Mr/Miss, thank you, excuse me. Where is the politeness?

What happened to formal politeness in the 21st century? Why is everyone on a first name basis or expects/demands to be? Who forced upon us this myth of instant “friendship” and “zero distance” with people we don’t know or who serve us coffee or call from the blue to sell new mobile services? Even more with those at the workplace, for whom “instant pall-hood” has become a religion (don’t they have a LIFE outside the company walls/halls?)
I’m wondering whether it is (my) age talking or maybe a feeling of self-worth and pride from one’s achievements, but I started noticing that the (various) barriers between myself and the rest of the world are a very important part of life. I work hard to improve myself, advance, gain promotions, be recognised. And…to distance myself from (most) others.

First, there are the negative reasons for maintaining personal distance:
– Just because you know my details from your computer screen does not make us BFFs or pals or mates or druzya;
– Just because you are lonely and have no life, does not allow you to be on a first-name basis with anyone you meet (does anyone remember this term “first name basis”?);
– Just because you were badly educated and were not taught the difference between “friend” and “acquaintance” does not give you the right to hug me and use my first name;
– Just because you snuck your way into a job and now have an inferiority complex does not give you the right to demand use of first names in the workplace — employees might actually want to stay as far away from you as possible (Polacy – pamietacie termin “nie tykaj mnie”?);
But there are also positive ones for maintaining personal distance:
1. A boss is someone to be respected for his/her achievements and for formal position within the structure (it is difficult to utter “Vice President…Johnny);
2. Some people have so many formalised achievements (titles, etc), that it is grammatically impossible to refer to them in any informal manner and they deserve to be “titled”;
3. Some relationships require a distinction between you and the people above you, around you and below you, so that stupid (subjective) perceptions do not confuse the (objective) relationships;

And then there is culture, history and good upbringing. Mr, Sir, Madame, Mizz (Ms) indicate the true nature of a relationship (either subservient as was in the olden times or of distanced semi-equals today), and calls for using the individual’s surname WITHOUT crossing the familiarity border of “you” (ty) and/or first name. Those, are for family, people you know for many years and had frequent contact with and for…friends. And here lies a key issue for the Facebook, Twat (sorry Twitter), VK and mobile-texting generation: FRIENDS are few and far between – if have 5-6 friends by the time you are 40, you are a lucky person. Friends are people on whom you can count to help regardless of circumstances, who like (love?) you regardless of your inner demons and enemies and who can tolerate your behaviours and can pay your bail. Not the ACQUAINTANCES who are only interested in your money, adding you to their “like” lists or wanting to “borrow” your homework or people accidentally in a photo whom you then “tag”.

I recall an interesting explanation during a recent trip to Ukraine, which (regardless of its absolute correctness) summarises this issue of relationship “naming”: Andriej Viktorowich Zalevski (first name, name of father “otchestvo”, surname). As a stranger/lesser I am expected to refer to this imaginary person as “Gospodin Zalevski” (Mr. Z), after a few years I may be allowed to be more forward and talk with “Andriej Viktorowich” and a few more years down the road HE can propose to progress to a first name basis. To those around us, the mode of reference is a clear signal of our relationship and its length/depth.
As time goes by, I am more for the forceful return of such a system, as:
– I like to respect those who deserve respect (equal achievers, superior achievers, big bosses);
– I like to maintain distance between myself and strangers;
– I realy like to miantain distance between myself and other employees, who do not interest me whatsoever;
– Where people have formal titles or posts, they should be referred to (with the exception of post-soviets and their “upgrading” of intermediate titles, where vice-minister is “minister”—a post is a post!!);
– I see no reason to give (absolute)strangers and inferiors any ego boost, as they do not deserve it (otherwise they would be in one of the above categories).
Besides, in all cultures we find that it is easier to standoffishly insult a stranger while not losing any class. “You Sire, are a swine!” sounds much better and funnier (Anthony Bourdain offers some good examples!).

And finally, do you want to be forcefully “friendly” with people whom you consider to be complete and utter idiots? Especially at work 🙂
And, yes, I seem to favour high power-distance relationships.

The future of ISIS (short and bloody)

France’s response to the Paris massacre should be defined as lukewarm at best. Several fighter-bombers dropped some ordnance on a few locations, where the ISIS idiots have been sheltering. France is now placing a lot of importance on “returning to life as usual” as a major form of resisting ISIS. Is this because the Christmas shopping period is coming up? Where is the big punch, the overwhelming response, the shock&awe?

While “boots on the ground” are now unrealistic and would provide ISIS fighters with an opportunity to fulfil their greatest desire of fighting the American devils on middle-eastern soil, the world does have other response mechanisms. Ones that would provide the crazy extremists with what they desire – death (their own). And, lots of it.

Question 1: Where is Curtis LeMay, when you need a crazy general from Strategic Air Command, quoted as: “I’ll tell you what war is about, you’ve got to kill people, and when you’ve killed enough they stop fighting.” Simple. It cannot be 20 aircraft bombing some targets on a large territory. The challenge is to undertake a sustained, effective and overwhelming campaign, which will prevent ISIS from renewing its resource base. Ergo: destroy their assets faster than they can replenish them. This requires a coalition effort or just an angry US with 2 aircraft carriers in the region and some strategic bombers flying long-range missions (are they still based in UK?).

airborne death

Question 2 (resulting from the above): Don’t you think that Saddam is now vindicated in his strategies? Remember when US invaded Iraq and Saddam started burning oil fields? A cool strategy of “denial”, that will work against ISIS as well, seeing that the terrorists are earning an estimated 50 million USD per week from sales of oil. That in turn means that they have unlimited money for buying weapons, equipment, food, etc. Did you notice that the Toyota pickups they always use, have been getting newer and better? Who is the Toyota dealer for Iraq?

and we worry about car pollution

Question 3: Where is SOCOM when you really need them? US special Operations Command has proven itself as a hyper-effective tool for the elimination of Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan, so why not shift their efforts and capabilities to a new target? In all types of ideological movements, the secret to their defeat is to attack the leadership – those who put stupid ideas into heads of idiots and then tell those frenzied idiots to go and do crazy shit. So, as SOCOM already did in Afghanistan, you go after the ISIS leadership with surgical drone strikes and targeted assassinations. As an illegitimate non-state pretentious wannabe, ISIS leadership are not state leaders, so they will not find protection under international law. Good. Their morning coffee and cigarette on a balcony will now be done with a though that a drone could be just over the horizon.

Question 4: will Anonymous help the various governments by providing vital digital data about ISIS’s online operations. This cooperating would be unprecedented and, undoubtedly, short-lived as the hackers and Western governments have only ISIS in common. Nonetheless, ISIS digital operations would be a source of good targeting data – imagine an ISIS leader talking online and that data passed to a circling American bomber with a nice 500kg “gift” to be dropped on THAT particlar “internet location”. If the hackers could wipe out more accounts, steal money from the rabid crazies, that would be even cooler.

Question 5: when will European governments shift their security policies to preventative detentions, targeted removals of individuals with proven links but against whom no “binding in court” information can be acquired? What about stripping of nationalities from extremists and kicking them back to the sand dunes that house ISIS? Is anyone deluding themselves that Europe will NOT go towards deportations? The current softness towards migrants is a temporary thing, trust me.

All we need is some political courage.

War with the War on Drugs

I’ve just seen the trailers for two new documentaries coming out in end of 2012, both focusing on the drug trade and its impact on our world.

For years I have been fascinated by the inability of large and powerful governments to stop the drug epidemic by doing two things:
1. Taking the battle to the source(s) of drugs, by operating officially or in clandestine manner right on the doorsteps of those producing drugs for export. The war on terror has show us how advanced technology and skilled operators on the ground can be very effective in extinguishing the enemy and reducing the impact of advanced “enemy” organisations through reducing their human asset pool. Afghanistan and Palestine show us, how a hellfire missile can change the balance of power.
2. Going after the drug as a biological material (this of course, does not relate to chemical drugs like speed). With the bio-genetic technology we have, there is no way that a determined government cannot develop a biological weapon (or genetic) aimed solely at the natural plants that produce our most potent drugs. Where is the virus that kills coca plants?
But then I realised (again and again) that the WAR must go on – no one in the governments needs a win on this issue, and by that I mean a win in terms of stopping the transmission of drugs across borders into developed western states. Without a drug problem epidemic, people will begin looking at the real underlying issues of poverty, as those that now “do drugs” and through that can be blamed for being useless or hurtful to wider society will begin asking: ok, we got no more drugs, we are clean, where are our jobs and medical services?
The same goes for agencies “battling the war”, that have sprung up in response to various governmental policies or have taken on new duties and thus received massive inflows of funding and resources. Agencies like the DEA do not want the “war” to end, as then they would have to close themselves down – the defenders have taken on a vested interest in the maintenance of the conflict. A one-time solution will yield a one-time bonus and then unemployment, while partial solutions will assure a steady, well-paid and prestigious job for life.
The politicians need a ghostly enemy, on whom many problems can be blamed and solutions need not be invented, especially that our modern-day politicians have no idea on how to deal with much simpler problems.
One interesting issue is: who cares about the citizens, suffering sheer hell in the hundreds of thousands? Who takes responsibility for defending those that cannot do it themselves?
The second one is worse: with the interweaving of interests (government, security, crime) all for the sake of “war on terror”, have we completely lost our ethical and moral compass an cannot focus on more than one strategic imperative, but must sacrifice all else in a desperate attempt at retaining our credibility?
The third relates to the increasing prison population, often cited as the emergence of modern-day slavery, used in various economic activities.
In a WAR, we need to “heroes”, “enemies”, there must be “effort” and “sacrifice” as well as “necessary spending”. Did I mention “civilian casualties”? Remember one interesting statistic about modern wars: before the 20th century 90% of all casualties in a war were the soldier; today 90% of the casualties are the civilians. The same in our “war on drugs”?

Whaling piracy vs terrorism

Whale wars are on the verge of mutating into eco-terrorism

Sea Shepherd won with the Japanese last week, as the Japanese declared they will withdraw their whaling fleet as the anti-whaling protester ship threatened the safety of Japanese whalers. So, Discovery channel can now advertise a success of its TV show with a leading G8 nation, and the crazy mavericks on board the Sea Shepherd can party till they vomit, happy with the lives of whales they saved.
Congrats to the pirates (they DO fly the black-skull&bones flag). Good riddance to Japanese “whaling research”, whose by-products wind up in Japanese restaurants as offshoots from a valuable research project (sic!).
Unfortunately, this will not last.
The Japanese are ambitious, have a good memory and do not take kindly to such insults. Right now, there is a bunch of lawyers reading the international law books with one major aim: to equate sea piracy with terrorism. Impossible? Hmmm…
Piracy is a crime regulated by international and national laws that emerged from centuries of painful experiences. It’s primary aim is economic, i.e. the conversion of ownership of goods/people through violence of various gradation. Even the simple sinking of a ship also has economic connotations (immediate loss of investment, cost of replacement, etc). Wikipedia: Piracy is a war-like act committed by private parties (not affiliated with any government) that engage in acts of robbery and/or criminal violence at sea.
Now, terrorism is different. Especially in the post-911 world with American politicians and agencies going crazy over anything they don’t like and continuously upgrading the extent and violence of their “war on terror”. Wikipedia comes handy again: “Terrorism is the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion. No universally agreed, legally binding, criminal law definition of terrorism currently exists. Common definitions of terrorism refer only to those violent acts which are intended to create fear (terror), are perpetrated for a religious, political or ideological goal, deliberately target or disregard the safety of non-combatants (civilians), and are committed by non-government agencies.”
Where do the actions of the whale pirates fit? They have an ideology, deliberately target a specific group, disregarding the safety of “non-combatants” (whalers) and they are a non-governmental agency (a charity dedicated to anti-whaling). By calling the whaling as “research” the Japanese have removed any connotations with “economic” from their whale butchery, further pushing the whole issue towards…not-piracy.
Now, if the Japanese succeed in converting the ocean actions into terrorism, Sea Shepherd will find itself under fire from the very same military vessels that are (badly) trying to protect the ships off Somalia. The US will be required to chase this anti-whaling ship, as it cannot selectively enforce its OWN policies on anti-terrorism by pretending the crazy anti-whalers are just “deranged ocean idealists”. Discovery will have to cancel the show, and no credit card company will accept/transfer donations (like they did with wikileaks).
Still, the win is a first, and will hopefully lead to next successes of non-economic ideologies over the selfish and short-term capitalist mind-set that is destroying this planet.