, including impending loss of our own life and that of friends and family.
The more affluent our society has become, the more it seemed to want to ban those
very hurtful sensations from our experience. Unfortunately, no governmental
program, no health care and no insurance coverage can easily mitigate these undesirable
encounters with the darker side of life. Because constructively dealing with
adversity in general has become a challenge for many citizens in the richest
Welfare States, when confronted with living through the tougher problems of
life, illness and death being the most undesirable, many are desperately looking
for a “cure”, that should automatically (almost) restore homeostasis.

The original cure that nature itself had
provided to overcome suffering was psychological and exclusively human, and
(thus) humane: a personal fight of willpower against the enemies within,
combined with sincere and close emotional support of an intimate group of family,
tribe and friends. Since SocialMedia have nominally extended our friendship
circle manifold, the practice of what I label
“emoting” – often just formalized and plasticized empathizing from afar
-, may have led to more physical isolation and increased emotional solitude. The
therapeutic effect of close, constant and deep support and consolation has thus
been replaced by the unrelenting effects of twittering chatter, probably re-emphasizing
the dolorous grief, rather than fostering hope and strength for what lies

Historically speaking, the subsequent cure
for pain was medication. The pharmaceutical companies have brought us – thank
God or Science – a plethora of useful “killer medicines”, be they physically or
psychologically active. And never before have humans swallowed more of them
than in the most modern of times – here and now – anesthetizing pains and
alleviating suffering. Together with traditional spiritual and psychological
support, these painkillers, anti-depressants and tranquillizers constituted our
entire defense arsenal in our combat with suffering throughout the twentieth

Today’s painkillers comprehensively kill
all physical pain, effectively banning unbearable physical suffering from our
lives. Apparently that was not enough for the emerging “homo sapiens egens”,
for ten years ago, hesitatingly, the final “killer” solution arrived, and we
called it euthanasia. It would allow adults to put a dignified end to their
lives, in cases of unbearable suffering. Isn’t it strange that Switzerland and
the Benelux were the first states to allow it? Why didn’t countries where the
suffering from war, disease and hardship, is much more pervasive legislate this
“good death” (the literal meaning of euthanasia from Greek)? Then again, why
would any state really want to regulate suicide under certain conditions, and
forbid it under all other circumstances (like, for example and interestingly
inconsistent, unbearable psychological suffering…)? Is it really pernicious to
think that some adroit politicians were trying to garner more votes now, in full
view of the next election? They understand better than most that welfare state
civilizations crave all kinds of “discomfort mitigation”!

Euthanasia has, meanwhile, become an
alternative to a life full of pain and suffering in those cultures where individuals
feel truly entitled to a carefree life of plenty, devoid of direct
confrontation with adversity. Avoidance of experiencing pain, avoidance of
seeing suffering, avoidance of facing family members or friends that are inescapably
dying a little bit every day, it has
become a by-product of human behavior in a cradle-to-grave welfare society. Consequently,
if we so wish, should we indeed not be spared the dolorous emotions that
accompany the ultimate struggle for life, which is death?

I am sure that, in many cultures all over
the world, some individuals would commit “simple” suicide rather than fight a
losing battle with a terminal disease or a debilitating affliction. It is a
prerogative that, when push comes to shove, no state can take away from humans.
For those that are living in an utterly spoiled society though, the more
passive option for self-killing, euthanasia, being presented as the ultimate
medicine (administered even by a doctor no less!), is welcomed as the preferred
alternative to accepting and enduring terminal illness. Surely, it comes as no
surprise that lifelong habits are hard to break.

Therefore, the magic escape that is called
“euthanasia” is, in the Welfare State, the grand sublimation of the confrontation
with our finality: “the state” lends citizens a helping hand, a hand that
entitles them, and their close ones, to a so-called dignified parting. It is a
gift, moreover, that they can vote for! Of course, how the state expects
children to opt for euthanasia all by themselves, strictly on their own – i.e.
without influence of parents, health workers or others that are part of the
euthanasia process – remains an enigma to me. For one thing, I believe it will
complicate the care and support for truly suffering children, and their parents,
if only because, all of a sudden, there is a legal alternative that seems so liberating
and convenient, yet so legally tedious and unnervingly slow, that it will confuse
and obstruct, rather than soothe and console.

Grimburger, February 17th 2014

Infants & Genitors

english Posted on 2011-02-16 04:05:26

This morning I read in my daily German “Bundschau” summary that people should not only take care of their kids but also of their (old) parents. If we think of “people” as a middle generation, we can translate this into: people have to pay for child care (as is the case today) but also for grandparent care, in the near future. In other words, people should take care of their infants and of their genitors.

The statement from the “Family Minister” of the German Federal Republic confirms that a “care” problem with regards to senior citizens has arisen, and she suggests that the country should start to come up with answers so that suitable solutions can be implemented that do not add more deficits to the already ballooning health care financials.

What is being sought is, essentially, to provide a legal framework guaranteeing the following: during the first 25 years of your lifetime your parents take care of you, then you have 25 years where you take of yourself and, eventually, of your kids, and during the next 20 years, a number that is getting bigger as we speak, you should take care of your parents. (And if your family has excellent longevity genes, one assumes that your kids will take care of you, and perhaps of your parents, as well.)

Let us make no mistake: that is exactly how lives were lived until, depending on country and region, one or two generations ago. Although, not quite, when you delve into the detail! Two generations ago people did not “take care of” but they “cared for”. The difference is not a semantic one; the difference is substantial and intrinsic. To “take care of” means “to make sure that something gets cared for, or resolved – one way or another”. To “care for” on the other hand implies a personal investment and commitment in doing the “caring”. We will deal in this exposé primarily with “to take care of”, leaving a part of the quality dimension untouched.

It strikes me that this last proposal to ostensibly improve care for senior citizens, is, in essence, a band-aid measure to stop the uncontrollable spiraling of health costs. Keeping elderly alive for ever longer, no matter how incapacitated they are, adds a big heap of money to the ever growing mountain, which is being being fed by more and more sophisticated treatments for the younger generations. Anyhow, on the face of it, by positing her concerns and her solutions, the honorable lady touched upon a number of important issues. I have listed five and will discuss them hereunder.

Issue #1: A problem that is purely financial

If “gerontocare” would be inexpensive, it is plausible to assume that no politician in his right mind would come up with a new “tax” of sorts, thus further straining voters’ budgets that are, today, already out of balance. But it is true, this type of care is indeed expensive. It is expensive because it is intensive and attracts supplementary medical care. Moreover there is a dearth of skilled personnel, creating a lot of frustration and emotional strain. With longevity on the increase and expectations about service and well being in lock step, the monetary costs are skyrocketing, while customer and provider happiness are not increasing. The easy solution for sequential thinkers – and all politicians belong to that class, at best – is to find a solution to stop the budgetary derailment. The answer is as simple as it is straightforward: the user pays, and if he cannot, the burden falls to the next in line, parent or child. The next step is marketing it.

Issue #2: The unbearable burden for the young adult

To start a family at twenty-five, or at any time really, is a momentous decision in one’s life (presumably two lives). It is an emotional step in the first place of course – also with the newborns in mind, but let us concentrate here on the financial implications for a modern family. Having children means after all that one trades financial riches for other than financial returns.

Today many young families experience, more than in the past, a substantial financial strain paying for raising children, be that related to infant care, education or, later on, lifestyle and entertainment. It might well be that, for multi-child families, it would be cheaper that one parent (or one full time equivalent parent) stays home to “care for” the children, than he/she goes off to a different work environment. As a matter of fact, without government subsidies, this situation would be the norm: paying for some else to take of the kids is not cheap.

We could start arguing about the values and consequences of egotistical and hedonistic (postmodern) lifestyles, but this is not the place for that discussion. The fact remains though that, once adults have reached the age of 45 or 50 – in this day and age they are often still raising under-age children, they will not be able to pay for the care of their parents, nor will they have the means (dexterity and experience, as well as motivation or priority). Neither will the large majority have any inclination to just “care for” – instead of (having someone) “take care of” – their genitors. How such a scenario will play out for the next and the next generation, under current lifestyle assumptions and complicated family structures, is an even bigger mys(t)ery. That is food for sequential thought for the next minister.

Issue #3: Shortage of “Care Professionals”

Assume for an instance that the government in general, and a well-meaning, emphatic Family Minister in particular, can push these kinds of care obligations through parliament. And suppose that more financial means thus become available. Who is going to provide the services? In most European countries the supply of professionals is insufficient to satisfy demand at this very moment. For the same compensation there will be no extra hands and heads … As a matter of fact, and because the nursing market is a monopsony (the large majority of services is, in the end, paid for by government subsidies and via government brokered salary levels), the first priority of this “business” – better compensation for nursing and care professionals – will not go away.

OK, now what? We import care personnel from other countries. Perhaps, if we get that idea past all the unions. Suppose we can, as is happening today in many countries. In Brussels, for instance, Romanian nurses are working in local hospitals and care centers. Unfortunately there language skills are insufficient, not to mention their lack of local cultural “baggage”. Can we imagine that our senior citizens will be looked after by professionals that have no “rapport whatsoever” with their patients? Can we imagine that children will have to pay for such a service being rendered to their genitors?

The first problem in the health care of European welfare states is not financing for senior citizen care. The very first problem is that there a lack of compassionate, altruistic citizens that are prepared, and happy, to take care of family, neighbors or strangers that are suffering and need to be looked after. Part of the reason is financial, and allowing salaries of nursing professionals to be determined, at least to some extent, in a more open market, will alleviate the shortage. The other part is emotional and more money is no solution, neither will foreign imports be.

Issue #4: The value of a care versus business career

Admitting that the nursing and caring professionals (including teachers) are, as it is, already underpaid due to this government-crippled labor market, adds an extra dimension to the propositions made under #2. Indeed, if a substantial minority of people today already might spend more than the salary of one parent on overall child care, education etcetera, what then is the true freer market cost of such services?

In particular it implies that a career in caring for his or her next of kin is valued higher than pursuing the average business career. Why then would parents elect to go off to another job than to, jointly or in mutual agreement, rather than raising their children or making the autumn of their parents’ lives more fun to live? For so long we have been bombarded by the demeaning nature of the housewife profession – the feminist movement has dominated this debate – but it turns out that this profession, even in purely monetary terms, is worth more than a plurality of other jobs. And, by the way, a mother or father, for that matter, with a university degree is not a disadvantage for the children that are being raised.

Issue #5: The emotional deficit

It is becoming very obvious that paying for the care of those people near to us, if only because we have wanted and created them, or they have wanted and created us, is economically not feasible, lest we are prepared to change our priorities, which would be self contradictory. Don’t we want those extra and nicer cars, those overseas vacations, the starred restaurants, etcetera? Is that not a large part of the reason why we want to make as much money as possible, including of course the emotional benefits related to showing off that we can afford it all?

Not only is the current situation regarding child and senior citizen care financial nonsense – for individuals, community and government alike, it is also ethical nonsense. The person that invented “quality time” should be treated in kind, a few spoonfuls whenever their friends have some time available. And the more friends they have, the longer the time between the shrinking spoons. There is no limit to the quality of time: kids as well as grandparents (or genitors) need and appreciate lots of time – be that presence, real availability, access, and other modes – from their immediate family.

What the minister does not perceive is that by expanding the system of paying for third party caretaking of children and genitors, the link between the kin gets weaker, because the personal involvement runs, in the end, only via banknotes. It is unlikely that the toddlers of today will be keen to share their hard-won little fortunes with their own offspring and, on top of that, pay for parents that meanwhile might be three times divorced, remarried and, in the process, creators of a cast of half-siblings.


Drawing grand conclusions on the basis of a narrow ministerial initiative is not appropriate. However, it is obvious that health care in general and seniors care in particular is an enormous challenge in the current western societies. That challenge has many dimensions of which the financial one, although in the spotlights, is not the most significant.

Rather than sequential thinking, society needs to put this issue in a broader context. In that context one has to deal with a number of basic questions of human life.

How do we want offspring to be raised or managed? There are others forms outside of “family”. How do we want life to be stretched, irrespective of its quality? Continuous resuscitation need not be the rule! What is society’s responsibility in the care for young and elder members? How much freedom and how much solidarity do we want? What is the emotional and/or financial responsibility of individuals regarding offspring and progeny?

Obviously, Western Democracy as we currently know it, will have a hard time finding answers. Indeed, as long as democratically elected leaders implement what their voters want to have, there is no innovation. Voters these days, as in most days past, never really want to give or contribute of their own volition). Meanwhile rapidly depleting state coffers will force society to stop and think again. Some countries in Europe are already in that dire predicament, with no serious solution in sight because its leaders are not brave enough (at least that!) to imagine a sustainable future framework for the much-celebrated but meanwhile suffocated welfare society.


Ushuaia, Argentina, on Tuesday, Feb 15th 2011

The New Televangelists

english Posted on 2011-02-10 03:29:50

When I had crossed the Atlantic, way back in 1973, to live close to the greatest democracy that the world supposedly had come to know – of which Canada was a de facto cultural colony at the time, I remember being utterly stunned by the incredible attraction and success of the Sunday morning sermons on US television. The gentlemen, as far as I recall all male and white, built commercial empires and personal fortunes beyond belief, through naked manipulation of their religion-related emotions. As far as I was concerned they were ripping off ignorant and predominantly poor people in plain daylight. All of that was permitted under “Freedom of Expression”, and nobody needed to be protected against falsehoods because everyone was considered smart enough to figure things out for and by themselves.

Almost forty years later the phenomenon has not disappeared, although it certainly morphed and diversified. I also have the impression, not more than that, that the pseudo-religious business has been scaled back somewhat, as the Grand Preachers grew senile or simply changed the terrestrial life for an eternal afterlife.

New strains, and more dangerous ones, of this disease have surfaced in the last twenty years. When CNN came into being, in the eighties, it presented itself as a twenty-four hour global 24-by-7 news caster. Its reporters and journalists contributed up-to-the-minute information, and some commentary, about world events. It was a welcome addition to an extension of the news gathering in the world. Even the BBC was challenged and responded in kind.

Impressed by the success of CNN, other media moguls started investing in “world news” organizations. News gathering and reporting would never be the same again: it had become just another business, where return on investment was more important than straight facts, or any kind of facts for that matter. For others, like Al-Jazeera or Berlusconi’s media empire, it was not only business but also politics, no more and no less. “Democracy” and “Freedom of the Press” would be victorious.

We have now gotten to an era wherein news organizations are just creators of news and, if they have any say in it, of shaping events, destroying governments and building new ones. The reporting on Egypt is a great case in point. Even on this day, “Day 16 of the Uprising” CNN is committed to “democratic change”.

FOX News, at the same time, reports almost neutrally on international events, because they focus on US “news”. From a business perspective that is very wise: the Americans public have been and are still, understandably, more interested in local affairs than in international events. Therefore, why would FOX compete with CNN for a not-so-lucrative market, especially as CNN (and BBC and Jazeera, for different publics) dominate that segment? They elect not to. However, their domination of 24-by-7 US news not only brings in nice business revenues but also suits the political agenda of their investors: kill the democrats, democratically of course.

Both companies are manipulating information to realize their commercial and their political agendas. In days past, I forced myself to actually watch and listen to Glenn Beck and to watch and absorb the news from CNN’s international talking heads, most notably Andersen Cooper. I admit that, purely on based prejudice, primarily linked to scant information about Beck’s pseudo-Martin-Luther-King Event in Washington, deciding to sit down and listen to Beck for a full couple of hours was not easy.

After that exercise, and knowing what liberals and conservatives – all democrats! – think about CNN/FOX or Cooper/Beck, I surprised myself. Indeed, although I consider them both manipulators of information for ulterior motives, I was more impressed by Beck than by Cooper. The latter, and the journalists surrounding him, actually construct a particular worldview, obviously the view that they like to be realized in the field – Mubarak must go now! – , be that because of their political or philosophical convictions, their commercial objectives or their personal careers and media fame. They continuously splice film footage and sound bites, not to support facts, but to create their own “facts” and enhance the messages that they want to promote. From Haiti, to Tunisia to Egypt, to wherever they can prey open a “news making opportunity” CNN has been on this delusionary track. With a new talking head “star” every other hour, in front of and behind the camera, they are in show business now.

While FOX obviously selects newsbytes to serve their political and, in the same swoop, their commercial objectives, the Glenn Beck “Show” (as it is explicitly labeled) posits controversial opinions about sensitive subjects (to which standard conservatives and liberals have strongly diverging attitudes, but it does not try to construct a reduced reality a priori. Glenn Beck presents indeed the views, and accusations, of the opposition and uses a selection – of course! – of appropriate arguments and statements to defend his own beliefs and opinions. It seems to me that he is attacked more for the views that he holds – controversial as they may be, and fear inducing as the may be considered to be – than for the manner in which he constructs his case.

While I understand the reaction of the “intellectuals” – a predicate which journalists and liberals want to exclusively own – my “democratic sympathy” goes to Beck rather than to Cooper, for he former doesn’t intentionally and explicitly blindside us: he is not afraid of the confrontation. That is not to deny that he too deviously spins his own stories and projects his preferred reality, of course he does! Unfortunately though, many other TV news organizations do not even bother anymore to bring different sides of the story because they are prejudiced by their own opinions or objectives, as individuals and as organizations.

One of the inventions that serves their disingenuous purposes well is the so-called “wordcloud”. It is, indeed, a mixture of words, displayed according to some kind of discriminatory statistic that can only be described as opaque, and, to boost, it is a cloud, implying randomness and disorder by definition! Now, what can they read, for us, into these clouds? The answer is straightforward and meaningless: anything! And these “news media” feed us, inspired by their lead journalists who are themselves motivated by their own ego tripping and by blinking dollars, prepackaged thinking for us all, dumb receivers, and select that which they feel we ought to digest, such that we can support their thinking, no more and no less. Welcome to postmodern newscasts!

One wonders where this trend, this nascent and quickly evolving autocracy of the news media, will end. Shall we soon be able to have democratic elections for “accredited journalists”? (Beck certainly might one day stand for election, but will Anderson Cooper follow suit?) The arrival of “social media” does not simplify matters either. With every new internet user, the so-called democratic content of society increases, according to the liberal idealists. Indeed more people will make their voices heard, but does that mean that there will be more objective information around? Who then will be able to parse through it, and discern false from true?

Democracy implies personal choice and objective knowledge. It is true that in Egypt, as in many other countries, there has been little choice. It is just as true that, in the West, it is extremely difficult to get objectively informed. As long as we refuse to open the discussion on the quasi-absolute nature of some holy rights – absolute freedom of worldwide expression, absolute freedom of the world press, thus effectively suppressing any kind of obligation or duty, as persons or organizations, to be either truthful, or liable for spreading outright lies, self-serving opinion and destabilizing disinformation, the world community will be unable to govern itself effectively, preventing it from generating more prosperity for more members.


Port Stanley, Falklands on Wednesday, Feb 9th 2011

Looking for focused pyromaniacs …

english Posted on 2011-01-31 02:29:09

Tunisia, Yemen, and now Egypt: they are countries on fire. Most others in the Arab world are smoldering, they have been for decades. There is little doubt, according to many news reports and opinion makers, that Al Jazeera has had a big hand in galvanizing discontent and feeding the incendiary movements in the Arab world. They have done so for years; only naive fools and pacifist dreamers would deny that such was their stated goal. Why the Qatari rulers allow Al-Jazeera to run their operations from their soil is an interesting question, as yet unexplored.

However, it is not only Al-Jazeera that plays these deadly games. Which “news organization”, including regular commercial or national TV stations, are till reporting news in terms of bits and bytes of factual information, be it about their own country or about international events? While the 24-hour news organizations must, by definition, “make news” , if only to have enough film and talk to fill the time and space allotted, a large majority of the most famous and richly rewarded contemporary journalists are, indeed, first and foremost, sometimes creating, and often enhancing news events. They don’t provide information, on the contrary, their role is to shape opinion and, in the process, they are looking for personal ego-tripping and establishing star allures, like actors and modern politicians. Orwell’s Animal Farm revisited!

The “freedom of the press” to objectively report happenings around us, should not be called into question, for it is a fundamental principle for openness and fairness in the world, albeit still a frail and often disrespected one. That principle – and the distinction must be stated clearly – is totally different from the “Freedom of Expression”. These days both freedoms are being used interchangeably, especially when it comes to powerful organizations that can blow their opinions and views across the globe, making carefully edited pictures fit their narrative and selecting the “witnesses” that support their crafted message. At the grand scale that we witness this happening today, with the biased “news” organizations (such as Al Jazeera and Fox) but also with others, it must be considered a perversion of, and a threat to democracy, and to stability – to “all worlds”, the developing ones as well as developed one(s).

Freedom of expression is a fine principle as long as the receiver of the message has enough information to consider the pros and cons, based upon his own knowledge and judgments. In that sense, modern news media, everywhere, pretending to present what happens around us, actually produce mostly shows to broadcast what fits within the agenda of the news organization, its financiers or, as is the case in much of Europe for the state-sponsored TV, its political patrons.

True, newspapers have been bringing opinion forever, albeit it not as blatantly and not with the explicit business purpose to be more profitable. Often they were linked to political views. The British boulevard press was probably a forerunner of the post-modernistic commercialist press but their incendiary and insulting covers affected only the UK environment and were often focused on society-related shame and scandal. Moreover, as the reporting dealt largely with local events and was embedded in a truly competitive press environment, readers had, at all times, lots of opportunity to assess the outrageousness of the tabloid reporting. By and large, news-making organizations like Al Jazeera, FOX, CNN and others, have a captive audience that they manipulate at will, making arrogant stars out of their “anchors” and manipulating their audiences, not infrequently producing extremism and violent behavior. It is obvious that we, the democratic free world, have been tricked into allowing “Freedom of Expression” to foster organizations which have become the unelected dictators of many neighborhoods, regions and countries. This multi-dimensional octopus, called the press media, dexterously exploits any and all useful fault lines that, necessarily, run through the world community, just for profit, be that calculated in monetarily or in politically valued millions.

With Egypt on fire, and in case we needed a fresh reminder, Jonathan Mann of CNN, co-anchoring the “news, direct from Cairo”, took it upon himself to report with unmistakable intonation of surprised disapproval: “Mubarak has appointed, for the first time in Egyptian history, a Vice-President (!), Omar Suleiman, a trusted friend, who is the ex-head of the security services. The President is rumored to have selected a new PM, also from his inner circle. How will the protesters be able to put their trust in these leaders? In fact, he added – casually, Hosni Mubarak just now has had a chance to step away from the Presidency and thus resolve this crisis and he didn’t take that chance!” While this is not the worst opinionated reporting that cause pain to objective ears on CNN, his suggestion about Mubarak stepping back is, plainly stated, cheap and, unfortunately, not even a solution.

Indeed, if Mann ventures to voice this opinion, he might also tell the viewers how the process that (finally) begins to solve the intractable problems of a large majority of the Egyptians, will be pushed to a conclusion. For instance: who will become the new president ( a general, if history is any guide)? How will they, perhaps “the people”, decide about a new government? Which body will chart process and content for the way ahead (parliament is full of Mubarak’s close allies)? How will Egypt avoid losing 20% of its GDP this year because of the shutdown of tourism? How can millions of academically schooled youngsters be put to work in jobs commensurate with their schooling? This is only the tip of the tip of iceberg, a small percentage indeed of the challenges at hand.

How easy is it to take a stab at what somebody should have done, or to criticize what he or she has not done? To be sure, I am not defending the Egyptian regime (which was, as we all know, generously supported by the West for forty-odd years). Is it not unfortunate that journalists, whose understanding of “foreign peoples”, countries and cultures is generally somewhat proportional to the number of languages that they have effectively mastered to speak, continue to use their pulpit – for indeed, the centers of power have changed, but the tools have not – to fill the terrestrial ether with simplistic, misguided, so-called solutions that is, in the end, just self-serving rhetoric that snugly fit with the organizations’ business goals!?

When, and if, this latest media-sponsored and media-fed crisis is over – even though the Egyptian’s cause and uprising is in itself quite legitimate and not in question, it will behoove the world community to have a very close look at the quasi-monopolistic unrestricted abuse that the principle of “Freedom of Expression” has wrought on our daily lives, and how it has gradually overshadowed our “Rights for Information”.


Rio de Janeiro, January 30th 2011