1968 - The summer of hopes, the summer of Prague


Sumer 1968
There is a saying, all interesting things come in triplets. The summer of 1968 was no exception, at least not for me. Although only five years old, this is one of the most memorable periods of my life. And one that still shapes me 50 years later.

On May 6, 1968 I was pissed off. I was promised a new Lego set and an ice-cream to celebrate my 5th birthday. Instead the whole day (and with many days to follow) I had to stay in our room on the last floor of a building built during the Second republic at a corner to Av. Foch - 14th arrondissement of Paris. Down, in the streets of Paris there was a war. The war between the old and the new order, between the last remnants of a conservative patriarchal society and the modern liberal order. During these days, the borders of Europe were falling, not physically, but in the minds of the people. The nationalism was falling in pieces like a monstrous broken mirror, reflecting the horrors of two wars and the ruins of the colonialism. Students and professors dismantled hierarchies and obsolete traditions. For the factory workers, the New Deal turned into reality. It started just a few days ago - with the May day's march against the Vietnam war, with a march for peace that ended in a full-scale revolution.

The reason I was in Paris was an operation I had to undergo. It was a new treatment, that could safe my life. I was used to listen to the prayers to God of older members of my family to return in good health. God was nowhere to be found, but science did its best. Rationalism vs. Religion - 1:0.

Few months later, back in Sofia, back behind the Iron curtain. Every night my father and my uncle would listen BBC Radio, Deutsche Welle, and The Voice of America. The first days they were happy and very optimistic. After the 8 o’clock news, a bottle of wine would be opened, and I would give a goodnight kiss to two men dreaming of a future without Russian influence. Unfortunately with time that mood changed. COMECON troops occupied Prague. But something strange still did happened - yes, the dream was gone, but but not dead. It morphed into hope, a hope, that the Iron curtain is not to stay forever.

In the mean time…

When I was 5, I had no idea that under our windows, the then young Dani Cohn-Bendit was taking the fight with the battle hardened Charles De Gaulle. Years later I met Dani many times - first as a student and then as a Green party activist. By that time he already sounded as a politician, not as a revolutionary. I thought this was fine. After all, we were building a new Europe, the first wind and solar parks were replacing the factory chimneys and the Maastricht agreement was just amount the corner.

During these years churches were transformed into posh office buildings. Tunisia passed abortion laws. The mighty cross was replaced by LSD and UFO and the Pope in Rome turned into a lucrative touristic attraction.

For Eastern Europe, the Iron wall was history. The grey Trabant-suburbs got some fresh paint, the travel visas pushed aside, but no money to travel. Bananas could be found not only at Christmas time, but at all times in every supermarket alongside junk food made from corn syrup.

Summer 2018
London is the capital with the most video surveillance in the world and the first capital soon to say “goodbye” to Europe. Fanatic youths, with no roots, no identity, no past, and questionable futures, drive their vehicles over pedestrians shouting Allahu Akbar. The New Deal for the blue-collar workers turned into No-Deal for the burning, flooded, and poisoned Earth. In the eastern part of the old continent the walls did not disappear - they were just moved from the west borders to the south eastern borders. The Cold war propaganda had transformed into hate nationalistic speech - in the West and in the East. The “Big brother” communist dictatorships of the past were replaced by the crescendo of the nationalistic propaganda of the Eastern European kleptocracy. 

So what changed during these 50 years? To start with the obvious. There is no Alexander Dubček and no Pražské jaro (Prague Spring). Luckily, it seams there are also no tanks able to drive into the streets of Prague. As a matter of a fact, there are also no men able to fly to the moon in the next four years. The Stasi has been replaced by video cameras and AI - everywhere. 50 years ago communists were burning the books of Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, and Pascal but now Harriet Beecher Stowe and John Steinbeck are the enemies of liberalism gone wild.

There is a saying, that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. If we do not remember Prague, Paris, Berlin, London, and Washington during the summer of 1968, that history will repeat in one way or the other - only this time the consequences will be harsher. 50 years ago, during the Prague spring our parents managed to transform fear into determination, sadness into hope, and hate into brotherhood. Now it is our turn to transform greed into caring, indifference into excitement, abhorrence into tolerance.

*) My good old, and very green friend Reinhard Bütikofer asked me to write a short, tweetable text about Prague 1968. It turned out it was difficult to think about the summer of 1968 without remembering everything that happened then. So, this is a slightly longer text. Perhaps one day I will grow old and will tell the full story - who knows.

While I was writing, I was thinking of the next 50 years and how my son Philip will experience them. He was also the first to read my initial draft. What will these 50 years bring to his generation?

Turkey - the end of an empire

Source: BBC 

It is the morning after a bloody night in Turkey. Analysis will be written, interviews will be made, and we in the Western world will soon return to the way more interesting Pokemon hunt.    

And just before we say goodbye to another minor disturbance of the Force, just before the Dark Side prevails again, just before everything is forgotten, and just before what happened this night in Turkey is declared as a minor incident at the outskirts of the Galaxy, I would like to spread some breadcrumbs leading to memories of what I felt and thought during these insignificant for the human history hours - just for my own satisfaction. Perhaps one day I'll be able to point out these few thoughts to the very few readers of mine saying “I told you so”.

1. First and foremost, it is more than obvious that we observe the beginning of the end of Turkey as we know it. I will be very surprised if after about 50 years (or less) there will be a state within the borders we know today. The coup was badly prepared and did not take into account the long years of massive Erdogan propaganda machine. But it shows also cracks in the turkish military. This means only one thing - they do not protect any more the Ataturk’s heritage, but represent mostly foreign to the country influences. I can “smell” the foul-doings and even fouler promises of both Russia and US (Europe is to disorganised to try to influence anything). But most importantly, no other major world player needs strong Turkey any more, yet every world wannabe-power has some pity interest - US and Russia obviously have some extra defence budget to spear, Europe hopes to see Turkey as an immigration saviour, all Arab countries and Iran see the fall of Turkey as a pay-off day for past Othman rule, and China thinks of Turkey as an annoying political kiddie that tries to mess up her plans to access the region’s natural resources. By the end of last April I wrote to a friend after the failed Azerbaijan invasion of Armenia (where only a blind man could not see the long hand of the Turkish army), that I am afraid this army is not even able to protect it’s own borders. I had no idea how right I was! (Just to be clear - as a half Armenian, I was of course terrified by the prospect of a new Armenian-Azerbaijan war, but the laughable support the Turkish army offered to Azerbaijan was even more remarkable).

2. Even in a country, where democracy was never written with a capital “D”, the brutal and obvious violation of basic human rights for free self expression, the censorship, the state control of the media, the insane witch-hunt of critical to Erdogan’s regime Turkish and foreign journalists, and the attempt of systematic brainwashing of the young educated people will eventually backfire. Recently we have seen it in almost all of Eastern Europe, in Myanmar and the movement leadby Aung San Suu Kyi, in few countries of Central and Latin Americas, and of course - in recent years, in the countries of the Arab Spring. This subject is of course very dear to my own heart - in Bulgaria the media is anything but free and uncontrolled. So, Bulgarian kleptocrats - take a notice!

3. On my Facebook wall I wrote: “Irony: a dictator forbids Twitter and Facebook. Then he asks his supporters to go out on the streets .... by tweeting and FaceTime-ing from his iPhone.” The truth is simple - no dictator can own the internet! (For the sake of the argument I would like to add, that also no corporation or government can own it). So, dear dictators, do not even try to own or control the internet! Just during the last few hours I managed to open VPN tunnels to several friends in Turkey and they were tweeting like mad. And if you see the map of tweeters, Facebook streamers, etc. no army or security service can block the internet, so please pity small stupid men in uniform, do not waste your time to try to block the net. You lost before you started!

4. The politicians in Turkey (ruling or opposition) and elsewhere are just small, powerless, puppets representing someone’s interest in exchange of well stocked bank accounts and a little bit of ego-massaging. I am aware that I am not making a groundbreaking discovery, but it was really striking that every single politician inside Turkey or a “powerful” leader of the free world did not dare to express her or his support to any of the fighting parties until the battle was over. Then everyone declared, that they support the “democratically” elected government. A political Circus Grandeur!

5. The role of the media… What media? There is no media! There are few sad ruins of once proud and independent media. Their only valuable asset left is the ability to stream for money. No matter what you stream - the important equation is: bits are flowing in one direction, coins in the other! A prominent example from the last night - CNN. Till few hours ago blacklisted by the Erdogan’s regime. During this night happily blasting his propaganda using all the bandwidth available - FaceTime, Twitter - what a shame! Who cares that tomorrow they will be blacklisted again - shareholders are happy…

24 hours ago Turkey was a failing country pretending to be a democracy. This morning Turkey is ruledby the iron fist of Sultan Erdogan, whose powers will be of a dwarf, and his country shrinking and disintegrating. Thanks to the hormonal imbalance of Turkish men with big ego and small brains combined with idiotic selfish shortsighted interest of Europe, US, and Russia we will see the Lebanisation of Turkey. We will see the creation of Kurdistan. We will see more terror, more blasts, shootings, bombs, bloodbaths… As a Bulgarian, I want to see a strong, prosperous, democratic, and secular Turkey, but now this is just a wishful thinking. The only silver-lining for me - the old Armenian capital Ani might one day be Armenian again.

Effects of marijuana smoking on the lung - none!

This article is a good summery of all my (scientific, knowledgable, from the viewpoint of a molecular biologist) observations on the matter of marijuana consumption for the past 20 years or so.

So, in short (for non medical students and doctors) heavy smoking of marijuana might lead to chronic bronchitis (as any other smoke, including urban smoke caused by cars), but moderate or light smoking is as good as safe. In contrast, any tobacco consumption (light or heavy) is bad for your health.

Now comes the $100,000 question  - is the anti-marijuana and pro-tobacco lobby more powerful that the pro-marijuana? And a second question - does the pro-tobacco lobby gives a s**t about your health?

Disclaimer: In my entire life I neither tried tobacco or marijuana (and I hope I never will), although living in Amsterdam for over 10 years might count as a marijuana passive consumer.

Why Rebecca Harms should lead the European Green Pack?

Many, many, many years ago, during my university years in Germany. After being indoctrinated by the communist physics education system about the benefits of the nuclear energy and by "Voice of America", BBC, and "Deutsche Welle" about the benefits of the unrestricted market economy, I happily joined the junior FDP (the german liberal party) and started collecting my university feathers for a priesthood crown of atomic physics. Until this lecture, when I had to calculate the probability of major catastrophic accident with a nuclear reactor during its lifetime. Then came the shock, the disbelief, the sadness, and the new path in my life.

First things first, I bought a super expensive bike chain and joined a group of hippies (at least I thought so) or anti-nuclear protesters. It turned out they were "normal" greens. Few weeks later there was a railroad blockade. The goal - to stop the transport of burned-out nuclear fuel.

It was a rainy, cold day. We started the blockade early in the morning. The police came few hours later. My chain was super good, so police had to bring special gear to cut through. The result: my first ticket for DM 170,- (huge for a student), my first bronchopneumonia, and the joy of doing something good! At that time I had no idea Rebecca was around, neither I cared who was organising the the blockade. 

About 20 years later, January 2013, the campaign for the "NO" vote for the Bulgarian referendum on the future of the nuclear energy. It was a rainy, cold day - again. Rebecca was the only foreigner, campaigning with us, the Bulgarian Greens. Early morning TV interview, a long conversation with the PM Borisov, two press-conferences with taxi ride for a brake, meeting with the Greens, presentation of her book about Fukushima (just translated in Bulgarian), and then the speech, that closed our referendum campaign shown on all Bulgarian TV station, wet and freezing because of the cold rain, but hot and happy because of the outcome. This is how I will remember Rebecca.

There are very few honest politicians. There are very few politicians, that have the intuition to choose the most important subjects of the day as their battle field. There are very few politicians, who can recognise important for the future of the society subjects. Oh, well, there are really very few real green politicians. It is very hard to believe, that Rebecca could be all of these, in addition of being a good friend and a nice, soft spoken, polite and warm person.

The European Greens are the only pan-European party with primary elections. The choice to be made is very difficult. With four extremely strong, charming and wise candidates it is very hard to go to the ballots with a confidence. For me personally, the decision was really not very easy. I know relatively well three of the candidates. And I had to choose not only the two best in my opinion, but also the best candidates for my party and country. 

Did I mentioned, that Rebecca was the only green member of of the European parliament to campaign against the nuclear energy in Bulgaria? The only one, to find time in the mid of elections to help us with our energy campaigns (just days ago), the only one to speak loud and clear for the importance of East Europe, and actually to understand this subject? Or that she was also one of the very few politicians to understand the roots of the current economic crisis?

I vote also for Rebecca, because my teenage son has less to fear about his future if she is in the driver seat of the green parliamentary group .

You could also vote for the Green Primaries till January 28, 2014.

Restart ...

Many, many, many moons ago I used to have a political blog.  It was mostly about the rule of misery of the Bulgarian political mafia, about social problems, (broken) transportation system, energy sources. I was also reposting my articles published in (predominantly)  Bulgarian newspapers and websites.

In 2009 I got involved with the national election campaign of the Bulgarian Greens - Zelenite. Soon after the election I decided to join the party and was elected as member of the board. Two years later I was elected for co-chair of the party. During this period I tried to follow the "official" party policy as well as the policies of the European Greens. Therefore I deleted my old blogs and communicated to the world through the official sources.

Now this is changing. European Greens are bogged down in endless bureaucratic procedures. Zelenite lost their freshness, and internally discussions about coalition politics are dominating the agenda. The green is wilting, spots of brown are showing up, the freshness of bright new ideas is in the past. Or at least this is my personal perception ...

I feel obliged to rase my voice again, to speak out, to criticise. But most of all, I feel the strong urge to lead a new change, to motivate, to discover new ways, to tear down walls, to swim against the stream.

Months ago I started with concrete green projects, in a small forgotten region of Bulgaria. The feedback was amazing. I believe our society is ready for change and the only piece of the puzzle that is missing is the absence of new radical ideas. This blog, my comments on daly news, my observations of the world through my radically green glasses, and - hopefully, the help and contributions of my friends, should, at least partially, fill this gap.

I am sure our civilisation has only one way, only one shot for its survival, and this silver bullet is definitely green.