09.02.2017

Links February 2017

Feline news:
http://www.newstatesman.com/culture/books/2017/02/what-cats-can-teach-us-about-how-live An really nice text and an absolute must read for every cat lover!
https://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2017/02/07/the-alley-cats-of-istanbul/
http://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/Bobcat-Still-Missing-From-DCs-National-Zoo-May-Be-in-Woodley-Park-or-Cleveland-Park-412269783.htmlShe has been found in the meantime and is back in the zoo. Goodby liberty.
http://www.treehugger.com/animals/ollie-jailbreaking-bobcat-lam-national-zoo.html
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/shortcuts/2017/jan/08/colour-changing-cats-warn-radioactive-waste-nuclear-plants-distant-descendants

Environmental news:http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mongolia-pollution-idUSKBN15M1KQ
http://news.sky.com/story/sick-whale-found-to-have-30-plastic-bags-blocking-its-stomach-10754077
http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-38859851
http://www.nature.com/news/deadly-new-wheat-disease-threatens-europe-s-crops-1.21424
http://www.dw.com/en/earthworm-numbers-dwindle-threatening-soil-health/a-37325923
https://gizmodo.com/radiation-levels-are-soaring-inside-the-damaged-fukushi-1791958714
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/feb/02/armed-herders-elephant-kenya-wildlife-laikipia This will end in chaos with nothing than a wasteland left.
https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/sea-unworthy-a-personal-journey-into-the-pacific-garbage-patch-slide-show/
http://mahb.stanford.edu/blog/review-anthrozoology/
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jan/28/greenland-narsaq-uranium-mine-dividing-town Ruining what is left.
https://uk.news.yahoo.com/uk-court-blocks-nigeria-spill-164822352.html
http://news.trust.org/item/20170127113908-241ue/
https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/polar-bear-cubs-at-high-risk-from-toxic-industrial-chemicals-despite-bans/
http://www.scmp.com/news/china/policies-politics/article/2063084/why-rich-breathe-easier-chinas-choking-smog Bring US jobs back from China, but leave the pollution there. Will that work?
air-puality-readings-chinahttp://www.independent.co.uk/environment/overfishing-species-extinction-african-food-crisis-threat-iucn-warning-niger-angola-mauritania-a7534901.html
http://www.csmonitor.com/Environment/2017/0114/Development-has-affected-7-percent-of-virgin-forests-since-2000-Study
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jan/16/chinas-booming-middle-class-drives-asias-toxic-e-waste-mountains In the small town where I lived in the 80s, a group of activists worked for half a year to restore and paint bikes that were donated by people. When about 60 bikes were ready, they were stationed in a dozen dedicated places to be used for free. The municipality and a few private companies helped with signposts at the staging points and plates for every bike. The project was introduced with a ceremony and a bike parade where all local celebrities were present. It was also announced in the local newspapers. All the bikes of this project were destroyed in only four days by vandals, mainly bored and idle youngsters. It was a disheartening experience for me, as I was involved very prominently in this project.
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jan/16/chinas-booming-middle-class-drives-asias-toxic-e-waste-mountains
http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2988500/roundup_residues_in_food_cause_fatty_liver_disease.html

Economic news:
http://truepublica.org.uk/eu/ecb-head-mario-draghi-admits-for-first-time-eu-may-break-up/
http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2017/01/fast-fashion-a-few-thoughts-sparked-recent-news.html
http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2017/01/waste-not-want-not-right-repair-laws-on-agenda-states.html
http://wolfstreet.com/2017/01/28/europe-limits-on-cash-transactions-war-on-cash/
https://www.oxfam.org/sites/www.oxfam.org/files/file_attachments/bp-economy-for-99-percent-160117-en.pdf
http://oxfamblogs.org/fp2p/8-men-now-own-the-same-as-the-poorest-half-of-the-world-the-davos-killer-fact-just-got-more-deadly/

Media news:
http://medialens.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=836:deranged-and-deluded-the-media-s-complicity-in-the-climate-crisis
http://www.spinwatch.org/index.php/issues/propaganda/item/5942-fake-news-propaganda-and-threats-to-journalism

Imperial news:
Once controlling 50 percent of world trade, the US share is now less than 20 percent.  This decline is partly due to the dismantling of its industrial economy as manufacturers have moved their factories abroad.
life-expectancy-us-2https://www.ineteconomics.org/perspectives/blog/johnson-elites-eying-the-exits-signals-americas-crisis
https://www.desmogblog.com/2017/01/24/america-suffering-very-real-water-crisis-few-are-acknowledging
http://nationalinterest.org/feature/america-becoming-third-world-country-19050?page=show Wow! For a long time I haven’t read an article as enlightened as this. And the author works in Qatar?
http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/building_the_institutions_for_revolt_20170115The institutions and movements for revolt will most likely be crushed as soon as they gain traction. Only the stealth movements will survive.
http://www.commondreams.org/views/2017/01/16/how-american-life-continued-deteriorate-2016
http://www.sacbee.com/news/nation-world/national/article125306029.htmlus-national-debt-1980-2016A reader asked me: “hey r u a trump supporter ???????+ just asking  i wanted to know.
And I replied: “No, Trump stands for everything what I dislike.”
How can I support a billionaire who lives in his own skyscraper in New York and has vowed to slash environmental regulations, increase fossil fuel exploration, cut taxes for companies and the superrich, and privatize all public goods?”
us-flagImperial conquest news:
For nearly a month the main water supply has been cut off in Aleppo city and an estimated 1.8 million people in the city and rural eastern Aleppo are depending on emergency supplies fron the Red Crescent, government agencies, and UN. The pumping station (Babiri water plant near Maskana) cannot be accessed because it is on the west bank of Lake Assad in Islamic State territory. No Western paper bothered to report this. Damascus still suffers water shortages after the Islamists poisoned the water and damaged the pumping station in Wadi Barada.
Amnesty International, funded with grants from the USA, EU, UK, other Western governments, the Rockefeller Foundation and similar institutions, issued another report about alleged Syrian atrocities. Between 5,000 and 13,000 people are said to have been executed in the Saydnaya prison in Damascus.
This makes headline in all news channels and nobody questions the reports findings. It doesn’t matter that this is hearsay without any material evidence to back it up, it will be hammered into the brains of Western media consumers just like the Caesar photos, the Ghouta chemical attack in 2013, and the shouting of protesters in 2011.
Nobody will ask how this can make sense when the Syrian government released thousands of prisoners in 2011 and 2012, issued numerous amnesties, regularly pardons militants who surrender, and allows Islamists to leave enclaves to join their brethren in Idlib, even when they committed crimes like disrupting the Damascus water supply.
There is no evidence, that prominent and internationally known opposition figures were killed in Saydnaya. In contrast to that, there were many well known opposition leaders among the prisoners which the government released (Zahran Alloush).
Commonsense alone should tell anybody that this is war propaganda, but commonsense has no chance when an allegation is repeated again and again countlessly, while doubts and criticism are declared as “fake news” and filtered out by all search engines and social media platforms.
The boy, whose detention, torture, and murder by the Mukhabarat supposedly sparked the protests in Daraa was later found alive and well in Jordan, now we are told the reason for the protests were the detentions of a group of boys who painted graffiti (nothing what couldn’t have happened in any other county).
That Syrian forces were responsible for the Ghouta gas attack was never proven, UN experts and MIT scientists refuted the evidence
https://s3.amazonaws.com/s3.documentcloud.org/documents/1006045/possible-implications-of-bad-intelligence.pdf
Half of the Caesar photos turned out to be from Syrian government casualties, the Caesar photos are essentially a collection of dead body pictures without accompanying evidence of crimes by the government.
The AI report about Saydnaya is based on 84 testimonies of people in Turkey, Jordan, Europe, and USA. The interviewees are referred to by their first name only or are anonym. AI claims to have the names of 400 individuals who died in Saydnaya but doesn’t publish them. How come these witnesses only emerge now when the mass killings have supposedly happened since 2011? The presented satellite pictures show not mass graves but small cemeteries in military bases and the additional graves can be easily explained by the immense death toll of this merciless war.syria army casualties 33http://www.globalresearch.ca/usafricoms-neo-colonial-dominance-in-west-africa-behind-the-change-of-government-in-gambia/5570445
http://www.workers.org/2017/01/18/cuban-migration-and-u-s-policy-war/

Uncategorized news:
http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/02/trump-administration-blacks-out-animal-welfare-information
https://www.theautomaticearth.com/2017/02/unrest-is-the-only-growth-industry-left/
http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2017/02/how-colonialism-shaped-modern-inequality.html
http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20170123-how-insects-like-bumblebees-do-so-much-with-tiny-brains
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jan/19/if-you-were-an-elephant-

News from cat land
The garden is still partly covered with snow, but the main pathways are walkable. I’ve already pruned the oldest grapevine. I should do that also with all other vines, but I want to wait till next year with that, to see how the old vine is reacting to the treatment. In commercial vineyards the plants are trimmed to four canes but I’m not sure my vines will appreciate that — they are used to grow as they please.

Despite the various and of contradictory theories about gardening until now nobody could convince me that the best time to prune all plants is not the end of winter. Beside the vine I’ve also pruned some fruit trees and herbs, as far as they have already reappeared from under the snow cover.

Last winter the rosemaries, sage, many strawberry plants, and even some marigold survived and continued growing like they just had hibernated. This will not happen this year. Rosemaries and sage are clearly dead and I’ve cut them to the ground, if they don’t sprout again, I will have to plant new ones. Three of the rosemaries were already one meter high, it would be sad to have lost them. Of course I could have covered them or pruned them at the start of winter. Would that have made a difference?

In an ideal world the garden should regenerate itself and no seeds or seedlings should be needed, but some species would not survive the hard competition without support (fennel, echinacea, cat mint for instance). Blueberries, my favorite berry bushes, do fairly well but propagation is difficult and takes time. At the moment it is still more feasible just to buy new bushes.

Plum and peach are the easiest trees to grow from pits and that is the reason a lot of young plum and peach trees are growing here. Some of the home grown peach trees are already four meters high and they have proven to be quite resistent against the debilitating peach leaf curl, a fungal disease which weakens the tree and prevents it from developing fruits.

I have also four older grafted peach trees which I bought in the first two years of my gardening experiment. They didn’t produce much fruits because they were all sick by peach leaf curl, probably already infected when I got them from the tree nursery. Last year I reluctantly tried for the first time a fungicide, based on the chemical difenoconazole, and I had the best peach harvest ever.

I trie to protect the soil by putting plastic storage boxes around the trees. Covering with tarpaulin sheets didn’t work because there are bushes around the trees and is nearly impossible to prevent the fungicide running from the sheets into the soil. The method with the boxes is not perfect but collects at least two thirds of the fungicide runoff, so the earthworms should be safe.

This is the only chemical I use in the garden and I will spray as less as possible but it will take years till I have found out the right dose or have found an alternative treatment.
linda-gandhi-carpet-dscn1393
The cats are all healthy, only aunt Rosy has a persistent cold and is sneezing occasionally. It appears that after the abdication of Princess Min Ki a new leader of the family is emerging. It is not Gandni Jr., who has no interest in a leadership position and just wants his peace and quiet, but three year old Linda, who has become a huge cat with more than six kilogram weight.

Linda is very fit, she is often in the forest even when snow is high, and she never misses a walk. When it was very cold, Linda in fact was the only cat who accompanied me on the obligatory daily forest walk.

Alone because of her size, nobody will challenge Lindas leadership, but she makes sure who is the boss by occasionally sparring with Gandhi, who is as big and strong as her but usually just runs away to hide in a safe spot.

Which reminds me of the Melian dialogue, a dramatization of the negotiations between the Athenians and the Melians before the former launched a devastating siege which ended with the summary execution of all Melian men and the enslavement of all women.

The Athenians had argued: “The strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.” A principle which has been the basis of law and justice throughout human history with only minor exceptions.
linda-kb-bench-dscn1452

03.02.2017

Syria situation report February 2017

The fall of eastern Aleppo was a devastating blow to the jihadists who want to eradicate the Syrian secular state and replace it with an Islamic feudal system similar to Saudi Arabia or Qatar. But the jihadists have not given up yet and the two biggest groups, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (former Jabhat al-Nusra) and Ahrar al-Sham staged a number of clashes in their stronghold Idlib province to force smaller Islamist groups into mergers with either of them.

In addition to this ploy Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, who calls itself now Hayyat Tahrir al-Sham, raided a few headquarters and ammunition depots of so called “moderate rebels,” exterminating these groups as their leaders fled to Turkey and their fighters were incorporated into the renamed entity.

With the repeated name changes Hayyat Tahrir al-Sham, alias Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, alias Jabhat al-Nusra wants to further obscure its personal and ideological ties to al-Qaeda.

After the staged fights died down, most jihadists joined Hayyat Tahrir al-Sham, including Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zenki, Liwa al-Haqq, Jaish al-Sunna, Jabhat Ansar al-Din, and Fatah Haleb. The former al-Qaeda affiliate is seen as more effective and ideologically sound than Turkey controlled Ahrar al-Sham.

Idlib is comparatively quiet at the moment, but a steady stream of weapons transports via Turkey fills up depleted depots and it will not take too long till Hayyat Tahrir al-Sham has reorganized itself, incorporated the new fighters, and is able to start a new offensive. 

Hayyat Tahrir al-Sham’s logo refers to the Umayyad mosque in Damascus, thus illustrating the paramount goal, which is to conquer Damascus and with it the whole of Syria.

The USA only will attack Hayyat Tahrir al-Sham to kill some leaders with known links to al-Qaeda. All Islamists, even the most dangerous and despicable ones, are seen as allies in the fight against the secular Syrian government. Even under US President Trump Hayyat Tahrir al-Sham will not be attacked in the same way as the Islamic State, while the support of hardline Islamists by Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, Kuwait, UAE will be tolerated or even facilitated by the CIA.

Trump may be open to a detente with Russia but the people he surrounded himself with, like Michael Flynn and James N. Mattis, are rather inclined to continue using Islamists as proxy forces to further destabilize the Middle East.

Western NGOs are focussing on Idlib to keep basic services up and create the illusion that Islamist rule would enable the population a normal life. Aleppo city meanwhile is shunned, the 1.6 million Aleppans who choose to stay are obviously regarded as government supporters, not worthy of any Western help. Syrian and Russian organizations are distributing food and vouchers. There is still fear that the Islamists one day may come back.
army walking
While government forces were tied up driving rebels from the eastern districts of Aleppo city, Turkey in November invaded Syria along the border between Jarabulus and Azaz. The operation, called Euphrates Shield, was launched under the pretext of fighting IS (Islamic State), but had the ultimate goal of creating a safe haven for Islamic fighters and prevent the Kurds to link up their cantons Afrin and Kobane.

IS retreated amicably from Jarabulus and Dabiq, but makes a stand now in al-Bab. The Turkish offensive has stalled, proving that Turkeys Islamic rebels are utterly incompetent. Turkey has sent more and more regular troops into Syria, which do now all of the fighting while the Islamic rebels are relegated to supporting activities. Turkeys losses are considerable. At least 10 Leopard 2A4 tanks and various other armored vehicles have been destroyed, more that 40 soldiers died. These are official numbers, real casualties are likely much higher.

Turkeys ally Massoud Barzani has sent a few thousand Rojava Peshmerga to enter northern Syria and secure safe zones in coordination with the USA. The Rojava Peshmerga are formed out of Syrian Kurdish refugees in Iraqi Kurdistan and may replace the useless FSA-Islamists in securing the area along the border once Turkish soldiers retreat.

This could be risky, because Kurds will not fight against Kurds and the Peshmerga could easily change sides to join the YPG/YPJ.

Syrian army units (led by the legendary Tiger forces) have taken advantage of the Turkish troubles in al-Bab and grabbed a lot of land from IS, approaching al-Bab from the south. No one knows what will happen, when Syrian and Turkish soldiers meet, but one thing is clear: The Turkish army is severely weakened after the coup and the subsequent purge, it is a paper tiger and Erdogan has to be careful not to overplay his hand and be humiliated by a crushing defeat of his forces.

The Syrian government has sent letters to the UN Security Council Syria, protesting the Turkish invasion and accusing Ankara of providing military, material, logistic support to terrorist organizations, facilitating the entry of foreign militants into Syria, and setting up training camps for militants on Turkish soil.

Western permanent members of the Security Council will prevent a discussions of these protests (might makes right).
syrian-soldiers
The jihadist enclaves around Damascus shrink and are eliminated one by one. After Islamists poisoned Damascus’ water supply with diesel and damaged the pumping station, the army conquered the Wadi Barada valley near the Lebanese border. With 400 square kilometers this is a big area and another significant defeat of the Islamists. 2,000 of them were allowed to go to Idlib despite the fact, that they killed the chief negotiator of the government during talks.

Repairs of the pumping station have started and 5 million inhabitants of Damascus can hope that the water shortage will finally end after one month.

The biggest remaining Islamist enclaves around Damascus are East Ghouta and Yarmouk/Beit Saham and there will soon be heavy fighting to eliminate them. In the other enclaves (Madaya and Zabadani, Bayt Jinn, Dumayr, Ruhayba/Jayrud/Nasiria) are truces in place and they will eventually give up without a fight.

Jordan since one year apparently is out of the Syrian proxy game and the “Southern Front” effectively doesn’t exist anymore aside from local militias. Salaries for fighters have been cut in half by the MOC (Military Operation Center) in Amman.

Southern Front rebels were not able to launch a successful military operation for almost a year. In December they announced a large-scale offensive to clear out IS from Daraa and Quneitra, yet nothing happened other than an ambush where IS affiliate Jaysh Khalid ibn Walid captured lots of military supplies from the rebels.
syria-war-map-02-2017
IS is still dangerous and able to wreak havoc. While the Kurdish dominated SDF took huge areas of Raqqa western countryside, Turkey took the area south of the Turkish border, the Syrian army took a sizable junk of eastern Aleppo countryside, IS has reconquered Palmyra and is busy destroying what is left of the world-famous ancient monuments.

IS has also launched its most ambitious and intense operation since month, amassing forces around the besieged town Deir ez-Zor and trying to overrun it. The Islamists were able to cut the airport from the main city and though Syrian troops have taken back many lost points the supply road is still unusable because IS has fire control over the road.

94,000 Inhabitants of Deir ez-Zor are besieged and in danger of being slaughtered by the IS monsters. This is the number according to the UN World Food Program, who halted air drops on January 15 after IS overran the drop zone.

The siege of eastern Aleppo affected, as came out after the Syrian victory, some 120,000 people, and they were not in danger of being massacred by the army. After they surrendered, 34,000 militants and their families could leave Aleppo unharmed and go to Idlib.

Yet, while the siege of eastern Aleppo was reported around the clock across all news channels, called a mass slaughter, a crime against humanity, a genocide, the siege of Deir ez-Zor is pretty much ignored by Western mass media. The 94,000 people in Deir ez-Zor are deemed as regime supporters, not worthy Western compassion and empathy.
assad-poster-12-2016
Most of the more densely populated areas in Syria are now under control of the government, but on military maps the situation still doesn’t look good. The Islamic belligerents are preparing for a new rounds of violence despite the ceasefire which was negotiated by Syria, Russia, Turkey, and Iran in the Astana-Kazakhstan peace talks.

IS and Fateh al-Sham (now Hayyat Tahrir al-Sham) were excluded from the ceasefire anyway, the Islamists who attended the talks didn’t sign the final agreement.

Saudi Arabia, Qatar Kuwait, the UAE were not involved in the Astana peace talks and also did not delegate their wishes to Turkey to negotiate on their behalf. These countries enjoy significant influence over tens of thousands of militants fighting in Syria and can keep the war going on for a long, long time.

Russia, fearful to become trapped in the Syrian quagmire, tries to reach a political compromise but will find out that a few more victories like eastern Aleppo will be necessary to make peace a realistic option. Furthermore, Russian proposals for limited autonomy of the Kurds in a federal state are rejected by the Syrian Baath government. The Kurds and the Baath party, both secular and with socialist roots, would be the most logical allies to guarantee a stable secular state and keep the Islamists in check, yet at the moment mutual mistrust and resentments are still too big to make a cooperation possible.

The Russian announcement to pull out its forces from Syria is irrelevant because 4,500 officers and soldiers will be still spread all over Syria, operating on the ground. That the group of ships around the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier has left leaves not a void, they were not essential and rather part of a training mission.

While the battles are expected to regain their former intensity and the Astana ceasefire will fail just like the previous ones, the process is still a necessary step in the long journey towards a political solution.
father-daniel-maes
This situation report closes with an interview of 78 years old Flemish Father Daniel Maes, who lives in Syria in the sixth-century-old Mar Yakub monastery in the city of Qara, 90 kilometers north of the capital Damascus.

Father Daniel has been a witness to the “civil war” right from the start and according to him, Western reports on the conflict in Syria are very misleading. His assessment in short: “The Americans and their allies want to completely ruin the country.”

Interviewer: You are very critical of the media coverage on Syria. What is bothering you?
Father Daniel: The idea that a popular uprising took place against President Assad is completely false. I’ve been in Qara since 2010 and I have seen with my own eyes how agitators from outside Syria organized protests against the government and recruited young people. That was filmed and aired by Al Jazeera to give the impression that a rebellion was taking place. Murders were committed by foreign terrorists, against the Sunni and Christian communities, in an effort to sow religious and ethnic discord among the Syrian people. While in my experience, the Syrian people were actually very united.
Before the war, this was a harmonious country: a secular state in which different religious communities lived side by side peacefully. There was hardly any poverty, education was free, and health care was good. It was only not possible to freely express your political views. But most people did not care about that.
Interviewer: Mother Agnes-Mariam, of your Mar Yakub (“Saint Jacob”) monastery, is accused of siding with the regime. She has friends at the highest level.
Father Daniel: Mother Agnes-Mariam helps the population: She has recently opened a soup kitchen in Aleppo, where 25,000 meals are prepared five times a week. Look, it is miraculous that we are still alive. We owe that to the army of Assad’s government and to Vladimir Putin, because he decided to intervene when the rebels threatened to take power.
When thousands of terrorists settled in Qara, we became afraid for our lives. They came from the Gulf States, Saudi Arabia, Europe, Turkey, Libya, there were many Chechens. They formed a foreign occupation force, all allied to al-Qaeda and other terrorists. Armed to the teeth by the West and their allies with the intention to act against us, they literally said: “This country belongs to us now.” Often, they were drugged, they fought each other, in the evening they fired randomly. We had to hide in the crypts of the monastery for a long time. When the Syrian army chased them away, everybody was happy: The Syrian citizens because they hate the foreign rebels, and we because peace had returned.
Interviewer: You say that the Syrian Army protects civilians, yet there are all sorts of reports about war crimes committed by Assad’s forces, such as the bombardments with barrel bombs.
Father Daniel: Do you not know that the media coverage on Syria is the biggest media lie of our time? They have sold pure nonsense about Assad: It was actually the rebels who plundered and killed. Do you think that the Syrian people are stupid? Do you think those people were forced to cheer for Assad and Putin? It is the Americans who have a hand in all of this, for pipelines and natural resources in this region and to thwart Putin.
Saudi Arabia and Qatar want to establish a Sunni state in Syria, without religious freedom. Therefore, Assad must go. You know, when the Syrian army was preparing for the battle in Aleppo, Muslim soldiers came to me to be blessed. Between ordinary Muslims and Christians, there is no problem. It is those radical Islamic, Western-backed rebels who want to massacre us. They are all al-Qaeda and IS. There are not any moderate fighters anymore.
Interviewer: You once mentioned Hillary Clinton to be a “devil in holy water”, because as foreign minister, she deliberately worsened the conflict.
Father Daniel: I am happy with Trump. He sees what every normal person understands: That the United States should stop undermining countries which possess natural resources. The Americans’ attempt to impose a unipolar world is the biggest problem. Trump understands that radical Islam is a bigger threat than Russia.
What do I care whether he occasionally takes off his pants? If Trump practices geopolitics the way he has promised to do so, then the future looks bright. Then it will become similar to Putin’s approach. And hopefully then, there will be a solution for Syria, and peace will return.
Interviewer: You understand that your analysis is controversial and will encounter much criticism?
Father Daniel: I speak from personal observation. And no one has to believe me, right? But I know one thing: The media can either contribute to the massacre of the Syrian people or help the Syrian people, with their media coverage. Unfortunately, there are too many followers and cowards among journalists.

25.01.2017

The social revolution of loneliness

When the Beatles released their album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in 1967, it was praised as the elevation of pop music to the level of fine art and as the first concept album. The album was for 15 weeks number one in the USA and it got four Grammy awards.

The music was an eclectic mixture of styles ranging from rock and pop to vaudeville, jazz, classical, and Indian music. The lyrics were ambiguous and cryptic. There are hints about drug use but also references to non-violence and peace. Not only the title, but most of the lyrics are about human relations, alienation, social isolation, and loneliness.

A year earlier, the Beatles had released the song Eleanor Rigby, whose lyrics are also about loneliness and desolation. This song broke crucial pop music conventions but nevertheless topped the charts and it has since been covered by many other artists.

Reading the lyrics of the Sgt. Pepper album again, a few are mediocre, but most are creative, even ingenious. No matter if the overriding theme of loneliness was an intuitive or conscious choice, it was appropriate, because loneliness is an important issue, is a part of the human condition. The Beatles were not the first songwriters to address it and loneliness is not a modern phenomenon, it existed since the start of time, well documented in art, oral tradition, and literature.
revolution-of-loneliness-00020
Throughout history people were stigmatized because of disabilities, because of their appearance, because of sickness, because they misbehaved, committed a crime, or just because of bad luck. Miscreants, misfits, dissidents, heretics were expelled from their communities and had to live alone, shunned by their fellow humans. Living alone was not the worst what could have happened to them, in the Middle Ages right up to modern times many elderly lone women were accused to be witches and burned alive on the stake, together with their beloved cats, the trusting creatures who had made their loneliness bearable.

The need for social interaction differs individually and in all ages there were introverted people who preferred to live alone, retreating into a hermitage or a monastery. Young men wandered from town to town as journeymen, others were minstrels, there were beggars, poachers, robbers who lived alone or in temporary loose groups. Aristocratic loners lived on their rural estates, only confronted with their maids and butlers.

Loneliness is clearly not a new phenomenon and there are countless examples of famous persons who lived secluded, some by their own choice, others forced into isolation by poverty or social norms. 

Famous persons who lived alone:

Composer Antonio Vivaldi, an ordained priest, lived alone, as did Ludwig van Beethoven, who courted many woman but was never successful because of his status as a commoner.

Painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec lived alone. His stunted legs prevented him to find a wife, and he died in poverty from complications of alcoholism and syphilis.

The philosopher Henry David Thoreau stated: “I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time. … I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude”. Thoreau never married and his sexuality, or lack of, has been the subject of speculation. 

Isaac Newton, one of the greatest scientists who ever lived, was never married or engaged and it is widely believed that he died as a virgin.

The legendary inventor Nikola Tesla never married or had any known intimate contact. He said: “I do not think there is any thrill that can go through the human heart like that felt by the inventor… such emotions make a man forget food, sleep, friends, love, everything.” Tesla died impoverished and alone in a New York hotel room.

Oscar Wilde, who was homosexual, died aged 46, penniless and alone in Paris from cerebral meningitis.

Glenn Gould, a renowned Canadian pianist and composer, lived a solitary existence, though Friends described him as warm and charming. Gould died of a stroke in 1982.

Greta Garbo, a Swedish actress who made 28 films during her acting career lived for 50 years right till her death alone in New York.

The trouble is not that I am single and likely to stay single, but that I am lonely and likely to stay lonely.”
Charlotte Bronte

Though there are many historic examples of loners, hermits, outsiders, lone wolfs, both anecdotal evidence and solid statistics suggest that the number of people who live alone is increasing in the last decades and more people than ever feel unhappy and suffer from loneliness.

Single households in Europe have doubled in the last thirty years and the trend is mirrored in all industrial countries around the world. According to the market research firm Euromonitor International, the number of people living alone globally rose from 153 million in 1996 to 277 million in 2011 — an increase of around 80 percent in 15 years. In Britain, single households have risen to 34 percent, in the USA the number is 27 percent.

In 1950, 22 percent of US adults were single, Four million lived alone, accounting for 9 percent of all households. Today, 32 million are single and the typical US-American will spend more of her or his adult life unmarried than married, and for much of this time will live alone.

The majority of singles in the USA are women (18 million, compared to 14 million men). 16 million singles are middle-aged adults between 35 and 64, 11 million are elderly, young adults between 18 and 34 number 5 million and are the fastest-growing segment of the solo-dwellers. People who live alone cluster together in metropolitan areas.
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Sweden has with 47 percent more singles than any other country, followed by Norway with 40 percent (in Scandinavian countries the welfare state protects citizens from the more difficult aspects of living alone). Even in Japan, where social life has historically been organized around the family, 30 percent of all households are single, and the rate is far higher in urban areas. The nations with the fastest growth of one-person households are China, India, and Brazil.

Loneliness is never more cruel than when it is felt in close propinquity with someone who has ceased to communicate.”
Germaine Greer

In 1949, Yale anthropologist George Peter Murdock surveyed some 250 cultures across history and geography, to conclude:

The nuclear family is a universal human social grouping. Either as the sole prevailing form of the family or as the basic unit from which more complex familial forms are compounded, it exists as a distinct and strongly functional group in every known society. No exception, at least, has come to light.

This survey and other related scientific research suggest, that the increase in single households is against human nature, is an aberration. More about that later in the text.

Sometimes I feel like nobody even knows I exist.”
Unknown

Why do people live alone?

There are several reasons:

1. The media (movies, TV, social media sites, romantic novels) raise unrealistic expectations and depict an easy and clean world. Movies and TV-shows tell stories of perfect partners and perfect love, and we go out trustingly looking for the person of our dreams, the one who will fulfill all the expectations that we ever had in life, the one with whom we will realize our deepest wishes and aspirations, only to be disappointed again and again until the harsh reality sinks in and we understand that the perfect mate doesn’t exist.

An additional impediment are the standards set by advertising. People buy designer cloth, follow trends, modes, fashions, and think that makes them precious and adorable. They regard themselves more attractive as they appear to other persons and reject applicants who they deem as unworthy, while persons who are supposedly in their class will in turn reject them as unworthy.

2. The Internet and social media sites have allowed people to experience social life even when they’re living alone. This is though the online variety of social life, or a virtual social life, while “real” social life is out of reach, because after spending most of their time with electronic communication people have lost the ability to interact with other persons face to face. An estimated 10 percent of Internet users have become so obsessed with online activities that their real (offline) social relationships are declining and endangered.

As more and more people feel lonely, dating services, especially online dating services have jumped in to the rescue. These services are not charity organizations, they maximize their profit not by matching people fast and straightforward, but by fueling illusions and keeping the customers searching as long as possible. People use these services often for several years, spending significant sums just to nurture the illusion that one day they will find the perfect spouse.

3. Western consumer society has increased individualism and egoism. Everybody thinks her or his way of life is the best possible and people who don’t conform with the standards of consumer society are viewed as misfits. 

In the end, giving the choice of living ones accustomed life undisturbed or breaking with the past and starting a new life together, learning everything new together, many opt to stay alone, thereby avoiding the annoyance of a spouse constantly disrupting their familiar routines.

People are also not used to share and to cooperate and that makes it difficult for them to share and cooperate in a partnership. Without sharing and cooperation the relation will fail, but people will not blame themselves, they will blame their partner or the whole opposite gender. “Men are all the same — don’t even try.”

Advertising tells us that shopping and buying solves all our needs. This is one of the core dogmas (or doctrines) of consumerism, which has become the eminent religion of our time. But shopping and buying doesn’t work for love. One can buy a “trophy wife,” a mail-order bride, a mistress, a prostitute, but one cannot buy love.

4. Increased affluence makes it less necessary to found a family, stay together, and weather the storms of life together. Women in Western Europe don’t need a man to support them because the welfare system guarantees them a steady income and they can live a comfortable (though modest) life even without working. Many people are gaming the welfare system, but at the moment the affluent European nations still can pay the bill.

People live alone because they can afford it and they cocoon in their homes which they have furnished and equipped according to their individual needs. They create their own reality fueled by carefully selected videos and music.

The longer they stay alone the harder it is for them to change established routines, habits, make the compromises that are necessary if a pair lives together in a shared household.
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5. Mass urbanization has shattered traditional social bonds and friendships. A hectic urban lifestyle, characterized by sensory overstimulation (overload), multitasking, by the anonymity of automatized mass services and supply systems (supermarkets) makes it impossible to sense and perceive the subtle signs and signals which help to start intimate personal relations.

6. The decline of traditional family values has lifted the social pressure to marry and live together in a family. Women are less discriminated and feel less social pressure to gain social acceptance by marriage. More women are working and favor their career over family life. Men on the other hand feel not anymore the moral obligation to marry the woman they have impregnated and support the child they have fathered. 

7. Older men who want to find a woman are confronted with the biological fact that many women after menopause have a reduced or no sexual desire. These men of course would like to have a younger woman, but in a social climate and a popular culture where youthfulness is cherished and older people are despised or stigmatized, they are not attracting any women.

Rich men like George Soros, Rupert Murdoch, Donald Trump, David Siegel didn’t have difficulties to find a young woman, but the average guy over 50 will be dissed and ridiculed by young girls, if he dares to court and woo them. The best he can hope for is to be regarded as a “Sugar Daddy.”
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Living alone and feeling lonely is not necessarily the same but there are indications that the increase in single households is paralleled by an increase of people who suffer from loneliness. Loneliness appears to have intensified in every society in the world as modernization occurs.

A 2006 study in the American Sociological Review found that US-Americans on average had only two close friends in which to confide, which was down from an average of three in 1985. The percentage of people who noted having no such confidant rose from 10 to almost 25 percent.

US surveys show that Women are lonelier than men (though unmarried men are lonelier than unmarried women). African Americans are lonelier than whites. The less educated are lonelier than the better educated. The unemployed and the retired are lonelier than the employed.

The pain of loneliness

What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.”
Kurt Vonnegut

Loneliness has also been described as social pain — a psychological mechanism meant to alert an individual of isolation and motivate her / him to seek social connections. Loneliness is neurological similar to pain, as the experience of being rejected activates the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, a part of the brains that also is activated when the body feels physical pain.

University of Chicago psychologist John Cacioppo has written a book titled “Loneliness,” where he shows that the need for social connection is so fundamental in humans that without it we get sick and fall apart, down to the cellular level.

Loneliness, Cacioppo argues, isn’t a personality defect or sign of weakness — it’s a survival impulse like hunger or thirst, a trigger pushing us toward the nourishment of human companionship. Loneliness was a powerful evolutionary force binding prehistoric people to those they relied on for food, shelter, and protection, to help them raise their young and carry on their genetic legacy. The distress that our ancestors felt if they were separated from their group served as a warning to reengage or else perish.

Natural selection favored people who needed people. Compared to the big predators, Humans were small and weak and they only could fight off the beasts in a concerted effort. To raise children, with their slow-maturing cerebral cortexes, mothers needed help from the tribe. These are the main reasons why humans are social mammals.
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There are individual differences though and personal characteristics such as introversion and neuroticism are strongly related to loneliness. A longtime study of twins found evidence that genetic disposition account for approximately half of the differences in loneliness. 

John Cacioppo estimates, that 20 percent of US-Americans, about 60 million people, suffer from loneliness that is chronic and harms their health.

Loneliness has been linked with depression, and is thus a risk factor for suicide; it is known to increase the concentration of cortisol levels in the body, it causes high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, neurodegenerative diseases, even cancer.

A team of researchers, including Cacioppo, has recently published a study showing loneliness actually triggers cellular changes that cause illness. The study offers an in-depth look at how a fight-or-flight stress signaling initiates a snowball effect that ultimately alters the production of monocytes (a type of white blood cells). White blood cells are normally the guards who fight off infection, however, an inappropriate inflammatory response (aka a non-reciprocated influx of white blood cell activity) can actually do more harm than good if not regulated.

This phenomenon, known as CTRA (conserved transcriptional response to adversity), leaves lonely individuals more vulnerable to infection due to dampened antiviral response, and also more susceptible to chronic disease thanks to the inappropriate inflammation. Some of these potential health consequences include heart disease and stroke, increased stress levels, decreased memory and learning, alcoholism, and altered brain function. Because loneliness disrupts the regulation of cellular processes in the body, it also predisposes those suffering from it to premature aging.

According to another study, published in the journal Cortex, lonely people’s brains differ from those of non-lonely people, as regions that make them highly vigilant become more active in social situations. When people feel socially isolated, their brains automatically switch into self-preservation mode, making them more abrasive and defensive in the face of supposed social danger.

A third study, published in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences, found that when people felt lonely their brains became more active in response to images of another person in distress. Their brains also became less activated in an area involved with understanding others people’s emotions and recognizing situations from the others perspectives.

Such changes will start a “vicious circle,” because people who feel isolated are fearful of bad social experiences, lose faith that it is possible to find friends or a spouse, and subsequently become even more isolated. 
                     
German psychoanalyst Frieda Fromm-Reichmann predicted these scientific findings already in the late 50s, more than a half-century ago. One of the first to examine social isolation from an empirical perspective, she wrote in her 1959 essay “On Loneliness,” that “the naked horror of loneliness shadows our lives because the longing for intimacy is always with us.”

The eternal quest of the individual human being is to shatter his loneliness.”
Norman Cousins

Conclusions

What conclusion can be made from all this?

One possible conclusion is, that life is dreadful anyway and we just have to bear it stoically following the wisdom of Epictetus or gathering strength from the teachings of Buddha (“Life is suffering,” the starting point of the four noble truth of Buddhism).

Yet, neither the Stoics nor Buddha didn’t mean that, aside from the necessity to accept the inevitable, we shouldn’t change for the better what we can change. In regard to the problem of loneliness, much of it is self-inflicted and much can be avoided if only we take the effort, end our lethargy, overcome our timidity.

Society is the sum of all individuals, our very own conduct constitutes the social climate. We don’t have to wait for government programs, we can start right now with our personal plan, reaching out either to end our own loneliness or to help lonely people around us break their isolation. If we are rejected, we have to find out why, speak with people, argue with them, understand them.

Some persons may try to hurt us, cheat us, exploit us, which shouldn’t be surprising in a society based on competition and financial success. The cheaters will hurt themselves the most, being limited to their cliques of fellow cheaters and conmen, having to watch their back all the time, deprived of true friendship, kindness, grace.

We may contact friends and acquaintances via telecommunication but we have to meet them in person. Only personal contact will give us social experience, will increase our social skills, will tell us the essence of human nature.
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If everything else fails, if everyone around you seems to be busy, disturbed, petrified, and you cannot penetrate their armor of social isolation, there is still one lovely solution:

Go to the animal asylum and look for the cats (it has to be cats of course because this blog is “for the critical thinking cat lover”). They are waiting for you, they are desperate to find a human friend who will give them shelter, food, love, security. They will look at you with appreciation, maybe meow desperately and press their little snouts against the grid.

Don’t take the pretty one, take the ugly one, because this cat will not easily find a host. This is the cat that most likely will adore you and will be grateful and love you with every piece of her / his little heart. This is the cat who will wait for you when you come home and be joyous and meow as loud as she or he can. Maybe you can accommodate even two cats, so that they are not alone when you are away.

Your little friend will accompany you hopefully for many years, will be the light of your life, teach you compassion, kindness, tenderness. Maybe one day a human friend will come along, it is not impossible, you are open and prepared, your feline companion has taught you what to do, has taught you how to give love and receive love.

Related:Do you need a friend?
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