Weihnachtsgedanken 2014

19. Dezember 2014

 

Seit zehn Jahren teilt Andi mit Freunden, Bekannten und Arbeitskollegen in aller Welt seine Weihnachtsgedanken über das abgelaufene Jahr mit seinen Höhe- und Tiefpunkten und über den Zustand der Welt, wie er sie wahrnimmt. Es sind pointierte Äußerungen, die ganz bewusst Stellung beziehen und dem Einen oder Anderen "quer" liegen. Andi schreibt sie auf, weil er glaubt, dass es wichtige und richtige Gedanken sind. 

 

Da Andis Nachricht mittlerweile über fünfhundert Menschen in aller Welt erreicht, verfasst er sie stets auf Englisch. Für alle, die sie nicht als Mail erhalten, veröffentlichen wir sie hier auf unserer Website. 

 

Wir wünschen Euch ein friedliches, besinnliches Weihnachtsfest 2014 und einen guten Start ins neue Jahr 2015. Möge es besser werden als das vergangene!

 

Viele Grüße

Eva und Andi


 

Dear all,


since ten years I've shared with clients, colleagues, friends and acquaintances my thoughts and opinions and emotions when I watched the old year pulling up and turned around to see what had happened, and what we, you and me, had achieved. Feedback I’ve received was mostly positive so I went about it once more. 


Everything started promising - the Winter Olympics at Sotchi saw the warmest weather ever for any winter games on record, but that's okay: Russia has lots of oil to propel the snow cannons and to freeze the ice rinks. Strict security measures prevented terrorists to disturb the games - a very real threat in Russia's south. From then on, however, things went downhill: the Ukraine crisis has increased tensions between Russia on one side and the EU and US on the other. I'm not here to judge whether any side has any right to put an oar into the strife between Ukrainean and Russian nationalists - after all, mistakes have been made on both sides - but I think the only way forward for a united Ukraine will be a constitutional reform creating a confederated state with strong representation of all national interests. The only alternative would be to break up Ukraine - the peaceful split of the Czech and Slovak republics in 1992 shows that such a split is possible and may benefit both sides in the long run.


The Ukrainean civil war cost several thousand lives now - among them 298 people aboard Malayan Airlines flight MH-17 which was shot down over the battle zone. Thus Malayan Airlines was hit a second time after a Boeing 777 with 244 people on board had vanished over the Andaman Sea. Being in a travel-heavy profession myself, I feel sympathy with the victims and their families. All too often we tend to forget that "there are no beams in the air" - if luck's running out on an aircraft and its crew, it is. 


Ebola, the insidious epidemic causing terrible dying, broke out again in West Africa, killing some 7,000 people in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia - the highest number of victims in a single Ebola outbreak ever. The good news is that the outbreak seems to be under control - for now. What should raise eyebrows is the fact that the US Center for Disease Control (CDC) actually holds patents on the Ebola virus. Is Ebola a man-made epidemic, then? Who is accountable? Is it a step further in the plan outlined in 1970 by then-World Bank president Robert McNamara to control population growth, if necessary, by disease and famine? Conspiracy seems not too far off given how much money is to be earned by speculation with thirst and hunger - Nestlé chairman Peter Brabeck has been quoted saying "human beings don't have a right to water". If nothing else, keep this in mind next time someone suggests to privatize your local water supply.


Our way of life has taken away the very foundation of life for many people in the world, and it continues to do so. Now these people are getting underway, finally. They're coming, in growing numbers, crossing the Mediterranean in nutshells unfit for any open water larger than a swimming pool, and drowning in scores. Estimates run as high as one in four drowned in their attempts to make Lampedusa – possibly 40,000 since 2008. Please, let this figure sink in. 40,000 - this is about one half of NTT Data wiped out. This is roughly the city of Freising, Bavaria wiped out. Or the city of King's Lynn, Norfolk. Remember this the next time someone is telling you "the boat is full" – what an awful derision in the ears of those who barely made it! – and keeps blaring about "economic refugees", who come here "to hang into our social system". No - these people come here because our way of live deprives them a living at home. That's the sad, simple truth.


Plus there are millions of refugees from Syria and Iraq - they flee from the Islamic State who continues to conquer lands in Syria and Iraq, driving away people, raping women and killing men and children who just want to live peacefully. They, too, are a byproduct of our, the Western way to handle the world's affairs. Few people like to be reminded that their parent organization, Al Quaeda, was the brainchild of some CIA officials bragging on how to create an indigenous force to oppose the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. A generation later, these people who had never learned anything but brutal warfare (and only from the best I dare saying), were left without an enemy and turned – surprise! – first against their own people, then against "the West." That’s what I call “it exploded right in our faces” – thank you.


Still - there would have been lots of options to prevent the worst. But we preferred to spend some $ 250 - 300 Bln on the "war against terror", creating even more terrorists along the way. Heck - at that price we could have bought them all out, and lots of fathers, mothers and children could sit down today around a nicely decked table. Uh - I forgot the amount of cash to be made out of war – for individuals and corporations alike. The most recent appropriation for the continued US war in Iraq is about $ 8 Bln - for fuel, bombs, 'advisors'. Eight billion dollars ... I can only guess what eight billion dollars invested in schools, hospitals and roads in Iraq might mean to the people there. And for the future of mankind.


Meanwhile, here, in Germany, tens of thousands of people follow the strangest flag one can imagine. Had someone told me in January that I'd have to write about a serious political movement opposing the "Islamization of the Occident", I'd have told him off. And still - I have to write exactly that: my fellow, saturated Germans, living in warm, lighted houses, sitting on upholstered sofas and watching reality shows, 15,000 of them at Dresden, turn out each Monday to make their case. Dresden has less than 0.5% people with a "migration background", all of Germany somewhere between 10 and 12% (depending on whose statistics you don't believe), of which only a fraction is actually Muslim. Of the refugees from Syria, Turkey and Lebanon have picked up 1.3 Mio each, and Jordan accepted some 630,000. Now these are figures to be concerned of. (Germany, on comparison, has accepted 34,000 so far and boasts to be the European nation to have taken the most refugees.) 


There are lots of topics to rile against, from bank bailouts to failed energy politics to the disintegration of European values under the imminent free trade agreements. But people take to the streets against the Muslims threatening our culture. Something's wrong with this picture. 


Something's wrong with a world where torture becomes a legal law enforcement tool in democratic states, while people feeding the homeless in those very states get arrested. 

Something's wrong with a world where racism is not only not banned, but instead promoted by jurisdiction and media. 

Something's wrong with a world where the wealthy can grow their wealth ever faster while the poorest cannot even afford food and water. 


I'm no Catholic but pope Francis nailed it pretty well when he said, "extreme poverty and unjust economic structures that cause great inequalities are violations of human rights", and urged to close the "widening gap between those who have more and those who must be content with the crumbs". There's much more to lose than a few billion dollars if we don't act. Act now, that is.


***


On a brighter note, 2014 was a remarkable year as the German football team won the world championship. Not on anybody's bill in the beginning, the German team grew to the challenge, demolished Brazil's team with a most memorable 7-1 result and came out on top of Argentinia (1-0) after a truly dramatic end game. Funny aside: the German team had to apologize for some loose wording taped by the German press after the game. "Good people" had their go again. Hm.


Another note of hope means the issuing of this year's peace Nobel prize to Kailash Satyarthi (who promotes children's rights openly and opposes child labor and child slavery) and Malala Yousafzai (who promotes openly the right of girls to education and who was shot for this in the face by a Taliban - she luckily has recovered and goes on striving for girl's education all over the world.) It is sad that it takes a Nobel Prize to remind us that child labor, slavery and sexual exploitation of children are as much a daily reality for millions of kids all over the world, as is the refusal of equal education to girls. If we want to make the world a better place for everybody, we must start here, with the weakest ones. 


And e-on, the biggest German utility corporation, has decided to withdraw from "dirty" energy - nuclear and fossile fuel plants will be moved into some sort of "e-off" to be wound down and done away with. This is a very important signal - what upsets me is the fact that it took so long to give it. The writing was on the wall for nuclear power in 1986 when the promise of "clean, sustainable energy" crumbled beneath the radioactive cloud covering all of Europe after the Chernobyl power plant blew up. Since then, German utility corporations alone received more than € 130 Bln in subsidies - € 215 bln altogether between 1970 and 2013, while paying € 200 Bln in dividends. If sarcasm had the better of me I could state now that it would have saved money, actually, had the German government paid the dividends straightaway rather than promoting an energy "solution" that'll continue to cost us dearly for thousands of years to come. Good that I'm not into sarcasm. Never.


***


On a personal level, 2014 was a good year for me. Not only did the project I used to be a team member with go live with the German version of the software on February 15, and not only was I able to make friends with another really big client here in Munich over the rest of the year, I also made the acquaintance of very great folks at a new, prospective client, and chances are that this business will benefit both of us for the years to come. I'm pretty much looking forward to that!


Moreover, my wife and me launched our first book, our shared brainchild of three years, a novel I wrote while she did the trimming  Writing (and publishing) invites readers into your head, makes them follow your thoughts and look through your eyes. Feedback is an overwhelming experience I recommend to anyone in possession of a creative streak 


So while the best news on the state of the world (once more) seems to be that we managed for another year to not blow up ourselves, for me, personally, it was a good year. Carl Sagan, great scientist, humanist and teacher, who would have turned 80 on November 8 hadn't he succumbed to cancer eighteen years ago tomorrow, once said: 


"I don't know whether there is life after death.

But I know there is one before.


Buddhists say we have an obligation to make the most 

of our time here by improving the lives of those we know.


What a beautiful, inspiring mindset!"


This is the right mindset for Christmas. Over all the awful news about crimes, negligence, war and strife there were inspiring news as well: the thousands volunteering to help West Africa fight the Ebola outbreak; people in southern and south-eastern Europe clearing rooms in their homes to shelter refugees; men and women not closing their eyes to the requirements of the homeless in the streets of their hometowns, openly opposing their local governments who actually issue arrest warrants against them. Christmas is the time to remember those heroes of our daily life and to honor their efforts to make this world a better place by being just ... kind. 


One young woman in particular symbolizes this spirit this year, to me, at least. Student Dominique Harrison-Bentzen of Preston, England had lost her bank card and had run out of cash for a taxi home. A homeless man approached her and offered her his last three pounds so she could get home safely. She didn't take the money in the end but was so touched by this gesture that she started a fundraising campaign to be able to help "Robbie" get a home with an address again so he can apply for work and get back to his feet. The idea was to just ask everyone for a donation of three pounds, the objective was to raise 1,500 pounds. Currently the campaign has exceeded 30,000 pounds - truly a fine example for the spirit of this year's Christmas. I would like to remind you that it is easy to share this spirit - not just by donating to charities (which, nevertheless, would be a good point to start ;-)) but by just showing kindness to the people around you. It doesn't take much - hold open the door for that elderly woman with a walker, check your small change next time the person before you at the supermarket counter is lacking a Euro, buy a suspended coffee at your local coffee shop, or buy a second sandwich next time and give it to the homeless man selling magazines outside your local mall, and if you'd like to do even more, talk to him, while you're munching your sandwiches. You'll brighten another human's day - an experience hard to top. (I must warn you, though: acts of kindness are contagious, so beware – you might end up with a world full of nice people …)


***


Let me close with the warmest wishes for you all - for tidings of joy, for peaceful Christmas and a happy new year. Accept an old man's apologies if I said or did something that hurt you, and please forgive me, all of you, whom I couldn’t get in touch with this year. I hope I’ll improve on this one, at least. 


Let's start out in 2015 with fresh determination to make the world a better place for everyone, so it becomes a better one for ourselves  


Best regards,


Andreas Birkigt


***

 

Note: the thoughts, opinions and motions discussed above represent my own personal point of view. They are not in any way representative for views or opinions of my employer, NTT Data, or any other institution I’m a member of.