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Musings on Germanwings’ Flight 9525 and the Millennial Generation

Emanuel L. Paparella, Ph.D.

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As most people know by now, only a few days ago, on Tuesday 24th of March 2015 a Germanwings airbus A320 originating in Barcelona with destination Düsseldorf crashed in the French Alps killing all the 149 people aboard, 75 of them were Germans.

The tragic event was first thought to have been caused by a technological malfunction which brought the aircraft down. By the next day, however, rumors began to circulate that the aircraft was brought down on purpose by the copilot Andreas Lubitz who shut out the captain from the cockpit and programmed the plane to crash in the mountains. This was not an accident but a criminal act of mass murder. The black box has more than confirmed as much.

The realization began to sink in that those kinds of actions can be committed not only by Egyptian Moslems imbued with fanatical ideologies (as indeed happened in 1999 off New York when an Egyptian plane was brought down by its pilot), or irrational fanatical ISIS cutthroats but also by rational, technologically savvy and efficient modern Germans. This was shocking to many observers, not excluding Chancellor Angela Merkel who characterized the crime as “a new simply incomprehensible dimension.” Modern people are not supposed to be irrational. It appears that to characterize psychology as a science may be a misnomer, given that man is capable and at times willing to commit the most outrageous and reprehensible of crimes, and when one least expects it. As Dostoevsky put it: place man in a completely rational and deterministic universe and he will blow it up simply to prove that he is free.

What is going on now is the constant chit chat of journalists and psychologists and airline experts who are giving us all the details surrounding the incident almost on a 24 hours basis. The rules and regulations of aviation are being examined, so is the health of Lubitz, the training he received, his mental condition, his doctor’s prescriptions, his travels abroad; a plethora of expert analysis that has by now become rather tedious and banal. We have been offered everything but a complete integrated psychological picture of the tragic event which considers man in its totality: physical, mental and spiritual. Since I am currently teaching four philosophy courses on Ethics I discussed the event with my students. Most of those students belong to the millennial generation, that is to say, they were born after 1982 and are now between the ages of 32 and 17. Lubitz, by the way, was a millennial since he was only 27 years old. I thought they could furnish some insights in self-knowledge, but I was to be disappointed.

The students too seemed to be baffled and could not explain what happened. Then a colleague shared an insight that so far I have not heard uttered by any of the reporting journalist. He told me that I would never get an answer from my students since they were part of the problem, not part of the solution, just as the chit chat of the journalists is also part of the problem. What do you mean? I asked. Well, my colleague replied, this is a generation characterized by a sense of entitlement, rampant narcissism and absorption with oneself, network with friends (social media) replacing institutions, incapable of a coherent logical discourse or the expression of a lucid idea; they talk in fits and starts to express banalities via their 350 characters texting; have a higher level of student debts and unemployment after graduation, their lives are dominated by the internet and the smart phone, consider themselves entitled to become millionaires (75% believe they will become wealthy), with only 35% keeping abreast of political events (compared with 50% of the preceding generation—generation X), most revealing of all, only 35% (compared with 75% of the preceding generation) consider finding a meaningful philosophy of life as important as making money; only 21% consider environmental clean-up as important as making money (compared to 33% for generation X); switching jobs more frequently than generation X, delaying the age of marriage and the start of a career; less likely to practice a religion with more than 38% declaring themselves atheists, addicted to social networking; rejecting cultural wars of any kind, albeit much more open-minded on controversial topics such as use of marijuana and same sex unions.

I asked my colleague what all those statistics (which he has extracted from a rather popular book which came out in 2006 by Jean Twenge and titled Generation Me) had to do with the Germanwings’ tragedy. His answer was that this is the generation that considers the word “famous” a noun rather than an adjective. Again I was puzzled and asked him to explain. He replied that in a survey conducted on millennial generation students, to the question “what do you want to become later on in life” the most frequent answer was “ I want to become famous.” They were not saying that they wished to become famous doctors, or famous lawyers, or famous scientists, or famous actors; no, they simply wanted to become famous. Famous is for them a profession of sort. Becoming famous is an ideal worth pursuing in its own right, and the inability to do so may be considered the worst tragedy in life.

At this point I began connecting the dots and began to see where my colleague was driving at. Lubitz, after all, was a millennial with a huge debt and some sort of sickness which he was hiding from his employer; to reveal it might have implied that his passion, flying, may have had to come to an abrupt end or at the very least his career as a pilot might suffer. In other words it might have begun to dawn on him that he would never be famous, that rather than be a “somebody” he might remain forever a “nobody.” So, how does one recapture the fame one craves? Committing suicide in one’s home would not do; nobody would report that and he would die in obscurity. What you do instead, is take a plane with 149 people aboard and slam it against a mountain and have your dreams of flying crashing down together with the lives of innocent people. Now you have instantly become a celebrity, at least for a few days: you will appear on all the newspapers and TV screen in the world and everybody will know who you are and your name will go down in history. You may reply: farfetched! Perhaps. But then I have not heard anything better from our myopic politicians or, for that matter, from the constant boring chit chat of the media.

Only a day after this reflection was written a significant revelation surfaced about Lubitz which confirms my basic intuition about his motivation for the mass murder he perpetrated. His ex-girlfriends revealed to the media that he told her once that “one day everyone will know my name.” He was obviously correct in that respect: everybody in fact knows his name now; where he may have been greatly misguided was in his belief that his nefarious deed would go down in history as “famous.” Indeed, it will go down in history but not as “famous” but as “infamous.”

 

Note: this article has already appeared in Ovi Magazine on the 30th of March 2015

Professor Paparella has earned a Ph.D. in Italian Humanism, with a dissertation on the philosopher of history Giambattista Vico, from Yale University. He is a scholar interested in current relevant philosophical, political and cultural issues; the author of numerous essays and books on the EU cultural identity among which A New Europe in search of its Soul, and Europa: An Idea and a Journey. Presently he teaches philosophy and humanities at Barry University, Miami, Florida. He is a prolific writer and has written hundreds of essays for both traditional academic and on-line magazines among which Metanexus and Ovi. One of his current works in progress is a book dealing with the issue of cultural identity within the phenomenon of “the neo-immigrant” exhibited by an international global economy strong on positivism and utilitarianism and weak on humanism and ideals.

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Time to Tackle the Stigma Behind Wartime Rape

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Images: UN Women Kosovo

The youngest capital city in Europe, Pristina, is the ultimate hybrid of old and new: Ottoman-era architecture stands amongst communist paraphernalia, while Kosovars who lived through the bloodshed of the 20th century share family dinners with a generation of young people with their sights set on EU accession.

This month, the capital’s Kosovo Museum welcomed a new force for change; Colours of Our Soul, an exhibition of artwork from women who survived the sexual violence of the Yugoslav Wars, showcases the world as these women “wished it to be.”

Colours of Our Soul isn’t the first art installation to shine a light on the brutal sexual violence thousands of Kosovar victims suffered throughout the turmoil of the conflict which raged from 1988 to 1999. In 2015, Kosovo-born conceptual artist Alketa Xhafa-Mripa transformed a local football pitch into a giant installation, draping 5,000 dresses over washing lines to commemorate survivors of sexual violence whose voices otherwise tend to go unheard. “I started questioning the silence, how we could not hear their voices during and after the war and thought about how to portray the women in contemporary art,” said Xhafa-Mripa at the time.

Victims, and their children, pressed into silence

The silence Xhafa-Mripa speaks of is the very real social stigma faced by survivors of sexual violence in the wake of brutal conflict. “I would go to communities, but everyone would say, ‘Nobody was raped here – why are you talking about it?’”, remarked Feride Rushiti, founder of the Kosovo Rehabilitation Centre for Torture Victims (KRCT).

Today, KRCT has more than 400 clients— barely a scratch on the surface given that rape was used in Kosovo as an “instrument of war” as recently as two decades ago. Some 20,000 women and girls are thought to have been assaulted during the bloody conflict; the fact that the artists whose work is featured in the Colours of our Soul exhibition did not sign their work or openly attend the installation’s grand opening is a sign of how pervasive the stigma is which haunts Kosovar society to this day.

As acute as this stigma is for the women who were assaulted, it is far worse for the children born from rape, who have thus far been excluded from reparation measures and instead dismissed as “the enemy’s children.” In 2014, the Kosovar parliament passed a law recognising the victim status of survivors, entitling them to a pension of up to 220 euros per month. Their children, however, many of whom were murdered or abandoned in the face of community pressure, are barely acknowledged in Kosovar society and have become a generation of young adults who have inherited the bulk of their country’s dark burden.

A global problem

It’s a brutal stigma which affects children born of wartime rape all over the world. The Lai Dai Han, born to Vietnamese mothers raped by South Korean soldiers, have struggled for years to find acceptance in the face of a society that views them as dirty reminders of a war it would rather forget. The South Korean government has yet to heed any calls for formal recognition of sexual violence at the hands of Korean troops, let alone issue a public— and long-awaited— apology to the Lai Dai Han or their mothers.

In many cases, as in the case of Bangladesh’s struggle for independence, the very existence of children born from rape has often been used as a brutal weapon by government forces and militants alike. Official estimates indicate that a mammoth 200,000 to 400,000 women were raped by the Pakistani military and the supporting Bihari, Bengali Razakar and al-Badr militias in the early 1970s. The children fathered, at gunpoint, by Pakistani men were intended to help eliminate Bengali nationhood.

Their surviving mothers are now known as “Birangana”, or “brave female soldier,” though the accolade means little in the face of a lifetime of ostracization and alienation. “I was married when the soldiers took me to their tents to rape me for several days and would drop me back home. This happened several times,” one so-called Birangana explained, “So, my husband left me with my son and we just managed to exist.”

No end in sight

Unfortunately, this barbaric tactic of rape and forced impregnation is one that is still being used in genocides to this day. The subjugation of the Rohingya people, for example, which culminated in a murderous crackdown last year by Myanmar’s military, means an estimated 48,000 women will give birth in refugee camps this year alone. Barring a major societal shift, the children they bear will suffer ostracization similar to that seen in Kosovo, Vietnam and Bangladesh.

Initiatives like the Colours of Our Soul installation in Pristina are not only central in helping wartime rape survivors to heal, but also play a vital role in cutting through the destructive stigma for violated women and their children. Even so, if the number of women who submitted their paintings anonymously is anything to go by, true rehabilitation is a long way ahead.

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EU–South Africa Summit: Strengthening the strategic partnership

MD Staff

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At the 7th European Union–South Africa Summit held in Brussels Leaders agreed on a number of steps to reinforce bilateral and regional relations, focusing on the implementation of the EU-South Africa Strategic Partnership. This includes economic and trade cooperation and pursuing the improvement of business climate and opportunities for investment and job creation which are of mutual interest.

Leaders also discussed common global challenges, such as climate change, migration, human rights, committing to pursue close cooperation both at bilateral level and on the global stage. A number of foreign and security policy issues, including building and consolidating peace, security and democracy in the African continent and at multilateral level were also raised. Leaders finally committed to work towards a prompt resolution of trade impediments affecting smooth trade flows.

Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission and Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, represented the European Union at the Summit. South Africa was represented by its President, Cyril Ramaphosa. EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission, Federica Mogherini, Vice-President for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness Jyrki Katainen and Commissioner for trade Cecilia Malmström also participated, alongside several Ministers from South Africa.

President Juncker said: “The European Union, for the South African nation, is a very important trade partner. We are convinced that as a result of today’s meeting we will find a common understanding on the open trade issues. South Africa and Africa are very important partners for the European Union when it comes to climate change, when it comes to multilateralism. It is in the interest of the two parties – South Africa and the European Union – to invest more. It will be done.” A Joint Summit Statement issued by the Leaders outlines amongst others commitment to:

Advance multilateralism and rules based governance

Leaders recommitted to work together to support multilateralism, democracy and the rules-based global order, in particular at the United Nations and global trade fora. South Africa’s upcoming term as an elected member of the United Nations Security Council in 2019-2020 was recognised as an opportunity to enhance cooperation on peace and security. As part of their commitment to stronger global governance, Leaders stressed their support to the process of UN reform, including efforts on the comprehensive reform of the UN Security Council and the revitalisation of the work of the General Assembly. Leaders reiterated their determination to promote free, fair and inclusive trade and the rules-based multilateral trading system with the World Trade Organisation at its core and serving the interest of all its Members.

Bilateral cooperation

Leaders agreed to step up collaboration in key areas such as climate change, natural resources, science and technology, research and innovation, employment, education and training including digital skills, health, energy, macro-economic policies, human rights and peace and security. The EU and South Africa will, amongst others, explore the opportunities provided by the External Investment Plan. Linked to this, Leaders committed to exploring opportunities for investment, technical assistance including project preparation, and the improvement of business and investment climates to promote sustainable development. Leaders welcomed the conclusion and provisional implementation in 2016 of the EU-Southern African Development Community (SADC) – Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).

Leaders also committed to find mutually acceptable solutions to impediments to trade in agriculture, agri-food and manufactured goods. They agreed to work towards a prompt resolution of these impediments.

Regional cooperation

Leaders welcomed the new Africa-Europe Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Jobs put forward by the European Commission. They exchanged views on foreign and security policy issues, addressed a number of pressing situations in the neighbourhoods of both the EU and South Africa, and welcomed each other’s contribution to fostering peace and security in their respective regions. Leaders agreed to explore opportunities to enhance cooperation on peace and security, conflict prevention and mediation.

Leaders confirmed common resolve to reform the future relationship between the EU and the countries of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States. To this end they are looking forward to the successful conclusion of negotiations for a post-Cotonou Partnership Agreement, that will contribute to attaining the goals of both the United Nations 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development and the long-term vision for African continent – Agenda 2063.

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Macron so far has augmented French isolation

Mohammad Ghaderi

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French President Emmanuel Macron has recently criticized the unilateral pullout of the US from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) but at the same time expressed pleasure that Washington has allowed France and the other JCPOA signatories to stay in the Iran nuclear deal.

In an exclusive interview with the CNN, Macron said that he has “a very direct relationship” with Trump. “Trump is a person who has tried to fulfill his electoral promises, as I also try to fulfill my promises, and I respect the action that Trump made in this regard. But I think we can follow things better, due to our personal relationship and talks. For instance, Trump has decided to withdraw from the Iran pact, but at the end, he showed respect for the signatories’ decision to remain in the JCPOA.”

There are some key points in Macron’s remarks:

First, in 2017, the French were the first of the European signatories to try to change the JCPOA. They tried to force Iran to accept the following conditions: Inspection of military sites, application of the overtime limitation on nuclear activities, limiting regional activities, including missile capabilities within the framework of the JCPOA.

Macron had already made commitments to President Trump and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to push Iran to accept the additional protocols to the deal, and he pushed to make it happen before Trump left the JCPOA.

Second, after the US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, although France expressed regret, they had secret negotiations with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo over the JCPOA.

The result of the undisclosed talks was deliberate delay on the part of the European authorities in providing a final package to keep the Iran deal alive. In other words, after the US unilaterally left the JCPOA, the French have been sloppy and maybe somewhat insincere about making the practical moves to ensure it would be saved.

Third, France has emphasized the need to strengthen their multilateralism in the international system and has become one of the pieces of the puzzle that completes the strategic posture of the Trump Administration in the West Asia region.

Obviously, French double standards have irritated European politicians, many of whom have disagreed with the contradictory games of French authorities towards the US and issues of multilateralism in the international community. Also, France’s isolation and its strategic leverage in the political arena has grown since the days of Sarkozy and Hollande. Some analysts thought that Macron and fresh policies would stop this trend, but it has not occurred.

First published in our partner MNA

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