Why you should think twice before cheering for the Rio Olympics – 7 Aug 16

So the Olympic Games in Rio, Brazil have started. A huge sport event each time, wherever on the world it takes place and people show their excitement by waving flags, posting on social media and of course watching TV to see how well their country’s athletes perform. Whenever I see such a batch on facebook however, I wonder whether the person posting knows at all what has been going on there before the start. I doubt it – otherwise there would be at least mixed feelings and not this enthusiasm that is for sure!

Obviously, a country applies for becoming host of the Olympics because they get a certain amount of benefits. The biggest of these is that a lot of tourists coming to the country bring business to the country. Another one is that infrastructure is improved for the games – and of course exists for the people of the country after the games, too! Towns are cleaned and made beautiful and some more bigger and smaller advantages compared to regular life.

In Brazil, things went a big different. One reason for this may be the big amount of corruption in that country which, similarly to India, blocks some very good initiatives and spoils the effect.

There were, for example, plans to clean the waters where boating and swimming competition will take place – because they were full of sewage water when the plans of the Olympics in Rio started. Unfortunately however pictures, reports and water tests today show that nothing much happened. Athletes are advised not to open their mouth to avoid diseases – ugh!

Coming to the point of infrastructure, you can see from the mere fact that stadiums were not ready until two days before the opening that things didn’t really go as planned in regards to infrastructure either! Cycle tracks had been built and broken down, transportation systems had not been extended as planned and more. Additionally there have been reports of workers being kept at slavery-like conditions!

Everyone going to Rio for the Olympics faces another issue which is not of small importance: life is not secure at all! There are already reports of athletes and visitors getting robbed at gunpoint – not something you would like to experience when going to this kind of event, is it?

It is no wonder that the people of the country itself are protesting! Protesting against the government and the games. Against corruption, neglect and everything that causes problems in their daily life. Because while the Olympic Games will be in town for a bit more than two weeks and Rio will do its best to shine, they will stay living with all these dangers and disadvantages which athletes and tourists will only keep as a negative memory! People work long hours for getting nothing in return, slums are growing with crime spreading like wildfire, children have little to no chance for education, malnutrition is too common and child labour normal for those families who simply need the money for survival! Corruption and violence come from police and government alike, making people disillusioned about any help they could get. It is a dire situation.

We cannot close our eyes to all of these facts and just see the glitter and glamour that the hosts and organizers want us to see! We have to see the whole picture and realize that at least there is one benefit: this event shows us what is happening in Brazil and that things are not all rosy there at all! If we want to support our athletes and enjoy the games, we should also see the background of the venue and the situation of people there. If there is any way we can help, we should. And be it just by telling people about the situation and raising awareness in this way.

Don’t let Terrorists get what they want! – 25 Jul 16

Today I want to write to you about recent events in Europe. In my second home, to be exact: in Germany. I am sure you have heard about the terroristic attack in Munich – and you can imagine that we all are touched by this topic as well. However disturbed however you are, I would say one thing: don’t let this fear get you down. Because that is exactly what terrorists want.

Yes, it is true: what is the aim of terrorists? Spreading terror and fear. Disturbing your normal life in a way that makes it impossible for you not to think of them. Terrorists want you to act out of fear and that’s exactly what we should not do if we don’t want them to win!

Acting out of fear does not only mean that you don’t go out anymore or that you avoid concerts, festivals and big crowds in general. No, it is also about your actions towards people who are different. It comes to your thoughts, attitude and behavior as well! Do you start avoiding those who look different? Do you suddenly change the side of the road if you see a man in different clothing or hairstyle? Does your mindset start moving towards an attitude that would forbid foreigners, even refugees, to come to your country?

Because this is what is happening in many parts of the world right now and this plays directly into the hands of terrorists. What could fuel insecurity, negative feelings and finally hate towards others more than a big politician or leader telling foreigners to stay out of the country? And those leaders are supported by people who act out of fear. Who were affected by the attacks and decided to think against others instead of thinking how we, as society and mankind, can help each other in love instead of fear.

That’s how we get people like Donald Trump as presidential candidates! That’s how we get people like Narender Modi as prime minister.

And that’s how they get the power to fuel this hate even more.

So in the end, in all our democratic countries, it is up to us to decide: do we want to be in fear and give power to those who cash in on fear? Or would we rather despise the acts of terrorists, refuse to let them influence out minds and actions and spread kindness and love?

I request you to do the latter – for the sake of mankind and peace in this world!

Shameful and painful Situation in India – 7 Oct 15

I normally don’t write about politics in my blog. I use social media for that but as the situation in India seems to deteriorate and the issues gain international attention as well, I would like to register my unhappiness and protest, if you will, in this way today.

Recently an incident in India made headlines in big newspapers all over the world. Maybe you have heard it as well. In the Hindu temple of a village, the temple’s priest announced what the son of a leader of India’s ruling party, the BJP, had told him. It was the rumor that a Muslim family of the village had eaten beef. Upon hearing this, a mob was quickly formed which marched to this family’s home and brutally attacked the family’s father and son. Their strikes and blows killed the father and the son was admitted to the hospital with life-threatening injuries. In the aftermath, it turned out that they had not even eaten beef but lamb – but that did not revive the dead husband and father!

It is an outrageous story which was rightly covered internationally but even more appalling are the reactions of other members of the leading party! That son of a BJP leader, due to whose words this all happened, and some others were arrested. The leaders of their party however excuse their behavior, saying these young adults, who were all above eighteen, are innocent children, just kids who got too excited! They don’t want them to be booked for murder!

At the same time however, they openly approve of their actions, saying anybody who eats beef should get this kind of punishment! A member of parliament of our nation’s ruling party said that the cow was our mother and if you killed our mother, you would be killed as well! These people are ready to kill someone due to the consumption of cow meat!

Of course all these politicians are hypocrites! The most expensive restaurants of the country sell beef, in many states, beef is just normal food for the local population and this all is no problem! But they use this sentiment of the normal, religious Hindu for consciously provoking violence so that the country’s population polarizes and they get more votes!

Yes, it is a big plan. Another BJP leader said ‘If there are riots, we will win the election’, shortly before state elections, and in the past, this has proven true! Political leaders provoke violent reactions from different religious groups, mostly Hindus and Moslems, separating and splitting the country in this way. Some people will die in the riots. In the end, they get the Hindu votes, thus a majority. And that’s how those who were accused of rioting some years ago now sit in the assembly! It is an easy strategy to get votes on the name of religion or caste!

To top it all, our Prime Minister keeps his silence. His party shows its main aim the economic development. Even this is just a farce, something that happens only for the rich. They get richer while the common man and the poor one are still in the same situation as before! Worse even, if they are not religious Hindus, they are even in danger. Unfortunately with this right-wing party ruling, extremist and nationalist Hindus are in power and have the strength as well as political support to provoke violence against those who believe something else.

Well-known rationalist, atheist writers have been killed due to the same reasons and religious extremists have a list on which they already have their next target.

It is a sensitive time for our country and that’s how I am writing here today. I told you yesterday how even a little effort helps and many renowned writers of this country had the same thought. They gave back rewards to the government which they had got for their work as a sign of protest. We all have to show that this is not the India that we want to have. This is not the open, multi-cultural, welcoming country which we claim to be!

Thank you, Europe, for taking care of Refugees – 1 Sep 15

I have yesterday started writing about this topic which is very important and touches me in the heart: the situation of refugees in Europe who have make terrible experiences on their way and sometimes even face bad situations once they reach a country where they are registered and brought to a temporary home. There is however a different side to this situation as well: the thousands and even millions of people who are helping! I want to say a big thank you and at the same time encourage my friends and readers in Europe to keep up – or start – this great support for people who are in need!

Of course, there are haters, xenophobes, neo-Nazis and right-wing extremists. We can see their faces in the news. At least in the German news however, we can see much more clearly, much more often and in much greater numbers people who do the opposite: they welcome the refugees and support them selflessly in every way they can. And they are not only in Germany – all over Europe there are these wonderful people full of love in their hearts!

There are people who stand at the train stations when trains with refugees arrive. They wave with flowers and hold up ‘welcome’ signs when a bus reaches their town with exhausted young and old men and women who are nervous and at least a little bit afraid as well.

There are countless helpers in cities, towns and villages across Europe who offer their free time, their hands, minds and legs to charitable organizations. They help serving food, organizing temporary accommodation and distributing clothes, toys and more.

There are those who want to help but don’t find time, send old clothes, supplies, anything that is needed and what they have in spare.

There are families, couples and single persons who take refugees in their homes, offering a place to live for free and offering them the best chance to integration they could ever have.

There are volunteers who organize classes in the language of the country they are now in, who teach them skills they may need, who take them to the doctor or to various offices they have to visit to get settled.

And there are those beautiful people who organize special events for refugees – celebrations to welcome them, parties to introduce them to the volunteers who can help, trips with the children to playgrounds or a nearby lake and so on.

You already see that it is a long list of many things that are done for refugees, a long list of great deeds wonderful people are helping with. It is just amazing to see.

Although I never was a refugee, never had such a situation of emergency and need, this is the Germany and Europe that I have always experienced. Open and friendly, welcoming and loving. Seeing this gives me a warm feeling in the heart. It makes me believe that those who are spreading hatred are far outnumbered by those who spread love.

Tragic Situation of Refugees in Europe – 31 Aug 15

In the past weeks, I have got a lot of news where were quite disturbing and distressing – as there are millions of people who are suffering.

Europe has been hit by a wave of refugees – one could say. One could also say that the situation in several countries has been so horribly bad for such a long time, that millions of people have lost their homes and had to flee. And now they are entering Europe after often very dangerous journeys and nearly all countries are overwhelmed with the sheer numbers. That’s how refugee homes, mobile camps, gymnasiums, town halls, old warehouses and similar places are crowded with people sleeping on camp beds. Governments are struggling to get the administration to work fast enough and get bureaucratic tasks done quickly.

Seeing the reports, reading their stories and getting to know what these people have been through, makes you feel horrible that this kind of things are possible in today’s time, in today’s world. There are families that started their way together, as a group, but have been torn apart on the way. Parents are searching their children, husbands are searching their wives. Others know already that they don’t need to search: their family members are dead.

They have walked hundreds, even thousands of miles. A lot of them have been in those horrible ships and boats trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea. Boats, too many of which have already sunk in the waters which means a certain death to thousands of people. Fathers have seen their daughters and sons drown, thrown overboard by the inhumane monsters that have taken horrendous sums of money to promise these people safe passage.

Facilitators, criminals exploit the last rest out of people who have already been torn apart by war and dictators in their country, by prosecution due to their religion or origin. In their hope of finding a peaceful, safe place to live, just somewhere, anywhere, they accept exploitation, beatings and finally the danger to die on the way, suffocated in the back of a truck on a European highway.

 

They climb over and under barbed wire fences to cross borders. They get onto trains without tickets. They try to illegally enter a tunnel to walk a distance of 50 kilometers under the sea. They are already illegal, they are already at the end of their strengths, they have already lost everything but their lives and, only sometimes, each other. How much worse can it get?

Oh it can! Unfortunately that has been proven as well: they reach a place where they are told to be, just to stay until the paper work is done, until they can maybe get asylum, a visa, the permission to work – and then there are people protesting in front of their temporary homes! There are those who put the houses on fire which they wanted to move in! There are those who walk through the streets, protesting against them just being there.

Seeing all of this, although from far away, makes me incredibly sad. Sad even that it has come this far! So many people’s lives have not only changed drastically, so many people’s lives have just been finished, ended! So many people suffering in a world where so many have so much more than enough!

And still there are those who write and shout insults. It is incredible to me!

At the end, however, there is still this hope, the light, a shine of positivity as well: there are others! There are people who help and do it differently! And about them, I will write tomorrow.

International Yoga Day in India – Mats from China and Money to Yoga Business Tycoons – 21 Jun 15

So today is Sunday once more, the 21st June which is in this year for the first time the ‘International Yoga Day’. How could I not know about it – because in India, today’s events have been in the news for days, making it a media spectacle, a show-off event and a big publicity stunt rather than a day to spread awareness of health. Why and how? Let me explain.

India’s government made an effort to get this day proclaimed the International Yoga Day and finally, with the agreement of many other countries, the UN announced that the 21st June would now be known under this name. If you talk about yoga anywhere on this earth, people know it has its origins in India. And who would really oppose the benefits of yoga? Surely not me, but behind the scenes of this day’s celebration by the Indian government, there are a few factors that show you that the spirit of yoga was not the main goal on their mind.

The Indian government has spent millions of Dollars for this day. The biggest point of celebration is of course in Delhi, where on the Rajpath, the ceremonial boulevard, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi did yoga this morning together with 35000 people – prepared a long time ago, in order to achieve a Guinness World Record. This is India’s contribution to the world.

All over India, the government has created 651 centers where there are simultaneous yoga events. Each of these centers got 1 lakh Rupees, over 1500 US-Dollars, for the realization of this one hour of yoga today. A great effort, until you get to know that they gave the responsibility for 191 of these centers to Ramdev and another 69 to Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, both of whom are far away from being yogis but two of the biggest businessmen of this field with business worth millions of dollars!

Ramdev has worked a lot in the last election to get people to vote for the now ruling party. This is quite clearly his reward. They are paying him off – and it works, as Ramdev is now all over the media with all of his products.

Finally, the government realized they needed yoga mats for all these participants. They had no better idea than import them from China! Modi, who internationally promotes his campaign ‘Make in India’, telling people that India is a great manufacturer decided to give this big business to a foreign country! Why not manufacture them in India? Or go a fully different way and have traditional grass mats made instead! Imagine how many poor people could have got employment from this event?

This is where I am actually going. I am of course not against yoga and I am not against a day of the year announced as International Yoga Day. The question is however another one. The UN recently announced India as the country with the most hungry people of the world. 194 million people daily go to bed hungry. 48% of the children of this country are malnourished. And the government spends millions on the glamour of an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records!

The labourers in this country don’t need a day of yoga in the year. They get their exercise by hard work on their fields or construction sites, trying to earn money to feed their children! What will yoga give them? And instead of giving them work, you sent the money to China!

I am sure if Patanjali was alive and could see this drama, he would hit his head against the nearest wall in disbelief!

Well, I did my yoga routine this morning, just as I do every day and that’s just what I would recommend you, too. Yoga is a lifestyle. It has to come into your daily life. One day yoga in a year is not enough and it doesn’t stop at just some exercises. Practice living in the moment, don’t worry about the future or have regrets about the past, observe yourself and be aware of your thoughts, words and actions. Help others wherever you can – for example by giving them work if they need it –instead of spending money on recognition from the outside – for example for making a World Record…

Rapist Judges – when Rape is not a Crime but used as Punishment for falling in Love – 27 Jan 14

While I was writing about problems of sexual harassment and rape in India in the past week, another terrible incident happened. A brutal gang-rape in a village in West-Bengal, 180 kilometers from Kolkata. This time, it was no a random victim though. It was not a normal rape. It was a punishment, ordered by the village court. The judges were among the rapists.

The woman was 20 years old and had fallen in love with a man. In the eyes of her community, it was the wrong man, from a neighbouring village – something that the community of the village did not approve of. They found them together and dragged them together in front of a quickly called-in village court.

The girl’s family was asked to pay a fine of 50000 INR – a very big amount which they already knew the family would never be able to pay. When the family told that they could not, they decided on a horrible punishment: the girl would be raped by several men of the village.

She herself could not count anymore how many there really were but it was at least thirteen men. Of these men, there were several whom she called her uncles and brothers, who were close to her like family. The young woman’s family was even prohibited from taking her to the hospital for hours after the assault, although she was deeply injured and bleeding. When they finally made it there, they also filed the police complaint.

The police have arrested thirteen men, including the judges who had given the order for this ‘punishment’, this crime. They still resisted the arrest however and police had to call reinforcements to get the suspects.

It is one of the most shocking crimes of that kind we have read about, not because others were less horrible but because this was not a spontaneous decision of a criminal mind. These rapists thought what they were doing was justice, that this was what they should be doing!

West Bengal is the Indian state with highest number of crimes against women. Village courts, courts of elders make their own laws in remote villages and from such instances you can see what they think of women. What place women have in their society and how powerful men are.

Shock, disgust and more is what you can feel and it makes you wonder how there can still be people who say rape is a victim’s fault and not the fault of a sick mindset of men!

Anna Hazare forgot Mahatma Gandhi – Beating Alcoholics in Public – 28 Nov 11

Last week India read something that many people could not believe to be true. Anna Hazare told how he thought alcoholics should be treated and how he had treated them before in his village. To everyone’s surprise he appreciated the cruel method of beating alcohol addicts in public.

He, the anti-corruption fighter who was seen like a second Gandhi for some time, told that the common treatment for alcoholics in his village was to warn them three times that it was not good to drink. If he still got drunk, the villagers would take him to a temple and make him swear to God that he would not touch alcohol anymore. If he nevertheless was caught drinking or drunk, he would be tied against a pole in a public place of the village and be flogged.

You can imagine that this statement created quite an uproar in India. He, the man who was even worshipped just a few weeks or months ago, for his Gandhian way of fighting corruption, talks about violence against alcoholics! Of course the political parties, the Congress and the BJP, who were previously trying to convince the public that they are not against Anna Hazare, immediately gave their statement that they do not support this way of treating people at all. Those who have previously felt threatened by Anna Hazare’s campaign now have a good point to use against him. A spokesman of the Congress said these were Taliban method and you would need to beat up ‘half of Kerala, three-fourth of Andhra Pradesh and about four-fifth of Punjab’ if you followed his advice. I guess it is safe to say that his image of the Gandhian non-violent fighter is gone forever!

I was supporting the cause of fighting corruption by my writing. I wrote a letter to Anna Hazare, one letter to Manmohan Singh and appealed to people not to oppose him because we needed to come together as one in the efforts to stop corruption. From the beginning however I also told that it was wrong to worship the person, to get fixed on the idea that this man will end corruption. When listening to news and interviews with him and his team, I felt that the worship of the individual had already started. The issue of corruption had become less important than the person Anna Hazare. I felt ego in him, too, to be in this role and the media was supporting this ego by focusing on his person instead of the issue. To me, it was clear from the beginning that I support a cause, the fight against corruption, and not one individual person. I supported him because an opposition would have weakened the cause but I cannot agree with such statements in any way.

He has disappointed those who saw him as a kind of holy individual. There are no holy people who don’t have faults and if you expect a person to act as holy, you will be disappointed. He showed what he really thinks and obviously it has nothing to do with the loving, non-violent approach that he displayed earlier. He is frequently shown sitting at the Raj Ghat memorial dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi, meditating there. Do you think Mahatma Gandhi would be in favour of this method? Now everything he did in this way simply looks like a big drama.

Alcoholics are actually poor people. They have an addiction. By beating them or making them afraid of public humiliation, you cannot cure their underlying problem. You have to understand how they got stuck in this addiction so badly. If you know that problem, you can do something against it. Violence and cruelty will not help you in this task though! It could have been nice if he had suggested a meditation for those who really have the wish to leave their addiction but no, he suggested violence.

It is of course ridiculous to even discuss this kind of idea and a man speaking about national problems and solutions for them should know this. It is the way how villages have always treated problems – they set up a village court and a bunch of people who were thought to be the most important ones passed a sentence which often included beating or another physical punishment. It is an old-fashioned way that does not fit with modern civilization. With this statement Anna Hazare managed to ruin his reputation.

This does not mean however that now all hope for an end to corruption is gone. No, it was never about Anna Hazare, no matter how much the media and people tried to worship him as the savior. People have power when they get together and I want to tell everyone to please unite against corruption to finally erase it from our country.

More blog entries about Anna Hazare:

Anna Hazare arrested – Game of Politics and Corruption – 16 Aug 11
Anna Hazare fights Corruption like Gandhi fought the British – 8 Apr 11
Privilege Notices to Kiran Bedi and Om Puri – India losing Freedom of Speech – 2 Sep 11

Prashant Bhushan beaten up after Statement about Kashmir

I would like to comment about an incident that happened yesterday with activist lawyer Prashant Bhushan, a member of the team of Anna Hazare. Three young extremists attacked him and started beating him up in his own office in the Supreme Court. They said they were against his statement given last month about Kashmir. His statement was that the people of Kashmir can vote on the future for their state themselves, and their wishes will be respected. The extremists beat him up during the filming of an interview. Now the whole world has seen what happened because it was aired on all TV channels.

The first thing I want to say is that I don't believe people who are in the great nation of India would like to belong to Pakistan. In Pakistan people have no food, no money and no economy. Why would anyone like to be in a country with no security and no outlook for the future? Kashmir itself is so small and wouldn't have enough resources to be an independent country. As a part of India, they are supported by the resources of this great nation. I was not happy to hear Arundhati Roy’s statement that Kashmir is not a part of India.

What Bhushan said however is perfectly fine. These people can vote and then do what they want. If the people don't want to stay with India, let them go. If someone doesn't want to live with you in your home, how can you force them to stay? If they don't accept your love, let them go.

I do not think that the land of Kashmir should be separated from India, be it for having their own state or to join Pakistan. If people do not wish to belong to India anymore, they should be able to choose and decide to leave Kashmir and India and go to Pakistan. In a democratic country, opposing the desires of the people is not the right way.

Attacking a person just because of his statement is not the right way either! If you want to have a wrestling match over an issue, fight with someone of your own age and size. Don't just attack a 55-year-old man! These extremists have been all over national TV and were arrested. It seems like this was a publicity stunt. They wanted their cause to be known.

One of the extremists was the president of Shri Ram Sena, another one was a former member of the BJP. I believe they should get a just and hard punishment. I condemn their actions very much and hope that other young people do not follow their example of violent behavior. It is not only that you could be arrested as a result, it could be even worse. Bhushan's security guards could have shot these extremists in self-defense, thus ending the publicity stunt but at the same time causing more violence. I truly hope that no young people follow their footsteps.

Violence has no place in democracy. If you want to oppose an opinion, you have the right. But this is not the way.

Cars burning in Hamburg – Fun in Destruction instead of Creation – 11 Aug 11

Here in Tornesch, in North Germany, we were talking with our friends Jens and Regina about the riots in London and they told us about the situation in Hamburg, only half an hour drive away from here, where each week several cars are burning in the night and the police don’t find the arsonists. This has been going on for years now but it has become much worse in the last months.

We read some more about the burning of cars and got to know that in this year about 200 cars were burnt in Hamburg. They were simply parked at the side of the road or on parking lots. Someone put one car on fire and the fire easily spread to the surrounding cars, destroying several cars completely before the police and fire brigade arrived at the spot.

It all started as a political signal some years ago, when the only cars that were burnt were Mercedes, BMW and Porsche cars that belonged to directors and managers of big companies. It was seen as action of left-wing radicals and some were even arrested and trialed for those crimes. It changed however and now it is not only expensive cars that burn but every kind of car. The car of every common man can be the one they choose. It seems that now some people have found fun in destroying cars without wanting to send any message. They just want to destroy.

I was told it is not difficult, you would just need a charcoal lighter and place it close to the car, so that the wheel can burn. You have time to walk away until the car actually burns and this is how it is so difficult for the police to find the culprits. They are long gone when the police is alarmed. In this way Hamburg has seen about 200 cars burn only in this year!

Again I want to say that the wrong thing became fun for people. They started enjoying destroying, they go out for the kick of excitement and like it to read in newspaper the next day that five cars burnt completely because of them. How come people have fun in damaging and destroying? It is not only the burning of cars, it can be seen in so many areas. People don’t enjoy creating but destroying. Open your eyes and see how entertainment is mainly made by presenting violence. Look at TV-shows or movies, listen to the radio and the aggressive music played there, read books and look at what the plots are about. There is so much violence and aggression but the creativity, the creating of something new is not fun. It is simply not interesting.

Wouldn’t it be nice if people started being interested in creating love? In finding new ways of dealing with problems peacefully instead of putting their energy in destruction and hate? Instead the whole world focuses on violence, hate, bad feelings and destruction. Let’s not go on in this way but teach children and our surrounding, as well as ourselves, that it is better to create something instead of destroying something. It is better to be in love than in hate. Take this into reality and into your everyday life. You won’t be able to change the world but you can change your world.