Keeping heads buried in the sand

Come on, it’s bleedin‘ obvious that financial and budgetary restrictions are not the real reason for the withdrawal of the future Brazilian government to host the next UN conference on climate change.

International repercussion aside, such a conference would also be an issue on national television networks and other media. As a consequence it would raise attention and push some kind of public discourse. And that, again, would not amuse some people with a lot of influence on Brazilian politics, especially certain lobbyists.

For them, prevention means to keep a lot of heads buried in the sand.

Slash-and-burn in the Amazon forest (© AP)

Don’t insist on English!

First of all:

I know what you’re thinking. You think I’ve lost my way, and somebody’s going to come on the stage in a minute and guide me gently back to my seat.

Never mind … Mrs. Ryan is just warming up. It’s about learning English. There are many ways to do so. The question is: for what purpose?

And I want to remind you that the giants upon whose shoulders today’s intelligentsia stand did not have to have English, they didn’t have to pass an English test. Case in point, Einstein. He, by the way, was considered remedial at school because he was, in fact, dyslexic. But fortunately for the world, he did not have to pass an English test. Because they didn’t start until 1964 with TOEFL, the American test of English. Now it’s exploded. There are lots and lots of tests of English.

That’s the point. Does TOEFL always make sense, like all the others?

Steeped In Violence

We are steeped in violence.

This past week was of course a searing reminder: Monday’s bombing at the Boston Marathon and the ensuing manhunt that ended on Friday with the death of one suspect and the capture of another, his brother, dominated the news. But there were other troubling, if less traumatic reminders, too. On Tuesday, a 577-page report by the Constitution Project concluded that the United States had engaged in torture after the Sept. 11 attacks. On Wednesday, a turning point in the heated national debate on gun control was reached when the United States Senate dropped consideration of some minimal restrictions on the sale and distribution of guns. Looming above all this is the painful memory of the mass killing at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Now is as good a time as any to reflect on our responses to the many recent horrors that seem to have engulfed us, and to consider whether we can hope to move from an ethos of violence to one nonviolence. Facing ourselves squarely at this difficult moment might provide a better lesson for the future than allowing ourselves to once again give in to blind fury.

We might begin by asking the question, Who are we now?

Clearly, we are a violent country. Our murder rate is three to five timest hat of most other industrialized countries. The massacres that regularly take place here are predictable in their occurrence, if not in their time and place. Moreover, and more telling, our response to violence is typically more violence. We display our might — or what is left of it — abroad in order to address perceived injustices or a threat to our interests. We still have not rid ourselves of the death penalty, a fact that fills those in other countries with disbelief. Many of us, in response to the mindless gun violence around us, prescribe more guns as the solution, as the Republicans sought to do during the gun debate. And we torture people. It is as though, in thinking that the world responds only to violence, we reveal ourselves rather than the world.

Why is this? How has the United States become so saturated in slaughter?

There are, of course, many reasons, but three stand out …
read more

By Todd May, The New York Times Opinionator

Hipsters – The Dead End!

I’ve been wondering what this whole „hipster-thing“ is about. Are hipsters really cool? No, they are not. Do you wanna know why? Take a look at this:

We’ve reached a point in our civilization where counterculture has mutated into a self-obsessed aesthetic vacuum. So while hipsterdom is the end product of all prior countercultures, it’s been stripped of its subversion and originality.


Ever since the Allies bombed the Axis into submission, Western civilization has had a succession of counter-culture movements that have energetically challenged the status quo. Each successive decade of the post-war era has seen it smash social standards, riot and fight to revolutionize every aspect of music, art, government and civil society.

But after punk was plasticized and hip hop lost its impetus for social change, all of the formerly dominant streams of „counter-culture“ have merged together. Now, one mutating, trans-Atlantic melting pot of styles, tastes and behavior has come to define the generally indefinable idea of the „Hipster.“

An artificial appropriation of different styles from different eras, the hipster represents the end of Western civilization – a culture lost in the superficiality of its past and unable to create any new meaning. Not only is it unsustainable, it is suicidal. While previous youth movements have challenged the dysfunction and decadence of their elders, today we have the „hipster“ – a youth subculture that mirrors the doomed shallowness of mainstream society.


Hipsterdom is the first „counterculture“ to be born under the advertising industry’s microscope, leaving it open to constant manipulation but also forcing its participants to continually shift their interests and affiliations. Less a subculture, the hipster is a consumer group – using their capital to purchase empty authenticity and rebellion. But the moment a trend, band, sound, style or feeling gains too much exposure, it is suddenly looked upon with disdain. Hipsters cannot afford to maintain any cultural loyalties or affiliations for fear they will lose relevance.


We are a lost generation, desperately clinging to anything that feels real, but too afraid to become it ourselves.

Extracts from an article published on adbusters. The author Douglas Haddow is a Canadian writer, designer, video artist and general media enthusiast.

Goodbye Facebook!

It’s been a couple days since I’ve deleted my Profile on Facebook. Now, if you like Facebook you might ask yourself: „That’s weird! Why could he have done that?“ Or you are from Brazil and think: „Facebook? Hum. What am I supposed to do there? All my friends are on Orkut!“

Well, l live in Brazil and so I wasn’t able to „avoid“ Orkut, socially spoken. At that time it’s been highly recommended by a friend, so I gave it a try, more than one – to be honest. Finally, I quit for real. I quit insisting on searching, reading and posting in forums, sending scraps or reading some kind of personal marketing from people I never met in real life.

I made up my mind and left. Not just that. I did something stupid. I wrote an email to my virtual friends, trying to explain why. Can you imagine that? Nobody answered, of course. They might think I’m crazy. How could I’ve been so naive?

After a while, I kind of missed something. I felt so lonely (am I just kidding?). So I joined Facebook, „connecting“ to some friends (most of them were people I already knew), hanging around for a while, checking out some apps, reading stupid comments like „Filipe is Rumpelstielzchen“ or that someone „poked“ another person, doing some research on communities and – got bored.

„This is worse than Orkut!“ I thought – facing an overdose of political correctness. A lot of smiling faces posting a lot of fotos with smiling faces. Comparing to Orkut, Facebook is the peak of indifference. No real issues but a lot of visual pollution and apps you don’t need. In my opinion, the concept of Orkut is better. By the way:  „Dear folks from Orkut! We had some good chats! I give you that!“

Now, I’m out. After all, I did not „leave“ real people. I just quit participating on a virtual platform. That’s a difference, do you agree? I hope so. And, with reference to the people I „knew“ on Orkut and Facebook I’d like to tell you something:

I’ve got their phone numbers and email-adresses.

Anyway, since then, I’m almost convinced that a lot of so called social networks are a waste of time. They might be useful if you’re looking for someone you haven’t met for years and whose personal contact information is lost. Or, maybe you’re looking for a date – desperately, after all?

That’s not my point.

My point is that – in the end – this whole social network thing is giving just one clear message:

I am here! I do exist!

That’s it.

It’s not: „How are you?“ / „What have you been doing since we’ve met?“
(If we ever met at all…)

You think that’s unfair? You might be right. People ask these questions and use those networks for gossip and news, to post their ideas, to show how fantastic, marvellous, sexy, tough, cool or intelligent theye are, and so on … That’s human and quite understandable.

But, I beg your pardon for insisting: the main issue is still to be present, to show up – for whatever reason. Those sites give you the impression that you’re missing something if you are not a part of it. Once you’re in they got you! You better think twice about leaving. You got used to it. You need it!

Why is that?

Well, maybe because:

Social network sites risk infantilising the mid-21st century mind, leaving it characterised by short attention spans, sensationalism, inability to empathise and a shaky sense of identity, according to a leading neuroscientist.


Social networking sites can provide a „constant reassurance – that you are listened to, recognised, and important“. […] This was coupled with a distancing from the stress of face-to-face, real-life conversation, which were „far more perilous … occur in real time, with no opportunity to think up clever or witty responses“ and „require a sensitivity to voice tone, body language and perhaps even to pheromones, those sneaky molecules that we release and which others smell subconsciously“.

Good point!