Work, Life and Chance – Backgammon: The Game of Princes

Iran, Esfahan (Isfahan) – Ali Qapu Palace

“Your life’s whatever you make of it.” That’s a popular phrase meant to bolster confidence – or even motivate employees… Well, there’s more to life than meets the eye at a glance. Anyone who’s gone through life longer than just a couple of decades has come to realize what Baz Luhrman so aptly said:
“Your choices are half chance. So are everybody else’s.”

Many smart comedians, philosophers and coaches will tell you that. It is actually a wise person who realizes it – it has been known for centuries if not thousands of years among people, mankind even.

There was a ‘modern’ urge when the civil society began to form that found one outlet in the possibility to emigrate to the USA, then dominions still. With a huge country apparently all there just to find your luck without any shackles or strings attached, the credo was: “Your life’s whatever you make of it.”

Was it, really?

Even the first settlers faced grave challenges, partly from indigenous peoples who wouldn’t all easily accept that land-taking by strangers. Bluntly put.

Additionally, so few conditions known, many pioneers just died from starvation due to completely different climate and soil conditions.

Yet, marketing and people who wanted to sell this idea and self-promoting methods as new ways to happiness and self-made wealth just persisted publishing self-help guides.

The idea of course is appealing. But in the long run it will lead to anger and frustration, because it leaves out all those chances life presents us all with: Recently we were all witnesses to it again on a huge scale, a pandemic, with millions of deaths.

We were lucky too, in many ways, in many parts of the world. But the long and the short of it is this:

Life is full of chances and conditions and surroundings that will make it easy or difficult to reach goals you wished to attain.

Sometimes, just knowing there is a philosophy behind it, summarized like this, can help:

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can,
and wisdom to know the difference.”

Here is a fine short documentary on the game of Backgammon and its vital difference to chess: Chess is like war. But Backgammon is like life: And it is thousands of years old. It was even used to teach princes at the ancient courts of Persian kings to be sophisticated and wise leaders of their governments.

We cannot control everything in life. A lot depends on luck and surroundings. But we can always try to do our best in any given situation.

It’s a German language version with English subtitles:

Talks and Decisions – Let Them Hear Our Voices

image showing swarm of birds at sea shore
Seagulls’ calls are impressive – Image courtesy unsplash.com – free license

Politics are no games; they are power plays and diplomatic arenas as well as sometimes ‘hunting’ grounds. If as voting individuals in a democracy we want to stay that, namely have a choice to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to some party’s politics – we need to stay put:

Bother the wrong choices – each and every day. Raise our voices additionally to voting, to stop them, whoever they are: In Brazil (Bolsonaro, recently lost 🙂 ) the US (the last but one president till 2021 and his followers) or Italy (sadly extreme right won this time; but Italy may change their government again soon) in China, Russia or the Ukraine, or any other place:
There are always those that hunger for more, more wealth, more power, more attention. And never have enough. And those that don’t.

Let reason and free thinking prevail – by keeping to be bothersome.

The voice of reason is the voice that can be heard in the United Nations’ Human Rights Declaration – and all who make it their task to remind those other ‘hungry’ ones of those rights.

Each day and any day: Let’s keep bothersome! Push them into the right direction by letting them hear our voices.

Peace and Conflict Studies – How to Avoid or Minimize Conflicts…

Image courtesy pixabay.com – Free license

Peace and conflict studies have been a part of social science since the 19th century, started apparently in Sweden and were furthered by the US civil war of the 1860s. The basics say that there are patterns to conflicts, the larger as well as the smaller ones.

One thing I learned early in life: Conflict usually starts somewhere and somehow – and if you are not careful, it can escalate and before you know it, things become unmanageable or even unbearable.

My father was what these days is called a ‘coach’. As academic, scholar and a degree in law as well as strong background in psychology he was well known in a large international company: He sometimes told details and explained to us as kids how easily people in offices can get into almost insolvable hassles like Gordian knots that he used to solve with his colleagues, in some cases after years of silence between members of a team.

In private life I observed and suffered from rifts. So, if anyone, I am one who knows. I have read a lot and one thing I’ve learned by studying and my own experience:

Few things in this life are really so big that they deserve angry arguments, conflicts or actual rifts.

Very often it is not so much about the conflict or argument as such – but the consequences. Pride, one of the hardest, immovable and ‘stubborn’ reasons for sometimes dreadful fallings-out, is only one aspect.

That is why I think it is well worth my and other people’s while to think twice before starting – a conflict.

 

The Language of War – Ukraine – Talking Peace

Image of two hands shaking in front of a world map

Talk peace! Now!

You, me, we: if we don’t do something against it – we are just as responsible as the perpetrators themselves. Peace is the order of the day – any day!

Remember: Behind all those diplomatic corps, ‘suits’ and all those wars are just people – each with their helpings of fear, vanity and pride.

War follows patterns: in its creation, starting points – and ends. The patterns of human behaviour can be found when looking at history. The war in the Ukraine and the aggression seen these days on all sides are not new – and they did not start yesterday – or the day before that.

Propaganda is the way in which people talk about something – or somebody. The principle, any time, being:
“It’s their fault. We are nice, we didn’t do a thing. If they do it that way, we’ll hit back.”

If we use the language of war, we should not be surprised to get an answer.

Stopping negotiations is just one of those steps known throughout history as being part of a war.

If we want peace, we have to talk peace – and negotiate. Negotiate again. And again. And again. And again. Until a satisfactory result is reached for all concerned.

The 17th century saw one of the most cruel wars in human history: The Thirty Years’ War. It took 5 years of negotiations to end it. The population throughout Europe was reduced to a 3rd of its previous number; whole regions where laid to waste. Hunger, starvation and sickness were present everywhere.

That one was a war of ‘conventional’ weapons. The next war we may not live through, any of us.

Talk peace! Now!

War, Power, Power Plays – Power Balance – The Cruelty of Politics

game of chess with fire in background
Image courtesy pixabay.com – Free license

Politics is about tactics too, the official definition in the Oxford dictionary states, as one meaning:
The activities of governments concerning the political relations between states.
Politics can be wise and be based on sound values – or they are cruel and serve a few with no values at all, except their bank account(s).

Others use politics as a means to heal wounds of vanity, retrieved some time during their lifetime. Like, dreadful example, though one of many, really, Adolf Hitler, ‘Reichskanzler’ (Chancellor of the 3rd Reich) during the Nazi dictatorship in Germany.

Famously applied at the Vienna Academy of Arts and rejected he spent the rest of his life redeeming a fragile self-confidence or rather image.

To this day dictators often are about this more than anything else: Many take the wealth in the wake of power as a means to an end – and bathe in any kind of public recognition and the approval of one part (usually the rich and extremely rich) of the respective society.

These patterns are recurring, and usually do so cruelly – as per latest example, in regard to Putin in his way to power – and the Ukraine.

The Ukraine is part of the power plays between nations and actually the former Soviet Union and its remnants – as well as a personality the likes of Putin who took over this vast country of Russia bit by bit in more than two decades.

His own motives may be hidden in biographical privacy yet – but they seem rather apparent when watching recordings of his public and private appearances: Extreme understatement standing out as the apparently simple guy, the almost nice, familiar neighbour who wears his business suit anywhere, even in parades among numerous highly decorated militia…

Yet, when seen driving big motor-cars and enjoying the fact that he is a ‘force to be reckoned with’, the purported modesty and neighbourly demeanour are revealed as so much window dressing.

In the long run educating people to the values that have proven to be vital to any civil, democratic society, namely the Human Rights Declaration, are the only real weapon we have against such populism and cruel repression.

In the short run, being aware of the balance of power and respect it early on might be the safe route around war.

“How Much Land Does a Man Need?” – Leo Tolstoy, War and Greed

photo of a mountain landscape in Russia
The Russian Steppe – Free License – Courtesy pixabay.com

War is not really about heroes in most cases: It is about people who die, cities that are destroyed and living conditions made unbearable.

War is also about greed.

Leo Tolstoy, one of the great Russians and a giant of literature for so many fine reasons I would not count them all, captured this concept in a compelling story:

How Much Land Does a Man Need?

If you never came across it yet, you may think that even by its title you would know anyway… ‘Try it out.’

The end may be easily predicted – but the whole ‘run’ of it is masterfully done and never misses a step…

The Russian Bear – War: ‘Strength’ or Weakness?

drawing of a schematic bear on green background

Russia and Ukraine – hopes have been shattered today. War has been started. I still believe that negotiation is the only long-term solution to keep the peace.

At the same time to understand motives can help. Looking at it from here in the middle of Europe the actual situation President Putin finds himself in is indeed that of a trapped bear in many ways:

  • He started his own journey down the road of dictatorship a long time ago: The first change of laws to enable his repeated candidacy and elections for him as president was the first sign that power indeed corrupts.
  • Internal affairs are at an all time low: More and more opposition has to be met with more and more arrests and violence, even political murder, also going on for some time now. A political leader who feels strong enough would not use such measures, indeed would not need them.
    • ‘Bullies’ always were like that – and will stay that way if we let them be: They feel weak and in consequence they do everything to appear strong – or what they take for strength.
  • The situation as regards NATO from a Russian point of view is less straightforward:
    The balance of power between the ‘superpowers’ always was a rather pointed one – not to say fragile –  since WW II and stayed that way after the Cold War had ended. As long as the  more verbal than actually written agreements on the limits of NATO expansion were observed there was some manner of peace.

Imagine yourself living in your house or flat attending to your own business – and suddenly a tall apparently friendly guy knocks at your door and when you open – you see him standing there with a ‘big ol’ smile’ on his face – carrying a machine gun…
Wouldn’t you become nervous, in spite of appearances?
I get the impression that for some time now Russia may have felt like that person in the flat, seeing all those friendly people – with weapons … right in front of their place…

„War and Peace“? – War is the Ultimate Failure of Diplomacy

image of map of Russia, Europe Ukraine marked
Image courtesy OpenStreetMap, France

Ukraine, Russia and the US, Europe in between – it is not really new – it is once again the fight for power and money. Gas, weapons and influence on the continent are among the most prominent features of this conflict.
The global balance of power too is at stake, to some extent. Or so it appears.

But:
War is no option. It is no solution. War is driving a knife into the ‚Gordian‘ knot that others have tied – sometimes it‘s not even really ‚Gordian‘, just made to appear that way.

War is the ultimate failure of diplomacy.

War sometimes is just a means to hide even uglier goings-on.

Sometimes it is used as a means to make more money by selling weapons to both parties.

Sometimes it may even be a means to reinstate apparently lost pride. Which is perhaps the most pitiful of all reasons for war imaginable. In my opinion that reason would be sign of a severely disturbed mind.

History is full of examples for that too: Russian opposition in any shape or form is handled so cruelly and severely, not even murder being excepted in subduing any other than the official opinion; it‘s sad, tragic and dreadful all at the same time. Putin for quite some time now has become another sorry excuse for a man.

I consider myself extremely lucky to have been born and raised in peaceful and democratic surroundings, living in such a country where I can write what I think without having to be afraid.

That the expansion of NATO is viewed with vary eyes from all – others – concerned is only natural. Having Russian influence in Cuba for decades is one of the other variants of these opposing forces.

I could go on writing and perhaps not end till after another thousands of pages, because the principles involved are very very familiar.

Lets learn! Let‘s learn again and make peace. Not war!

Which means:
Learn and start realizing if not already done so, to understand each of the parties’ involved necessities to ‘safe face’. Which is probably the most crucial aspect of international diplomacy.
After that: Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate again, and again, and again. Perhaps that kind of patience can be learned from trade:
No trade, no profit; no agreements – no trade…

War is the ultimate failure of diplomacy – and no doubt about it.

The Oval Office’s Heavy Burden – The Fight for Internal and External Peace

image of planet earth ion space with dove of peace about to land on it

The last but one president of the US was a nightmare, a cruel and selfish excuse for a man, who does everything he can to regain power and a sort of reputation, even if the worst: A possible dictator who’s just good enough to influence people that are not well-educated enough to see the whole story – and understand the truth behind his ‘tantrums’.
One of the worst being the attack on the Capitol he initiated – directly or indirectly.

He also instated a couple of supreme court justices, let’s not forget that. Last, but not at all least, the impeachment process was not even properly started against him.
This means he could run a second time for another ‘go’ at the office – and if he succeeded he might fulfill what he seems to have tried once already: Become a modern ‘king’, in terms of a then void democracy and its rights and laws and freedoms – a ‘dictator’.
And in his case the freedom of the press would go first. No doubt about it.

It is a relieve every day to have someone like the present president Joe Biden there. In the place of a so-called ‘superpower’s’ most powerful seat.

Politics are no child’s game. Anyone making out they were, is a fool. To say the least.

In particular in the 20th and 21st century with a heavy historical burden, often left over for generations by all kinds of governments with very different, no to say multiple, secret agendas – left wing, right wing, right wing again.
So many actions and reactions just forced by industries in the background who provide money and thus the necessary media forces to ‘advertise’ one’s cause. Not least of all that sorry excuse for a man, Mr Trump, who wouldn’t be where he is in terms of actual infamy without those industries and conglomerates and banks.

‘Marketing’, ‘advertisements’: There is no way around them. In order to make an impact you have to use social media and the internet these days, just as TV appearances and talk-show discussions or have newspapers write about you.

A sad fact is too that traditional media such as TV or newspapers have to sell. So, to some extent, if someone does not offer much sensational ‘fodder’ for talk, it may become quiet around him – or her.

When all is said and done, anyone in their right minds should know how precious peace is, and equal chances for all – the best possible attempts we can make for a planet that will not ‘overheat’ after all – and that supporting all those who really are fighting for it is no less than an obligation.
Or, simply: A fine cause.

Pluralism – Tolerance – Life or: Why It is Difficult at Times to Accept the Other

For quite some time now, research about peace and how to keep it has been going on, at least since WW II, one of the most dreadful catastrophes mankind has seen.

Among the most important aspects are these two, which actually are two sides of a coin:
pluralism and tolerance.
They seem easy in theory, but everyday practice shows they are not. Why?

Because it is human to be afraid or at least intimidated by what is different from ourselves. To judge – and more importantly – feel judged by the ‘other’. The concept, idea, shape or, simply, behaviour that is different from what we are used to.

In ancient times so research seems to confirm, this point of view was a lifesaver: trust only what is the same, difference can be dangerous. Apparently animals still act that way: any smell, colour and shape different from their own seems a danger.

Yet, there are details that can make all the difference: animals that are smaller, insignificant, or have a smell that is considered neutral, may be ignored altogether.

This points to something that makes the whole idea even more poignant:
The other is only made an issue of, if it is not just different – but when it appears to be dangerous!

Unfortunately, this is true for human behaviour too:
Most of the times human beings start fighting, on smaller or larger scales, they do so because they feel endangered.

Xenophobia is the ancient Greek term for the behaviour that is at the root of these situations: the fear of the stranger, the other, the dangerous one.

Peaceful coexistence, if aimed at, needs these few ideas:

  • Remember that with self-esteem and the realization of being human and thus imperfect comes more security by feeling adequate.
  • Start getting to know yourself better to help self-esteem along.
  • Stop thinking that feeling insecure or inadequate is something bad – or very singular. It’s human to feel afraid sometimes, to feel inadequate or insecure. Deal with it.
  • Do not try to feel more secure by making others smaller, in deed, or in words.
  • Most importantly: try to cross the boundaries, get to know the ‘other’ on safe grounds – and start relishing what plurality has to give.

This is the high road to peace – and more respect, for yourself and for others.