Stop taking pictures for the wrong reasons

Enjoy the moment and take a picture. Feel the moment and capture it. But is it how we take pictures nowadays?
Nov 23, 2017 | 4min read

In the summer of 2011, I traveled to Montreal to visit Dave, a very good friend of mine. Our cool English teacher, actually the coolest, from school lived there as well. And one day we decided to meet for a drink in a coffee shop. At some point, Dave started telling us stories about his recent Eurotrip he did after graduating from university. Great stories to hear until he mentioned he hadn’t taken A SINGLE PICTURE of the trip. I was shocked to my core. I had to stop him. He had just committed a crime! What do you mean you haven’t taken any pictures? I definitely don’t remember his answer.

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Dave rocking it at his own wedding. Cali, Colombia – August 2017

Pictures or it never happened

He traveled all across Europe for two weeks but didn’t take one single picture. Ok, he took 5, 10 maximum. But he wrote on a daily basis about his experiences, journeys and so on. He could describe every situation he was in as if we were there with him. Check it out if you’re curious https://david.achkar.com/eurotrip/. The teacher and I were shocked how he hadn’t taken any pictures. As we say pictures or it never happened. All I remember from this conversation was me telling him afterward: “you have to capture the moment”. And it’s so easy to do so! And click, I had taken a picture to prove it while continuing the conversation. I had my iPhone 4 back then and it was the beginning of the smartphone’s trend. I still have this picture somewhere on my external hard drive that is in the basement of my friend’s house in Paris. Capture the moment. Isn’t it obvious? Not for everyone. And 6 years later, can you imagine yourself or anyone around you, except your grandparents, not taking a picture of something or someone? At a party? During a trip? In a museum? At lunch? The answer is a BIG NO. And that’s great. Even though some of us have an outstanding visual memory, most of us need to take pictures. And technology is helping us a lot here. It is. But it’s also harming us a lot.

Rather skipping the moment

Because we forgot what does capturing the moment means. Actually, it became so easy to take pictures with our devices that we lost the charm of capturing the moment. I also did. Haven’t you ever been in a situation where you take a picture on the move? You know what I mean? You’re walking. You don’t want to stop. You notice a picture moment. You take out your phone or camera that is so good now they can focus on the object while you’re moving and click your picture is taken. I don’t call this capturing the moment. Rather skipping the moment. It is. I have more than 2000 pictures from my last one month trip in Colombia. That’s great because now I can choose and make a selection of the best ones. But at the same time, I’m sure I was skipping some moments and going too fast, instead of posing, relaxing and being present in the moment.

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Take the time you need to get the perfect shot. Lisbon, Portugal – November 2017

Why are you so in a hurry to share your pictures?

The second reason why it’s hurting us is social media. I’m wondering why some people take pictures. For them or for social media (Facebook, Instagram, etc.)? Technology and social media made it so easy to share pictures publicly or privately with each other. Why are you so in a hurry to share your pictures? Don’t you want them to be yours for a while? For example, I have a group on WhatsApp with my family, and they kept asking pictures while I was away. When you’re blown away by all the beauty of your trip, choosing later only a couple of pictures, without even explaining the context of the picture, is pretty hard. I have finally sent some, but admit I was a bit annoyed. I was completely immersed in my trip and somehow this group was calling me back to reality. My mother used to travel a lot, and as you can imagine, back then they didn’t have the technology we have today. So all her pictures are on slides that you need to project on a screen. She used to tell us stories picture after picture. And still, ask my brother and me to do the same after each trip we make. We don’t always find the time to do so but I can guarantee it’s the best way to share your travel. Yes, every picture tells a story. But only the photographer can find the right words to make the story special.

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Breathe, be present and enjoy the nature. Rila Mountains, Bulgaria – June 2017

Capture the moment. Yes. Take pictures. Please, do. But then wait. Breathe. Enjoy the moment. Forget about the pictures. And only then, post and share it. Because the worst when you do share it immediately you unconsciously become distracted and expect a reply, a comment, a like. If you’re a social media freak, try at least to wait until the end of the day, when you’re ready to go to bed for example. What a better way to remember the awesome day you had? You’re at a party, drunk, wait for the next day as it will be the only way to remember what happened after your blackout. Yup, happened to me once. Guilty as charged. You’re traveling, take this opportunity to disconnect and share the pictures when you’re back home from your holidays.

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My latest selfie. Madrid, Spain – November 2017

Don’t get me wrong. I still enjoy taking pictures. I still do. Yes, I even take selfies (NOT with a selfie stick and will never do). But we have to decide how to use our devices and not the other way around. So don’t be fooled by technology. Use it as it has a lot to give but control it as you would like, not as social media, aka the e-society, wants you to!

 

Lebanon has not declared war on Saudi Arabia

But Saudi Arabia indirectly declared war on Lebanon and Iran.
Nov 14, 2017 | 5min read

On 4th November, Saad Hariri, the actual Prime Minister of Lebanon unexpectedly announced his resignation live from Riyadh on the Arabia television channel, a channel owned by Saudi Arabia. In the same time, the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, known by his initials MBS, arrested many Saudi princes, media owners, businessmen, and the millionaire businessman Waleed Ben Talal on “corruption” charges. The next day, Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah leader, called and urged for calm. More than one week later our PM hasn’t returned to Lebanon yet but gave on 12th November evening a pathetic interview after one week of silence. Meanwhile, Michel Aoun, the president of Lebanon, gave a one-week ultimatum to Saudi Arabia to let Hariri come back before Lebanon files an official complaint at the UN Security Council.

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No, you’re not watching the latest soap-box drama movie but a sad reality. But one should think and ask, how did we get there?

Everything started on 9th November 2016 and the election of Donald Trump. Trump, ah my dear Trump. I’m still convinced Hillary Clinton would have been a worse president than Donald Trump. And I knew having Trump as a president would have been a big risk and change for the Middle East, and could affect Lebanon. Many times during his campaign he mentioned the Iran nuclear deal as the worst deal ever negotiated. And since he’s in office he’s been trying to renegotiate it, or worth kill it. The USA political agenda was clear: Iran is our new enemy and we should, by all means, destabilize it and cut her expanding influence in the region. What influence he’s talking about here? The near end of the war in Syria and Iraq. A war the USA and SA lost to Russia and Iran. Then, in May 2017 Trump signed $110 billion arms deal with SA. What a better way to fight a local enemy then providing your ally the means to do it? And in the last months, MBS and SA have directly threatened Iran and Hezbollah, therefore Lebanon.

Let’s go back now to the actual context. Three major things happened last week:

  1. The resignation of the prime minister outside of Lebanon
  2. The elimination of all king’s opponents in SA
  3. The media propaganda worldwide

Hariri has the dual citizenship, Saudi and Lebanese

Since the election of the Lebanese President, Michel Aoun, after two years and a half of vacancy, a government of national union and collaboration was formed. That’s how Saad Hariri was Prime Minister again in a cohabitation with Hezbollah. The day before he announced his resignation from Riyadh, Hariri even met with the Iranian advisory for foreign affairs in Lebanon. The meeting was quite productive and both parties were looking forward to future collaboration. It’s important to mention it’s the first time in the history of Lebanon a prime minister resigns outside of the country. And doing it in SA has a particular message due to the historical relationship, and influence, of SA in the country. Hariri himself has the dual citizenship, Saudi and Lebanese. And in the text he read when announcing his resignation he condemned Iran and its growing power and influence in the region. He also charged Iran’s Lebanese ally, Hezbollah, the Shiite militia and political party that is part of the national unity cabinet he led: “Wherever Iran settles, it sows discord, devastation, and destruction, proven by its interference in the internal affairs of Arab countries.”. Hariri and Hezbollah always had their differences but never the dialogue was harsh and aggressive like this.

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We could call it a coup actually

As for the situations in SA, many analysts could see this happening. From last July, one prince was already detained. And then this extraordinary purged happen. Another prince dead in a helicopter crash. And one shot after the detention turned out of control. And even Bakr Ben Laden, the brother of Oussama Ben Laden, was arrested. MBS is eliminating his opponents one after another to maintain his supremacy and go through with his more “moderate” SA. We could call it a coup actually. But of course, media only reported these facts without even condemning it. What I’ve read is that in SA when you detain someone, his assets become the government property. You should know SA’s debt is 13-14% of its GDP. Yet they still found a way to buy for 110 B$ of weapons! Or did they? Not yet, but Trump tweeting about Aramco IPO could give us a clear answer pretty soon! And actually, in April 2016, Vikram Mansharamani, a lecturer at Yale University in the Program on Ethics, Politics, and Economics, warned us to prepare for several possibilities, from the escalation of the cold war between SA and Iran into a hot one, to a collapse of the Saudi monarchy and the chaos accompanying such a development, to the emergence of a renewed economic powerhouse in the Middle East.

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Hezbollah is not a terrorist organization

A couple of hours after Hariri’s resignation, and until today, any media will narrate the same story, blaming Iran, and requesting the elimination of Hezbollah, a terrorist organization. You don’t believe me? Go ahead and google Saad Hariri’s resignation or anything related to the above. As if all news publishers agreed to write the same story to convince us Iran and Hezbollah are indeed dangerous. Doesn’t it sound familiar? No? Think a bit more… Ok. A hint: Weapon of Mass Destruction. And if this is not propaganda (or fake news as we call it in the 21st century) I don’t know what is. And what about Reuters saying Lebanon has declared war on SA? Isn’t it the other way around? And what about Hezbollah? Well, it is not a terrorist organization. I repeat and will always repeat it, HEZBOLLAH IS NOT A TERRORIST ORGANIZATION. For your information, the USA decided to put Hezbollah on the terrorist list. On what basis? Because they’re fighting Israel, our enemy but USA historical ally, who’s violating international laws on a daily basis. But needless to remind you, Hezbollah is for many years now a political party part of the Lebanese government. And this is a fact you can’t disagree with. Most people would argue their existence is illegal because they still carry weapons when it’s only the Lebanese army who should. And I agree with you, but as long as the army is not competent enough to fight the enemy, I see no reasons why the Hezbollah should give back their weapons. Oh and by the way, they are not the only political party holding weapons in Lebanon. Sunni militia exist as well in the country, but you’d never hear any media or party complain about it. And why is that? Because they have close ties with SA and the USA.

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So what’s happening here is a nasty geo-strategic-economic hold up from the USA and SA on the region, as they’ve lost its control to Russia and Iran. As always, unfortunately, Lebanon has to suffer from all this. And we are. But for once, we will come out stronger as all Lebanese are united and requesting the immediate return of Saad Hariri, our Prime Minister, to Lebanon. And huge respect to our president, Michel Aoun, who stood up to MBS, Trump, and the world.

Is this the world you want to live in?

Have you ever asked yourself this question?
Oct 8, 2017 | 3min read

Have you ever asked yourself this question? Have you ever thought to answer it for the sake of others who might need it more than you do? Of course, not. You only think about yourself.

“A giraffe’s coffee would be cold by the time it reached the bottom of its throat. Ever think about that? No. You only think about yourself.”

I wrote this story right after it happened to me in Colombia on 6th September. I was in Simón Bolívar International Airport in Santa Marta, waiting for my flight to Medellin. I was at the gate, sitting and looking around. When you travel alone, that’s what you do. Unless you’re a Facebook freak and keep looking at your damn phone and scrolling down. I was the only foreigner, it was my second week in Colombia, but my Spanish was already much better.

Then, a woman in my sight line bursts into tears. She notices I saw her. I’m embarrassed and look away. All my attention is now focused on her. I start again looking around but every time pausing at her, still crying. The more she was crying, the more I wanted to cry, and do something. But I’m in Colombia and my Spanish is still not at its best. What am I going to say to a stranger woman and in Spanish? I hesitate. I hesitate more. What can I tell her in Spanish, or what can I do?

“I’m gonna embarrass myself in front of her and everyone.”

That was the green light. I’m gonna embarrass myself in front of her and everyone? If you know me a bit, you’d know I don’t care what people think about me. I take out pocket tissues, prepare my sentence in Spanish, and start walking towards her. Somehow I haven’t written down what I told her, but it was very simple. Something like, “is everything ok?” or “can I help you?”. She nods to tell me she’s ok and I give her a tissue. I don’t feel comfortable sitting next to her, she might want to be alone and I could see before she was communicating with someone by voice messages. I leave and don’t feel like sitting where I was before. I decide to buy cheese balls. I wasn’t hungry but thought I could offer her some. I buy 3 cheese balls, go back to her and propose her one. She refuses. But after insisting she accepts and takes one. I propose more tissues (in Spanish) and she laughs about is as she would definitely need some. I give her a big smile, tap her on the shoulder and go back and sit.

A couple of minutes later, an old woman next to me, and her big family (around 15 people) burst into laughter. I look at them, and her husband had weird eyeglasses with fake eyes on them. It was so funny and random, I couldn’t stop laughing either. Plus, their way of laughing out loud was contagious. I turn around to the (crying) woman as I wanted her so badly to look at the scene and have a good laugh about it but she didn’t look back.

I don’t know and will never know why this woman was crying. And that’s not the point.

But what I know is we human beings have lost all sense of community and savoir-vivre. In this small airport of Colombia, where I’m the only foreigner, surrounded by a bunch of Colombians, no one took the time of talking to this young woman and check whether we can help? It’s almost certain we could have not, but at least asking wouldn’t have cost anything to anyone. Plus, compassion has killed nobody.

I have to admit I don’t remember if this was my first time in this situation. And if it was not, I’m not sure how I have reacted in the past. But I hope from now on, me, and you, will react differently and help any person in need.

This is the world we live in. We are so individualistic and selfish. We tend to forget our brothers and sisters from another mother and father. We are a society where by default we reject and repel each other. Yes, we do. And the more we will, the less chance we have to live in a peaceful world.

I read once the human reflex when a baby falls is to catch him back. But when an adult falls, on the contrary, we move away and let him fall.

Something to think about. Have a good day dear reader. And make this world a better place.

 

France and the world are holding their breath

After 200 years of failed universal suffrage that allows the rich to buy political power, the fact of appointing masters instead of passing laws is a political imposture and it is not a democracy.
April 30, 2017 | 5min read

If you have followed the news, you must already know all eyes are on France and the 2nd round of the 2017 French presidential elections on 7th May. If you have not, the 1st round of the presidential elections ended up with Emmanuel Macron (24,01 %) and Marine Le Pen (21,03%) going through. Third position attributed to Francois Fillon (20,01%), a right-wing and conservative leader, and Jean-Luc Mélenchon (19,58%) a “real” left-wing leader. I, myself, have voted for Jean-Luc Mélenchon. Why? Because he’s the only one fighting for environmental and social justice. Check out my latest blogpost if you want to know more about it.

Who is Macron? A former Minister of Economy and Finance and the leader of En Marche! a social-liberal party he created. Who is Marine Le Pen? The leader of Front National (FN), a right-wing populist and nationalist political party. So yes, this extreme right party has gotten 21,03% of the vote in France. Where have we gone wrong? I wish I’d know!

You choose in the 1st round and eliminate in the 2nd

It’s historical now in France you choose in the 1st round and eliminate in the 2nd round.

Candidates who have almost nothing in common with the frontrunner support him and forget their political convictions. Fillon, right-wing, is voting now for Macron. Hamon, socialist party, is voting now for Macron. And they are calling their electors to do so too. At the same time, they have to. Otherwise, they are ruining their political party and career. Yet, you only have one candidate, Mélenchon, who has spent his life fighting the FN, who hasn’t officially declare voting for Macron and called his electors to vote with their conscience. And of course, the press and politicians are getting all excited about it and criticising him.

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But, we have a short memory. We have also forgotten the critics he received when he called his electors to vote for Hollande, Macron’s master, against Sarkozy in 2012. Only a stupid man will repeat the same mistake twice. As if the media propaganda could make us believe for one second he would vote for Marine Le Pen. Anyways, we now have the explanation for his silence. On his youtube channel, he affirmed not voting for Marine Le Pen, and getting ready for his next step, the legislative election next June, where his party and the 7 million electors who voted for him can make the change we all need so much in the system. Anyone, without a doubt, should vote against the FN. But voting against the FN, by voting for Macron, is not as easy as one would think.

A poor continuity. At least with no surprises

Macron is a continuity of Hollande disastrous mandate. He is the extreme finance candidate. Yes, he is, and if you think otherwise, you’re not being honest with yourself. Yes, he claims himself neither left neither right, but he was part of Hollande’s government. In my opinion, it could have been a good opportunity to put an end to this useless left-right parties debate. But no. Only to prepare the future, he left the government to be ready for the replacement of his master. Needless to remind you it’s the first time in the history of the republic of France a running president doesn’t represent himself.

French President Hollande and economy advisor Macron walk in the Elysee Palace in Paris

But again, Hollande as Macron are here for the benefits of the establishment who placed them there in the first place. He will serve the interests of these people who are the richest 1% of the population. And I warn you, France could suffer again for 5 years the same way it suffered from Hollande. A poor continuity. At least with no surprises. Actually, it’s good for France to have some continuity in the ideas and program for once. And not changing and going back to Fillon / Sarkozy and its right-wing conservative mafia. But we should give him the benefit of the doubt to do better and let’s see it as a positive thing. Plus he’s going to be the youngest President of the French Republic. I know who cares.

Because Macron will involve France in many wars

Now how an immigrant like me wouldn’t vote against the FN and vote for Macron without any hesitation? First, let me introduce myself (for the readers who don’t know me). I’m Lebanese, born in Beirut in 1988 (if my age matters to you) and have lived there until my 20s when I travelled to France. After 6 years living in France, I have become a French citizen. You might know the historical relations between Lebanon and France, and that’s why I’m proud to be a Lebanese-French citizen. But of course, I’m Lebanese before being French. Without removing any merit of me becoming French, the country where I had most of my experiences as a youngster. So why I cannot vote for Macron without any hesitation? Because Macron, like Hollande, will involve France in many wars in the Middle East, instead of ending them. He will continue fighting Russia and its government. And not only war but also weapons selling to Saudi Arabia, Qatar, etc. who have their own responsibility in the chaos happening in the Middle East.

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And because of this endless war in Syria, we have welcomed in Lebanon around 2 millions refugees (half of the Lebanese population) we cannot take care of, as our government cannot even take care of us (60% of the Lebanese population is poor). Macron is definitely not the right person to end this madness as he comes from the establishment who benefits from these wars. It’s an undeniable fact. But then, I figured out voting is a matter of public interest not only personal. I cannot be responsible for ruining France only to save my country, where the complexity of the situation in the region is incalculable.

Life is about sacrifices. And voting for Macron is giving up some of my moral and political convictions to fight the racism, fascism and negationism of a party who will divide France. My head still tells me to vote blank, but my heart urges me to vote for Macron. France gave me so much and I cannot abandon it when it needs me the most. The Middle East and the world are fucked up, and a solution won’t be found by having a fractured France. Thus, on the 2nd round of the French presidential elections next Sunday, I have decided to follow my heart and vote for Emmanuel Macron.

Yet, dear reader, we are not exempt of a FN stronger comeback again in 5 years. That’s why we need to fight Macron, from his first day in office, and Le Pen too in the legislative. We live in a capitalist world dominated by a consumerist society. The system has to change, we cannot wait any longer.  We’re ruining the beauty of what we have, we must fight climate change. And last but not least, to avoid a similar 2nd round situation in 5 years or later, we must change the electoral system. What about using a preferential system like in Australia? Something to think about.

“After 200 years of failed universal suffrage that allows the rich to buy political power, the fact of appointing masters instead of passing laws is a political imposture and it is not a democracy. “ Etienne Chouard, French economics and law teacher

Who should be the next President of the French Republic?

Here we are. 57 days before the 2017 French presidential elections. The battle is far from being over.
Feb 26, 2017 | 6min read

Here we are. 57 days before the 2017 French presidential elections. The battle is far from being over. And we still cannot guarantee who’s the next French President. Needless to remind you those elections are happening in a historical context where the running President is not representing himself again. You have a strong far-right party with a big popularity. Reminding us of 2002’s elections. A conservative candidate who bluffed everybody at the right wing primaries. A ridiculous left wing primaries with a low participation and confusion on the results. A confirmation of the left wing disintegration. And as always, independent candidates. So here we are now with Le Pen, Fillon, Hamon, Macron and Melenchon. Left and Right. Right and Left. Those are the candidates who have a chance to become the next President of France.

In all countries and at every election, all candidates promise you the moon. All of them. They are confident, full of hope and with a plan. Yes, with a plan.  They guarantee full employment. Bring back the growth. Reassert the country on the European and international scene. Increases taxes or cut corporate taxes. Decrease public service employees. Increase the number of police officers. Decrease the number of teachers, etc. You know what? I won’t do the job for you, go and read their program. And to tell you the truth, being in France for the last 9 years. I haven’t seen any difference whatsoever. Whether it was Sarkozy or Hollande. Some minor laws affected me at some point but well, I’m still here, continuing my journey and surviving. Yes, I’m a normal and simple French (and Lebanese) citizen. I’m not always affected by the above. But I’m sure what could affect me, does not affect you or someone else with a different social status. And vice versa. This will never change until you bring some change to the system. I read about politics, go through each candidate program and follow their political interventions. When they start talking about finance, economics, etc. I don’t get it all. I mean they have economists and experts to help them build their program. How am I supposed to understand all of it? I still don’t get how there is no service to give you real life example of each measure. How each different program affects you, according to your social category, now, at the end of the presidential term and in 10 years. And at the end, depending on the context (recession, crisis, war, etc.), I truly believe each plan could be a total failure or total success.

That’s why I’m here to tell you there are more important subjects. Mainly more concrete projects that concern you in all kind of situations.

The environment should be part of the constitution

For a start, a candidate who talks about the environment and who has serious propositions for an ecological transition. It’s a fact today our planet is facing a global warming. And global destruction if we as human do not start to do something about it. I have to admit I only started recycling at home one year ago. But even if all the citizens of the world start recycling it won’t solve our problem. The system has to change. All politics, laws, governments, and especially companies must have ecological/environmental and responsible way of working, producing and building. We criticised Donald Trump for his statement on global warming. But if you think Barack Obama did anything for the environment, you’re wrong. He did not. He surely wanted to. But the lobby is so strong in the US that his hands were tied. It’s time for France and Europe to give the example. Let’s start working on an ecological and environmental transition. It’s a very long process, that’s why we have to start it right now. Stopping a nuclear power plant is not done in one day. And stopping all the nuclear power plants might not be the solution either. The same for coal factories. But finding a compromise with nuclear and more alternative/renewable energies is. It’s not only about power plants. It’s also about green infrastructure (buildings, streets, etc.), green cars, etc. Actually, I still don’t understand why we still have green political parties. The environment should be part of the constitution by default. The nuclear lobby is strong in France. It’s time to change and have an environmental/ecological lobby who will block all polluting manoeuvres. The environment should be the cornerstone of the program, the debate and the election. Because with a destroyed planet, cutting taxes and firing teachers would be the least of our problems. And unfortunately, at this stage, the environment has been left out of the election debate.

To change the laws to have a better and stronger EU

Then, a candidate who recognises the failure of the European Union and accept to redefine its laws. Yes, BREXIT happened and people were terrified. That’s normal because it was a jump to the unknown.  But almost one year later, we’re still here. Remember, we’re born to survive. The first car designed in 1886 had a top speed of 16km/h. Then when we developed the car engine to what we have today with a speed of 200km/h and more. So we created laws to control the speed and protect people’s lives. The EU is the exact same thing. When created, laws had to be written. And we decided those laws. Not we as citizens but our politicians. With BREXIT those laws changed. The EU has shown its limits and failed in many aspects. So now is time to change the laws to have a better and stronger EU. Part of this change is to finally have someone who considers Russia as a partner. Yes, a partner. A geostrategic partner. To have more cohesion in the international world and mainly within Europe. As far as I know Europe shares borders with Russia. It makes much more sense to have them as a partner. But no, we’re so duped and influenced we’d rather be a partner with Saudi Arabia who is much worse on human rights. Enough of double standards. Enough of criticism on Putin. Enough of NATO who has no more reason to exist, but only in a war mindset. Enough of missile defence complex at Russia’s doorstep. Enough of fighting Russia but working with them. Working together to fight the radical Islam from Syria to Europe. To end the war in Syria and everywhere else for the right reasons.

It’s our responsibility to help them

Finally, a candidate who still has some humanity in him and a heart. Yes, being President is a tough position, but it doesn’t mean becoming a monster. Because of proxy wars, millions of refugees flew from the Middle East and Africa to Europe. Without these wars, we wouldn’t have or need to face with this problem. With a stronger Europe and controlled borders either. But now is not the time for regrets. Now it’s time for actions. Refugees are all around the country in bad conditions. And not only in France. But we don’t want to take care of them and leave them to their fate. We are all responsible for this tragedy. So as a united country it’s our responsibility to help them. Until we figure out where they can stay and live. Even if it means going back to their home country (when the war is over there). I had tears in my eyes hearing the story of a woman who had a restaurant in Calais and five years ago refugees camped on her terrace. So fewer clients started coming to her restaurant. Today she’s unemployed and homeless. Is it her fault? No. Is it the migrants’ fault? No. It’s the government’s fault and their lack of action and involvement in their citizen’s life and concern.

There is no such thing as left or right when talking of our planet, other human being and European geostrategic partnership. I don’t care who you are. I don’t care if you’re black or white, left or right. I don’t care if you’re rich or poor. I don’t care if you’re an entrepreneur or a public service employee. I don’t care if you’re a teacher or a cop. As long as you take care of serious subjects as the environment, our planet, Europe and Russia, our neighbours, and humanity, our brothers and sisters.

That’s why Jean-Luc Melenchon should be the next President of the French Republic. So yes I say it out loud, I vote for Jean-Luc Melenchon in the first round of the 2017 French Presidential Election.

For non-French people, Melenchon is considered a far-left wing politician. Some say he’s a communist. If that makes me a communist, so be it. And to tell you the truth, I don’t give a damn.

For how long will technology control our lives?

The average person checks their phone 150 times a day.
Feb 8, 2017 | 5min read

Tristan Harris was a Product Philosopher at Google until 2016 where he studied how technology affects a billion people’s attention. He was also part of Stanford Persuasive Tech Lab. So did the founder of Instagram and many designers at Facebook. B J Fogg, the founder of this lab invented in 1990 captology. His main goal is to create insight into how computing products, from websites to mobile phone software, can be designed to change what people believe and what they do. Another former student of this lab, Nir Eyal, says

“Innovators create products designed to persuade people to do what we want them to do. We call these people “users” and even if we don’t say it out loud, we secretly dream of seeing  them all to the last, completely hooked to what we create.”

It’s like opening Pandora’s box

Millions of hours are stolen from people’s life because of this persuasive technology. Tristan Harris says

“the average person checks their phone 150 times a day.”

Are they conscious choices? I don’t think so. Why do we do this? Simple. Because our phone has the answer to all our questions.

  1. You’re lost on the street. You check google maps or city mapper to find your way.
  2. You’re looking for an address. You open your browser and google it.
  3. You want to text your friend. You open iMessage, WhatsApp, Viber or Messenger.
  4. You’re expecting an important email. You open your emails every now and then.
  5. You need to plan a weekend in one month or a meet up with a friend. You check your agenda.
  6. You use Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat (oh my…) and Twitter.
  7. You need to set your alarm clock because buying an alarm clock is so old school (relax, I (still) don’t have one).
  8. You check the weather to know the temperature. But people tend to forget it’s not a thermometer but the weather forecast.
  9. You play some games.
  10. You listen to music, watch some youtube video, etc.

And of course, some of the reasons I described above are good ones. You need to get information from your product. But here’s where it gets tricky because once you unlocked your phone, it’s like opening Pandora’s box. For a minute, you were googling an address, and the next thing you know you’re scrolling down on your Facebook news feed, replying to a comment or texting back your mum. And I haven’t even considered all the notifications you receive on your lock screen (news, social media, messages, etc.) that you can see by easily swiping right to get in the app, and well, get stuck. Now let’s say you repeat those actions during the day. How many times? Some actions are rare, some are often, some are frequent. But would you agree to say 50 is a correct and fair number (so an average of 5 times per action)? It’s not so bad considering the usefulness of some actions. So you checked your phone 50 times during the day. So what about the 100 other times ?! I repeat, what are you doing the 100 other times! Let’s go through simple math. 150 times a day of 15h (considering you sleep 9 hours), means 10 times every 1h.

It means 1 time every 6min.

That’s how we’re sucked deep down in the system. Don’t get me wrong, though, those technological innovations are important and a big part of the social media and the digital revolution. New technologies always reshaped society. The same newspaper, television, etc. did. Yet, the only problem with these new innovations is to constantly interrupt you. As if by default the product and/or applications you are using have one goal, interrupting you. Then we wonder why our generation has more concentration and memories troubles.

According to Tristan Harris it takes

“23min to refocus after an interruption.”

But again any information, any data, any product used in a wrong way will harm its user. The worst part here is it’s harming us unconsciously. Some would say it’s the tool. Some would say it’s the user. It’s both! We need smarter technology and users. According to IDC Research about a billion people wake up every morning, and one of the first things they do is checking their phones. I’m sure you do it. I used to do it. And it turns out people don’t feel so good about it. Does it mean we want a world with 1 billion lousy mornings every single day?

“It’s easier to fool people than to convince them that they’ve been fooled.” — Unknown.

Take control of our phones back

Tristan Harris was helping Google designing phones to make us lose more time. He has now quit Google and is investing his time in Design for Time Well Spent. A movement to align technology with our humanity. You could tell me, disable all your notifications, or do not use a smartphone. This is where I would say you’re wrong. Innovations are part of us, of our society and our future. But it’s not a reason to accept it as it is. We need to fight this revolution until we get better products. In the meantime, we have to take control of our phones back. What I did, for a start, is disabling my wifi and internet data before going to bed. When I wake up in the morning I’m not harassed by notifications on my lock screen (news, messages, etc.). You could also put your phone in airplane mode. I don’t. In case of emergency, I’d like to be reachable. During the day, my iPhone is on “Do Not Disturb” mode. You know this moon that appears in the status bar? All calls, messages, notifications I received when my phone is locked are silenced. This is peace, thus better productivity. The only calls that are not silenced are the ones from my favourites list and repeated calls from the same person within three minutes. Oh, and if you can, do not hesitate to put your phone away from your sight. I have also organised all my applications into one page, with categories titles explaining why I would open this application. For example, “contact” for Messenger, WhatsApp, etc. “Go” for Google Maps, Uber, Momondo, etc. “Read” for the news. Do you get the idea? This triggers me of doing more conscious choices before opening any application. You could also use Moment to track your phone usage. I’m not a big fan of this because once you have downloaded it, you start thinking of your phone usage and try to decrease the frequency on purpose. But, isn’t this what we’re trying to achieve here?

We need to take a look at how we’re structuring our future

In the Attention Economy, technology and media are designed to maximize our screen-time. But what if they were designed to help us live by our values?

What if news and media companies were creating content that enriched our lives, vs. catering to our most base instincts for clicks?

What if social platforms were designed to help us create our ideal social lives, instead of to maximize time-on site and “likes”?

What if dating apps measured their success in how well they helped us find what we’re looking for instead of in number of swipes?

As technology gets more and more engaging, and as Artificial Intelligence and Virtual Reality become more and more prevalent in our day-to-day lives we need to take a look at how we’re structuring our future.

Dear reader, those wise words are an introduction to this beautiful poetic short film by  Max Stossel and Sander van DjikThis Panda Is Dancing . Take some time to think about it. Seriously.

Same shit, different year, and still no justice

2016 is coming to an end.
Dec 29, 2016 | 4min read

2016 is coming to an end.

As every year a lot of major events happened around the world. Can we say it’s getting worse and worse with the years? I don’t think so. But it’s definitely not getting better. The first major event was the BREXIT. The first moment where people panicked and got confused. But why? When you think of the failure of the EU, it’s only a good thing and a golden opportunity to rebuild Europe. Also, the referendum showed a recurring problem in politics where at the end of the day the old people decide the future of the youth. Something to think about. And Erdogan fooling everybody with his controversial strategy in the region. Then the elections of Trump where mainstream media tried until the end to deny the reality and real problem the American society is facing. In France, Francois Fillon, winning hands down the presidential primaries of the right wing in France, with a conservative program but an interesting foreign policy strategy by having close ties with Putin. To the last minute victory in Austria of the green party against the right-wing populism. Another referendum in Italy for/against the constitution. A first-time ever in France where the actual President, Francois Hollande, is not representing himself. I’m sure I’m skipping a lot of other major political events and I’m sorry for that. Oh yes, and obviously, war, war, and war. Poverty, poverty and poverty. Injustice, injustice and injustice. And people are devastated. Sad. Angry. Can’t see the end of the tunnel. But I think 2016 is a turning point in our history and it’s an opportunity to have a better future and build a better world for our children around the world. The problem is clear, let’s deal with it.

I bet you didn’t even know that in the first place

Even so, I would like to come back to an event we have talked little about. The event happened on Friday, October 28th, 2016. Do you have any idea what has happened on this day? Even if I give you a hint I’m not sure you will guess. The hint is Russia. No? Still nothing. Well on Friday, October 28th, 2016 Russia was voted off UN Human Rights Council. Nothing shocking so far, right? If you read the mainstream news you understand this decision as Vladimir Putin is committing crimes against humanity in Syria. Fine. Check out any newspaper you want, English and French. They all cover this story with more or less the same headlines. Russia voted off, Russia ousted, Russia denied membership, Russia got blocked.  But out of 10 articles, I only found 3 of them using the correct headline: Russia fails to win re-election. Yes, that’s right! Russia was already part of the council. I bet you didn’t even know that in the first place. That’s how media can be dangerous. Especially in our social media era where the tendency is only to read the headlines of the articles.

“If you’re not careful, the media will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the oppressor.” Malcolm X

Okay, I have a feeling you’re confused right now. So as they say it on their website the UN Human Rights Council is an inter-governmental body within the United Nations system made up of 47 States responsible for the promotion and protection of all human rights around the globe. Its 47 seats are filled by member states elected for three-years terms. And no member may occupy a seat for more than two consecutive terms. Are you following? The Council’s Membership is based on equitable geographical distribution. Seats are distributed as follows:

  1. African States: 13 seats
  2. Asia-Pacific States: 13 seats
  3. Latin American and Caribbean States: 8 seats
  4. Western European and other States: 7 seats
  5. Eastern European States: 6 seats

Here’s a list of some of the current members:

  • Algeria
  • China
  • Cuba
  • France
  • Russia
  • Saudi Arabia
  • United Kingdom
  • Botswana
  • Netherlands
  • Nigeria
  • Qatar
  • Belgium
  • Burundi
  • Philippines

Yes, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the Philippines, as well!

The double standards of politics

So let’s get back to Russia who was already elected in 2013 and after three years had to face a re-election as the term was coming to an end. The member states voted off Russia. But, part of the countries who were facing re-election, Saudi Arabia came through. Also, Qatar and Nigeria are members of this council with their term ending in 2017. Philippines’ term is ending in 2018. I don’t think I need to inform you on Saudi Arabia and Qatar. And in the Philippines, their president wants to jail 9-year-old kids.

And this is what we call the double standards of politics. Russia is the enemy of Europe and the United States. Saudi Arabia and Qatar are the allies of Europe and the United States. What do we get when we are in the right team? Special treatment. Do we even care about the human rights issue for a second? No. Sad reality.

Saudi Arabia also presides United Nations counter-terrorism centre. The presidency of the Alliance Civilizations Forum is entrusted to Qatar. Turkey was rewarded by hosting the first World Humanitarian Summit of the UN. Israel, an illegitimate state, is elected head of the UN Legal Committee.

Now you do you understand the big picture and the inaction of the UN on all ground?

Dear reader, understand this. The UN is not a credible organisation. And is definitely not a magician. So stop expecting magic from them. Instead, focus on your own government and put pressure on them so they are so scared of doing anything against the will of their own people. All political systems around the world have shown its limits. It’s not a reason to give up but on the contrary, fight for your rights. Believe in politics and its weaknesses, because you, and only you can make it stronger.