International

let's see how the International affairs impact us

Immigration, Asylum Seeking, Refugeeing and Accommodating

It’s “the worst refugee crisis since World War II” – I can’t agree more as I very sadly see every day on the news thousands of men, women and children looking starved and exhausted in unsafe boats, desperate individuals and families crawling under and climbing fences, and dead bodies found in seas and abandoned vehicles (such as last week’s discovery in Austria).

Any discussion about migrants and refugees is complicated, complex and emotionally-laden thus we really have to be careful in our choice of words and with our behaviours.

Foremost of all, there are significant differences between immigrants and political refugees. The latter don’t have a choice but flee because of well-founded fear of persecution, illegal imprisonment, torture or murder.

Then there’s what’s commonly known as political correctness (PC), which is about the avoidance of language and ideas that may offend members of a particular group and lead to discrimination. PC first appeared publicly in the 70’s. A decade later, it was well into the consciousness of many educated and well-informed people.

“Illegal” entry and asylum seeking had been a paramount concern in Australia before it became a crisis in Europe. In the late 80’s, while working for the Queensland Government (Australia) as Policy Resource Officer on multiculturalism, I realised the necessity of PC for a harmonious and just society. Australians try to avoid colour identification with their use of Non-English Speaking Background (NESB)- and English-Speaking Background (ESB)- Australians to refer to those who originally come from Asia & other non-English countries and those from the UK & other English-speaking nations, respectively. Also, they often attach the national or ethnic origin of the person to the word ‘Australian,’ such as Asian-Australian (as in the USA: African-/Asian-/Latin-American).

From Fish & Chips to Pizza & Mozzarella then WORLD EXPO

Long queues at Calais but, fortunately, the ferry was under 20 minutes late in crossing the tunnel. The traffic in Dover was fairly smooth sailing considering that it’s the long summer holiday and Europeans move a lot, thus I got to Cambridge University as scheduled. My son’s graduation went very well though I understood but a few words in the purely Latin ceremony. It was a showcase of a truly English academic tradition.

England is a member of the European Community (EC) but not of the Euro Zone. It is a highly disciplined country where drivers stop at traffic lights, respect give-way signs, don’t go over speed limits and park in authorised places only. Its skies are constantly grey with sparkling rain. I love the English sense of humour and I’ve never met a ‘Pom’ (as Australians call them) who can’t tell at least one good joke.

Only a day of rest and I headed to Italy. My diet of fish and chips, sausage rolls and meat pies adorned with green salad was replaced with pizza, pasta and mozzarella. Generally, while the English are reservedly polite, the Italians are expressively gracious. In Naples, I witnessed these hilarious yet dangerous situations: A woman driving a motorcycle with a mobile phone between her tilted head and left shoulder; 2 women on a motorcycle (again) and one of them (the back rider) was holding 2 helmets with her right hand while moving her left hand as if giving traffic directions; drivers optimising 2 lanes into 3; motorists and motorcyclists over taking in a hurry and don’t give way readily to pedestrians on designated crossings. Meanwhile, unlike in England, from the north to the south of Italy, it didn’t rain for nearly a fortnight (while I was there) and the temperature was over 30°C.

Charlie... a month later

You certainly have heard a lot about the January 7, 2015 tragic shootings in Paris of 12 cartoonists, journalists and staff of newspaper Charlie Hebdo. The day after that, I received emails from friends worldwide, notably from Australia, expressing their profound sadness and sympathy -- describing such brutal act as a bloody offence against freedom of speech, liberty and peace. My responses included notes on immigration, identity, social inequality and education.

Global solidarity poured in instantly and there was a historic gathering of heads of states and communities in Paris on the 11th. Virgils and gatherings of support and commemorations took place in many cities in France, England, the USA and other countries, which were moving and impressive.

During that week, my French friend apologised for being late in responding to my email because she was distressed with what happened in Paris. I was intrigued by her testimony that I asked her if I could publish her write-up. I have translated it in English, and the French version follows after.

"I do not agree with what you write, but I will defend to death your right to write about what you think." This was written in the 18th century by Voltaire who experienced life in prison and exile for his writings that displeased people in power.

わたしは健二

أنا كانجي

أنا لست شينزو

إعطونا فرصة للسلام

 

私は健二。

私は安倍じゃない。

平和を我等に。

 

Je suis Kenji. Je ne suis pas Abe.

Donnez une chance à la paix.

 

I am Kenji. I am not Abe.

Give peace a chance.

More in ''Mother of Japanese Isis hostage Kenji Goto makes tearful appeal'' (source: journal The Guardian)

Giving, Receiving and Reviewing

Happy New Year To You and Your Loved Ones!

Three weeks ago, one of my friends asked his wife what she wanted to receive as presents. Without hesitation, she said “love.” His eyes widened and said he meant something tangible. (Love is complex and unquantifiable and we need something to represent it). He insisted, “What can I buy for you?”

Nowadays, in many societies, cost is associated with love. The more we love the person, the more we spend on gifts (presents). There is a tendency to express appreciation in terms of “how much?” Gone are the days when handmade and creative inexpensive presents were valued as meaningful and memorable.

There are many occasions in our lives when we give presents: birthday, wedding, graduation, etc. Gift giving is universal and important in any relationship. Dictionaries define gift as a thing (for me, service as well) given willingly to someone without payment (I add, ‘not expecting something in return’) How about re-gifting? Have you given something that you had received from someone else? It’s environmentally and financially worthwhile to do this; however, a recipient may have a different view. When you receive a regift, what do you think and feel about it? Being the second born of 5 children and having both rich & poor cousins and both needy & generous friends, I am used to giving and receiving pre-loved belongings. I believe that sharing our possessions and experiences is part of being humane.

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.

ベルギーの志道館

Long life to Shidōkan!

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...)

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.

Hearing on the TTIP held at the Chamber of Deputies in Luxembourg

Chamber of Deputies of Luxembourg - Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Picture taken by Ex13. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0
(CC BY-SA 3.0)

This blog is a short (Japanese) summary of the hearing on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) which was held at the Chamber of Deputies in Luxembourg on July 11, 2014. I added some comments on the TTIP.

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.

市民の目と口をふさぎたい理由


世界がネルソン・マンデラの訃報に接した12月6日、安倍政権は特定秘密保護法案を強行採決しました。自由の闘士が亡くなった日に、日本の民主主義が踏みにじられるとは、あまりにも皮肉です。

なるほど今の法律ではできない情報隠蔽や言論弾圧の必要性が差し迫ってきた、知られるとまずいことがあるのだということが、彼らの拙速なやり方でかえって明らかになりました。

秘密は隠せば隠すほど、ハデに知れ渡る
1898年1月13日、文豪エミール・ゾラがスパイ容疑で逮捕されたドレフュスを弁護する手紙を、L'Aurore紙の一面に「J'Accuse...! 我は弾劾する!」という見出しで発表しました。フォール大統領に宛てたその手紙が世論を喚起し、冤罪事件解決への大きな一歩となりました。

Quand on enferme la vérité sous terre, elle s’y amasse, elle y prend une force telle d’explosion, que, le jour où elle éclate, elle fait tout sauter avec elle. On verra bien si l’on ne vient pas de préparer, pour plus tard, le plus retentissant des désastres.

(要約)真実を黙らせて地下にうめると、それは増幅し爆発力としての力をたくわえ、ある日、一切を爆破しふきとばす。有名な一節です。

  • 。。。下につづく

TPP as Star Wars’ Trade Federation!?

I find trading is like a war. When I wrote a blog on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement in Japanese a few months ago, I drew an analogy between the TPP and Star Wars’ Trade Federation. I did not mean to be funny at all. Rather, I think my analogy was not bad at all. Senator Palpatine (who seemed to be a good guy in the beginning) said:

"Supreme Chancellor, delegates of the Senate, a tragedy has occurred, which started right here with the taxation of trade routes, and has now engulfed our entire planet in the oppression of the Trade Federation!" (from Star Wars wikia)

Now I see Mr. Obama is like Senator Palpatine who is eager to conclude the TPP, “corporate power tool of the 1%.”

Remember? In his August 31 statement on Syria, President Obama said:

"I’m also mindful that I’m the President of the world’s oldest constitutional democracy. I’ve long believed that our power is rooted not just in our military might, but in our example as a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.”

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