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To Sanction or Not to Sanction?

In this issue of the Gordian:

"Yesterday, upon the stair; I met a man who wasn't there! He wasn't there again today; Oh how I wish he'd go away!" The following quote from Hughes Mearns’ poem, Antigonish, could so easily allude to sanctions. They are full of sound and fury, and yet, they signify nothing concrete, but rather an absence of something. In this issue of The Gordian we talk about sanctions, what they aim to achieve and whether they are successful or not. This issue contains exclusive reports by Alex Liberto, Anahita Ahmadi and Ayten Aydin. To read this issue free of charge, click on the link below. 

“If you listen, people are always willing to talk” – A conversation with photographer Anwar Sadat

IMG 0228 copy 2

On the 15th of February 2021, the 2020 UN-aligned photo competition winner, Anwar Sadat, tells us about the story behind his prize-winning photos and his love for photography. 

A Powerful Panacea? The Sanctions Dilemma

By Adrian Liberto

United Nations Security Council 03.03

Read this article in Italian (Leggi questo articolo in italiano) →

“Yesterday, upon the stair,
I met a man who wasn’t there!
He wasn’t there again today,
Oh how I wish he’d go away!”

The above quote from Hughes Mearns’ poem, Antigonish, could so easily allude to sanctions. They are full of sound and fury, and yet, they signify nothing concrete, but rather an absence of something. Of course, sometimes, a lack of something can have devastating effects: if you stop my air supply, for instance, I am dead. Sanctions, however, are very limited in what they can stop, because what comes from outside one’s borders was not there in the first place, like the man upon the stair.

Though countries may have become used to foreign luxuries like oil or pistachios, at the end of the day they can soon learn to do without them again. Take at Cuba, for instance, which has been under US sanctions since 1962! As for exports, well nations could find more creative means of adapting what they have, or diversifying their produce. At the end of the day, it is never a bad thing for a country to be self-sufficient; everything else should be considered a bonus. Nevertheless, sanctions are a lot more complicated than this, so let us take a close look.

Sanctions are defined as “an official order… taken against a country in order to make it obey international law.” The United Nations (UN) considers itself the sole legitimate authority when it comes to issuing international sanctions against a rogue State, although any country can decide to impose sanctions unilaterally. Some, like the US, do this and additionally threaten other countries or independent agents with dire consequences if they do not comply with their sanctions regime.

In order to ascertain whether sanctions are a useful tool in the furthering of justice and world peace, we need to ask the following questions:

  1. What do they hope to achieve?
  2. What do they entail?
  3. Whom are they hurting?
  4. Have they proved successful?
  5. Is there a better option?

What do sanctions hope to achieve?

The aim of sanctions is simple: compliance. You either play by the rules, or you are out of the game. This is fair enough as long as the rules are just; and for this, we need sound international laws and the will to implement them. The February 1 coup in Myanmar goes against international law; that much is clear. However, the will to impose international sanctions on the military regime has been missing. The reasons for this are the same embarrassing power games played at the United Nations.

China and Russia love dictatorial regimes and since they are two of the five permanent members of the Security Council, they made sure that the resolution that was passed against Myanmar was as toothless as possible. China continues to assert that the situation there is an internal matter. This highlights an important factor in the mechanisms of international laws: they need to be worth more than the paper on which they are written.

Fortunately, the UN is not the only player. New Zealand, for instance, was quick to respond to the situation in Myanmar and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced strict measures against the coup leaders with relative speed the week following the takeover.

The US also sprung into action with an executive order targeting coup leaders signed by President Biden on February 11. The EU is also heading in that direction, though in a typically more ‘Entish’ fashion. Nevertheless, compliance does not seem to be on the agenda in Myanmar, whatever democratic institutions may throw at it.

What do sanctions entail?

Sanctions go back centuries. In 432 BCE, for instance, Pericles issued the Megarian Decree, which put a stranglehold on the Megarian economy through restrictive measures that included barring Megarians from harbours and trading hubs throughout the extensive Athenian Empire. The sanctions had been introduced as a punitive measure relating to the City State’s desecration of the Hiera Orgas, a precinct considered sacred to Demeter. Nowadays, the emphasis is on forcing a change of policy or regime, but the methods are more or less the same, though perhaps more targeted.

The sanctions policy of the European Commission offers a concise description of what is involved with regards to aims and methods:

“Restrictive measures (sanctions) are an essential tool in the EU’s common foreign and security policy (CFSP), through which the EU can intervene where necessary to prevent conflict or respond to emerging or current crises. In spite of their colloquial name ‘sanctions’, EU restrictive measures are not punitive. They are intended to bring about a change in policy or activity by targeting non-EU countries, as well as entities and individuals, responsible for the malign behaviour at stake.”

It breaks down its methods as:

  1. arms embargoes
  2. restrictions on admission (travel bans)
  3. asset freezes
  4. other economic measures such as restrictions on imports and exports

Arms embargoes are straightforward, as are restrictions on admission and asset freezes which are also specific, targeted and generally fair. The issue is always with the fourth point which regards economic measures. Restrictions on imports and exports, for instance, is a double-edged sword because trade goes both ways. Often, self-interest makes these kinds of sanctions impractical. Take Germany’s dependence on Russian gas as an example (Nord Stream 1 and the controversy over Nord Stream 2). How many ‘Crimeas’ or ‘Navalnys’ would we need for this trade agreement to buckle?

Collateral damage

Once again, arms embargoes, travel bans and asset freezes are more likely to be fair, in as much as they can target governments and individuals with relative precision. Of course, sometimes, ambitious athletes or other civilians may be caught in the crossfire. Economic measures, however, are quite another matter. It is unlikely that the likes of Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-un or Hassan Rouhani will ever go hungry.

It is the people in the street that suffer, like the Venezuelan entrepreneurs and their employees who can no longer keep their businesses going, or the carpet weavers in Iran who are blocked from selling their laboriously created goods abroad. These are the people sanctions are meant to help, but the ones who bear the brunt of the measures.

Despite this, many of these victims may well welcome the measures imposed on their country because they show that the world is listening, while at the same time, sanctions may give them hope for a better future. Encouraging optimism alone, however, would not be a valid enough reason to warrant the imposition of this suffering on so many people. Sanctions have to work. If not, they are primarily a punishment, but one that hurts the wrong people.

So, do sanctions work?

Often, they do not. The Megarian Decree, for example, was actually one of the causes that led to the Peloponnesian War, which Athens lost. More recently, after Italy invaded Ethiopia in 1935, the League of Nations voted 50 – 4 to impose sanctions on Italy. However, restrictions on oil imports, which could have ground the Italian war machine to a halt, was exempted because Britain and France were afraid that such a move would throw Mussolini into the arms of Hitler… We all know how that story ended. We can see the same hesitancy today in President Biden’s stopping short of imposing sanctions of Saudi Arabia for its human rights abuses in case it turns to China or Russia. 

Sometimes they do work. The general consensus is that they were instrumental in ending South Africa’s apartheid regime. In 1962, the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 1761 called for sanctions on South Africa. This was not a Security Council resolution and therefore it was not binding; nevertheless, it could not be ignored.

By the mid-eighties, calls for sanctions had become louder and despite the resistance of US President Ronald Reagan and UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who did not want to alienate an anti-communist ally (or so they said), sanctions were passed by both governments.

These were not isolated incidents. By oppressing its own people, South Africa was being increasingly ostracised by the rest of the world. Awareness was growing at every level. More and more shoppers were boycotting South African goods, and companies, including many universities, were beginning to disinvest, triggering a capital flight. On top of all this, South Africa was at war with three of its neighbours. Apartheid was officially ended in June 1991 and the first multiracial elections followed in April 1994. Sanctions worked, but they were part of a much bigger picture.

Just another tool in the box

So yes, sanctions can work, given the right conditions, but they are by no means a panacea, particularly in our polarised world where big players are always happy to welcome a rogue State into their fold, or play the rogue themselves. South Africa did not have that luxury. Its fascist policies could hardly allow it to flirt with the Soviet Union or Communist China.

Also, as we have seen, vested interests often take the bite out of sanctions, or stall them altogether. Besides, as nations are relearning to be more and more self-sufficient, sanctions are becoming less and less effective. No doubt they can help, but they have to be a part of a bigger onslaught. For a country to simply slap sanctions onto a State and then get back to business is as good as saying it really cannot be bothered to deal with the problem.

Something more reliable is needed

If we lived in a federal world order, the solution would be simple: police action. If your neighbour decided to beat his wife and torture his children, you would call the police and they would arrest the culprit. If your local council decided to ignore national law by starting to incarcerate citizens in order to steal their properties, the national government would step in and restore law and order. If the State of New Jersey decided to issue a law that allowed it to kill anyone over retirement age, the federal government would intervene and punish the culprits.

There are no complications. There are two reasons for this. First, the overriding law; second, a police force powerful enough to stop the transgressions. A federal world order could ensure States were ultimately answerable to international law and small enough to be brought into line should they flout international law. This is the type of world order UN-aligned is striving for. There are, however, some essential provisos:

  1. International law must promote human rights, animal welfare and environmental protection.
  2. International law must focus solely on essentials so that individual States have the flexibility to legislate as appropriate to protect and develop their respective cultures.
  3. The people responsible for upholding international law have to be rigorously selected to ensure compliance and impartiality.
  4. A police force capable of intervening when a State begins to oppress its citizens, damage the environment or abuse other life forms.

A tall order, especially because it would require national governments to willingly hand over power to an overriding authority. Nevertheless, in a way, that is exactly what happens when states join to form a federation. Also, in a more limited way it is what states agreed to do when they chose to join the United Nations. The tragedy was that the UN was flawed, as my recent book, Unravelling the United Nations, highlights. So, the tall order may not be that tall after all, We just need to believe it is possible and work towards it, Then, perhaps, sanctions will become a thing of the past and the man upon the stair will finally go away…

What is The United Nations General Assembly?

By Adrian Liberto

Economic santions03.03

The following is an extract from UN-aligned’s new publication that highlights the shortcomings of the United Nations with details that cover its foundation, structure and monumental failures. You may be surprised at the murky facts that this book will bring to your attention. 

The General Assembly is the community of UN members in their representative role. It is subordinate to the Security Council and it was stipulated that it could only engage in resolving issues that were not already being dealt with by the Security Council (Article 12.1). It is the duty of the Secretary General, “with the consent of the Security Council”, to keep the Assembly informed of matters that are being tackled by the Council, so that the latter’s deliberations are not infringed upon. (Article 12.2).

What is Resolution 377?

The onset of the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the USA and its allies, however, meant that the Security Council soon became increasingly debilitated. The continuous conflict of interests all but paralysed the decision-making process. This led the USA to consider giving the General Assembly, that was at the time predominantly pro-Western, more powers. President Harry Truman’s Secretary of State, Dean Acheson, proposed a resolution to allow the General Assembly the authority to take over issues that had been stalemated by the Security Council. Resolution 377 – also known as the “Uniting for Peace” Resolution or the “Acheson Plan” – was passed in November 1950 by 52 votes, to five against, all of which were from the Soviet Bloc; Argentina and India abstained. The Resolution went beyond an authorisation that allowed it to take over from the Security Council when it was gridlocked and it explicitly legitimised direct action:

“If the Security Council, because of lack of unanimity of the permanent members, fails to exercise its primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security in any case where there appears to be a threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression, the General Assembly shall consider the matter immediately with a view to making appropriate recommendations to Members for collective measures, including in the case of a breach of the peace or act of aggression the use of armed force when necessary, to maintain or restore international peace and security.”

Resolution 377 was invoked 11 times and led to 10 Emergency Special Sessions. The ploy, however, did not turn out quite as the USA intended. With many new nations joining the United Nations following independence from Great Britain, France and other colonial powers, the balance of power tipped in other directions. Currently, the largest grouping in the United Nations is the Non-Aligned Movement, with 120 members. This body was set up in 1961 through the efforts of Indian Prime Minister Nehru and Jugoslav President Tito and its aim was to counter pressure and intimidation by dominant nations. Chairpersons have included mavericks like Nasser (1964-1970), Fidel Castro (1979-1983 & 2006-2008), Mugabe (1986-1989), Suharto (1992-1995), Rouhani (2013-2016) and Maduro (2016-2019).

Would you like to learn more about the United Nations, its General Assembly and its potential future? Read our new publication to find out: Unravelling The United Nations, Argead Style.

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Unravelling The United Nations, Argead style
Unravelling The United Nations, Argead style

Taming The Governing Strategies of Ongoing Socio-Economic Development by Way of G-Localization

By Ayten Aydin

Design 03.03

Read this article in Italian (Leggi questo articolo in italiano) →

Ultimate goal and Foregrounding

The aim of this reflection is to create favourable conditions for progress by mobilizing the intellectual, spiritual and material forces with a sense of belonging to one and the same human community. This requires finding new ways of living in society and of facing the future together. Living organisms compete for resources, but collaborate for sustaining life on Earth.

Among several luminaries, Adam Smith and Darwin are together with Newton and Locke, at the core of modernity’s mythic structure; one in which we are still struggling.

Capitalism, in effect rooted itself by Adam Smith’s famous book The Wealth of Nations. There, he expresses that each artisan and merchant acts for their self-interest; yet they are led, as if by an ‘invisible hand’ to the welfare of all. His ideas were then further strengthened by Darwin’s theory of human evolution, expressed in his book Origin of Species. His work is based on Malthus’ theory of natural control of human growth in population and linear growth in food supply. In this process the stronger outlives the weaker.

While these two books are considered to be foundational in setting society on a sound footing, they were both missing the spirit and happiness of human beings and sustaining force of ecology at large. These points, however, are understood and clearly indicated by both in their other books, which were considered secondary and thus relegated to oblivion.  These are: Theory of Moral Sentiments by Adam Smith and Darwin’s Descent of Man. Human beings gradually acquired ever increasing moral faculties, which will no doubt be inherited by the successive generations. This will lead to the appearance of more virtuous societies that will ensure the continuation of life on Earth.

The following will attempt to fill in the gaps in order to build, perhaps mischievously, the missing links between Smith’s and Darwin’s complementary ideas with the help of other thinkers, with an aim of indicating a way out.

In his famous book Society Must Be Defended, Michel Foucault offers a devastating critique of the systems of power and control inherent in civilization. “He reveals how war is the foundation of all power relations. He, above all, shows that power is not an external force, but a subtle form of control that we all consent to uphold”.

Web Jackson in his book Becoming Native to this Place, indicates how a new bottom-up economy -based on farming and rural living- grounded in nature’s principles, could sustain life on Earth. This would also include reviving dying small towns and rural communities.

The World We Wish to See, by Samir Amin compliments the idea with the need for a new type of democracy, coming from the bottom level, based on local governments, rural communities, workers’ fronts, citizens and the like.

Essential Human Values

The function of most essential human values is to make it possible for every human being to realize or maintain the very highest universal core values of life, love and happiness. 

Humans are born within the living system as spiritual (God within), social (Humanity within) and ecological (Nature within) beings. They act from a sense of justice, friendship, loyalty, compassion, gratitude, generosity, sympathy, family affection and so forth. Both at the conscious and unconscious levels, all life processes depend on an immense background of harmonious cooperation, which is necessary to construct a complex system within which the much rarer phenomenon of competition becomes possible. Competition exists but it is limited.  Cooperative motivations provide the main structure of the behaviour of Nature’s inhabitants.

Ethics

John Dewey proposed that some societies have progressed morally in much the same way as they have attained progress in science. Scientists can pursue inquiry into the truth of a hypothesis and accept the hypothesis. Nonetheless, they think that future generations can advance science, and they can refine or replace their accepted hypothesis. Within this general framework, we need to consider ethics for our specific purpose, covering our personal relationships and political, economic and business activities.

Personal relationships: Morality and the observation of ethics in personal relationships could at times be conflicting. In such cases, it is helpful to focus on the possible ways in which they are mutually supportive. Only then may we find a clue on how to deal with an apparent or real conflict.

Business ethics: Many times, greed and avarice are the sole engine of business life. The history of business ethics is full of unpleasant stories. Business has existed, if not much earlier, since the ancient Sumerians who carried out extensive trading nearly six thousand years ago.

More than two thousand years ago, Aristotle, who is recognized as the first economist, distinguished two different senses of what we call economics (Oikonomis-household trading and Chrematistke trade for profit). He declared that trade for profit was wholly devoid of virtue and called those who engaged in such purely selfish practices “parasites”. His attack on the unsavoury and unproductive practice of ‘usury’ remained in force virtually until the 17th century and also closer to our time.

Adam Smith canonized the new faith in 1776 in his master work mentioned above The Wealth of Nations, resulting from a new sense of society and human nature. This transformation can be partly explained in terms of urbanization, that is, larger more centralized societies. This included rapidly advancing technology, growth of industry and the accompanying development of social structures and highlighted needs as well as desires. With work, ‘Chrematistke’ became the primary virtue of modern society.

Education

The role of education, training and most importantly of learning, in paving the way towards sustaining a reliable future for life on Earth, is essential. This is particularly true if we are to effectively practice the art of continuing re-creation.

Natural and human sciences mutually support each other by gradually deepening and expanding on both the epistemological and ontological ingredients of learning, with a greater emphasis between education and society as a whole.  It should start at the earliest stage, from the cradle so to speak, and continue throughout life, via the development of informal and non-informal types of education.

This requires a type of education that endeavours to encompass all capacities for initiative and creativity, individual and collective, so as to pave the way for communities to take charge of their own life and sustain and maintain their growth, as needed, in the form of G-localization.

J. Krishnamurti, in his book Education and the Significance of Life, neatly sums up the main motive of education therein as being an understanding of ourselves in relation with everything around us. Education in its truest sense is, in fact, the understanding of oneself.

The right kind of education consists in understanding the child as he/she is. Setting unreasonable goals and the imposition of ideologies is unhelpful. Strict discipline encloses the child, breeds fear, and leads to the uncritical conforming to set rules.  All this, in turn, breeds in the child a constant conflict between what he is and what he should be.

Freedom and intelligence are implicit in right education, which is not possible if there is any form of compulsion. Intelligence needs to be awakened; it leads to wisdom as it is the integration of reason and love. 

To be an integrated human being is understanding the entire process of one’s own consciousness, both hidden and apparent. Hence government control of education is one of the biggest problems in many parts of the world these days. It stunts the growth of human potential and is a calamity.

How can humanity be uplifted when beliefs divide us, when there is domination of one group by another, when the rich are powerful, when there is mal-distribution of land, wealth and when some are well-fed and many are starving?

As human beings, we should have a direct relationship with one another and then, perhaps, there would be love and compassion. Without an inward transformation and self-awareness, human beings will have no peace, no happiness.

Peace on Earth can only be obtained when we understand what lies beyond the superficial, and thereby stop this wave of destruction which has been unleashed by our own aggressiveness and fear. Only then, may there be hope for a sustainable future. The future will depend on how we educate ourselves and the generations to come. 

A successful contemporary example:  Montessori Education

Montessori education is fundamentally a model of human development and an educational approach based on that. It has two basic principles. First, children and developing adults engage in psychological self-construction by means of interaction with their environment. Second, children especially under the age of six, have an innate path of psychological development.

Based on observations, Montessori believed that children who are at liberty to choose and act freely within an environment prepared according to her model, would strive spontaneously for optimal development. Montessori saw universal, innate characteristics in human psychology as “human basic tendencies”.

What is next?

Now it is high time to start understanding what was not lost, but hidden and immortalised within the much-ignored books of Adam Smith and Charles Darwin. That is: “Taming the governing strategies of on-going socio-economic development by way of G-Localization.” We must then start realising that we have lost contact with both Nature and the sacred-ethic-aesthetic. We need to find the hidden spirituality within the sleeping possibilities that are waiting to be awakened for an ascent to the future.

In order to successfully enter into a sustainable future, we, human beings, have to promote and instigate the initiation of anti-entropic processes. We must allow what is now hidden as future possibilities and opportunities to flourish.  Within this spherical growth, ethics and apposite education will open and pave the way towards a sustainable future.

Created by Giuseppe Fedda (Italian Cartoonist). On the left you see the syntropic (anti-entropic) man, connected with all the elements of nature and using an ecological & humanistic and thus relational approach to science, whereas on the right you see the entropic man with his mechanistic approach to science. The entropic man is mechanic, behaves as a robot and has no contact with elements of nature.

Feeling a Oneness With Humanity: Donne’s No Man is an Island

By Alex Liberto

John Donne

Read this article in Italian (Leggi questo articolo in italiano) →

In today’s world besieged by isolationism, America First, Britain First, white supremacy, cyber bullying, homophobia, racism, vaccine tug-of-war, colonialist withdrawal symptoms (… shall I go on?) and the like, never before have the words of John Donne been more relevant; “No man is an island…”. In the age of Brexit, the very notion that every man is part of a greater humanity is a powerful assertion. 

However, the profound conviction that ‘every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main’ has a far more universal metaphorical significance; a spiritual and existential significance.

Although many think that ‘No Man is an Island’ is taken from Donne’s poetry, it is actually from his prose, specifically; Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions – MEDITATION XVII.

The paragraph in question is the following:

No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
well as any manor of thy friends or of thine
own were; any man’s death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

The essential meaning is pretty straightforward. Mankind is bound together spiritually and emotionally. Therefore, each human being should feel a sense of belonging to a greater whole, and every death should make each one of us feel a sense of loss, because it is part of our humanity that has lost a piece of itself.

The funeral bell that tolls for the death of another human also tolls for all of us, not only because it marks the death of part of us, but also because it is a reminder that we will also die one day; “Now this bell tolling softly for another, says to me, Thou must die.” ( MEDITATION XVII – NUNC LENTO SONITU DICUNT, MORIERIS.)

John Donne’s Sermons and Meditations blend the strength of his religious faith with his intellectual Metaphysical vigour. To understand this original approach we must first understand what came before; the younger John Donne.

Donne preferred physical, sensual love

Before his religious awakening, Donne was profane and very sensual. He wrote poetry that overturned the traditional poetic courtly style of his Elizabethan and Cavalier contemporaries, whose sugary romantic poetry eulogised emotional and romantic love. Donne preferred physical, sensual love and avoided any metaphorical allusions to the ethereal or romantic. He was the typical metaphysical poet who related to emotions, like love or sex, in a cerebral way. His poetry was much more analytical and intellectual, reflecting the quintessential characteristics of the metaphysical school, of which he was the main exponent. When he addressed his loved one, he did not ask her if he should compare her to a ‘summer’s day’, like Shakespeare did, but quite differently, he tried to convince her to make love to him. 

“Thou know’st that this cannot be said
A sinne, nor shame, nor loss of Maidenhead,…”
– John Donne – The Flea

His poems were full of conceits and extended metaphors. Through these conceits Donne compared the spiritual, emotional or ethereal to the very tangible. His associations were often scientific or mathematical (love compared to a compass, or to an atlas).

Metaphysical poetry mirrored the contemporary situation of the undoing of basic and rooted medieval beliefs, at the expense of scientific discoveries and academic progress. 

Metaphysical poetry, therefore, marked a development from the self-confident courtly traditions, to a position of disorientation and mistrust:

“And new Philosophy calls all in doubt….” – John Donne – An Anatomy of The World

Donne: a spiritual and religious poet?

After his elopement with Anne and his subsequent fall from grace, Donne became more introspective. He seemed to have had a spiritual epiphany and started writing poetry with religious themes. Donne’s religious sonnets, known as the Holy Sonnets, were also different from the conventional Elizabethan and courtly sonnets. 

Although the theme was now spiritual and religious, Donne did not abandon his Metaphysical cerebral style. His new poetry was neither conventional nor spiritually languid. Although focusing on religious themes, they held all the intense and cerebral power of intellect. When he addressed death, he peremptorily declared: “Death thou shalt die.”  When he addressed God, he was neither deferential nor meek, but cried: “Batter my heart, three-personed God, …”

Donne’s religious prose is no exception. The personal tone and emotional intensity contained in his sermons and meditations are strikingly dramatic and original. 

Donne, Donne, Donne… For whom the bell tolls

No Man Is an Island, from MEDITATION XVII, is a case in point. The language is clearly terse and powerful, in line with Metaphysical intellectuality. The development of the core metaphor associates a physical continental landmass; from which a part is detached; with mankind and the individual. Each individual (an island) is a part of mankind (the mainland) and cannot survive alone and detached, cut off from the rest. The individual and the island are diminished, in the same way as mankind and the landmass.

Donne begins this piece with a clear and unequivocal opening line; “No man is an island”. No single human being is entirely separate from the rest of humanity. Each one is part of a whole. Donne then moves into one of his metaphorical conceits by associating human beings, and their connection to one another, with the continent’s landmass. They are all “part of the main”.

He develops the metaphor further by saying that if the continent loses a “promontory” or a “clod” it would be less, in the same way as the loss of your friend’s manor or your own. This refers to the interwoven oneness of human beings and how every loss, or death, detracts from the whole. Humanity is interconnected and individuals are linked to one another and therefore cannot disregard the lives of others.

Donne develops this thread by pointing out that not only “your” loss is meaningful but also “thine friends”. Everyone suffers and is ‘less’ when even one single person suffers. Suffering can only be defeated, therefore, by the unison of an empathic compassion.

By reverting to the first-person he then emphasises his own connection to “mankind”, saying that “Each man’s death” diminishes him. He is “involved” in the spiritual web of humankind.

The last lines address death and highlight the essence of what it means when a new death occurs. Death is symbolically displayed by the image of the tolling of a church bell. 

When the death bell tolls, Donne asks not to send anyone to find out who has died, for it is part of you who has died with that death. The bell actually tolls for you.

Although Donne’s sermons and meditations are based on the fundamentals of Christianity, his concept of compassion and connection to all of humanity is shared by other religions, especially Buddhism.  Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. 

“Compassion becomes real when we recognise our shared humanity.” – Pema Chödrön

Connection and compassion are vital. They offer a sense of belonging, of being part of a whole, one of the most essential of all human needs. Reflecting on our common humanity, we can appreciate that we all, at heart, want to be spiritually empathetic and in unison with mankind and the universe. We all have an innate desire to avoid suffering and be happy.  

Donne’s No Man Is an Island cultivates this ecumenical desire by reflecting on our awareness of the essential oneness with the rest of humanity.

The 40th day of winter: Kurdistan Celebrates Pir Shaliar – in pictures

By Anahita Ahmadi

The 40th day of winter Kurdistan Celebrating Pir Shalyar in pictures

The festival of Pir Shalyar is an old traditional ceremony in Kurdistan associated with the pre-Islamic, Zoroastrian times. It is held on the 40th day of winter. 

Pir (also translated as saint), Shaliyar is believed to have cured the daughter of the king of Bukhara; the ceremony intends to mark their marriage. Uraman Takht, the city hosting the festival, is located in the eastern part of Marivan, Kurdistan.

Quiz: Humanity Vetoed – How Much Do You Know About The United Nations Security Council?

News in February 2021 You May Have Missed

Africa

Read this article in Italian (Leggi questo articolo in italiano) →

AFRICA

01.02.21: Somalia. Al-Shabab militants stormed the Afrik Hotel in the capital Mogadishu and started shooting at guests. At least nine people were killed including a former military general and four of the assailants.

05.02.21: Libya. UN-brokered peace talks held in Geneva have led to the formation of an interim unity government that will put an end to rival administrations. The government will work towards holding free elections in December. The country has been in turmoil since NATO-backed forces killed leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

08.02.21: Morocco. About 30 people drowned when flood water engulfed the basement of an illegal textile factory in Tangier.

14.02.21: DR Congo. Over 60 people have died after a ferry sank in Lake Mai-Ndombe in the western part of the country. About 700 people were on board when the accident happened, leading investigators to focus on overcrowding as a likely cause. Such accidents are not uncommon in Central Africa owing to poor safety standards and the flouting of the ones that do happen to be in place.

14.02.21: Guinea. Health officials confirmed that at least three people have died from Ebola, while at least a few others have been infected. Five years ago the country and its neighbours had been ravaged by the epidemic, which killed about 11,000 people.

17.02.21: Nigeria. Gunmen disguised as soldiers attacked a boys’ school in Kagara Town in Niger State, abducting schoolchildren, teachers and family members. A total of 42 people were taken, including 27 students; one student was killed. Such abductions have become the hallmark of Islamist extremists operating in the country.

19.02.21: DR Congo. Health officials announced that the outbreak of plague that started three months ago has already resulted in deaths of 31 people.

26.02.21: Nigeria. Less than ten days after a mass abduction in Niger State, gunmen have kidnapped 317 schoolgirls from a boarding school in Zamfara State in the north of the country.

27.02.21: Nigeria. The 47 people who were abducted by Islamists in Niger State ten days ago have been released following negotiations with the government, which may have freed some prisoners as part of a deal.

28.02.21: Chad. Yaya Dillo, the opposition leader, claimed that a government raid on his home resulted in the death of five of his family members including his son and mother.

America

THE AMERICAS

01.02.21: USA. New evidence has emerged on the FBI’s role in the murder of the 21-year-old Black Panther leader Fred Hampton and his fellow Black Panther leader Mark Clark in 1969. 

05.02.21: USA. Academy Award winning actor Christopher Plummer, who perhaps is best remembered for his portrayal of Captain von Trapp in the 1965 film The Sound of Music, died at his home in Connecticut aged 91.

08.02.21: USA. Mary Wilson, the founding member of The Supremes, the best-selling female group of all time, died in her sleep in Nevada, aged 76.

13.02.21: USA. Former President Trump was acquitted from his second impeachment charge relating to the storming of Capitol Hill, which he was alleged to have sparked. Conviction required a two-thirds majority, but only seven Republican Senators (10 short of the 17 required) voted with Democrats to convict Trump. Republican Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell, who voted against, nevertheless declared that the former president was clearly to blame.

15.02.10: Haiti. Protests continue to escalate demanding the resignation of President Jovenel Moïse. According to the opposition, Moïse’s five-year term should have ended on 7 February 2021; that is exactly five years after his predecessor, singer-turned-politician, Michel Martelly, stepped down. However, owing to allegations of electoral fraud, which resulted in a new election, the president’s tenure had been delayed by a year.

18.02.21: USA. Freak winter storms that have been sweeping across southern States have left over 30 dead and caused havoc with water and electricity supplies as well as with transport.

22.02.21: USA. President Biden addressed the nation as the country passed the “heart-breaking milestone” of 500,000 COVID-19-related deaths. Though proportionally, the tiny European State of San Marino has the highest death rate, the US has the highest toll of any one country.

23.02.21: Ecuador. According to authorities, riots in three separate prisons have left 62 people dead. Rival gangs and a failed escape attempt have been cited as causes for the riots.

26.02.21. Haiti. A mass prison breakout has left 25 people dead, including a prison director and a notorious gang leader.

26.02.21: USA. A declassified report on the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi identifies Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman as fully accountable for the crime. President Biden has made it clear that relations with the Arab State will no longer ignore issues relating to human rights.

Asia

ASIA

01.02.21: Myanmar. A military coup d’état under army chief Min Aung Hlaing seized power and detained State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and other democratically elected leaders. A night-time curfew was declared as well as a one-year state of emergency.

05.02.21. Palestine. The International Criminal Court (ICC) decreed that Palestine did fall under its jurisdiction and that it could therefore investigate alleged atrocities committed there. Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin reacted angrily against the decision.

07.02.21: India.  A dam in the state of Uttarakhand burst when a piece of a glacier broke off and tumbled into the river. Scores of people are feared dead, many of the casualties were working in two hydropower plants.

11.02.21: Japan. The president of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics organising committee, Yoshiro Mori, agreed to resign over a sexist remark, adding further uncertainty to the already blighted Olympic Games. Mori, 83, who had served as Prime Minister of Japan between April 2000 and April 2001, caused a backlash when he said that women talked too much, while he was attending an Olympic Committee board meeting early this month.

13.02.21: India. A 22-year-old climate campaigner, Disha Ravi, was arrested for editing and circulating online guidelines to assist the ongoing farmers’ protests. The “toolkit” had been tweeted by climate activist Greta Thunberg.

17.02.21: UAE. The British government has asked for proof that Sheikha Latifa, the daughter of the ruler of Dubai, is alive, after a video message she managed to smuggle out claimed she was being held in solitary confinement as a prisoner. Sheikha Latifa, who is 35, had tried to escape from her domineering father Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, in 2018, but was captured on her way to Goa and forcefully returned with the help of the Indian Government.

23.02.21. China/Hong Kong. Plans have been announced to force politicians in Hong Kong to swear allegiance to the government in Beijing.

25.02.21. Armenia: Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan faced a challenge from the head of the armed forces who joined the opposition demanding that he resign. Pashinyan responded by describing the pressure by the army to remove him as an attempted coup and requesting the sacking of the head of the armed forces. President Armen Sargsyan, however, seems unwilling to do so.

Europe

EUROPE  

02.02.21: Russia. A court sentenced opposition leader Alexei Navalny to over two-and-a-half-years in prison. The move sparked further riots at home and condemnation from many governments around the world. Navalny was arrested last month for parole infringements. These were due to his stay in Germany where he was being treated for a “Kremlin orchestrated” assassination attempt.  

02.02.21:UK. Captain Sir Tom Moore, the World War II veteran who raised millions of pounds for the National Health Service that was under strain from COCID-19, died of the virus aged 100.

06.02.21: Italy. Mario Draghi, the former chief of the European Central Bank, appears to have secured the backing of the 5-Star Movement and the right-wing League for a Draghi-led government of national unity.

10.02.21: Poland. A new advertising tax that the media industry claims is aimed at undermining the freedom of the press led many leading independent news organizations to suspend news coverage for the day across different media platforms.

13.02.21: Italy. Mario Draghi has been sworn in as prime minister by President Sergio Mattarella. All but one of the main political parties has opted to back the new government.

15.02.21: Spain. In the local Catalan elections, the pro-union Socialist Party secured the most seats in parliament, however, the separatist bloc made significant gains.

15.02.21: Kosovo. The left-wing reformist party, Vetëvendosje, led by Albin Kurti won a historic election victory. Kurti had been ousted from his post as Prime Minister of the partially-recognised State less than a year ago, under heavy pressure from Washington.

16.02.21: Poland. The government backed down on its plans to levy a tax on advertising after intense protests. The proposed law will now be amended.

18.02.21: Georgia. Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia announced his resignation in protest at plans to arrest opposition Leader Nika Melia.

20.02.21: Russia. A court rejected Alexey Navalny appeal against his jail sentence and he was moreover fined $11,500 in a defamation case relating to a World War II veteran.

23.02.21: Malta. Vincent Muscat, one of the men accused of assassinating journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia with a car bomb in 2017, pleaded guilty to the charge and has been given a 15-year prison sentence. Caruana Galizia was investigating government corruption when she was killed. Initial investigations of the crime implicated members of the Maltese government and led to the resignation of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat last year.

23.02.21: Georgia. Protests erupted in the streets following the arrest of the main opposition leader, Nika Melia. The politician is accused of organising “mass violence” during anti-government demonstrations in 2019.

Oceania

OCEANIA

18.02.21: Australia. Facebook blocked all news feeds in an escalating feud with the government that is ploughing ahead with a law that would force Big Tech firms to negotiate deals with national news media for the use of their content. Google is looking for ways to comply with the new requirements.

23.02.21: Australia. Facebook reversed its news ban after the government agreed to make media code amendments.

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