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New Social Compact

Are Self-Forgetfulness and Dehumanization Derived from the Dichotomy Science/ Liberal Arts?

Emanuel L. Paparella, Ph.D.

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“The unexamined life is not worth living”-Socrates “Is my self really mine?”-St. Augustine

[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] W [/yt_dropcap] e have heard much lately about the “world in turmoil,” or about a confused alienated relativistic Western society pursuing pleasure and economic wealth while misguidedly imagining that they by themselves will contribute to its overall well-being and happiness, and at the same time despairing of ever finding the true meaning of life, what Aristotle calls Eudaimonia, happiness, or its pursuit, as the US Constitution proclaims, properly understood as the “flourishing life,” a life that fulfills its nature and potential and achieves its destiny.

It is indeed encouraging that we are becoming increasingly conscious of our present predicament and returning to the wisdom of the ancients. Perhaps we have already intuited that the problem is less scientific or technological and more philosophical, having to do with our very humanity. But the question persists: were the ancients on the right track when they insisted that the unexamined life is not worth living, and that man needs to ask the question what does it mean to be human and only after adequately answering that question will he be able to devise a theory of “the good life?”

Moreover, there is a more profound concept of the self. St. Augustine puts the riddle of the self this way: What is so much thine as thyself and what is so little thine as thyself? What Augustine is pointing out is this: underlying the question “Who am I” is a further question: “Is my I really mine?” Ultimately this is the question of freedom asking “How much in control am I of the self?”

Those are questions acutely felt by perceptive modern men who feel themselves “thrown into existence” in a world largely devoid of meaning, condemned to play certain roles within certain social structures oriented toward consumerism, production, success and material affluence. Questions that Thoreau already attempted to address way back in 1847 with his reflections on Walden Pond. Closer to us, Jacques Ellul explores extensively the modern phenomenon of value-free technological “efficient ordering” which pervades all aspects of modern life since Descartes (see his The Betrayal of the West).

Previous to Ellul, Marx had already identified this form of alienation in the individual’s role as object of exploitation. But this alienation transcends the mere economic sphere of one’s humanity and occurs in all types of societies. In fact, the greater the organization of a society—i.e., the interdependence of all its social phenomena and the determinism of its processes—the greater seems to be the alienation, anonymity and servitude of its individuals to processes and forces that hamper their creativity and identity. Indeed, this is the question of freedom.

We live in two worlds which hardly understand and communicate with each other: the humanistic world and the scientific world (see The Two Worlds by C.P. Snow). Those who live in the latter are quick to point out that technology has provided us with the means to subdue the earth and free the destitute and oppressed masses from brutalizing labor. That is however only partly true given that millions of people in the third world as I write this remain oppressed and exploited. Those people usually fail to observe how in the 20th century, after World War I, the very concept of Utopia present even in Marxist ideology practically disappeared. In the 19th century, when belief in the so called “inevitable” progress of science was prevalent, utopia was felt to be the very goal of history. Utopia meant a world without oppression and injustice, without hunger and class conflicts.

Karl Marx certainly envisioned, like Plato, utopia as the culmination of man’s history, after a few inevitable dialectic class conflicts had been resolved. This ideal vision, alas, is no longer with us. As Einstein pointed out in the 20th century, we are now mainly preoccupied with the means of the goal of utopia. In the process of perfecting those means, the goal, i.e., utopia itself, is lost sight of. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the field of education where means have long ago swallowed up goals and “educrats” have firmly established themselves as the well-paid managers of those means. It is no secret that bureaucracy now absorbs 60% or more of the money earmarked for education in the Western World.

At this sorry stage of depersonalization, the pressing question is about our very humanity. Are we still capable of acting humanely? That is to say, is the self still home? If it is not, that may explain why so many individuals do not know what do with their leisure. They simply do not know what to do with their selves. Pascal for one provides the answer as to why so much of modern recreation assumes a mode of centrifugal dissipation rather than one of centripetal concentration. In his famous Penseé he points out that the cause of our unhappiness can be identified in the fact that we cannot simply sit still in a room for more than a few minutes.

Or as Dante illustrates it in his Commedia, to be alone is a terrifying experience if no self is encountered. It is in the loss of the self that much modern existential angst can be located. Once I have lost my self, I may knock at the door of my own home and find that nobody lives there any longer. To say it with Dante, “so bitter it is that death is little more.” At that point I may become unable to pursue the question of my own humanity.

Dante for one needed Virgil’s guide to overcome the three beasts that obstructed the beginning of his journey into the self. And here we return to the theme of freedom and determinism. Contrary to what Freudianism may hold, humans are not mere bundles of impulses and instincts independent of time and place. Society is perfectly capable of adapting and molding these impulses and even perverting them in order to fit them into its principles of reality. All that needs to be done is to make people believe that their wants are their needs and that to be deprived of those wants is be victimized. Politicians seem to be very good at this sort of game. As Jackson Lears has aptly written in his No Place of Grace: “… A therapeutic world view…has become part of the continuing pattern of evasive banality in modern culture. Celebrating spurious harmony, the therapeutic outlook has further undermined personal moral responsibility and promoted ethics of self-fulfillment well attuned to the consumer ethos of 20th century capitalism.”

Our incessant talk and reality shows (now we have a president-elect who is a master at staging them…) are mere symptoms of that kind of cancer eating at our Western civilization. When the disease has become pervasive, people begin to sincerely believe that to be human and to have self-esteem is to own a car equipped with a telephone with which to order pizza on the way home. Some have even installed make-believe phones with which to confer more self-esteem and self-importance on themselves. To drive while talking on the phone gives others the impression that momentous decisions are being executed and that one is an important clog in the larger scheme of things.

The gorilla with a telephone in his paw able to tweet only a couple of hundred characters and with a span of attention of 10 seconds is of course merely funny. A much less amusing and sinister aspect of this pressure to adjust and conform are the propagandistic and ideological apparatuses that have distinguished the 20th century. People caught in those monstrosities can hardly be imagined as being endowed with a shred of autonomy or as striving after what Jung called “individuation.” In those types of societies, man has not only dehumanized himself but he is unable to cure himself. An outside force seems to be needed. It can only come from the few individuals in whom the image of authentic humanity is still kept alive and who have the courage to free that image by condemning and altering corrupting social structures. Solzhenitsyn jumps to mind during the Soviet era in Russia.

In the 60s we had in America a counterculture movement largely sponsored by college students and theorized by Herbert Marcuse in his book Eros and Civilization. He thought, as some misguided intellectuals still do, that a new humanity was on the horizon, ushered in by new technological developments (automation, so called) which would keep oppressive work at a minimum while raising leisure and freedom to the maximum. The aggressive instincts identified by Freud as aroused by social repression, would simply wither away. So would Judeo-Christian morality, another vestige of social repression. This “new man,” reminiscent of Nietzsche’s overman (the Huberman) would be characterized by the fact that he would not have to merit life; he would simply enjoy it. Whatever aggressive instincts might be left in him would be sublimated through sports and the building of civilized communities that respected nature.

Here we should pause to note that of the many hippy communes established in the 60s, few survived and those which did had some kind of religious foundation and structure. In any case, this was perhaps the last naïve attempt at utopia on the part of modern technocratic man. It never came to pass. What did come to pass is best explained by Allan Bloom in his controversial The Closing of the American Mind where he provides an analysis of this “new man.” Far from being tolerant and simply enjoying life in Utopia, the “new man” has by now entrenched himself in the University’s chambers of power (the same chambers at whose gates he was protesting in the 60s) and from there he now imposes “political correctness” on academia. All done, mind you, in the name of civilizing tolerance and equality. What in reality is at work is a sort of Nietzschean nihilism and relativism. As indeed Nietzsche correctly foresaw in the 19th century, once God is dead, one is left with little more than “the will to power,” or a reduction of persons to functions of emergent social conditions. Within such a community, neither God (be he the one of the Judeo-Christian tradition or Plato’s) nor man (as conceived by the Renaissance echoing Protagoras) is any longer the measure of all things. The measure, or criterion, is now constituted almost exclusively by material and economic structures.

In song and in dance this man will end up bragging of the fact that he is a “material man,” turning vices into virtues on his TV shows where everybody washed one’s dirty linens in public, where every opinion is as good as any other, where triviality and banality reign supreme and truth is prostituted to expediency and freedom is mistaken for license. This new humanity is constituted by economic structures conceived as a sort of demiurge fashioning it. But this demiurge named “market” far from being a panacea can easily become an instrument of repression and dehumanization when not tempered by justice.

Few people, either within the capitalistic or the socialist camp, bother to seriously ask the question: How can we humanize these economic structures that leave so many people at the margins of prosperity? Even Nobel winners in economics and science, while searching for alternative to capitalism or socialism, do not seem to be able to formulate the question, never mind answering it. The alternative to both systems is still eluding them, never mind that the social encyclicals of the last one hundred years have offered some viable alternatives. What seems to be desperately needed is an independent picture of humanity; i.e., an awareness of being a self. Without that picture even the need for a journey is not perceivable. As Kierkegaard best rendered it, man then remains in the despair of self-forgetfulness, in the “sickness unto death” of the well adjusted individual identifying with the values of his society, blissfully unaware that he has been reduced to a consuming automaton.

When man cannot conceive of his own destiny any longer and begins to talk of soul as mere mind, and then of mind as mere computing brain and “software,” then indeed the sickness may be terminal. For when the I is lost, one cannot even grieve over its loss. And Kiekegaard is not talking here of a mere psychological phenomenon. Rather he is talking about an existential despair, the angst of which a Thoreau or a Heidegger speak of. This is a sort of sickness that is hardly noticeable in the workaday world where the afflicted are engaged in all sorts of productive activities geared to repress the anxiety, while remaining lost “in a dark wood” with not even the faintest desire to seek “the right way.” This is Kierkegaard life of “quiet desperation.”

Tragically, in that self-forgetfulness and imperceptible loss of identity, modern man becomes less than primitive man; he becomes, in fact, less than a beast, a monstrosity. Elie Wiezel is right in affirming that the proper ethical implications of mankind’s Nazi past have hardly been drawn yet. For we remain unwilling to question our humanity and thus relive the terror of such a past. It is easier by far to lay flowers on the tomb of the Third Reich’s unknown soldier in an inauthentic gesture of reconciliation. But reconciliation requires remembrance, acceptance, the asking of forgiveness, the granting of forgiveness, repentance, reparation. When these are missing reconciliation becomes a mockery. It becomes self-forgetfulness.

As Dante and Vico have been trying to teach us for centuries now, to be human is to be forced to ask about one’s self, to be compelled by the image toward which one is thrust and which emerges at the intersection of essence and existence, at the point of ethical tension between what is and what ought to be.

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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New Social Compact

Why People Run: Motivation Theory Applied to Diverse Migration

Ebad Mobaligh

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According to a United Nations report, 3.2% of world population or 258 million people, live in a country other than their country of birth. Between 1990 and 2017,the number of international immigrants increased by 69% or 105 million, with the majority of immigration taking place between 2005 to 2017. The phenomenon of cross-border immigration is an important aspect of international relations and modern life. People migrate from their country of origin for a variety of reasons: to avoid conflicts or violence, or distressed environmental challenges; to escape poverty, to provide better opportunities for their children, to reunite with families, to obtain a better education and to find employment. They face tough and challenging decisions and take life-threating risks to make a move domestically or across the borders.

Why do people migrate from their home country and what are the motivational factors that lead to such an unforeseeable journey? How do they choose their destination? This paper applies motivational theory to this migration. I investigate the personal, social, economic, and cultural variables that are the critical basis of these motivations. Europe, with 78 million immigrants, holds the 2nd place in the world, and Germany, with the most immigrants, holds the 1st place among European countries. More than 1.6 million new immigrants arrived in Germany in 2014 .I have employed motivation theory to immigrants in Germany in order to determine why people emigrate to other countries.

Motivation Theory

Abraham Maslow believes that a person’s needs are the primary motivators for migration and categorized the need into the following five levels—physiological needs, safety needs, social needs, esteem needs, and self-actualization needs. I have used the typology of motivational theory developed by Tartakovsky and Schwarts, who validated their theory by applying it to a sample of 158 potential Jewish emigrants from Russia to Israel .They investigated three different theoretical motivations:“preservation (physical, social, and psychological security), self-development (personal growth in abilities, knowledge, and skills), and materialism (financial wellbeing, wealth)”2 to validate the theory.

They described preservation as the physical, social, and psychological security for them and their family. The psychological aspect of this theory is the motivation to protect the social identity of the self or family in the face of a threat. Preservation motivation expresses that when people fear that they no longer have appropriate security to protect their social identity in their home country, they are motivated to move somewhere else. Self-development motivation refers to the stimulation of personal growth, learning new skills, and acquiring new knowledge. The authors described “Self-development motivation to emigrate as the higher-order openness to change value type that emphasizes self-direction, creativity, challenge, and adventure in all aspects of life”(Tartakovsky and Schwartz. 2001). When people are faced with economic hardship, eager to advance their career or learn new skills, or want to obtain a higher level of education, they get motivated to move elsewhere to achieve their goals. Materialism motivation theory of emigration deals with financial wellbeing, wealth, and control over material resources. This motivation stimulates one’s self-desire to enhance the economic and/or job situation. The authors stated that “Materialism motivation expresses the higher-order self-enhancement value type in the context of emigration. This value type emphasizes the pursuit of self-interest through attaining socially approved status, achievement, and control over resources.

People give great importance to more than one of the higher-order values expressed by motivation and may get induced by one of these motivations to emigrate. Additionally, millions of immigrants have arrived in Germany in search of a better life and to escape instability, insecurity, terrorism, poverty, and climate change in other European countries, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. They risked their lives, and many spent their savings to reach the borders in Europe and then made their way to Germany.I have utilized motivational theory to determine the needs that drive people to migrate.

Application of Motivational Theory of Preservation

According to a report by the BBC, more than a million emigrants and refugees have crossed European borders either by sea or by land in the last decade from different parts of the world. Conflict and wars were the main drivers of a huge wave into Europe from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Kosovo, Albania, Pakistan, Eritrea, Nigeria, Iran, and Ukraine (BBC, 2016).I have collected data from immigrants from Syria and Afghanistan to test the theory.

Yazgan, Utku, and Sirkeci in their article “Syrian Crisis and Migration ”defined conflict as “ a very broad sense which includes latent tensions and disagreements on the one end and goes to armed and violent clashes (e.g., wars) on the other”(Yazgan, Utku, and Sirkeci 2015). Their view is that migration takes place when there are discomforts, difficulties, restrictions, clashes, and, finally, violence and wars in the home country. In addition, when people face a threat or an environment of insecurity,  they decide to move elsewhere.

More than 400,000 people have died from the conflict in Syria According to an article in The Washington Post, the Syrian government has launched numerous chemical weapon attacks against its citizens (Loveluck 2019). The security condition remains fragilein Deir ez-Zor region held by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant in Syria, and the lack of basic human needs has motivated people to flee. Similarly, the conflict in Afghanistan has cost the lives of more than 32,000 people since 2008 according to the United Nations. Furthermore, 2018 was the deadliest year with 3804 civilians killed in suicide bombings, targeted killings, and other operations. In addition, a weak central government, corrupt police and army, and increased crime rate are responsible for many un-recorded civilian casualties (“Civilian Deaths from Afghan Conflict in 2018 at Highest Recorded Level – UN Report” 2019). The situation in Afghanistan mostly impacts young educated adults, who are unemployed and don’t feel safe in Afghanistan and, thus, are motivated to emigrate abroad.

I have collected data from several interviews with Afghan and Syrian refugees to validate the motivation for leaving their home countries. Of the refugees we spoke to, eight out of 10 fled Syria following an incident that made them fear for their safety. Many described arbitrary arrests by Syrian forces, the death of family or friends and the deteriorating security conditions in their neighborhoods.

•Tareq, a young refugee from Homs, told us he had no trust in the idea that Syria is safe to return to and spoke of his fears about the actions of Syrian military officers.

“I used to work as an undertaker in Syria. My job was to bury the martyrs,” he said.“When I saw what they had done to them, how they were cut up with knives—no way, there is no trust. Even if they secure everything we need, there is no trust,” he added(Yahya 2018).

•Sana and her sisters were forced to live in one room for two weeks, as their home was destroyed around them. She says,“We left Syria one week ago. There were so many explosions…so we had to leave Syria. What do I remember of Syria? I remember two things—our house being bombed and not having any bread. Most of the houses were being hit. We had to stay in one room, all of us. The other rooms were being hit—(…). The bombs were hitting constantly, I was very scared.”

•Yasmine talks of her fear:“I felt so afraid; I knew we could not move from that one room. There were 13 of us in total. We did not leave that room for two weeks. It was always so loud.”All the sisters were gathered at home one day and they witnessed their father’s killing. “My father left the room. I watched as my father was shot outside our home. I started to cry; I was so sad. We were living a normal life. We had enough food, now we depend on others. Everything changed for me that day,” she says., (“Stories of Syrian Refugees” n.d.).

•Farah and Adnan led a comfortable, successful life in Syria. They had a large house overlooking the city, where they lived with their two children, Fathi, 3, and Zeinah, 1. Farah was hoping to return to school to continue her education, which she had put on hold after having her first child, and Adnan, an Arabic teacher, was pursuing a law degree. Their large, tight-knit family—Adnan has 8 sisters and 5 brothers and Farah has a large family as well—all lived nearby.Then, their house was seized by fighters because of its location. Soon after,it was destroyed. They were homeless, and the nearby cities were under attack as well. Before the bombings could start in their city, Farah and Adnan made the choice to leave their home in order to keep their children safe.“My children were born in the city, and my whole family lived there, but we had to flee to Turkey during one of the outbreaks of fighting,” said Farah. “If we hadn’t left when we did, we would have been killed along with so many other people.”

Farah, Adnan, and their children stayed in Turkey for one year before making the short but treacherous journey to Kos, Greece. Farah thought they would die on the boat crossing, and in Greece, hotels mistreated them, and they had to keep moving around. Farah estimates that they spent almost $1,400 on hotel rooms their first week in Kos. However, spending money on hotels is not their only worry. Both their children desperately needed to see a doctor. Save the Children is giving Fathi and Zeinah the emotional and psychical support they need, but their journey is far from over. Farah and Adnan are soon leaving Greece to make their way to Germany, a nearly 2,000 mile trek. Farah craves a place to call home.“I want to believe we can have a secure and peaceful life again,” she says.

The conditions in Syria and Afghanistan and the data collected from the interviews validate motivation theory of preservation, which expresses that when individuals fear that they no longer  can protect themselves, their families, and their social identity in their home country, they are motivated to move to find security for their families.

Application of Motivational Theory of Self-development

Germany introduced a new immigration bill in 2001 with attractive economic elements when other European countries were contemplating to further restrict their immigration policies in the face of increased terrorism. After four years of intense negotiation between the different political parties in Germany, a law was passed that allows legal immigration of exceptionally skilled workers and self-employed people. In addition to attractive economic elements, the law would empower responsible officials to deport hate preachers and terror suspects. The law was mainly focused on addressing the shortage of highly skilled labor requested by many employers in Germany. This opportunity attracted hundreds of thousands of people from countries where economic opportunities were scarce and unemployment rates were high.

As many as 1.2 million people immigrated to Germany in 2013,with 755,000 or 62% of the total immigrants coming from the European Union (EU) itself to find better jobs, master their skills, or get higher education. Most of the 62% of immigrants were from Poland, where safety was not an issue. Poland had an unemployment rate of over 14% between 2010 and 2015, and the Polish considered Germany’s new immigration law as an excellent opportunity to improve their economic situation.

Another immigration trend is the immigration of job seekers coming to Germany from the south of Europe. Due to high unemployment, especially amongst younger people, more and more qualified professionals are entering Germany. The number of Greek, Spanish, and Portuguese immigrants rose, with most having at least a college degree. The security situation in both East and South Europe is stable, and there is no evidence that people are leaving due to security issues. Data collected from the European immigrants in Germany shows that the motivation behind their decision was personal growth, knowledge, and higher skills. The motivation of the immigrants from Poland, Greece, Spain, and Portugal validates motivation theory of self-development. The theory states that self-development motivation to emigrate expresses the higher-order openness to change the value type that emphasizes self-direction, creativity, challenge, and adventure.

Motivation Theory of Materialism

Many European countries have created a special visa for those who would invest a significant amount in the country’s economy. Germany’s investor visa program provides incentives to encourage foreign investors to either start up a new business or invest in established businesses. Their reward would be citizenship as well as a passport that would allow them to travel, work, or live anywhere in Europe. Concerning Chinese investors emigrating to Europe, Wong and Primecz wrote, “We argue that these ‘new migrants’ are active entrepreneurs seeking new market opportunities, and many have served local market needs. It explores the development and nature of newly created Chinese enterprises by examining the opportunities arising from ‘structural holes’ in the economy.”Additionally, they drew on the concept of mixed embeddedness as the crucial connection between social, economic, and cultural contexts, from which migrant enterprises emerge and into which they are embedded(Wong and Primecz 2011).

An estimated 200,000 Chinese immigrants live in Germany. While most of them came to Germany with labor visas, a large number of them are business owners who emigrated to Germany to expand their local businesses based in China. “The small but growing crop of newcomers is nothing like the immigrants who worked in restaurants in the 1980s and 1990s. They wear fine leather shoes, banter in German, shuttle between Europe and China, and hold MBAs and accounting and legal qualifications, said Rainer Gehnen, executive director of the German-Chinese Business Association.” Numerous investments have been coming from China to Germany, and they need locally experienced legal, tax and management consultants and advisers. “Many service providers in Germany hire Chinese professionals to facilitate efficient communication with their Chinese business partners” (“Chinese Professionals Make Their Mark in Germany” 2013).The immigration of Chinese investors in Europe, in particular, Germany, validates the motivational theory of materialism, which deals with financial wellbeing, wealth, and control over material resources.

Conclusion

Data from Syrian, Afghans, Polish, and Chinese immigrants in Germany were critical to the investigation of general motivational theories of migration. I have applied three different theoretical motivations—motivational theory of preservation, motivational theory of self-development, and motivational theory of materialism—to the data and have confirmed the validity of all three theories. It means, moving forward, that ever more attention needs to be paid to motivation theory, across many other cases and diverse global regions, as it seems to have that magical intellectual quality of being both flexible and accurate.

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Captain Jasmin: Charting a sea change in a man’s world

Capt. Jasmine Labarda

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I never knew anything about life at sea before I started my training. Certainly, where I come from – the Philippines – and also in other countries, being a seafarer is not seen as a job for a woman. In fact, the sea is seen as a man’s world.  It’s their space, it’s their history. There is never a ‘herstory.

I decided to go down this path for financial reasons. I knew it wasn’t the norm but I wanted to be able to get a job at the end of my studies. I could have opted to stay in a very safe place but instead I put myself in a difficult situation and pushed myself to the limits. When I was training there were only four women. There was really no-one to guide me so it was trial and error.

When I began working on ships I would encounter negativity. The thought in people’s minds is ‘you can’t do the job’. They say it’s too physical, that women can’t do it, but I’ve seen men who aren’t strong and there are some tasks that men can’t do. But they only have to see your name and the thought is always there, that you can’t do the job. So you have to work ten times harder than the men.  Even when you are land-based you find the same attitudes and discrimination.

There have been many times when I have been the only woman on board. One time, I remember, I was working on a ship for a seven-month stretch, the only woman among 20 men. Working in this kind of environment can be stressful psychologically so you have to stay strong, alert and protect yourself. It’s 2019 and I’m still having to share toilets with men but for me these inconveniences are very small things.  I don’t actually notice them.  What’s more important to me is to work and stay determined to do what I have to do.

Despite these challenges I would encourage women to go into seafaring because it’s a great opportunity for professional growth. Besides, we are squandering 50 per cent of our resources if seafaring is restricted to men. People may think it’s a man’s world but it’s everybody’s world.

I’ve been all around the world – Africa, China, Japan, Korea, Sweden, South America, Thailand – so many places. At the moment I’m working in the North Sea on a ship with a crew of more than 100, laying oil and gas pipelines.  I’m second-in-command so I’m on the Bridge, driving the vessel. I’ve really had to work hard to work my way up. They say there’s diversity but there’s still a glass ceiling. Yet we’re getting there.

There’ll always be pressures and problems but the key is to be yourself in difficult situations and stay determined.  You just have to have the right attitude and habits and encourage people to embrace difference.

It’s still not the norm that women work at sea but I am hopeful that there is a future for women in seafaring. I have a responsibility to make sure that happens.

ILO

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Herat, the fire’s bride

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The olive eyes of Shaista peep between the bandages covering her burnt body, for she, like so many other Afghan women from the city of Herat, decided to escape her life by way of fire.

Shaista arrived at the hospital burning between wisps of hair and fabric, and her 19-year-old body is now a landscape of lava.

Tears seep between the gauze and the passageways of her blistered skin. Compassion is the closest thing to love that she will experience, and the hands of the man who changed her bandages are amongst the few that didn’t strike her.

She set herself on fire for a crime she didn’t commit, one that doesn’t exist, or one that everyone else appears to see except her. Her crime was being born a woman.

According to Oxfam, 8 out of every 10 Afghan women suffer either physical, sexual or psychological violence.

In 2015, the Independent Afghan Commission for Human Rights registered 5,132 gender crimes and between April and June 2016 the Ministry of Women’s Affairs reported 600, but many go unreported.

The women who go to the police are at risk of being raped before being returned to their families. Those who escape for more than 48 hours face accusations of adultery, the punishment for which is either facial mutilation or death. Passed between relatives, offered to others to pay debts or settle disputes, raped and subjected to acid attacks in the streets; these women lose their mental stability and take their own lives in the most brutal way.

They usually come from lower social groups and as they don’t have access to guns or money to buy barbiturates, they drink rat poison, hang themselves, jump into rivers or set themselves on fire.

Although the families declare a ‘domestic accident’, it is easy to identify a suicide, as the majority are aged between 14-21 years old and are soaked in kerosene, when in fact most people use firewood or gas to do the cooking at home.

85% of Afghan women are unable to read or write and thus out of ignorance believe that they will die quickly. But instead they suffer for days before dying. Many pour boiling oil over themselves or drizzle it over their abdomen in order to raise attention to their plight, but sometimes the flames envelop them.

One of the most influential thinkers and leading Afghan practitioners in the field, Dr. Djawed Sangdel says: “Education is a key. This country needs a thorough horizontalisation of education for all.”

80% of those who arrive in hospital perish because of a lack of means to treat them, and if they do survive, they suffer lifelong consequences, for it is difficult to follow a course of treatment whilst carrying water and looking after numerous children.

Almost 40 years of war brought with it misery, poor health and lack of governance, under which the patriarchal system flourished; a system which made Afghanistan an open-air prison for women, causing them irreparable psychological damage.

The country’s laws tolerate tribal codes and 60% of girls under the age of 15 are forced to marry men double their age, according to the Revolutionary Association of Women in Afghanistan.

Studies from the UN Fund for the Development of Women reveal that the majority of widows sell their bodies or turn to begging in order to survive, and 65% of them see suicide as the only solution to their misery.

Herat, once known as the Pearl of Khorasan, is today a ghost town, with a horizon dotted with adobe houses, obsolete war munitions and faces hidden from the world behind the grille of a burka.

After a week in hospital, Shaista’s mother-in-law escaped with her to hide her at home, as her son simply didn’t deserve the shame of a suicidal wife.

Almost a month after the fire, she returned with wounds all over her body and without any feeling in her arms due to large necrotic areas. She did, however, survive – one of life’s cruel jokes.

Now with the same fears as before, scars from the fire on her skin and with only one arm to carry her daughter, Shaista is back in the place that she so wanted to flee.

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