Navigating through fake news, stupid news and no news

Honestly I feel very challenged. This is getting harder and harder and some days my brain simply revolts and screams at me. “Stop stretching me so thin! Stop feeding me this stuff! Give me something good to chew and digest that will bring life! Give me a break… period.”

We are taught to be critical thinkers and we know the importance of critical analysis. But the current atmosphere feels as if we have put things in reverse. The more advanced we become with technological skills, the more primitive we become in communication. The more we know, the less we care. The more we read and see, the less we understand. The more we scream, the less we listen. It is miscommunication on steroids.

First is the invasion and epidemic of fake news. Of course, we have always lived in a world with slanted and corrupted news, but it used to take some effort, time and money to spread false or fake stories. Now it does not cost anything.. Anyone can create a website or a news portal and simply copy and paste and alter photos and spread fake news. Plus, make money while doing it. It does not matter if those fake news are malignant or benign – they erode our trust in any news source.

Recently I spotted two fake news stories on my friend’s Facebook. One story was political and it looked like a deliberate effort to create bad image of the leaders in the Baltic states. Something did not add up and I checked the facts. It turned out to be a fake story. Then I noticed that some people had started sharing it and I decided to inform my friend. He quickly removed it from his wall. The second story was more innocent and it was posted on a Christian website as a story of some big miracle near Israel. I noticed the headline photo which I had seen in another story posted on CNN. It had nothing to do with Israel or a miracle. It had to do with Sudan and climate change. Again I decided to inform my friend.

I did not think that these friends of mine were knowingly spreading false or fake stories but I did not want for people to start sharing. I would expect the same reaction from my friends – if they see something I am saying/ sharing/ posting/ publishing  which is false or fake, they should let me know. It is impossible to stay truthful without the help of others.

Also, we see the invasion of “fake facts” or “no facts” in the mainstream media and politics. I am not talking about traditional empty campaign promises. I am talking about pure fabrications. Politicians can utter them and go unpunished. Media can publish them and go unpunished. In the end it is nobody’s fault and life simply goes on. Only people become even more disillusioned and pessimistic. And without trust our societies cannot be healthy and functional.

Secondly, we are bombarded with stupid news. This is the junk food that my brain complains about as I am guilty of consuming it, too. Let’s see “how is Brad and Angelina’s divorce proceeding? what are the experts saying about the experts about someone’s tweets? how to travel around the world and act stupid? how to be obsessed with food and only food?” Honestly, will I have to live with Mr. Trump as the biggest news headline for the next 4 years? Yes, he will be the president of the most powerful and influential country in the world, but he is not the center of our universe.

Which brings me to the last challenge. The challenge of “no news”. I have practically given up on the big TV channels like CNN and Fox News which used to be news channels. Now they are 24/7 talk shows. Opinion upon opinion upon opinion… Opinions are not news!!! Also, people tend to share opinion columns more than the actual news stories. It is boring to read and search for the facts, right? And who wants to bored in our exciting world of opinions, “hot air”,”world news in 60 sec”, “out of sight, out of mind”, etc.

I also have an opinion therefore I write this blog or journal but, sorry to disappoint you, this is not journalism. I am grateful and honored that you read my reflections on peace building but let us not simply recycle each others opinions. Let us search deeper and think harder!

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This is my thinking face (photo from personal archive)

 

I will not give up on truth seeking

Few weeks ago Oxford Dictionaries announced the word of 2016 is “post-truth”. Followed by “alt-right” (alternative right) or “Brexiteer and others. It was chosen because this year there has been such a sharp increase in how and when this concept is used. Especially during the Brexit campaign and US elections.

According to Oxford Dictionaries, post truth is an adjective defined as ‘relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief’. Now I hear people, including my friends, say that “we witness post-truth politics” and “we live in post-truth society”. And there is long list of other expressions like virtual reality, fake news, polarization, etc.

This is not completely new but I will agree that post truth concept is looming large. Like a big, dark cloud over our society. It is in the social media, it is in the mainstream media, it is in the experiences, it is in the conversations, it is in the arguments… it is in the air. It is on my mind and it is definitely destroying the peace of my mind.

Because I believe in truth. I believe in searching for the verifiable facts. I believe in truthfulness and integrity. I believe in certain absolutes. I believe in truth seeking.

I try to choose my words carefully because I believe that we should call things as “they are” if we care to get to the point where things are as “they should be” (even the words “should be” imply something certain).

I believe in truthful politics. Yes, we all know that it is a dirty and complicated thing but we should apply the same standard we try to apply to business, education, media, science, family and especially the church. Without integrity we are doomed in every sphere of our lives.

I refuse to live in a post-truth world because such life would be foolish and meaningless and, of course, dangerous. It would be the survival of those who just want to survive or pure existence. But I want to live a good life that is God’s design for all of us.

If we are created in the image of God (Imago Dei), than we have God’s imprint of truth in us. It may be distorted but it is there and we are on a lifelong journey to discover these things which are true, good, just, honorable, excellent and worthy of praise (Phil 4:8)

How to be practical about it? Well, this is the challenge. We live very busy lives and we don’t want to spend our time to research and verify everything said or published if it is true, partially true or false. Something true and something false can be stirred equally fast (unfortunately the bad news spreads faster). We are struggling to trust anything and anybody. We need to regain this trust because without it we will not make it.

I want to hear your thoughts, reactions and practical ideas about how to reverse this trend of post truth. Let us pursue “back to the truth seeking world”!

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Preach it!!! (photos from personal archive and internet)

Latvian:

Pirms dažām nedēļām Oksfordas vārdnīcas paziņoja, ka 2016. gada ievērojamākais vārds ir “pēcpatiesība” (postpatiesība). Šo jēdzienu izvēlējās kā šogad arvien biežāk un plašāk lietoto. It īpaši Brexit kampaņas laikā un ASV priekšvēlēšanu cīņās. Sekoja tādi vārdi kā “alt-labējie” (alternatīvie labējie) and “Brexitietis”.

Saskaņā ar Oksfordas vārdnīcas terminu definīciju, pēcpatiesība (postpatiesība) ir apzīmētājs, kas “attiecas uz apstākļiem, kuros sabiedrības viedokļa veidošanā objektīvi fakti ir mazāk ietekmīgi nekā vēršanās pie emocijām un personīgiem uzskatiem”. Man visapkārt cilvēki, arī draugi, sāk lietot frāzes, ka “mēs piedzīvojam pēcpatiesības politiku” un “dzīvojam pēcpatiesības sabiedrībā”. Tālāk iet runa par puspatiesībām, viltus ziņām, viedokļu vienveidību, utt.

It kā tas nav nekas jauns, taču es piekrītu, ka šobrīd šis pēcpatiesības jēdziens ir pārklājis rietumu sabiedrību. Kā liels, drūms mākonis. Tas ir jūtams sociālajos tīklos, plašsaziņas līdzekļos, sarunās, debatēs… tas vienkārši virmo gaisā. Un tas ir ienācis arī manā prātā kā vēl viena aktuāla problēma, kas laupa sirdsmieru.

Jo es ticu tādam jēdzienam kā patiesība. Es ticu tādai lietai, kā faktu pārbaudīšana. Es ticu patiesīgumam un godīgumam. Tātad es ticu kādām absolūtām vērtībām. Es ticu patiesības meklēšanai kā vienai no dzīves prioritātēm.

Parasti cenšos izvēlēties savus vārdus ļoti uzmanīgi, jo mums jāsauc lietas “īstajos vārdos” (ja tos vispār zinām), ja gribam nonākt līdz tam, “kā būtu jābūt” (jau pats apgalvojums “kā būtu jābūt” kaut ko izsaka).

Es ticu patiesīgai politikai. Jā, mēs visi zinām, ka tā ir pelēkā, sarežģītā, korumpētā un netīrā zona, bet vienalga uz to ir jāattiecina tādas pašas prasības kā pret izglītību, biznesu, zinātni, medijiem, ģimeni un pat baznīcu. Bez patiesīguma un godīguma nevar nevienā dzīves jomā.

Es atsakos pieņemt pēcpatiesību kā normu, jo tāda sabiedrība būtu muļķīga, bezjēdzīga un, protams, briesmīga. Tajā izdzīvotu tie, kuri vienkārši vēlas izdzīvot. Taču es vēlos dzīvot labu un pilnīgu dzīvi, ja tāds ir Dieva dizains mums visiem.

Ja pieņemam, ka esam radīti Dieva līdzībā (Imago Dei), tad mūsos ir arī patiesības nospiedums. Varbūt tas ir izkropļots vai sagrozīts, bet tomēr tas tur ir, un mūsu dzīve ir meklējumi pēc patiesā, labā, taisnīgā, cieņpilnā, vērtīgā un slavējamā (Filip 4:8)

Ko tas nozīmē praktiski? Jā, tas nav viegli izdarāms. Mēs dzīvojam ļoti aizņemtas dzīves, un mums nav daudz laika meklēt, salīdzināt, pārbaudīt, vai lasam, dzirdam un saņemam patiesību, puspatiesību vai klajus melus. Kaut kas patiess un kaut kas viltots var izplatīties vienlīdz strauji (parasti gan viltotais izplatās straujāk). Vēl mums strauji zūd uzticība jebkam un jebkuram. Bez uzticības vispār mēs ilgtermiņā neiztiksim.

Gribētu dzirdēt jūsu domas un praktiskus padomus, kā nesekot šai pēcpatiesības modei. Dzīsimies pēc pasaules, kurā mēs vienmēr meklējam patiesību!

Giving thanks for my vivacious sojourners

I love this photo and I love the memory of this moment. Mae Sot, Thailand may be a small town (developing and growing fast) on the Thailand – Burma border where tourists go for border crossing and locals for shopping and business, but for me it is “home away from home”.

These kids from Mae Sot are my sojourners in life and part of my story of “peaceroads” and I am very thankful for them. I am not thankful that they were always on the streets begging or collecting plastic bottles. I am not thankful that they were not attending school or that they had to carry small babies to attract the foreigner’s compassion. I am not thankful that they were bathing in the dirty and smelly town canals.

No, my heart was sad and angry that these beautiful, smart kids were so adopted to the life on the streets that they thought this is normal and even kind of fun. Of course, it was not fun when they had to be out at dark or when their parents told them not to come home until they had collected a certain amount of money. It was not fun when they were hungry or yelled at or treated like some stray animals.

A little comfort but I was grateful that at least they were in a small community like Mae Sot where people tend to watch out for each other more than in the big cities like Bangkok or Manila with too many children-at-risk to count.

This photo was taken at one of my favorite tea shops “Borderline” which is a cooperative for women in refugee camps making handy crafts. Borderline also serves delicious vegetarian food and refreshing drinks. Whenever we could, we would buy the children something to eat and Borderline was one of their favorite places to go. It had a nice garden and calming atmosphere. An oasis of peace on a busy, dusty, noisy street.

The kids were so energetic, funny and savvy. They perceived things differently and they always looked out for each other. I realized that they did not like to be patronized (don’t we all) and they didn’t like to be pitied (don’t we all). But they wanted to be loved (don’t we all).

We communicated in beginner Thai and lots of signs and body language. The universal language of hugs, smiles, welcome, concern, pointing, nodding or shaking head… Sometimes I went home exhausted because in the West we are much less concerned with body language and much more concerned with the exact words. In Thailand and Burma it is the opposite and my brain was slow to adjust.

They read me. They read my walk. They read my talk. They read my eyes. They read my mouth. They read my hands.

However imperfectly, I hope that I was able to communicate the most important thing: ” I see you and I know that you see me. I am here because you are here. I am your teacher but you are teaching me things, too. I love you because I am loved. The image of God in you is the image of God in me.” Thank you for being you!

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Smile that spoke volumes (photos from personal archive)

How the whole world “elects” the US president

From my little corner of our planet in Latvia, it seems like the whole world just “voted” for who should become the next president of the United States. My friends in many countries have countless postings on Facebook. Every news channel, talk show and every conversation at one point or another brings up this topic. At the moment Donald Trump is the most talked about person in the world. He is in our heads.

I went to my theology class and guess what??? We discussed the election results. Many of my friends in  Latvia feel sad and shocked, others are amused and say “it will be interesting” and others are happy because they think the Americans chose wisely. The same mixed emotions and opinions as in the USA (overwhelming majority of Latvian and, I will say, European young people are upset, though)

This is something quite hard to explain to some of my American friends who have not traveled outside the US. The whole world watches what happens in this most powerful country and the whole world cares. Literally.

Personally I think it is not normal that the choice of 120 million (people who just voted) which is less than 2% of the world’s population, has such an overwhelming impact on the rest. I am not an American citizen, my husband is and I see and feel this reality every election year. But I have never seen such a global interest and concern and anxiety as this time. So many hopes and fears and expectations invested in one person and one country.

I don’t know how it makes my American friends feel. This is such a huge responsibility and, like I said, not just for domestic affairs but for the whole global community. For better or for worse, this is how it is and will be for some time.

We live in such a fast paced world. Things are changing and so are we. The results of many recent elections and referendums, including Brexit, show that the young people think more globally and are not as afraid of these changes. I may be proven wrong but I think they feel more connected to the rest of the world. Whether it is through the internet and global social media or through traveling around the world in a more engaging way. If I think of all the volunteers from NGO’s, religious organizations and aid groups and how young they are, I can see why they care so deeply about the global challenges – environment, human trafficking, inequality or better term “injustice”, marginalized people groups and so on.

One of my Latvian friends said: “I think the whole Erasmus program for student exchange in Europe is meant for stopping wars and teaching people how to live as good neighbors with each other”. That is why so many young people in the UK voted to stay in the European Union. When you actually become friends with people from other nations, they are not just another news story. Estonia, Spain, Russia or Iraq or Nigeria or Thailand becomes personal. Their challenges become something you care about and  you don’t want to withdraw from them.

There are great challenges around the world right now. No need to list them. For example, for people in the Baltics every word the US president says about NATO is of utmost importance. So, we all know what a difficult job the next president of the United States has and how much is at stake domestically and globally. No doubt we need to pray for him and his team of advisors because without wise council and wise decisions this is mission impossible. Of course, the US has an amazing democratic system where all the power is not in the hands of one person or his clique (versus to the current regime in Russia) and it is for a good reason.

Still, these elections were run in a way that made it look like all the hope is in one person who will fix everything. This is trust misplaced.

But there is something else about these elections and other deeply polarizing campaigns which grieves me immensely. It is the irresponsibility and ignorance of politicians and leaders and media and even the church (yes, we need to point the finger at ourselves) to drive the wedges between “Us” and “Them”, add “fuel to the fire”, manipulate, tell half-truths or even lies and then the next day tell people “Now we need to unite and respect each other”

Yes, we need to unite. Yes, we need to respect the people who think differently or have a different vision for our nation. Yes, we need to listen. Yes, we need to heal our divisions and bridge the gap. Yes, we need to support our government and help them to succeed.

But what about the horrible words and attitudes and actions that were modeled for so many months that hurt so many people and drove the wedges even deeper? “Out of the fullness of heart the mouth speaks”. Who will take responsibility for this? Who will be humble enough to say “I am sorry for being a part of the problem”? Who will say that this is not right and this is not American?

So, the whole world will continue watching and discussing and learning from the US…

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(Both photos taken from the internet)

Latvian:

Pat mūsu mazajā zemeslodes stūrītī Latvijā rodas sajūta, ka visa pasaule “piedalījās” ASV prezidenta vēlēšanās. Vērojot draugu ierakstus Feisbukā dažādās pasaules malās, šobrīd nav karstākas tēmas. Katrā ziņu kanālā, aktuālo tēmu raidījumā, arī lielākajā daļā ikdienas sarunu tiek pieminēts Donalds Tramps. Lūgts vai nelūgts – viņš ir ienācis visos prātos, un tik ātri nekur neaizies.

Šobrīd studēju teoloģiju, un ko mēs šonedēļ pārrunājām? Protams, ka ASV jaunievēlēto prezidentu. Daudzi Latvijā ir galīgi satriekti, daži pat tuvu asarām; citi groza galvu un saka, ka “būs interesanti, kas tur tagad Amerikā notiks”, bet ir arī daudzi, kas priecājas gan par ASV demokrātijas izturību, gan par vēlētāju izvēli. Vieniem tādas pašas kardināli pretējas domas un sajūtas, citiem neitrāli viedokļi. Gluži kā šobrīd ASV (man gan liekas, ka vairākums jauniešu Latvijā un Eiropā uztver Donalda Trampa ievēlēšanu ļoti negatīvi, bet par to vēlāk).

Man ir ļoti grūti izskaidrot to saviem amerikāņu draugiem, kuri nav daudz ceļojuši ārpus savas valsts robežām. Visa pasaule skatās, kas notiek šajā visspēcīgākajā valstī, un lielākajai daļai ir viedoklis par to, kam tur vajadzētu notikt. Pasaulei nav vienaldzīga ASV politika. Burtiskā nozīmē.

Personīgi man tas neliekas normāli. 120 miljoni (apmēram tik daudz cilvēku tikko nobalsoja) ir mazāk kā 2% no visas pasaules iedzīvotājiem, bet viņu izvēle tik spēcīgi ietekmē visus pārējos. Neesmu ASV pilsone, bet mans vīrs ir, un katrā vēlēšanu kampaņā es redzu un jūtu šo globālo realitāti. Bet neatceros neko līdzīgu šim gadam. Tik milzīgu globālo interesi un uztraukumu piedzīvoju pirmo reizi. Tik daudzas cerības, bailes un gaidas liktas uz vienu cilvēku un vienu valsti.

Nezinu, kā amerikānim par to visu justies. Tā ir ārkārtīga atbildība, ne tikai attiecībā uz ASV iekšzemes lietām, bet uz ārpolitiku un attiecībām ar pārējiem. Gribam vai negribam, tā tas ir, un arī tuvākajā laikā nemainīsies.

Mēs dzīvojam pasaulē, kur viss notiek ātrāk un ātrāk. Lietas mainās, un mēs paši arī. Pēdējā laika vēlēšanu un referendumu, piemēram, Brexit rezultāti atklāj, ka jaunatne domā daudz globālāk, un tik ļoti nebaidās no šīm straujajām izmaiņām. Varbūt kāds pierādīs pretējo, bet man liekas, ka jaunieši daudz labāk izjūt šo globālo saiti. Varbūt dēļ interneta, vai sociālajiem tīkliem, vai ceļošanas apkārt pasaulei daudz iesaistošākā veidā. Domājot par visiem sev pazīstamajiem brīvprātīgajiem gan starptaustiskās nevalstiskās, gan starpkonfesionālās reliģiskās organizācijās, kur lielākā daļa ir gados jauni cilvēki, es saprotu, kāpēc viņi jūtas daudz tuvāk un daudz ciešāk sasaistīti ar visu pasauli. Viņiem rūp globālās problēmas, piemēram, vides aizsardzība jeb cīņa ar cilvēktirdzniecību un mūsdienu verdzību.

Pirms dažiem gadiem viena mana paziņa teica: “Man liekas, ka visa Erasmus studentu apmaiņa ir domāta tam, lai Eiropā nebūtu karu un lai mēs labāk iepazītos un tuvinātos viens otram.” Arī Brexit referendumā lielākā daļa jauniešu nobalsoja par palikšanu Eiropas Savienībā. Viņi jūtas daudz piederīgāki pārējam Eiropas kontinentam. Kad tev ir draugi citās valstīs, tie vairs nav tikai ziņu virsraksti. Tu vairs neesi vienaldzīgs.

Pat vienaldzīgajam skaidrs, ka šobrīd globālo izaicinājumu ir daudz. Kaut vai no Baltijas valstu perspektīvas raugoties, NATO vienotība un rīcībspēja ir akūti svarīgas. Tā kā mēs varam iedomāties, cik grūts darbs gaida nākamo ASV prezidentu, un cik nozīmīgi būs viņa lēmumi gan iekšzemē, gan ārlietās. Protams, ka vajag aizlūgt par viņu un par viņa padomdevēju komandu, jo bez gudra padoma un gudriem lēmumiem tā būs neiespējamā misija. Un vēl var iedrošināties no tā, ka ASV ir tik apbrīnojami attīstīta un norūdīta demokrātiska sistēma, kur visa vara nav viena cilvēka vai vienas kliķes rokās (atšķirībā no patreizējā režīma Krievijā).

Taču šīs vēlēšanas tika pagrieztas tā, it kā visas cerības jāliek uz vienu cilvēku, kurš visu salabos un izglābs. Tāda cerība liks vilties.

Bet pāri visam ir kaut kas tikko notikušajās vēlēšanās un sabiedrību pamatīgi sašķēlušajā kampaņā, kas man liek tiešām dziļi sērot. Tā ir ASV politiķu, ievērojamu personu, masu mediju un arī baznīcu (jā, mums jārāda pirksts arī uz sevi) bezatbildība, tuvredzība un liekulība, veicinot šo šķelšanos starp “mums” un “citiem”, piemetot “malku ugunij”, manipulējot, stāstot puspatiesības vai pat melus, lai nākamajā dienā pēc vēlēšanām teiktu, ka “tagad visiem jābūt vienotiem un jāciena vienam otru”.

Jā, cilvēkiem un nācijai ir jāvienojas. Jā, ir jāciena citādi domājošie un arī tie, kuri vēlas citādu virzienu valsts politikai. Jā, ir nepieciešams ieklausīties pretējos viedokļos. Jā, ir jādziedina sāpinājumi un jābūvē attiecību tilti. Jā, ir jāatbalsta un jālūdz par valsts vadītāju.

Bet ko darīt ar visiem tiem briesmīgajiem vārdiem, kas tika pateikti par imigrantiem, citu rasu un reliģiju pārstāvjiem, sievietēm, cilvēkiem ar kustību traucējumiem? Ko darīt ar to briesmīgo un uzputīgo uzvedību un attieksmi, kas tika demonstrēta vairāk kā gada garumā? Ko darīt ar to slikto piemēru, kas tika rādīts visiem, ieskaitot bērnus un jauniešus, kuriem jāmācās vērtības (skat, tikumība)? Kurš uzņemsies atbildību par to visu? Kurš būs tik pazemīgs, lai iesāktu ar atvainošanos un pateiktu, ka “man patiešām žēl, ka es biju daļa no šī milzīgās problēmas”? Kurš no uzvarētājiem pateiks, ka tās nav amerikāņu vērtības?

Un tikmēr pasaule turpinās skatīties, pārrunāt un mācīties no ASV…

The age of information diarrhea

I took this photo in Berlin while sightseeing around Brandenburg Gate. It was one of those surreal moments when you have to get out your camera to prove to yourself that this is real. Most of us notice it and most of us do it. I knew that it would be a good photo for one of my blogs.

This autumn I am taking some classes at Latvia University and I love it. Yes, there is some homework that tortures my brain cells and gives anxiety but the joy of learning is greater and more lasting. Also, it is a university within the university because of my classmates. Every one of us is a small universe with life experiences, thoughts, beliefs, dreams, friends, families, talents…

For the title of this blog entry I borrowed the words of one of my new peers. During a discussion he said: “We live in an age with chronic diarrhea of information.” I have a good imagination and his words make a good sense. We take in so much information daily without processing. Since it is available and free, just take it. Whether it is worthwhile or simply junk.

What if it cost me more? If I have to buy a magazine or newspaper, I am very picky. I want to get my money’s worth. I want to read something that will enrich my mind and my life. I will pick up “Time” or “Newsweek” or “The Economist”… But if I am standing in the checkout line at the shopping mall or killing a few minutes at the airport, I will browse through some women’s magazines or tabloids. (It sounds better to say tabloids then gossip and sensational news, right?)

Secondly we don’t give enough time for reflection. (Here is that magic word – time. I said  the free information does not cost me anything but actually it does. It costs my time.) I remember my mom used to eat and chew very slowly. She firmly believed that it was healthier.It used to drive me crazy but I did think that she was right. Plus eating together had its many other wonderful benefits.

My own brain capacity is so limited. I find that even lots of the good information that I want to retain and digest and reflect on, disappears quickly. I think part of the problem is these horrible habits of taking in too much, too fast and too superficially.

There are many bad side-effects. Especially social. As if there is this invisible force that effects us in invisible ways. For example, the growing problem of polarization. People become more divided in their views and less able to dialogue and to have a polite and respectful debate with good listening skills. When I go on Facebook or other social media, it does the thinking for me. It “chooses” who my best friends are, which kind of news I “want” to read, what I want to buy, etc. It makes my life easier by grouping me with “like-minded” people.

Thanks for taking the few minutes of your time to read. A few more to reflect?

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The art of socializing (photos from personal archive)

Latvian:

Šis ir ar manu fotoaparātu piefiksēts dzīves moments netālu no Brandenburgas vārtiem Berlīnē. Vienkārši acīm neticējās, ka tā mēs tiešām tagad dzīvojam. Lielākā daļa to ievērojam, un lielākā daļa to darām. Zināju, ka būs kaut kad jāuzraksta.

Šoruden man ir iespēja mācīties Latvijas Universitātē, un man patīk. Protams, ir mājas darbi un lietas, kas mocīs smadzenes un šad tad bojās nervus, bet mācīšanās process kā tāds ir izbaudāms. Turklāt ir viens liels bonuss – mani kursabiedri. Katrs pats ir maza universitāte ar savu dzīves pieredzi, domām, ticību, sapņiem, draugiem, ģimeni, spējām…

Pārdomām es virsrakstā izmantoju viena sava kursabiedra teikto. Nesenā diskusijā viņš izteicās, ka “mēs dzīvojam laikā, kur ir hroniska informācijas caureja.” Iztēle man darbojas labi, un šī metafora tiešām liekas precīza. Mēs uzņemam tik daudz informācijas, bet pavisam maz vai nemaz to nesagremojam un nepārstrādājam. Šī informācija ir tepat ar pirkstu galiem sasniedzama, turklāt par brīvu, un tāpēc jāņem. Vienalga, vai tā ir derīga, vai mēsls.

Kā būtu, ja man par to būtu vairāk jāmaksā? Pērkot žurnālu vai avīzi, esmu ļoti izvēlīga. Gribu, lai mana nauda būtu ieguldīta vērtīgā informācijā. Piemēram, žurnālos “The Economist”, “Time” vai “Rīgas Laiks”… Bet, stāvot veikala rindā pie kases vai nositot kādas minūtes lidostā, pasķirstu arī dzelteno presi (labāk skan “prese”, vai ne? nevis aprunāšanas, tenku un sensāciju stāsti)

Otra problēma ir tāda, ka mēs neveltam pietiekamu laiku pārdomām. (Te ir tas astlēgas vārds – laiks! Varbūt informācijas uzņemšana man nemaksā naudu, bet laiku gan.) Atceros, kā mana mamma mēdza ēst ļoti lēni un visu kārtīgi sakošļāt. Viņa teica, ka tā ir veselīgāk. Mani tas tracināja, bet iekšēji ticēju, ka viņai ir taisnība. Turklāt ēst kopā ar draugiem vai ģimeni un darīt to nesteidzīgi ir pats par sevi viens liels ieguvums.

Manas smadzenes ir gan pamatīgi piebāztas, gan ierobežotas. Pat to labo informāciju, ko vēlos paturēt, pārdomāt un izmantot, grūti nepazaudēt. Varbūt te arī daļēji ir vainīga šī informācijas caureja? Un sliktais ieradums uzņemt par daudz, par ātru un par seklu.

Ir daudz citu blakusparādību. It sevišķi mūsu attiecībās ar apkārtējiem. Tāda sajūta, it kā neredzams spēks darbotos mums neredzamā veidā, bet ar lielu ietekmi. Viens piemērs –  pieaugošā polarizācijas problēma. Cilvēki arvien vairāk sašķeļas savos uzskatos (kas pats par sevi vēl nav problēma), un arvien mazāk spēj sarunāties un sadzīvot ar citādi domājošiem. Arvien sliktāk prot debatēt un nemāk klausīties. Mēs izmantojam Facebook un citus soctīklus, bet tie sāk domāt mūsu vietā. Caur saviem algoritmiem, utt. Tie izvēlas, kuri ir mani “labākie” draugi, kuras ziņas es “vēlos” lasīt, kādas reklāmas man “vajag”, utt. Tas “atvieglo” manu dzīvi, jo palīdz sazināties ar “līdzīgi domājošiem”.

Paldies par tām dažām minūtēm, ko veltīji lasīšanai. Varbūt vari veltīt vēl kādas, lai pārdomātu?

“Ich bin ein Berliner…”

There are words and there are famous words. Phrases that people quote. I don’t know how long we will remember these words “Ich bin ein Berliner” (I am a citizen of Berlin) by U.S. President John F Kennedy but to lots of people they still mean something. It came to my mind on a recent trip to Germany. I even got a fridge magnet as a reminder 🙂

Berlin is a city of symbols… Everywhere you turn there are historic markers and museums. City that has changed and transformed so many times but tries to remember and learn and teach something to the future generations. It was my first time to visit and I realized that two days is much too short to explore these symbols. But I had a good start.

Today I want to stop at the Checkpoint Charlie that used to be infamous border crossing between East and West Berlin. It is still there. Of course, a tourist attraction where you can take photos with guys in American uniforms (not real soldiers), buy Soviet era trinkets and gas masks but behind the kitsch there are some powerful symbols.

There is a big museum dedicated to the Wall and its history. What caught my attention was a huge flag on the side of the museum. It would be very hard to miss unless you were completely ignorant of these colours. Blue and yellow is the flag of Ukraine. The time, the location, the size – obviously it was there to communicate and to symbolize because this whole section of Berlin is highly symbolic.

It has a text in English and Russian and it is addressed to general public but also to one particular Russian. Someone who is very familiar with Berlin; someone who speaks fluent German; someone who used to serve as a Soviet KGB officer and was stationed in East Berlin. Someone who has, I am sure, been on this street many many times and has crossed Checkpoint Charlie many times.

When John F Kennedy visited West Berlin in 1963, he spoke there not so long after the Berlin Wall had been erected by East Germany to stop mass emigration to the West. Long before I was even born but somehow I can imagine what these words meant for the people who heard it. Words of encouragement that they are not alone in their difficult time. Surely the message was aimed at the Soviets as much as Berliners. To say that Berlin Wall is wrong; that dividing people is wrong; that using force to enforce Soviet ideas is wrong… and you can fill in anything else you would like to say about that.

So, this flag of Ukraine and the message on it is a strong symbol. It also has various aims. It aims to encourage the people of Ukraine that they are not alone in their difficult time. It aims to communicate something to the current leadership in Russia. And it speaks to us, passersby, if we are not too busy to lift our eyes.

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The Wall Museum in Berlin

Latvian:

Ir vienkārši vārdi, un ir vārdi, ko atceras un turpina atgādināt. Nezinu, cik ilgi mēs citēsim bijušo ASV prezidentu Džonu F. Kenediju, kurš teica slavenos vārdus “Es esmu berlīnietis…”, bet nesenajā braucienā uz Vāciju man tie atkal ienāca prātā. Man pat ir suvenīrs magnēts ar šo frāzi 🙂

Berlīne ir simbolu pilsēta… Kur vien griezies, nozīmīgas vietas, vēsturiskas zīmes un muzeji. Pilsēta, kura mainījusies, grimusi un atjaunojusies tik daudzas reizes, un cenšas neaizmirst, cenšas mācīties no pagātnes un kaut ko iemācīt nākamām paaudzēm. Berlīnē biju pirmo reizi, un, cerams, ne pēdējo. Ar divām dienām galīgi nepietiek, lai pētītu šos simbolus.

Šoreiz manas pārdomas par to, ko redzēju vietā, ko sauc par Robežpunktu Čārliju. Bēdīgi slavena bijusī robeža starp Austrumberlīni un Rietumberlīni. Postenis ir atstāts kā vēl viens nozīmīgs simbols. Protams, tūristiem patīk fotografēties ar ASV formās ģērbtiem džekiem (tie nav īstie karavīri), pirkt PSRS medaļas un Austrumvācijas suvenīrus un gāzmaskas, bet aiz visa šī kiča ir kāda svarīga vēsts, ko nedrīkst aizmirst.

Tur atrodas arī liels Berlīnes mūrim un tā vēsturei veltīts muzejs. Manu uzmanību piesaistīja milzīgs karogs uz muzeja ārsienas. Būtu grūti to neievērot, ja vien galīgi neko nezin par šīm karoga krāsām. Zils un dzeltens ir Ukrainas krāsas. Vieta, izmēri, konteksts – skaidrs, ka šis karogs kaut ko komunicē un kaut ko simbolizē, jo šis Berlīnes rajons ir viens liels simbols.

Uz karoga bija teksts gan angļu, gan krievu valodā. Domāts gan plašākai publikai, gan vienam konkrētam cilvēkam Krievijā. Cilvēkam, kurš ļoti labi pazīst Berlīni; kurš perfekti pārvalda vācu valodu; kurš dzīvoja un strādāja Austrumberlīnē kā padomju VDK aģents un spiegs. Kurš drošvien daudzreiz šķērsoja robežpunktu Čārlijs un staigāja pa šīm ielām.

Džons F. Kenedijs viesojās Rietumberlīnē 1963.gadā un teica savu slaveno runu neilgi pēc Berlīnes mūra uzcelšanas. Austrumvācija bija nolēmusi apstādināt cilvēku emigrāciju uz Rietumiem. Esmu dzimusi daudz vēlāk, taču varu saprast, ko šie Kenedija teiktie vārdi nozīmēja klausītājiem. Liels iedrošinājums grūtā laikā. Un vēsts bija domāta ne tikai berlīniešiem, bet arī Padomju varai. Lai pateiktu, ka Berlīnes mūris nedrīkst pastāvēt; ka sašķelt tautu un cilvēkus ir liels ļaunums; ka uzspiest padomju idejas ar varu ir galīgi garām… un tā tālāk.

Tāpēc šis Ukrainas karogs un uz tā rakstītā vēsts ir spēcīgs simbols patreizējā situācijā. Arī šai vēstij ir vairāki mērķi. Viens mērķis ir iedrošināt cilvēkus Ukrainā, ka viņi nav aizmirsti šajā Ukrainai grūtajā laikā, kad valstī ir karš. Otrs mērķis ir pateikt Krievijas vadītājiem to, ko domā lielākā daļa pasaules. Trešais mērķis ir uzrunāt mūs, garāmgājējus, lai ikdienas steigā paceļam acis uz augšu un nepaejam garām vienaldzīgi.

Growing up in the Kingdom of Crooked Mirrors

Often people ask me what was it like to grow up in Soviet Union? What kind of childhood I had and how did it compare to the way they imagined it. They want to know the story behind the story.

Winston Churchill coined the phrase “Iron Wall”. Of course, there was a literal wall in Berlin and largely our borders were impenetrable but mostly it was an invisible but powerful barrier of different kind. Not physical, but ideological one. Like looking at each other through the Looking Glass where the reality appears very different. If not the reality itself, then certainly the definition and meaning of things.

Even children’s stories revealed this. In the USSR, we often had our own versions of famous Western novels. I am sure that some critics would argue but to me one of those ‘revised copies’ was a Soviet fairy tale called “Kingdom of Crooked Mirrors” by Vitali Gubarev which was also made into a popular children’s movie. A Soviet answer to “Through the Looking-Glass” by Lewis Carroll

The plot of each story is different but the main idea remains the same – reality is distorted on the other side. In Lewis Carroll’s story, the main character Alice experienced weird and illogical and confusing things in the strange chess world of power inside the looking glass. But the heroes of the Soviet story, Olya and her mirror image Yalo, were not confused. They saw things clearly. They discovered a world of evil and exploitation and greed and they overcame all the challenges because they came from the “best country in the world” and they were brave little “pioneers”. (Pioneers – a communist youth organization in the USSR. We wore red scarfs which symbolized the Soviet flag)

The evil powers were three plotting characters who wanted to overthrow the king. Their names were spelled backwards (actually in the kingdom everyone’s name was spelled backwards) but they were Kite, Snake and Toad. I saw the movie many times and I quickly figured out that they must be the Western capitalists, imperialists and exploiters.

In the story, Olya and Yalo saved a boy named Friend. He was what you would call a political prisoner because he was imprisoned and sentenced to death for refusing to make the crooked mirrors. The mirrors are everywhere and they show you thin if you are fat, young if you are old, smart if you are stupid and so on. So, the whole kingdom is based on lies and people are turned into either hypocrites or slaves.

I loved the story and I enjoyed the movie. I wanted to be a brave little pioneer like these girls and I wanted to rid the world of all evil and greed and lies.

Then as I was getting older, I started to realize that our own country was full of crooked mirrors and people were making them (think media, education, official history, even literature and art) and people were made to accept the distorted ‘truth’. You did not dare to disagree and those who did… well, they were silenced, sidelined or exiled.

One day the Looking Glass came crashing down. The longer the distance of time the more I start to feel – did I live in a movie? Was it real?

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Photos from the movie “Kingdom of Crooked Mirrors” (USSR)

Our renewed attraction to “greatness”

One leader has promised to make “Russia Great Again”, one businessman has vowed to make “America Great Again” and others in Europe and elsewhere are declaring the same. Then there are those of us who have never been so “great” and just want to keep our countries the way they are. Or keep our countries… period.

These days we talk a lot about nationalism, populism and all kinds of other “-isms”. I am not an expert in anthropology, sociology or political science. I write this blog simply as a person who expresses my own views. This time I write as a citizen of European nation and also as a Christian who wants to engage other Christians in a deeper conversation and reflection about these issues.

Honestly, I think we will soon have to nominate Adolf Hitler as the Time Magazine ‘Person of the Year’. It does not matter if in Europe, America, Asia or Africa – someone gets compared to him. I think Hitler would be very proud that he has such a monopoly on the ugly side of nationalism (I say it sarcastically). Calling people the modern day version of ‘Hitler’ or using the words ‘Nazi’ and “fascist” has become the norm.

Sometimes it makes me want to explode. For two main reasons. Firstly, much of the time people don’t even know what they are talking about. Nationalism and racist ‘national socialism’ of Hitler’s Germany is not one and the same. And I don’t like when people get insulted and demonized. Also, you have to understand what ‘fascism’ is as a form of governance and ideology to use the term properly (I don’t even understand it fully).

Secondly, by putting all this emphasis on Hitler we avoid talking about many other historical figures or national and community leaders (including our own) who were excessively nationalistic. It is easy to point all our fingers at Hitler and scratch our heads trying to understand how could Germans follow him. I scratch my head and think how could any of us follow such leaders and such ideas.But we have and we do and we will if we are not careful and self-critical.

I agree with Rosemary Caudwell (UK), a lawyer specialising in EU law, including three years in the European Commission in Brussels, and her definition of unhealthy nationalism. “We live our lives in the context of a particular nation or region, and it is natural to have a sense of belonging to that nation, and a desire that it should flourish. When that attachment is linked with a sense of cultural superiority, with hostility to those outside the particular national group, whether they are minorities within the nation or neighbouring countries, or even a lack of solidarity or compassion, then it is excessive nationalism.”

Let’s highlight the words ‘cultural superiority’, ‘hostility’ and ‘lack of solidarity or compassion’. Most of us have an immediate negative reaction and if we believe in an absolute moral truth, we will agree that these ideas are simply wrong and bad. Still, if we are honest and humble enough, we will admit that often we live it out or are dangerously close to living them out.

Do you want to know what kind of “greatness” bothers me the most? The kind that says “Everything good comes from us and everything bad comes from them.” The kind that says “They will respect us again which means they will be afraid of us again.” The kind that says “We are more special than others. We have a special destiny.” The kind that says “If you don’t agree with us, you are against us.” The kind that says “We don’t care what others think about us. We don’t care if they don’t like us.”

As a Christian, I believe that anything that promotes a sense of superiority, hostility and lack of compassion or solidarity, is not “great”. It is the exact opposite!

There are never ending debates about how these kind of ideas become popular. Is it the leaders who influence the people and tell them what to think? Is it the people who influence the leaders and tell them what to say? Is it the media who get used and manipulated by one or the other or both? To me it is like debating which come first – the chicken or the egg.

I think that these ideas are always around. They are always hovering in the shadows. It is a part of our human brokenness and we are all prone to it. But they will not take root and bear any fruit if there is no fertile ground. These beliefs and attitudes are always looking for a fertile ground and people who will cultivate it.

We need to take a hard look at our communities and nations. Where is the fertile ground for this excessive kind of nationalism. Then ask the difficult questions – why is it so fertile? I hear many explanations – people are so angry; people feel so victimized and powerless; familiar life is changing too fast; this or that nation feels disrespected and humiliated; nations feel threatened… the list of reasons goes on.

I cannot help but think of the time in history when Jesus explained the principles of God’s Kingdom to people who had all these things. If anybody could feel angry, victimized, powerless, humiliated and threatened, it was the nation of Israel. And in the end Jesus was rejected by its leaders because he challenged their sense of “cultural superiority, hostility and lack of compassion.

The book of John records this revealing conversation. “What are we accomplishing?” the religious and civil leaders asked. “Here is this man performing many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.” So, they decided that Jesus was the biggest threat to their national security and also his way was not the way to restoring their “greatness” or the “greatness” of their nation.

So, what are we trying to accomplish? I hope that we don’t become fertile ground for idolatrous ideas which God so strongly opposes. I hope that we want our nations to be more humble and self-critical, more friendly and more compassionate. I hope that we want our communities and nations to flourish but never at the expense of someone else.

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Discussing these questions with a group of students from Myanmar

Viens vadonis sola, ka padarīs Krieviju “atkal varenu”. Viens biznesmenis sola, ka padarīs Ameriku “atkal varenu”. Politiķi un vadītāji Eiropā un cituviet dod līdzīgus solījumus saviem vēlētājiem. Kaut kur pa vidu ir pārējie, kas nekad nav bijuši “vareni”, un grib vienkārši savas valstis tādas, kādas tās ir. Vai arī vienkārši grib savas valstis.

Šodien mēs daudz diskutējam par tādām tēmām kā nacionālisms, populisms un visādi citi “-ismi”. Neesmu eksperte ne antropoloģijā, ne socioloģijā, ne politikas zinātnē. Blogā paužu savas personīgās domas un uzskatus, un šajā reizē rakstu kā vienas Eiropas valsts pilsone, un kā kristiete, kura grib iesaistīt šajā diskusijā un pārdomās arī citus kristiešus Latvijā un ārpus tās.

Teikšu godīgi. Man liekas, ka drīz būs jāpiešķir žurnāla “Time” Gada Cilvēka nosaukums Ādolfam Hitleram. Kur vien griezies, kāds tiek ar viņu salīdzināts gan Eiropā, gan Amerikā, gan Āzijā, gan Āfrikā. Pats Hitlers drošvien ļoti lepotos, ka viņam tāds monopols uz nacionālisma ļaunāko izpausmi (atvainojos par sarkasmu). Kur tik netiek atrasti mūsdienu “Hitleri”, un apzīmēti “nacisti” vai “fašisti”.

Reizēm liekas, es tūlīt zaudēšu savaldību. Divu iemeslu dēļ. Pirmkārt, vairākumā gadījumu cilvēki nesaprot, ko paši runā. Nacionālisms un ‘nacionālais sociālisms’, ko praktizēja Vācija Hitlera vadībā, nav viens un tas pats. Turklāt man nepatīk, ka cilvēki tiek tādā veidā demonizēti. (Neciešu karikatūras ar ūsiņām.) Manuprāt, daudziem nav arī zināšanu un izpratnes, kāda ideoloģija un valsts pārvaldes forma ir ‘fašisms’ (es pati to izprotu diezgan pavirši).

Otrkārt, veltot visu uzmanību Hitleram, mēs izvairāmies no sarunām un pārdomām par daudziem citiem tautu vadītājiem, varoņiem, politiķiem, kustību vadītājiem (arī savējiem), kuri praktizēja pārmērīgu nacionālismu un rasismu. Ir viegli norādīt uz Hitleru kā kaut kādu etalonu, un tad mēģināt saprast, kā izglītotie un civilizētie un kristietībā sakņotie vācieši varēja viņam sekot. Taču es mēģinu saprast, kā jebkurš no mums spēj sekot šādiem vadoņiem un šādām idejām. Bet mēs esam sekojuši, un sekojam, un sekosim, ja nebūsim paškritiski.

Es gribu citēt Rozmariju Kadvelu no Lielbritānijas, ES likumdošanas eksperti ar pieredzi darbā Eiropas Komisijā Briselē. Man patīk viņas definīcija nacionālisma negatīvajām izpausmēm. “Mēs visi dzīvojam kādas konkrētas nācijas vai reģiona kontekstā, un tas ir dabiski, ka jūtamies piederīgi savai nācijai, un vēlamies, lai tā plauktu. Taču, ja šī piederība tiek saistīta ar sajūtu, ka tava kultūra ir pārāka, ar naidīgumu pret tiem, kas nepieder tavai nācijai, vienalga vai tās ir mazākumtautības valsts iekšienē vai kaimiņvalstis, vai arī trūkst solidaritātes un līdzcietības, tad ir izveidojies pārlieku liels nacionālisms.”

Iezīmēšu vārdus “kultūras pārākuma sajūta… naidīgums… līdzcietības trūkums.” Lielākajai daļai ir skaidrs, ka tās ir negatīvas lietas. Turklāt, ja mēs ticam absolūtai morāles patiesībai, tad šīs attieksmes un izpausmes ir vienkārši sliktas. Diemžēl mums jābūt godīgiem un atklātiem un jāatzīst, ka pārāk bieži dzīvojam ar šādu attieksmi, vai arī esam tai bīstami tuvu.

Ziniet, kāda “varenība” man nav pieņemama? Tāda, kas saka “Viss labais nāk no mums, un viss sliktais nāk no viņiem.” Tāda, kas saka “Viņi mūs atkal cienīs, jo atkal no mums baidīsies.” Tāda, kas saka “Mēs esam īpaši. Mums ir savs īpašais liktenis.” Tāda, kas saka “Ja tu mums nepiekrīti, tu esi nostājies pret mums.” Tāda, kas saka “Mums vienalga, ko citi par mums domā.”

Mans kristietes uzskats ir, ka jebkura ideja, kas veicina sava pārākuma sajūtu, naidīgumu un līdzcietības trūkumu, nav “varena”. Tieši pretēji!

Nebeidzas debates par iemesliem, kāpēc šīs idejas kļūst atkal populāras. Vai vainīgi ir vadītāji un politiķi, kuri ietekmē tautu, un saka, kas tai jādomā? Vai vainīga ir tauta, kas ietekmē vadītājus un saka, kas tiem jārunā? Vai vainīgi ir masu mediji, kas cenšas izpatikt gan vieniem, gan otriem? Man tas atgādina prātošanu par to, kas radās pirmais – vista vai ola.

Manuprāt, šīs idejas vienmēr pastāv. Tās var paiet malā, bet kaut kur ēnā un tumsā lidināsies. Tā ir cilvēces salauztības sastāvdaļa, un mums visiem var būt uz to nosliece. Bet šīs negatīvās nacionālisma idejas neiesakņosies un nenesīs augļus, ja nebūs auglīgas augsnes. Šādi uzskati vienmēr meklēs auglīgu zemi, un cilvēkus, kuri to kultivēs.

Mums jābūt ļoti paškritiskiem. Kur ir auglīgā augsne šīm idejām manā tautā, manā valstī? Un jāuzdod vēl viens svarīgs jautājums – kāpēc šī augsne ir auglīga? Kāpēc cilvēku sirdis un prāti to visu tik labprāt pieņem? Ir daudz un dažādi skaidrojumi. Cilvēki ir novesti dusmu stāvoklī; cilvēki jūtas kā bezspēcīgi upuri; viss ierastais un pazīstamais tik strauji mainās; tautām liekas, ka citas tautas tās neciena un pazemo; tautām ir bail… tie ir tikai daži no iemesliem.

Man prātā nāk Jēzus dzīves laiks un viņa laikabiedri. Jēzus skaidroja Dieva Valstības principus cilvēkiem, kuriem bija visi no šiem iemesliem. Ja kāds varēja teikt, ka jūtas dusmīgs, bezspēcīgs, pazemots, apdraudēts, tad tā bija Izraēla tauta. Taču tautas vadītāji noraidīja un ienīda Jēzu, jo viņš izaicināja viņu “pārākuma sajūtu, naidīgumu un līdzcietības trūkumu.”

Jāņa grāmatā ir pierakstīta vienreizēja saruna. “Ko mēs ar to visu panāksim?”, sprieda tautas vadītāji. “Šis cilvēks rāda tik daudz zīmes. Ja mēs ļausim viņam tā turpināt, tad visi sāks viņam ticēt, un tad nāks romieši un atņems gan mūsu templi, gan mūsu nāciju.” Tā viņi nolēma, ka Jēzus ir vislielākais drauds nācijas drošībai, un viņa piedāvātais ceļš galīgi neatbilst viņu priekšstatiem par “varenību”.

Ko mēs ar to visu panāksim? Es ceru, ka mēs nekļūsim par auglīgu augsni idejām, kas Dievam nav pieņemamas. Idejas, kas nāciju vai ko citu dara par elku. Es ceru, ka mūsu tautas kļūs arvien pazemīgākas un paškritiskākas, arvien draudzīgākas un arvien līdzcietīgākas. Es ceru, ka mūsu saviedrība plauks un zels, bet nekad uz kāda cita rēķina.

 

Sons and daughters… kings and queens of love

It was a hot and humid evening in Kuala Lumpur. Our friend Darren is a good driver and I am glad because the traffic here gets bad. I don’t mind sitting in a passenger seat though when it gives more time for good conversations. And in Malaysia there is lots to talk about. People, the city, music, art, faith, history, current affairs… Darren is a good source for all these topics.

We were driving to a show featuring local bands. Seriously, there is so much musical talent in Malaysia! And the venue was really cool. “Merdekarya” is a combination of words for ‘independence’ and ‘art’. It prides itself for being a place of free expression and creativity and providing platform and support for local poetry, music and storytelling…

One advertisement that stuck in my head from years of watching CNN International news is “Malaysia Truly Asia”. It emphasized the natural beauty and the cultural, ethnic and racial diversity and it had a very catchy tune. I guess this ad worked… at least for me. No doubt it is one of the most diverse places and also this tropical land is one of 17 Megadiverse countries on earth, estimated to have 20% of the world’s animal species.  Most of the country is covered by tropical rain forests.

Malay, Chinese, Indigenous, Indian. I am glad that for my friends, English is a common language. Otherwise I would be lost. Still, I do get lost when they switch to Manglish, a mix of English, Malay, Hokkien, Mandarin, Cantonese, Tamil… wow , they can talk fast! It is like listening on “fast forward”.

Our friend Darren used to teach English to foreign students in Kuala Lumpur. It gave him another deeper insight into cross-cultural living. Especially interesting for me were his observations about young people from the former Soviet republics like Russia, Tajikistan, etc. Most come from wealthy families and many are not as interested in their studies as they are interested in having a good time. Also, Darren had become aware of different prejudices and conflicts between these groups. For example, the prejudice toward people from Central Asian countries. For those of us who grew up in the USSR, all the derogatory terms are so familiar. And here they made it all the way to Malaysia.

I am aware that even in such a beautiful country like Malaysia not everything is ‘paradise’ and the rich cultural social tapestry has its reverse side. The advertisement of Malaysia Truly Asia leaves out these kind of things. There is a history of tensions and from time to time it comes to violence, aimed at ethnic or religious communities. I am no expert on Malaysian history or all the current causes for these fractures, but I do know that there are fault-lines in all our societies.

At the show I was listening to an amazing young band from the south of Malaysia, accordingly named “South and The Lowlands”. Music is a very powerful tool in peace building and reconciliation.  One of their songs “Sculptures” (lyrics by Daniel T.) has a beautiful message and a story to tell that is very relevant to all our lives…

“Many faces and places… Many hopes and dreams shattered                                                              Many hurts and bruises… Many roads and paths taken

Different colours, covered by the same blood… Different shades, but after one heart

Sons and daughters… Kings and queens of love                                                                                      More than sculptures… Crafted by God

Shine bright tonight… One heart… One soul… One mind ”

Malaysia has words, songs and stories to tell the world. I am blessed by friends like Darren and Daniel  and others who are passionate about challenging our prejudices. They use their talents while inspired by faith in God who rains Love, Truth and Forgiveness on everyone – good and bad.

DSCN3126

A must-visit venue in Kuala Lumpur

Latviski:

Kualalumpūrā ir karsts un sutīgs vakars. Mūsu draugs Darens ir labs šoferis, un es to novērtēju, jo te mēdz būt pamatīgi satiksmes sastrēgumi. Turklāt man nav iebildumu būt pasažierim, ja ir daudz laika labām sarunām. Malaizijā ir ko pārrunāt – cilvēki, pilsēta, mūzika, māksla, reliģija, vēsture, jaunākie notikumi… Darens labprāt runā par visām šīm tēmām.

Mēs braucam uz koncertu, kur muzicēs vietējās jaunās grupas. Goda vārds, te ir tik daudz labas mūzikas! Un pats mūzikas klubs ir superīgs. “Merdekarya” ir vārdu salikums, kas malaju valodā nozīmē ‘neatkarība’ un ‘māksla’. Ar to arī šis klubs lepojas, ka veicina un atbalsta neatkarīgo mākslu un vietējos dzejniekus, mūziķus un rakstniekus.

Tā kā daudzus gadus skatos CNN starptautiskās ziņas, tad galvā iesēdies viens reklāmas rullītis. “Malaizija Patiesa Āzija”. Tur tika reklamēts dabas skaistums, un lielā kultūras, etnisko grupu un rasu dažādība. Turklāt šai reklāmai bija ļoti lipīga melodija. Tātad šī kampaņa nostrādāja. Vismaz manā gadījumā. Nav šaubu, ka te ir šī liela dažādība. Turklāt Malaizija ir viena no 17 valstīm pasaulē, kuras tiek uzskatītas par supervalstīm dabas daudzveidības jomā. Te ir apmēram 20% no pasaules dzīvnieku sugām. Lielāko daļu valsts sedz tropu meži.

Malaji, ķīnieši, aborigēni, indieši… Es priecājos, ka mūsu draugi savā starpā sarunājas angļu valodā, savādāk es apjuktu. Es jau tā apjūku vai arī atslēdzos no sarunas, kad viņi pāriet uz vietējo angļu sarunvalodu (Manglish), kur sajaucas angļu, malaju, mandarīnu, tamilu, hokienu un citas valodas. Turklāt viņi runā tādā ātrumā! Liekas, ka kāds būtu ieslēdzis pogu “paātrināt”.

Mūsu draugs Darens agrāk mācīja angļu valodu ārvalstu studentiem, kuri mācās Kualalumpūrā. Viņš daudz ko uzzināja un iepazina dažādas kultūras. Konkrēti mani interesēja stāsti par studentiem no bijušajām PSRS valstīm, piemēram, Krievijas, Tadžikistānas un citām. Lielākā daļa ir bagātu ģimeņu atvases, kuriem gribas ne tik daudz studēt, kā labi pavadīt laiku. Zīmīgi, ka Darens ātri uzķēra dažādos aizspriedumus šo studentu starpā. Piemēram, attieksmi pret tautībām no Centrālās Āzijas. Mums, uzaugušajiem PSRS, šīs iesaukas un citi apzīmējumi ir labi pazīstami, bet tagad tie atceļojuši līdz Malaizijai. Darens man ļoti precīzi izskaidroja, kas ir ‘čurkas’.

Taču es zinu, ka arī skaistajā Malaizijā nav “paradīze”, un krāsainajam sabiedrības tepiķim ir otra neglītā puse. Protams, ka reklāmas rullītis to nerādīs. Arī šeit ir vēsture ar konfliktiem starp rasēm un tautībām un dažādas reliģiskas neiecietības izpausmes, kas reizēm pārvēršas vardarbībā. Skaidrs, ka šīs plaisas ir visur pasaulē.

Koncertā klausījos vienu jaunu un ļoti talantīgu rokgrupu no Malaizijas dienvidiem, kuru attiecīgi sauc “Dienvidi un zemienes” (South and The Lowlands). Mūzika vienmēr ir bijis spēcīgs intruments, ko izmantot miera celšanai. Viena no grupas dziesmām “Skulptūras” pildīja tieši šādu uzdevumu caur savu skaisto vēstījumu…

“Daudzas sejas un vietas… Daudzas cerības un sapņi

Daudzas sāpes un brūces… Daudzi ceļi un gaitas

Daudzas krāsas, ko apklāj vienas asinis… Daudzi toņi, bet viena sirds

Dēli un meitas… Mīlestības valdnieki un valdnieces

Vairāk kā skulptūras… Dieva radītas

Lai deg spoži… Viena sirds… Viena dvēsele… Viens nodoms”

Malaizija dod vārdus, dziesmas un stāstus visai pasaulei. Paldies Dievam par tādiem draugiem kā Darens and Daniēls un citi, kuri cīnās ar mūsu aizspriedumiem. Viņu instruments ir mūzika un māksla, un viņu motivācija ir ticība Dievam, kurš izlej savu Mīlestību, Patiesību un Žēlastību pār mums visiem – labiem un sliktiem.

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t talk in maybe’s… Sing it like it should be

There is this one guy I would like to meet. He is very tall, very skinny, very bald and very cool. Well, he is kind of intimidating, too, but in a good way. His name is Peter Garrett and he is an Aussie.

He also happens to be the lead singer of my favorite Australian rock band. No, not AC/DC or Jet… I am talking about Midnight Oil. My teenage music library and first introduction to MTV would not have been the same without this passionate and intense band and the beautiful but deep songs with a strong anti-nuke, anti-corporate and pro-environment message.

It was a very catchy song and easy to sing along. “How can we dance when our earth is turning? How can we sleep while our beds are burning?… The time has come to say fair’s fair… To pay the rent, to pay our share” I was trying to understand whose beds are burning? what’s not fair? Then I found out that Midnight Oil were active supporters of the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and protection of the environment.

Years later I saw Midnight Oil perform this song “Beds Are Burning” at the Sydney Olympic Games and they were wearing suits with the word “SORRY” in front of 2.5 billion worldwide audience. It was a strong and bold message to a new generation. I felt challenged, inspired and convicted and I’m not even Australian. This is the power of art and music and lyrics that speak of our human brokenness and search for hope.

This is what I meant by him being intimidating in a good way. To make more sense of Peter Garrett, it is good to remember that he describes himself “a sporadic, occasional, very ecumenical, spiritual sojourner” who is committed to Christian social justice. He said that his Christian faith is his personal moral compass. Besides being a successful musician, he is also a former politician who served as Australian MP and member of the Cabinet.

One interviewer asked him, “How do you as someone with such a big profile, fame and commercial success, answer the call of humility as Christians are called to do?” Peter’s answer, “I have been around long enough to know that it is not about me. I have always believed in working with others to get things done. I have been fortunate to experience that in my time with Midnight Oil and working with my colleagues as conservation activist. To me public politics is public service. It may sound naive but I have always seen myself as someone who has chosen public service in whatever shape or form it comes.”

January 26 is Australia Day and I have very fun memories celebrating it together with friends in Perth, Western Australia. It is truly a beautiful land with breathtaking landscapes and great beaches. I have never seen sky so blue… I have also never met people who are more laid back than Aussies. No worries, mate!

So, maybe one day I will get to meet Peter Garrett and tell him in person how much I appreciate people like him. The ones who work for the healing of a nation… as in the song “One country”

Who’d like to change the world?
Who wants to shoot the curl?
Who wants to work for bread?
Who wants to get ahead?
Who hands out equal rights?
Who starts and ends that fight?
And not rant and rave,
or end up a slave.

Don’t call me baby,
Don’t talk in maybe’s,
Don’t talk like has-beens,
Sing it like it should be.

one vision, one people, one landmass
be our defenses
we have a lifeline

one ocean, one policy, see bad light,
one passion, one movement, one instant, one difference,
one life time and one understanding.

Transgression, redemption
one island blue, our place (magic),
one firmament, one element,
one moment, one fusion,
is so on time.

MidnightOilGarrett

Photos from the Internet

Latviski:

Ir viens džeks, kuru es vēlētos satikt. Viņš ir ļoti garš, ļoti kalsns, ļoti plikpaurains un ļoti foršs. Un man no viņa ir mazliet bail, bet labā nozīmē. Viņu sauc Pīters Garets, un viņš ir austrālis.

Turklāt viņš ir manas mīļākās Austrālijas rokgrupas solists. Nē, nevis AC/DC vai Jet… man patīk Midnight Oil. Mana pusaudzes gadu mūzikas izlase un pirmā iepazīšanās ar MTV nebūtu bijusi tik iespaidīga bez šīs dedzīgās grupas un viņu skaistajām, vienlaikus dziļajām dziesmām ar spēcīgu vēstījumu – pret atomieročiem, korupciju, ekonomisko nevienlīdzību un par dabas aizsardzību.

Viena lipīga dziesma, kurai viegli varēju dziedāt līdzi… “kā mēs varam dejot, kamēr pasaule griežas? kā mēs varam gulēt, kamēr mūsu gultas deg? Ir pienācis laiks teikt, kas ir taisnīgs… Laiks maksāt īri, maksāt savu daļu” Es gribēju saprast, par kādām gultām ir runa? Kas nav taisnīgs? Tad uzzināju, ka Midnight Oil aktīvi iestājas par Austrālijas pamatiedzīvotāju – aborigēnu – tiesībām, un arī daudz darbojas dabas aizsardzības jomā.

Pēc vairākiem gadiem es un vēl kādi 2,5 miljardi cilvēku redzējām Midnight Oil dziedam šo pašu dziesmu “Beds Are Burning” Sidnejas Olimpisko Spēļu ceremonijā. Viņiem bija tērpi ar uzrakstu “SORRY” kā atvainošanās, kā lūgums pēc piedošanas. Tā bija spēcīga un drosmīga vēsts jaunai paaudzei. Tas izaicināja, iedvesmoja un pārliecināja, kaut es neesmu austrāliete. Tāds spēks piemīt mākslai, mūzikai un dzejai, kas runā par mūsu cilvēces salauztību un cerības meklējumiem.

Tāpēc šis cilvēks mani baida… labā nozīmē. Lai labāk izprastu Pīteru Garetu, ir vērts atcerēties, ka viņš pats sevi sauc par “izkaisītu, dažreizēju, bet garīgu ceļotāju”, kura vērtību pamatā ir kristīga izpratne par sociālo taisnīgumu. Savu kristieša ticību viņš sauc par personīgo morāles kompasu. Būdams ne tikai populārs un veiksmīgs mūziķis, bet arī bijušais politiķis gan Austrālijas parlamentā, gan kā ministrs valdībā.

Kāds žurnālists jautāja, “Kā tu savieno savu atpazīstamību, slavu un komerciālos panākumus, ar Kristus aicinājumu būt pazemīgam?” Pītera atbilde, “Es jau ilgi ar to visu nodarbojos un zinu, ka lieta negrozās ap mani. Vienmēr esmu ticējis, ka tikai strādājot kopā var kaut ko panākt. Man ir paveicies gan ar Midnight Oil, gan ar kolēģiem dabas aizsardzības organizācijās. Būt politiski aktīvam man nozīmē kalpošanu sabiedrībai. Varbūt tas izklausās naivi, bet es vienmēr esmu uztvēris sevi kā tādu, kurš ir izvēlējies kalpot sabiedrībai vienalga kādā formā vai veidā.”

Katru gadu 26. janvārī ir Austrālijas Diena. Man ir foršas atmiņas no šo svētku svinēšanas kopā ar draugiem Pērtā, Rietumaustrālijā. Tā tiešām ir skaista zeme ar elpu aizraujošiem skatiem un vienreizējām pludmalēm. Nekur citur neesmu redzējusi tik zilas debesis… Nekur citur neesmu satikusi tik atbrīvotus un nesteidzīgus cilvēkus. No worries, mate! (Nav par ko, draudziņ!)

Varbūt kādu dienu satikšu Pīteru Garetu un varēšu pateikt viņam, cik ļoti cienu tādus cilvēkus. Tos, kuri cenšas palīdzēt dziedināt savas tautas pagātni… kā grupas dziesmā “Viena valsts

Kurš grib izmainīt pasauli?
Kurš grib braukt uz viļņa?
Kurš grib pelnīt maizi?
Kurš grib izrauties?
Kurš grib vienādas tiesības?
Kurš pabeidz iesākto cīņu?
Nevis trako un ārdās, vai vergo
Nesauc mani par mazo
Nerunā varbūtībās
Nerunā par izbijušo
Dziedi par to, kā jābūt
Viens redzējums, vieni ļaudis, viena zeme
Tā mūsu aizsardzība,
Kas ļaus mums dzīvot
Pārkāpums, izpirkums
Viena zila sala, viena pasakaina vieta
Viens avots, viens elements
Viens brīdis, viens savienojums
Tieši šim laikam