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This year and beyond

The year is coming to an end, and this is my last article in 2014. We've read and heard a lot about crimes, illnesses, injustices, the Ukraine crisis, shoot down of Malaysian Air Flight 17 with nearly 300 people on board, abduction of Nigerian girls, Ebola virus and on-going Middle East conflicts.

In fact, there are more happy stories and remarkable progresses than gloomy ones. There have been useful research findings and inventions, such as robotic exoskeletons that can provide support to a ravaged body that needs to heal. There are now about 3 billion people in the world who have Internet access. The FIFA World Cup, which was held in Brazil from June 12 to July 13 and won by Germany, was a success. The Rosetta spacecraft's Philae probe landed on Comet 67P, which was the first time in history. National and international laws have been introduced and collaborations established to combat organised and cyber crime, terrorism and tax evasion (e.g. US FATCA - Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act that requires US citizens, including those who live outside the US, to report their financial accounts held outside the country; and obliges foreign financial institutions to disclose to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) information about their U.S. clients. This increases national tax revenues as it makes it difficult for US taxpayers to conceal assets abroad). There have been local and global meetings, conferences, working parties, fund-raising events and other gatherings addressing social, political, economic and environmental concerns.

ドローンの違法飛行とヨウ素剤

9月~10月。この秋、たくさんの妊婦さんのお腹をさわった。私のまわりは出産ラッシュで、ベルギー人、スロベニア人、アルジェリア人の友人カップル3組があいついで親となった。分娩室からでてきたアルジェリア人の友人は、出産シーンをくわしく知らせてくれた。2回ほど倒れそうになったらしい。

日本人の『叔母』としてはうれしいのと同時に、この子たちがこれから生きていく難事にみちた1世紀を思うと、心配せずにはいられない。

現在、私たちが住むルクセンブルグ市では、ヨウ素剤の配布作業が始まった。万一の原発事故発生(カテノム原発は市から南南東約25キロ、国境近くのフランス側にある)にそなえた実施で、全居住者にヨウ素剤と対応マニュアルが薬局で無料配布された。

ルクセンブルグ内には原発はないが、パンフレットには事故発生を知らせる速報、避難経路、子どものいる家庭、農家、自宅の菜園、飲み水、新鮮な野菜の確保などくわしく緊急用の対応が書かれている。

原発から25キロ圏の自治体に住む運命について、あらためて考えずにはいられない。私は日本と欧米で暮らしてきたのだけども。思い返せば大半は『原発銀座』の近くだった。幸い原発事故はなかった。が、大人になれば『他者におこったことは、自分にもおこりうる』と考えるようになる。

。。。下につづく

Longue vie au Shidōkan!

Cette année marque le dixième anniversaire de Shidōkan, club de iaido à Libramont, en Belgique, fondé par d'ardents disciples de Ogura Noboru Sensei, Gérard (Gési) Simon et Gérard Gatelier. Maintenant, le club entretenu avec succès par Gatelier et d’autres. Beaucoup de membres consacrent une bonne partie de leur vie à la pratique et à l’amélioration de leurs techniques de iaido et la connaissance des aspects philosophiques afférents à la discipline. Une personne, par exemple, fait chaque semaine 120 kilomètres de route pour aller pratiquer, tandis qu’une autre personne pratique près de 6 jours par semaine, gardant un jour libre pour que sa femme puisse le voir!

Je me demande ce qui est si fascinant dans le iaido (s’entraîner pieds nus dans un dojo pendant des heures). Une personne m’a dit que c’était "la poursuite du bien-être, celui qu’on gagne et celui qu’on partage."

(Lire la suite...)

年金があぶない!

著書の「資本主義の終焉と歴史の危機」(集英社新書、2014年)の中で、水野和夫は次のように述べています。

「私が資本主義の(しゅう)(えん)を指摘することで警鐘を鳴らしたいのは、こうした『成長教』にしがみつき続けることが、かえって大勢の人々を不幸にしてしまい、その結果、近代国家の基礎を危うくさせてしまうからです。(12頁)」

「このように、現代の経済覇権国であるアメリカは、『地理的・物的空間(実物投資空間)』での利潤低下に直面した一九七〇年代半ば以降、金融帝国化へ(まい)(しん)すると同時に、グローバリゼーションを加速させることによって『電子・金融空間』という新たな空間をつくり、利潤を再び極大化させようとしました。これがアメリカによる資本主義の延命策でした(38頁)」

社会学者のサスキア・サッセンは、近年の経済疲弊、富の一極集中、貧困の拡大などはエリートの陰謀というよりは、制度・組織・テクノロジーなど社会的なプロセスが生んだ結果で、それが世界中に広がっているとし、それを略奪形成(a predatory formation)と呼んでいます。predatoryというのは、他種の弱小動物を捕って食べる動物をいいます。

。。。下につづく

Patience

I am a great believer of reliability and consistency, so when my website became un-operational for 3 weeks, I became annoyed and impatient. I didn’t expect that renewing the registration of my domain (beingintelligentgifted.com) through a different company would take time. I spent useless hours trying to speed it up by using live chats, help buttons, etc. for the reason that I had always published an article in the first week of the month and was so frustrated that this had changed.

I delayed grocery shopping, postponed appointments, cancelled cinema outings and prepared dinner simply and quickly in favour of trying to put this website online. After so many hours spent fiddling with the computer, logging on/off, I decided to stop bothering my service provider. (Hopefully, the delay did not disappoint my wise subscribers and readers).

I wanted instant result though I was already told that it would take between 5 and 15 days. My parents brought me up to be patient and be gracious when waiting. But, have I changed? I hope not, and it was just a rare occasion when I thought that impatience was necessary to cope with our current high-speed, information-loaded society.

What did I feel during those 3 weeks? I was irritable, tired and tense. Some people have reported feeling angry, stressed, sick and detached from their relationships when they are impatient. So, why are we impatient? .. because we want instant gratification, which is evident everywhere these days.

There are passes that enable us to jump queues in cinemas, nightclubs, supermarkets, etc. When you post something, there are choices for one-day, 3-day, 5-day delivery or normal one. Quick leisure and fun activities, e.g. games on iPhone, are more patronised than chess and other board games.

Generally, patience equates to healthy and successful career and relationships. ...

ナオミ・クラインの新刊書。資本主義の害毒

日本が直面する貧困、格差、生活保護の切捨て、生活の質、幸福度の測定、環境、エネルギー問題、異常気象、規制緩和、遺伝子組み換え食品、地産地消、ブラック企業、国際貿易、TPP秘密交渉、戦争、(非)民主主義などの諸問題をよくよく考えると、資本主義とグローバリゼーションという大きな問題に行きあたるように思う。

これらの問題を考えぬかずに、からまりつながる複雑なシステムの全体像をさぐり、解決策をデザインしていくことはむずかしい。ややこしいが、お金がつくられるしくみもわからないと、いけない(ビデオを参考にしてください)。

資本主義やグローバリゼーションの泰斗(頭をよぎるのは宇沢弘文 、ギー・スタンディング)にはスーパースター(学者やジャーナリストのレベルで)も多いが、私が今、注目しているのは、サスキア・サッセンとナオミ・クラインのふたりだ。

今月9月にクラインの新刊書「This Changes Everything <資本主義>対<気候変動>」が発売したこともあり、彼女の短いインタビュー記事を訳してみた(ブログ後半。左派への5つの大事な教訓。ナオミ·クラインの新刊から)。読みやすくするための工夫をしたが、誤訳や改良する点があれば、指摘していただきたい。

。。。下につづく

Wealth and Health

Two weeks ago, I received a letter from the State advising me to avail of the free testing for colorectal cancer. It says "It has already been 2 years and is time to do this." All I've to do is bring this letter to my generalist who'll organise it at the expense of the French Government. Though the positive results are between 2-3%, it's fairly important to do it because colorectal cancer develops in the colon, rectum and intestine from an abnormal growth of cells that can spread to other parts of the body. The common signs of this cancer are: change in bowel habits, nauseas, vomiting, abdominal discomfort, weight loss, weakness and anemia.

As such, I take this preventive measure seriously and feel lucky to be in a country where health, social and welfare services are accessible to its population. The government is wise because "prevention is better than cure." Treating an illness is more expensive, takes more time and is more emotionally draining. So, all governments should do this, but why don’t they? These preventive measures cost and, not really the priority, especially of those who are struggling to feed their people. Hence, it’s not surprising that, generally, wealthy nations have healthy people. However, there is also the question of politics and policies.

According to World Health Organisation's (WHO) data, the country with the highest government spending per person per year on health is Luxembourg (US$ 6,906/ Euros 5,441.60); country with lowest government spending per person per year on health is Myanmar (US$ 2/ Euros 1.60); country with highest annual out-of-pocket household spending on health is Switzerland (US$ 2,412/ Euros 1,900.73); and country with lowest annual out-of-pocket household spending on health Kiribati (US$ 0.2/ Euros 0.158).

Going back to work after a holiday

I am not a workaholic but love my job and one of the lucky ones who leave home with a smile then come back with a bigger smile. My students, who are mainly bank employees and whose interests range from football, food and wine to spirituality, have a good sense of humour. Nevertheless, getting back after a holiday is quiet a challenge. There are phone calls to return, paper work, backlog of emails and meetings. (I came back from Barcelona late last night and it is such a good idea to have one day off to recover physically before heading back to the class/training room).

Therefore, I have decided to plan how to handle this "back-to-work after the vacation" challenge. Firstly, since there will be no more hop on/hop off tours in Prague and Bratislava, tennis training at Cap d'Agde (France), Flamenco evenings (Spain), etc., I will just relax and enjoy the quietness. I will resume my Thursday Zumba and thrice/week visits to the gym.

Since I won't be able to catch up with everything in one day, I will prioritise my tasks appropriately and delegate, not only at work but at home. I'll definitely avoid the mourning period by seeing friends, going to the cinema and trying new recipes. I'll also put an ad for an hour of a friendly tennis game with a female beginner-player (like me).

Summer holiday (UK)/vacation (US)

I was nearly finished writing an article entitled "Not on holiday." After lines and lines of experiences of men, women and students doing summer jobs to put food on the table, pay for driving lessons, save for university studies, etc.., I decided not to go ahead with it. I realised that my thoughts were all over: from the economic crises, social evolution to work ethics, and these issues are boring as a summer reading. So, I'm going to talk about my tomorrow's visit to central Europe instead.

From Metz (the capital of Moselle in the north-east of France where I live) to Prague (the capital of the Czech Republic where I'll stay for 4 days) is 7 and a half hours by bus. From Prague to Bratislava (the capital of the Slovak Republic where I’ll be for 4 days), is 3 and a half hours by bus.

The Czech Republic is a member of the European Union (EU) but not of the Euro Zone (thus money exchange will be a bit inconvenient -- about 28 Koruna to 1 Euro); has a population of slightly over 10.5 million; has a multi-party democracy with the Prime Minister as head of its government; and has varied landscapes and temperatures. The warmest month is July and it’s sunny and festive in August.

環大西洋貿易投資連携協定(TTIP=米欧版TPP)に関する公聴会

Chamber of Deputies of Luxembourg - Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

7月11日。ルクセンブルグ(代議院)で、環大西洋貿易投資連携協定に関する公聴会が開かれました。会合はテレビ中継され、録画はネットでも見れます。

環太平洋のTPPと環大西洋のTTIP(またの略をTAFTA)。日本人でヨーロッパ市民でもある私には、両方とも気がかりです。両協定には対アメリカという共通項もありますから、海千山千の欧州人たちがどう渡りあうのか非常に興味があります。

13日日曜日、会合録画を夫と一緒に見ました。中継を6時間も見るのは、結構きついだろうと思っていたのですが、休憩を挟み(午後2時~9時過ぎまで)見入ってしまいました。ディベートは、思いのほかおもしろかった! 参加者全員が用意周到で、時には声をあらげながら興味深い論戦を展開しています。

欠かせないのが。正月にはモチ、商談/悪巧みには古だぬき。ルクセンブルグの鉄の女性、正義感に燃える市民団体の代表者等々。公聴会の内容をまとめましたので、日本の方たちにもぜひ参考にしていただきたい。

。。。下につづく

Transatlantic Trade, "the norm-making power of the global capital market," and Sassen

By now, many people probably have heard of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP; in French Le partenariat transatlantique de commerce et d'investissement) and its deregulation purpose. The TTIP is a proposed secret trade deal between the European Union and the United States. Our friends (accountant and functionary) told us something like this ― only two groups in Brussels work to block this deal, whereas more than 200 groups are hired to push for the agreement with a perspective of “new growth.” (Do not be fooled because of nice words such as “free trade” and “new growth.”) The former has the budget of 200 million Euros, while the latter get billions of Euros. They thus argue that the deal is not about a corporate lobbying, but a bribery to be precise. They are very concerned about the TTIP, but they also think that it would be very difficult to win European Commission approval because the trade decision should be agreed by 28 countries … and it takes a lot to bribe.

Sports and Societies

France has just won 2-0 against Nigeria (It’s 11:00PM, 30/06/14, here): there are horns blowing, people laughing and yelling, and motorists brandishing French flags. We're in the middle of the FIFA World Cup 2014, and I can't help questioning the influence of sports on our society.

Likewise, cultures and values affect how and what sports are played by who, where and when. Sports have been in our lives as entertainment and leisure, as part of a political strategy, as an economic activity, as cultural means aimed at establishing relationships, and to show power and strength. In the middle ages, sport was used to settle disputes, punish, revenge and attract attention of women (e.g. jousting with swords, daggers and lances).

These days, football (Europe)/soccer (Australia & USA) is used as a platform to assert one’s national identity with flag bearing, singing of national anthem and wearing emblems before, during and after the games. In developed, developing and underdeveloped nations, football has faced new challenges due to globalisation, commercialisation and mediatisation which have both positive and negative outcomes.

In Belgium, football is viewed as a cementing force between the Flemings in the north (Netherlander: Flemish speaking) and the Walloons in the south and east (French speaking). Highly-paid footballers from humble socio-economic backgrounds have become multi-millionaires and influential.

On the other hand, the hosting of the World Cup costs billions which go a long way in a developing country (like Brazil). It's no surprise then that the 1994 Golden Ball winner Romario, who's now a member of the Brazilian Parliament, has been reported to have said that the money should have been spent better for health and education.

閣議決定は無効

官邸前には行けないが。昨夜、数時間立ちっぱなしで集団的自衛権行使の反対デモに参加した人のからだの節々の痛み、筋肉の疲れ、声がれ、くやしさや深いかなしみを感じる。いくつか、考えたことを書き留めたい。

1)「憲法泥棒だ」

解釈改憲による集団的自衛権の行使容認は「憲法泥棒だ」というのは、小林節・慶応大名誉教授の名言だが。彼は次のようにも断言している。「解釈の変更なんて、そんなきれい事じゃないんですね。解釈に名を借りた憲法の破壊なんです」

今日、閣議決定に踏みきった泥棒首相は「おとなしく手をあげろ。俺の言うとおりにしろ。さもないと」と、はっきりと国民を脅かし、ホールド・アップ状態にしたと認識すべきだと思いますよ。(いつか、この悪党を捕まえなくては)

。。。下につづく

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