Rape-Can justice ever be served?

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I read this article recently and it shook me. Not because I’m a feminist, not because rape is something rare but because of the injustice in this story. Firstly, the violence the victim experienced should raise a red flag: socially, personally, morally. How anyone could display such bestiality on someone else, a complete stranger to them, is a testament to what Hannah Arendt rightly called the ‘banality of evil’. So, in case you were wondering here is what a rapist looks like:

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Not your typical rapist? Not mine either. Perhaps we should we reconsider the typical guy to be, more often than not, capable of becoming the typical rapist…

Above is Brock Allen Turner, 20, who was found guilty of raping an unconscious woman on Stanford university’s campus. If this is not the ultimate testament to the banality of evil, I don’t know what is. This guy had it all set out; young, handsome, obviously rich, a swimmer on the college team. Where does the need to rape an unconscious woman he did not know violently, stem from? Additionally, how can you go to court, looking at the woman who you raped like a brute, and speaking about she supposedly said ‘yes, yes, yes’ when raped her behind a trash can causing tears to her body? This is not someone doing wrong, this is a coward. Nobody wants to go to prison, the issue is, some people, like rapists, like this guy, should not have the choice of whether they feel like going or not.

The victim was found with debris on her body, tangled jewelry, half-naked and with wounds on her vagina and breasts. I’m not saying this woman is perfectly or totally virtuous, that’s not the point, I’m just not sure Turner would appreciate it if someone did the same to his daughter. Moreover, even when the whole jury announced they believed him to be guilty, as well as there being his DNA all over the victim’s body and medical evidence to support both a case of rape and abuse, the judge gave this rapist half a year in prison. What he did could be punished by as much as 14 years, but fearing the ‘severe impact’ on him, of a sentence any longer then 6 months, the judge made the aforementioned decision. The victim’s account raises an important point, what about the impact on her? I’m not sure ruining a life should be worth 6 months in prison, and perhaps this is the saddest aspect of this very tragic case. Maybe the freedom to choose allows us to choose evil and perhaps this is the only way in which we can truly, choose to be good. However, the fact that we have a legal system that serves this sort of justice and fails to condemn this blatant evil is very problematic.

Finally, I will highlight a part of the victim’s text that I found particularly thought-provoking:’Sometimes I think, if I hadn’t gone, then this never would’ve happened. But then I realized, it would have happened, just to somebody else’…

I encourage you to read the rest of her story on the link below. There is nothing I can to to bring justice to this woman or the millions of other rape victims in the world but I hope that through this gesture I have given her story some of the justice it was denied.

https://www.buzzfeed.com/katiejmbaker/heres-the-powerful-letter-the-stanford-victim-read-to-her-ra?utm_term=.rllb3q8W3#.bq91R8GmR

 

Letting yourself down

Some days life feels more strenuous than the rest-much more in fact. Whether it’s exams in school or at work, personal obstacles or a mix of many such factors I do feel that sometimes it can seem too much. Yet it shouldn’t.

I’ve been thinking about making yourself proud and making others proud lately. It’s something you always hear from a very young age-to do your best, to do what will make you proud, to fight. As I grow older, I have more and more doubts about all this gladiator imagery and whether we have explained it to ourselves and our kids in most appropriate manner. Fighting for something you believe in, is admittedly, extremely rewarding-especially if you make it. However, the semantic filed of war is making those that miss the target appear, and sometimes even feel like the losers.

 

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I’m not saying the importance is all in the journey, it is the result that most people take to matter, and in most areas of life it is numbers that matter. You are your grade or you end result to a lot of the people that judge your fate. Nevertheless, the most important thing in life remains to seek happiness. Of course we all want the best for ourselves but if this means denying ourselves the basics then perhaps ‘success’ comes at too high a cost. Being a fighter is great, as long as you do it on your own terms and fight remains your own.

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People can do all they want to stop you but don’t let them. Shit happens, tomorrow, is another day.

The Great Gatsby-A Great

THE GREAT GATSBY

I just wanted to share some thoughts on why Gatsby is my favourite character in the whole of English literature.

Who is the linen clothed gentleman in whose mansion New York’s elite turns wild in endless nights of luxury and desire, entangled in his boundless, mysterious charm? Combining honour and disgrace, naïve romanticism and something brutally carnal, he encompasses human nature like a mirror: we may not like the picture, however, the clarity of the glass cannot seize to amaze us. Serving as an allegorical representation of the evil, corruption and fragility combined in every being, this idol tickles our senses leaving us both speechless and inspired. The truly Great Gatsby, is a fabulous fable, a tragic and hopeful fairy-tale, a fantasy capable of restoring faith in human dignity that it would be unjust to reduce to human form. Such a legend needs no introduction; he intoxicates all with the unmistakable aroma of a man who has penetrated into the realm of the extraordinary.
Fitzgerald’s protagonist is the ultimate embodiment of the American dream. Rising from being an unknown James Gatz in North Dakota with no prospects of escaping his social fate, he completely reinvents himself. At his endlessly bountiful summer feasts “oboes and trombones and saxophones and viols and cornets and piccolos” were heard, his “bar in full swing” with “floating rounds of cocktails”. The “air alive with chatter and laughter”, as a swarm of guests enjoyed “glistening hors-d’oeuvres, spiced baked hams” and “salads of harlequin designs”. The reader is mesmerised by the myriad of colours, sights, smells that surround Gatsby and his ferocious eagerness to live beyond even the overindulgence of this very exciting era. His heart may manifest itself in peculiar, avant-garde, shameless ways but no one can deny him the satisfaction of having built his destiny from scratch because of it. After all, what is a man, if he does not want to be better himself, to become his own finest version?
“Fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth” wrote Albert Camus. Gatsby’s lie, his myth, is simultaneously fascinating and brutally honest. What truth of the absurdity of materialism and human behaviour are we not provocatively sold by Jay Gatsby? In post-world war I America, the economic boom and unprecedented prosperity lead young people such as Fitzgerald himself to behave wildly and attend parties such as those thrown by Gatsby. Simultaneously, the country underwent a social revolution from its youth’s rejection of strict Victorian ideals. Living in “the city” of dreams, Gatsby experiences his fictive romance, as if it were completely and utterly real. Yet another angle to him emerges, that of an idealistic and generous, self-made man who also retains a teenage sense of hope, a weakness for the accomplishment of an improbable desire. Fitzgerald places his protagonist solely in the boundary of the real, the very real, which he never escapes nor accepts.
Moreover, Gatsby’s love for Daisy makes the reader question his moral integrity allowing his enigmatic allure to spring to spectacular heights. Are the snob and greed in her “impersonal eyes in the absence of all desire”, that Gatsby so dearly loves to the point of “trembling”, just a reflection of his own? Inspired by the author’s girlfriend while at Princeton, wealthy debutante Geneva King, she is relatable and so is his disappointment with her personal and social rejection. In the author’s case, this took the form of King’s parents writing to him that “poor boys don’t think of marrying rich girls”, which allows the reader to appreciate the era in which the Great Gatsby lived and his subsequent gallantry. The source of his wealth may be bootlegging moonshine but we should merely marvel at Gatsby’s ambition and not frown upon the manner in which he fulfilled it. Charles Bukowski’s “Find what you love and let it kill you” springs to the mind of modern readers, who can but regard Gatsby’s life from this light: a hero who lets go of all security to immerse into the reality of true, unrefined love. Not only is this unique but it is also fundamentally human, in such a genuine way that it acts like a slap to the insensitivity of the crowds that get lost in the vastness of urban life.
To understand the opulence of Gatsby’s character we must enquire not in the love he has for Daisy but in the reason behind it. “No amount of fire or freshness can challenge what a man will store up in his ghostly heart”, especially in the case of this epitome of chivalry and loneliness. She is too inadequate of appreciating Gatsby’s steadfast morality, which he ultimately loses by continuing to adore her. When finally meeting with Gatsby, an event he planned his entire existence for, she is most impressed by the material excellence of his “beautiful shirts” and “sobbed, her voice muffled in the thick folds”. She cares only for the luxurious fabric of his clothes and this seems to be the only thing about Gatsby capable of moving her. A tragic paradox indeed, as it is Gatsby’s unrestrained generosity that is “beautiful” and not his lifeless, material possessions. Even to a heartless woman like Daisy, Gatsby is a source of moral enlightenment and even his shirts inspire an undeniable greatness.
Significantly, Gatsby’s life makes the reader question to the extent to which his murder is justified. In his crippling ending, “the holocaust was complete” and the tragic fate of a life bursting with possibility and aspiration, sealed. Gatsby believed in “the green light, the orgiastic future”, the American dream or some other futile hope that motivated him to live beyond all rules. After Gatsby, nobody can, nobody will. Thus, Gatsby is an anti-hero of naturalism, a protagonist faced with the violence of a force greater than himself, namely poverty and social status. His life and death are in every aspect unreasonable, illegitimate, illegal. It is as much random as it is gorgeous. The author himself recalls in 1938 “that was always my experience-a poor boy in a rich town” and his perplexity is conveyed in Gatsby’s blurry consciousness. He can be understood in a plethora of ways, with something poetically ambiguous constantly surrounding him.
In William Shakespeare’s words: “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players”. We have limited time to show or invent our desired identity. We can choose, to watch life fly past us like Caraway; wait for it to happen to us like Daisy or, we can be decide that no matter what, we will leave our very own, personal stigma on this harsh and unfeeling world that rejects us, like the upper classes have Gatsby. What makes Gatsby so profoundly great is his lavishness, his munificence, his liberality of manner. He consciously refuses to simply go through life, instead, he seizes every moment, grabs it by the horns. He may be just a stereotypical man with a need to dominate and a thirst for power beyond morality. She may be just a little brat who gives him nothing while dragging him by the nose. Regardless, his tale is that of a legend because he lives everything to the very fullest, on the most ferocious edge that life has to offer.
In conclusion, Gatsby, the Great Gatsby, does it all with such a splendour, magnificence, greatness with something of an artistically obscure and irresistible charm. The absurdity and futility of life vanish and we become floating clouds of hope in an imagery universe, as he invites us to join in living a life without any moral, physical or economic restriction. In fact, Gatsby’s complete desertion, in his last and sombre feast where the ecstatic voices transgress into missing people and the sound of jazz reduced to a solemn knell, a deathly silence, is not the most impressive or shocking notion in the novel. His love for Daisy and its persistence throughout his life, is in fact, most depressing. Gatsby does not die a hero of the American dream, a man appeased from a real or even one-sided love, a social revolutionary, savagely unjustified in his death. He does in fact seem to die the very death he wanted, in his desperate belief that he could become glorified by the soulless source of his great affection. All the more tragic is that he dies for a woman he spent his whole life forcing himself to love, in his abortive attempt for happiness. He dies a truly tragic hero whose tragic flaw is a conflict of identity, a hubris, in which his restlessness could not find peace.
My favourite hero is a poor man in a rich man’s house, a man whose wealth clashed with the social class that he was born into, in, according to society’s standards, an unforgivable way. Wow! What a shooting star, what a fluke, what a man…

Paul Eluard

Je t’aime

Je t’aime pour toutes les femmes que je n’ai pas connues
Je t’aime pour tous les temps où je n’ai pas vécu
Pour l’odeur du grand large et l’odeur du pain chaud
Pour la neige qui fond pour les premières fleurs
Pour les animaux purs que l’homme n’effraie pas
Je t’aime pour aimer
Je t’aime pour toutes les femmes que je n’aime pas

Qui me reflète sinon toi-même je me vois si peu
Sans toi je ne vois rien qu’une étendue déserte
Entre autrefois et aujourd’hui
Il y a eu toutes ces morts que j’ai franchies sur de la paille
Je n’ai pas pu percer le mur de mon miroir
Il m’a fallu apprendre mot par mot la vie
Comme on oublie

Je t’aime pour ta sagesse qui n’est pas la mienne
Pour la santé
Je t’aime contre tout ce qui n’est qu’illusion
Pour ce coeur immortel que je ne détiens pas
Tu crois être le doute et tu n’es que raison
Tu es le grand soleil qui me monte à la tête
Quand je suis sûr de moi.

Paul Eluard

How to raise your kids

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What a question! One certainly considered by a large chunk of the population. In answering this question we must answer the fundamental question which lies in the how we wish to live our own lives. It is here that the real Gretchenfrage (the question painfully hitting at the core of a key moral issue) makes itself important. To answer this question we must firstly ask what we want the goal of our lives to be. Why must ask, why, do we live our lives in the first place, and for what purpose?

Looking at successful athletes we may marvel at their achievements and exceptional athletic ability. But most of us yearn for something, something missing from our lives which they have. Examples such Kobe and Joe Bryant, Lebron James and Lebron James Jr., Borris and Jenia Grebennikov go to show how what most consider a successful life is a pre-designed one. The same trend is apparent with politicians such as the Clintons, the Bush family, the Kennedys, the Roosevelts, the Le Pen family, the Papandreou family, the Karamanlis family and the list goes on. The same can be observed in the film industry with Clint Eastwood’s son, Dakota Johnson, Madonna’s daughter, Will Smith’s son. In the arts, you have Mary Shelley, Monet, Picasso, Gaugin…

Wherever you look you can find someone’s version of success. In whichever field, you can find all the shades of success and failure, whose existence is totally dependent on individual interpretation. It would be not be candid to say that I have never wanted to be like all of these people and haven’t wished the same for my children. I would largely agree with arguments such as those put forth in Geoffrey Colvin’s Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else. I am a true believer in the nurture argument, which in the nature nurture debate, argues that one’s live can be shaped by one’s decisions and actions, including motivation and determination. Evidently, there are factors that are difficult to control such as our background, ethnicity, physical traits etc. If we take the hypothetical scenario that it is possible to get very, very good at whatever you wish, to become excellent, I would argue that this has very, very little to do with whether you become successful at it.

‘Be so good they can’t ignore you’ is what some think to motivate themselves, but trust me, they can, ignore you. Success is a truly complex goal to accomplish and a product of a long and intricate set of events. Let’s take the scenario that you are an average person, average height, weight, looks. You become fully committed to the decision that you want to play for your national team in a sport you love, but which your family has no ties with. You try your very best, train everyday, watch videos, you sacrifice. You then  convince your parents to take you to a tryout. You’re good, very good in fact, but you can see now that being at the top does not only depend on how good you are. There about 100 other players, at least, if not more, playing your position on a national level in your country. There are three or four lined up before you in the national team. Does standing with your flag before games make you feel the same? Does your national anthem bring the same chill? How much do you still look up to them?

You think about it and ask yourself-How likely are you to make it? And if you don’t, whose to blame?

We like to see success in the movies, the big houses, the beautiful women, the gold watches of the powerful men, the big businesses. How many people have tried to become the first people in their family to study, or how many kids have failed to make the leap from a normal family to the ultra-elitist Russel and even more so, Ivy League colleges? The movie Babysitter’s Black Book was thought-provoking for me on this ground, as it depicts a real story. There are many points of discussion in this film but Ashley’s willpower to move from a family of financial difficulty to an elite college is most notable (in real life the young woman wanted to attend Stanford). The underdog in this very real presentation of reality loses completely, she ends up humiliated and goes what she despised her whole life: community college. Being an underdog does not usually hold the glory of the movies, it is a long struggle which can end in total defeat.

So what do you do? Do you decide what you want your child to become and define their happiness based on your own? This is likely to make them very successful and possibly wealthy and popular. Or, do you let them make their own choices? This may in theory be regarded as more ethical, but is it really? John Lennon has made an infamous point about life being all about happiness and perhaps this is the end of goal of the desire for success, which, in the absence of this framework of well-being would be rather obscene. Bear in mind that in this case what is ethical is not necessarily what is pleasant. You could let your child decide and fail and you could not allow them to choose and succeed on your basis. Or, do you let them believe a nice story about the world until the hit the wall of reality like in The Truman Show? Do you decide in the time and moment because life is all a Truman Show and you but a Mersault, living in an absurd world like that in the The Stranger, immersed against your will in a Kafkaesque universe?

All in all, it is your choice to raise your children by your religious, cultural, moral and personal beliefs. There is no single correct answer as to how and the question involves issues at the core of your parenting and own ethics, as well as what you view as being of ultimate importance in life. Economically speaking, since it is the science of decision-making, one idea is the resolve information failure and give your children as much information about the world around them, understanding that choice is as unavoidable as the emergence of a wish or desire. It is up to each one of us to think and decide this for ourselves, but I will allow myself to say that it is a weighty decision, one that is certainly not lacking in depth.

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Why I love Tennessee Williams

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What is there not to love about this playwright? From the first words of a ‘A Steetcar Named Desire’ I could tell that there was a distinct literary elegance to this work. Later, I understood that this brutal attribution of poetic justice, this vulgar yet sensitive exploration of human sexuality, his open fascination with life’s futility which he explores through the loss of innocence,  a gut-wrecking lack of love and an incurable mental illness. He hits at the core of our inherent need for survival and our socially constructed desire for an orderly life.

In his mangus opus, ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ he fully exposes the collapse of a withered belle, Blanche DuBois that finds herself half-mad, with a faded beauty and an overwhelming sense of hope, that is a blatant refusal to accept the dismal reality of her life. Stanley Kowalski is her polar opposite, a man of sexual desire and  a singularly truthful understanding of the world. The electrifying sexual tension between them is formidable and exhibited wonderfully both in the text and the infamous 1951 version.

There are endless unresolved sources of tension in this play, whose resolution only leads to more misery. There is a sexual desire hanging intensely in the air, as is the notion of death, loneliness, the sudden and shocking loss of innocence, the knowledge of unaccomplished dreams. The reader and audience hope that resolving these issues will allow for some happiness and mental tranquility, of which there is minimal in the play. The constant false expectations of Blanche and her misinterpretation of reality provide a moving dramatic irony, whereby Williams distributes poetic justice not in the favour of his tragic anti-hero heroine and protagonist, and places all the odds against her, lending her a timeless sense of hopelessness.

Although Williams’ characters are overly poetic constructs and in every aspect dramatic, they are totally relatable to all; for their honest portrayal of the pointless aspects of life and man’s inability to fight the devastating effects of time and the need for individual survival, which renders human communication both utterly meaningless and completely necessary.

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Brussels terrorist attacks

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Wow! How can I exclaim my disappointment at this utter and repugnant monstrosity? It is incredibly how we humans blend the line between the human and the monstrous…

It is almost impossible to say something about the tragedy in the heat of the moment without being inadequate. I do not want to explain why what happened happened,  I am sure we will all be watching hours of newscasts explaining it all in detail, including a video from some ‘fighter’ about their cause. The best thing I can say is that I am sorry, sorry for those who died for nothing and for those that kill for nothing.

I can say what I know. What I know is that I have Muslim friends and we disagree on certain issue, joke about others. We do, however, understand that nothing which so fundamentally threatens the mutual respect that lies at the core of our values should be called religion. I do not have a problem with Muslim people. I do not have a problem with the Koran. I have a problem with people who purposefully misinterpret religious text and indoctrinate powerless group in a blatant example of power abuse. Killing and raping has never been about religion: it has always been about power.

True power is inspiring people and not forcing them and believing that this involves anything other than desperation. I will end with two quotes, because I do not think any knows at this time what we should say. I offer my sincere condolences and believe in the freedom of worship of any God, but not of any dictator or political agenda. What I refuse to support is ultimately blaming God for our own selfishness, true power can also mean admittance…

-‘The world is changed by your example, not by your opinion.’ (Paulo Coelho)

-‘Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.’ (Martin Luther King, Jr.)

In the light of this comment, I think time has come for our politicians to assume their fatal responsibility in taking clearly inadequate political action to resolve military conflict, which is now being used as an excuse for an ideology tearing the world apart.

Finally, I can only hope that taking action will start becoming a need rather than a forgotten promise.