We live in a society in which choice is overwhelming, whether it is choice of our mode of life, choice of our beliefs, choice of the country in which we live, choice of our profession or choice of our diet. When we look back to the previous centuries, one thing that has obviously changed is our freedom from social pressure, and how this has changed our mindset.
One of these changes is our life expectancy. We are living longer than before, gaining on average one more year in average life expectancy every 4 years. if we have so many choices, why not the choice of living substantially longer, perhaps indefinitely?
Genetics are, of course, one of the key factors in determining our lifespan. Long-lived individuals often had long-lived parents who only suffered from major chronic diseases very late in their lives, if at all.
Caloric restriction – i.e. feeding 30% less calories than in a normal diet – has been shown to increase animal longevity by up to 40%. Research is now conducted on primates to see if the results obtained with rodents can be duplicated. Caloric restriction appears to lower the risk factors of certain grave diseases.
Initial trials have been authorized, based on clinical observation, with metformin, an anti-diabetic medication.
Gene manipulation is also being considered and research on the hypothalamus and its mechanism is also conducted, but both are at an early stage of research.
If any of these techniques were truly able to extend life considerably, say by enabling us to live one thousand years, which would be a few years more than Methuselah, what kind of world would we be living in?
Certainly an overcrowded world, with depleting resources, and for some of them having gone the way of the dinosaurs.
Possibly a world in which sexual maturity might come at a later age – perhaps at 50 years – and in which the average age at which people marry would be close to 100. Couples could divorce dozens of time and remarry again and again.
Society would be so different that it is difficult to fathom what other changes could take place in an age of Methuselahs.
Nairobi summit: Women’s empowerment a ‘game changer’ for sustainable development
The global goal of a sustainable future for all cannot be achieved until women, girls and young people gain control over their own bodies and lives, UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed told world leaders meeting in Nairobi on Tuesday.
The Kenyan capital is hosting a three-day summit to mark 25 years since the landmark International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD).
The conference, held in Cairo, produced a Programme of Action which recognized that reproductive health, women’s empowerment and gender equality are critical to sustainable development.
Ms. Mohammed said it must be carried forward: “Achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment and upholding women’s rights is a game changer – for poverty-reduction, inclusive growth, democratic governance, peace and justice,” she said.
“The Sustainable Development Goals cannot be achieved until women, girls and young people are able to control their bodies and their lives, and live free of violence. The power to choose the number, timing and spacing of children is a human right that can bolster economic and social development.”
SDGs deadline approaching
For Ms. Mohammed, the Nairobi Summit is also an opportunity to mobilize political and financial momentum towards realizing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by world leaders in 2015.
Next year will see the start of a Decade of Action ahead of the 2030 deadline.
“We must continue to work even harder towards preventable maternal and child mortality, achieving the unmet need for family planning, and eliminating violence and harmful practices against women and girls everywhere, not least in humanitarian and fragile settings,” the UN deputy chief told the gathering.
As too many are still being left behind, Ms. Mohammed called for action.
“Hundreds of millions of women and girls are still waiting for the promise to be kept. They have been waiting long enough,” she said.
“It’s time for urgent and transformative change as we enter the decade of action to 2030.
Joker &the Pathology of Violence
JOKER, director Todd Phillips and renowned actor Joaquin Phoenix’s new take on an infamous comic book villain, will hit the big screen this weekend. It has garnered prestigious awards (such as the Golden Lion), laudatory critic reviews & is expected to attract hordes of eager moviegoers. However, JOKER has also inspired ominous think-pieces from publications such as The Atlantic and Vox. Additionally, the US military and the NYPD have expressed concern that the film could inspire violence.
These detractors of JOKER are arguing that the film glorifies “incel violence” and is thus likely to inspire acts as incel violence. This logic has been used ad nauseam to condemn everything from comic books, to video games, to martial arts, to Marilyn Manson to hip-hop. No credible study has proven that art that portrays violence causes real-world violence. Some people may point out that extreme outliers, like white-supremacist music, could cause violence. However, it would be more logical to argue the opposite: people who compose and listen to white-supremacist music were already enmeshed in a violent ideology. Likewise, genocidal propaganda tends not to focus on explicitly glorifying violence for violence’s sake, but in portraying groups of people as sub-human (Tutsis being compared to roaches, Jews being portrayed as greedy and treasonous, etc.). It’s thus a process of long, gradated inculcation. As Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels realized, there’s no reverse-Ludovico Technique that can magically turn people into killing machines by quickly showing them a two-hour film.
Now, it is true that a few violent criminals have cited works of art as inspiration for their actions. This is statistically inevitable, but insignificant. There are bound to be a few outliers who have bizarre interpretations on art, just as there are a few people who have been inspired to commit acts of terrorism based on personal interpretations of religion or politics. It’s no more logical to suggest that we ban violent video games or art because of mass shootings than to suggest we ban Buddhism because of Aum Shinrikyo’s gas attack on the Tokyo subway, or that we should ban Irish patriotism because of the IRA. Furthermore, some violent lunatics have been inspired by works of art, such as John Lennon’s killer citing Catcher in the Rye, that aren’t even violent in nature. Clearly, the people who commit mass killings are incredibly unhinged individuals who are in a violent frame of mind, regardless of what media they consume. Likewise, 99.99% of people who play FPS games or who watch slasher flicks aren’t going to go on a shooting rampage or create a torture dungeon in their basement.
To return things to JOKER itself, the film in no way “glorifies” violence. For starters, half of the violence is inflicted on the main character (the “incel hero”); there are two scenes where The Joker gets jumped mercilessly and a third scene where he gets sucker-punched in the face. The violent acts that The Joker himself commits are portrayed in a very gruesome manner (in one scene with The Joker and a neighbor of his, the violence isn’t even shown, but is merely implied). When The Joker bashes someone’s head in or shoots someone point-blank, there are no crass jokes, inspirational music or voiceovers quoting The Art of War. The plotline doesn’t imply any justification for the killings. When someone gets killed in the film, audience-goers don’t hoot and holler like they would in a screening of a zombie film or a Nazi-revenge flick like Inglorious Basterds. Rather, there is an awkward pall of silence in the theater at the nihilistic spectacle.
JOKER makes it very clear that the title character’s violence is motivated by nothing but his utter insanity. The Joker descends into a killing machine after being released from an asylum and after he stops taking seven different psych meds (which weren’t helping him much, anyway). When being interviewed, he admits that he isn’t compelled by any ideology whatsoever. Rather, The Joker literally views the act of killing as a joke.
Nor does The Joker gain any tangible reward for his violence; he gets fired from his job, arrested, hit by an ambulance and committed to an asylum as a direct result of his actions. Joaquin Phoenix’s character gets a thrill from the media coverage that his killings elicit (and a standing ovation from fellow thugs in the film’s penultimate scene), but that not’s a real reward, but rather a feeling that many real-life killers in fact get when they are portrayed in the news. For instance, the as-yet unidentified Zodiac Killer literally played games with Bay Area news outlets, sending them letters that boasted about his kills, contained cryptic puzzles and threatened to blow up a school bus if he didn’t receive even more media attention. Many other serial killers who were apprehended were found to have hoarded newspaper clippings that documented their crimes. Similarly, coverage of a mass shooting often inspires “copycat mass shootings”. The takeaway from this is that the media should be careful about inadvertently turning stories about mass shootings and terror attacks into personal biographies of the killer. When covering these kinds of attacks, some news outlets, like The Young Turks and The David Pakman Show, deliberately choose to blur the killers’ faces and avoid naming them, so as not to give the killers the attention that they wanted to garner and to avoid inspiring other violently-deranged individuals who crave attention.
The fact that JOKER doesn’t merely portray the villain as an Evil-Incarnate caricature doesn’t mean that it is therefore glorifying violence. The audience is meant to sympathize with The Joker when he get jumped without warning or when he talks about the crippling depression that he has felt for literally his entire life. There are scenes showing The Joker comforting his mother and entertaining sick children. The mere fact that The Joker is portrayed as a full human being, good traits and bad traits, doesn’t mean the film is justifying how he releases his violent rage. No human is evil 100% of the time: there is no villain who tortures hamsters 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It is only by studying the causes of violent criminals’ various motivations that we can ever hope to ebb the tide of violence. Most violent criminals have suffered from childhood abuse, childhood poverty, a missing parental figure, bullying and/or mental illness (The Joker had to deal with all five of these traumas). By empathizing with these plights, we can create programs (drug treatment programs, stamping out bullying in school, removing children from abusive households, etc.) that can reduce violent crime.
It’s not comfortable to acknowledge that history’s most evil people had humanity or that societal norms (like persecuting people, tolerating child abuse or underfunding mental illness and addiction treatment programs) can fuel violence. It’s evident that Todd Phillips, through his direction and screenplay, and Joaquin Phoenix, through his tortured portrayal of The Joker, meant to give us a glimpse into the mind of a demented killer, not so we can sympathize with the protagonist’s brutal violence, but so we can sympathize with the myriad factors that drove the protagonist to criminal insanity. The nearly uniform media portrayals of mentally-ill individuals as Pure Evil only serves to misinform the public and to scare those suffering from mental disorders from seeking help. Hopefully, the discussions being generated by JOKER will encourage people to learn more about complex diseases like schizophrenia and to be more proactive in reaching out to loved ones who are displaying signs of mental anguish.
Women outnumber men in higher education but gender stereotyped subject choices persist
Education is essential to achieving gender equality. From the earliest schooling to the highest levels of post-graduate study, education influences the opportunities that can shape people’s lives.
This is why education and training of women is one of the 12 critical areas of concern in the Beijing Platform for Action, while target 4.5 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) calls for the elimination of gender disparities in education by 2030.
In the UNECE region girls tend to outperform boys in terms of learning outcomes in schools, and women outnumber men in tertiary education (university level and beyond) in almost all countries of the region.
Women remain in the minority, however, as students of stereotypically “masculine” subjects such as ICT and engineering, although in recent years they have begun slowly gaining ground.
Tertiary level graduates
In 39 out of the 47 UNECE countries with data, more than 55 per cent of tertiary graduates are women. Iceland has the highest share, with 66 per cent women. Seven countries are close to gender parity, with the share of women ranging from 48 to 55 per cent, and only in Uzbekistan are women in a clear minority, with 38 per cent of tertiary graduates.
After decades of increase in women’s participation in higher education, women substantially outnumbered men among tertiary level graduates in most countries by 2012. Since then, women’s share has declined in 32 out of the 47 countries with data. Whilst in Azerbaijan and Turkey fewer than half of tertiary graduates were women in 2012, more women have entered tertiary education in these countries since and the 2017 data already show gender parity there.
Subject choices of women and men
The subjects studied at tertiary level by women and men can reflect stereotypes of “masculine” and “feminine” subject areas. Some subjects may be preferred by potential employers and may affect occupational segregation once graduates enter the labour market. Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) and Engineering, Manufacturing and Construction (EMC) are two broad groups of subjects where male students have historically predominated.
Women remain a minority among ICT students in the UNECE region, with percentages ranging from 11 in Belgium to 33 in Greece. The four countries with the largest share of women among ICT students are all in the Balkan region. Among students of EMC, the share of women is somewhat higher, but still falls far short of parity, ranging from 14 per cent in Georgia to 44 per cent in North Macedonia.
In both of these subject groups, the recent trend shows small gains for women in some countries but reductions in others. Overall, progress towards gender equality in these two typically male-dominated subject areas is uneven and slow.
UNECE Beijing+25 Regional Review Meeting
Progress in achieving gender equality in education will be one of the areas in focus at the upcoming Beijing+25 Regional Review Meeting for the UNECE region, with a particular emphasis on how women and girls can enter currently male-dominated fields.
The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action of 1995 (Beijing Platform for Action) is the most ambitious road map for the empowerment of women and girls everywhere. In 2020, it will be 25 years since the Beijing Platform for Action outlined how to overcome the systemic barriers that hold women back from equal participation in all areas of life.
The Beijing+25 Regional Review Meeting (29-30 October 2019) will take stock of where the UNECE region stands on keeping the promises of the Beijing Platform for Action. Bringing together government representatives and key stakeholders from the UNECE region, the meeting will tackle a number of obstacles that keep girls and women from realizing their full potential. UNECE is joining forces with the UN Women Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia to deliver a two-day multi-stakeholder meeting to exchange concrete policies to accelerate the realization of gender equality. The outcomes of the meeting will feed into the global review of the Beijing Platform for Action taking place at the sixty-fourth session of the Commission on the Status of Women in New York from 9 to 20 March 2020.
A Resurging Possibility and an Increased Hope for a United Balochistan
According to the Balochistan Liberation charter formulated under Hyrbyair Marri, the division of Balochistan into several parts is a legacy...
Ambitious Reforms for Stronger Economic Growth in Ukraine
Economic growth in Ukraine picked up to 3.6 percent in the first half of 2019 and 4.2 percent in the...
Job Quality in Cambodia is Improving, but New Policies Are Needed to Benefit from Global Markets
The diversity and quality of jobs available in Cambodia is improving, yet new policies are needed for Cambodia to benefit...
US pardons for accused war criminals, contrary to international law
A presidential pardon for two United States soldiers accused of war crimes, and a sentence reduction for a third, “run against...
Lithuanians fight for silence
The Ministry of Defence of Denmark has made an important decision supporting human rights of Danish citizens. Thus, Denmark’s new...
What Jokowi’s anti-radicalism cabinet can do for Indonesian security
Jokowi second terms have been preoccupied with the issue of radicalism following the shocking attack to former coordinator minister of...
Sri Lanka’s election results and their implications
Authors: Tridivesh Singh Maini & Mahitha Lingala* The Sri Lankan election result, was closely observed, not just for its likely...
Defense3 days ago
As Kashmir simmers the IOR too stands as a potential Nuclear Flashpoint
Americas3 days ago
The Intellectual Doomsday Clock: 30 Seconds to Midnight?
Africa2 days ago
The Geopolitics of natural resources of Western Sahara
Southeast Asia3 days ago
Belt and Road Initiative: Challenging South and Southeast Asia
Russia3 days ago
Russia, Africa and the Debts
Europe2 days ago
EU chief prosecutor Laura Kovesi needs media freedom to do her job
Newsdesk3 days ago
UNIDO, Ethiopia and China agree to strengthen cooperation on agri-business development
Europe2 days ago
U.S. President Trump to meet Bulgaria’s Prime Minister at the White House: What to expect?