The young and the old

A lot of things have changed since dawn first rose to greet humanity; once, we divided ourselves into tribes and settlements. Eventually, being creatures prone to the irresistible whims of pride and ambition, we pushed ourselves further and further until we built the world we live in today. Despite this timeline of constant change (fuelled by humanity’s general hunger for knowledge), there is one common thread that manages to establish the recurring nature of one, fundamental human conundrum – the eternal, undying struggle between the older generation’s need for tradition, familiarity and power and the younger generation’s craving for recognition, change and innovation.

For untold millennia, this conflict of interests has essentially been the compass which dictated the definitive direction of society’s evolutionary process. Without the fresh input of the young, society would decay and eventually crumble – similarly, without the guidance and experience of our elders, we would lack the stage upon which we would build our future. Therefore, this train of thought raises the question that has vexed countless minds of both the past and the present; who’s to blame for the inter-generational problems we just can’t seem to solve?

I will not be presumptuous enough to say that this is an answer to that question – I am merely just another human being, and this is only my opinion. From my perspective, the biggest problem we have is the way we have distorted our list of priorities. Money has become the absolute symbol of one’s importance, and a lack of it entails a very difficult life. As a result of this, both generations are wrapped up in an unending, king-of-the-hill style war whose casualties are our values, love, communication and understanding, and peace. Instead of focusing on our future as a singular, collective population of human beings, we have self-segregated in factions and groups, desperately trying to put as much distance as possible between ourselves and any possible competition for the spoils of our planet.

If you would like additional evidence that underlines what I’m saying here, simply look at the way we handle crises and any problems that concern our society’s wellbeing. Homelessness? Some cold, calculating bastard came up with the idea of anti-homeless spikes in public spaces. Several highly dubious terrorist acts, including 9/11 and anything that came after it? Let’s bomb the living daylights out of pre-selected, Middle Eastern countries and further fuel the cycle of devastation, anger, bigotry and hatred.

Our leaders and so-called “representatives” have convincingly pulled the wool in front of our eyes, and they are fully in control of what we see, what we read, what we learn, what we eat and anything else in between. We wordlessly and obediently regurgitate the opinions of “experts” and “delegates”, fully believing that what they decide and what they want aligns with what we need. Instead of answers and transparency, we get refusals for comment and shadiness. It is for this reason that I believe that myself and anyone else who was born in my generation needs to stand up for what is right, and not blindly follow in everyone else’s footsteps. Whoever is in power always wants it to stay that way, and therefore it’s up to us to divert our terrible, downward spiral into a luxurious paradise for the rich and a hell-hole for the poor.

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The Bigger They Are, The More They Bleed – China’s Economic Meltdown

According to various reports by alternative, non-corporate owned media and leading senior economists across the globe, it is very possible that soon China’s economy “could be heading towards the biggest financial disaster since the 1929 Wall Street crash”. Shares on China’s stock markets plummeted by 30% in less than a month, and more than $3.2 trillion has been lost in around 3 weeks. If one were to illustrate just how bad this is, the amount of money lost in China’s stock markets is 10 times the size of the entire Greek economy.

According to Andrew Kenningham, a Senior Global Economist at Capital Economics (one of the leading, independent economy research companies in the world – based in London), this sudden financial meltdown was mostly caused by a huge bubble in the market in the middle of last year – in layman’s terms, the Chinese government was encouraging people to buy up (in this case, one too many) stocks in order to flex its economical and political muscle against competitor economies. To elaborate on this analogy, China ‘flexed its muscle’ too much and basically tore it and caused it to bleed internally.

Mr Kenningham also went further, stating that “every individual investor has to take responsibility for their own actions and a lot of people perhaps got their fingers burnt who would have otherwise been wiser to not get involved”. In the interest of credibility in this article, let us also mention that Al-Jazeera English (the station on which Mr Kenningham was speaking about China’s economy  – link here) is not the only news station to mention China’s weakening economy. According to Times of Malta, “China grew at its slowest pace in six years at the start of 2015 and weakness in key sectors suggested the world’s second-largest economy was still losing momentum, intensifying Beijing’s struggle to find the right policy mix to shore up activity.”

To the Maltese people reading this article and wondering why they should care about this, please – allow me to explain. Right now, our country is cutting all sorts of deals with the Chinese; MOUs (Memorandum of Understanding) on intellectual property, a possible partnership between Air Malta and the Chinese government and not to mention the situation concerning Shanghai Electric and our terribly mismanaged energy sector. Most of us believe that the hundreds of millions of Euros that China is pumping into our country are all unquestionably brilliant investments brought to us by our infallible government, but in reality it’s closer to a naïve bunch of amateurs selling off bits and pieces of the country to the professionals in the hopes of joining “the big leagues” of the global economy.

By no means do I consider myself an expert on economics (at most I went to a couple of lectures at University when I felt like it but that’s about it), but it is quite clear that our government’s taking a very big risk by doing business with an unstable, emerging superpower with a household debt of $28 trillion (282% of China’s GDP). After all, China’s history of being against political freedom, censorship of information, harsh taxes on the poor as well as their atrocious human rights record (violations include detentions without trials, forced abortions and confessions and torture) do not bode well. If all that has been said in this article has not somehow set off a few alarm bells in your brain, I don’t know what will.

How The Industrial Military Complex Runs The World

Ever since the concept of human society was established thousands of years ago, we have conquered, subdued and murdered each other to the point that we’ve lost count of how many conflicts have gone down and how many lives have been lost. One would think that, after all the millennia of strife and atrocities, we would have eventually reached a compromise with each other which suits everyone; after all, isn’t the settlement of the issue at hand the main justification for war?

However, one of humanity’s greatest downfalls is our insatiable craving for power, authority and validation. It is because of this hunger that the people in power want it to stay that way, and it is for the same reason that men lose their minds when they are left in a position of influence for too long. It is because of these men that wars will never really stop; wars are very profitable, and money is the sceptre that entrances the rest of society into blindly chasing after it until the last crumble.

For example, both the US and the UK currently have military presence in Syria and Iraq (warzones which have been destabilised mostly by the United States’ constant interference with the Middle East) in order to ‘attack’ the terrorist threat which is ISIS (which of course was originally funded by a coalition between wealthy investors with the goal of destabilising Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime). Yet, at the same time, both the US and the UK are very strong players in the gun business (references here and here) – so, really, how can we believe that politicians have our interests at heart when their campaigns and political parties are funded by the very same people who make billions in arms sales?

Slowly but surely, corrupt policymakers have shaped society into being a paranoid, frightened and disillusioned mass of people who call for war and retribution as soon as the media feed them enough disturbing images of home-grown terrorism. Every day the list of our rights grows shorter and shorter in the name of security, and we ignore secrecy and austerity because we are so convinced that our political leaders know best. John F. Kennedy, who was commonly referred to as ‘the last, true American President’, put it perfectly in a speech to the American Newspapers Publishers Association on the 27th of April, 1961:

“The very word secrecy is repugnant in a free and open society. And we are, as a people, inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, secret oaths and to secret proceedings. We decided long ago that the dangers of pertinent facts far outweighed the dangers which are cited to justify it.

 Even today, there is little value in opposing the threat of a closed society by imitating its arbitrary restrictions. Even today, there is little value in insuring the survival of our nation if our traditions do not survive with it. And there is very grave danger that an announced need for increased security will be seized upon by those anxious to expand its meaning to the very limits of official censorship and concealment.

That I do not intend to permit to the extent that is in my control. We are opposed around the world by a monolithic and ruthless conspiracy that relies primarily on covert means for expanding the sphere of influence – infiltration instead of invasion, on subversion instead of elections, on intimidation instead of free choice, on guerrillas by night instead of armies by day.

It is a system which has conscripted vast human and material resources into the building of a tightly-knit, highly efficient machine that combines military, diplomatic, intelligence, economic, scientific and political operations. Its preparations are concealed, not published. Its mistakes are buried, not headlined. Its dissenters are silenced, not praised. No expenditure is questioned, no rumour is printed, no secret is revealed.”

Over half a century later, the world around us has morphed into a decadent paradise for the wealthy and the influential whilst the rest of us fight and murder each other over the scraps which are left. It is for this very reason that the biggest revolution in our history needs to happen now, and it needs to be a revolution of peace. If we all simply stopped for a few minutes and thought about it, we would realise that deep down we are all human – we all form part of different societal groups which we want to defend from everyone else, whether on an individual basis, as a faction fighting in a conflict, as a minority protesting for its rights and anything else in between.

Is it really worth it to fight each other over petty issues and insignificant differences between ourselves when something far more sinister is being planned for us all? Ask yourself this question and think about it thoroughly, and the next time you see someone attacking someone else, arm them with this knowledge so that they may point their anger at the ones making money off humanity’s greatest guilty pleasure; hatred. Humanity is all of us, not just a select few; we all deserve to be equal and free.

Why MORE than 3,000 people need to attend the next protest

To those that are not familiar with the current situation in the Maltese Islands, allow me to briefly explain what’s going on; a national protest was held yesterday in front of the Parliament Building in Valletta, where over 3,000 people attended what was considered the biggest environmental rally in the country’s history. People from all walks of life gathered together to protest the rampant over-development of what are known as ODZ (Outside Development Zone) lands and the general countryside. The demonstration was triggered specifically by the government’s proposal to use Żonqor point in Marsascala (over 90,000 sq. M. of ODZ and agricultural land) as the site for the development of a University and the establishment of Front Ħarsien ODZ, the organisation which masterminded the protest.

What’s absolutely unacceptable and unabashedly shady about the development is that, at the time of the writing of this article, the Prime Minister Dr Joseph Muscat has not yet published the agreement made with Sadeen Investments Ltd, the company behind the proposal. Several Labour MPs have declined to answer questions in relation to the development; in fact, the government in general has maintained a stoic approach of giving the issue as little coverage as possible as well as doing its utmost to smear the image of the countryside in question and labelling it as a wasteland rather than the beautiful stretch of fields and greenery it actually is.

The protest was, therefore, a success – a small step in the right direction. However, we must not stop now and think we have thwarted the government’s efforts to turn our country into the next Dubai or Singapore (these were the Prime Minister’s words, not mine). Our country is not characterised by slabs of concrete and man-made structures, nor is it a haven for the affluent; Malta’s best parts are the ones we are ruthlessly bulldozing to build accommodations for the wealthy. The serene countryside, the richness of our history, the beauty of the unpolluted beaches and the clean, fresh air of the natural environment are the country’s biggest attractions. Most of the tourists that come to Malta come here to relax and unwind from the fast-paced lifestyles of bigger, built-up cities, thus making the systemic destruction of the environment at the hands of relentless developers and money-hungry politicians both irresponsible and short-sighted.

It is for these reasons that we must do anything we need to do in order to stop our countryside from being pillaged any further. 3,000 people is not a number that should be ignored, yet Dr Joseph Muscat, in his typical irritating and passive style, still had the stones to say that “we are not an arrogant government but we have to ensure that the economy continues to grow so we will take the necessary decisions… I believe there are common sense compromise solutions which this government is working upon.” It does not take a genius to construe that what he meant by that is that the protest has been acknowledged, but we will still make sure that money keeps flowing into the country’s coffers, even if it means screwing the environment anyway. More people need to snap out of the red vs. blue mentality that has made the country a free gravy train for those in bed with the ruling party and one, giant slab of concrete for the rest. More people need to add their voice to the resistance, or what makes our country beautiful and unique will keep on being chipped away until there’s nothing else left.

Politics 101: The Concept of Divide and Conquer

We’ve all heard the incessant arguments that make the majority of people avoid the topic of politics with a desperate sigh and an attempt to change the subject to something completely different; it’s always one party against the other, or one party ruling in favour of a particular policy (e.g.: Obamacare) and the other one ruling against it, or perhaps a referendum that divides a nation into two different camps whilst drawing the public’s attention away from other issues – it’s always the same concept.

Through state-owned media and national broadcasting services, it is presented to us as democracy at work, the ‘system’ presenting us with choices. Hope and a false feeling of power being given freely to the people is instilled, and a contained illusion of freedom is sparked in our minds. Yet, it is truly through this that we are most vulnerable; the easiest way to manipulate a human being is when they feel secure and in power and in complete control. But, if you think about it seriously and thoroughly, you will eventually at some point realise something’s really wrong with this situation, and it will be stuck in your head like a splinter in your finger.

If you haven’t drawn your own conclusion yet, allow me to nudge you in the right direction – it is the concept of ‘Divide and Conquer’ at work. The definition for the concept according to Wikipedia goes as follows: “In politics and sociology, divide and rule (or divide and conquer) is gaining and maintaining power by breaking up larger concentrations of power into pieces that individually have less power than the one implementing the strategy. The concept refers to a strategy that breaks up existing power structures and prevents smaller power groups from linking up.” What you might be asking yourself now is this: “What does this have to do with democracy and the examples mentioned earlier?”

The answer to that question lies in whether one manages to assimilate the concept’s definition into how modern society’s power mechanisms work. Whenever there is a big issue, the public is immediately divided; ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ camps, ‘Conservative’ or ‘Liberal’, ‘Labour’ or ‘Nationalist’ (the two main political parties in Malta, the country I was born in) etc… The reason for this is because it establishes a defined, easy-to-target enemy that always manages to be the clear, definite ‘bad guy’. This divides us into factions, and conveniently satisfies our need to blame other people for what’s wrong in the world whilst being thoroughly convinced we are ‘on the right side of history’.

More importantly, what this whole notion does best is make us forget who the real antagonist is. It makes us forget that the real enemy isn’t the group of people on the other side of an issue, but it’s the people in power who do everything they can to abuse it, further the expanse of the gap between the rich and the poor and then get away with doing all that and getting filthily rich in the process. The real criminals and extremists aren’t the ones they tell you are; it’s the ones doing the telling that need to pay for their crimes.

The Islamic State: All You Need to Know

Who are ISIS?

Known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and now simply as the Islamic State (IS), IS is a radical Islamist caliphate (a single, theocratic government declared to be a ‘worldwide caliphate’ by the leader of the organisation, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi) that controls a large swathe of land ranging from Aleppo (Eastern Syria)  to Diyala (Northern Iraq).

A map that illustrates ISIS territory (grey area). Image courtesy of Wikimedia

What is their mission?

The Islamic State employs a doctrine of total war without limits or constraints. They believe that there is no such thing as arbitration or settling disputes, and do not pay mind to using theology to justify their actions. In fact, IS stresses violence over anything else as a solution to dealing with society outside of their caliphate; in short, the Islamic State is a killing machine powered by blood and iron rather than anything else. As a result of this, mainstream Muslim groups have condemned IS and refuse to acknowledge their claims; the only reason why social decay has not stopped IS and they manage to keep on growing despite their hollow ideological stance is because so far they have promised a Muslim utopia to their disillusioned men and have delivered it by winning.

IS is a powerful, wealthy terrorist organisation. How did it get started and where does all their money come from?

The Islamic State owes its origins mostly to its parent organisation, al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), and under the leadership of the self-declared caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, it has achieved an alarmingly sophisticated network. Funding originated mostly from wealthy private donors in the Middle East that were keen to oust Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad. Now, IS funds itself and its terrorist activities mainly through the following sources of income:

  • Oil fields in Syria and Iraq – it is estimated that IS makes between €743,780 and €1,446,500 a day via the smuggling of crude oil and refined products to Turkey and Iran and selling to the Syrian government.
  • Kidnapping – according to the US Treasury, IS has made over $20 million from ransoms alone.
  • Extortion – IS makes several million dollars a month through the extortion of the 8,000,000+ populace under its full / partial control.
  • Taxation – religious minorities have been forced to pay a special tax, convert to Islam or leave.
  • Bank-robbing, looting, selling antiquities and theft / control of livestock and crops.
  • Human trafficking – it is common practice within IS to sell abducted girls / women as sex slaves.

How many deaths is the Islamic State responsible for?

Syria – as surprising as this maybe, the Islamic State’s kill count in Syria is dwarfed by the atrocities committed in the Syrian Civil War which has left more than 200,000 dead. However, lower fatalities do not equate to a lesser degree of brutality, as IS militants are estimated to have executed over 1500+ Syrians between June and November of 2014 alone (according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights).

Iraq – A UN Report stated that 24,000+ Iraqi citizens were injured or killed by direct military action by the Islamic State in the first 8 months of 2014.

It is important to note that the numbers are likely to be much larger for several reasons, mainly because i) in a civil war, practically every vying faction is guilty of innocent bloodshed, ii) the number of casualties is often biased and iii) the number of civilians who have died from secondary effects of violence (lack of access to food, water, medicine and basic necessities) cannot be estimated in an environment as turbulent as this one.

How does IS operate so efficiently and how has it expanded so fast? And, more importantly, can they be stopped?

Upon taking control of a town, IS secure the main vital establishments (sites where resources such as water, flour and oil are kept), centralise distribution of said establishments and then they proceed to make the locals dependent on them for survival. IS is therefore self-financing and cannot be isolated and cut off from the world because it digs its roots far too deep in the regions it controls. The Islamic State’s aptitude for psychological warfare has been unmatched by other terrorist organisations operating in the area, and their brutality and savagery are their most widely-used tools in this aspect. However, as has been previously pointed out in this article, the Islamic State has no true ideology and no true belief system, and beliefs crumble unless fed by constant, rewarding success. In fact, their lightning-fast advancement has been stalled by constant bombing raids and their military capabilities and human resources have been diminished significantly. Whether the Islamic State can be truly eradicated, however, remains to be seen.