Sunday, April 17, 2016

The Intruders

By Madeleine Kando

I sometimes envy my mother. She is as deaf as a doornail, but what do you expect at her age? She is going to be 103 in a few months. At least she has a permanent acoustic guard on duty, although barring entrance to any sound might be too much of a good thing. It’s different for me. Short of wearing earplugs or buying an expensive noise-cancelling headset, I am exposed to all sorts of unwelcome acoustic intruders.

Noises are part of living, you’ll say and suggest I see a shrink instead of waste your time writing about my predicament. You might conclude that I am suffering from ‘misophonia’**, the hatred of sound. But I am not averse to sounds in general; I forgive sounds that cannot help being sounds, like the sound of traffic, or police sirens. And I couldn’t live without music. Read more...

Friday, April 8, 2016

The Casanova of the Pyrenees

by Madeleine Kando

Pyros (Greek for ‘fire’), a.k.a. ‘the Stud’
Species: Ursus Arctos (a.k.a. Grizzly)

Pyros is a 500-pound alpha bear, born in Slovenia. He was relocated to the Pyrenees in 1997 as part of an effort to bring back the bear population. Hunters killed the last remaining native bear, a female called Cinnamon, so two Slovenian bears, Ziva and Mellba, both already pregnant were brought in, followed by the dominant male Pyros.

Pyros saw, came and boy, did he conquer. He sired over 30 little boy and girl Pyros and is still going strong as a geriatric bear at the ripe old age of 29.

Sponsored by French actor Gerard Depardieu (no relation to Pyros, appearances notwithstanding) he has become a symbol of virility. Spanish Pyros fans started a Twitter account under his name identifying him as the “father of all the bears” and the French call him “the stud of the Pyrenees”. Read more...

Thursday, April 7, 2016

On Phobias, Philias and other Etymologies

Like most people, I have some phobias, as well as a number of philias: This means that there are things which I like, and things which I dislike. Duh.

Etymologically, the words we use for people’s (pathological) likes and dislikes (or fears), usually contain the postfixes “-phobia” and “-philia,” or the prefix “mis-.”

These are derived from Greek:
Phobos: Fear
Philia: (Brotherly) Love
Misos: Hatred

For example: Philadelphia: The City of Brotherly Love:
Philos = Friend
Adelphos = Brother

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Did the Democratic Party Forsake the Middle Class?

By Madeleine Kando

In his new book ‘Listen, Liberal or Whatever Happened to the Party of the People’, author Thomas Frank (‘What's the Matter with Kansas?) points out that the Democratic Party’s historical role of protecting the working middle class has all but vanished. Since the 80’s, many policies implemented by both Republican and Democratic administrations have hugely benefited the ‘professional class’ as well as the ‘business class’. By ‘professional class’ Frank refers to affluent professionals, lawyers, doctors, investment specialists, etc. This class is very liberal in a cultural sense, but very conservative economically.

The shift in policy in the Democratic Party came after George W. Bush’s victory, when the ‘New Democrats’ tried to be centrist by combining right-wing economic policy with left-wing social policy, which they called the ‘Third Way’.

Frank is especially harsh on Bill Clinton. He was the prototypical New Democrat. He signed the NAFTA agreement, deregulated Wall Street and ‘reformed’ Welfare by putting pressure on the unemployed. Barak Obama continued this trend, trying to fast track the TTP and, although he put the Healthcare Bill into law, Big Pharma and the insurance companies are still in control of health insurance. Read more...

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

What to do About Terrorism?

What to do about terrorism

Tuesday March 22, 2016: Brussels, Belgium: ISIS-sponsored terrorist attack kills at least thirty four (so far). This is Belgium’s “9/11:” In proportion to the US population, it is the equivalent of 1,100 dead. The bombs contained nails and shards of glass, to inflict maximum suffering.

My first reaction upon hearing this was, “Oh no! Not again!” Coincidentally, I was in Belgium just a couple of weeks ago. I was also there a year ago, in Liege. On that occasion, I was flabbergasted when I saw practically no Belgians downtown Liege. The entire city seemed to have been repopulated by immigrants, primarily from Africa.

I taught Violence and Terrorism at the university for fifteen years. It may be helpful to put things in historical perspective: Back in the 1980s, the groups terrorizing Europe were all named “Red this” and “Red that.” There was the Red Army Faction, (the Baader-Meinhof), the Red Brigades, the Action Directe, etc. They blew up caf√©s, restaurants and other places with grim regularity, killing dozens of innocent Europeans. But in time, this scourge was defeated. Its foreign base of support collapsed. And that base was a hell of a lot more powerful than ISIS or AlQaida are today. It consisted of the USSR and its satellites in East Germany, Czechoslovakia and elsewhere. Read more...

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Which Countries are the Most and the Least Hospitable?

hospitable countries

We hear that the number of “displaced persons” in the world is at an all-time high. Today, I want to talk about the number of migrants. According to a recent issue of   The Guardian (see Number of Migrants) there were in 2013, the last year for which comprehensive data are available, 232 million international migrants in the world;  that is, people who have moved permanently from their country of origin to another.

In this article, I do not address any of the innumerable aspects of the topic of international migration. I wish  to show one thing and one thing only: what proportion of the total number of migrants do various countries take in. Facts are important, especially when accusations of racism and xenophobia are flying in all directions, as they currently do. 

It is not clear whether The Guardian’s number - 232 million -   is an all-time record or not. If it is, it would certainly only be so in absolute terms. There have been times in history when a far greater percentage of the world’s population was on the march.  Think  of the vast  migrations aptly named  V√∂lkerwanderung in German, that took place during and after the collapse of the Roman Empire. More recently, millions were forced or chose to migrate, including for example 14 million Germans from Eastern Europe after World War Two. Read more...

Monday, March 14, 2016

A Century's Worth of Living (Part 3)

Madeleine Kando

My mother Ata sleeps a lot. She is often in pain because of some nerve damage in her feet, but is happy that I have come all the way from Boston to visit her. It is peaceful here in Bergen. Ata lives in an assisted living abutting the 'polders', vast meadows where sheep, horses and cows share the lush, green grass. The enormous sky dwarfs this flat landscape; I have stepped into a Vermeer painting, the church steeples and windmills dotting the low hanging horizon.

I am trying to come to terms with Ata's life ending soon. Part of my life will also come to an end and I don't know how to separate the two. Soon, I will no longer come to Holland. I will no longer sleep in this little guest room, waiting for the day to break while the smell of cow manure, the cawking of the seagulls, the muffled sound of a truck on its morning delivery mingle in the air. It will all be as faded as the photographs that hang on Ata's walls.

Visiting my mother has always been an intense experience. With all that moving from country to country, she has managed to always bring the family past with her. There are so many boxes where I find pieces of myself, boxes stuffed with old letters, drawings, poems and of course, photographs. Read more...