Welcome to the New Year!
“Never confuse movement with action.” ― Ernest Hemingway
Even though historically the passage of time is commensurate to the progress of society, this past year, we have declined- the slave trade in Libya, threats of another World War and repealing the accessibility of the most necessary means of communication, education and information in the history of society- none of which fit into the norms of the 21st Century. Keep in mind, our celebrations are still merited because our role as a community, is to not waive indifference. To begin that journey, let’s first understand these issues:
From its inhumane inception in the 15th Century, through continued efforts of the world’s nations, most countries had eradicated slavery by the 19th Century, with the official abolishment conducted by the United Nations in 1948. However, 70 years later, refugees in Libya are still being auctioned off like items, to be used like objects and treated like filth. Following a disruptive end to Muammar Gaddafi’s reign over the country in 2011, the interim Government failed to implement its authority and establish law; leading to a civil war with the country fragmented into militias, tribes and gangs who find the trade of other human beings to be a “lucrative” industry. These sub-Saharan migrants, fleeing from the economic ruins and armed conflict they faced in their native lands, deserve the opportunity they sought when they left their homes. Recognizing the atrociousness of this situation, UN officials, EU leaders and government representatives from Chad, Niger, Morocco, Congo and Libya decided methods to break down this human rights disaster. However, what flared this resolution was the reaction to CNN’s images and videos of live auctions seen only a month ago even though the original reports surfaced in April. Protests around the world severely pressurized global authorities to finally take action; showing the power of a communal voice.
This same communal voice however, has been held to a thoroughly helpless role as we watch tensions flare between the American and Korean leaders, Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un, who have both been the most disruptive leaders of their respective nations in the last few decades. Kim Jong-Un has tested 84 missiles in his reign- twice as many as both his father and grandfather- leading to the strongest sanctions ever imposed on a country to be authorized by the United Nations to constrict North Korea’s ability to stockpile Weapons of Mass Destruction. The negotiated armistice of the Korean War seems to be repealed as Donald Trump has been having a cold war of sorts on Twitter by posting highly controversial threats. This child-like back and forth is epitomized by the events which transpired when President Trump tweeted that “any more threats to the United States” will be met “with fire and fury like the world has never seen.” As a response, North Korea threatened to fire four missiles near the American territory of Guam in the Pacific Ocean. Rather than being the bigger man, this threat was also retorted and tweeted by Donald Trump who said that “military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely.” This vain, egotistical game of (a lack of) wits has pushed the world onto the brink of another world war; a nuclear war led by egos and selfishness. One possible resolution could be the impeachment of President Trump set forth by the Democrats but in a Republican-led Congress, it is a long-shot.
A vote that did pass however, was the vote to repeal Net Neutrality- which disallowed Internet Service Providers from discriminating between content for their own gain; making the internet an even playing field with everyone being allowed the same access, control and opportunity. However, after Trump-appointed FCC Chairman Ajit Pai successfully repealed it on December 14th with a 3-2 vote, Internet Service Providers now have total control over our usage of the internet; giving telecom providers the power to decide what we see- choosing the content- and how we see it- proportioning the bandwidth based on usage. This allows large corporations to invest heavily in these providers and prejudice them into raising the required bandwidth for accessing their rivals’ websites, making the internet a battlefield for companies to fight, rather than a platform for people from all places and backgrounds to provide themselves the opportunities they are otherwise restricted. Furthermore, this makes it almost impossible for start-ups to gain users on their websites as they will not be able to pay up to get their content delivered faster. In today’s world where: the world’s largest accommodation provider, Airbnb, owns no real estate, the world’s most popular media owner, Facebook, produces no content and the world’s largest taxi-company, Uber, owns no vehicles, connecting people has become has become the new landscape of business and every one of these founders would not have been able to achieve everything they have and provide everything they do without the access to a free, equal rights internet. This commercial discrimination could thwart the ability of future entrepreneurs, and subsequently disturb global development because regardless of it’s political disruptiveness, the United States remains the hub of business, trading and trends and its deterioration would inadvertently affect global advancement.
Our hope remains us. If the critics’ prediction of the outcomes of Net Neutrality hold true, the vote can be fought in court and that requires the one key that has the ability to undo all of these messed- consideration. These issues are not native to all of us, but they will affect us regardless. These issues might not involve us, but if they depreciate our world, we mustn’t look at borders. Most of us have the fortune of being residents in democracies where the majority goes, where the voices of the masses matter. Now what are we going to do with that opportunity?
“People shouldn't be afraid of their government. Governments should be afraid of their people.” ― Alan Moore
Leo Aakash Nair
Alpha Leo Club of SVKM International.
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The crisis of governments caused by populist parties:
German people have always trusted the government and its institutions, a characteristic that has neither been disenthralled nor decayed to a destructive level. This characteristic held the German nation, empire, boundary or the two republics after the Second World War together, lending it the ability to face extraordinary challenges and rising to the circle of superpowers – for a short time, allowedly.
This confidence is now facing its maximum cool down. Governments all over the world are facing this issue, the most astonishing and horrific example is the United States of America with their President Trump who is deteriorating the country’s integrity actively. Nobody predicted such an evolution in Germany, not even before the election of the national parliament in September 2017.
But now the issue of a structural government crisis has arrived in our land, too. The political dictum of common sense and positive dispute, all below the maxim of helping the total to thrive has made room for populistic politics and egoism in every edge of the institutions of political decision-making. Recently, Germany chose a new parliament, the people elected the biggest parliament in our history with seven parties, a novelty. Now the system is blocking itself: after the first coalition negotiations, a party broke up the negotiations and started the crisis. The party’s leader declared on 19th of November, 2017, that his party will no longer take part in the coalition negotiations, with the words: “It is better, not to reign, than to reign faultily!” Nobody expected this to happen, but it did. It shows us the populism overcoming even the old parties in our political systems.
Where did this evolution start?
This issue is a perfect example for the globalisation of our world. Revolutions, wars, terroristic attacks are affecting the whole world now, as the war in Syria did and does. Waves of refugees flooded the European Union, where Germany was one of the countries that did applicate the most refugees, 750,000 in total until 2017. This caused a polarization of political thinking, starting in 2014, developing until today. Additionally, a new conservative party was founded, but it slid fast into the edge, where nationalistic ideas, populism, liberalism, extreme conservatism cumulated. In these days, the party is tearing apart more and more each month. People trying to negate the holocaust even so as people, who want to gain political influence at all costs, egoists, conspiracy theorists and anti-Semites are feeling homelike in this party called AfD. It wasn't doubtful that this kind of party would start to tear the political stability as well as it has been torn apart by individuals itself. This is the new “pseudo-European” spirit: increasing and irrational nationalism, Anti-Europeanism, xenophobia and the will to reinterpret history. Our political systems are facing extreme challenges caused by this issue, but it is surely right, that they also have to search for the causes which led to this evolution in their own past.
Nobody knows, in which way this situation will impact societies in Europe, America, and the world. We are all facing the same issue, some earlier, and some later. Some countries fail below the pressure, some still manage to hold stability – but for how long anymore? Maybe the development in France could be a great opportunity for its neighbour: under the illustrious President Macron, France has managed to not succumb under the influence of their far-right party, the Front National, and is starting to overcome its economic crisis. It is renewing its political system, the society, the way of political thinking.
Maybe we should take France as an example for every country that is facing the same problem right now – and I can't find one country of the great powers of the world which doesn’t. We need to renew our systems, otherwise they will disintegrate slowly. This evolution is taking place in Turkey today. On the other hand, an optimistic mind would detect a challenge here which can lead to better times. A crisis is a bad thing – if you take it in the short-term vision. But a crisis also starts debates, affecting the people to overthink their carefully maintained traditions. And everyone living in pauperism would agree on a renewal of the systems spanning the world, that's for sure.
Leo Club of Neckar-Franken, Germany.
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The differences between countries in their level of development have always fascinated and inspired economists. In 1988, Nobel laureate economist Robert E. Lucas wrote:
"The consequences for human well-being associated with issues such as these (development) are simply staggering: eleven one begins to think about them, it is difficult to think of another thing" .
Today we know that to explain these differences, we have to understand, through the history of the countries, their formal and informal institutions and their political dynamics, how is it that some nations have been able to get out of poverty and build strong democracies, while others remain in vicious circles, where are they? Thus, these few often have an interest in maintaining the status quo and are opposed in a more or less subtle way to possible reforms.
A key aspect to understand the development, or lack of it, is to understand the phenomenon of corruption. Corruption fosters and stabilizes this vicious circle, being both a source of illicit income and power, and a tool to keep a country's institutions weak.
The social sciences have advanced to a lot in explaining the phenomenon of corruption during the last 20 years. It is also proven to have a highly damaging effect on any society, not only in economic terms, but also to undermine the confidence of citizens in their governments, violate human rights and nurture certain undesirable cultural customs; as the "revival culture", for the Colombian case.
While we understand the problem better and better, we are far from understanding what kind of measures are effective against this scourge. Transparency, accountability and citizen participation are preached.
These measures have a value in themselves, since they are key pieces of a real democracy. But do we really know enough about its unmistakable effects and its effectiveness against corruption?
While they are necessary, they also have undesirable effects: they can make public management inflexible and rigid and can have a negative impact on the intrinsic motivation of officials or managers. We do not trust anybody anymore!
Corruption, more than an abstract concept, is a monster that affects the country at all levels of its institutional life, damaging public finances, education, health and the opportunity for development and progress of peoples.
In the moral aspect, it has, like drug trafficking, the negative effect of becoming a paradigm for the masses, lacking in values, whose members try to ascend economically and socially in this way.
By damaging public finances, it prevents governments from having enough funds to cover large needs, such as food and jobs for the poorest.
Although it is not easy to determine the amount that distracts corruption, it is evident that it represents considerable sums, given the fortunes of many officials who arrived poor in the public administration.
The fight against corruption has become an industry with its own interests and preachers. Suddenly it is time to generate fresh looks, carefully reviewing the evidence of academic research and the lessons learned in practice around the world. This is a worthwhile struggle, but it deserves to be based on informed public policies that go beyond following old sayings
To end corruption and begin to solve those problems that really are a priority for the society, it is necessary:
And lastly, the most important thing to stop corruption from happening is that people stop thinking that politicians are indispensable for the design and implementation of public policies. People can be organised by neighbourhoods, groups, paths, localities, to design and implement on their own solutions to the problems that their population suffers.
Leo Natasha Barragán
Leo Club of San Francisco, Panamá
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“The earth does not belong to man; man belongs to the earth.
All things are connected like the blood that unites us all.
Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand in it.
Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself”
Deforestation and Forest Degradation have already become global issues. How many are aware that forests also play a critical role in regulating the earth’s climate? Deforestation is the permanent destruction of forests and related ecosystems in order to make the land available for other uses. Forest degradation leads to deterioration of the standing vegetation in density, structure and species composition due to human activities and natural causes. It may involve opening of the canopy, modification of the vertical structure, habitat parameters or change of other attributes. Forest degradation does not necessarily involve a reduction of the forest area, instead leads to the decline of the quality of forests. Together, deforestation and forest degradation reduce the area; quality and quantity of vegetation cover and alter the spatial structure of landscape through the process of fragmentation.
Forests cover approximately 31% of the land area on earth. They produce vital oxygen, and many of the worlds’ most threatened and rare animals live in forests, and 1.6 billion human beings depend on benefits forests offer, including food, fresh water, clothing, medicine and shelter.
The estimated natural forests in Sri Lanka are nearly 18% of the land area. It has been around 751 known species of amphibians, birds and mammals and reptiles of which 21.7% are endemic. There are around 3,314 species of vascular plants, of which 26.9% are endemic. Deforestation in Sri Lanka is one of the most severe environmental issues that have appeared to be rapidly for past few years. Sri Lanka’s forest cover, which was around 49% in 1920, has fallen to approximately 18% by now. Between the year 2000 and 2016 the rate of deforestation has been 1.46% per annum over the reasons like massive development projects, large scales of plantations and resettling plans. Loss of forests has a major impact on global warming and biodiversity; consequently, increasing Carbon dioxide percentage, soil erosion, risk of earth slips and spring water drying.
Deforestation should be significantly declined because much of society does not realise the importance of forests and don’t realise how much it influences the world. No need such huge steps; we can simply contribute to the efforts against deforestation.
It’s time to think twice before you harm a tree. Save forests! Save earth! Save your own life!
Leo Iroshima Ponnmperuma
Member of Leo Club of Colombo Host
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There is a famous allegory called “Allegory of the Cave” proposed by the ancient philosopher Plato. In this allegory, Plato has Socrates describe a group of people who have lived chained to the wall of a cave all of their lives, facing a blank wall. The people watch shadows projected on the wall from objects passing in front of a fire behind them and give names to these shadows. The shadows are the prisoners’ reality. One of the prisoners manage to break his chains one day and discovers that his reality was not what he thought it was, he now perceives the true form of reality rather than the manufactured reality that is seen by the prisoners. When the prisoner returns to the cave, whose eyes have become accustomed to the sunlight, becomes blind when he re-enters the cave, just as he was when he was first exposed to the sun. According to Plato, the prisoners would infer from the returning man’s blindness that he has become mad and they should not leave this cave at any cost.
This analogy is the best way to explain a foreign eye the society's mindset. Educated or not, people do not want to change their way of thinking or their reality. As long as what’s happening right now isn’t affecting them, everything is just fine… People become empty headed with no thoughts of their own, start not to think when they need the most because right now all the men that are brave enough to speak the truth are imprisoned.
Instead of fake news, there are no news at all on TV or any other medium, just trivial coverages about the cats, food or the last car crash… When you try to acquire knowledge about what is really happening with the country the things you will find are going to be; people who are supporting men on the top of the pyramid no matter what, dissidents whose only goal is to dispraise even the good thing that are happening or the terrorism supporters that are telling their own lies. There is absolutely nobody, no company, no channel or highbrow to tell you the truth. All they talk about is their own realities built with their imagination. When I wake up everyday the only thing I can think about is this quote from George Orwell in his novel 1984;
War is peace,
We have become ignorant and this is our fault too. The only way to change this, is to be brave enough to seek for the truth. Everything can be changed or undone. We need to break our chains, leave our safe place and wander without fear. We must analyse an issue from all perspectives. We must read but not only from one source, even the ones that we strongly disagree with. We must understand how other people think, without making assumptions. We must even learn new languages in order to acquire information, true information… We must see the unseen and then make it heard. The search for the truth needs to be a way of living rather than a purpose to fulfil. That is the only way we can find the truth, that is the only way we can find salvation.
Leo Can Caner
2nd Vice President of Agora Leo Club, Turkey
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There are a total of 418 news channels in the world and that is excluding the weather channel, business channel, etc. Every day we turn on our TV, jump to our regular news channel and see what went wrong today. Some of us get tensed, we even tend to start protecting ourselves from something that just “might” happen to us.
Now imagine the accidents that you’ve roped yourself for, didn’t actually happen. Feel angry? That’s how I felt when my research showed that about 65% of the time news channels do not perform proper background checks on their stories and present half a story on our plate. To which we are so quick to react. I also found out, that sometimes they just keep gustling us with the same piece of information in different angles just because they didn’t have anything else to present to us, this same scam is also done to elongate the period of a product being advertised on their channel.
We live in an era where technology has overcome our human brain. Known as "The Millennials" we make our present and the future. Claire Wardle of First Draft, a UK-based non-profit organisation which is now part of the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard, categorised misinformation into seven categories, namely:
Is what we see a complete truth or a half lie?
In recent times, there have been numerous instances of fake news misleading people, spreading false propaganda or maligning people as well as entire communities. Real news and information is increasingly getting buried in an avalanche of false information and hoaxes, which are spreading like wild fire and creating rifts between various communities, castes and religions in India.
Just last month, fake stories were weaved by several TV reporters as the anti-Rohingya rhetoric mounted, with photographs of children being misused in the divisive propaganda. The fresh outbreak of violence in Myanmar's Rakhine province since August has sparked a steady stream of provocative but nonetheless fake images.
A few months back, mainstream TV channels circulated a story saying Arundhati Roy, a renowned Indian novelist, had criticised the Indian army's heavy-handed presence in Kashmir, the disputed territory claimed by both India and Pakistan. The coverage prompted nationalist sections in society to lash out at Roy. But the truth about the statements, as Roy later clarified, was that she did not make those comments about India controlling Kashmir.
So what is the way forward to counter fake news?
Considering the rapid penetration of technology and the rise in use of television, the dissemination of fake news is no longer a problem limited to the online world, especially because it has political, social and economic ramifications on the ground.
Leo Kriti Jogi,
Member at Leo Club of Juhu.
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